New Zealand left fights back against cutbacks

June 15, 2012

Green Left Weekly’s Ben Peterson spoke to Wellington-based student activist Joel Cosgrove about socialist organising in New Zealand. Cosgrove is a member of the Workers Party and the Mana Party. He will speak about radical politics in New Zealand at Resistance’s Time Of Revolution conference in Adelaide, July 20-22.

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What is ‘We are the University’?

We Are The University is a nationwide student activist group based in New Zealand. It has developed out of localised fightbacks around the country, recognising the need to link up nationally and to develop a pool of experience that can deal with the heavy turnover that is symptomatic with a three-year university student cycle.

Can you tell us about the New Zealand government’s funding cuts and the fightback against them?

Education from early childhood to PhD is under attack. For the first time in a while, funding is actually being cut [in real terms], not just [through] below-inflation increases.

Access is getting harder and conditions are worse. The reality on campus for staff is one of fixed-term contracts, meaning little job security.

Isolated fightbacks are appearing around the country in various industries. The role of students within these wider struggles is often an important one of providing solidarity to other struggles and leading the way with their own struggles.

You are also a member of the Mana Party, can you tell us about it?

Mana is an embryonic resistance. Anywhere where there is struggle you'll see a Mana flag flying. The challenge for Mana, like that facing the rest of the activist left, is building an organisation and experience in successfully fighting back these attacks.

It's a tough job, but there are some pretty amazing people coming together under the Mana flag.

The Workers Party recently had their annual “Socialism” conference. What came out of the conference, and what sort of role do conferences like this play in revolutionary organising?

We had a big increase in attendance and had some very well received sessions. A panel discussion on tertiary education and another on the Workers Party’s developing line on tino rangatiratanga (Maori Liberation) were very popular.

We had speakers from Australia from the Socialist Alliance and the Socialist Party. It's an important link to build and develop our relations and awareness of the issues facing our Australian comrades.

You are coming to Resistance’s Time of Revolution conference. What do you hope to get out of it?

I have a lot of respect for the comrades in Resistance and the work they do. The other international speakers look interesting. I'm sure they'll have a lot to say in their areas of knowledge.

I think now more than ever, in the face of an international attack by capital, our response needs to be global. Where the globalisation of capitalism is homogenised and standardised, our global resistance needs to reflect and celebrate a diversity of experience and tactics.

I'm looking forward to doing my little bit towards that at the Resistance conference.

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