From The Commoner
The Commoner talks to the Tāmaki Makaurau Anarchists, a group dedicated to promoting anarchism and resisting settler colonialism in Aotearoa/New Zealand.
Tucked away in a corner of the globe (as it appears to us all the way over here in the UK), our collective cause sees itself expressed in the Tāmaki Makaurau Anarchists, a group that pursues a free and egalitarian society in New Zealand, with a particular focus on returning the land to its historical inhabitants, the Māori. They do not see themselves as the answer to this revolutionary spirit, but rather one of its many scattered but interconnected catalysts for change. As well as dedicating themselves to ridding New Zealand (or as it should be known, Aotearoa) of its colonial and capitalist society, they have an anarchist vision for its future. Displaying their commitment through various actions and organising with similar groups since their formation, they have given a strong voice to both indigenous peoples and radical leftists in the country. The following is what they have to say:
How did you come to be?
By the late 2010’s, there were no specifically anarchist political organisations in the city of Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland, with the most recent one, the Auckland Anarchist Network, having dissolved in the early 2010’s. As a result of repeated discussions online complaining about this situation, four anarchists in 2017 came together and talked with an older anarchist who told them about previous attempts and wished them luck.
These four anarchists then initially formed a reading group on anarchism, but quickly concluded that the best way to learn about anarchism was to do it by forming an anarchist political organisation. They did this by calling a public meeting to see if there was any interest, which received good attendance. Those who were most interested in forming an anarchist group went on to have sessions for the next two years to decide on the aims, principles, structure and constitution for this group. As this was being done, the group organised reading groups, demonstrations, board game nights, film screenings, day schools, education sessions, parties and other fun events.
By mid-2019, we had decided our principles and our constitution, with us launching in May 2019 under the name of Tāmaki Makaurau Anarchists.
What part do Tamaki Makaurau Anarchists hope to play in the wider anarchist movement?
When we set up Tāmaki Makaurau Anarchists, we decided it should have four aims:
1. To create an anarchist society by revolution;
2. To spread anarchist ideas through education and by example;
3. To create new institutions in the shell of the old that work on anarchist principles and prefigure an anarchist society;
4. To generate new anarchist political theory that genuinely reflects the historical and current context of Aotearoa.
We decided on these aims as we felt that the anarchist movement in Aotearoa in the late 2010’s was primarily organised in informal affinity groups and single-issue groups that engaged in either reactive activism, education or advocacy. While such actions immediately responded to the issues of the time, they did not build the collective power of the exploited and oppressed to abolish this society and establish anarchism. These forms of activity also condemned anarchism to being a political minority and a subculture on the margins of society, leading to disenchantment and burnout amongst the majority who participated in such activity.
We therefore concluded that a specifically anarchist political organisation was necessary to help transform anarchism from being a subculture to being a tendency that was actively involved in the social movements of the exploited and the oppressed. It would do this by engaging in proactive organising that integrated direct action and education into a broader strategy of helping to build the power of the exploited and the oppressed in their communities and workplaces so that they have the capacity to end this society through revolution and build a free, equal, sustainable and peaceful society.
How is your organisation structured, and who or what bodies make the decisions?
Tāmaki Makaurau Anarchists consists of members who actively participate in the organisation and supporters who agree with our aims, principles and constitution but don’t have the capacity to actively participate. Our main decision making body is our monthly meetings, where our members make decisions on our organisations activities based on consensus where possible and by ⅔ majority vote when consensus cannot be reached. To coordinate and implement decisions that we have made, we elect our members to specific roles and organise working groups. Members also have the option of establishing caucuses if they share a common form of oppression.
To ensure that all members and supporters can participate in our organisation, we have a code of conduct, a safer spaces policy and we’re working on accessibility policy. To resolve conflicts between members, we have a conflict resolution policy that is influenced by the Anarchist Federation in Britain’s conflict resolution policy and other groups conflict resolution policies. To ensure that finances are used in accordance with the will of members, we have a democratic budgeting process.
Due to the small size of our collective, we don’t have annual general meetings or have multiple branches that would justify the formation of a federation as other anarchist organisations around the world have done.
You state that you are resisting the presence of settler-colonialism in New Zealand, what does this mean to you and how does your anarchism intersect with it?
To quote our principles:
We recognize Māori (the indigenous people of Aotearoa/New Zealand) as the mana whenua (the people who have historical and territorial rights over the land), and the original inhabitants, of this land known as Aotearoa.
We acknowledge Māori never ceded sovereignty of this land, which means that those who arrived in the process of colonisation (including today) come fundamentally as guests in relation to Māori.
We work actively to redress the fundamental wrongs of colonialism, imperialism, and white supremacy in all their forms, within these lands and elsewhere.
We support Māori initiatives to regain and restore mana motuhake (self-determination) and tino rangatiratanga (sovereignty) and aid these efforts as appropriate, as a first priority, as part of broader indigenous and anti-colonial struggles around the world. We oppose all forms of racism and white supremacy and actively promote and engage in decolonisation and indigenisation.
We have sought to do this through organising public-facing education sessions on decolonisation and indigenisation, participate in struggles by Māori to have the land that the New Zealand settler colonial capitalist state stole from them through privatisation returned to them like the reclamation of Ihumātao (which one of our members has written about here), write articles and post on our social media pages about the necessity for decolonisation and of connecting the struggles of indigenous and other communities of colour together in a broader anti-colonial struggle (which one of our members did here). We have also listened and learned from Māori and other indigenous anarchists on how to effectively engage in solidarity with Māori struggles.
Influenced both by our discussions with Māori and other indigenous anarchists as well as by the book Decolonising Anarchism by Maia Ramnath, we argue that anarchism in Aotearoa must be decolonised and indigenised, otherwise it will contribute to the perpetuation of social relations of settler colonial capitalist exploitation and oppression rather than help dismantle them.
However, as our active members are exclusively non-Māori (with most of them being Pākeha/European New Zealanders) with few well-developed relationships to urban Māori communities or to Māori hāpu/sub-tribes, we have a long way to go in developing an organisation that has meaningfully decolonised and indigenised itself.
Are there any particular struggles that you are facing right now in New Zealand, and if so, how are you dealing with them?
One of the major struggles in Tāmaki Makaurau is the housing crisis, where the majority of renters are paying unaffordable rents and taking on debt to pay it, suffering depression, anxiety and stress due to renting, living in unhealthy homes, theft of rental deposits, insecure tenancies, renters not having control over their living spaces etc. with these issues have intensified during the COVID-19 lockdown and the aftermath. There are also issues around rising house prices making them unaffordable for many workers and rising homelessness.
We have sought to respond to these issues by developing strategies to respond to housing issues by organising renters and engaging in squatting which are a work in progress.
Another major struggle in Tāmaki Makaurau is the conditions of the working-class, with many workers suffering from stagnant or declining wages, suffering discrimination, harassment, bullying and wage theft at the hands of their employers in a context where trade union density is around 17% of workers in Aotearoa.
We have sought to respond to this struggle by forming the Tāmaki Solidarity Network, which aims to help individual workers in their disputes through direct action, with us having contacted the Sydney and Olympia Solidarity Networks to get guidance on organising it, although right now is experiencing capacity issues.
There’s also been the resurgence of fascism and the broader far-right here since 2016, with us having organised with other anarchists and non-anarchists to form Tāmaki Anti-Fascist Action to resist them. TAFA’s organising is what led to Canadian white supremacists Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Southern cancelling their tour in Aotearoa in 2018. More recently, TAFA has been resisting the local Neo-Nazi group Action Zealandia, which recently participated in a social media for fascists to engage in White Lives Matter banner drops around the world organised by British Neo-Nazi group Patriotic Alternative.
How have your interactions been with local or national government?
Our main interactions with local or national governments have been with Police at the various protests and direct actions that we have participated in, with the cops having attempted to arrest fellow participants or engage in violence against them, although fortunately our members have not experienced either so far.
Beyond that, the Police or the other branches of the settler colonial capitalist state have not engaged in repressive measures against us like they did when they raided and arrested anarchists across Aotearoa during the 2007 Urewera raids, which led to the anarchist movement here going into decline for several years.
How do you interact with your community/ies?
Within the Tāmaki Makaurau anti-capitalist milieu, we have organised with other anarchists and non-anarchists to form coalition groups like Tāmaki Anti-Fascist Action and Western Sahara Solidarity Aotearoa to support the struggle of the Sahrawi people against the Moroccan settler colonial capitalist state. We’re also working together with other anarchists and Marxists on a mental health peer support group and to write an anti-sexism letter in order to create common standards and organisational responses to address sexism within the anti-capitalist milieu. We’ve also organised social events with the broader anti-capitalist milieu such as the first May Day event for a long time in 2019 and the Revolting Cafes, where anti-capitalists come together to hang out and dine together.
In addition, we’ve developed relationships with anarchists across Aotearoa such as with the groups Freedom Shop, Blackstar Books and the Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement. In addition, we co-organised with other anarchists from across Aotearoa the Anarchy Camp, which we held in late March 2019. It was the first national anarchist gathering in over ten years, and was not only an opportunity for anarchists from across Aotearoa to connect, but it also had sessions on anarchism in relation to decolonisation, feminism and ecology.
We’ve also built international connections through having organised a day school in 2018 that we co-hosted with the Australian Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation and sending an observer to the Congress of the anarcho-syndicalist International Workers Association that was held in Melbourne Australia in December 2019. We’ve also interviewed the Anarchist Union of Afghanistan and Iran and the Kafeh Movement in Lebanon, and we’re in regular communication with Red and Black Notes in Australia, the Indonesian Persaudaraan Pekerja Anarko-Sindikalis/PPAS (Anarcho-Syndicalist Brotherhood of Workers) and other anarchist individuals and groups around the world.
Regarding our interactions with the public in Aotearoa beyond the anti-capitalist milieu, besides attending the protests and direct actions of the day as well as the public-facing events and the projects we mentioned above, throughout 2019 we organised monthly infoshops to create a social space to bring anarchists together and educate the public about anarchism. In addition, since late 2019 we have been organising the Tāmaki Anarchist Bookfair, which we believe is the first anarchist bookfair in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland, in order to spread awareness of anarchism across Tāmaki Makaurau, but unfortunately COVID-19 has forced us to postpone it indefinitely.
What advice would you give to those who wish to build an organisation like yours?
Spend as much time as you need to develop your aims, principles and constitution because once you’ve developed these well, your organisation will have very strong foundations that will allow your organisation to last for years to come.
In addition, make sure to develop a conflict resolution policy before your organisation is publicly launched, as our members have been in several other organisations that haven’t done this and have seen the disastrous results from that, with groups either stagnating, losing members or collapsing as a result of conflicts that can’t be addressed satisfactorily due to the lack of a conflict resolution process
Also, put particular effort into developing an inclusive and welcoming culture for your organisation, one where a sense of community and care is cultivated to ensure that members and supporters chances of suffering disenchantment and burnout are reduced.