UPDATE: I don’t think I’ve ever endorsed vandalizing public art in Auckland, but Labour Day feels like the right time to attack and deface fascist art


‘Massey Cossacks in 1913’ – the paramilitary fascist goon squads of their day

100 years ago, NZ was rocked by a series of large strikes as Workers pushed for more rights – the way the conservative forces of NZ responded, (the New Zealand Employers’ Federation and the Farmers’ Union) was to round up hundreds of volunteers from the provinces to turn up on horseback and beat the living shit out of the unions – these militia were called the ‘Massey Cossacks’.


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On the Waterfront of Auckland near Shed 10 is a work of art commemorating these vicious pricks. It’s an iron cut out of a Massey Cossack with a bloody baton in his hand! It may as well be a cross burning white supremacist for all the sensitivity Ports of Auckland have given it. I must have walked past this ‘art work’ a dozen times but had never actually paused to read it – but I did last weekend and was shocked at the cheerleading given to these paramilitary goon squads.

Ports of Auckland even have the audacity to label these Union breaking scum as ‘Lovers of Auckland’???

I say 100 years on, we should do something about that and Labour Day seems the perfect times to deface this fascist artwork and reclaim our history.

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Labour Day commemorates the struggle for worker rights, when 40 hours a week is a joke, when this Government is waging another war against Unions, when the despicable legacy of Labour’s Rogernomics robbed the Unions of any strength and Ruthanomics killed them with the Independent Contracts Act – must we also suffer from the indignity of having our history manipulated as well?

The ever brilliant Matt McCarten points out

It’s quaint we built this country on the ethos that if one human employs another they “pay a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work”. Now, a worker is not recognised as the producer of wealth for someone else. Instead, we are told they are a cost item to be reduced to enable the least consumer price for the maximum shareholder profit.

and when this is happening in NZ...

McDonald’s has been accused of showing contempt for Parliament after sacking a worker who criticised the fast food giant at a select committee hearing.

…it’s time to push back, and fascist art feels like a great starting place. This artwork is like having a monument to all those NZers who were pro the racist Springbok tour or who supported nuclear armed American Navel ships entering our harbors or who celebrated French nuclear testing in the Pacific. This art, 100 years later,  is on the wrong side of progressive  history.

The Union members and workers bashed under the raised baton of that iron Massey Cossack statue deserve more 100 years later than those arseholes being celebrated!

UPDATE: Less than 24 hours after this post, Mike Lee contacted me with his disgust and news that he had contacted Sir Bob, Sir Bob and he agreed it had to go and the artwork will be pulled down. I’m chalking this up as a win and am glad the NZ Herald are once again following The Daily Blog’s lead.


  1. I couldn’t agree more. Also I haven’t eaten McDonalds “food” (for want of a better term) for 6 years now. I have decided not to give them any more money, this applies to KFC, Burger King et all. I haven’t eaten those for 8 years and won’t again. Get McDonalds where it hurts -in the pocket.

    • ” Get McDonalds where it hurts -in the pocket”

      that is the only thing that seems to have any effect on them…..

  2. Rewriting history to match the mores of a corrupt society, sounds Orwellian to me. Many dictators like Stalin have used art in the past as an effective propaganda tool. I would love to find out who these art fascists were who selected this awful work. I bet they are lunatics of the highest order with degrees to prove it. They will be experts in ‘How To Look At A Painting’ but have no capacity to see beyond their own inflated egos. I am absolutely pissed off as an artist who has done many community murals in the past – and the community have loved them by the way. Now, I increasingly find that the public don’t get a say on any public art projects. It all comes down to a small ‘elite’ group of idiots who think they are art gods, dictating their taste and refined art sensibilities to the rest of us cultural primitives. While I am at this rant, I now don’t compete in N.Z art completions as in the past they have been corrupt, groan-inducing, and rigged just like Bevan Chuang getting a job at the Auckland Art Gallery with most winners having direct connections to the judges themselves. This country is fast becoming a cesspool for a small group of nepotistic art snobs to further their own careers… Check out the latest controversy surrounding Dunedin’s latest art venture. Another art project they didn’t consult the public about.

    It is all a private joke and an expensive one at that. Unless you paint dead birds or put a hat on a donkey, or the icing on the cake a person painting with a paint brush up his arse squatting over the canvas while he was filming it, this is what ‘high art’ is according to the dictators running the show. I run screaming…

  3. Different times and different methods applies to this topic. Those days where workers were riding on horse back, and doing mostly work with their bare hands and a few crude tools have long passed, but the harassment and intimidation of workers and dissenters has never really ended.

    It is pretty wide-spread these days, and instead of “cossacks” on horse back or foot, we have such modern day “cossacks” sit in front of microphones in the mainstream media. I am thinking of such as Mike Hosking, Leighton Smith, Sean Plunket and even Duncan Garner and the likes, who make no secret of their dim views of unions and openly ridicule workers representatives and workers’ rights via talk back and other shows on radio.

    There are also “cossacks” writing editorials and more in the papers, and we have hideous ones like Rodney Hide allowed to publish weekly hate columns. A Bob Jones can freely present his condescending views in the NZ Herald, others do in other papers and online.

    We have the “cossacks” sitting in Parliament, on one side that is at least, in rather large numbers, frowning on the workers who dare to ask for a fair deal, for instance on the ones cleaning their offices, toilets and the rest of the House. Simon Bridges comes to mind there, as a bad one. Henare is another. They ridicule the few in Labour who are truly vocal on workers’ rights, and others in other opposition parties.

    You can find modern day “cossacks” comment in topics on television and in the blogosphere, that is when they are not busy digging up “scandals” about certain “left” or “left of centre” mayors and so forth. You find them everywhere in large numbers, and sadly they are not without friends and supporters.

    Workers themselves have become so divided and largely intimidated, they dare not to ask for their entitled breaks, be this in retail in transport or many other industries, as that will not “please” their supervisors and bosses, who are encouraged to be “in” with the top guys and owners of the businesses.

    Unions are harassed, as have been the members of the Maritime Union when the Ports of Auckland dispute was on, and indeed nowadays unions are so weak, it is an embarrasment.

    But there are also very ignorant and only self serving workers, as I know, and just last week one who only works in marginal employment “moaned” to me that he was wanting to give up his just recently signed up membership to a union, because the small pay rise only goes into his membership fees. I said, well, if you had no union and members, you might all be on a minimum wage and have no chance for any rise at all. He looked blandly at my, and I thought, come on, are you for real, are you that stupid?

    Those are the challenges of today, and the more “cossacks” we “take out”, one by one, by challenging them and exposing their hollow arguments and mean tactics, the better!

    Time to deal to “cossacks” and their rotten paymasters, and time to deal to this worker hating government, that deludes so many in thinking it is best to go with the flow and to shut up! Enough is enough, I say!

    • Couldn’t agree with you more. Unfortunately both the national government and (possibly) Auckland CC Know the cost of everything but the value of nothing. Living under “their” control feels more and more like a Kafkaesque novel rather than the beautiful Godzone I know and love. Another thing that greatly disturbed me and no-one seemed to address is John Keys invitation to spend time with the queen. I’m still stewing on that one, one things for sure: it would have encouraged his worrying megalomaniac tendencies.

    • The artwork doesn’t have to be destroyed -just the plaque.

      Massey’s cossacks were real – a damning inditement of the vicious scum who characterise port companies even today.

      Maybe time the workers had a few cossacks of our own.

  4. Well said Martyn. The Ports of Auckland ‘artwork’ is a disgraceful insult to all workers!

    The Kiwi worker has become the sacrificial lamb in the corporate greed game, with employers forcing down wages, deteriorating and unsafe conditions, to satisfy the great God of profit! And the worst aspect of this issue is the fact the government supports worker abuse!

    Labour Day here is a farcical charade, considering there is nothing whatsoever to celebrate!

    The streets, people, the streets. It’s the only way forward for workers to regain their rights. Remember too the old saying – ‘what the government does, can be undone on the streets’. Time to stand together as a united collective and give the bullies an almighty shove.

  5. That’s a sickening piece of sad heritage to glorify. But what do Ports of Auckland have to do with it? Shed10 is run by Waterfront Auckland, having been purchased from PoA by the government for the world cup and later gifted to the Auckland Council.

  6. I think Mike Lee has requested the offending “artwork” be removed and rightfully so too. Shame on the Ports of Auckland for displaying such a disgraceful piece of trash!

  7. I don’t doubt that the farmers and farm workers who joined the special constables saw themselves as lovers of New Zealand.

    Love of one’s city or state or nation can be, and often is, an incitement and a justification for coercion, oppression, and brutality.

    We should acknowledge this truth and remember it.

    Let the artwork stand, so that people may think about these matters. Reply to it with other works which tell the other side of the story. Don’t ban it.

    We don’t need Thought Police, we need thought.

    The Thought Police are ever-ready, waiting in the wings. If we take the easy route of allowing them to tear this contentious work down, what will be next?

    Which poem, painting, sculpture, or manifesto will be banned next? How many steps away will we be from preventing particular artists from exhibiting, or locking them up when they say things we don’t like?

    If we ban this artwork, we establish a most unwholesome precedent.

    This particular work exposes to the light of day a repugnant and reprehensible undercurrent that runs deeply in New Zealand society: the light of day is a much better place for it to be than festering unexamined and uncriticized in the shadows.

    We need more discussion, debate, dialogue, not less.

    Denial and suppression of ideas we don’t like is the short path to totalitarianism.

    • Hear, hear. What would be next after this? Maybe the removal of anything commemorating the achievements of colonial NZ society as obviously that is inherently exploitative and racist against Maori.

      • …only if such achievements came at a cost to Maori that has not yet been redressed…. yes.

        Or – as mentioned above, the addition of the historical and continuing costs to Maori of such actions to balance the narrative.

        • And who gets to decide this cost/benefit analysis to decide if we should remove any potential monuments and/or art work glorifying the colonial past.

          • Gosman, seeing it is you – I don’t have the time or inclination to write a comments section devoted to historical context or sensibilities. Many others on this site would be able to debate how to frame that dilemma and provide solutions – from previous comments I don’t think you are up to that level of discussion.

            Couldn’t help myself from reacting to your comment regarding commemorations and Maori, due to the fact that locally we are having 150th commemorations – recognising the “admirable” role of the militia and land confiscation during the NZ Wars – while ignoring the fact that those injustices have effects that are ongoing for the Maori that were dispossessed.

            A decided lack of both knowledge and sensitivity is unashamedly shown. Commemorations can take place, but even after 150yrs it seems that acknowledgement of the cost for both sides is not even on the radar for many of those organising these events. As mentioned before, an alternate view could be sought and brought to light.

            But I suspect you would probably disagree about that as well.

    • Love of one’s city or state or nation can be, and often is, an incitement and a justification for coercion, oppression, and brutality.
      We should acknowledge this truth and remember it.

      Yep. To be honest, instead of pulling this one down I think I’d prefer it if they just put up artwork commemorating the other side.

    • If you are talking about artists speaking their views through their own medium or performance – yes.

      But this is public art – funded by public dollars and having as much to do with the reflection of an artist’s views as an intermediate school project on family trees.

      It is the combination of this – prescribed public art presented as historical fact – and the framework – “Lovers of Auckland” that make this piece – in this place – unacceptable.

    • But is it even art or a commissioned cut out billboard with a regressive slogan? What next, a commissioned giant cut out thing of John Key our master? It doesn’t seem progressive and art needs to push forward with new ideas not old nasty shit like this.

      • Sorry I should have said also that the artist here possibly was so pleased to be able to do a commission for this fantastic spot on Auckland’s water front, he/she would do anything. That is why I wonder if the people commissioning this artist told them what ‘they’ wanted? I have dumped commissions in the past due to over bearing customers so this artist could have had this dilemma, who knows?

    • I agree with you, Darryl. What we need is an artwork looking at the episode from the proletarian point of view as well. Massey’s Cossacks happened. To pretend they didn’t is stupid. To pretend they don’t still appeal to a lot of Kiwi’s is negligent wishful thinking. I’d also point out that this “artwork” is not the only thing Mike Lee wants to remove. He doesn’t seem to like beggars much either.

      I do not agree with Gooseman who, as usual, has missed the point completely.

  8. All of this type of condescension and oppression that we see from the ruling class can only come about if we let them take power – which, of course, is what we have done. To stop it we need to take power the power back to the people.

  9. Congratulations and thank you Bomber for a simple demonstration of the power of the press when used for the good. I hope they melt the thing down, apologies to the artist.

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