The 0.004% Mandate: Why opponents of the TPPA should boycott Real Choice’s “blockade” on 4 February

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A GROUP calling itself “Real Choice” has announced its intention to “blockade” the Sky City complex on Thursday, 4 February 2016. It’s chances of doing this are, of course, zero. Unless several thousand Real Choice supporters have been knocking themselves out in a network of hidden “Non-Violent Direct Action (NVDA) training camps (at the same time as the riot squads have been doing their “Public Order Training”) the group’s planned blockade will not progress beyond the first Police skirmish-line.

Real Choice’s stated intention of “shutting down the surrounding area and stopping entry by blocking some surrounding roads – effectively creating a TPPA free zone” completely ignores the fact that the signing of the TPPA, featuring the representatives of twelve nations, is already the subject of a major security operation. The idea that anyone is going to be permitted to block roads or stop entry is simply delusional.

Forewarned of Real Choice’s intentions, preventative measures will already be underway. Police Intelligence will have supplied the security operation’s commander with the names and photographs of Real Choice’s principal operatives and their movements will be closely monitored from now until next Thursday.

Real Choice’s very public threats will also, very likely, have prompted the acquisition of interception warrants by the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) who will, doubtless, be liaising with their colleagues at the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) to set up comprehensive real-time surveillance of Real Choice’s members.

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This will be done not because the group represents an actual threat to the signing ceremony, but simply because, through its actions, Real Choice has provided New Zealand’s security apparatus with a golden opportunity to “test drive” its new powers and resources. (Always assuming that Real Choice is not what’s known as a “false flag” operation: a group set up by the security services themselves to establish a case for government to give them even more powers and resources!)

Real or fake, Real Choice has delivered to John Key exactly what he was hoping for by staging the TPPA signing ceremony at Sky City. In doing so it has placed at jeopardy all of the work done by Jane Kelsey and Barry Coates at “It’s Our Future”. Entirely parasitic to the mass movement others have created, this tiny group has embarked on a course of action that threatens to undermine what tens-of-thousands of New Zealanders have researched, argued, organised and marched for.

Real Action, which began its life as the equally ineffectual “Show Us Ya Text”, claims to be acting in the name of democracy. It’s website describes itself as “a group of citizens who believe in democracy and think everyday Kiwis should have a say on the TPPA.” Quite what it thought “everyday Kiwis” were doing last night in the Auckland Town Hall; or last August, when close to 30,000 of them participated in nationwide demonstrations; one can only imagine.

To most people, what It’s Our Future has been doing for the past four years is the very essence of democracy. The fact that, last night, it had assembled representatives of the Parliamentary Opposition on the Town Hall stage, and that, together, those politicians had signalled the prospect of a new coalition government putting an end to New Zealand’s participation in the TPPA in 2017, surely indicates that democracy is in absolutely no need of Real Choice’s “assistance”.

Real Choice, however, could use a lesson or two in exactly what democracy is and isn’t. Last November, for example, the group set up an online “referendum” to determine whether or not New Zealand should ratify the TPPA. The voting period extended from 23-30 November and, according to the website, 12,070 voted. Of these 11,731 (97%) voted against ratification. That was enough for the boys and girls at Real Choice – the people had spoken!

The people? Really? No. What they attracted were 12,070 votes out of an electorate numbering (at the 2014 General Election) 2,416,479 electors. In other words, Real Choice’s referendum (of which most of the country was entirely unaware) canvassed the opinion of just 0.004% of the voting public. And from this infinitesimal sample it now claims a mandate to shut down central Auckland! If there wasn’t so much at stake it would be funny.

The broader anti-TPPA movement can be assured, however, that there’s at least one person who is laughing his head off.

John Key.

15 COMMENTS

  1. yawn yawn yawn

    Chris Trotter will forever and a day discourage people from going beyond marching from A to B. Gee, we might actually achieve something if we did that and Chris’ newspaper columns might become redundant. We can’t have that, can we now?

    Blockading and non-violent direct action (NVDA) have been apart of pretty much all political movements in this country. Māori land rights, GE, strikes, peace movement, nuclear, anti-apartheid movement – you name, NVDA was a tactic used. Long may this tradition continue!

  2. Chris your words are encouraging here,

    The “It’s our future” “had assembled representatives of the Parliamentary Opposition on the Town Hall stage, and that, together, those politicians had signalled the prospect of a new coalition government putting an end to New Zealand’s participation in the TPPA in 2017”

    We hope this does eventuate as we need unity against this evil Planet key lot & their Klingons.

  3. You are right, Chris. The very planning of this kind of action would be a win for the supporters of TPPA as well as those wishing to demonize the anti-ratification movement. If the “blockade”has any substance, the police will deal with it, while the government points out the unruly, unkempt and intemperate protesters to their dog-whistle supporters and the unaware/undecideds as samples of undemocratic, order-fighting zealots: never a good look to middle New Zealand. On the other hand, now that the “blockade” has been announced, the very fact that calmer-minded opponents of the Agreement chose not to be involved and perhaps very few blockaders show up, will be presented as evidence that the vast majority of Kiwis are so delighted with the joys of the TPPA that they stayed at home to watch the signing luminaries on TV.

    They will also paint the more robust activities probable at Te Tii marae on Waitangi Day as just another bunch of disaffected Maori, out of touch with the complacent acquiescence of the majority as evidenced by the poor “Blockade” turn out. (So disrespectful were they that the Prime Minister even had to decline to attend). Another dog-whistle wedge issue.

    It looks like the fact that mass protest has largely skipped a generation – 1981 is now over 30 years ago – has produced a situation where there is little group memory of how it is done.

    The first law of protest action is co-ordination.

    There is plenty of impotent frustration to go around, both against the government’s easy neo-liberal successes and against the I’m-all-Right-Jack attitude of so many Kiwis. But if we lose disciple ourselves, we do our sense of outrage no favours.

  4. Real Choice, in all their messaging, have repeatedly stated they’re non-violent, peaceful protesters. How exactly is that extremism? You’re feeding the exact narrative the government wants Trotter, pitting good protestor vs. bad protestor and trying to divide the movement and it’s absolutely shameful. What a disgraceful post. Shame on you and Bomber for publishing this tripe.

  5. Chris, we’ve never met before but I know you admire my work. At the beginning of this year I took a new international trade union job in Malaysia, but until about three months ago I was (among other things) the main spokesperson/coordinator/organiser of the It’s Our Future coalition, since late 2012 when we launched it. We’ve organised countless info nights, petitions, handed out flyers, done social media campaigns, flyer drops, lobbied politicians, businesses and iwi, not to mention our days of action. I’ve read your columns about it so I have a pretty good idea how you feel about the work we’ve done, along with countless other activists around the country.

    I just wanted to signal my total support for the work that Show Us Ya Text/Real Choice have done and are continuing to do. I see their work as absolutely complementary to what we have achieved with It’s Our Future. When I was first contacted by them about their plan to undertake a non-violent search and seizure of the MFAT office in Wellington, I thought it was a strong symbolic action and the perfect next thing to evolve in the movement. IOF was achieving its goals of building a large broad-based movement (what I called a mums, dads, babies and grandmas group), but it was also hemmed in by this fact: it couldn’t undertake more radical actions. Social movements require dynamism and excitement to continue to impress their point, and this became clear at the last IOF Day of Action in November last year, which, despite mobilising 10-15,000 people nationwide, received practically no media coverage. Fresher, edgier thinking is required to keep getting headlines, to challenge state power more effectively.

    There is a lot that can be said about the positions you put forward here. Your criticism of Real Choice’s referendum is that it covers only 0.004% of the voting public. It’s not rocket science to work out that this referendum is a symbolic act. Yet in your article about the IOF protests on 15 August you praise the fact that 30,000 people were involved – about 0.006% of the country’s population (in that article you also compare the growing movement to the 1981 movement, one which was characterised by small groups engaged in radical actions – what’s different here?). What is the cut off point of popular involvement at which political actions become subject to a vitriolic Chris Trotter attack?

    You also make the argument that Real Choice activists are likely to be apprehended before their action even takes place. To my mind this goes a loooong way towards strengthening the narrative that this government is entirely out of touch with reality, cannot implement policy in a democratic manner and is using state security apparatus to uphold that. How does this weaken what IOF are doing at all? Transparency and democracy have been the absolute touchstones of IOF’s public statements.

    To me, it seems like your aversion is totally off mark. Real Choice are doing their bit to confront power, albeit in a somewhat more direct manner than IOF. I cannot see any contradiction between the two groups’ actions, and it is up to individuals to decide where their own personal politics align before choosing which group to devote their time to. It is entirely unhelpful to have people like yourself driving a wedge between the two and promoting left factionalism. I always sought to make our movement as diverse as possible, and am thrilled that there is a more confrontational group doing what IOF never could.

  6. Blaming the victims.

    The police will be illegally trying to intimidate political opposition- so Trotter blames those being attacked instead of the police.

    Those against the TPPA need to stick together, dont play into the fear mongering of John Key. Violence wont come from protesters, it comes from police and from the TPPA itself.

  7. Great response from Ed Miller.

    I am confused by this blog. IOF have done great work. This is reflected in the fact that there are now a range of groups & activities. Real Choice are on the same side. Different tactics.

    Any movement needs a range of responses. Let’s encourage people to engage in the way they want. Why waste words policing the protesters? There will be enough police on the streets for them to contend with.

  8. Ah grasshoppas ,” many spokes support the wheel .”

    Eds response is measured , intelligent and timely .

  9. Chris is sending warning signals that may not even be worth the typing. What does he expect these activists to do, to come in with arms and stuff? I do not think that any action they plan will be able to achieve very much, so painting a monster or warning with a shivering voice will only discourage and deter more genuinely concerned citizens to attend any activity near the inner city in Auckland on 04 February.

    There are likely to be a number of protest actions, and some may go ahead and try to block traffic and do other civil disobedience, thus disturbing the planned TPPA signing.

    The police will be out in force, and it will be near impossible to get near Sky City, and if some choose to at least go and walk up face to face to lines of officers in riot gear, we will not stop them, as that is what they will choose to do.

    I wonder about Chris Trotter, at times he comes with fervour and passion, and words of taking decisive action, at other times he is soft, almost afraid it seems, to do so himself.

    Given the near defacto police state we already have in many ways, where few even go onto any protests these days, rather preferring to push to sign button for online petitions, should we not rather encourage protest action?

    Or is the future form of protest consigned to quiet little side streets or squares, far away from any traffic, from businesses, from residential homes and so? Do we have to protest in the closet in future? This is an unfortunate contribution, full of scare mongering, I think.

    My impression is that the police may show a very firm position, no matter whether people protest peacefully or dare breach the peace. The fact that they have already contacted and visited activists to question them about protests shows us, what is going on.

    First they came for the communists, then they came for the unionists, then they came for the …., is that not how it goes?

    People do not let yourself get scared off, go and protest on 04 February, all over the country, please, and certainly in Queen Street, and possibly also near Sky City.

  10. Chris your maths is incorrect.

    12,070 / 2,416,479 will give you 0.004995 as a decimal representation of the poll turnout. You rounded down in an egregious manor, and you did not multiply by 100 to get the percentage.

    Using better rounding the turnout was 0.5%

    Yes, half a percent of the electoral roll responded to the poll! That is hugely significant.

  11. Participating in the protest faction of ” Real Choice ” may prove to be unwise. Their lack of sound liaison with ” It’s Our Future ” suggests that their is an odour of ” l’agent provocateur ” in this minority group.
    The national protests should be colourful, peaceful and memorable this day may herald the beginning of the demise of the existing Government.
    The situation as I see it is that there exists a key act of incitement of ” bring it on ” by the PM’s agents.
    The day of 4th February will be E-Day minus 661. Perhaps the next General Election will be brought forward given the division that has been created by ” that Wolf of Wall Street “.

  12. Hey Chris Trotter, so should we all just sit around and hold hands and sing kumbya and hope for the best, then? Bro, if you aint down for more agressive tactics thats all good. But get out of our way while we at least try and do something that represents direct action. Fuck mate, better than just marching up and down queen street. Cos how many times can you actually do this before “marching fatigue” sets in.

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