GUEST BLOG: Suzie Dawson – Remembering The Left

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It was Bastille Day, 14th of July 2012.

The Left was strong and united in the face of Wall Street’s point man John Key flogging off our public assets for peanuts. The crowd thronged into the high thousands as activists shut down all lanes of road traffic in the heart of our largest City Centre. We stretched for ten city blocks.

On a trundler, activists tugged a large black guillotine up Queen Street in Auckland Central to settle it in a lofty position opposite the Auckland Town Hall.

It was a National Day of Action for Aotearoa Not For Sale (ANFS) – a movement to oppose the then-National government’s policy of violating economic good sense to scratch corporate backs by selling off our state assets.

The crowd, comprised of every conceivable colour, flag and frankly, grievance carried all manner of signs, but they also carried effigies. Of National politicians and of Key himself. Effigies that as the afternoon wore on, became headless.

I’m too polite to give my opinion of John Key, other than to confirm that he wasn’t known as ‘The Smiling Assassin’ just because he made some people redundant.

All manner of speakers stood proudly next to the guillotine that day, gave their speeches, as the socialist hype man who shall remain nameless for the purposes of this article repeatedly promised the crowd that the piece de resistance – putting the guillotine to use – would soon follow.

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A list of offending politician’s names were read out. Paula lost her head. She wasn’t the only one.

No one took it seriously – it was an act of political theatre and protected political expression – a venting of frustration by the masses of people who will never be in a position of power or privilege to rival that of even the lowliest backbencher in Parliament.

There were hundreds of children present.

No one screamed from the rooftops about our ‘violent’ actions, or stuttered in shock that we would dare ‘threaten’ politicians.

The event was endorsed by the Council of Trade Unions.

I was wholly on side with the cause of ANFS and remain so to this day.

My politics, my heart, and my life are with the Left. Even when the Left forgets who they are and what they’re supposed to stand for.

And even when the Left forgets how we protest.

It was October 15th, 2011. The founding day of Occupy Auckland.

3,000 people marched up Queen Street and witnessed the first tents going up – establishing the first of what would eventually become four occupations in Auckland.

The post-2008 Global Financial Crisis (GFC) period had hit hard. Thousands more Kiwis were homeless. The public had lost complete faith in systems of capital, in governments, and were desperate to achieve redress by whatever means necessary.

Just as now, mass protests began popping up all over the globe.

At our encampment in Aotea Square, we Occupiers hauled ass to feed and care for everyone present, while also organising a constant stream of protest actions to try to get our voices heard.

It wasn’t long before the political pushback came and it came via information operations. Media were the conduit.

We were mortified when some complete and total scumbag defaced the Jewish cemetery on Symonds Street with Nazi symbols. Even more mortified when the media began reporting that he was an Occupier. Those of us who were at the Occupy daily had never seen or heard of the guy.

If, at Occupy Auckland, we’d got our hands on the guy who’d defaced the Jewish cemetery he would have swiftly met an unpleasant fate.

But so it began. “Occupy Auckland is Neo-Nazis” became the mantra, weaponized against us.

This was coupled with “Occupy Auckland is disorganised”. “Occupy Auckland don’t even know what they want”. And most disgustingly of all, after the Auckland Council removed our Port-A- Loos without notice and then cut off the water supply to the occupation – “Occupy is unsanitary and has feces on the ground.”

I never saw a single spec of feces on the ground at the Occupy but it didn’t matter – these narratives wielded against protest movements aren’t about the truth. They’re about achieving political agendas.

It’s the same old playbook. But this time it isn’t just coming out of the mouths of the power elite and their stenographers.

It’s coming from the Left.

The same Left who has been targeted by these very tactics since time immemorial.

Long before I led the Internet Party (in a 2017 campaign that was all but completely blacked out by media); before I began developing software tools like Panquake; before I became a very public advocate for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange; before I wrote deep dive investigative pieces into the GCSB, or studied Snowden files live online; I was just a lay person, a solo mother and an activist, who happened to be using photojournalism and live-tweeting to document our protest actions at a time when live-streaming was so new that we were lucky if we had one person in the crowd doing it.

I covered over 50 protest actions on the ground in New Zealand before persistent extra-judicial targeting by NZ Police and related private intelligence and security contractors finally drove me out of the country.

I remember that time in my life so vividly, because it has impacted every facet of my life since.

At those 50+ actions, I met a ton of people, interviewed a whole bunch of household names, and made some lifelong mates. The kind that you know will have your back when you’re David fighting Goliath.

Fast-forward to 2022 and half of those mates are in Wellington backing the protests. The other half are using social media to decry, attack and denounce those who are at the Wellington protests.

A couple of very good friends of mine have done some pretty amazing work identifying and exposing some of the ACTUAL white supremacists that have been infiltrating the Wellington Convoy.

Let me be clear: actual white supremacists can go fuck themselves. Zero sympathy. Zero tolerance.

But that doesn’t make the rest of the people protesting in Wellington any more white supremacist than we were at Occupy Auckland. If you turn the sound off on the TV reports so that you can’t hear the news anchors spitting buzzword after buzzword, what you’ll actually see is everything from rainbow flags to Maori sovereignty and indigenous rights activists, as well as protest chaplains and entire families of every ethnicity imaginable.

When you deride them as right wing, you simultaneously push them towards the right wing and alienate them from the Left.

Thus, the Left is no longer united and strong, as we were in the face of John Key’s more naked avarice and state violence.

Witnessing the division, is gutting. It’s just so goddamn counterproductive. What good is a Team of 5 Million if you then start picking people off, sub-group by sub-group, and cheering the attrition on.

Is this the ‘Left’ in New Zealand now? Parrots of the media class? Spouting narratives that have been used against us during our own protest actions over and over, regurgitating them, projecting them at other down-and-out members of the public?

The homelessness crisis we faced in 2011 and 2012 just got worse every year. By 2014 our homeless peoples were sleeping in piles in doorways. It was mortifying. And that was when things were a thousand times better than they are now, with families being permanently confined to motel rooms, to garages, to campervans, to cars, or to worse.

Do you really think this is just about mandates? It’s not.

It’s about the collapse of Western society and it’s been a progressive decline for generations. Open your eyes and you’ll see it in the now-permanent tent cities in Los Angeles, in Philadelphia, far outside the realm of protest. On the current trajectory, that is the future of every NZ city.

While corporations graduate from stashing billions to stashing trillions, ordinary people are paying the price and political vultures are already preying upon their vulnerability.

If we don’t do something about the meta issues that the status quo is perpetuating, the Wellington occupation isn’t going to be a protest event.

It’s going to be a way of life.

If the Left doesn’t remember who we are… the Left will become only a memory.

 

Suzie Dawson is an activist, journalist and the Founder of panquake.com

48 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you, Suzie, thank you very much for your life of activism. I vividly remember our opposition to Rogernomics and our warnings of what the results would be. It all fell on deaf ears, we were ridiculed as pinkos and we had no effect on the rush to dog eat dog and the winner/loser mentality of all the newfound greedies promoting “greed is good”. Even the growth of professional sports reflected this new model for the West. And now the results of the Neolib follies are coming home to prove we were right. Small comfort because we are witnessing a general collapse of the Society we knew (the one that Thatcher said didn’t exist) and ,quite frankly, no political party worth a tin of shit. They are all sell-outs. Tragic.

  2. Imagine Mallard faced with that guillotine in Wellington. The labour party wishy washy woke would be in absolute panic and looking for a safe space.

    PS. Anyone seen Ardern anywhere since her brief journey to Rotorua? Where is the commander in chief? Is she even in control?

  3. Yup. Hypocrites is a polite way of saying it. A lot of mutual friends have all gone middle class and have crossed the rubicon.
    Over a beer, they remember those days with joy. But when confronted with what is happening in Wellington now. They call those people scum! Nazis, terrorists and call for the police to give them the bash!
    They no longer are a comrade, they’re middle-class sellouts.

    • They haven’t sold out, they have just being manipulated into believing a message that appeals to the fairly typical leftist (if not human) ideal of ‘for the people’ (or the greater good). A relentless, well crafted message that under the right conditions, aka a ‘dire’ pandemic, has many on the Left blindly believing, well – whatever the messaging is selling.

      Whenever you see lefties speaking/writing, their arguments is often couched in – the other – as in such in such is hurting/disrespecting/threatening everyone else. Therefore, they haven’t really lost their way. They’ve just had what comes naturally to them – concern for the other – co-opted into fighting for the interests of the powerful. Its unfortunate, if not outright tragic, but the bottom line is that the powerful, as they usually do, are pulling the strings here.

  4. “But that doesn’t make the rest of the people protesting in Wellington any more white supremacist than we were at Occupy Auckland.”

    There is a key difference though. The majority in Wellington have fallen down the rabbit hole of propaganda from the far right and have been that way for some time. The anti-vaccine conspiracy theories are far right conspiracies. While most of these people are victims rather than white supremacists, the dis-info that drew them to the protest in the first place and that they are spreading is far right propaganda.

  5. Sums it up beautifully, reality is the MSM are firmly sided with Capital not the labour… sadly it seems many of the left have forgotten.

  6. Good job Suzie…amazing how quickly Labour “forgot” about this protest…One of the issues facing the current Labour Leadership is very few have experience of standing on the picket line, and defending their views/actions…how many were in the Springbok Tour 1981 for instance.

    • Mallard was and proudly so. In the background as a “marshall”. A most important job. How he has changed.

      https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/hansard-debates/rhr/document/48HansS_20070214_00000867/mallard-trevor-debate-on-prime-minister-s-statement

      “Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Actually, I was a protester. I was a marshal in Auckland. That just shows the member’s ignorance. I have a very good memory from 1981, unlike the Leader of the Opposition. I was at the ground at Hamilton. I was at the ground in Auckland. I acted as a marshal in both cases, helping people to get on to the ground. So I was there—of course I was. [Interruption] What is the member saying? Where was David Bennett? [] I was protesting at both. Can the member not understand that when people went on to the field, there were a group of people who made sure they got on to the field, and who ran interference as people were getting on to the field? Mr Simich remembers that. Mr Simich had a different approach at the time. Mr Simich is not as silly as David—what is his name?”

  7. The Left is still the Left, still fighting for the people, but now…now they do so on behalf of the government/corporate state, whose relentless, but canny messaging of implementing all manner of Covid measures – for the greater good – really hits home to most on the Left.

    it does not matter whom government truly serves. it does not matter whom has benefited and whom has suffered during this pandemic. Only the message – for the greater good – matters. It seems that one of the greatest strengths of the Left – for the people – turns out to be one of its greatest weaknesses also.

  8. I can only agree with you.
    The real tragedy of this is that is wasn’t the left that organised this resistance and that the right have corrupted it so deviously and so wastefully.

  9. Absolutely the best thing written since this shit show kicked off.
    Thank you Suzie from the bottom of our hearts.

    “…mouths of the power elite and their stenographers.” Gold.

  10. self actualised selfish hippy liberals (on both sides) are what the administrative class requires..mass action becomes impossible in an aqe of the ‘individual’ and the functionaries are free to carry out their only function ‘maintain the status quo’
    Now if the neo-libs did provide the capitalist dream for all, it’d possibly be acceptable but it doesn’t and it’s not designed to, it’s function is to suck capital upwards…the interesting moment is upon us, the poor have been thoroughly impoverished and now ‘cannibal capitalism’ is coming for it’s acolytes in the middle class..

  11. As one who has actually BEEN THERE at the wellington protest, and plan shortly to return, this post is the most balanced I’ve seen on TDB. I am astounded that many these same people who regularly comment here have taken the side of traditional right wing reactionary’s, – calling for the police to get tough and use force and call in the military and suck up to the MSM’s narrative’s. Absolutely appalled.

    They also seem to forget agent provocateurs such as the Nazi guy who spray painted the Jewish cemetery in your post. If one was to actually go and witness first hand what is transpiring in Wellington, one would also be shocked at the lies and mistruths being fed to the NZ public about the protestors. It is an absolute and disgraceful smear campaign, – and worse, – emanates directly from the beehive.

    The New Zealanders attending the protest are being smeared from its economic demographics, to the usual cliched profiles ( losers, criminals, anti govt anarchists, hippies, to using children as shields implying cowardice, to writing them all off as Nazis and far right wingers, violent, abusive , aggressive and the like. (I didn’t know hippies were also Nazis,… maybe the media is also unorganized and composed of disparate groups all clamoring for the soundbites, eh?).

    And that one about faeces being everywhere, – that really is the low point in the propaganda campaign, – implying it is a filthy, unhygienic ‘mob’.

    And this thing about Wellington businesses suffering, well its a fact that many other businesses are enjoying massive patronage exactly BECAUSE of the protest action. At last count there have been over 28,000 registered businesses close down because of all these lockdowns and mandates, – and that’s NOT counting sole traders.

    It seems to me now, that most of the remaining Left are nothing more than the spineless woke, that have been pacified into resigned acceptance, moreover, – have become victim to 40 years of neo liberalism thus are now comfortable not only to hide behind their keyboards and rant like a right winger baying for any protestors blood, – but that their past dreams of when they once stood up for and considered themselves ‘Left’ have now been replaced for the most part by traditional right wing conservative reactionary thinking.

    To me ? Labour is no more than the same party that brought us Rogernomics. They still do.
    The answer is not with them. And it sure aint with National. Both of them are now globalist neo liberal party’s. Not worth the ballot paper they have their names written on.

    There are bigger long term issues facing this country and have benn for along, long time, as I wrote in another post such as these: ”And its time the mandates were shelved and something done about the appalling poverty and wages, homelessness and affordable housing, – along with food prices and petrol,… and that’s only the start”. The do nothing Jacinda Adern Labour led govt is no better than National with all their false broken promises and lies. People have had a gutsful of both of them.

  12. People dont forget there is a global pandemic currently raging around the world and thousands are still dying from Omicron. Labour is the only government that has protected its citizens from the enemy while the others have put up the white flag and surrendered. Because of that success, Kiwis are too complacent and leaping ahead of themselves.
    The protest has been a circus but exciting and interesting to watch but it has gone beyond the acceptable that Suzie described and is embarrassing and cringeworthy. WE cant deny from the attendees at the protest that this is a right-wing, far right, anti labour and anti Jacinda protest cleverly guided by the Natz dirty politics brigade. They have mobilised and influenced tory followers to help improve Natz/Act polsters to make up numbers. The MSM are also behind the protesters even when they are threatened. Best instant solution is for Luxon, Pugh, Hipango, Seymore, McKee, Waititi, Coutts, Tamaki to face their feral people, the protesters and tell them to piss off.

  13. It’s not the same. The protesters are different and a lot has happened since 2011 to change things. What was protested against in 2011 has happened. It showed the direction of the thinking public at that protest, but was ignored largely.
    No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.
    Heraclitus https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/heraclitus_107157

    So what to do now? Confusing messages come to mind.
    Hola Crew facebook ‘Forget your past and focus on your future’.
    I don’t think so. We have to make change if we can, and good change, not just any. Who defines good?
    We have to remember the past so we can measure our change against it and know its better.
    How far back, and what are we using as our base from the past?

    We have to be balanced, not negative mostly, but looking for solid worthwhile points to build on, but not have too high expectations, too ambitious, or people will lose heart. That means reasoned critiques of suggestions, pouncing on good ideas and noting them, maybe closer examination will find the gemstone hidden in the interesting rock. Try using analogy, comparing something from the mind to something that is real and knowable by all. Break the glass ceiling. With the rock?

    Sir Ernest Rutherford comes regularly to mind. He said, like “We haven’t much money so we have to think.” He did, and worked with others, both learning from them and inspiring them, two-way. Also known for his carefulness with money and using recycled material I think. Did great, got a knighthood for coming first with some physics thing he did? How does that compare with sailing for a competition? Are they equivalent. I still remember Sir Earnest’s saying – will I find Sir Russell’s as memorable and helpful and inspiring?

  14. Nice article but remain to be convinced the USA RW aren’t driving this. Haven’t seen an overtly socialist placard yet among the rabble, something like ‘the real enemy is capitalism’ would be good if you’re down in Welly & can do it. Thanks.

  15. @ SD.
    meh.
    There’s no longer a Left and Right politic. Repeating that belief makes you seem redundant.
    There’s only the power of money as represented by those who have it versus those who don’t have much, if any who can please themselves until even that becomes tedious and boring for the rich. Then, out comes the batons.
    And even this is boring. I’m bored and I’m boring myself writing here. I come here and write the same thing while expecting a different result.
    Albert Einstein
    “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
    Nothing new and novel is being achieved because nothing new or novel is being proposed.
    Why is that? Why is there an inward spiralling narrative which ultimately achieves nothing?
    Except, perhaps, to insight the hysteria that was as a result of a person or persons unknown defacing headstones with Swastikas.
    Did you not stop to think that perhaps it was an inside job to discredit the ANFS movement?
    There are only two ways to fix AO/NZ.
    Thing One. Mandate voting.
    Thing Two. Go and get the farmer. You might have seen them being belittled in tv advertising as scruffy, blokey dopes doing stupid things for a giggle, and to sell you stuff. They’re usually russet faced and with their shirt sleeve’s rolled up they drive 4×4’s through mud and over river banks.
    They also earn our foreign exchange and that’s the money that’s spent on the stuff and things we need to pay for imported goods. Silly little things like fuel, medicines, machinery, cars, trucks, and virtually every consumable sold in every shop everywhere but that can only happen once the RBNZ launders their money via foreign owned retail banks and they can only do that once farmer money’s siphoned off via the producer boards. You’d know all about SMP’s wouldn’t ya Boys?
    Until I see the above happening; compulsory voting and a very public commission of inquiry into the business relationships of non rural Big Business and politicians then nothing here, or anywhere actually, means a single flying fuck to me, I don’t know about anyone else.

    • You pin your hopes on compulsory voting, which they have in Australia, but it would change nothing. The electoral system is corrupt and dysfunctional. A large number of New Zealanders want nothing to do with it. Most of the rest just go through the motion of voting without any trust or confidence in the outcome. Rather you should be looking for radical constitutional reform which takes power out of the hands of the politicians and gives it back to the people.

  16. Suzie great work and I have to say that despite your best efforts you can’t help but feel a real sadness and regret that had the left not buckled under the immense destruction of our countries economy by Douglas – Prebble- Caygill , Richardson – Birch- Shipley , Key and English and all the others who were faceless scoundrels there would have still been a strong movement dedicated to opposing and promoting an alternative to the current evils of neo liberalism there might have been a chance to take the fight to the parliament to represent the many who labour for the greed of the few.

    Corbyn is still fighting in the U.K where things are becoming dire for many and Sanders in the states continues to fight for many Americans who are really just slave labour for the privileged classes.

    The tragedy is the left has has run and is hiding allowing those who think they represent what the left used to be about and what it was against are calling themselves Labour complete with the picture of Savage on the wall. They are as Bomber has written ” middle class Marxists.

  17. We can use all the labels and quote the purity of protesting and fighting back for the ‘ordinary person’.

    I just don’t get people immersed in a clearly stated battle for ‘freedom’ and people being able to exercise ‘choice,’ will attack me for closing to wear a mask.

  18. I popped along to the march in Chch on saturday and I was dressed as I usually dress: camo pants and black metal t shirt, I mixed with all sorts of people in the crowd: different races, creeds and colours and it was all very friendly. My hair fell out I am bald and I don’t care at all it’s just how it is. I’m not going to get a wig bros.

    At cranmer square I did notice some guy sneaking around taking pictures of people. He had no mates and had an expensive camera, obviously someone on a nefarious mission. Uh oh I said to my friend: “watch out for activists like that they will be looking for photo ops”

    Sure enough I got home and on twitter lo and behold there was my picture and I was being called a nazi scum bag bring the whole protest into disrepute blah blah blah

    It was really sneaky stuff by the activist. Just before that picture was taken I was chatting to a lovely lady from New Guinea. But no that doesn’t fit the optics so he wasn’t going to post a picture of that.

    so yeah Mr cameraman next time you see me grow a pair and come and talk to me before you use me as a pawn in your game

  19. Brendan O’Neil:

    We are drowning in a sea of neuroses. Day-to-day life feels like living in the brain of a posh person who has mistaken having hang-ups for a personality. I feel like I’ve accidentally gatecrashed someone’s therapy session. Browse Instagram and there’s Lena Dunham going on about being fat or having recovered from addiction. Switch on a political-discussion show and I guarantee you’ll see an earnest middle-class campaigner explaining how racism is getting worse and worse. Fourth-wave feminists collate every instance of ‘sexism’, such as when the waiter gave the bill to their boyfriend rather than to them. Patriarchy! The Smart Set really is neurotically convinced that it is surrounded by dim, bovine racists, xenophobes, transphobes and fascists and that Brexit Britain is one angry Daily Mail leader away from the next Beer Hall Putsch. And of course they’re all traumatised. Or exhausted. Feeling exhausted is the new feeling traumatised. ‘I’m so tired’, say the upper-class neurotics, which is amazing given none of them has ever done a day’s work.

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