New Aussie Anti-Globalisation Video Available
“M1: PEOPLE RESIST CORPORATE GLOBALISATION” Produced By Actively Radical TV, Sydney, Australia 2001
Below is Murray Horton's review, from "Foreign Control Watchdog" 98, December 2001.
Hire and purchase details are at the end of the review.
This excellent 80 minute video (in two parts) shows some key areas where the Australian progressive movement differs, favourably, from its New Zealand counterpart. Firstly, it takes May Day (inevitably referred to as “M1”) seriously and has a very long tradition of both celebrating it and marking it with militant action. Secondly, the militant action itself is on a far bigger scale than what we’ve been able to achieve here thus far, at least on the issue of globalisation. And thirdly, it has unions with officials and activists willing and able to get off their arses and get stuck into militant political action (‘political”, in any sense other than “vote for Labour”, is anathema to far too many in the NZ union movement, one that harbours more than its fair share of careerists, opportunists, Rightwingers and would be timeserving MPs. But, thank God, not as many as only a few years ago. There is light at the end of the tunnel, mainly because the bulky figures of Ken Douglas and Angela Foulkes have got out of it).
The video records the direct action around Australian State capitals (principally Sydney and Melbourne) on May 1, 2001, when there were mass blockades of stock exchanges, in protest at corporate globalisation.
Stock exchanges, and the blockading thereof, have always been a central component of the Australian Left’s actions. I was a political activist in Sydney when the Whitlam Labor government was overthrown in a bloodless coup, in 1975.
The Stock Exchange was duly stormed, with a cop being slung through the doors for good measure (I wasn’t there because me and my Maoist mates literally missed the bus, and were left running around central Sydney with our banners and flags, frantically looking for the demo). In 1987 I was in Sydney again, when Wall Street crashed, bringing all global stock exchanges down with it. Crowds rushed to the Stock Exchange to see the action – one bright street entrepreneur did a brisk trade offering umbrellas for sale.
Not because it was raining (it always is), but in case any of the jumping stockbrokers changed their minds half way down and needed a parachute.
I dutifully sat down to watch this and, to be honest, expected to be bored.
“Educational” usually means deadly dull. Movement videos of this nature are invariably low budget, and usually full of talking heads. 80 minutes is a lot of video time to fill. I was pleasantly surprised – it is low budget and is full of talking heads, but it’s very professionally made, very fast paced, action packed, with a great sound track and the talking heads aren’ t boring. Far from it. There are young and earnest representatives from various Left parties and publications, but they are lucid and very to the point. Even the academics confine themselves to speaking English.
Then there are some wonderful examples of Aussie unionists – a species of whom I have vivid and warm memories, both from my own brief time as a member of that country’s most controversial and militant union (the former New South Wales Builders Labourers Federation) and from having travelled through the Philippines with some unforgettable Ocker unionists. Some of these blokes in the video are from the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), a union with whom CAFCA has had a working relationship in the last few years, because it has been the regional spearhead of an international union campaign against our old foe, Rio Tinto (owner of Comalco’s Bluff aluminium smelter, in this country). How refreshing to see unionists practising militancy, being actively involved in the campaigns of the broader progressive movement, plunging headfirst into the dreaded “politics” and unashamedly talking the language of industrial action and class struggle. These are the sort of people that defeated the Howard government’s brutal attempt to smash Australian port unions, and, most recently, made Air New Zealand and Helen Clark personally feel their wrath at the fiasco caused by the collapse of Ansett Australia. They stand in stark contrast to the vast majority of the New Zealand union movement (sadly). They’ve never had to face the total onslaught aimed at destroying all unions that was the Employment Contracts Act and they still have awards (what a quaint word to NZ ears) but I have the impression that if they had had to face such a threat to their existence, Aussie unions would not have rolled over and played dead, which was the response of the former “leadership” of the NZ unions.
Then there are the numerous rank and file participants interviewed on the blockade, ranging from the rainbow coiffed/body pierced young to some feisty pensioners. I love Aussies – they strike me as the human incarnations of cockatoos (which should the country’s national symbol. Or maybe the kookaburra). These people explain clearly and simply why they are risking their physical safety and freedom to peacefully blockade the stock exchanges. We see little or nothing of the denizens of those institutions (beyond some anonymous halfwit spraying a hose over the crowd outside).
But we do see plenty of the knucklemen of capitalism, namely the cops.
Aussie cops have a well earned reputation for brutality, corruption, drug dealing and murder. White people came to Australia and New Zealand in drastically different circumstances – ever since the arrival of the convicts (including one of my paternal ancestors; as my Dear Old Dad said to me “So, we have two criminals in the family”) cops have been amongst the most despised occupations in Australian society. They have always specialised in thuggery against protesters, and had Special Branches to spy on and harass the progressive movement. State violence is a monotonously regular response.
I have personally experienced being attacked in the midst of a Sydney demo by a Special Branch detective; on the other hand I’ve had the pleasure of stomping the hat of another cop as he was attacking somebody else in the middle of a main Sydney street (no, his head wasn’t in it). By Australian standards, the police response to these May Day blockades was low key (compared to the police riot outside the Melbourne Casino, during the September 2000 protests against the World Economic Forum meeting).
Nothing much more than you’d expect from the Wallabies against the All Blacks, or from any NRL game week in and week out. The storm troopers are the Tactical Response Group (memorably referred to as the Tactical Rectum Group by one interviewee).
This video adds to the growing body of work by the huge, international anti-corporate globalisation movement. CAFCA members will already be fully familiar with the World Trade Organisation (headed by Mike Moore, Christchurch’s favourite export), International Monetary Fund, World Bank, etc, etc. And the issues discussed, such as corporate dominance and Third World debt, are also old favourites. The second part of the video goes over less familiar territory, namely Australian capitalism. It is a well known fact that 96 of the biggest 100 transnational corporations (TNCs) in the world (which between them control one quarter of the global economy) have their head offices in what is called the Triad – North America, Europe and Japan. Of the remaining four, three are from Australia (the other one is from Venezuela). New Zealanders tend to overlook the fact that Australia is home base for a few genuinely enormous TNCs, such as BHP. These companies wield enormous power, both in Australia and elsewhere in the world.
Until the recent Ansett Australia/Air New Zealand fiasco, BHP’s closure of its Newcastle operation was the biggest job loss in Australian history.
The video is invaluable in looking at homegrown Australian capitalism and the adverse impact that has on Australia’s people.
The New Zealand progressive movement doesn’t have enough working relationships with our Australian brothers and sisters. This excellent video will help to bridge that gap.
“M1: People Resist Corporate Globalisation” is available for hire, for one week, for $10 (includes postage), payable in advance. Make cheques to CAFCA, Box 2258, Christchurch.
If you’d like to buy your own copy, contact Actively Radical TV, 73-75 Princes Highway, St Peters, NSW 2044, Australia. Ph (61 2) 95655522; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. It costs $US30 plus $US10 postage for organisations and $US15 plus $US10 postage for individuals
CAFCA Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa Box 2258, Christchurch, New Zealand email@example.com www.cafca.org.nz