Archives for posts with tag: radical history

FROM REBEL PRESS: It has taken us a long time, but it is finally done. Issue 10 of imminent rebellion is available now from Rebel Press. Some of the features in this issue:

Pakeha Rebels offers a class-analysis of the early years of New Zealand colonial settlement

Palestine in Pieces is a first hand account of an anti-Zionist Jew in Israel and the West Bank during the start of the war in Gaza

Free Spaces for Free people explores the vibrant life inside the Purple Thistle Youth Arts and Activism Centre in East Vancouver

A thousand subterfuges illuminates the insidious operation of State in constructing criminal cases around ‘conspiracy’ charges

And much more!

Copies can be purchased through our website for $4 + $1 postage (within NZ), or directly from us at the office (if you are Wellington-based). You can download the entire PDF of imminent rebellion 10 from the Rebel Press website:

We are currently working on several projects. Due for publication later this year is a collection of oral histories entitled, The day the raids came: stories of survival and resistance to the State Terror Raids of October 15th 2007. In late June, we will be publishing a small volume entitled Surviving Surveillance: leave your teddy bear behind! which includes some historical reminders of state violence in New Zealand along with good practical advice for activists. We are currently assembling a collection of some of the best but largely unknown anarchist text of the last 15 years to be published as Anarchism: Selected Writing.

Monday night saw about 40 people trickle in from typical Christchurch weather to the opening of Celebrate People’s History, a poster exhibition documenting radical moments in history. Whether it was the rain, the continuous email pestering or the large banner on the side of the gallery that brought them in is unknown, but what is known is that the posters are simply amazing. With over 50 works in the collection and each work having such a powerful story to tell, it’s like diving head first into the prettiest history book you’d ever wish to find.

Nibbles and some fine punch kept the spirits up as we trawled around Eastside Gallery’s heritage walls, struggling to pick favourites. Luckily the show is on for two weeks as you really need to revisit a lot of the posters to give them justice. However there are posters for sale at the gallery for those with limited time, as well as free zines, stickers and other goodies.

Thanks to everyone who made it to the opening night. The show ends on May 29th but hopefully it will come to a centre near you in the future. More pics to come.

Eastside Gallery at the Linwood Community Arts Centre, Corner Worcester Street and Stanmore Road, Christchurch.

Gallery Hours:

Monday – Friday: 10am – 4pm (open until 6:00pm Thursdays)

Saturday: 10:30am – 1pm

Sunday: TBC

The following piece is from ‘Industrial Unionist’, the paper of the New Zealand IWW. Labour Day at the time of writing was more of a parade of floats, products and the odd union banner, as opposed to a celebration of labour’s struggle. Not much has changed.

LABOUR DAY: vol 1. No. 10, November 1913.

“NZ ‘Labour Day’ is the bosses labour day. Each year we have seen unions set up ‘Labour Day Committees’, months before, to waste much time organising for what is virtually a street display of goods; a cheap advertising method for employers. We have known wage-workers to spend many evenings before hand getting ready, in some cases to stay up all night on the eve, doing up the horses, etc – all for a pat on the back or a few beers from the boss. ‘Labour’ Day in NZ has been more like an acknowledgment of subjection than an assertion of dignity.

The workers’ day of the near future will be the first of May – INTERNATIONAL LABOUR DAY. Advanced organisations all over the globe recognise that day as one on which the Workers of the World shall lay work aside for twenty-four hours and with international fraternal spirit assert their power. The International Labour Day heralds Labour’s triumph. Let us hold this in mind and set all other dates aside. The FIRST OF MAY is the real Labour Day, because it is international.”

That’s right folks, less than two weeks to go! 

This weeks poster is rather topical:

This poster celebrates the life and work of Wangari Maathai, the founder of the African Greenbelt environmental and social justice movement.

The show details again (in case you missed them):

Since 1998 the Celebrate People’s History Project has produced an amazing array of political posters by different artists from around the world, each highlighting a historical example of social struggle. Here in New Zealand for the first time is the complete series, celebrating important acts of resistance by both individuals and collective movements who have fought tirelessly for social justice. From the Spanish Revolution to feminist labour organisers, indigenous movements to environmental sustainability, protests against racism to the Korean Peasant’s League — Celebrate People’s History canvases global movements in collaboration with a global network of artists.

Visually the posters are as diverse as the topics themselves. Screenprint, woodcut, linocut, illustration, line art and traditional graphic design all feature in full colour — employed to engage in much needed critical reflection about aspects of our history often overlooked by mainstream narratives. A seamless welding of art and politics, Celebrate People’s History is sure to excite the history junkie, poster enthusiast, art student and social activist alike.
Celebrate People’s History
May 17 – 29, 2010  

Opening Night
Monday May 17th at 5.30pm

Eastside Gallery at the Linwood Community Arts Centre 
Corner Worcester Street and Stanmore Road

From the latest newsletter of the Labour History Project (

‘We propose this week to honour the memory of the Chicago Martyrs…. November 11 is an anniversary to make the blood burn as its retrospect becomes fuel of the future. Twenty-four years ago some heroes of the mighty past were robbed of their lives and thus made moulders of a mightier present…’

The Maoriland Worker, the fiery weekly newspaper of the early New Zealand labour movement, devoted much of its issue of 10 November 1911 to commemorating an historic tragedy in the US. That event was the execution in November 1886 of four labour leaders accused of a bomb attack that killed seven police officers in Chicago’s Haymarket Square. 

The convicted men, including a German-born upholsterer named August Spies, had been active in the campaign for an eight-hour working day. The bomb attack took place at a time of mass strikes and demonstrations, and violent repression by the police. Four unarmed strikers had been shot and killed by Chicago police just the day before the bomb attack, and Spies had called on all workers to arm themselves in retaliation. 

Yet there was no firm evidence at all to link Spies and his fellow accused to the fatal bombing. They were anarchist scapegoats, and victims of a wave of anti-labour hysteria. Their cases provoked outrage and expressions of support around the world and May 1, the date of an eight-hour-day demonstration that led directly to the Haymarket bombings, became the official annual holiday of the international labour movement.

Far-off New Zealand was briefly and curiously invoked during the trial of one of the accused men. August Spies was asked about the explosives he admitted possessing when he printed a revolutionary circular in the office of a leftwing German-language newspaper.

Q. How many bombs did you have in the office of the Arbeiter Zeitung?

A. I think there were four of these shells that looked like that [indicating], and I think two others. They were iron cast, and given to me by a person, I believe his name was Schwape or Schwoep, who left for New Zealand.

Spies said that this man, a shoe-maker from Cleveland, had visited the Arbeiter Zeitung office three years previously and then announced his intention to travel to New Zealand. Unsurprisingly, given the vagueness of the details, New Zealand immigration records of the time cannot confirm his arrival here and in any case the Illinois Supreme Court gave no weight to such an alibi.  

On November 11 1886, Spies and three fellow defendants were hanged: Albert Parsons, Adolph Fischer and George Engel. A fifth, Louis Lingg, killed himself in prison. The three remaining men were saved by international outrage at this injustice. A new and less vindictive governor of Illinois investigated their case, denounced what had happened and pardoned the three. 

The four Haymarket Martyrs became icons of the worldwide labour movement. The December 1906 issue of Commonweal, the radical journal of the NZ Socialist Party, noted that the Party’s Wellington branch had recently held a ‘Chicago Martyrs’ commemoration meeting addressed by comrades such as Phillip Joseph, a Russian-born tailor and well-known local anarchist. A visiting speaker from Australia, Dr TF McDonald, ‘also referred to the US Governmental conspiracy which led to the judicial murder of Parsons and his comrades’, before proceeding with his prepared speech on the philosophical inheritance of Kropotkin, Bakunin and others.

The Commonweal was edited, in his spare time, by Wellington journalistRobert Hogg, who worked for the national liberal daily, the New Zealand Times. It was probably Hogg who reported in the Times on a meeting of anarchists in Wellington in 1907. The lead speaker said he said known personally some of the comrades of the executed men.

‘These men had been brutally murdered because they had dared to show the wage-slaves how they were exploited by capitalists…. The capitalist class, who composed the State, deemed it necessary to get rid of these organisers, and so they were flung into prison and some eventually murdered.’

The 1911 issue of the Maoriland Worker quoted above included a glowing review of Frank Harris’s Haymarket-inspired novel The Bomb, portraits of the eight convicted men, a reprint of US socialist leader Eugene Debs’ impassioned memorial oration for them, and a six-column editorial titled ‘The Chicago Martyrs – the men and their message’. The paper made powerfully clear its contempt for the judicial process that had convicted and sentenced the men. ‘We are inclined to agree with the view that the bomb-throwing was the work of a Pinkerton’ [a hired detective]. 

The principle of the eight-hour working day, one of the key demands behind the May Day demonstrations in the Haymarket, had been adopted in New Zealand ahead of most other countries but could only be put in practice here among some craft unionists. A tiny group of land barons and speculators, the ‘governing families’, controlled the legislature and threw out every Bill intended to guarantee the eight-hour day to all. One politician declared that if it was passed, the Bill would destroy the fabric of society since servants could refuse their masters’ demands to work at any time.

From 1890, even though their working hours were still not guaranteed in law, New Zealand workers were granted an annual day’s holiday to celebrate the founding of the eight-hour day. Along with the United States, Australia and Canada, and unlike almost every other country in the world, that holiday is called Labour Day and is not held on 1 May. From as early as 1896, socialists in the labour movement could recognise this as a failure of solidarity. ‘The time has come,’ said one, ‘when New Zealanders should stretch out the hand of comradeship to their brothers across the seas by joining the May Day movement.’ That view, sadly, did not prevail and today New Zealand’s Labour Day is an entirely depoliticised day off work, while May Day goes almost unnoticed. 

— by Mark Derby

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