by Don Franks
It was a lovely sunny Wellington afternoon with blue skies above the beaches. In Courtenay Place, political activists packed out a stuffy upstairs room for an important meeting. The assembled pacifists, anarchists, communists and independent young radicals of Peace Action Wellington felt the need for a mission statement.
Hours of debate finally reached consensus: “Peace, with Justice, and self-determination”. The addition of “with” had finally clinched the slogan to everyone’s satisfaction. Those six words took a lot of work to corral but words were important to PAW.
In the beginning, words were all we had to try to advance our cause. Words, and later, masses of people.
PAW’s main function was organising mass marches and protests against New Zealand-aided US attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq. History will remember PAW for that, and also for standing up for a point of principle.
During the period, many people in and about the left were chary of criticising the Labour government, largely because of Helen Clark’s big popularity. From the outset and throughout, PAW pulled no punches with Labour and its leaders. Abusive accusations from party hacks and even a special visit from NZCTU head Helen Kelly were unable to dissuade us from the truth. We continued speaking out about Labour’s embrace of those imperialist wars.
Today, some fifteen years on, Peace Action Wellington is still vocal . On matters and in a manner far from its origins.
Against the women’s rights site Speak Up For Women PAW chose to endorse a tweeted image of a gallows as an intended platform for SUFW: “Great to see people support their awesome friends by standing up to your transphobic bigotry.”
When asked how they reconciled public execution with the cause of peace, PAW replied, “we agree it was a pretty great tweet the way it called out your ongoing transphobic hatey campaign and all but to describe it as public execution is a bit ott.”
Peace Action Wellington’s degeneration is a sign of the times. Among the wreckage of the left, words like ’transphobic’, ’trash’ and ‘fascist’ get hurled mindlessly at any person supportive of women’s basic rights. There is a carelessness for words’ meaning, for people’s feelings and for truth.
The great mass of the public will not be interested in squabbles between small political interest groups, but I would say this to any few who might be: read the material published by Speak Up For Women. See what they actually stand for and say and see how untrue are the accusations flung against them.
My response to those presently representing PAW is simple: your abusive missive will not dissuade us. It won’t shift the focus of Speak Up for Women and its supporters by the fraction of a millimetre. In the words of one of New Zealand’s greatest peace activists, Archibald Baxter – We will not cease!