Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Thomas Moynihan - conscientious objector, Wanganui Detention Barracks 1918

AD1 Box 738/ 10/566 Part 2, Archives New Zealand, Wellington Office
Originally on Flickr. On 21 September 1918, Magistrate J.G.Hewitt released the report of his Magisterial Inquiry into the treatment of conscientious objectors imprisoned at Wanganui Detention Barracks. Believing strict discipline would 'reform' those who objected to military service on socialist or religious grounds, the detention barracks were set up in March 1918. Less than two months later, however, 'NZ Truth' published allegations of mistreatment by guards and the camp's commandant, Lieutenant J.L.Crampton.

As the authority on conscription, Paul Baker, notes, "Prisoners who would not wear the uniform were forcibly dressed… [and] pushed, pulled, kicked, and punched around what Crampton called the 'slaughter yard.' Some were pulled with a rope round the neck, and repeatedly pushed into walls until their faces resembled 'raw steak'.

Concerned about the allegations, Defence Minister James Allen launched a Magisterial enquiry in June. The enquiry collected large amounts of statements from objectors and guards, and found the allegations in the main to be true. "Although it was too carefully administered to leave much evidence" notes Baker, "Hewitt concluded that 'severe punishment' had been used." Yet due the hysteria of the day, in some quarters Crampton's actions were celebrated. The Egmont County Council congratulated him on methods 'no Britisher would object to." Encouraged, Crampton demanded a military court martial, and with the RSA as his council, he was found not guilty of 11 charges of ill-treatment.

Archives New Zealand holds the evidence collected by the Magisterial Inquiry, including full statements, drawings of the location of blood stains, and remarkably, these two photographs of Wanganui inmate and Irish-born objector, Thomas Moynihan, undergoing punishment. Moynihan had refused to drill, so according to his statement, he was stripped, beaten, forcibly put in uniform, and taken to the 'slaughter yard'. A rifle was then tied to his wrist, but as Moynihan refused to hold it, the gun kept slipping down. Guards allegedly smashed it several times against the side of his face "till the blood was streaming down." It was finally attached to his shoulder, and he was pushed, punched and forced around the yard for close to an hour, only stopping to have these photographs taken. In them you can see the string around his wrist, the wall inmates were allegedly pushed into, and shading on the concrete pavement that could possibly be blood. Despite his treatment, Moynihan still refused to co-operate, and apparently had no further trouble from the camp guards after this incident.

Archives Reference: AD1 Box 738/ 10/566 Part 2

One account of the court martial of Crampton can be found at

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Kropotkin’s ideas and the international anarchist movement in the 1920s and 1930s - Vadim Damier

industrialism or rural utopia

From After the bitter experience of World War I and the Russian Revolution, the global anarchist movement had to rethink its approach to revolutionary change. The application of science and technology to warfare, the "rationalization" of production, the rise of fascism, etc., created conditions not envisaged in Kropotkin's anarchist communist teachings, which were subjected to a thoroughgoing revision. But Kropotkin also had his defenders, who not only insisted on the relevance of his ideas, but also extended his critique of industrial society. Using a wide variety of sources, Vadim Damier examines these debates, which found their culmination in the CNT's 1936 resolution on libertarian communism.

Attachment (PDF)
The Ideas of Kropotkin and the International Anarchist Movement in the 1920s and 1930s.pdf

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Forced dressing of First World War Conscientious Objectors into uniform

AD1 10/407/3, Archives New Zealand, Wellington Office
This image from Archives New Zealand shows the moment when some of the 14 conscientious objectors aboard the troopship Waitemata were taken up on deck to have their hair cut, and forced into uniforms. In July 1917 the objectors, including Mark Briggs and Archibald Baxter, had been smuggled out of Terrace Gaol in Wellington under secrecy, placed into a bare 22- by 10-foot (6.7- by 3-metre) cabin, and shipped to the Western Front. Briggs, a socialist, resisted the cutting of his hair and had to be dragged ‘his heels rattling and bumping on the stairs first going up, then coming down.’ He managed to jerk his head around to resist the hair-cutting, so his cropped hair became covered with red marks from his own blood.

More about Briggs and the 14 can be found at

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Towards an anti-colonial anarchism - Vanessa Morgan

Reposted from Despite some of the difficult language this is a nice wee post.
Unnamed anarchist from Europe [interviewer]: Particularly in Canada, the term “First Nations” is frequently used to describe Indigenous societies. This tends to confuse radical Europeans who consider all references to “nations” as necessarily conservative. Can you shed some light on the Indigenous usage of the term?

Taiaike Alfred from the Mohawk Nation of Kahnawá:ke [interviewee]: Europeans should not transpose their experience with nationhood on others. I myself do not think the term accurately describes our people – only our own languages and words can do that – but it is useful in a sense; it conveys an equality of status in theory between our societies and that of the colonizer. And it reiterates the fact of our prior occupancy of this continent (Alfred, 2010).
The languages that we speak build walls. The English language, for instance, is noun-based, territorial and possessive by nature. Behind this language, however, is a distinct way of relating – one that is exemplified by the interview excerpt above. Sharing a language does not imply consensus or commonality. In this case, although Taiake Alfred does not agree in full with the term ‘First Nations’, he does differentiate First Nation and Indigenous Nationhood from European, Westphalia conceptions of nation-state. He dually describes why, from his perspective as a member of the Mohawk Nation from Kahnawá:ke, this terminology resists Eurocentric impositions of governance but also responds to colonial power-imbalances. Social movements, especially in North America, often fall carelessly into colonial traps of Eurocentric thought and colonial universalism, as exampled above[1]. On the surface, though, it is clear why anarchist movements and anarchic theory may be attracted to anti-colonial struggles.

Opposition to the state and to capitalism, to domination and to oppression, are at the core of anarchist and autonomous movements; they are also at the core of anti-colonial struggles that see the state, and by mutual extension the capitalist system, as de-legitimate institutions of authority that ‘Other’ and colonize by way of white supremacist notions of cultural hegemony (see Fanon, 1967; Smith, 2006). Anarchist movements, however, often fail to account for the multiple layers of power that are at play, both contemporarily and historically. As Barker (2012) critically contends, many of the Occupy sites, for example, recolonized by uncritically occupying already occupied lands. The settler privilege of autonomous organizers within these movements upheld hegemonic/colonial territoriality. Romanticized for stewardship and place-based relations to land, Indigenous peoples have even been idolized as the ‘original’ anarchist societies (Barker & Pickerill, 2012). Indigenous Nationhood Movements actively seek to rebuild nation-to-nation relations with settlers by re-empowering Indigenous self-determination and traditional governments (Indigenous Nationhood Movement, 2015). Nation-to-nation, though, cannot be taken in its settler colonial form; indeed, this assumption concerning a homogenous form of government was, and is, at the core of colonialism: “modern government…the European believed, was based upon principles true in every country. Its strengths lay in its universalism” (Mitchell, 2002: 54). Respecting Indigenous Nationhood as a culturally, politically, and spiritually distinct movement propelled by and for Indigenous peoples is integral. Reasons for and tactics in support of these movements may vary, however they inevitably overlap in many offensives with anarchist anti-authoritarian agendas.

With Eurocentric understandings of an anti-colonial anarchism at the core of many activist oriented renditions of such thinking, activists and scholars alike have heeded words of advice to those amidst struggles against colonial forces in settler colonial contexts. As stated by Harsha Walia in discussing autonomy and cross-cultural, colonial-based struggle:

“Non-natives must recognize our own role in perpetuating colonialism within our solidarity efforts. We can actively counter this by… discussing the nuanced issues of solidarity, leadership, strategy and analysis – not in abstraction, but within our real and informed and sustained relationships with Indigenous peoples.” (2012)

By respecting difference, even spatializing autonomy, settler peoples would do well to not transplant – to settle – their perceptions of autonomy, of solidarity, of leadership, and of strategy onto Indigenous movements. Alternatively in settler colonial contexts, anarchist struggles against colonial authority, and thus capitalistic systems, invariably require respectful engagement with Indigenous movements. This is integral if re-colonizing tendencies of anarchist movements–oftentimes primarily driven by European settlers–are to be prevented. Anarchist actors, especially when operating in settler colonial spaces, must understand the nuances of place specific histories and colonial processes. As Lasky suggests, there is “potential for directly relating to each other and changing our relationships with each other in ways that withdraw consent from ‘the system’ and re-creates alternatives that empower our collective personhoods now” (2011: np). As Alfred mentions however, Eurocentric tendencies have oftentimes perpetuated colonial relations of power. As a result, the very structures of oppression that anarchic thought starkly opposes, but also stemmed from, creep into relational geographies.

By , Intercontinental Cry 

Alfred, T. (2010). Interview with Gerald Taiaiake Alfred about Anarchism and Indigenism in North America. Retrieved from
Barker, A. (2012). Already Occupied: Indigenous Peoples, Settler Colonialism and the Occupy Movements in North America. Social Movement Studies, 11(3-4), 327–334. doi:10.1080/14742837.2012.708922
Barker, A. J., & Pickerill, J. (2012). Radicalizing Relationships To and Through Shared Geographies: Why Anarchists Need to Understand Indigenous Connections to Land and Place. Antipode, 44(5), 1705–1725. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8330.2012.01031.x
Fanon, F. (1967). Black skin, white masks. New York, NY: Grove Press.
Indigenous Nationhood Movement. (2015). About. Retrieved from
Lewis, A. (2012). Decolonizing anarchism: Expanding Anarcha-Indigenism in theory and practice (Masters thesis). Queen’s University, Kingston, ON. Retrieved from
Mitchell, T. (2002). Rule of experts: Egypt, techno-politics, modernity. Berkley, CA: University of California Press.
Smith, A. (2006). Heteropatriarchy and the three pillars of white supremacy. In Incite! (Ed.), The colour of violence: The INCITE! anthology (pp. 66–73). Cambridge, UK: South End Press.
Walia, H. (2012). Decolonizing together: Moving beyond a politics of solidarity toward a practice of decolonization. Briar Patch, January/February. Retrieved from
[1] Adam (Lewis, 2012) explores this topic in depth.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Out of sight, out of mind? Non-user understandings of archives in Aotearoa New Zealand

Here is my research paper on non-user understandings of archives, submitted to the School of Information Management, Victoria University of Wellington in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Information Studies (February 2014). Enjoy!

Download the paper:
Research problem: Despite a significant amount of research on archival users, only a small number of studies have focused solely on the non-user. This study investigated non-user understandings of archives in Aotearoa New Zealand to learn about their awareness of archives, perceptions of accessibility and use, and views on an archives’ purpose and societal role. This included whether non-users valued archives and what this said about the democratic archival contract.

Methodology: A qualitative research design influenced by critical theory was employed. Eight non-user samples of individuals over the age of 18 were purposively selected within the population of Aotearoa New Zealand, covering variables of geographical location, socio-economic status, education, gender, age, and ethnicity. Three activist samples were also included. Data were collected by semi-structured interviews and analysed thematically.

Results: While their image of an archive was generally accurate and positive, participants had little knowledge of how they were organised. Archives were highly valued and viewed as accessible places for those who needed it, but with clear differences to other institutions. These differences prevented half of the sample with a need to use an archive from doing so. The archival contract was generally accepted, but was problematized in terms of access and cultural bias.

Implications: The findings support the view that understandings of archives greatly influence use. Although limited to a small and geographically specific sample, this study enables archives to know more about potential users, and design, target and implement outreach in order to raise awareness and increase use.

Keywords: Archives - Non-users - User Studies - Outreach - Awareness - Power

User studies in archival research have become a major topic over the last six decades (Chowdhury & Chowdhury, 2011, p.25). Despite one definition of user studies as ‘investigations of the use and users (including non-users and potential users and users) of documents, information, communication channels, information systems and information services’ (Hjorland, 2000), only a small number of studies have focused solely on the non-user. As a result, there is a distinct lack of information and research-based studies on archival non-users, including in Aotearoa New Zealand. It is simply not known how non-users perceive the accessibility and purpose of the country’s numerous archives.

The same can be said of the relationship between non-use and the often-cited societal outcomes of formal archives. How effective are objectives such as ‘efficient and effective government’, ‘trusted and accountable government’, and ‘nationhood and social cohesion’ (Archives New Zealand, 2010) if the archive is not used, or even valued? Such questions also problematise the democratic archival contract: the assumed ‘agreement between archivists and society’ (Hamilton, Harris & Reid, 2002, p.16). Is this agreement reciprocal?

‘If we accept the premise that archives play a public role in modern society,’ note Blais & Enns, ‘we must consider the perceptions people have of archives’ (1990, p.104). This study focuses on the non-user of archives in Aotearoa New Zealand, in order to contribute to the present knowledge gap around archival non-users and their understandings of archives.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A day-by-day account of the signing of te Tiriti o Waitangi - Archives New Zealand

2015 marks the 175th anniversary of the signing of te Tiriti o Waitangi. In recognition of this landmark occasion, Archives New Zealand is tweeting records from the collection as they happened in 1840, using the hashtag #Waitangi175.

Each record is shared on twitter so that you can experience the signings day-by-day throughout 2015. You can follow these on Twitter:

The tweets link through to the Waitangi 175 Flickr album: Here each record is arranged chronologically. It forms an excellent resource for anyone interested in the history of the signings, with detailed captions and plenty of content to explore.

As the project coordinator, it has been a great learning experience—both in terms of the records we hold, and learning more about the Tiriti process. It has meant exploring some unfamiliar and interesting collections, such as harbour charts, patent records, publicity studios negatives, Governor correspondence, and school journal artwork.

The project runs until November, so get onto Twitter and follow #Waitangi175 or he Archives New Zealand account.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Public talk: Aro Valley Seminar

View of the Aro Valley with Brooklyn hill behind. Original photographic prints and postcards from the file print collection, Box 16. Ref: PAColl-7344-16. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

I'm excited to say that I'll be speaking at the Aro Valley Seminar My Country Right or Wrong a Contribution to the WW100 Commemorations. It is planned for the weekend of 9-10 May and it will be held in the Aro Valley Hall, 48 Aro Street. There's some great speakers lined up, so it should be a very good event.

Here's my abstract:

Philip Josephs: Aro Valley anarchist

Aro Valley has long had a reputation for radicalism & radicals. One such character was the Latvian anarchist & tailor-cum-bookseller, Philip Josephs. Between 1904-1908, Josephs used his home in Aro Street to spread the revolutionary ideas of anarchism & anti-militarism, building a vibrant a working-class counterculture. This paper looks at his time in Aro Valley, his legacy, & some of his colourful cohorts.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

On the miseries of political life

This is my response to a text written on the AWSM blog:

I think I should probably qualify my original, short comment (as delayed as this is). I should also say outright that I don’t have much time to participate in this discussion as I have a new baby, so apologies for that in advance. I see further comments on the Redline blog have also clarified some of what I felt was problematic with the text.

Despite agreeing with much of the text, I guess what jarred me was the feeling that it was too black and white, and I couldn’t tell if the Situationist quotes were for real or satire. I think what Olly says about certain types of work leading to further investment in ‘the system’ is spot on. To be aware of the contradictions in our work, and to know how our work reproduces capital, is the first step in challenging and ending that work.

But if I understand what this text suggests, it is that we should aim our struggle towards particular jobs. Olly points out the flaws of this approach, yet it still reads as if certain jobs have more potential for class struggle over others.

I feel this is problematic. It makes me think of those who argue that Auckland should be the main place of struggle, because that’s where the biggest employers are. Or that the online financial sector should be the place of struggle, because that is where the finance sector operates.

Playing havoc with the economy or the financial sector might bring down the economy or the financial sector, but this is not the same as ending capitalism. As we know, capital is not a place, but a social relationship. Thinking about where this relationship might best be ruptured is useful, but trying to pinpoint exact locations of struggle is extremely difficult and possibly a distraction from a broader, collective approach.

Yet it is clear that certain work changes the way we relate to others, as Olly points out. This division of labour, or the divisions between ourselves, is super important – even more so now that many people do not identify as workers, or as a class (this might not be such a bad thing, depending on your point of view, but that is another discussion altogether).

However most people can relate to discussions about work; to the day-to-day content and activity of their jobs (waged or unwaged). I think this is a potentially fruitful way forward for those of us who wish to end the wage relation. Rather than spending time raising the ‘class consciousness’ of our peers in an abstract sense, we can get to the heart of our work, and how we reproduce capital.

Feminist and marxist, Iris Young, talks about how the division of labour may be a more useful way forward than that of class. In ‘The Unhappy Marriage’ she writes that “the division of labour operates as a category broader and more fundamental than class. Division of labour, moreover, accounts for specific cleavages and contradictions within a class… [it] can not only refer to a set of phenomena broader than that of class, but also more concrete. It refers specifically to the activity of labour itself, and the specific social and institutional relations of that activity.” She goes on to talk about how this might speak to the role of professionals – ie the subject of Olly’s text.

I find this approach helpful, because it makes clear that all work reproduces the wage relation – whether you’re an academic, information worker, or a kitchen hand – and that struggle around the activity of work is potentially more fruitful than trying to pinpoint which jobs are best to spend energy on.

In other words, what might be more constructive is to discuss the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of struggle against the wage relation, wherever that struggle may be, rather than focusing on ‘where’.

This relates to another aspect of this text I find troublesome. It feels like another anarchist text policing individuals within the movement for their decisions. It seems to place a lot of emphasis on the role of the individual anarchist. I get this, because that is what we can relate to in our own lives and our own organising, as anarchists. But this does not strike me as a way forward, but a further step inward.

Olly clarifies that we need a collective response to this on Redline, which is cool to hear.

Finally, I don’t agree with the ‘poverty of everyday life’ comment of Olly’s. Struggle around our everyday life is a must, but poverty often begets more poverty, and not struggle. I don’t like what this leads to (even if it is unintentional) – that the worse off people’s jobs are, the more they will struggle against it. If anything, history has shown that struggle on a collective scale tends to take place when things are good or improving for workers (a huge generalisation, I know).

I’m not sure if what I’m trying to say makes sense. I guess the short of it is that the potential for mass, collective struggle against the wage relation (and work) is all around us. We don’t need to narrow that to a particular type of work, especially when there may be important sites of struggle that is neglected in doing so. For example, could capital reproduce itself without childcare and daycare centres? I’m not saying this is a great example, but it is the type of question I’d love to discuss, rather than trying to monitor the further personification of capital by individual comrades.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

What is anarchism? - in one sentence

Josh MacPhee, Revolution of Everyday Life, postcard
"You're an anarchist? What does that mean?" It's a common question I get asked. Through deliberate misinterpretation or unawareness, being an anarchist and what that means is completely foreign to many. As well as this, we are sometimes guilty of using unclear or unknown language when describing our ideas.

While I shed my evangelical fervor a long time ago, I still want to be able to talk with those around me about what drives my thoughts and actions.

Related to this is one of my goals for 2015: to speak and write in plain English. So I thought I would share what usually I say when I am asked what anarchism is.

Anarchists believe that no one should have the power to coerce or exploit another, that we could enjoy a life without capitalism, without government, and be free to decide how to live and work with those around us.

This is a huge simplification of a rich and complex movement, and leaves a lot out. But I find it is a nice conversation starter. I have used other terms at other times, such as 'wage labour' for 'capitalism', 'the state' for 'government', or 'organise' for 'decide'. However these are slightly more abstract or harder to relate to. Plus 'wage labour' does not cover all of what capitalism does to our relationships, our environment, and our lives.

You can find out more about anarchism on this blog, and online. For example, has these great guides on what anarchists are against, and what we would like to see instead:

Happy New Year!