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Over 400 people attended the recent Social Movements, Resistance, and Social Change conference at Victoria University, hosted by Counterfutures journal.
The three day conference saw panels and discussions from activists and academics, and the launch of left-wing think-tank Economic and Social Research Aotearoa (ESRA).
Dr Dylan Taylor, one of the conference organisers, said he was thrilled by the success of the conference and saw it as a hint of a revival of the left.
“The large turnout… and the hopeful and bold content of many of the papers presented, indicates that the country may be reaching a turning point.”
“The history of Aotearoa shows that substantial social change is often spearheaded by vigorous social movement activity. We look set to see an increase in such activity in the years to come.”
The opening session was a highlight for many in attendance and Moana Jackson, Dr Leonie Pihama, and Tere Harrison spoke.
Harrison called out Victoria University for being complicit in the ongoing colonisation and confiscation of Māori land in relation to the sale of the Karori campus that is situated on Te Ati Awa land.
The property, which the university bought from the government for $10 in 2014, has been put on the market and has a possible value of $20 million.
Conference co-organiser Jonathan Oosterman stated: “The Social Movements, Resistance and Social Change conference calls on the university to recognise the completely despicable treatment of mana whenua, historically and in the present. We call on the university to return the land to Te Ati Awa and accept the koha of $10. We also call on all universities to fully recognise how these institutions benefit from colonisation.”
ESRA launched to an audience of 200 people on the second night of the conference. It is the first left-wing think-tank in New Zealand and aims to renew the focus on issues of economics and social class within New Zealand, and challenge neoliberal capitalism.
Project Coordinator Sue Bradford said ESRA “is about challenging the very structures of our society, very clearly grounded in economic and social and ecological justice and in a treaty and tino rangatiratanga kaupapa.”
Dr Taylor said the diversity of conference participants served to challenge the idea that “the left in Aotearoa, and elsewhere, has supposedly been split between identity politics and redistributive / class-based politics.”
“This split may not be as pronounced today as it supposedly was in the past.”