Excerpts from Part Two of a talk given by Kotare School “educator”, Catherine Delahunty in Sydney in 2004. “We Make the Road By Talking?” Part one is here.
Working at our Centre and around the country we share our structural analysis tools and interactive learning techniques with community workers who are the front line of both community development work and community enterprise. We travel the length of the country to work with community groups and campaigns, but we prefer when it is affordable, to bring people together at the Kotare Centre. At our Centre we display the posters of forty years of justice struggles from our country and from around the world.
One of the critical lessons of the campaigns of the 1980’s was learning how much damage we can do to each other by brutal ideological internal conflict. I grew up on the fundamentalist Marxist left and learnt that no matter how wonderfully right we were about everything we could not build a movement for change because of the intolerant and abusive behaviour which characterised our processes. At Kotare we strive to walk another road which is respectful and supportive of people and dedicated to good and safe processes. This is a challenge when you just know that lecturing people in a very loud voice is the most effective way to brow beat them into revolutionary correctness.
In other words, the old Marxists put people off by being too strident and doctrinaire. Kotare is about a subtler, more gentle and more effective form of Marxism.
In the workshop that we are offering to this Conference, we are using one of one our favourite tools, a structural analysis technique called “The Wave”. This is a tool for mapping positional power in relation to a specific issue. The genealogy of tools such as “The Wave” is debated, but our researches suggest it came from Paolo Freire and was brought to Aotearoa by a key exponent of Freire’s work, Phillipe Franchette from Mauritius. Phillipe visited Aotearoa a number of times in the 1980s and worked with a range of people and groups.
Philippe Franchette, a Catholic priest, did indeed bring Marxist Structural Analysis to NZ in the ’80s. One his pupils was well known Maori “Radical” and colleague of Donna Awatere’s, Ripeka Evans. Franchette worked closely with Marxist priest, father John Curnow (who had close ties to the Workers Communist League) holding structural analysis courses all over the country to mainly church and Maori groups. Maori Party leader, Tariana Turia, for instance studied with Curnow. Structural Analysis was denounced by some conservative Catholics at the time as a form of “Marxist brainwashing”, which was probably not too far from the truth.
I learnt about“The Wave” as an analytical tool from Christine Herzog, who is a remarkable structural analysis and Te Tiriti rights educator from Auckland. At Kotare we mainly use this tool as a role-play wearing hats and masks etc because it’s more fun and more dynamic than sitting and talking about it. It is only one of many creative ways of working with the issues that people bring to workshops. These tools help us to name the enemy, strategise for change and affirm a progressive vision in whatever sector we work in.
Name the “enemy”, a “progressive vision”. Does this sound a teensy bit Marxist to you?
Kotare is unabashedly political and we own our agenda. We have relationships with a growing number of groups and communities who want to critically analyse their work and direction.
Our workshops and programmes have diverse titles from “Coalition Building Skills for Activists” to “Refresh and Review for Isolated Community Workers” to “The Revolutionary Pyjama Party – Film Weekend”. We hold workshops on structural analysis, drama for social change and women’s empowerment in political life. We attract the fringe dwelling social activists who often comment that at least there is one place they can go where their preoccupation with justice is normalised.
The “Fringe dwelling social activists” are being armed by Kotare with the technology to covertly subvert our system and way of life. This is the “democracy”, the left are always going on about?
In order to stay in touch with the campaigning realities of our target participants we draw different lines from most academics and adult educators. The following two case studies outline how we are active in catalyst work and follow up support for people making change. The difficulty is where to draw the line between working “for” and working “with” people and groups on campaigns, and what is education as opposed to campaigning. Sometimes we seem to be wearing numerous hats and juggling them for the coins tossed by the small number of philanthropic trusts who recognise our value.
More on the funding of Kotare later. Rest assured dear taxpayer, you’re doing your bit.
Case Studies of the Activist/Educator Role
1. The role of Kotare in the creation of advocacy for the poor
The process whereby we became a catalyst for major local challenge on welfare issues is a good example of the way educators can support and inspire activism. Several of the travelling tutors for Kotare Trust, including myself, live in Te Tairawhiti on the East Coast of the North Island of Aotearoa. This area, although a rich food basket has appalling wealth and poverty gaps between the Pakeha farming and land holding classes and the Maori dispossessed. Many people on low incomes and benefits receive a bare minimum and are barely coping. You would think that targeted Government support would be well utilised but our researches revealed that the opposite it was true.
So at the beginning of 2003 Kotare held a workshop for community workers on how to force the Ministry of Social Development to pay people their entitlements under law. This resulted in a community process of meetings and challenges leading up to an “Impact” outside Ministry offices in Oct 2003. An “Impact” is a direct action involving as many experienced beneficiary advocates as possible sitting outside welfare offices advocating for full entitlement for as many people in need as possible over a 3 day period. About 500 people attended the “Impact” seeking help, which naturally led to a follow up process and the development of a new local group carrying out ongoing advocacy. A year later the group is offering a free service to the communities of Te Tairawhiti and has forced MSD into an improved performance.
Great. No thought about upskilling people to earn higher wages, or getting people off the dole. Kotare’s whole pupose here was to teach people how to squeeze every possible last dollar out of the MSD-or rather poor saps like us who pay the taxes..
The role of Kotare in Te Tiriti o Waitangi protest
Kotare is a Pakeha dominated organisation. In our country this means that according to a treaty of agreement made between the Crown and tangata whenua leadership we have a right to live within the country providing we acknowledge the independent sovereignty of the tangata whenua. As in Australia, the colonisation process has done its best to suppress the collective indigenous rights and ongoing relationships of the indigenous people to their land and resources. In 2004 yet another confiscation of indigenous rights (to the foreshore and seabed) is being forced through Parliament. Protest has been huge and dynamic and there has been a role for Pakeha willing to face the issues. Kotare members have been active participants in the political protests and in the Select Committee hearings to Parliament.
Marxists call this “National Question” politics. The deliberate promotion of “self determination” by “oppressed” races in order to bring about social change, up to the point of revolution if necessary.
We make the road by action as well as talk. We make the road by being uncomfortable and unpopular with the mainstream. We make the road by walking in the protest marches and into the forums of the powerful with our unrefined anger, our experience and our analysis. We then make the road by teaching each other what it is that we have felt and seen and learned while in the midst of the political action.
In other words, we don’t fit into your society, but we aren’t humble enough to examine our screwed up ideas and make personal changes. We’re going to force you to live on our terms-and we’re going to teach other malcontents how to make trouble as well.