CAFCA's 25th Birthday Party

A Jolly Good Time Was Had By All

- Murray Horton

CAFCA is not big on celebrations, anniversaries or backslapping. The Annual General Meeting is about as wild as it gets. Back in 1985, we did have a tenth anniversary celebration, but that was a one off. Millennium madness must be to blame, as we realised that early 2000 marked the 25th anniversary of the 1975 South Island Resistance Ride, our founding event (we’re actually 26 years old, as we were formed in 1974 to organise the Ride, but who’s quibbling?). It was decided that a modest celebration was in order (certainly not on the scale of the 1989 Progressive Youth Movement reunion, which occupied an actionpacked three days).

Ray Scott, one of our committee, was entrusted with the job of finding a venue and he recommended a workingmens’s club, based on his experience with the Alliance. We picked the Richmond one, and were pleasantly surprised to find that there was no rental, the only cost being the $10 per head for the buffet supper, and drinks at normal bar prices (ironically, Ray himself could not be with us on the night).

It was decided to make it a low key affair, an informal social get together, without a programme of events and entertainment. Initially, we did have a singer arranged – Malcolm McNeil – who said he’d be happy to do it free of charge, unless he got paying work. Sadly, he later rang to say he’d have to cancel because he had got a paying job. Saturday nights in February are a busy time of year for one of the country’s leading jazz singers. We therefore decided that if we couldn’t get appropriate entertainment, we’d have none. We had no doubt that CAFCA members and supporters could easily entertain themselves. The event itself was the entertainment.

We advertised it to all members, selected former members, and our broader band of supporters. We also decided, as a means of gauging our political support and respectability, to invite all Alliance and Green MPs, plus a couple of Labour ones and Christchurch local body leaders. The response was encouraging – on the night we had, in attendance, one Alliance Minister (Phillida Bunkle, who proudly proclaimed herself a founder member of the former Wellington CAFCINZ), two Green MPs (Rod Donald and Keith Locke) and one Labour MP (Tim Barnett). It should be made clear that the politicians had to pay the same as everybody else, were not invited to speak, and got no special treatment. They came to show their support for us. We also received apologies and messages of support from several other Alliance and Green MPs, including Ministers (Sandra Lee and Laila Harre).

The night itself (Saturday, February 19th) was extremely enjoyable. Over 90 people attended, some having come a long way. Maurice Ward, who has worked in Japan for several years, was back in the country on leave. CAFCA founder Tony Currie, who has lived in Sydney since 1983, was back in town for his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, so he came along to see old friends (founder Christine Bird, who has lived in Sydney since 1987, rang through her apologies. She’d wanted to come but was unable to, for health reasons. Warren Thomson sent his apologies from Bangkok, where he has been working since 1997). Founder Pete Lusk came from Westport; long time Watchdog printer Greg Waite came from Upper Hutt (and to say goodbye, as he’s moving to Australia). Ken and Betty Baird, who were visiting from Waiheke Island, were there. Keith Locke flew down from Auckland at the last moment; Phillida Bunkle came from Wellington. All sorts of people from our past and present were there – Joan Hazlehurst, who used to type up Watchdog on wax stencils; Leigh Cookson, who, along with Aziz Choudry, does the layout for the current Watchdog, our former treasurer, Terry Moon (who has rejoined because her oldest daughter told her to: "Get a life, Mum!"); Ann Currie, another former treasurer, produced an excellent display of our 25 year history (getting together the photos and other material for that was a real trip down memory lane). The crowd included nuns, union leaders and professors. We grew out of the peace movement – it was great to see Larry Ross and Kate Dewes there, plus all the current committee of the Anti-Bases Campaign. The middle aged to elderly demographic of our membership and supporters was also obvious – when I asked for anyone under 25 to identify themselves, one solitary hand went up (the ABC’s "baby", Yani Johansen).


Bill Rosenberg was the MC for the evening, revealing a whole other side of the good doctor to people who know him only as the serious expert on foreign control. My brief was to give a brief and lighthearted speech on CAFCA’s history – I didn’t miss the opportunity to give Bill, my old partner in crime, a celebrity roast. The other speaker was Maxine Gay, president of the Trade Union Federation and the chief judge of the 1999 Roger Award (see cover story. Ed.). She tied together a quarter of a century of remembrance with a timely reminder of what we’re on about, plus she took the opportunity to give me a celebrity roast, and delighted in very publicly paying her $10 for the evening (we’d told her she didn’t have to pay; Maxine was having none of it). The mike was then opened for the floor and a number of people (including both Green MPs present) spoke briefly, basically praising CAFCA, and raising a number of other matters – Pete Lusk singled out CAFCA founder Owen Wilkes for praise; Graeme Young dredged up a 25 year old gripe by complaining about the food on the Resistance Ride, which led to a stout defence of it from those who had been on the food committee, such as Don Archer and Jan Dobson. As for Bill and I, our families need not go to the expense of a funeral now, because we’ve already heard the eulogies. All in all, it was a great night, very much a gathering of the clan, a reminder of where CAFCA had come from, where it is now, and a demonstration of how important its existence and work are regarded by a large number of people. As I concluded in my speech:

"I have a feeling of true optimism about the current outlook. I wouldn’t be foolish enough to predict that CAFCA itself will last another 25 years (although if it does, I will be no older than two of our committee members are now. I have the perfect retirement job). Like all such groups, we have the problem of succession. But the issue itself and the various strands of work on it have come to fruition. We and groups like us spent years in the political wilderness. Not any longer, the pendulum has swung the other way, both in New Zealand and globally. Now, I don’t get dewy eyed over the election of a Labour government – we were born during a Labour government; this is the third in CAFCA’s lifetime. We certainly won’t be packing up just because the Alliance is in government and the Greens are in Parliament. Basically I’m optimistic because more and more people are seeing that what we’ve been saying from the outset is right – that foreign control is economic and political recolonisation; that globalisation is just another word for good old fashioned imperialism; and that the root cause of the whole thing is capitalism. We don’t have to explain to people any more what is a transnational corporation. At its simplest, we can say "We told you so". But it goes much further than that.

"Our side has started winning some battles in recent years – the Multilateral Agreement on Investment was killed; the World Trade Organisation’s Millennium Round was brought to a screeching halt in Seattle; here in New Zealand, the Rogernauts are the ones being rogered for a change. So, even if CAFCA itself does not last another 25 years, the work that we have done, and are doing, will last. It is a legacy of which we can be justly proud. And it’s been a lot of fun in the process. You can’t ask for more than that".

Foreign Control Watchdog, P O Box 2258, Christchurch, New Zealand/Aotearoa. December 1999.


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