Poll Dancer by Keith Ng

They don't need no education

I'm all for a bit of schoolyard rebellion, but I think the Greens have been letting their high-minded ideas get to their heads in their support for the youth rates "strike".

First, the simplest point: Shouldn't a strike aimed at raising youth rates be aimed at employers of youth? You know, demonstrate the power of labour by withholding it from the capitalists?

Unless these kids normally work during school hours, none of them actually missed work during the strike. This would, by any assessment, make it a pretty goddamn lousy strike.

And if the point was simply to yell (literally) at Mackers and KFCs, couldn't it have been done after school? Well, no, because then you couldn't have wagged school to go protest, and then it would have been, like, just totally lame.

It's a pretty straightforward and obvious point, and I think Sue Bradford must be taking her own "democratic participation" rhetoric a little too seriously for her not to see it.

TV3 did a pretty leading piece on it, asking the kids whether they were being "manipulated" by the union organisers, and all but saying that that was the case.

It was weird reporting, but I can appreciate why they would have felt that "something was going on". Of the union organisers that they filmed, I knew every single one.

I photographed them all last time I went up to Auckland while they were protesting against Destiny Church during their "Defend Our Legacy" march. The guy they interviewed as the organiser from Unite! (a union for miscellaneous low-paid workers - including student media types) I knew from anti-US protests and from a "GE raid" on a New World in Wellington back in 2004, among other anti-GE activities.

The relevance is that the organisers from Unite! also happen to be the organisers of a wide and varied array of other political protests, and they are proponents of direct action tactics of the type that was seen (as opposed to real *industrial* action). "Manipulated" would suggest an unwillingness on the kids' part, but it would be fair to speculate that the "strike" was a direct result of Unite's involvement.

And it's difficult to shake the feeling that the kids are being exploited to further Unite's agenda here - just as you would if, say, National got kids to strike from school until NCEA was reformed. Perhaps it's unfair, but political mobilisation of kids always seems suspect, as it does in this case.