Communist Worker

Archive of Communist Workers Group of Aoteaora/New Zealand up to 2006

Occupy For Sure! From Pakaitore to Parliament and Back!

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The main outcome of the Hikoi of 2004 is the birth of a Maori Party. Tariana Turia is standing in Te Tai Hauauru. Is this the way forward for the vast majority of Maori who are workers? No. It subordinates the interests of Maori workers behind a few Maori who are politicians, bureaucrats and bosses. Maori workers should break with Labour but organise to occupy land and foreshore to meet their needs rather than follow some of their leaders back into the parliamentary dead end.

What’s the alternative to parliament?

Look at where Tariana Turia comes from. In 1995 she, along with Ken Mair, a public servant, and Niko Tangaroa, an Auckland union leader, combined to lead the occupation of Pakaitore (Moutoa Gardens) in Wanganui. The Treaty process was stalled under National and the Wanganui iwi wanted to speed things up.

This was the last of the big occupations. Bastion Point won back land for Ngati Whatua before the onset of the 1980s’ neo-liberal counter-revolution and has since become a major land owner in Auckland city. Pakaitore could not deliver these results. It was too little and too late. But pressure was exerted on the National government and a face-saving deal was done. The occupiers left with dignity, and the Labour Party made unspecified promises to deal with grievances.

Labour courted Tariana Turia and co-opted her into the party with the promise of making her a Minister and promoting Maori issues. Several times she expressed her impatience with Labour as it pulled back from defending Maori but she and her mentor, Helen Clark, remained allies until the F&S (Takutai Moana) issue blew up.

The lesson drawn by Tariana Turia and her supporters on the Hikoi is that Labour has now betrayed the Maori cause by confiscating the foreshore and seabed. This is true. But they are in danger of drawing the wrong conclusion – that this betrayal can be overcome by taking to the parliamentary road in a new vehicle – a Maori Party.

It is the wrong conclusion because the parliamentary road is a dead end. Already the occupation of Pakaitore in 1995 had been weakened by focusing the struggle on parliament. This will not change with the formation of the Maori Party.

It doesn’t matter if a minority exerts pressure outside or inside parliament. It can never win what it wants. The reason is that parliament is a numbers game and governments will always put minority Maori interests last to keep majority pakeha support. The best a Maori Party will do is a deal with the multinational fish farmers to allow Maori to work for them – just like the forestry industry.

More importantly, Parliament is not sovereign, capitalism is, and today it is US imperialism that rules the world. So jumping out of Labour’s bus into Hone Harawira’s 4-wheel drive is not going to alter the numbers game or the parliamentary outcome. So long as it is added up in votes the numbers game will always leave Maori as poor cousins using its 7 seats to negotiate starvation rations with the majority.

Worse, it divides Maori from pakeha workers and lets the bosses’ maintain their parliamentary stranglehold on the only class able to throw out the bosses. So what’s the workers’ alternative?

Make Pakaitore work this time!

Pakaitore can be seen as a lost opportunity. It was a highly visible occupation of a key foreshore site near the Wanganui river mouth which could have become a flax roots occupation. Instead of using it as a tactic to pressure the parliamentary majority, Pakaitore could have been a new start for Maori politics. It could have been a model occupation for Maori and pakeha workers to assert workers control over key sites and resources.
In this way, Maori could have stopped playing a minority support role like the Winston Peters and Tau Henares in parliament and could have called on support from a section of pakeha workers to break out of the dead end of the parliamentary road.

But for this to happen, the leadership of the occupation had to be won from the iwi leadership. Ken Mair is a bureaucrat who wants Maori to sit down at the table with pakeha. But the bosses have shown that even the Brown Table is permanently under the Round Table. The Maori elite of capitalists, lawyers and bureaucrats who want 15% of the profits of NZ Inc have not made it to 1%.

The bad news for Ken Mair is that Maori capitalism is doomed to extinction. It cannot be a vehicle for the welfare of the mass of Maori. Just look at the way Treaty settlements have led to the creation of Maori capitalists whose loyalty to the boss class far exceeds their loyalty to Maori.

Take Sealords. Sorry, you’re too late, it’s been taken. Maori fishing rights under the Treaty were consolidated as a share of the quota owned by the Sealord corp in a half share with a Japanese corporation. In a capitalist economy, iwi or Maori corps are mainly sprats or at the most a few kahawai swimming in a sea of makos.

But was’nt Niko Tangaroa a staunch unionist? Yes, but in coming home to Wanganui, his ‘Ahi kaa’ (the home fires), he left his union support base behind to work for the iwi. This was sad and probably against his personal instincts, but his SUP Stalinist training was never centred on seriously uniting the working class, only containing it. While many unionists and leftists rallied to Pakaitore to show worker solidarity, the objective was always to win Pakaitore for Wanganui iwi and not for the united working class.

So the Pakaitore leadership showed that they had a limited iwi perspective which did not want to turn the occupation into a cause to unite the working class. The opportunity to turn Maori from a parliamentary minority, always making concessions to the majority, into the vanguard of a new working class majority, was lost.

Workers’ Pakaitore everywhere!

This lesson should not be lost on us today. We do not have to get stuck on the parliamentary road. The bosses’ parliament and not lickspittle Labour is the real problem. Labour is scared of their US bosses spitting, not Tame Iti. Elections are only held for us to vote our oppressors back into power every three years. Every time we fall for this, the bosses laugh all the way to the Citibank. We have to replace our faith in bosses’ elections with a belief in the power of workers’ occupations.

In every iwi or hapu, there is a piece of foreshore and related seabed, river or lake, which is the traditional source of kaimoana. This customary right should be asserted by occupations backed by the unions. The leaders of the iwi or hapu who see these claims as mere pawns in some larger political or legal game should be replaced by flax roots leaders.

The traditional concept of occupation-for- use can today become revived as the basis of property rights. This practical assertion of common ownership and use of resources to meet the needs of iwi, hapu and all workers living in the area, will create support from Pakeha, Pacifica, Asian and other workers.

New Occupations, Old ‘communism’

Such occupations will prove to be very popular and not at all outdated. Rightwing politicians will say that this is a return to stone-age economics or ‘primitive communism’ against the market. These are the age-old racist objections to the Maori ‘land-league’ in the Waikato that refused to sell land to settlers in the 1860s, now being recycled again.

What these racist apologists do not say is that the real challenge back then, and what they fear most today, is Maori producing all the food and produce the settlers needed to survive, independently of private property, by adapting ‘iron-age’ technology to their ‘stone-age’ collective property rights!

In the same way, the now fashionable-among-liberals struggle of Te Whiti of Parihaka in the 1880s is remembered for its ‘pacifism’ and not for Te Whiti’s defence of common ownership of land and the ‘miracle’ of collective labour.

These ‘communist’ traditions were rejected by land-hungry Pakeha settlers in the 1800s. But today they can be revived and supported by Pakeha, Pacifica and Asian workers who have no interest to dispossess Maori by force, and a common interest to re-possess capitalist property and resources as the class allies of Maori workers.

The Treaty is a Fraud!

Occupy the Seabed and Foreshore under workers control!

From Class Struggle 56 June-July 2004


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