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Maori Party Debate: Anti-Communist means Anti-Maori

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Jesse Butler made a number of replies to the CWG’s Open Letter to the Green Left Weekly (see next post) in response to Butler’s article after it was posted on the indymedia news service. Here we reprint one of Butler’s replies and our response to him.

To the CWG,

Once again we are bombarded with the outdated rhetoric of the communist party, now focusing on Tariana’s reasonable comment to work with anyone, including National, to obtain equality and justice in Aotearoa.

Where is the alternative system of the communist party? I hear a lot of bullshit from the sidelines yet very little in the way of an alternative game plan.

You’re not still waiting for your ‘revolution’ are you? Do you mean to say that the vast majority of the masses would rise up against the system that supplies them security, income and a future to your unarticulated communist system?

Surely, you are not suggesting another failed communist experiment experienced in Russia, China and North Korea to happen here in Aotearoa?

Communist dictators make Donald Brash look like a lollipop. And you want the New Zealand public to take you seriously?

No, I’m afraid your ramblings are blinded by ideology and obviously flawed in the political reality of this country.

My advice to you is to wake up and get off the sidelines, and have a real go at the opposition like we are. Basically put up or shut up.

We need all hands on deck against the neo-liberal onslaught, and sometimes that involves getting inside next to them so we can beat them at their own game.

Jesse Butler

The CWG replies:

Jesse’s response to our criticisms of his article shows very clearly that Green Left Weekly and Socialist Worker were wrong to print his accounts of the hikoi and the formation of the Maori Party. Jesse’s anti-communism would make Joe McCarthy and Ben Couch proud!

Anti-commie, anti-Maori

It’s sad to see some supporters of the Maori Party engaging in a red baiting that belongs to the days the Cold War, because it was Maori who were regularly asked to go abroad and die in the US’s wars against ‘communist tyranny’ in Korea, Malaya, and Vietnam. Thirty-two of the thirty-five Kiwi troops who died in Vietnam were Maori – what did they die for? Hasn’t Jesse learnt anything?

And Vietnam and Korea weren’t the first wars that New Zealand fought against ‘the communist menace’. The Waikato and Taranaki wars were crusades against communism, fought for the interests of settler capitalists who were infuriated by the Maori refusal to sell collectively-owned land.

Te Whiti and his followers at Parihaka was targeted by the warmongers not because they wore feathers in their hair but because they praised ‘the miracle of collective labour’ and refused to sell their collectively-owned land.

The gardens of the Maori kingdom in the Waikato were destroyed not because the people who worked them were using collective land ownership and labour to feed the fortress city of Auckland, where would-be land grabbers railed against ‘the socialistic natives’.

The CWG remembers the communism of Te Whiti, as well as the communism of Marx and the communism of the occupied factories movement in today’s Argentina. We want to see the foreshore and the whole of Aotearoa run collectively.

That’s why we reject the Maori Party.

Different party, same mistakes

The Maori Party’s strategy is to capture the balance of parliamentary seats, and try to get good deals for Maori, and especially for iwi commercial interests, by using the balance of power in negotiations with the major parties. This strategy cannot succeed for two reasons.

In the first place, the ability of the major parties to influence the economy in favour of Maori business is limited, because the New Zealand economy is mostly owned offshore, by US and US-Aussie companies.

The domination of the Kiwi economy by US and other imperialisms means that iwi businesses have little chance of succeeding, or even surviving.

They do not have the capital to compete with the multinationals, and as little fish will inevitably be swallowed up by the big fish. But even if Maori capitalism were a viable venture, the Maori Party would not benefit many Maori, because very few Maori are capitalists.

The vast majority of Maori are workers or the dependents of workers. All Kiwi workers have an interest in better pay and conditions, and better social services like health and education.

These interests clash with those of capitalists, because capitalists make their profits from the wages of workers. It’s no coincidence that employers’ groups have been at the forefront of campaigns against pro-worker arguments and policies like the minimum wage, the right to strike, paid parental leave, and increased funding for public health.

Brown bosses are no more pro-worker than white bosses, and the mini-capitalists of the iwicorps are now fighting class wars of their own. Look at Ngati Whatua bosses wanting to sell off housing their own people won back in the Bastion Pt struggle. Look at the struggles against Robert Mahuta and more recently Tuku Morgan by Tainui Maori sick of corporate cowboy behaviour.

The Maori Party’s strategy has been repeatedly tried and repeatedly found wanting over the past few years.

The tight five of NZ First and then Mauri Pacific tried to advance Maori interests in coalition with National, and ended up supporting the privatisation of Auckland Airport and rimu logging on the West Coast. In return they got fat salaries and some nice undies. Nice for them, but not so good for their supporters, who booted them out in 1999.

Mana Motuhake entered government in 1999, but Willie Jackson and Sandra Lee were as unable to win concessions as the tight five before them. They couldn’t even stop Labour junking its weak-as-water Closing the Gaps scheme after National kicked up a proto-Brashian fuss. In return for his non-existent policy wins Jackson ended up having to back the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, on the grounds that ‘The SAS boys are Maori and they want to go’.

Tariana played a key role in the Pakaitore occupation in 1995, but got sucked into the Labour Party by the promise of winning those elusive policy concessions. We all know how she got on there.

The hikoi could have turned into an alternative to parliamentarism – there were militant elements on it that rejected the failure of repeated attempts to work ‘within the system’. Why get blisters walking from Te Hapua to Wellington, if you can influence policy from the comfort of the cabinet room?

Back to the future!

For these advocates of extra-parliamentary protest action, the hikoi looked back to the great days of the 1970s and early 80s, when Maori and their supporters waged a series of struggles which shook the Kiwi ruling class to its core.

The Great Land March of 1975, the epic occupation of Bastion Point, the struggle to reclaim the Raglan Golf Course, and the hikoi to Waitangi in 1984 were all examples of Maori direct action against ‘the system’.

Before it got tied up in the red tape of the ‘Treaty process’, the Maori direct action movement managed to win a whole series of victories.

Make no mistake: Bastion Pt was won back by direct action, not parliament. The Maori land at Raglan is no longer a golf course because of direct action, not some cabinet seat.

Language nests exist today because Maori kicked up a stink in the streets in the 70s and early 80s, not because of Tau Henare or Tariana.

The partial victory Tariana helped win at Pakaitore in the mid-90s stands in stark contrast to the same woman’s utter failure to influence Labour policy as a cabinet minister.

And the hikoi struck far more terror into the hearts of the establishment than the electoral triumphs of Tau, Willie and the rest of them combined. ‘Wellington under siege!’ the Herald screamed.

There was a palpable sense of relief when Tariana turned the final day of the hikoi into an electoral rally, and went on TV with Gerry Brownlee to announce her openness to a coalition deal with National.

Tariana played the same role in Wellington as Dame Whina played after the Land March. Dame Whina told the militant young Maori who set up an occupation of parliament grounds to pack up and go home and work inside the system, and the militants were right to refuse, and to lay the ground for the occupations that were to come!

Today Tariana is telling us to forget about the old hikoi, that the ‘next hikoi will be the ballot box’. We should refuse her call too, and organise occupations of threatened sections of foreshore up and down the country.

While Tariana sets out her election stall and promises the same things as Tau and Willie promised, the theft of the foreshore proceeds, the American mansions go up on wahi tapu, and the ‘free’ trade deal gets closer and closer. Labour and the bosses aren’t stopping, so why should we?

Browns and reds unite!

We can make sure occupations and other direct actions are successful by building on the tradition of Maori-communist struggle which Jesse mocks.

We have already mentioned the armed struggle to defend the collectively-owned and worked Waikato from capitalists in the 1860s, and the passive resistance to privatisation which Te Whiti is famous for, but Maori struggle against capitalism didn’t stop in the nineteenth century.

There is a long history of collaboration between revolutionary socialists and Maori, a tradition which includes the solidarity the Tainui Maori showed to the Red Federation of Labour during the revolutionary General Strike of 1913, through the socialist and trade unionist presence in the occupations of the 70s, to the anti-Springbok protests of 1981, right up to the present day actions of communist Maori activists like Justin Taua.

Communists have always understood that only the muscle of organised workers can win crucial struggles like the Maori struggle for land rights. Unlike Tau or Tariana, communists recognise the common interests of Maori and Pakeha workers, and the importance of getting them together on the picket line.

Since we’ve mentioned it already we’ll use the example of Bastion Pt to illustrate the point we’re making in more detail.

By the 1930s almost the only piece of land the ‘friendly’ tribe of Ngati Whatua possessed was a small strip of coast near Bastion Pt.

Auckland city authorities wanted to strip Ngati Whatua of this piece of land and the village that stood on it, but they reckoned without the alliance which Ngati Whatua’s Tainui ally Princess Te Puea had made with the Pakeha-dominated trade union movement and with the Communist Party.

Tainui solidarity with the workers’ movement went back to 1913, when iwi leaders urged Maori not to undermine the General Strike by signing on to do the jobs of strikers.

Communist Party unionists returned the favour by championing the grievances of Waikato Tainui, who since returning from exile in the Rohe Potae in 1883 had struggled relentlessly to regain their confiscated lands.

When word went out that the government was about to move on the Maori village near Bastion Point in 1937communists in Auckland’s trade unions swung into action.

Ron Mason, who was organising with the General Labourers Union, put out an urgent call to the city’s builders, and four hundred of them descended on the threatened settlement.

With the help of Ngati Whatua and Tainui, the builders worked non-stop to fortify the village, laying tall palisades in a concrete foundation. Workers prepared to defend the village, and the government backed down.

It was not until sixteen years later, in 1953, that the government was finally able to burn the village of Orakei to the ground.

It is no coincidence that this act of ethnic cleansing took place after the defeat of the radical workers movement in the Great Waterfront Lockout of 1951. Without the support of organised labour Ngati Whatua were weakened. The fortunes of the workers’ movement and Maori have always been linked.

When the struggle for Bastion Pt and surrounding land revived in the 70s, trade unionists and a new generation of communists were amongst the vanguard.

Unionists took the issue into their organisations, raising thousands of dollars in aid and bringing in work teams to help the occupiers build a new village on Bastion Point. Communist organisations turned their dinky printing presses to the task of publicising the cause.

When Muldoon sent in the armed forces to crush the occupation at Bastion Point, trade unionists and communists stood on the picket line, and thousands of workers walked off the job around Auckland in a spontaneous protest strike.

Carpenters and truckies who had been called out to a mysterious ‘big job’ refused to work, when they found that they were being asked to help demolish the Bastion Point settlement.

Solidarity continued into the 80s, when Ngati Whatua were finally able to recover their land. The degeneration into corporatism of the leadership of Ngati Whatua doesn’t wipe out the victory of Bastion Point, but it does show once again that without a strong workers’ movement the Maori flaxroots are weak.

Occupy for sure!

Today we need to revive the spirit of Bastion Point by building on the support for the hikoi shown by unions like the National Distribution Union, the Service and Food Workers Union, Aste, and the Manufacturing and Construction Union.

Neither Pakeha nor Maori unionists will ever back a party that makes overtures to National, but many of them will back occupations of a foreshore which all ordinary New Zealanders value and worry about losing.

By occupying the foreshore and inviting ordinary Pakeha to join them, Maori can take the wind out of the sails of the right-wingers who say that the hikoi was about Maori privatisation, while at the same time thwarting the iwicorp opportunists who think that Maori sovereignty means Maori capitalism.

Sea farming and tourism ventures can be controlled by workers, not by brown or white capitalists.

And if the foreshore and its industries can be socialised, then why not the whole economy? A movement to socialise the whole of Aotearoa can take inspiration from the occupied factories of Argentina and the collective farms being established in Venezuela, as well as the indigenous communism of Rangiaowhia and Te Whiti.

This is the argument that the CWG made on the hikoi and has been making at Maori Party hui.

The argument from which this reply is taken can be read in full here:

From Class Struggle 57 August-September 2004

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

Aotearoa: Socialise the Foreshore and Seabed!

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The public uproar over the Foreshore and Seabed raises fundamental questions about what workers’ need as opposed to bosses’ greed. We are for the socialisation of the F&S in the interests of Maori and the vast majority of New Zealanders who are workers. We are for the socialisation of all industry under workers control. A good example is forestry. We need to socialise not only the trees but the mills and all the assets of the forestry corporations. Here we explain why only socialisation of the F&S can meet the needs of Maori and of all workers, and why this socialist project should be applied to other key industries in a project to socialize Aotearoa!

Labour tries to claim that the F&S is not a Treaty issue yet many Maori see it as part of honouring the Treaty. The problem is that the Treaty cannot be honoured by capitalism. The Treaty was always a fraud used to legitimate the expropriation of Maori land and resources. It is still a fraud because international capitalism far from giving it back has to steal more land and resources to restore its profits. This drive by imperialism to solve its crisis at the expense of workers and peasants worldwide is what is behind both National and Labour’s ‘Maori policy’.

Brash and Bush

Brash claims Maori are privileged by special treatment when Maori and Pakeha are ‘one people’ by virtue of the signing of the Treaty. Of course this was never the reality during the history of expropriation and oppression in the 164 years that followed. But Brash says the settlements must stop because legitimate Maori grievances have been redressed and now Maori are becoming privileged This is a ‘Maori policy’ in the interests of the US imperialism that trampled on the native Amerindians, the Filipinos, the Mexicans, and many others, and now re-colonises the world, imprisoning ‘illegal combatants’ and killing ‘terrorists’ who stand up to it. Brash and Bush are blood brothers in the extinguishment of the rights of all peoples subject to US imperialism. Brash’s position is to return the F&S to the ‘status quo’ which means Crown property. This allows the Crown to sell rights to the exploitation of the F&S to all comers competing in the world market according to the ‘free market’ ideology of the neo-liberals.

Labour’s social-democratic Maori policy by contrast draws on the notions of ‘indigenous rights’ established in the 1970s to make citizenship universal. Social-democracy is premised on the view of the equal rights of citizens to be eligible to vote and form a majority and reform capitalism. It holds to the concept of partnership and the ‘honouring’ of the Treaty principles to include historically marginalised Maori. But this does not allow any real economic redress for the colonial past. The Treaty process is one of token settlements between a new Maori bourgeoisie taking responsibility for ‘iwi’ and the crown acting for capital in general which is prepared to pay to remove any legal claims on the Crown for past grievances. Instead of improving the class position of most Maori workers, it increases the gaps between pakeha and Maori and divides Maori so that a Maori bourgeoisie exploits Maori workers.

Labour’s ‘public domain’

Yet even this settlement is an intolerable interference in the market for neo-liberals. That is why they condemn Labour’s solution as an attack on the rights of all New Zealanders to get free access to the F&S in the hope of mobilising racist attitudes towards Maori against the Government’s settlement. This is a dispute between neo-liberals and social democrats on how best to manage capitalism. For Labour buying off the Maori corporate class who want to make commercial claims to the resources of the F&S is hardly going to bankrupt international capitalism. And the price may be worth it if it sidetracks the protests into interminable legal channels like the land protests of the 1980s. Labour’s proposal of ‘public domain’ is such a deal. It will probably give Maori iwi corporates customary title and some limited preference over commercial use. Any stronger title would be to give Maori capitalists a commercial advantage over others and represent a barrier to the free movement of capital investment so beloved of the US globalisers. So Labour’s solution is an attempt at compromise between on the one hand the legitimate claims of Maori to uninterrupted customary use of the F&S to keep them quiet, and on the other the claims of international capital to have access to exploiting the resources of the F&S to keep making big profits.

But Labour’s ‘public domain’ is just another name for Crown or nationalised property. Some on the left claim that nationalisating the F&S is better than risking the F&S falling in private hands. This is because they mistake state property for non-capitalist or post-capitalist property. Nationalization is state property, but the property of the capitalist state, which acts on behalf of all (collective) capitalists. Today this means the biggest MNCs and their World Bank and IMF bankers who dominate states policies in every country. It’s true that nationalisation would remove private property titles (so-called ‘fee simple’) to F&S. The F&S could not then be traded as shares and there would be no immediate transfer of ownership into private hands. But this would not prevent the state from making joint ventures with corporates for profit under ‘free trade’ rules such as GATS which allows the privatization of these profits. And as with all nationalised property there is no class barrier to its legal privatization except the working class. That is why workers have to go beyond capitalist nationalisation to demand socialisation under workers control of the F&S and all capitalist property.

From nationalization to socialisation

Socialisation means expropriating the property of capitalists, individual or collective, so that becomes the property of collective labour. This can only be achieved by means of workers’ occupations and control. These occupations result from workers uniting and organising in democratic committees or councils. In the case of the F&S this would enable Maori, overwhelmingly members of the working class, to impose a new customary right, the collective right to use the resources of the S&F for iwi and hapu, and in the process to open up the F&S to the use of all workers on the basis of their needs rather than that of capitalist profit. Socialisation means that the F&S would be effectively expropriated to become workers property and pose the question of expropriating other capitalist property. Why? Because while the socialisation of the F&S would serve some workers needs, other branches of industry are much more important to the survival and reproduction of the whole working class. Forestry is a good example.

When workers occupy strategic sites on the F&S and make it the property of collective labour they will see the need to occupy and expropriate other key branches of capitalist industry such as forestry and manufacturing. They will then have to defend this property against the capitalist state and its forces of law and order dedicated to protecting the bosses’ property. The only way to do this is to combine all workers committees or councils into a social base for a Workers’ and Farmers’ Government that can expropriate all capitalist property and defend socialised workers’ property. Aotearoa would then become a socialist republic as part of a socialist united states of the Pacific. 

From Class Struggle 54 February-March 04

Written by raved

December 27, 2009 at 9:49 pm


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Maori War Resistance Betrayed

Six weeks after the Sept 11 attacks in the USA, the NZ Army began a Marae based recruiting drive. According to its promoters, the aim was to tackle the problem of high youth unemployment among Maori. Considering the timing, it is laughable to suggest that such sentiments have been taken seriously. Unfortunately or indeed shamefully the fact remains that some Maori leaders have taken on board, aided by pro-US media hype, the sales pitch delivered by the state and military toward recruiting young Maori. More insulting, is the launching of this campaign in the Waikato, the starting point of the Maori resistance to forced conscription in 1917.

Betrayal and misleadership

At the outbreak of the First Imperialist World War in 1914, it was determined by the N.Z. Government that no organised Maori contingent would take an active combat role because the war was considered a conflict between white men. The prospect of ‘natives’ killing whites was inconceivable, at least for the expedient short term. By 1915 and the beginning of the Gallipoli campaign, soldiers of the 1st Maori Contingent were taking an active role in the slaughter on behalf of British Imperialism.

With the mounting toll numbering in the million for British and Allied troops from Passchendaele, the Somme to the Dardenelles, the urgent need for more cannon fodder was required. ‘Press ganging’ natives for this was instituted by the N.Z. government in 1917. The primary target being the forced conscription of men from the Waikato, since men from most other tribal areas had already volunteered for the first Maori Contingent and Pioneer Battalion.

The immediate response from the Waikato was a resounding rejection of the N.Z. government decision by the Te Ariki Te Puea Herangi, the tribe’s paramount chief and leader of the Kingitanga. By refusing to allow men from the Waikato to partake in the Imperialist’s war, she upheld the staunch belief that to serve the interests of the thieves and confiscators of Waikato land (and hence their economic and spiritual base), would be an insult to the massive sacrifices made by her people during the post ‘Te Tiriti o Waitangi’ colonial land wars of the previous century.

The rounding up and imprisonment with hard labour of hundreds of Waikato men was to be entirely expected, considering there was nothing left to steal. It however could never contain the spirit to resist peacefully, a tradition that had been handed on from early in the 1800’s by the prophet pacifist of ‘Pai Marire’ Te Ua Haumene to Titokowaru, Te Whiti, Tohu and more poignantly for the Waikato, the prophet chief Tawhiao. It was in the spirit of Tawhiao that Te Puea took the stand on behalf of her people.

A little more than thirty years after the last pitched battles were fought in Aotearoa, Maori ‘Kupapa’ leaders such as the four Maori MPs, Apirana Ngata, Eastern Maori; Maui Pomare, Western Maori; Te Rangi Hiroa (Peter Buck), Northern Maori and Taare Parata, Southern Maori, were determined to raise a Maori contingent to be blooded as a part of NZ’s contribution to the British Imperialist War effort. They went so far as to form a ‘Native Contingent Committee’, with the help of another Kupapa leader Sir James Carroll under the auspices of the NZ government, to organise Maori cannon fodder for the up coming war.

Meanwhile elsewhere in Aotearoa, there were calls from conscientious objectors such as Archibald Baxter calling on workers not to go to kill for the likes of greedy war-mongers. People who became social pariahs because of the strong stand that they took against the war and the punishment that they suffered.

In Europe a rising revolutionary voice was being heard when Karl Liebknecht, an MP in the German Parliament and leader of the Spartacist League together with Rosa Luxemburg lead a May Day anti-war march consisting of 10,000 workers in Potsdam in 1916 shouting ‘Down with the war’. Their call was for soldiers of opposing sides to stop fighting one another to save their imperialist bosses. Liebknecht was jailed but his and Luxemburg’s days were numbered.

In stark contrast, the highly educated and bankrupt idiotic stand taken by the Maori leaders calling to support the war was nothing short of a shameful bloody disgrace. ‘Sir’ Apirana Ngata’s now infamous 1943 essay on ‘The Price of Citizenship’, will go down as one of the worst pieces of writing in Maori literature. In it he wrote that Maori should go off to fight for the interests of Imperialism in order to earn the ‘right of citizenship’ in Aotearoa, forgetting that the price had already been paid fighting Imperialism at home.

The legacy of colonisation

When N.Z. once again climbed on board the Imperialist war bandwagon in 1991, Tainui leader Bob Mahuta echoed the call from Te Puea by stating that N.Z. should stay out of the conflict and the Maori service personnel should refuse to go. However commendable the stand taken by Bob Mahuta was over the Gulf War, it was completely undone by the time US President Bill Clinton visited NZ for the 1999 APEC conference.

His welcoming to Aotearoa and stepping foot on the “Whenua” (land) of Tainui, was an affront to the anti imperialist stand taken by Te Puea. Clinton had already at that point been indicted on war crimes against humanity by an international body of jurists, legal entities and progressive workers organisations over his continuing war against the people of Iraq. Human Rights and humanitarian organisations had already made extensive catalogues of crimes and atrocities committed by the US and it’s UN lackeys against the people of Iraq, all of which was made publicly available.

In spite of this, calls by so-called Maori leaders, who essentially are ‘brown table’ capitalists and bureaucrats, to welcome the leader with the blood of millions on his hands, was their chance for a bit of prestige and to make more bucks. Insult was added to injury when the US president was welcomed to Turangawaewae Marae in the heart of the Waikato.

The holistic Maori world view, (the recognition of the connection of human relations to environment, past, present and future historical contexts), was put temporarily on hold for this purpose; so as to cloud and blind a people already desensitised by the pro-imperialist and consumerist clap trap being promoted by the U.S. President.

‘Kupapa’ (collaborators etc.), is a term too easily applied to leaders who actively sought favour with people in financial power and positions of authority, because many of the Maori communities that they serve, survive on the barest minimum of resources. Caught between a rock and a hard place, many see no choice beyond the meagre handouts by government, Lotto and so on to sustain a means of independence and identity. A situation forced by capital because it ensures that by complying with its demands co-operation will come at the drop of a hat.

Caught in this web are those who remain and not necessarily the best qualified ‘politically’ to serve their communities. These individuals are charged with conveying policies and forms generally imposed from outside the tribal structures. In order to conform to the ‘norms’ of these outside influences some have embellished themselves beyond their personal financial means by expropriating funds meant for other uses.

Whether innocently or otherwise, this layer of bureaucrats has ended up substituting itself in place of the traditional structures as the voice of ‘Maoridom’. Linked to a bourgeois political support base, many have the task of relating party policies to their home communities. They serve no other purpose than acting as party functionary go-betweens linking bureaucracy to the people.

Maori MP’s Betrayal

This brings us full circle back to the beginning of our story. When the Labour/Alliance Government announced it’s full support for the US lead war against the people of Afghanistan in October in the name of ‘Fighting Terrorism’, the position of Maori MP’s in Parliament and particularly in Government were put on notice. As expected, without exception, all of the conservative right wing members voted in support, together with the ex Airforce mechanic from Tai Tokerau, Labour Party hawk, Dover Samuels.

Alliance member and Mana Motuhake leader Willie Jackson made a lame duck and ambiguous response in October by saying that he was not in favour of a combat role for NZ forces but offered moral support for Maori soldiers serving in the SAS, who were by that stage already committed. Since the SAS largely consists of Maori and it’s ethos is ‘take no prisoners’, it is ludicrous to suggest that Jackson can be taken seriously.

For the rest, the response has been tacit and muted, with the exception of Te Tai Hauauru Government MP Nanaia Mahuta and Waiariki Government MP Mita Ririnui. As a Waikato member of the Kingitanga and relative of Te Puea, Mahuta’s stand or concern was based on the position taken by Te Puea against conscription. However, being unable to voice more serious dissent by crossing the floor on the issue she succumbed to the tight internal ruling of the Labour Party council.

Mita Ririnui’s objections were based on his Ratana religious convictions where he sought to find peaceful means to solve the crisis. By the time of the December 1st Labour Party conference there were no rumblings from either quarter. Anti war protests outside the conference venue could not encourage any further response from the Maori MP’s. They had been silenced. Their intermediary function between government and their people had been performed admirably.

Marae Recruitment

The ‘brown bureaucracy’ was to acquit itself well when on the 26th of October it lead a high powered contingent onto Nga Tai Erua Marae in the North Waikato to begin the state’s war drive recruiting campaign. At it’s head was the Tainui environmental wing – the Huakina Trust, who were earlier approached to put the initiative into action. With some trepidation and misgivings from some individuals, the task was carried out.

Other Marae such as Mangatangi have resisted approaches by the military and many are in two minds. The strength to resist lies in the political enlightenment of all the people and their leaders of the communities affected. Armed with the example set by Te Puea and linking it to the present situation is at least a beginning but by no means an end to the matter.

That enlightenment is understanding the nature of Imperialism and the way that it shuts down the links between peoples’ immediate experiences and those of their past. By individualising the immediate experience as the responsibility of an individual, the effect is a closing down or shutting off of a reality that is too hard to handle only to be replaced by prejudiced perceptions, the product of fantasy but presented as fact.

Imperialism is about divide and rule.By placing Maori in uniform on one side against Maori who stand to assert their rights as Tangata Whenua and as workers fighting for the rights of working people, the situation becomes bleak. Like the shamefaced Maori cops on Bastion Point in 1978, many knew that what they were doing was wrong but chose to go against their consciences in the service of the state. Since the end of the land wars in the 1800’s, Maori have taken part in every British and more recently US lead Imperialist war on the poorest elements of humanity around the world, while forgetting the plight of their own ancestors battles and their resulting legacy of colonialism.


from Class Struggle 42 December 2001/January 2002

Written by raved

September 25, 2007 at 9:35 pm


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Almost one year after the killing of 23 year old Maori man Steven Wallace by an armed policeman in Waitara on April 30, 2000, we are no nearer to an explanation of why the life of a young man armed only with a baseball bat was needlessly cut short by at least four bullets. An Official Police Inquiry followed by a Police Complaints Authority review both found no fault on the part of the police in the killing. The Wallace family independent inquiry has come to nothing. It is time to demand a full, independent public inquiry to get to the truth behind the killing. Class Struggle supports a petition calling for such an inquiry as the first step to getting justice for Steven Wallace.


The police cover up of the killing of Steven Wallace could be called a grave miscarriage of justice if it were not normal for the state forces to evade justice. That is bad enough. What is worse is the victimisation of members of the Wallace family. False accusations that supporters of the Wallace family have harassed eyewitnesses to the shooting have not been followed up by police charges. Such accusations show that there is a red neck reactionary element in Waitara willing to back the police even if the price is racial division.

Back in 1981 there were similar accusations hurled at anti-Springbok Tour activists by pro-tour supporters whose claims were also unsubstantiated. Like all reaction, its ultimate aim is to increase the presence of police to protect property and to keep a check on those who dare to challenge the rule of law.

Four and a half months after the shooting of her son be Keith Abbott, while in a state of despair, Raewyn Wallace and her daughter Kelly were arrested allegedly for criminal harassment of Abbott’s wife. This charge carries a maximum of 2 years jail plus a fine. But even this charge after being taken to court has a question mark hanging over it. The credibility of the charge has yet to be established so it has been remanded to a later date. Stalling for time seems to be the only avenue left to the police on this issue

There was no compassion shown toward the mother and sister of the victim who were immediately thrown in jail in New Plymouth. The police would have preferred Wellington to remove the Wallaces from the scene (after the example of Te Whiti?)

Yet another flimsy charge of assault against Raewyn Wallace was brought by a woman police officer whose arm got caught in a car window as it was being wound up. This was used as a clumsy ploy to try to bargain with the Wallaces in the event that they brought a complaint against the police. According to barrister, Gary Gotlieb (NZHerald 13-5-00) it is police practice to “play hardball” with the accused by trumping up extra charges, only to have them withdrawn later provided a complaint was withdrawn.

A curfew then placed on the Wallace women was open-ended and was to last for many months. The sequel to the curfew was the arrest of James Wallace, Steven’s dad, two weeks after the arrest of his wife and daughter. Because the curfew meant that they could not drive him home from the local pub, five months after the shooting of Steven, James was arrested for excess alcohol and resisting arrest after trying to drive himself home. He also was thrown in the slammer.

James couldn’t even grieve in peace for his son without being tormented by the very police responsible for Steven’s death. Being sorry for his actions and admitting having made a mistake, James at least showed remorse and compassion. But he never got that in return. He was sentenced to a spell of periodic detention on January 25.

The victimisation of the Wallace family by the local police especially in the early months following the shooting, included continuous surveillance patrols passing the Wallace home, a show of force to intimidate and demoralise the family. More recently, the patrols have become less frequent only because the police believe that there is no longer a threat to their authority. Continued harassment of the Wallace family would also have been bad PR even for the pro-Police supporters in Waitara.

The state of unease that existed since the shooting in the township, culminated in the vandalised desecration of Steven’s memorial that stood on the place where he was shot. On Wednesday 23 March some time during the night, the memorial was removed. Speculation as to who was responsible would point the finger at local business interests as prime suspects, because the presence of the memorial has been seen as negative for business.

It was a constant reminded that their commercial property was worth more than the life of Steven Wallace. After all his only crime on the night he was shot was to break the windows of a number of business premises along with those of the police station. The business interests of Waitara have refused to pay any price for this killing. That payment continues to be heaped onto the heads of the Wallace family who have had to endure insult and injury beyond the comprehension of ordinary people.


Days after the shooting and the beginning of the Official Police Inquiry, the family felt compelled to begin their own independent inquiry headed by John Rowan QC. Under-funded and resourced they were certain that the outcome of the Police Inquiry would clear the officer who shot Steven of any criminal liability and so it was necessary to establish, free of constraints of police bias, a case for an eventual prosecution of the police but more especially Keith Abbott.

The Wallace Family Organising Committee was set up geared towards raising funds for the Inquiry. But it has been difficult coming to terms with the huge cost of this inquiry. By the end of 2000 the cost in lawyers fees had hit a staggering $100,000. No amount of hangis and raffles are able to keep pace with such costs.

At present other measures are being looked into to meet costs. Early approaches to local iwi authorities and local labour MP Harry Duynhoeven who has an office in Waitara have fallen on deaf ears. Known for his right-wing views within the Labour caucus, it was not expected that Duynhoeven would be of much help or even sympathetic.

Barely a month after the Official Police Inquiry began the final report was submitted by Detective Inspector Brian Pearce who headed the Inquiry. An extremely speedy process one might think given the enormity of the subject, but from the police point of view, one that was necessary.

To understand this process, it is necessary to understand the role of the Police Complaints Authority. On the termination of the Official Police Inquiry, it is the role of the PCA to conduct a review of that Inquiry. All matters subject to that review are deemed secret and inadmissible in a court of law according to the PCA Act 1988. This means basically that none of its findings can be scrutinised by the general public under the Official Information Act.

The claim by the president of the Criminal Bar Association Richard Earwaker, that PCA head judge Neville Jaine is “independent” is an interesting one. First of all, it is recorded that judge Jaine defends the use of police officers in his investigation they have a “greater feel for what is going on in their organisation”. With such an attitude it is impossible to accept that any “independence” exists. Even if non-police investigators were used, there is no way that the PCA is ‘independent’ as its record shows.

What this meant in practice for the for the Wallace Family inquiry, was the withholding of information by the police who could claim that such information was now subject to the secrecy of the PCA Act. So nine months after the Official Police inquiry ended, the Wallace Family inquiry has been left going around in circles at enormous financial and emotional cost.


Independence should mean that an inquiry is conducted by a body that has no official connection to the judiciary, law enforcement, or government funded authorities. The terms of reference should not be defined by the state or confined to a narrow set of conditions whose context has to be seen as part of a much wider picture (see our article on ‘ The Police Killing of Steven Wallace’ in Class Struggle #33 June/July, 2000).

The issue of funding by the Government for such a body is another matter completely. Just as legal aid is justified to enable everybody regardless of income to a defence in the justice system, state funding of an independent inquiry is also a basic right. What is more, government funding is met out of taxation which has its origins in the surplus value of workers’ unpaid labour. Where workers are killed by the state, the very least we can demand is that the state pays for an independent inquiry into the killing.

In the current political climate, the only practicable means of public seeking funding for an independent inquiry is by sheer numbers through a public petition to parliament. The focus of such a petition should be the setting up of a body of inquiry aimed at replacing the current PCA whose contribution to justice has been a bloody joke. The case of Steven Wallace would be its first assignment, but by no means its last.

Future families of victims of police violence should not have to endure petitioning every time there is a killing. The Wallace family has at least taken the huge step by deciding on a petition to seek justice for Steven. All workers should support their action. At every occasion we should stress that this inquiry needs to be truly independent of the state.

Role of Unions

As a member of the Freezing Workers’ Union for nearly 40 years, James Wallace like most of his fellow union workmates was to receive the butt end of the massive closure of Waitara Freezing Works. Around the same time, Raewyn Wallace as a member of the Textile Workers’ Union was to lose her job at Swanndri when that worksite was closed down.

` In both instances a union strategy of holding off militant action to save jobs backfired with the closures. The potential to mobilise the large workforce in the area to fight for workers’ control to keep industry and jobs in the area was lost. What followed instead in Waitara was a demoralisation that is an indictment of the union movement. Half the workforce is unemployed.

As we said in our original article on Steven’s killing (CS #33), you cannot isolate his death from the general economic depression that has visited the areas since the closure of these major employers. In our view this would be a major focus of an independent inquiry.

With the tragedy of Steven Wallace’s death, there has emerged the opportunity for the union movement to redeem itself by throwing off the shackles of “economism” and supporting an open political campaign to petition for an independent inquiry. Union members can distribute and get fellow workers to sign the petition.

Featuring that campaign in newsletters and newspapers would show that the unions have a commitment to supporting workers who have become unemployed, but who remain workers all the same. In terms of taking a lead on the issue, the only recognisable group that has the means and connections both nationally and internationally is the union movement.

Calls by Maori nationalist groups to seek a separate course of action would hinder and dilute a more effective campaign built around the unions. What should happen is a coordination of both groupings for a common end.

  • Raise the Steven Wallace campaign at every worksite, every union meeting and conference. Sign the Petition!
  • For an Independent Public Inquiry!
  • An end to the Police Complaints Authority.

Iwi advisory Boards

Within days of Steven’s death, a special hui was played out in Rotorua. Invited guests included the PM Helen Clark, Acting Police Commissioner Rob Robinson and Race Relations Conciliator Rajan Prasad.

The purpose of the hui was to thrash out strategies to reduce high offending among Maori. 12 iwi signed a memorandum of understanding with the police to this effect. What has resulted, has been the establishment of ‘Iwi Advisory Boards’ charged with “giving Maori a say on strategic policy initiatives and frontline policing’ (NZ Herald 20-5-00).

What this amounts to is little more than an increase in the recruitment of Maori police officers just like Keith Abbott. A situation calculated to set Maori on collision course with fellow Maori. Right now Maori police escorts are protecting scabs on the wharves and other sites from Maori workers who stand to lose their jobs. A situation of divide and rule so often seen before as in the 1951 lockout when young Maori were drafted as scabs.

This situation is going to get worse as Maori workers come under increasing pressure for jobs, and as the gaps in income and education continue to grow. There will be hundreds of young Maori Steven Wallace’s who reach they limit and rage against the machine only to find themselves up against armed police who to date have got away with their killing of Steven Wallace.

It is up to Maori workers to take a stand to stop their iwi leadership getting sucked into these divide-and-rule policies and to take the lead in the unions to build a movement for Justice for Steven Wallace.

Sign the Justice for Steven Petition!

Get your workmates to sign also!

From Class Struggle, No 38 April-May 2001

Written by raved

August 27, 2007 at 10:07 pm


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The outpouring of reactionary outrage over the use of the word ‘holocaust’ by Tariana Turia to apply to the impact of white-settler colonization on the Maori people of NZ highlights the enormous ‘gap’ that exists between informed objectivity and gross ignorance of the history of capitalism –and ignorance based on a Euro-centric post-colonial attempt to justify its actions in the name of stamping out barbarism and bringing civilization. We argue here that capitalism has visited ‘holocausts’ on indigenous peoples long before it discovered the Jews to persecute and it is still visiting holocausts on oppressed peoples including the Iraqis and Palestinians. ‘Holocaust denial’ is something that pervades imperialism and is not limited to anti-Semites.

Who “owns the holocaust?

An attitude of associating the Holocaust perpetrated against the Jewish people by the Nazis during the Second World War has become so firmly set into the Western psyche that its use outside of that context is regarded as making light of the suffering of white Europeans. Indeed many Jews have taken ownership of ‘holocaust’ to describe the extreme horror of their oppression, their suffering, and their genocide. These are all very real events but to claim exclusive rights to the term holocaust serves to demean and belittle suffering by other peoples in particular that of indigenous peoples largely wiped out by the spread of capitalism or the oppression of other peoples today. Moreover, the Jewish ownership of the term holocaust has become part of the justification for the oppression of the Palestinian people.

The fact that the guilt-ridden West continues to support the state of Israel makes the point. In order to preserve what amounts to a European enclave in the Middle East, the occupation of Palestine and the military oppression of the Palestinian people are regarded as the price to pay for the creation of a Jewish homeland. For example the murderous invasion of the Lebanon by Israel in 1982 masterminded by Ariel Sharon, the present Likud Party leader, has never been referred to as a holocaust event, even though its intent was to physically remove forever the threat posed to Israel by the Palestinians who were forced at gunpoint to leave their Palestinian homeland. When Christian militia slaughtered Palestinian refugees in the Sabra and Shatilla camps in the same way that the Nazis slaughtered Jews in the Warsaw ghetto, the Israelis casually sat on the side and watched.

The West didn’t even raise an eyebrow, regarding the whole Lebanon experience of 1982 that was dubbed ‘Operation Peace for Galilee’ by the Israelis, an ‘anti-terrorist operation’ according to the official description, therefore wholly justifiable. In its literal sense holocaust means mass slaughter and complete destruction by fire – conditions that the Israeli actions satisfied as far as they were able to.

Anti-terrorism has become the new cover catchword for mass slaughter against civilians perpetrated by the US and its client interests in Turkey against the Kurds, Yeltsin and Putin in Chechnya and Fujimori in Peru against the working class.

Millions of Iraqis have died in the last nine years directly as a result of US led Western action caused by those who would take great offense at having those actions described as a holocaust. Indeed the targeting of food production areas, destruction of water reservoirs, hospitals and medical supplies and electricity, shows a deliberate intent to attack a whole civilian population in the manner of genocide. All leaders including the main political parties in NZ are equally culpable in this regard for their continued support of these murderous actions.

Why Apologise for speaking out?

The edict by the Prime Minister Helen Clark to her Ministers banning them from the inappropriate use of the world ‘holocaust’, makes the point that its literal interpretation holds NZ’s political mainstream wholly exposed and hypocritical in its condemnation of Tariana Turia’s message. Forcing Turia, who is Associate Minister of Maori Affairs to publicly apologise for her ‘inappropriate’ use of the term reveals the Labour Party is fully implicated in refusing to recognize the extent of the harm done to the Maori people by white-settler colonization. The fact that Turia refused to apologise for the term itself, and only its interpretation by racist reactionaries, shows that she has no intention of backing away from her campaign to challenge the racist ignorance that exists on the whole question of colonization and decolonisation.

Turia used the term “post-colonial traumatic stress disorder” to account for the long-term after-effects of colonization on Maori today to try to explain why Maori have not been able to overcome the ‘gap’ which leaves them lagging behind non-Maori in education, income, jobs, health etc. When collectivized forms of society have an integral and spiritual bond to land and sources of sustenance that goes beyond mere shallow prayers in a church every Sunday, then the imposition by force of concepts that are the antithesis of that structure are destructive not only materially but psychologically. If land were regarded as the earth mother, then the wrenching of the children of the land has the effect of wounding the soul so long as there is memory of the trauma. That memory is sustained and passed down generationally because history demands the acknowledgement of past wrongs, the closure of the chapter and the formal beginning of a new one. Until that happens, there is no exit, no ability to walk away -a concept foreign to the central theme of Turia’s speech.

The Racist reaction

NZ First leader, Winston Peters, himself a Maori, joined forces with leader of the National Party Jenny Shipley, and far right critics in the ACT Party, to condemn Turia as creating a myth of Maori oppression to justify special treatment or ‘apartheid’ between the two races. In fact they reject the use of the term ‘colonisation’ because it implies the oppression of a whole people rather than individuals who can take advantage of social opportunities like everyone else. This is the familiar euro-centric view that projects its view that history results from the actions of individuals onto non-capitalist, collectivist, societies such as pre-European Maori society. Turia’s speech directly challenged this racist denial and explains why she was attacked so virulently.

Denial takes many forms

Denial takes many forms and uses false arguments that are ignorant of history. There are a number of arguments.

The most common attack is to blame Maori for their own fate by claiming that pre-European Maori society was more violent and destructive than the colonization process. The constant reference to murderous musket wars, to the conquest of the Ngati Moriori of Rekohua (Chatam Island) by bigots and ignoramuses as if they were not a Maori tribe, has been the age-old call of colonialist and their descendants to silence mainland Maori efforts against the Crown.

But this shows a total euro-centric ignorance of Maori society. Inter tribal warfare was normal and accepted by all. As a collectivist society, with stone tools and a limited ability to harness nature, there was a struggle between family groups for survival. Raids on other tribes were a method of replenishing food stocks when they got low. Captured slaves soon became members of the adoptive tribe. This is true of tribal society the world over including that of the Celts and Saxons. In this context inter-tribal warfare and violence is not oppressive since each tribe can survive only by constant exchanges, including warfare, with others.

Another false argument is that Maori are still savages today despite attempts to civilise them. The only thing holding them back is the survival of a tribal mentality. Gareth Morgan who writes for the Maori-bashing National Business Review, regularly slates today’s Maori as being held back by ‘stone age economics’. This is another way of saying that Maori spend their money or give it away to relatives and do not save and invest in the capitalist market.

History gives the lie to this.

History gives the lie to this. With European contact, Maori quickly realized that the ‘musket-wars’ in which one tribe could lay waste to another was destructive of all Maori, and rapidly adapted to the new techniques of production and cultivation to provide a larger resource base. By the 1840’s Maori were producing sufficient food to make inter-tribal wars unnecessary. By the 1860’s Maori were growing wheat, milling flour and shipping it to Australia.

Thus the violence done by Maori to other Maori can only be understood as a necessary feature of a relatively low level of social organization. When that changed, and Maori began to adapt the new techniques to production on their own land with their collective labour, they showed that they were clearly capable of ‘outcivilising’ the settlers. The settler state responded with violence, war and confiscation laying the basis for the post-colonial trauma.

Damned lies and statistics

A more sophisticated racist argument is that which says that Maori never existed as one people. The concept of a pan-Maori identity is a recent invention they say. A variation on this is the ‘Maori as lifestyle option’ argument. Simon Upton in his ‘Upton-on-Line’ of October 6 [] quotes figures showing that “1 in 4 ‘Maori’ in 1996 were not Maori in 1991”, suggesting that choosing to be ‘Maori’ is based on self-interest not any deep ethnic identity.

This is similar to the argument that Maori don’t differ from others by being Maori. If a Maori is poor it is because he or she lacks the education to get a job. A recent paper by Simon Chapple of the Labour Department claims that the Labour Government’s “closing the gaps” policy is based on the assumption that “Maori” as a group are disadvantaged whereas the evidence is that it is not being “Maori” that counts but lack of education.

This is statistical rubbish since it denies the historical record of violence, land theft and oppression that still today explains why the majority of Maori carry the legacy of colonization as a direct cause of their underachievement in education and employment.

All of these alibis for racism come to grief in their denial of the violence of the colonization process. Thus the violence that has become endemic in sections of the Maori population has causal roots going back to the beginnings of the colonization period. Violence is a bedfellow of colonization according to psychologists, emeritus professor James Ritchie and Professor Jane Ritchie. This experience has been passed on generationally as an example of behaviour to follow. A behaviour that is expected to cope with whatever trials and tribulations are thrown at it and bound to be self-destructive. Hardly surprising given that colonial domination causes a sense of self-hatred among its own subjects resulting in senseless violence and suicide.

Young Maori alienated

Among Maori youth this history has been updated by the TV and movie images of LA street gangs beamed into the country by media moguls as a form of re-colonisation of young minds. These manifestations of dysfunction caused by colonization in the US have had the copycat effect of elevating youth violence locally to a level unheard of in earlier years. The beating up of somebody just for the sake of getting the latest fashion in running shoes, jackets or stereos is violence exercised not for survival, or in expropriating the land, but for a consumer item. It demonstrates that the consumption of violence is the ultimate experience in alienation.

Turiana Turia is to be congratulated for highlighting colonization and its effects and by standing firm on the issue. But she does stop short of explaining what drives it in the modern context. As a social democrat she is unable to reconcile that capitalism is the objective force behind colonization and that the law of value is the source of that force. If colonization is the gun, capitalism is the bullet, then the law of value is the finger on the trigger. By commodifying all things in nature and assigning to them values the incentive is created to accumulate as much of that value as possible. The new global colonialists understand that very well and are prepared to stop at nothing to advance that cause. People such as Tariana Turia should stop guilt-tripping themselves in not wanting to condemn capitalism and recognize that the fruits of capitalism are not those of the bosses, but those of workers.

From Class Struggle No 35 October-November 2000

Written by raved

August 27, 2007 at 9:11 pm


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The North Taranaki town of Waitara has known since the colonial wars of last century its share of hard times. But nothing in recent memory has focused as much attention on the little town as the early morning police killing of 23 year old Steven Wallace on 30th April. As has been already said in the popular press and media, the incident has raised more questions than people are prepared to answer. Here we give our answers to what we belief are the right questions.

Nationally, the public debate has centred around the possibility that the fatal shooting of Wallace who was armed only with a baseball bat was racially motivated. The media debated the shoot to kill policy of the police and asked why in this case, when Wallace was obviously out of control smashing windows, pepper spray or some other less lethal method of subduing him was not used. In the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary, many drew the conclusion that the killing was racial. The final police report had yet to be released at the time of writing. But whatever its conclusions there is no doubt that it will fall short of explaining the context in which the killing occurred. It will focus on immediate issues and try to justify the action of the police officer.

So what are the grounds for talking of a racial killing? From day one when the story broke, the immediate response from the local iwi (tribe) was that the incident was the culmination of hostility directed at local Maori by the police over long period. Even the Prime Minister Helen Clark commented that there appeared to be some evidence of racism involved in the background. The acting Police Commissioner admitted on National Television that surveys had found that some police had racist attitudes towards Maori. Rajan Prasad, Race Relations Conciliator, was dispatched to Waitara to come up with a “plan of action” to deal with racism at Waitara. He was overwhelmed by accounts of police racism told to him by local Maori.

Police denial fuels racist backlash

The police attitude to the incident was expressed by Police Association (police officers union) president Gregg O’Connor. He claimed that the shooting was isolated and unrelated to any wider political or social context. The officer who had shot Wallace was part Maori. He had no option but to shoot five bullets into Wallace’s chest as Wallace had cornered him with the baseball bat. Shooting at the chest to stop an offender was standard police practice.

He rejected the charge of racism. If the Police target local Maori it is because they continue to offend he said. The media started to line up behind this story and oppose the publication of the name of the officer concerned. The implication was that his life would be threatened by parties unknown, but it didn’t take much imagination to picture the ‘lawless’ elements of Waitara seeking revenge.

The more the issue of police racism became highlighted the more vocal became the right-wing racist reaction in support of the cops in editorials and talkback radio. The deeper historical grievances underlying the incident that go back to the land seizures of the last century were not to be raised like the Maori Sovereignty flags that appeared over the main street the morning Wallace died. Even Helen Clark blamed the victim when she stated that the local tribe, Ngati Te Atiawa, was the author of its own misfortune in failing to administer adequately the paltry sum of $34 million as its share of the $170m offered to Taranaki tribes in the Treaty settlement process.

The backtracking of Helen Clark on this issue is a response to the rapid fall from grace of the Labour Party. Clark’s talk of racism touched the redneck nerve of middle NZ. Shifting of the blame for the depressed economy of Waitara onto the iwi which is expected to make up for 150 years of colonisation with a pathetic $34m shows that she expects the Treaty Settlements to close the ‘gap’ between Maori and Pakeha.

Belittling all attempts by local Maori to put a historical focus on the causes of the social problems in the region has become the order of the day for many in the white establishment. They are threatened by any challenge to their monoculturalist identity founded on expropriated Maori land when many of their settler antecedents were members of militia which fought against the armed resistance movement of Titokowaru (see James Belich I Shall Not Die) or the passive resistance of Te Whiti at Parihaka (see Dick Scott Ask That Mountain).

The racist reality

The fact that three Crown judgments since 1860 have determined that land stolen by the Crown in the Waitara area must be returned to the Te Atiawa have never been implemented shows that successive governments have never been serious about returning the land and now attempt to resolve the long-standing grievances with petty cash. Local Maori have every justification for seeing the whole of the Pakeha society stacked up against them. Perhaps this sense of social and cultural trashing had something to do with Steven Wallace’s rage in smashing the windows of the Waitara police station?

According to accounts told to the Race Relations Conciliator, the Police racism directed at Maori is a daily reality. Many of those who spoke to the Conciliator told of cases of repeated harassment of individuals as well as their families. Discrimination was not isolated to younger Maori as one might expect, but across all age groups. Many felt powerless against this institutionalised racism with a history of over 150 years. There was not use appealing to those same institutions that dealt out the racism. It is this same racism that generates the level of denial that says that a part Maori cop cannot be a racist.

Part of the brief for being a cop in the Taranaki district is to have some familiarity with the Crown version of local history. To be told that places like Parihaka are synonymous with rebellion and lawlessness. Or that Waitara and the surrounding lands were among the first to be confiscated by the Crown because Te Atiawa dared to assert authority over their own lands against the imposed laws of the Crown. An authority which the Police ever since and today are expected to uphold. That any trouble caused by local Maori is to be seen as a spillover from past lawlessness. And so the basis of the present police attitude is established and institutionalised.

The general view about racism in the wider community in the Taranaki district, has been one that has been avoided by the mainstream media. Its sits uncomfortably with many who prefer to see the issue as between the Police and Maori. The Police are there to keep the Maori in check and to stop them from rising up and exposing thinly veiled prejudices in the general population. It keeps the lid on the rampant racism such as that found in the local High School in Waitara by a Human Rights Commission report in the early 1990’s.

This ingrained racism is a trait shared by conservative rural districts throughout much of the country. Attempts to gloss over this fact by pointing to rugby as an example or racial harmony are about as relevant as the pretentious patriotism surrounding the America’s Cup and a bunch of mercenaries whose pursuit of profit plunged much of the country into a fit of fake unity where the best got richer and the rest were awarded the booby prize of national gullibility.

If such pseudo celebrations do not paper over the racist cracks what about Wallace’s mixed race? If he chose to identify as a Maori with 150 years of racial oppression wasn’t that a personal lifestyle option? Like the cop who shot him, Wallace was also part Maori part Pakeha. This was used to argue that killer and victim were racially united as harmony personified. This is the biological determinism of ‘blood’. As many ethnically mixed people will tell you, it is that side that you most stongly identify with that will determine your identity and how the community judges you.

Hometown Waitara

As an architecture student at Victoria University in Wellington, Steven Wallace was seen as a rare example in his community. His prowess in Taha Maori and sport together with his intellectual and academic ability, meant that he should have had a promising future. Here was young Maori who against the odds seemed to have survived a town which had suffered the loss of its major employers. First the closure of the Subaru assembly plant and then three years ago the local freezing works were devastating blows to the local Maori community.

The result has led Waitara to be dubbed the town with the lowest per capita income in Taranaki. Attempts by the local iwi as part of their land claims to get access to oil and natural gas, have been stifled by successive governments who have sold off the rights to these reserves to multinationals without consulting the local iwi. Moreover the Governments on behalf of multinational oil companies have ridden rough shod over local iwi invoking the Public Works Act to gain access to exploration sites on tribal land without compensation. It is against this background that the tragedy of Steven Wallace unfolds. For despite his talents and abilities Wallace could not escape this social environment.

Wallace’s family had no money to pay for his education. He had to get a student loan for his Architecture course. Perhaps because he feared not being able to pay back his student loan Wallace abandoned his course and returned to his home town. This would not have been unusual. Research by universities show that many young people from low socio-economic status (working class, Maori or Pacific Island backgrounds) either do not go to university or drop out because of fear of getting heavily into debt. In previous years Wallace had had encounters with the Police like many of his contemporaries. These experiences together with the social tensions in Waitara compounded into a situation that was to end in tragedy.

Why shoot to kill?

The mechanics of the actual shooting are still currently under three separate investigations: an internal police review, a Police Complaints Authority review, and a separate review of the Police use of firearms set up by the Government. The Police Complaints Authority is widely recognised as not being independent. It has been criticised in the past for setting terms of investigation and restricting criminal liability to favour the police. Recently the PCA ruling that no illegal search of Christchurch political activist David Small’s home by the Security Intelligence Service had occurred was overruled by the Courts. We expect the PCA report of the Waitara shooting to justify the shooting as necessary in the circumstances, and to whitewash the history of racism that surrounds the case.

Nor has the behaviour of the Police since the shooting done anything to lessen the racial tensions. The use of an external liaison officer as mediator between Police and local iwi has failed to impress as anything more than a token gesture and final decisions will be left to the local Police Commander. The decision by Police in fire hosing Wallace’s blood down the drain and into the river which is a source of food for the local people was made be a senior officer over the protests of local Maori who saw it as a breach of Taha Wairuatapu (sacredness). A clear sign that the Police authorities have no serious interest in coming to grips with the real causes of local grievances.

The shoot to incapacitate policy which amounts to shoot to kill, is the subject of a review ordered by the Prime Minister’s Office, designed to determine if there is an alternative to the use of deadly force currently in practice. Police spokesman Gregg O’Connor maintains that it is unrealistic to expect a more effective way of dealing with a situation such as Waitara if it is deemed that the officer on the spot is in mortal danger.

There has been a marked increase in the use of firearms in situations where the threat to police or other lives do not justify them. When the Police are under pressure, underfunded and understaffed, resorting to quick and fatal solutions can be cost-effective. This is the policing policy of zero-tolerant neo-liberal regimes who take the line that crime is individually motivated and that even minor crimes against property, such as that of Steven Wallace, can be escalated by confrontational policing methods that justifies police killing the offenders.

NZ Police now routinely carry loaded firearms in their cars. One went off accidentally while a police car was being serviced in Christchurch several years ago. Police allegedly took firearms with them when they visited a Waitara Marae to talk to elders recently. This is hardly surprising considering that the present Police firearms policy is modeled on US practice whose catalogue of misadventure and paranoia goes beyond anything seen in NZ to date.

We do not expect the Review of the use of firearms to seriously challenge the zero-tolerance, law-and-order policing. There may be some other options such as plastic bullets or stun guns, but the focus will remain that of stopping the criminal, rather than the human rights of victims of capitalist oppression. The Labour-Alliance Government is moving quickly down the Blairite path to put the main responsibility for their actions onto individuals rather than society. Why is this?

Well, the Government cannot tax the rich to close the ‘gap’ between Maori and Pakeha in society without losing business confidence, so it must shift the burden of responsibility from a history of colonial oppression which costs big bucks to put right, to one of individual self-reliance. The blanket hostility to Alliance MP Matt Robson’s proposals to introduce conjugal rights in gaols, a policy that is widely adopted overseas and even in Australia, shows how reactionary (the PM’s word is “pragmatic”) the Governments’ thinking on such social issues is.

The Role of the Media

The role of the media in building and maintaining a racist consensus on the Waitara shooting is clear. The bourgeois media generally have an interest in backing capitalism because they are capitalist firms themselves. They defend the rights of private property and individual rights are subordinated to these. The Waitara case illustrates this well. The decision by most of the media except for the National Business Review , to buckle under to the Police Association’s emotive appeals not to publish the name of the officer who shot Steven Wallace, shows that it puts its profits before moral or democratic principles.

The New Zealand Herald refused to publish the name of the officer on the grounds that there was police inquiry pending and that to do so would endanger the him and his family. This was despite a Court ruling that his name could be published and the fact that his name was already widely known. This line is at least consistent with the NZH pro-police editorial position. It is also consistent with making profits. The threat of a massive backlash by right-wing readers would have put a severe dent in the NZH’s bottom line. Even though daily newspapers in NZ command a regional monopoly (and are owned by the multinational monopolies of Murchoch or O’Reilly) and it was hardly likely that the readership would have much choice in switching to alternative print media sources. But the NZH chose to back the establishment and the racial consensus on the Waitara shooting.

In an earlier case the NZH buckled under to a Court ruling that prevented it from naming an American billionaire who had been ‘let off’ on possession of marijuana charges and had his name suppressed causing widespread outrage of ‘one law for us and one for the rich’. The NZH was not prepared to challenge the Court in the interests of ‘freedom of the press’ or ‘justice for all’ since that same Court defends its own private property rights. Clearly the need to maintain the legal framework of property rights and to boost profits is paramount when compared to the shallow and insincere dilly dallying over the ‘public’s right to know’ and ‘freedom of the press’.

The decision of the National Business Review to publish the police officer’s name reflects both the editorial line of this right-wing business paper devoted to individual accountability, especially on the part of state employees, and also its scooping other media to boost its subscribers. Its sales of the issue in question rose and subscription cancellations are not likely to be very many. Interestingly, the more crusading Independent edited by Warren Berryman and Jenny McManus who pride themselves on their “independence” did not publish.

Of the mainstream media, only the social democratic leaning Listener (May 20) chose to talk about the social and racial issues surrounding the Waitara killing as having a real bearing on the tragedy. But its main editorial thrust was against the Police Association for taking the line it did in to close down any public questioning of the shooting. The Listener also indirectly identified the officer who shot Wallace by speculating about the theory that Wallace had a personal problem with the police officer who was also Waitara’s fire chief.

The Legacy of Waitara

The legacy of the Waitara shooting will continue to haunt the forces of capitalism for some time to come. This small Taranaki town encapsulates all of the elements necessary to understand what forces are at play governing the lives of ordinary workers. How historical events impact on actions in the future like falling dominoes. Where a series of incidents drawn out over many years cannot be judged in isolation like an experiment in a laboratory. The questions thrown up over the shooting of Steven Wallace are not rhetorical, consigned to some blank oblivion where much of the bourgeois commentary ends up. They are about ongoing capitalist exploitation by multinational capital of land and resources ripped off by colonialism, the creation of a landless class, and the destruction of rural communities without an economic base for survival.

The refusal to see the connection between unemployment and crime, disenfranchisement of communities and brooding hostility, creates its own paradoxes and contradictions before finally digging its own grave. It creates a growing dispossessed reserve army of labour with no respect for private property and law and order. The growing breakdown of community and family life as the economic gap widens must create more discontent and threats to social order that the state has to suppress.

The campaign in recent years to recruit more Maori police, particularly in rural areas, highlights the cosmetic attempt by the bourgeois state to gloss over past histories, to create ‘overseers’ in much the same way as union bureaucrats who act as intermediaries between workers and bosses to the detriment of workers. What has to be understood by workers is the true role of the police in capitalist society as functionaries that serve the interests of the state and of the capitalist class.

In the last analysis, whatever the peripheral factors that contributed to the shooting, Steven Wallace was a bright young Maori man who like so many others could not beat the odds and ‘make it’ in the bourgeois world. As he was dragged back by his past; by the legacy of landlessness, of debt, despair and anger and the destruction of his working class community by capital, he called out to the cop who shot him “you pushed me too far”.

That his death should not be in vain, we have to ensure that all young working class men like Steven Wallace do not die unnecessarily by throwing themselves against the power of the state, but instead organise as oppressed workers into a collective force that will ultimately take power and bring about a society in which it is the needs of the people that at put at the fore and not the profits of the few.

From Class Struggle No 33, June-July 2000

Written by raved

August 27, 2007 at 3:18 pm