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Once again we are bombarded with the outdated rhetoric of the communist party, now focusing on Tariana’s reasonable comment to work with anyone, including National, to obtain equality and justice in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

Burn the National Flag!

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In this issue we confront head on the bankrupt politics of the ‘red-green’ left in NZ. We think that on the range of issues that matter today the left is retreating to a reactionary nationalism. In the last issue we welcomed Rabon Kan’s scathing reaction to the new immigration regulations shutting the door on Asians and the left’s complicity in this. We challenged the Seafarers cabotage policy that protects NZ jobs from foreign workers.

This month we take this analysis further. We show not only is the Alliance backing cabotage, but also in a significant rightward move, so is the biggest ‘far-left’ party, the Socialist Workers. We also tackle the critical issue of the Foreshore and put our class line on this question. This F&S question has released a gigantic wave of racism against Maori that sees Winston Peters –the Pauline Hanson of NZ –rapidly rising in the polls. Hanson’s jailing in Australia recently has shown that her once extreme brand of racism is now becoming respectable.

Journalist Paul Holmes gaff calling Kofi Annan a “cheeky darkie” and keeping his state funded job shows just how respectable racism has become in New Zealand. Like immigration, the Foreshore issue is revving up racism in NZ. But what makes it respectable is the politics of the social democrat Alliance and their intellectuals allies like ARENA who sow illusions in kiwi workers joining with their bosses to return to economic protectionism. Rallying to the national flag divides workers and puts us on the slippery slope to racial conflict and ‘national socialism’ that will make Rob Muldoon’s fortress NZ and racist Springbok Tour provocation of the early 1980s look like the Noddy Horror Show. 

When kiwi workers look to their weak capitalist governments to protect their jobs, their country and their foreshore from the aliens inside and outside the country we know we are heading for dark days. Workers who can’t see themselves as a class able to fight for their jobs by joining forces with foreign workers, are also incapable of giving support to the national rights of Maori to control over resources never formally stripped from them. Rather they back a weak national bourgeois government that has no interest in protecting NZ capitalism and is the open agent of imperialism, making NZ workers pay for imperialist profits. 

NZ is a client state of US imperialism and effectively a poor ‘7th state’ of Australia. Grovelling before this parasitic kiwi client state is a mark of a labour movement that is already defeated. While kiwi workers are engaged in a diversionary fight to defend the beachhead from the alien invasion, global capitalism rips out jobs and resources in land, sea, forestry and industry and smashes the unions in the process. It backs Bush’s war on terrorism to send kiwi soldiers to oppress Iraqis and Solomon Islanders and passes legislation to secretly charge and jail Ahmed Zaoui. It is unable to fight back against Labour’s Job Jolt attack on beneficiaries which is nothing more than an attempt to force them into the labour market to lower wage costs and boost imperialist super-profits. Or the ‘work-life balance’ plan to allow the bosses to tap into the fluid labour pool on their, not workers, terms.

But why do workers’ fall for this? In a series of articles we have run on the World Social Forum which we continue in this issue, we go to the root of the problem. The weakness of the working class is not because it is less exploited today or less capable of fighting back. It is the petty bourgeois reformist leadership in the unions, in politics, the media and the universities that conspire to keep them powerless. Trying to escape the working class, this caste of bureaucrats gains financially from managing workers on behalf of the bosses. But the only way they can prevent militant workers from kicking them out is to pretend to be doing it in the name of ‘market socialism’. They stake their credibility on identifying with populist governments like Lula’s in Brazil or Chavez’ in Venezuela, ‘socialist’ regimes like Cuba, or liberation movements like Colombia or Nepal, or their record as Trade Union organizers or as ‘anti-capitalists’. 

But their version of socialism is no more than a reformed capitalism. As we argue in this issue, the world-wide reactionary role of the World Social Forum (and its NZ spin-off Socialist Forum Aotearoa) is rooted in the special interests of privileged bureaucrats who ultimately serve imperialism. They make use of the radical posturing of celebrity intellectuals like Chomsky, Klein, Monbiot, Hardt and Negri etc. and their critique of ‘market’ capitalism (i.e. the uncontrolled market) to trap workers struggles everywhere in alliances with the bosses. We hope to convince all those who have any illusions ‘green left’ politics or in the WSF that this project of transforming ‘market capitalism’ into ‘market socialism’ is futile and destructive. We invite them to join us in fighting for a working class solution to jobs, welfare, the foreshore and trade. We invite them to become revolutionary communists.


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From Class Struggle 47 October/November 2002

Donnelly gets the bash

Last month Brian Donnelly, redneck member of parliament for the New Zealand First Party, was beaten up in Wellington by a group of youths shouting anti-racist slogans. The youths had spotted a number of New Zealand First MPs leaving a restaurant, and had attempted to confront party leader Winston Peters. In the scuffle that followed Donnelly was knocked to the ground while trying to protect his boss. Peters’ party did not take the incident to the police, a fact which suggests that they were not the innocent victims media coverage of the incident made them out to be. The stoush in Wellington reflects the intense antipathy which many immigrants, young people, and class-conscious workers feel towards Winston Peters and his party. Peters’ relentless and increasingly crude attempts to inspire fear and loathing of ‘Asian invaders’, ‘Maori radicals’ and ‘Muslim terrorists’ make him a fitting candidate for the anger of anti-racist youth.

In many parts of New Zealand society, however, Peters’ racism is considered respectable, even admirable. Letters to the editor quote him without embarrassment. Talkback hosts like Ian Wishart float his ideas over the airwaves. Newspaper columnists like Garth George and Frank Haden present doctrines similar to Peters’ as nothing more than good homespun common sense. What sort of racism is it that enjoys such currency in a society that prides itself on its official anti-racism? Before we answer this question, we ought to look at what Peters’ racism is not. Some of the more excitable parts of the left have labelled Peters a fascist, or a fascist in training. For their part, Peters apologists like ex-lefty turned professional redbaiter Chris Trotter present New Zealand First as little more than the healthy response of working class Kiwis to the dangers of Maori nationalism and the absurdities of political correctness.

Two strains of the same disease

Peters’ populist racism can be contrasted with the imperialist racism, which was a feature of New Zealand political life in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Imperialist racism saw Europeans, and in particular Anglo-Saxons, as existing at the top of a sort of ladder of races, and as thus having responsibility for civilizing a world of ungrateful savages. Early New Zealand leaders like George Grey and Richard Seddon were ardent advocates of the white man’s solemn duty to colonise and conquer. Grey dressed up an invasion of the Maori-held Waikato as a civilizing mission, and Seddon helped build a New Zealand mini-Empire in the ‘savage’ islands of the South Pacific. Over the course of the twentieth century imperialist racism was discredited by the anti-imperialist national liberation struggles of ‘savage’ peoples around the world. The Indians, for instance, showed in the course of their campaign for independence that British colonial rule in their country was anything but a civilized force. In New Zealand, great Maori protests like the Land March and the occupation of Bastion Point shone a light on the injustices of the past, showing that Grey, Seddon, and their like had been more interested in conquest than charity.

Today no mainstream Western politician would dare to talk about a hierarchy of races and the superiority of Europeans. In fact, the best vehicle for today’s racism is the language of anti-racism. Across the West, the new strain of populist racists claim to speak for ‘silent majorities’ of ‘ordinary people’, majorities that are alleged oppressed by ‘vocal minorities’. In Britain, the heart of nineteenth century imperialism, the racist British National Party (BNP) calls not for the creation of new colonies but for the defence of a mythical ‘traditional British culture’ against attacks from ‘multiculturalism’ and ‘foreign ideas’. The BNP presents the British not as proud imperialists but as an oppressed people. The party insists it has ‘no problem’ with non-whites – it will leave them alone, as long as they ‘leave Britain alone’.

Peters mines the same vein of populist racism as the British National Party. According to Peters, the ‘Kiwi’ is an endangered species, a creature threatened with extinction by Muslim bomb-makers from Afghanistan, AIDS-infected vampires from Africa, and lousy drivers from Taiwan. Where the old imperialist racists shouted the might and infallibility of the European race, Peters plays up the weakness and vulnerability of the ‘Kiwi’. What the ‘Kiwi’ needs, Peters tells us, is some islands free of aliens, some sanctuary for its unique and static culture and lifestyle.

‘Kiwis’, or Workers?

It is Peters’ emphasis on the weakness and vulnerability of ‘Kiwis’, which makes his rhetoric so relevant, and so dangerous. Surveys and anecdotal evidence suggest the majority of New Zealand First voters occupy the bottom end of what is euphemistically called the ‘socio-economic scale’. Many of these New Zealanders can thank the neoliberal ‘Rogernomics’ policies of Labour and National governments in the 80s and 90s for getting them where they are today. It was the privatisations, mass layoffs, and benefit cuts of neoliberals that pushed hundreds of thousands of working class New Zealanders from the relative security of the welfare state into poverty. The most significant result of Rogernomics was a radical falling away in union membership and strikes. A combination of union-busting legislation, mass unemployment and poor leadership undermined the organisations, which had always acted as the foundation for left-wing politics in New Zealand.

Rogernomics was disastrous for workers, but is was great for Winston Peters: it gave him an audience of workers who had been isolated and disoriented, and to whom the politics of nationalism and racism seemed to make sense. These workers had seen the trade unions which had once represented them become shrunken, marginal organisations incapable of defending the interests of their remaining members, let alone the interests of the working class as a whole. To workers who ceased to think of themselves and their problems in class terms, Peters and his party offer a vague but emotionally charged opposition between ‘Kiwis’ and ‘others’. The ‘others’ are Asians, Maori radicals, intellectuals, homosexuals, feminists, foreign businesses, and corrupt journalists. Combating this dastardly coalition involves not the collective struggle of the old trade unions but the placement of faith in a charismatic leader.

The answer to racism is working class unity. When the working class is strong, the racists are weak; when the working class is weak, the racists are strong. In New Zealand, building working class unity must mean rebuilding the trade unions. It is on the picket line, standing side by side with workers of other races, that the absurdity of dividing along racial lines becomes most obvious to workers. Workers who struggle together for pay rises and better conditions will never vote separately for politicians who tell them that class means nothing.

Of course, the unions will not be rebuilt in a day. What do we do about racism in the meantime? We must oppose racism everywhere it appears, but we must be careful to do so in ways that are consistent with our long-term goal. Physical attacks on the likes of Donnelly are understandable, but cannot combat racism effectively. They may even backfire and provoke public sympathy for the racists! A similarly ineffective response which has also been seen lately is the creation of cross-class anti-racist lobbying groups in immigrant communities. With establishment figures as patrons and immigrant businesses as sponsors, such groups are actually capitulating to the logic of populism, which argues that class is irrelevant, that race or cultural identity is what is important, and that workers and bosses should unite to defend their common interests against ‘others’. The longshoremen of the West Coast of America have found out where that idea leads.

Better models for anti-racist action can be found in the National Distribution Union, where Maori members have organised to campaign for justice in the case of Stephen Wallace, the young Maori shot in the back by a cop in Waitara, and in the Anti Imperialist Coalition, the Auckland anti-war group which was set up with the aim of getting members of Auckland’s huge community of working class immigrants to join the campaign against the War of Terror.

Written by raved

June 29, 2008 at 2:04 pm


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Last month, a few days before the Donnelly incident in Wellington, a member of the Anti Imperialist Coalition was subjected to a racist attack outside a meeting of the Seafarers’ Union. The seafarer shouted racist comments about Arabs and Iraqis before punching the AIC member. He had been angered by two leaflets which AIC members were distributing at the meeting (see below). One of the leaflets called for solidarity between New Zealand workers and the US Longshoremen being attacked by Bush, and the other advertised an upcoming anti-war march. The AIC has asked the Seafarers Union to show its opposition to racism and war by censuring the man who made the attack, and by getting involved in the growing anti-war movement in Auckland.
From Class Struggle 47 October/November 2002

AIC Leaflet
Support US workers attacked by Bush’s War of Terror
President Bush has decided that the West Coast ILWU (International Longshore and Warehouse Union) port workers struggle to renew their industrial contract is a threat to US internal security. The port employers locked out the longshoremen, and Bush threatened to call out the National Guard. Now he has imposed the Taft-Hartley Act to force the ports open for 80 days. Bush is using the war on terror to target the enemies of the US ruling class at home as well as internationally. This proves that the war on terror is a class war and that only the working class can stop war. Our first task is to build international solidarity with the locked out workers and put union bans on scab ships.

What’s behind the current attack on the ILWU?
The ILWU, representing 10,500 dockworkers at 29 major Pacific ports, is embroiled in a bitter contract dispute with the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), representing the shipping lines. The longshore workers’ contract expired July 1 and the ports have been operating on the basis of day-to-day contract extensions ever since. The key sticking point involves management demands for concessions that would allow for the introduction of new technology.

Wages and benefits are not the issue in these negotiations. The hourly rate for longshore workers ranges from $27.68 to $33.48-about the same as a plumber or electrician. What they would like, however, is to keep certain workers out of the union, the vessel planners who tell the cranes where to put every shipping container; clerical workers who use computers to help track container movement, and drivers who haul containers in and out of the ports.

Workers in these jobs have already joined the ILWU, or tried to, attracted by its good wages. The union wants to include them to replace the potential loss of jobs among the clerks who track cargo manually. Negotiators for the PMA have said no. The union looks at this as an issue of survival.

The union has already made concessions to the employers to accept new technology that would see around 30% of the clerks lose their jobs. But that is not enough for PMA that also wants to claw back hard-won health conditions and freeze pensions.

According to a ILWU leader Steve Stallone, the US Labor Department told the union early on that unless it meets the employers conditions the Bush administration would invoke the seldom used Taft-Hartley Act that can delay any strike by 80 days, use the Railway Labor Act to force the union to bargain port-by-port and bring in the army or navy to run the ports. The government has threatened the union with a “PATCO-type scenario,” referring to President Reagan’s mass firing of striking air traffic controllers in 1981. This week after 10 days of the lockout, Bush delivered on the first part of his promise invoked the Taft-Hartley Act and forced the ports open for 80 days.

Bush is backed by big business to smash unions
Why has a labour dispute been dragged into Bush’s ‘war on terrorism’? Bush is seizing the post September 11 clampdown on democratic rights in the US to attack the longstanding rights of unions. Both the Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfield have told the union that strikes are a threat to ‘national security’ at a time when the extreme right wing Bush Administration considers that the US is at war.

Bush’s right wing agenda is to use the war on terrorism to try to make US workers pay for the crisis of the US economy. Bush is supported by the WCWC, (West Coast Waterfront Coalition) made up of big businesses such as Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Ikea, Nike, Target and The Gap. The WCWC wants to prevent any strike action that would affect the $300 billion worth of goods that flow through the Pacific ports each year.

The Los Angeles Times reported a June 5 memo to Bush from the WCWC whose members “met with key Bush Administration Officials to convey the message that there is a need both to obtain labour concessions at the West Coast ports that will allow the application of technology and to avoid labour disruptions on the West Coast this summer that could stall a fragile economy.”

Bush is following a precedent set already with federal employees. He used the pretext of the war on terrorism to strip 170,000 federal employees being transferred to the newly formed Department of Homeland Security of their rights as public service employees and union representation.

Rank and File solidarity undermined by officials
What has been the response of organised labour to Bush’s threats to smash the ILWU? The rank and file Longshoremen have responded with militant actions up and down the west coast. There has been huge support from unions and workers all over the world. In NZ, Seafarers and Watersiders Union officials have visited the lockout ports, and taken resolutions to ‘black’ any ships loaded by scab labour or the military.

However, the response of the official leadership of the ILWU and the AFL-CIO (main US national labour organisation) to the Bush administration’s threats has been to appeal to the Democrats in Congress to put pressure on Bush and to claim that the ILWU is fully supportive of his patriotic war on terrorism.

The Democrat representatives hope that they can get Bush to back down by promising that the union will accept the bosses’ terms, in particular the job losses following the introduction of new technology. This has been the record of the ILWU leadership over the last few decades as thousands of jobs have been sacrificed with hardly a fight. In Seattle of 2,400 workers in 1963 there are only 550 left today. The union officials admit that today workers handle 10 times the cargo with one-twentieth the workforce.

The rank and file of the ILWU have to break from their officials to win this fight. If workers allow patriotism to replace working class solidarity they will lose. The union is saying “Fight terrorism, not workers”. The official union line is that the workers are much more patriotic than the bosses who are importing cheap Asian goods at the expense of American jobs. So they call for worker boycotts of foreign made goods.

But this attempt to prove the workers’ loyalty to the US prevents any real working class solidarity with workers inside or outside the US. It allows Bush to shift the blame for the state of the US economy off the bosses onto the longshore workers.

By supporting the US imperialist policies of a preemptive strike against Afghanistan, Iraq or any country designated ‘terrorist’ by the Bush administration, the ILWU workers unite with the class enemy, at a time when Bush is using the ILWU dispute to unleash his union-busting domestic drive for the same reason that he is promoting the war on terrorism abroad.

US imperialism is crisis-ridden and can only be revived by massive military spending on war, and the driving down of labour conditions at home. The ‘permanent’ war against US enemies abroad and the domestic war against its own working class are one and the same. The US ruling class must resort to the super-exploitation and oppression of workers at home and abroad to survive.

What should NZ workers do?
The ILWU is a strong union with a history of struggle. It opposed the Vietnam War. It closed down Long Beach and San Francisco ports to scab ships during the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) dispute in 1998. New Zealand workers have a clear duty to take solidarity action in support of the West Coast port workers. Multinationals like Carter Holt Harvey have tried to bust the NZ Waterside Workers Union and replace workers with new technology. Only by uniting internationally can workers become strong enough to take on the global corporations that dominate the world economy and win the fight against imperialist oppression and war.

The NZ Terrorism Suppression Bill passed on October 10 is modeled on US bills like the Patriot Bill introduced after September 11. It has provisions that will allow the state to designate industrial action a threat to national security. This includes solidarity action taken by NZ workers in support of locked-out wharfies in the US. We can petition the government to respect our rights as workers, and oppose Bush’s attack on Iraq, but it will be the ability of organised workers to go on strike that wins these rights and defends Iraq from further attacks.

The recent court acquittal of the killer of Christine Clarke shows that workers can place no reliance on the protection of the government and the police to win their struggles. Quite the reverse. As NZ’s history of militant struggle proves, state forces were used to smash strikes in 1913, 1951 and every other major dispute. Mass pickets are what is needed, supported by international action to stop the state from using scab workers or the military as strike breakers.

Solidarity with the locked out US workers!
For a union ban on scab US cargo!
Rally on October 26! 12 noon QE2 Square
Stop the Attack on Iraq

Anti-imperialist Coalition meets Weds 7-30 pm Trades Hall 147 Grt North Rd Grey Lynn
025 280 0080 email website

Solidarity with the ILWU workers!

“This union condemns the actions of the employers to lock out the West Coast US Longshoreworkers. We also condemn the Government use of the Taft-Hartley Act to force unionists back to work and the threat of troops and scabs to do the work of unionised workers.

We defend the right of unions to take industrial action in pursuit of their aims and objectives, including the right to strike and picket. We defend the right of workers including NZ/Aotearoa to take strike action in solidarity with workers in other countries.

We call upon the unions affiliated to the NZCTU to act in solidarity with the ILWU and to take industrial action to ban any vessel that is worked by scab or military labour in the US from docking or being unloaded in NZ.”

Messages of solidarity and material aid can be sent to the ULWU workers at:

Letter on Workers’ Party NZ.

Dear Comrade Editor,

On September 11 2002, the Workers’ Party of NZ walked out of the Auckland Anti-Imperialist Coalition. The WPNZ had helped initiate the AIC in September 2001 and had fully supported it up until the 2002 election campaign maintaining a presence right up until their walkout.

Since the WPNZ claims to serve the working class, surely it owes the AIC an explanation in its own paper the ‘Spark’ as to why it split from the AIC. The ‘Spark’ has been completely silent about the WPNZ’s desertion from the only Auckland militant anti-war united front.

The ‘Spark’, in an article written by Phil Ferguson of ‘Revolution Group’, has criticised the Socialist Workers’ Organisation for not joining the AIC, but now the ‘Spark’ group have left AIC themselves without an explanation to even its own readers. What has changed? Does the WPNZ purport to set an example to the working class on the correct way to operate in united fronts, or do they think that working class organisations should be guided by expediency alone in these matters.

The leader of the ‘Spark’ group had plenty to say on the AIC e-loop and the ‘anti-war, anti-cap”Yahoo group and no doubt these were mainly that AIC members were “mentally disturbed”. She also tried to do a political character assassination on an AIC member who had been assaulted by a rightwing member of the Auckland Seafarers Union two days before for disagreeing with this guy over Iraq.

In writing she made out that this thug was a good unionist! Despite the fact an AIC member heard him say that Iraq should have the “shit bombed out of it”, and that he also slandered a united front organisation, the AIC, of which the WPNZ was then a part, as supporters of Bin Laden.

I challenge the ‘Spark’ editor to publish her version of why WPNZ split after one year of intensive activity in AIC. On what issue of principle? I bet she will not and cannot say. I also challenge the ‘Revolution Group’ of Christchurch to publicly defend their ‘Spark’ splitter mates since “Revolution” has seen fit to intervene in this debate.

In its most recent edition (Spark, 15 October 2002) WPNZ writes: “the Task is to build an ‘anti-imperialist movement” and “anti-imperialism is the basis for unity with genuine forces for change” (p.3). This, one month after walking out of an avowedly and actively anti-imperialist organisation without making any public criticism of that organisation.

Signed BR

Written by raved

June 29, 2008 at 1:48 pm


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Open the borders!

The Australian government’s racist treatment of its asylum seekers, locking them up in detention centres in the desert like Woomera for years or bribing Pacific politicians to take them to remote Pacific atolls, has raised a storm of protest by the inmates escalating recently into hunger strikes and suicide attempts. We argue for ‘open borders’ to refugees.

Australia and most of the Western states are trying to limit the rising flow of refugees fleeing from countries devastated by wars, famines or genocide caused by imperialist exploitation and oppression. This is nothing new since the Western powers and their white-settler colonies have always had racist immigration policies that restrict access and discriminate against non-European migrants as ‘second class’ citizens. Now the US war on terrorism has added to the plight of these refugees by deliberately provoking fears that they may be terrorists.

Most of the detainees as Woomera in Australia are Afghan and Iraqi, victims of decades of wars and political repression unleashed by imperialist policies. Yet when the Yankee war on terrorism was unleashed on Afghanistan on October 7, Australia suspended the processing of Afghan refugees on the grounds that some might be members of the Taliban or al Queda! The bosses in Australia don’t normally need an excuse to be racist, but this was a great ‘opportunity’ (Bushes words) to delay processing and even talk of returning these migrants home.

What is the solution?

The Australian state is a miserable US toady and will not bow to public pressure to release or grant increased numbers of refugees legitimate migrant status. Both Liberal and Labor parties have already shown in the case of the Tampa scandal that they are prepared to compete for votes by playing on the fears of Australian workers about migrants taking their jobs. It is pointless appealing to the morality or ‘mateship’ of Howard or Crean, or to international agencies to intervene.

It is necessary for Australian workers to demand that their unions act to strike against Australia’s racist immigration policy to free the asylum seekers and to allow them to stay as new migrants. We have to reject the plan to return the migrants to their ‘home’ countries. These have been desolated by wars and sanctions and cannot possibly relocate the millions of migrants who have fled abroad. Instead we have to prove to Australian, NZ and other Western workers that it is in their interests to fight for open borders.

Australian workers must see that it is in their interests to demand the right to go where they like without borders and immigration laws. They already do it inside Australia, and many do it to other countries. Europeans were boat people at some point in history. Only the Aborigines could walk from South East Asia. So we all originated as economic migrants traveling around looking for work or sustenance.

Boat people yesterday and today.

The situation with today’s boat people is different yet the same. It is different because today people are refugees from imperialism’s destruction of their countries economy caused by sucking out the wealth that people need to live on, or by unleashing wars or sanctions to remove ‘rogue’ regimes and put West-friendly governments in power. The same, because it is economic and/or political survival that motivates people to migrate, not the desire for a holiday in the Australian outback or Pacific Atoll, six weeks in a leaky boat or the back of a freezer truck.

This freedom of movement is taken for granted by the capitalists who can buy their passage wherever they choose. Immigration laws in Australia, NZ and the ‘West’ favour those with ‘assets’ or skills to contribute to the development of economic growth. Workers or poor peasants, on the other hand, especially those from Asia, Africa or Latin America, are not free to travel unless they have a necessary skill in demand. The result is that they have to go through a series of racist barriers where their right to freedom of movement is determined by whether or not the bosses can make a profit from their labour.

This is why immigration quotas are used like a tap, turned on when there is a demand for labour, and turned off when that demand dries up. Instead of the bosses being seen as the problem because they want to regulate the international flow of labour, it is workers who are branded overstayers when their labour becomes superfluous. We say, put an end to the bosses’ borders! Demand the right of freedom of movement for labour!

Workers’ Government

Of course we cannot demand open borders under workers’ control unless we have ways and means of making this possible.
To provide jobs and welfare for migrants we have to tax the rich to pay for these. When they object we have to occupy their factories and run them under workers control. When they attempt to jail us we have to be able to defend ourselves. The only way we can do this is to fight for a Workers’ Government that is based on workers power and is able to plan the economy to meet the needs of all workers rather than serve the narrow class interests of bosses’ profits.

Strike for the right of freedom of movement!
Strike to free the asylum seekers!
Open Borders under workers control!

From Class Struggle 43 February/March 2002

Written by raved

June 27, 2008 at 9:52 pm


with one comment

Build Opposition to U.S. War!

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!

We condemn the act of terrorism directed at thousands of US workers on September 11. It sacrificed the lives of workers and did nothing for the cause of the oppressed in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan or any other oppressed country.

Worse it provides the USA with the excuse that it wants to escalate its attacks on these countries with a blank cheque to fight a ‘new war’ against ‘terrorism’. Such a war helps the USA to avoid the charge that it is the world’s No 1 terrorist. More importantly it can combat a collapsing economy as it mobilises its industry in a war drive.

As the US Empire militarises its rule over the masses of poor and oppressed, those who oppose capitalist rule must take a stand now to mobilise the workers of the world to unite and smash imperialism and racism! For an anti-imperialist coalition against racism and war!

Terrorism against workers

The use of civilian planes by terrorists to attack even such prominent targets as the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon cannot advance the cause of the oppressed.

In the first place by killing US workers it makes other workers in the imperialist countries rally around their national flags and volunteer to go to war against their sisters and brothers. While terrorists may do spectacular damage to the symbols of imperialist America, they cannot smash capitalism, because they do not mobilise workers as a class to take power and control of the economy.

Second, terrorism justifies more reactionary state terror against the rights and freedoms of workers and the oppressed at home as well as in those states targeted by imperialism. It further undermines collective class struggle by promoting patriotism and religion both as the cause of conflict and as the solution. The real cause capitalism and real solution socialism become forgotten in the rush to war.

USA NO 1 Terrorist!

The imperialist powers and their agents historically have perpetrated the vast majority of terrorist acts. The use of the Atomic bomb on Japan in 1945; The massacre of millions in Vietnam; The half million who died in Indonesia in 1965 at the hands of Suharto backed by the US; The millions displaced and dead in Palestine since 1948; The half million children dead at the hands of US sanctions in Iraq since 1990. And this is only the US hit list and only the worst. The list goes on and on.

It is the extreme powerlessness of oppressed people that drives some to adopt a terrorist response. The ultimate blame for terrorism therefore must lie with the imperialists. In this sense the September 11 attacks were a logical and predicable response to US policies in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Latin America for decades. The terrorists could just have well come from any of these continents.

What’s more these ‘terrorists’ are often trained and financed by the USA to be used against its enemies. Saddam Hussein was backed by the USA in Iraq’s war with Iran. Noriega was the USA’s man in Panama. Osama bin Laden was financed by the USA to fight the Soviet Army in Afghanistan. It would be no surprise to find that some of the pilots in the attack of September 11 were trained in the US Naval Air training school in Annapolis.

USA gears up for war

The attacks on September 11 provide a perfect pretext for US imperialism to escalate its hegemonic role as moral guardian and world policeman. The USA could not have done it better had it supplied the personnel as well as the training for the terrorists.

The USA has been able to mobilise its friends and rival powers in EU and Asia to back its ‘new war’. NATO has invoked the clause that treats an attack on the USA as an attack on each of its 17 members. Russia has committed itself to support NATO against terrorism provided the charges are proved. Pakistan has been pressured to demand that bin Laden be handed over. China can hardly oppose the USA and stay in the WTO.

So the declaration of war by George Bush is a blank cheque to attack any ‘terrorist’ target. It is the perfect end to a ten- year campaign to demonise Islam. Since the end of the cold war in 1990, the USA has promoted Islamic fundamentalism as the new world enemy. It has cast Osama bin Laden in the role of No 1 terrorist. Saddam Hussein and Palestinian groups like Hamas are second and third in line. The USA and its imperialist allies can now use the September 11 attacks to mobilise support for an unlimited war against any power, state, or individual that opposes US domination of the world.

War serves the economy

While the drive to war appears to be a political struggle of the powerful against the powerless, its purpose is to maintain US economic control of scarce resources such as oil in contested areas like the Middle East and Central Asia. Such control becomes more urgent as the world economy goes into a major recession. For the first time since the 1930’s the world economy is suffering a global downturn.

The US economy that has kept the rest of the world economy afloat in the last ten years is now in serious recession. The militarisation of the world is necessary to step up the repression of the poor and working class who are fighting back against this worsening depression. This global war on poverty targets the victims of poverty and has its model in the Plan Colombia.

US Plans for Latin America

The USA has for many years militarised its rule over Latin America. Its ruthless policies of supporting military dictatorships and of direct intervention in Cuba 1963, Chile 1973, Nicaragua 1979, Granada 1983, and Panama 1989, have created a joint military machine with its client states.

More recently it has promoted Plan Colombia, a Vietnam- style invasion of US troops and other personnel to fight the FARC under the guise of a war on drugs. There is now Plan Bolivia and looming up a Plan Argentina. In each case the armed resistance of the workers and peasants is labelled ‘communism’, ‘terrorism’ or a ‘war on drugs’ and a ‘counter-terrorist’ Plan devised and promoted to suppress it. The US working class barely notices these counter- revolutionary activities.

Plan Islam

But now the US ruling class is embarking on a drive to war that will take the form of a new religious crusade, a Plan Islam, to justify attacks upon and occupations of Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries, and open up new colonies in the Middle East and Central Asia. Already demands have been placed on the Taliban to hand over bin Laden, and also upon Pakistan to collaborate in any action against Afghanistan. The USA will go to war when its preparations are complete.

While the pretext is fighting terrorism in the name of democracy and freedom, the object will be to advance the US domination of the world economy against its weaker imperialist rivals the EU and Japan by eliminating any opposition to this Empire Amerika. These events prove that while war is politics, politics is concentrated economics.

Anti-capitalist movement

The drive to global war will be a baptism of fire for the youthful anti- capitalist movement and the ‘left’ in general. Vietnamese, Latin Americans, Iraqis, Palestinians Somalis and Yugoslavs have already suffered years of localised warfare.

The Western anti-war movement struggled to oppose these local wars against what was labelled as ‘communism’ or ‘terrorism’. Those who opposed war on both sides, rather than unconditionally defend the oppressed states against imperialism, weakened this movement.

The ‘new war’ against Islam will overtake all other anti- capitalist movements and force them to take sides for or against imperialism. Those who will not defend Iraq or Afghanistan because of Saddam or the Taliban do not understand that these dictatorships are the product of imperialism.

Not to defend them ensures that their defeat by imperialism makes it more difficult for the workers of Iraq or Afghanistan to overthrow these dictators. It is necessary for the Western left to overcome its pacifism and form itself into a strong anti-imperialist front against imperialist racism and war.

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!

Opposition to imperialist war can only be built in the working class whose interests are united with the worker and poor peasant masses of the oppressed countries. Anti-war movements that remain trapped in the pacifist and reformist ideology of the imperialist petty bourgeois and labour aristocracy will always support the lesser evil of imperialist democracy over dictatorships in oppressed states.

The first task of working class has always been to stand shoulder to shoulder with all oppressed peoples against imperialism. Against the ruling class forces that line up behind Plan Islam, revolutionaries must be in the front ranks of the troops that confront the class enemy. Greens, anarchists, socialists, and communists who are engaged in a variety of anti-capitalists actions must unite in solidarity against imperialist war and prepare to take on the military machine in their own imperialist heartlands.

No to the US ‘new war’ against Islam!

NZ out of ANZUS!

NZ out of Echelon!

Defend Afghanistan!

For Palestine Liberation!

End the Sanctions on Iraq!

End racist attacks!

Self Defence is No Offense!

Form Self Defence Groups!

Fight Racism and Imperialism!

For an Anti-imperialist United Front

Class Struggle No 41 October-November 2001

Written by raved

August 28, 2007 at 9:17 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


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Another coup in Fiji once more shows the urgent need to build a revolutionary international and fight for class politics against racism and ethnic cleansing. While the coup is paraded as a nationalist bid to protect ‘indigenous rights’ its real motivation is the grab for power by a younger section of the Fijian bourgeoisie who have been held back by the Alliance Parties ruling bloc of old Fijian chiefs and the Indo-Fijian bourgeoisie. This naked struggle for power exposes the class nature of Fijian society and calls for the mobilisation of the working class and poor peasantry across racial lines as a force for permanent revolution.

Post-colonial ruling class.

Fiji is a tiny and poor semi-colony situated in the South Pacific between Vanuatu and Tonga. Since its ‘independence’ from Britain in 1970 it has tried to survive by fitting in with the plans of global capital. Fiji was ruled by the Council fo Chiefs which has always tried to balance Fijian paramountcy with the democratic rights of the Indians. Some have said that this balancing act was impossible because Fijian society was inherently despotic and that ‘democracy’ was not the ‘Pacific way’.

However, if you look at Fiji’s history since 1970, it is not ‘Fijian society’ that is despotic. Rather those chiefs who seek to exercise their authority as a capitalist class against all others –Fijians and Indians. In fact ‘Fijian society’ has been transformed by colonialism from a simple lineage society in which chiefs only ruled with the consent of the commoners, into a hybrid form of capitalism where the chiefs rule as a class. While they claim their right to rule on the basis of their traditional authority, their method of rule reflects their class interests in living off the rent from land leased to mainly Indian tenant farmers, or their role as politicians and administrators in the government.

But the chiefs have long been divided on how best to rule Fiji. Since 1970 there has been an ongoing struggle between those chiefs under Ratu Mara who tried to accommodate the Indians in the Alliance party, and the Fiji Nationalist Party that insisted that Indians should not have equal political rights. The Mara group represent those capitalist chiefs whose interests are to manage the state on behalf of the whole capitalist class, which includes Indians. This explains Mara”s and the Alliance’s attempts to steer a moderate course between the interests of Fijian and Indian capital to form a national bourgeoisie.

On the other hand, the FNP/Taukei chiefs are motivated as landlords to increase their share of the rents from land and the exploitation of economic resources. This means controlling the state and excluding the Indian capitalists and tenant farmers to ensure that the landlord chiefs retain high rents on their land, and the ability to exploit resources such as native timber.

However, when both groups of chiefs are confronted with a greater threat –the mobilisation of Fijian and Indian workers –they are prepared to work together to maintain their authority under the principle of ‘Fijian paramountcy’ – Fijian control of land and the state. As early as 1977 there was an attempt to form an Indian led government when the Fijian vote was split between the Alliance and the FNP. But Mara ensured that parliament was dissolved. A second election returned the Alliance with much greater support.

The Rabuka Coups of 1987

Then in 1987 the workers and poor peasants voted in a Labour Party dominated coalition government under Timoci Bavadra. The new government was a popular front across classes and races and did not really pose a threat to the ruling class economic interests. However it did pose a threat to the hegemony of the Great Council of Chiefs as it was commited to stamping out cronyism and corruption. So the chiefly ruling class backed by the US staged a coup to remove it from office. Under the new dictator Colonel Rabuka, Fiji opened up to free trade to allow foreign capital to set up the garment industry and began selling off native timber etc.

But Rabuka’s dictatorship was outside the ‘rules’ of the US ‘new world order’, and the US and the Commonwealth pressured Fiji to return to ‘democracy’. The moderate wing of the Fijian ruling class under Ratu Mara once more moved towards reconciliation of the races. Rabuka became Prime Minister and made friends with the Labour Party. Paul Reeves the ex-Governor General of NZ headed a commission that re-wrote the racist 1990 Constitution in an attempt to move away from a racially divided government. The allocation of more Indian seats and general seats in the 1987 Constitution meant that a non-Fijian majority was possible.

So, in 1999, a majority of both Fijian and Indian voters elected a Coalition Government in which the Labour party was again the dominant partner. We had a repeat of the 1987 situation as the new Government began to ‘clean up’ the corruption and nepotism of the Fijian ruling class and their dubious links to their foreign masters, and spend more money on the poor. Once more, the intervention of a popular front government sought to put a stop to the corrupt business practices of elements of the Fijian ruling class in the name of ‘democracy’.

Enter George Speight

While this intervention was even less a threat to the rule of the chiefly class than the Bavadra government of 1987, it did hit at those Fjiian and Indian capitalists who were super-exploiting workers and resources. Among the casualties of this ‘clean up’ was one George Speight, a younger member of the Fijian capitalist class with business interests inside and outside Fiji. He was sacked from the Mohogany Board by the Government, and was charged with fraud. He and a number of other failed and frustrated businessmen cooked up the coup with the backing of the Taukei movement, the traditional hard-line Fijian nationalist movement based in the East of Fiji.

Speight was able to rally support from those chiefs who resented a multiracial government and in particular an Indian Prime Minister Chaudry ‘interfering’ with their freedom to super-exploit other Fijians of all ethnic backgrounds without discrimination! They mobilised suppport among the unemployed youth and villages claiming that the Government was about to take the land. The call went out to bring down the government and to go back to the 1990 racist Constitution that supposedly protected the interests of the ‘indigenous people’.

The outcome of Speight’s coup so far is a repeat of 1987 where the existing Government and Constitution have been overthrown and replaced by a dictatorship with significant backing from the landlord section of the Fijian ruling class. This time however, there is less support from other sections of the Fijian ruling class like Ratu Mara, and most of the Indo-Fijian ruling class, whose interests cannot be advanced by a military dicatorship that unleashes economic sanctions on Fiji. This explains why Speight was determined to rid the government of the moderates under Ratu Mara and replace them with a militant nationalist regime that will protect the interests of that section of the ruling class that wants to work hand in glove with imperialism to super-exploit Fiji’s economy.

Class against Race

There can be no progressive solution to this situation short of a return to democracy. Such a struggle is not futile. Dictatorship is not inevitable in Fiji. It is not the traditional despotism of Fijian society that explains the frequency of coups. Rather it is the rivalry between sections of the ruling class for control of Fiji’s few profitable resources. Each time the ruling class acts against the advance of democracy it declares its naked class interests more openly. Such is the case when George Speight himself a European-Fijian commoner uses force to join that ruling class.

Thus the appeal to indigenous rights that has drawn Maori activists like Tama Iti to support Speight is a total red herring. Unlike NZ, Fijian’s still ‘own’ about 83% of the land. Fiji is a unique capitalist country where the labour of most of its workers is exploited on the basis of commonly owned land. It is not the Indo-Fijians who exploit the Fijians, but their own Fijian landlord’s who pocket most of the rent paid out of the labour of tenant farm families. Because under capitalism they have become an exploiting class it is futile to expect the chiefs to distribute the rent fairly to their kin as they would have done before colonisation.

Therefore the real issue is the legacy of colonialism and the persistent super-exploitation of the workers and poor peasants of both Fijian and Indian ethnicity. Indigenous rights are not the problem but rather workers’ rights. The majority of Fijians and Indians are not exploited because of their race, but because they are workers or poor peasants. It is reactionary to call for the unity of Fijian’s of all classes against the Indo-Fijian when it is the Fijian ruling class that is in power and which exploits its own kinfolk.

Similarly, it is reactionary to call for Indo-Fijians to unite across all classes as it is the Indian ruling class that has financially propped up the Alliance ruling party for generations. There can be no way out of this situation other than by means of the building of class solidarity across race lines between the growing worker and poor peasant majority in Fiji for the defence of democracy.

Nor is it in the interests of Fiji’s workers and poor peasants to appeal to the Commonwealth, the UN, Australia or NZ to take action to remove Speight. On June 5 the Fijian Council of Trade Unions put out an appeal to the Commonwealth Ministers Action Group to take action along the following lines:

  • Continue to recognize the People’s Coalition under the leadership of Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry as the legitimate Government of the Fiji Islands. This would be consistent with the principles of the Harare Declaration.
  • Warn the Fiji Military Forces that its failure to restore the democratically elected People’s Coalition Government and the 1997 Constitution in a reasonable time frame will result in the imposition of the full force of the Commonwealth and international sanctions against the illegal regime set up by the Fiji Military Forces.
  • Impose an immediate ban on travel to any Commonwealth Country: · of Speight and all members of his interim government, · all members of the military’s Council of Advisors · heads of public service.
  • Specify that should the democratically elected government not be restored within two months, the sanctions will include: i) Fiji’s expulsion from the Commonwealth ii) A unified suspension of diplomatic relations with the illegal regime set up by the Fiji military Forces by member states; iii) Suspension of technical assistance, development aid and other assistance or support by member states and the Commonwealth Secretariat; iv) Activating a comprehensive trade, sporting, travel, cultural and educational regime of sanctions; v) Total freeze on all links with Fiji Government, its public service, the military and other institutions; vi) A Commonwealth commitment to pursuing further diplomatic, political and economic isolation of the illegal regime through the United Nations and other international agencies; vii) A commitment to pursing leaders of any unconstitutional government and Speight and his supporters for human rights abuses under international law, a freezing of their assets in Commonwealth countries.
  • We further ask that the CMAG call for the unconditional and immediate release of hostages.
  • If the Fiji Military Forces does not restore the elected Government and the 1997 Constitution within 2 months, we ask that the Commonwealth take necessary measures in response, including the setting up and rapid deployment of a stabilizing/peacekeeping force.

Appealing to the capitalist governments of the Commonwealth to put pressure on the Fijian Military Government is like pouring fuel on the fire of nationalism. It can only have the effect of reinforcing the nationalism of indigenous Fijian’s who regard outside interference as the continuation of colonialism. Threatening to send in a “stabilizing/peacekeeping force” will be regarded by the Military Government as an act of war.

The reason that the coup has succeeded so far is that the Fijian working class has yet to organise itself independently of its own ruling class. Now that this ruling class has fallen out over who should rule Fiji and get the franchise to exploit Fiji’s resources, it makes no sense to appeal to those captalist states and the multinationals they represent, whose only interest is in exploiting those resources, to come to their aid.

The only demands that workers should put on their bourgeois states are those that break down national borders and strengthen the international ties of workers. In the case of the coups and military dictatorship our demands should be for immediate political asylum with no strings attached for all who want to leave Fiji.

International working class action

The international outrage among unionists is a healthy start to this process. Workers do not call on bourgeois governments to impose bans but mobilise internationally to impose their own bans directed at the capitalist class. The Fijian Council of Trades Unions has put out the call for a workers’ international boycott independent of their bourgeois states. Australian and NZ unions have declared a boycott and ban on handling trade with Fiji. Workers internationally must be prepared to back up this call with similar.

The unity of the Pacific region working class in the struggle for democracy will demonstrate that in Fiji (as elsewhere) there are only two courses ahead – either the constant threat of military rule sparked by the Rabukas and Speights playing the race card and threatening ethnic cleansing to keep the ruling class in power as the agent of global imperialism, or the struggle to forge unity across the racial divide and to fight for workers and farmers governments that will take power in the name of all the exploited regardless of ethnicity, nationality or gender.

For a Federation of Socialist Republics of the Pacific!

From Class Struggle No 33 June-July 2000

Written by raved

August 27, 2007 at 3:06 pm