Antipodean Marxism meets Indigenous Peoples’ Struggles

tuwhare-marxworkerposter.jpg

Hone Tuwhare and Poster of Karl Marx as Construction Worker

Introduction

Today the struggle of indigenous peoples in Australasia is becoming institutionalised in international law and the post-modern politics of multi-cultural ‘difference’. When Derrida can visit Australia and NZ and be hailed as a partisan of indigeneity (Bedggood, 1999); when Lyotard can be invoked to bring Kant to the rescue of ‘native title’ (Green, 1994); we see that the colonial missionary has been supplanted by the post-colonial emmisary. Thus the official policy has gone from forced integration, relocation, stolen children, suppressed language and customs etc, towards a liberal paternalism under the guise of ‘multiculturalism’, ‘biculturalism’ and more recently ‘post-colonialism’.

Such a move tokenises indigenous peoples’ rights conferred by the bourgeois state and celebrated by the rituals of cultural reconciliation. But the cultural turn in indigenous peoples struggles is not new. It is a time-honoured strategem for political incorporation and economic assimulation into global capital accumulation.

Today indigenous peoples remain heavily oppressed by racism on top of systemic class exploitation. What then do Australasian Marxists have to say about the prospects of indigenous peoples overcoming their historic oppression and joining forces with the international proletariat in the overthrow of capital? Do they have a future as a people or as a class? Or, what is the difference?

Materialist premises

We should begin by defining some materialist premises. In the case of Australia and New Zealand, white settler colonisation arose from the first crisis faced by the leading capitalist state in Europe, Britain. These colonies went through a process of a bourgeois revolution (as yet incomplete) in which bourgeois land, labour and capital were formed (but which remain semi-colonies of the US and Japan).

Internal to these countries however are the indigenous peoples who remain oppressed minorities without equal rights to land, labour and capital. How can these oppressed peoples’ gain their liberation? All arguments about liberation have been drawn from European sources and imported into the Antipodes. Are they therefore necessarily examples of cultural imperialism? I would say Yes, if they continue to deny the same rights to indigenous minorities that were fought for and won in Europe, or attempt to contain these rights inside the framework of the bourgeois constitution rather than the socialist commonwealth.

In this paper I want to distinguish between two sorts of Marxism. The first is a Euro-centric Marxism that imposes an imperio-centric notion of progress and self-determination upon Aborigines and Maori, and in doing so provides a radical edge to the project of assimilation. The second, is an Antipodean Marxism that fights for the right of oppressed national minorities to self-determination up to and including secession as part of the struggle for socialism. This distinction correlates roughly with Gramsci’s concept of traditional intellectuals serving capitalist hegemony and organic intellectuals servicing the counter-hegemonic rise of socialism.

In dealing with the Antipodes, like Marx I do not start with geography, but with production relations. I argue here that societies generate ideas out of social relations that reflect those relations and help reproduce them. In the formation of the Antipodes there was a clash of ideas that reflect pre-capitalist and capitalist modes of production each with its own social relations because such sets of social relations are incompatible. Maori and Aboriginal societies were non-class modes of production with social relations based on kinship. Ideas served the reproduction of kinship relations.

Capitalist ideas on the other hand are split between those that express the disguised fetishized form of social relations as equal exchange (i.e. hegemonic ideology) and those which break down this ideology by penetrating to the totality of capitalist production (counter-hegemonic critique). In that sense these different standpoints all originated from Europe because that is where capitalism began, but they become real, that is concrete and complex, only by applying these concepts to the specific social formations that are mixtures of social relations comprising nations in the global economy.

However, remembering Marx, the point is not just to interpret but also to change the world. Thus the concept of Antipodes (as European fragments) and Indigenes (as pre-capitalist formations) are not mutually antagonistic. They are part of the totality of the articulation of social relations in the concrete regional social formation I call ‘Australasia’ situated in the inclusive world capitalist social formation. But these concepts mean nothing unless they inspire and guide our thought and action to advance democratic rights and freedoms for all.

Australasia, like all settler social formations, has yet to resolve its ‘founding problem’ – the dispossession and oppression of its indigenous peoples. Even on the terms of classic bourgeois rights, until this historic blight is remedied Australasia fails to live up to its ‘civilising mission’. Bourgeois society cannot indefinitely tolerate one group of ‘subjects’ who do not have citizenship rights unless they are deliberately denied these rights for some offence against the ‘common good’. So the first step is to define the problem. Why is it that the indigenous peoples of Australia and NZ were largely excluded from equal rights during the settler colonisation of these countries? What is the basis of this exclusion and how can it be overcome?

Today it is widely recognised that indigenous peoples were historically oppressed and that these past ‘wrongs’ need to be redressed before any society can claim to be equal and humane. Both Aboriginal and Maori peoples have made advances in redressing past wrongs winning legislation that specifically establishes certain political/legal rights and land rights. In NZ the Treaty of Waitangi settlements form the political/legal basis for this process. In Australia, the process is not as advanced. Native title is now part of the law, even if as yet the barriers to claiming Native title are very high.

This is because the ‘settlement’ process is heavily contested not only between the national minorities and majorities, but also within both camps. Answers to the question of who is responsible for the historic oppression of indigenous peoples and who should pay for the reparations typically express the dominant ideological standpoints found in capitalist society; neoliberal and liberal. This standpoint is hegemonic and has framed the terms of the debate to the point of marginalising radical and revolutionary challenges. It is the purpose of this paper to critique that dominant standpoint from a classic Marxist position, and to argue that the real solution, self-determination, necessarily implies socialism.

Neoliberal conservatives

Within the hegemonic frame, the crudest position is that of the classic liberals (today’s neo-liberals or market liberals). Historically it originated with white settlement as the ‘civilising mission’. It adopts an evolutionary schema in which peoples range from savages to civilised, with gradations in between. Australian aborigines were, and are still to some extent, regarded as at the extreme savage end, sub-humans living in a ‘primitive communist’ pre-social existence. Wolfe talks of how 19th century anthropologists justified treating Aboriginals as landless on the grounds that they had not discovered patriarchy and got properly married! (1999:69).

The New Zealand Maori were regarded as ‘noble savages’ further up the evolutionary scale. The settlers understood a society that based land claims on conquest! Yet there was some doubt that even Maori could be civilised. The only way to ‘scientifically’ civilise the Maori was “in his coffin”. (Sinclair, 1961:7). There are still echoes of these racist ideas today in right wing attacks on the ‘natives’ and their demands. The fear of Aboriginal and Maori as ‘primitive communism’ threatening to destroy European civilisation is evident in the extreme racist reactions to Land Rights.

The extreme right racism in Australia has been rekindled today as a fear of Communism. The original racism of the white settlers was based on the need to convert land to private (patriarchal) property. At Markus has shown the furore of the Blainey debate in 1984 was kicked off not by any obvious marked concern about an Asian invasion but about Federal and West Australian Labor Government’s plans to legislate on land rights and challenge the property rights of the mining industry (1987:21). The White Australia policy was always about the ‘primitive communism’ of Aboriginals failure to respect private property and patriarchy, and extended to other migrants later.

The concerns of Hanson et.al. today echo this primordial racism. If the policy of stealing children was justified because the deluded patronising Anthropologist Daisy Bates reported that Aboriginals ‘ate their babies’ in the 1930’s, then it is the same fear of atheistic communism that droves the anti-Asian racism of the 19th century and revived today (Hall, 1998). While much of the debate about racism in Australia today is to do with how ‘Anglo-celts’ struggle for a national identity there is no escaping that private property is at the root of racism (Hage, 1998; Stratton, 1998).

Whatever the cultural autonomy of racist nationalism, it is direct threats to capitalist property that serves to re-mobilise racist political arguments and seek popular support from petty bourgeois and workers whose fears and insecurities can be re-directed at these convenient targets.

Responding to a radical revival of Maori land rights in the 70’s and early 80’s, Geoff MacDonald claimed that Maori radicals were in league with international communists to takeover the country and suppress white settler civilisation.(1985). As a former member of the Australian Communist Party of 13 years, and a life long trade union official, McDonald claimed that Maori were not oppressed, and whites were not racist. The whole question of Maori self-determination was a communist plot to ferment discontent among Maori, and find a substitute for the working class that had proven itself incapable of making a revolution.1

Ten years later, part of a growing redneck backlash to multimillion-dollar Treaty settlements in land and fisheries, Stuart Scott expressed the new right capitalist obsession with “one law for one people” (1995). The Treaty is an anomaly because it creates privileges (Article 2 claims over land and resources not used by Maori in 1840) as well as bourgeois rights as subjects. Scott says that Article 2 privileges should be junked and the Treaty limited to Article 3 rights. This is the redneck Article 3 solution where Maori are supposed to be equal subjects and citizens; one law for one people! 2 It reflects the ideology of the market where individuals are supposedly equal as citizens and can own private property and respect family values. Any failure to do so results from personal failing, tribal culture, stone-age economics or deficient genes. Richard Prebble and ACT have picked up and run with these ideas. Prebble’s recent call for a ‘time cap’ on Treaty settlements is the most politically explosive current expression of this position (1999).

Professor Kenneth Minogue’s 1995 book Waitangi: Morality and Reality, presents the New Right’s big gun pseudo-philosophical arguments.3 He stakes out the classic liberal assumptions about European civil society, the rule of law, and the separation of powers in the British and US Constitutions, and then rejects all deviations from these. He blames Marxism, legal relativism, and legal activism for subjecting the law to political pressures such as the “Treaty Process”. This, he argues, will make Maori dependent upon the state as a collective victim or a new rentier class, rather than free them to become equal citizens under one law for all. What is obscured in his assumptions is the fact that the bourgeois law and state are already politically loaded agents of the bourgeoisie in defence of its private property rights etc. and that the Treaty is doing no more than retrospectively correcting for the illegal transfer of property under that “one law”.

Minogue objects not so much to the interference of politics in the law, but rather the attempts by social liberals to treat Maori differently with a separate law. Why? Because this would expose the historic fact that bourgeois law is not universal but is politically loaded in defence of bourgeois property rights from which Maori have been largely excluded. This exposure threatens the legitimacy of the state and may lead to situation where the rule of law and democracy are threatened by ‘particularistic separatist’ movements that put ‘New Zealand in danger’ of collapsing into ‘anarchy’ and ‘civil strife’.(1998: 89,90). Here then, is a philosophical smokescreen to deter anyone undermining the real political function of bourgeois law i.e. the defence of private property; specifically, opposition to Treaty claims being made on private property, and opposition to Treaty claims being used to stop the privatisation of state assets, and the re-nationalisation or Maori incorporation of privatised assets!

Gareth Morgan, Infometrics head honcho, in his NZ Herald column amplified Minogue’s alarm about the Treaty posing a threat to social (meaning the capitalist ‘market’) order.4 He had another go at the Treaty when he tried to claim that the “return of stone-age economics” in New Zealand was linked to Hanson’s neo-fascist politics in Australia.5

A more sophisticated Maori-bashing can be found in Donna Awatere’s recent books. Awatere is an interesting case of a Maori who has made the transition from left to right on the Maori question. In her book, My Journey, she even claims that the transition took place while she was reading Das Kapital. After being wooed by the Communist Party for some years, Awatere explains how visits to Cuba, Albania and Russia made her question ‘official’ communism.6 Ironically, this is almost the same position taken by Geoff McDonald some ten years earlier in attacking Awatere’s Maori Sovereignty, 7 testifying to her complete break with her radical past and advocacy of an extreme right neo-liberal ideology. 8

Liberal Humanists

The more politically correct liberal position is that of the humanists. Historicallly the crude ‘natural selection’ approach was weakly contested by the then politically correct ‘humanitarianism’. Outright annihilation and assimilation was frowned upon and replaced with ‘native protection’. Civilisation would transform indigenous cultures with the aid of humanitarian reforms – from the missionaries to social workers- the civilising mission would do its work (Bedggood, 1978).

However, because such ‘progressive’ liberals did not believe in natural selection but rather humane intervention, indigenous peoples were granted ‘protection’ and bourgeois rights to land, citizenship – in theory if not in practice. The history of liberal race relations in the Antipodes has been to peacefully amalgamate the two races into a harmonious unity. Treaty recognition, settlements, apologies and “pardons” etc are the attempts to realise this ideal. Failure is blamed on ill will, institutionalised racism, Euro-centrism etc. Liberal reforms, post-colonial critiques, and internal decolonisation will correct this situation. Today the liberals want to turn historical Treaty rights into Constitutional reforms and International law that protects and allows the development of indigenous peoples rights. Indigenous rights are regarded as natural rights. More about this later.9

Yet this liberal approach to natural rights is seriously misguided. No rights exist without the might to back them up. Entrenching indigenous right must mean empowering indigenous might. This could only happen by a transfer of power by force or cession.10 In Australia the multicultural project is to say sorry but not to empower Aboriginals to reclaim their land and culture. Notwithstanding the Mabo and Wik decisions that formally recognised some grounds for claiming land rights, these are so limited as to be largely tokenism in the face of mining and farming property rights (Alford, 1999).

As Hage (1998) and others point out, ‘multiculturalism’ is on the terms of the dominant Euro culture. This is because people can become equal culturally only if they are equal economically and politically. For this to happen there would need to be a fundamental reform of the capitalist social relations that consigns Aboriginals to a largely landless rural reserve army where they could not subsist adequately without engaging in low paid often seasonal and insecure wage labour.

In NZ the bicultural project requires that Maori power-share in the bourgeois state. This of course is the standpoint of classic social democracy where social justice can be won by reforming the state. But while in NZ the ideology of ‘statism’ is powerful because of the central role played by the state historically, there are no grounds for believing that Maori can harness the state to their purposes in the manner of the bourgeoisie.

This is because, despite the new right revision of statism in NZ (Bassett,1998), at each historic point when major state intervention occurred it was to create and reproduce the conditions for capital accumulation. When white settler colonisation required the dispossession of the indigenous people and their induction into the reserve army of labour, how can decolonisation reverse this process? As we shall see illusions about indigenous rights are based on the belief that decolonisation works. But the model of decolonisation applied to indigenous peoples is inherently flawed since it fails to register the ongoing process of economic subordination that is the fate of decolonised i.e. neo-colonised nations.

In the middle of the 19th century Karl Marx gave an account of the causes of white settler colonisation that laid bare the hypocrisy of the ‘mission’ of one people to civilise another. Far from being a peaceful process of civilisation, the colonies exposed the real history of the rise of capitalism in Europe – one of “primitive accumulation” (i.e. the bloody conquest, plunder and sometimes destruction of pre-capitalist society). The purpose was to expropriate the indigenous population from the land to convert it into private property and the population into a reserve army of labour. This had been the history of the rise of capitalism in Europe, and it was now the purpose of the ‘new theory of colonisation’ of Wakefield and Co. to kill “two birds with one stone etc”. 11 The crude experience of colonisation – the destruction of the pre-capitalist society and its “articulation” into the dominant capitalist society – rapidly exposed bourgeois conservative and liberal ideology as a pack of lies.

So contrary to the claims of the missionaries and ‘humanitarian’ colonial politicians who wanted to “protect the native”, the real purpose of colonisation was that of a land grab and the mustering of the indigenous people as a reserve army of labour. Land, labour and capital had to be created and assembled as the notorious “factors of production”. This created the opposition and resistance to European colonisation from its first bloody conquest right up to the post-modern assimilation today. However, instead of seeing the real motive behind colonisation as one of establishing a new class society, radical ideology presents the conflict only in terms of its more immediate aspect of racial or national domination/oppression.

Radical nationalists

The earliest forms of radical ideology were based on the defence of a kinship lineage society against its destruction. The first radical nationalists in Australasia were the Aboriginal people who resisted the destruction of their society. Considered pre-social, of no ‘economic value’ unless required as a cheap labour source, and without identifiable ‘territory’, Aboriginal resistance was written off as no more than the sporadic and irrational acts of outlaws who rejected the benefits of their protection as ‘native subjects’ (Rowley, 1972:5). In reality however, this resistance was a determined socially organised response to the use of force to take Aboriginal land and to genocide (Reynolds, 1981, 1987). It was equally as rational as the settler society that seized good land to produce fine wool for the rapidly expanding British market.

The radical re-interpretation of the frontier recognises clearly the contradiction between two antagonistic social systems. Simple hunting and gathering came up against the pastoral production of commodities. We have seen how the Euro-centric anthropology of the 19th century and much of the 20th reproduced the dominant evolutionary conception of Aboriginal society as the earliest form of society on the evolutionary scale.

More recently radical and neo-Marxist anthropologists and historians have partly corrected this bias. Aboriginals were not sub-human, or pre-social without knowledge of paternity and land rights. While a relatively simple lineage mode of production, this society was complex in its social organisation and division of labour including warfare. Thus today there is a wider acceptance of the existing rights of indigenous peoples to their land and resources, and acknowledgement of the destruction wrought by colonisation at the hands of a more powerful capitalist social system largely as the result of a history of radical resistance to dispossession and oppression (Reynolds, 1996).

In NZ, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed by Maori on the strength of the assurance that it granted Maori self-determination as equal British subjects (Article 3); with ‘tinorangitiratanga’, i.e. control over their own lands and fisheries etc (Article 2); subject only to the limits of overall British rule “kawanatanga” (Article 1). Many Maori chiefs refused to sign the Treaty of Waitangi seeing clearly that they had already lost their land. 12 Hone Heke, according to Sahlins the first to sign the Treaty,13 then cut down the British flag pole at Kororareka four times because in Maori mythology it signified that the British were in reality breaking Article 2 and claiming the land and the real mana (authority) of the chiefs.14

When these rights were dishonoured, the Treaty was seen as dishonoured, a “fraud”. Maori attempts to protect their land and assert their independence were radical demands because they rejected the process of ‘primitive accumulation’. Their military defeat (Waikato, Taranaki, Hauhau etc) 15 led to civil disobedience (Parihaka), and then later to nationalist demands that Maori collectively be recognised as (Article 3) bourgeois subjects (Kotahitanga, King Movement, Pomare, Separate Maori seats, etc). 16 This begins with the assertion of equal bourgeois democratic rights (Article 3) for Maori as a people, but not as isolated bourgeois individuals, and a restoration of land and other resources under Article 2. These demands were for restoration rather than for political secession.

Similarly, in Australia, after the first waves of resistance had been defeated, Aboriginals continued to stake their claims to land and to equal rights, though these had not been agreed to in any past Treaty. Middleton (1977) documents the resurgence of struggle for equal pay and land rights after WW2. The Pilbara strike of station hands in 1946 won Aboriginal workers equal pay. A campaign for citizenship was won in 1967. The Gurindji struggle for the return of their land at Wattie Creek began in 1966 and and sparked off twenty years of land rights struggles that culminated in the Mabo and Wik decisions (O’Lincoln, 1993). Mabo removed the myth of terra nullius, and Wik recognised the right to ownership of traditional land based on continuous occupancy. But just like the Gurindji and other claims, successive governments have refused to restore full land rights or have tried to convert them into private property rights without ownership of mineral wealth.

The failure of Aboriginal and Maori national struggles to result in national liberation results from the politics of the radical leadership. Most of these struggles became taken over by middle class blacks claiming a share of Antipodean capitalism. New movements for self-determination emerged in both countries but the ‘self’ that was determined was not that of a whole people, but an emergent ‘middle class’ of black bureaucrats and black bourgeoisie (Poata-Smith, 1998).

Their model was the US civil rights movement. Radicals like Donna Awatere in New Zealand and Bobbi Sykes in Australia were heavily influenced by Black Power in the 1970’s. Black Power drew its support from the oppressed African-American minority in the US and demanded access to power and wealth for blacks (Burgmann, 1993:34). Instead of joining forces with white workers to overturn a racist exploitative capitalism, the politics of Black Power sought to achieve racial equality by advancing blacks out of the working class into the petty bourgeoisie and bourgeoisie. The result was that in Australasia, Governments began to foment a white backlash to Black Power as a separatist racist threat to the unity of the white nation. The radical intelligentsia had no interest in trying to unite black and white workers against this backlash, but tried to guilt trip the white middle class to turn against white workers and blame them as accomplices in the oppression of Aboriginal and Maori.

In NZ following a decade of renaissance of Maori land rights protest, Awatere’s 1984 book Maori Sovereignty marked the revival of a radical critique of Maori inequality and oppression.What was striking about the resurgence of Maori radicalism in the late 1970s and early 1980s was its ambivalence towards Marxism and the selective use of popularised and Euro-centric ‘Marxist’ concepts to promote the struggle of indigenous peoples rather than the class struggle. This reflected not only the experience of Maori as primarily members of the working class, but also the rise of a Maori labour bureaucracy that identified with various currents of Western Marxism, Soviet or Chinese ‘communism’ and Third world liberation movements. European capitalism was seen as aggressive, acquisitive and expansionist, colonising and exploiting indigenous peoples and the model of national liberation struggles was adapted to the decolonisation of Aotearoa.17
In broad terms this neo-Ricardian ‘Marxist’ theory posits the expropriation of value from producing classes by the capitalist class. But in the hands of under-development theorists, class is displaced by nation as the relation of domination. It is argued that the dominant European nations at the ‘centre’ exploit the dependent, subordinate, ‘periphery’ of colonies, semi-colonies or client states. This makes the working class in the dominant states accomplices with ‘their’ employers in the exploitation of workers and indigenous peoples in the subordinate states. Thus a Euro-centric neo-Marxism becomes the basis for a left-wing post-colonial inversion of the ‘civilising mission’ in which white settler workers and their descendants become complicit in colonial oppression, and must today become the allies of indigenous peoples to win their national liberation (Windshuttle, 1996; Maka and Fleras, 1998;Walker, 1999).

Donna Awatere’s radical critique borrows from such theories in order to portray all the European colonists regardless of their class, as motivated by their ‘white hatred’ to oppress all Maori. Such racism certainly served to justify the land grab. But here Awatere does not advance much beyond Keith Sinclair’s ‘acquisitive’ Europeans (Sinclair, 1961:21). The land grab is motivated by settler racism and greed that are culturally given, and not explained as the historically specific effect of the crisis of British capitalism and class struggle. As the cause is not related to class, Awatere’s solution isn’t either. She borrows from Gramsci to put the Maori people at the head of an alliance of progressive forces that can reclaim the stolen land. Hence a borrowed pseudo-Marxism becomes a bureaucratic tool to empower Maori as an oppressed people over Europeans as an oppressor people.

Rob Steven criticised Awatere’s argument because it was ‘idealist’ . That is, it did not explain the historical and material causes ‘white hatred’ (1984, 1989). He argues that racism and the desire for land are not sufficient to explain colonisation. He traces colonisation back to the crisis of rising prices in Britain that caused a surplus of labour and capital. Colonisation was an answer to both as it established new lands on which relocated labour and capital produced commodities that cut the price of raw materials in Britain.

Once explained, it could be shown that in the nineteenth century all Pakeha did benefit from the rent from stolen Maori land. But today this no longer applied. So while Awatere threw down the challenge to Pakeha to get in behind the Maori struggle, Steven attempted to prove that today there was no longer any material benefit to be gained for the proletariat from Pakaha racism. A socialist alliance could be built based upon the most oppressed workers, Maori, Pacific Island and Pakeha.

However, Steven’s explanation is a neo-Ricardian one. Exploitation is based on the extraction of surplus-labour during exchange (deducted from wages). Therefore crisis is caused solely by rising prices (including wages) and not by the failure to increase exploitation sufficiently to maintain profits. While the colonists comprised different classes, they all benefited from the rent (surplus) extracted from stolen Maori land and differential rent stolen from British workers. So NZ workers exploited British workers because high wages in NZ were deducted from differential rent deducted from the profits of British capitalists and therefore from the wages of British workers.

By invoking “Marxism’ to account for the cross-class white racist oppression of Maori in NZ, Steven thought he had found a materialist explanation to improve on Awatere’s idealist explanation of Maori nationalism as a progressive force. However, on both counts he adapts to petty bourgeois nationalism and falsifies Antipodean Marxism. First, he ignores the fact that the oppression of Maori as a people had been the subject of debates among Marxists in NZ long before the resurgence of Maori nationalism in the 1970’s. And the significance of this debate cannot be simply caricatured as a crude Euro-centric denial of racial oppression by the subordination of Maori to the white working class. Second, there already existed an orthodox Marxist analysis of the Maori national question that had developed to explain the historic racist complicity of Pakeha workers in the exploitation of Maori as a effect of capitalist class relations of production rather than of national relations of exchange (Macrae and Bedggood,1979).

In Australia, longtime Black activist Roberta Sykes writing in 1989 echoed Awatere’s black power position. “The early colonisers arrived in Australia with a history of racism firmly embedded in their psyche. They sprang from the loins of, and were nurtured by, forebears who played a central role in the kidnapping and abduction of Black Africans. Because of their race and the colour of their skin, the English regarded the lives of Africans as of no consequence.” She makes the same conclusions as Awatere that ALL whites regardless of class conspired to oppress blacks.

“Basically, the whites who landed in Australia in 1788 consisted of two groups, convicts and their keepers. The power relationship between the two groups was obvious, keepers on top, convicts on the bottom. The presence of a third group, Black and indigenous, added another dimension. The convicts and keepers obviously had more in common than they had differences, as they were able to successfully contrive together to dispossess the Blacks of their land and livelihood.” (1989:5).

Sykes explains her approach to understanding racism. “I understand racism as not merely a black/white phenomenon. Rather, this society has established a hierarchy of respectability, acceptability and power. I visualize this hierarchy as a ladder, with Blacks on the very bottom step. But who is at the top? And on which rungs do all the other groups stand?” (ibid:14) Not all whites are at the top of the ladder. At the top is an elite of white men with “fair hair, blue eyes, six feet plus in height, heterosexual (or apparently so) and not encumbered by physical handicaps”. A female white elite is “slightly lower to the side”. Whites below them on the ladder are, in the majority, also oppressed. ”Glued to the bottom” are Blacks because new migrant groups start ahead of them and never fall below. (ibid:19) Blacks are divided by their oppressors into a gender and caste hierarchy and have negative racist stereotypes labelled on them by the dominant culture. (ibid:36)

Sykes does not borrow ‘Marxist’ ideas to project Aborigines into the vanguard of the class struggle. She argues that racism is constructed historically by a white power elite to justify its theft of wealth. Racism can therefore be deconstructed by Black Power. The Black struggle for equal rights, land rights and sovereignty has to overturn the oppressive power structure through radical political action. As I have argued, the radical objective of legal/political equality presumes that economic equality is possible by abolishing unequal exchange.

It is the land rights of indigenous peoples that make their claims radical. It overturns the claims to capitalist private property with demands for restoration of collective ownership. The demand for land rights has the potential to challenge the limits of the idea of unequal exchange (theft) as the cause of national oppression. Yes the land was stolen but in order to create capitalist private property. The radical concept of unequal exchange is then seen as necessary for the ‘primitive accumulation’ of capital i.e. theft of collective property to create modern landed property (private property) as the capitalist means of production.18

‘Primitive accumulation’ is the basis for creating a capitalist monopoly ownership of the means of production that allows it to exploit wage labour separated from its means of production. But it is not the basis of the ongoing exploitation of capitalism, This is based upon exploiting wage labour to create surplus value in order to ‘accumulate’ capital If this is the case then Aboriginal and Maori must sooner or later come to realise that decolonisation, and even worse cultural reconciliation, is a reactionary utopia unless it is premised on the collective ownership and control of the means of production.

If the Marxist critique of the radical theory of unequal exchange is correct, then class-consciousness cannot arise spontaneously. If exploitation and oppression is based on relations of production, not exchange, then consciousness of this can only occur if the experience of indigenous oppression joins forces with a materialist critique of the causes of that oppression.

Let us look briefly at the prehistory of Antipodean Marxism facing up to the national question in Australia and New Zealand as the first attempt to engage a materialist critique with the national rights of indigenous peoples.

Lenin on the national question

The national question is about the democratic right of nations to self-determination (Lenin, 1964, 1970). Self-determination includes the right to equality up to and including separation (secession) if necessary. This right is a bourgeois democratic right that has its origins in the development of capitalist society emerging out of feudal society in Europe. In the epoch of imperialism, capitalist exploitation requires the oppression of some nations by others. This is because the only way for imperialist states to try to prevent their profits falling is to extract super-profits from colonies and semi-colonies. Imperialist exploitation is therefore in conflict with democratic rights in the colonies and semi-colonies. This means that a national democratic struggle for independence from imperialism cannot succeed in winning democracy without also overthrowing imperialism. And to do that it has also to overthrow imperialism’s agents the national or comprador bourgeoisie. The national revolution must therefore continue as a permanent revolution for socialism to win even bourgeois democratic rights.

So the national question is also the social question. Oppressed peoples have the right to self-determination. This right must be defended by the international working class as an integral part of the world socialist revolution. If the demand for self-determination is raised by a majority of oppressed people, then workers everywhere should not only recognise, but also demand, that right. This is the only way to demonstrate to workers who are oppressed nationally that workers who are part of the oppressor nation(s) do not support their oppression. By doing so, oppressed workers can be won from an alliance with their national bourgeoisie who remain the agents of imperialism to an international working class struggle for socialism.(Lenin, 1970:408).

In the light of this conception of the national revolution the question to be answered is this: do Aboriginals and Maori represent oppressed peoples? If so, under what conditions should workers support a call for self-determination? In answer to the first question, it is clear that historically indigenous peoples colonised by white settlers were and remain oppressed peoples. As peoples who occupied the land, they had their land and resources stripped and were consigned to a reserve army of labour. But this experience alone would not distinguish them from all wage workers who have been dispossessed of their means of production and means of subsistence. What distinguished ‘indigenous peoples’ from wage labour as such was the historic survival of pre-capitalist society as a ‘reserve’ for a reserve army of ‘unfree’ labour still retaining some means of subsistence.

The question as to whether this national oppression has been removed is an open one. It depends upon the ability of Australasian capitalism to overcome national oppression by completely dispossessing Aboriginals and Maori of their means of subsistence thereby forcing them to become fully ‘free’ wage labour. I would argue that this historic oppression has become less, but that today despite various ‘Treaties’, biculturalism, multiculturalism, reconciliation etc. Australasian capitalism continues to reproduce national ‘oppression’ by its reconstitution of the policy of land and labour reserves under the guise of ‘economic autonomy’. Therefore the national question is still on the agenda and needs to be taken up by the working class as a whole.

The history of white settler support of indigenous rights is a dismal one. As Marx pointed out in his critique of Wakefield, those who came to Australasia, voluntarily or involuntarily, did so to escape the condition of ‘free’ labour. They wanted land, and took it, fought for it, and justified these actions by the prevailing rationale of ‘new lands’. Settlers were for the most part brutal in their treatment of ‘natives’ who resisted. Not until the late 19th century did an immigrant class of wage labourers become a potential ally of the indigenous peoples, but to protect their jobs and wages they usually adopted the racist attitudes towards both indigenous peoples and non-European immigrants who formed the reserve army. The early trades unions and Labo(u)r parties of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were forceful advocates of a ‘white Australasia’ inside their own ranks.

Anglo-Celtic and Pakeha workers did not in the main challenge this racist division in the working class until the post-WW2 period when Aboriginal workers fought for equal pay, and Maori entered the manufacturing sector in large numbers. There was no common class unity, despite many struggles in which this demand has been raised and some notable exceptions. In both countries indigenous peoples did not have equal political and legal rights. Maori had separate parliamentary seats. Aboriginals did not count as citizens until the Referendum of 1967.

The fact of indigenous oppression was recognised early on by Marxists. Lenin wrote about white settler colonisation as “a union of the privileged, or participants in monopoly, in Australia – the monopoly owners of vast territory – jointly plundering the ‘yellows’ and ‘blacks’.”(1968:522). In reviewing Siegfried’s book on NZ, Lenin comments “A country of inveterate, backwoods, thick-headed, egotistic philistines, who have brought their ‘civilisation’ with them from England and keep it to themselves like a dog in the manger. (Exterminated the natives – the Maoris – by fire and sword; a series of wars.)…Creation of a small landownership; large estates (stolen, etc., in the basest fashion from the Maori etc).” (ibid, 532-3).19

Inside the the Stalinist Communist Parties. Marxists usually took one of two positions. Either Aboriginals and Maori were nations, in which case Lenin’s method applied, or they were not.

In Australia, the CP produced a statement on the Aboriginal question in 1938, New Deal for Aborigines. This pamphlet did not challenge the then prevailing paternalistic view that Aboriginals should live on their own land as a rural reserve army of cheap labour. Instead it offered suggestions only on how their living conditions could be improved. Middleton excuses this lapse by noting that few CP members had any contact with Aboriginals.(1977:131) Of course there was more to it than this. In 1935 Stalin began the popular front period by opening up alliances with imperialists powers to defend the Soviet Union. This meant that the USSR was willing to back any capitalist power, including Fascist Germany, against those countries that posed a threat to its existence. C.P.s around the world in countries allied to the USSR were instructed to adopt a conciliatory line with their ruling classes and limit their politics to a Keynesian labourism (Kuhn, 1989).

The post-war period brought big changes and Aboriginal struggles for equality. Middleton (1977) documents the support by white unionists of the black labour struggles at Pilbara in 1947 and Darwin in the early 1950’s. This support came partly from the fear that underpaid Aboriginal workers would undercut organised labour’s wages and conditions. From 1963 the ACTU took a more positive attitude and began to give full support to equal rights and qualified support to land rights (ibid:110) By the 1950’s the CPA had formed a ‘Minorities Committee’ and published an article “A New Stage in the Development of Aboriginal People” in which it recognised that Aborigines as well as being an oppressed minority were taking their place in the working class.

In 1967 the CPA adopted a policy statement ‘Full Human Rights for Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders’ (ibid:132). From the late 1960’s and the Sino-Soviet split the CPA dropped the line that blacks were basically minorities within the working class for the radical Black Nationalist separatist line. Middleton notes that the 1974 CPA Congress adopted a resolution that Aboriginals were a nationality. “Communists fully respect the independence of the Black Movement and offer it unconditional support and aid” but made little reference to then as workers (ibid:133).

Meanwhile the Socialist Party of Australia which took the Soviet Union side in the Sino-Soviet split, came up with its own resolution in 1972: “The Aboriginal people are an oppressed national minority within the Australian nation [with] the right … to control their own affairs as members of a distinct national minority within the Australian nation; inalienable possession of remaining tribal lands now set aside as government or mission settlements or better land where these are unsuitable; ownership of mineral and other natural wealth located on their lands; full citizenship rights within the Australian community with special stress on equal wages and working conditions; the right to work and training for work; special benefits to counter the effects of more than a century of oppression to enable the people to assume rapidly their rightful place, equipped with general education, trade and professional training, health, housing and other facilities necessary to make equal rights a reality.” (Middleton, 1977:133). Aboriginals were considered to be “above all” members of the working class, but they had the right to choose whether to live autonomously in their own communities or as part of the “general community”.

So once more we have the Stalinist flimflam of the CPA ‘nation’ versus the SPA ‘class’ positions which resulted from cutting the Leninist position on national self-determination in half. While the CPA had capitulated to the Black Nationalist line, the SPA’s position did not pursue the ‘revolutionary’ aspect of land rights. There was no call for the return of Aboriginal land stolen to create capitalism in Australia. There is no real self-determination in the demand to retain existing lands (even with collective ownership and full mineral rights) since the vast bulk of the land has already been stolen and the mineral rights exploited. Only when stolen land is demanded back does the class ‘settlement’ of Australian nationalism between white bosses and white workers get challenged. The Leninist test for Australian workers who see Aborigines as part of the working class is to support Aboriginal self-determination (i.e. land occupations) unconditionally. Not until Aborigines see that, will they be convinced that black and white unity in the working class is the only way to regain their land rights, and in the process build the movement able to go on to fight for socialism.

The failure of the Australian left to arrive at a Leninist position resulted from two factors. First, there was the relatively small size and still mainly rural base of Aboriginal workers. Second, partly as a result of this, and partly due to the dominance of Stalinist migrant recruits who continued the assimilationist white Australia policy in the labour movement, there was no development of a fully developed Antipodean Marxism to explain the impact of settler capitalism on Aboriginal society. By contrast in NZ both of these factors developed side by side. First, Maori were a much larger proportion of the population, and underwent a massive migration to the cities to industrial jobs. Second, this fact stimulated the development of a Marxist analysis that tried to account for the racist divisions in the working class by embarking on a fundamental analysis of NZ settler capitalism.

In NZ when the post-war boom pulled Maori from their tiny rural reserves into industrial jobs in the cities it looked like the question of “Maori as a ‘people’ or as ‘workers'” would be settled by their growing participation in the industrial working class. After some strong arguments for an against, the CPNZ rejected the concept of Maori as an oppressed people and adopted the position that Maori were not a nation but were becoming part of the working class, though there was a vague acceptance that Maori should have the right to decide whether or not they want ‘self-government.’ 20 However, debate on this question re-surfaced with the end of the post-war boom which proved that Maori were still locked into the reserve army of labour to be drawn upon in boom times and laid off in slumps.

In NZ the first document to address this question seriously in Marxist terms was the Spartacist League Programme of 1970. Of course it called on Pakeha workers to unite with Maori workers in the struggle for socialism. But more than that, it argued that this unity could only be won if first Pakeha workers recognised Maori as an oppressed nation. For the first time on the Marxist left a correct Leninist position was taken on the Maori Question. Maori had a right to self-determination, and if this was expressed popularly (i.e. by the majority of Maori workers, not a few petty-bourgeois so-called leaders) it had to be supported by non-Maori workers to prove to their Maori brothers and sisters that they were not accomplices in racist oppression. In this way, by fighting the root cause of racism, national oppression, Pakeha workers would win the confidence of Maori workers, and the often invoked but seldom implemented, racial unity of the working class forged.

With the end of the post war boom in the 1970’s the liberal dream of racial assimilation ended. The demands for Maori nationalism increased. The Communist Party, with many Maori members in industry, backed land occupations such as Bastion Point tactically but always as a tactic to unite workers in struggle against capitalism. Maori nationalism was considered necessarily a petty bourgeois deviation. Only the ‘Trotskyists’ (ie. Spartacists and Socialist Action League, though for different reasons) saw the Leninist demand for self-determination (separatism) as a correct and supportable demand. But the SAL stand derived from its Euro-centric programme where the working class was subordinated to petty bourgeois vanguards or ‘social movements’, and Maori fitted that bill well. By contrast the Spartacist’s position came from an attempt to develop a genuine Antipodean Marxism; that is, an application of European derived Marxist method to the concrete historical conditions of NZ as a specific white-settler social formation.

The Development of Capitalism in Australasia

In the early 1970’s when the Maori struggle was reactivated there was as yet no developed Marxist account of NZ’s colonial origin and development. In 1979 John Macrae and David Bedggood published an article on the Development of Capitalism in NZ (Macrae and Bedggood, 1979). In Australia Kelvin Rowley (1972) and Philip McMichael (1984) embarked on similar analyses of the founding of Australia as colonies for the export of surplus British labour and capital. The crisis of overproduction in Britain was not only caused by high costs of raw materials (due to feudal rents) but the inability of capital to increase productivity fast enough to stay ahead of these price rises. This crisis could be overcome only by expanding capitalist agriculture at home and abroad. It was much easier to expand into the ‘new lands’ and combine surplus labour and capital with virtually free land.

This required capitalist colonisation. Capitalism had to be re-invented. That is, the land was appropriated and turned into capitalist property (modern landed property). The indigenous peoples were dispossessed to gain access to the land, and then forced into a rural reserve army of cheap labour. Capital could now ensure that primarily immigrant wage labour could be exploited in capitalist agriculture to cheapen commodities as wage goods and raw materials in the British economy. As a result a capitalist society in which a bourgeoisie, petty bourgeoisie (small farmers) and proletariat was created.

We have already seen how Marx critiqued the Wakefield scheme as exposing the truth about the original ‘primitive accumulation’ in Britain. In the colonies it was necessary for capitalism to be created anew by the agency of the British state that established penal colonies in Australia and defeated Aboriginal and Maori resistance allow land, labour and capital to come together. The best part of Marx’s critique is his proof that without free labour (workers dispossessed of land) no profits can be made. This is because workers will not work for a boss when they can work for themselves. Capitalist production is therefore shown to require at its birth, the expropriation of the means of production and dispossession of wage-labour.

Unfortunately, Rowley and McMichael do not go beyond a descriptive account of this process. They concentrate on the analysis of differential rent that allows Australia to become an efficient primary product producer to establish the material base of the place of Australia in the world economy. Macrae and Bedggood also showed that NZ was an efficient primary producer undercutting European agriculture and gaining a differential rent. Because NZ costs were lower, more then cancelling distance, the difference between costs of production allowed NZ producers to earn a surplus rent over and above the profit received by the worst land in Europe. However, while this differential rent was redistributed from less efficient capitalists in Europe, it was not at the expense of British workers, nor was it shared by NZ workers. Contrary to Steven’s claim, there is not evidence that NZ workers received part of this differential rent in the form of higher wages.

Rowley’s essay on ‘Pastoral Capitalism’ was intended to “open up the systematic analysis of Australian history from a scientific, Marxist standpoint, not to complete it”. Unfortunately he, and those who followed never got beyond a neo-Ricardian standpoint based in exchange relations. And most ignored the significance of stolen land for the Aboriginal struggle other than to note it in passing. Australia was one of the ‘lands of white settlement’ where the:

“indigenous population was engaged in a good-gathering (hunting and fishing) rather than settled agriculture, and was enslaved and exterminated by the invading power… These areas also grew in response to European demand for raw materials and primary products, but developed along different lines to those areas with an already existing established agricultural economy. Because they were unhampered by a pre-existing system of agriculture they quick assimilated capitalist techniques and arrangements, supported a growing population, absorbed European immigrants, and developed staple exports that allowed them to prosper in the same world economy that doomed less fortunate primary-producing countries to backwardness, underdevelopment and mass-starvation.” (1972:12).

Rowley does not mention the importance of land and its dispossession apart from to reproduce a version of terra nullus, the absence of a “pre-existing system of agriculture”. The failure to ‘use’ the land was of course one of the arguments deployed by the settlers to justify the dispossession of the Aborigines. Rowley assumes the elimination pre-capitalist social relations. Australia’s good fortune then was agricultural rent gained from of the dispossession of Aboriginal land, a fact noted by Marx in his critique of Wakefield, but the Aborigines never shared in that good prosperity. Unlike NZ where Maori did have a settled form of agriculture, and where they did seek to benefit from rent from their common land, Australian settlers simply took the land and were able to gain from differential rent once they had converted the land to capitalist private property.

McMichael’s Settlers and the Agrarian Question, appeared in 1984. Like Rowley, his focus was on the origins and development of capitalist agriculture in Australia, and the class distribution of differential rent. Yet there is hardly a word on where the land came from, apart from the fact the expanding British economy required ‘new and fertile lands’ to lower the costs of agricultural commodities. What is missed in this approach is that the point made by Marx against Wakefield. Surplus capital and labour cannot be put to use on land unless that land is modern landed property i.e. capitalist private property.

Of course McMichael recognises that land was necessary to create a class of free labourers and to establish capitalist agriculture. But the point is that the founding of Australia required the dispossession of the Aborigines before even squatting could occur. True, the limits of semi-feudal squatting could only be transcended by the creation of capitalist property at which point the squatters disappeared into history. But the original dispossession of the Aborigines is not just passing history. The original dispossession of the Aborigines and the subordination of the remnants to their mode of production nevertheless preserved their pre-capitalist social relations as well as consigning them into the capitalist reserve army of labour.

In the first attempt to apply the theory of articulation of modes of production to Australia, Hartwig makes this point. “Hence the process of dissolution is by no means necessarilly complete when the ‘economy’ has been destroyed, or its land-base appropriated, although in the long run the eradication of the economic base creates the preconditions for dissolution of the non-capitalist mode. If the ideological and political instances survive, albeit in modified form, if the partly dissolved mode of production is still exploitatively articulated with the capitalist mode we still have a case for internal colonisation.” (1978:132). Hartwig goes on to argue that Aboriginals land was expropriated as the basis of pastoral production, but that this was also necessary to dissolve the Aboriginal mode and to ‘socialise’ Aboriginals in the discipline of wage-labour.

This was justified by means of basic bourgeois ideology on the need to civilise savages and turn them into equal bourgeois subjects. “…traditional rights of Aborigines had been superseded; they were British subjects and as such should become ‘useful’ members of society, as labourers, or course, or at most petty commodity producers.” (ibid:133) When in the mid 19th century Aboriginals failed to adapt to wage-labour in large numbers, the dominant ideological discourse shifted to one of ‘race’ in which Aboriginals were regarded as a doomed race. The survival of the ‘race’ was then attributed to the degree of racial intermixing and a policy of assimilation begun in the mid 20th century. Whether efforts were made to ‘destroy or conserve’ the pre-capitalist mode, and whether the ideology of ‘racism’ was deployed, therefore depended upon the willingness of Aborigines to become part of a capitalist reserve army of labour where the old mode provided means of subsistence that allowed employers to buy labour power ‘below its value’ (ibid:135).

Hartwig’s Marxist analysis provides the basis for understanding the survival of the Aboriginal mode of production and its social relations, and its revival in the post-World War Two period. This is beyond the capacity of liberal or radical theory. Hartwig’s critique of the liberal theory ‘internal colonisation’ is that it locates the causes of colonisation/decolonisation in pluralist politics of bourgeois democracy. Aborigines can become ‘civilised’, win human rights and then become equals in the neo-classical conception of the labour market.

This is a position that fits with contemporary ‘post-colonial’ readings of Aboriginal rights to be discussed later. The radical version of ‘internal colonisation’ counterposes a ‘natural’ struggle for survival against the ‘unequal exchange’ of the frontier that is overcome by the victory of Black Power. As I hope to show, neither ‘becoming civilised’ nor the victory of ‘black power’ can explain why Aboriginal society as a distinct mode of production with its own developed social organisation survived such widespread destruction of its ‘economic base’ and revived the demand for land rights to restore that economic base today.

Miles (1987:116) takes this analysis a step further and shows that the failure to dissolve the Aboriginal mode of production into the capitalist mode was the result of the forced consignment of Aboriginals into the reserve army of labour as ‘formally’ subordinated to capitalism as ‘unfree labour’. This meant that demand for cheap non-wage labour could only be met by allowing a residual Aboriginal economic base to survive to provide some of the means of subsistence for a labour reserve. The creation of ‘reserves’ provided a ‘holding tank’ of labour living at bare subsistence, as well as holding down the cost of labour to the pastoral industry. Casual work in exchange for food was replaced by a contract system in 1886 which required employers to provide, food, clothing and health care in exchange for labour power. In 1905 the state required Aborigines who were not ‘lawfully employed’ to live on reserves (ibid:109). By introducing Aboriginals into the capitalist mode as ‘unfree’ labour, the struggle began to achieve equality as ‘free’ wage-labour as a condition for citizenship. However, rather than leading to the complete dissolution of the Aboriginal mode, the status of Aboriginals as still largely trapped in the reserve army of labour has fuelled their renewed struggle for full political rights, and for land rights as means of subsistence and means of production.

For Macrae and Bedggood, looking at NZ, the central place of differential rent reflected the new production relations imposed upon Maori. Despite the rapid adaptation of capitalist techniques to production for the market, Maori retained their own collectivist social relations of production based on commonly owned land. This meant that Maori were primed to capture differential rent from capitalists and did so by selling wheat and other commodities to the Australian market. So long as Maori retained ownership of land they retained the rent. The capitalist mode came into full conflict with the Maori mode of production and the inevitable clash could only result in the conquest of Maori and their subordination as a sub-mode of production to the capitalist mode. Capitalist landowners now appropriated the rent. Maori became poor ‘peasants’ existing on remnants of their tribal land that subsidised their low wages as members of the reserve army of labour, holding down all wages. They were then, fundamentally part of the working class. Pakeha workers worked alongside Maori but usually in the better-paid and more secure jobs.

This division in the working class meant that pakehas got higher wages on average, not as the result of rent being gained from Maori land, but because they had been fully separated from the land and were ‘free labour’, usually had craft skills and were organised into unions, while Maori were not separated fully from their traditional social relations, and functioned as a reserve army of labour in the capitalist mode.

According to Macrae and Bedggood, this was the material basis of the racism and discrimination directed at Maori. It was a rationalisation of their dispossession and of their permanent position in a reserve army of labour. If Pakeha workers did not fight to overcome racism and discrimination and include Maori as equals in the proletariat then Maori would always look back to the causes of their oppression as a people and seek a solution in the form of sovereignty or self-determination. The post-WW2 boom and its end reinforced the truth of this analysis.

Despite progress towards ‘free’ labour, it could not overcome the major setback to unity in the working class of the deregulation of the protected economy. Maori were mainly employed in domestic substitution manufacturing, transport, agriculture and the meat industry. Most Maori now had no tribal land to subsidise their wages and were fully ‘free’ members of the reserve army of labour. But the mass unemployment that set in by the late 1970s and 1980s as restructuring hit hard forced many to go back to their tribal lands to survive. The demands for equal rights in industry and social welfare now became joined to the demand for the return of land and for the honouring of the Treaty. It was as a result of the end of the post-war boom and the onset of structural crisis that setback the struggle for equality and saw the revival of Maori Sovereignty or self-determination.

“Maori Sovereignty” challenges Marxism

During the 1970’s a younger generation of Maori radicals began to demand social, political and land rights. Some were openly influenced by Marxism. Donna Awatere’s Black nationalist book Maori Sovereignty was in part the product of this early debate over Marxism. Awatere, Ripeka Evans, Sharon Hawke and others had been part of a Capital reading group in 1978 and mixed with a wide range of the Pakeha Marxist left. However, her prime motivation was that shared by many other young educated Maori whose high expectations of progress in education and employment came up against the racist barriers that still existed in employment with the onset of structural crisis. This is why she could claim with some credibility that Maori were an oppressed people at the bottom of the heap, and challenge all Pakeha to forget their class and gender and side with Maori to transform the system.

With the revival of Maori Nationalism most of the petty bourgeois left were guilt stricken and conceded that race rather than class or gender was the main issue in NZ/Aotearoa. The journal, RACE, GENDER, CLASS that was published from 1984 to 1994 reflected this emphasis. It was in this journal that Rob Steven published his sophisticated neo-Marxist attempt to arrive at the same conclusion without resorting to reverse racist labelling. Pakeha workers had to become conscious that their racist history was not inherent in their ‘human nature’, but served to justify their material privileges in living off the ill gotten gains of stolen Maori land. By acknowledging this history of complicity in oppressing Maori, Steven hoped to unite Maori and Pakeha workers in a Socialist Alliance (1985).

Also typical of this response was that of Bruce Jesson, who edited and wrote for The Republican magazine. For them the Maori left was the only left worth talking about. The Pakeha working class was too weak and passive to do anything. By joining Awatere in pinning their hopes on Maori radicalism, the petty bourgeois Pakeha left adapted a number of strands of European Marxism to the Maori cause. The Socialist Action League (SAL) had already gone through the liquidation of post-war Trotskyism. That is, it had abandoned the working class as the vanguard of revolution for various petty bourgeois youth, black or guerrilla vanguards. It did not take much for them to latch onto the Maori vanguard as the NZ substitute for the proletariat. Peter Lee in a series of articles in The Republican placed Awatere in the tradition of the Frankfurt school in producing a profound critique of capitalist society. Steven Webster adapted his western Marxist genealogy to a Maori whakapapa. More on this later.

Unmoved by the challenge, the SUP, CPNZ and WCL reiterated the familiar Stalinist line in which the Maori Question was to remain dead and buried in the class question. Either way, the standard response of the Pakeha left to Awatere’s attempt to borrow neo-Marxist ideas and apply them to Maori nationalism was reduced on one side to a ‘new left’, and on the other, a Stalinist right, opportunism.

This paralleled the split in the ‘left’ in Australia between the ‘radical left’, which included the left Laborites, the former ‘Trotskyist’ Democratic Socialist Party and the CPA, who tailed the ‘land rights’ movement more or less uncritically, and the hard line Stalinist class-reductionist position of the Socialist Party of Australia (which opposed the 1972 Aboriginal Embassy) and the ‘soft’ class line of the International Socialists (who endorsed the Embassy). But in Australia there was no standout ‘Black Marxism’ which tried to adapt Marxist ideas to the Black movement. So there was no serious challenge to either ‘left’ or ‘right’ opportunism requiring a serious defence of Marxism. As I have suggested above this can be explained I think first the relatively low priority given to the Aboriginal Question compared with national struggles outside Australia by the “left’, and second, the extent to which White Australian racism still pervaded the ‘left’.

Even in NZ where the Maori Question was much more central to the labour movement, the only serious Marxist response to the challenge laid down by Awatere in her Broadsheet articles came from the Spartacist League/Communist Left. Owen Gager in Towards a Socialist Polynesia, published in September 1982, wrote the most definitive Marxist analysis of the Maori Question produced in NZ (Gager, 1982). In it he took both the petty bourgeois Maori nationalists to task as well as the twin camps of Pakeha left opportunism. In raising the red flag of Leninist-Trotskyism on the National Question, Gager set the benchmark for what was to follow.

Towards a Socialist Polynesia

Towards a Socialist Polynesia (TSP) appeared in mid 1982. It was the NZ Spartacist League’s response to the events of the previous decade culminating in the Anti-Springbok tour movement, and the publication of Awatere’s Maori Sovereignty. It re-affirmed the Leninist position on national self-determination and the historic oppression of the Maori people. But it argued that no such national oppression currently existed or was expressed by a majority of Maori calling for self-determination. The call for Maori Sovereignty was a demand by petty bourgeois Maori for their entry into the bourgeoisie. Against the petty bourgeois nationalism of both Maori and Pakeha, TSP tried to present a materialist analysis of the real history of race relations in NZ’s white-settler colonisation and ongoing semi-colonial development. It agued strongly against petty bourgeois nationalists who came out against British imperialism and its NZ ‘imperialist’ pretensions and identified with Maori opposition to imperialism because this struggle was posed in nationalist/racist and not class terms.

Gager’s pamphlet shot through this nationalist front with a Marxist broadside. NZ was a capitalist colony. Capitalism was not imported into the South Pacific completely knocked down and ready for assembly. It had to be imposed by a process of bloody conquest and ‘primitive accumulation’. That meant dispossessing Maori by force if necessary. The object was not to destroy Maori society for its own sake but to destroy their primitive communist resistance to class society i.e. capitalism. The Treaty was a fraud. It was a ‘trick’ admitted at the time, to pacify the savages while the settler ruling class was able to muster the imperial troops to take the land. All of this rotten history had one purpose; to convert tribal land into capitalist property, and to convert Maori into landless labourers so that they would be forced to work as wage workers and be exploited by capitalism.

TSP proved that this was the case by demonstrating that the history of Maori resistance to their expropriation and super-exploitation as waged workers was anti-capitalist. This process was part of the ongoing capitalist expansion into the South Pacific in the 19th century and it set the pattern for NZ’s semi-colonial development in the 20th century. The post-war boom accelerated this process by propelling Maori from the rural reserves into the urban ghettos. But the end of the boom brought with it a massive shock as the new jobs, incomes and expectations were suddenly dashed. Awatere and the new generation of rebels expressed outrage at this betrayal of the dream of assimilation by economic progress. In its place they raised the demand “Aotearoa is Maori Land!”

What TSP did was to point out clearly that it was a sham for a few petty bourgeois Maori to stage a national revolution when the majority of Maori were already detribalised and in the working class. Awatere was merely putting out the claim for a middle class Maori ‘fair share’ in kiwi capitalism. The sovereignty gambit was an opening shot designed to guilt-trip the petty bourgeois Pakeha anti-racists behind the movement and to up the ante in the Treaty settlement process. TSP rejected this petty bourgeois nationalism as anti-migrant when Ripeka Evans, Donna Awatere’s collaborator, called for Pacific Island migrants to “fuck off” home. Their “Black Unity” did not extend to their Polynesian cousins. But most Pakeha anti-racists joined forces with petty bourgeois Maori nationalism at the expense of other migrants. To make it worse so did most of the so-called Left when they found reasons to call Awatere some kind of ‘Marxist revolutionary’.

The Republican left

TSP rubbished the so-called Marxists fawning on Awatere. For example, Peter Lee claimed that Awatere was some kind of antipodean Walter Benjamin.21 Bruce Jesson took Awatere’s reference to Gramsci at face value to mean that the Maori people could recover their “treasures” and lead the struggle of New Zealand’s independence. He failed to notice that Awatere’s ‘counter-hegemonic bloc’ fundamentally misrepresented Gramsci. Her bloc was not Gramsci’s class bloc where other classes were led by the working class. Rather it was an alliance where the working class was led by the Maori people!

The Republican Marxist left of Jesson and Co took this to mean that the Maori Question could only be resolved by a national independence struggle in which the working class remained subordinated to the Maori as a people.22 The Maori People were a liberating force who in alliance with Pakeha radicals had a common interest in a “Republic of Aotearoa”. 23 According to Jesson the Maori as part of the proletariat and as a force for socialism was non-existent. Since Maori People were a figment of petty bourgeois Maori nationalists, this was his way of putting the petty bourgeois in front of the working class in the national revolution.

Gager anticipated Lee’s argument by showing that the European Marxist Walter Benjamin had long ago warned that appeals to tradition were not a basis for as progressive national movement but rather a reactionary ploy to divide and rule the working class: “Walter Benjamin, in Illuminations, saw fascism’s role as “rendering politics aesthetic, while communism responds by politicising art”. His understanding of the reactionary implications of making politics “cultural” still expressed the perspective of Leninism. “Cultural treasures” writes Benjamin “are the spoils of war between ruling classes which owe their origin not only to the efforts of the great minds and talents who have created them, but also to the anonymous toil of their contemporaries”. In Maori society, all those who could not claim to be ariki or rangatira.”

Gager continued: “Maori culture, as it is now, consists of the spoils of war which the white ruling class has plundered. Historical materialism, on the contrary, wishes to retain that image of the Polynesian past which unexpectedly appears to the Polynesian worker in crisis, singled out by history at the moment of danger. That danger affects both the content of Polynesian tradition and its receivers. The same threat hangs over both: that of becoming the tool of the ruling classes. In every area that attempt must be made anew to wrest Polynesian tradition away from a conformism that is about to overpower it. Only that militant will have the gift of fanning the spark of hope in the Polynesian past who is firmly convinced that even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he wins. And that enemy has not ceased to be victorious”. (ibid:22)

Stalinist Left

Even worse than the Republican left was the Stalinist left. Stalinist political groups such as the Workers Communist League (now defunct), the Stalinist SUP-dominated trades unions and the ex- ‘Trotskyist’ Socialist Action League (and their Young Socialists) flocked to the cause of Maori Sovereignty. TSP exposed them as common liberals who limited their support for Maori struggles to that of becoming equal under capitalism. But where the Republican left wanted Maori in the vanguard, most Stalinists wanted them in the rearguard. So when Maori workers overstepped their subordinate role in the labour movement they got dumped just as The Polynesian Resource Centre “Te Moana” was evicted from the Trade Union Centre in 1981 when Ripeka Evans criticised the white trade union leadership. “By ‘allowing’ Maori people to lead the ‘anti-racist’ struggle, but in limiting their demands to ‘full equality’ and ‘minority rights’, WCL actively suppresses the revolutionary potential of the Maori proletariat in order to maintain its ‘leadership’ of the white working class.” (ibid: 9).

The reason for this was the rotten legacy of colonial racism embedded in the Pakeha “labour-aristocracy” and “labour-bureaucracy”, which were the class fractions the Stalinists were based on. This was amply demonstrated by the WCL: “The Stalinist Workers Communist League claims it has a “class” analysis of racist and colonial oppression in New Zealand. But their programme itself is clearly racist. For them, the history of New Zealand’s movement towards independence is a Pakeha history, to which the Maori people are an appendage…For them the achievement of white settler power based on denial of Maori suffrage in New Zealand is an “advance”. The failure to see that white “independence”, achieved at the expense of Maori independence, assumed a reactionary and imperialist character leads logically to a recognition of Polynesian workers as a class with no revolutionary potential, and which must limit itself to a “minimum programme” of democratic rights, forgetting; ‘independence’ and ‘socialism’.” (ibid:9)

In Australia the SPA position is similar. Middleton’s (1977) talk of the revolutionary potential of ‘taking the land back’ does not translate into the SPA position. In her discussion of strategy and tactics she sees the Aboriginal struggle as part of the world-wide national liberation movement. Yet this struggle is not to get the land back, but merely to land rights for some remaining land. “At the same time it must also be recognised that Aboriginals are not only workers, they are black workers. They are more than members of the working class for they are also members of an oppressed national minority. Failure to recognise this and to fight for their national rights only strengthens imperialism in Australia. The fundamental condition for the recognition of their special position and for the fulfillment of their national aspirations is rights to communal land in perpetuity”. (ibid:176) In other words, the SPA puts a condition on self-determination, No to taking land back! This appeases the racism white workers who do not have to face up to the loss of the material base of their relative privileges, stolen Aboriginal land.

Permanent Revolution

Against the petty bourgeois ‘Marxists’ TSP argued that Maori were historically an oppressed people. It supported Maori self-determination up to and including secession if the majority of Maori demanded it. Support for self-determination by Pakeha workers would then be necessary to win Maori workers to the struggle for socialism. It foresaw the possibility that self-determination would come back on the agenda. This was because Maori were trapped in the reserve army of labour and could not win equal rights under capitalism. Nor could the Treaty settlement process honour a fraudulent treaty. It could only fake this by creating local versions of Bantustans like the independent Pacific Islands whose ‘cultural treasures’ were returned in exchange for the wealth that was spirited away. The whole process would have the effect of encouraging and reinforcing class divisions in Maoridom – an effect that capitalism could not possibly avoid – but in the name of sovereignty (now tinorangatiratanga).

This would devolve the responsibility for poverty onto Maori themselves and away from the oppressive racist state that has ruled over them for nearly two centuries. The national question remained alive but Maori could only win their democratic rights by means of a ‘permanent revolution’ i.e. socialist revolution. TSP labelled Awatere and Co petty bourgeois nationalists. They were not the voice of the majority of Maori workers. They rapidly turned to “honouring” the Treaty.

TSP predicted the role that petty bourgeois nationalists would play in getting “10% Kiwi capitalism” in the name of a re-invented cultural tradition. Events have proven Gager correct. The Treaty is still a fraud. The whole Treaty process has seen Maori co-opted by class further into capitalism. A few have become bosses or bureaucrats, but the vast the majority stayed workers with a widening gap between them. It can be nothing else when the land, resources and labour-power expropriated for 150 years are now accumulated as capitalist private property. The token settlements that have been trickled back are little more than capitalised benefits advanced as seeding capital to spawn mini-corporations who will swim as sprats among the MNC sharks. The Treaty Settlements work like a local version of the World Bank/IMF. The local NZ state hands out seeding capital but locks everyone into the local economy, just as the IMF/World Bank locks it into the global economy on the terms of the imperialists.

In Australia, Gager’s arguments in TSP were applied to the land rights question by the Communist Left of Australia. In a recent RED, the CLA position is clearly stated:

“Revolutionary communists support the right of self-determination for the Black people. For Leninists this means the right to one or more separate nations. Communist Left considers that the material bases for a nation exists. Whether or not they take up the fight should be determined by Black proletarians. Our message in offering this right respects their nationality as equals. Not every Black person will want to or be able to join this separate nation (or nations). Other demands must be raised for Black people who choose to live in the cities.”

“But the key question is the right to an economy. The decision of the Supreme Court Common Law Division did not allow the Wik people the right to an economy let alone control of the economy. Revolutionary communists therefore reject the Supreme Court as any focus for Black land rights…Communist Left believes it is not just the right but the duty of Black proletarians to take on an expropriate multinational property owners. In 1967 a massive struggle by the Gurrindji people took on the might of British multinational Vesties, owners of the Wave Hill station which was the size of Belgium. They took over the land which they claimed as their own and established their own cattle station. The Gurrindji people worked as stockmen. They were backed by the Trade Union movement, most notably the Darwin Branch of the Waterside Workers Federation which is now part of the Martime Union of Australia.”

“Of course any localised struggle can only be a limited victory unless it is generalised. The Gurrindji people did not have the programme to fight the system consistently (despite their exemplary militancy). They were linked to Stalinists like Frank Hardy, who despite some serious work in gaining support had faith in the system through their “minimum programme”. But the point is not to reject direct action, but to see that it is linked to a revolutionary programme. The Gurringji struggle points the way forward – not the Supreme Court lobbying for common law rights.” (1997).

Neo-Marxist analysis

What other left analyses have followed in the 1980’s and 1990’s? And did they add or subtract from the Communist Left’s Leninist/Trotskyist analysis? I will look as several recent attempts to develop an Antipodean Marxism on the indigenous peoples rights question before passing judgement on their strengths and weaknesses. They all tend to reduce ethnicity to class and fail to see that the national oppression lies behind ‘racism’ in the working class and is not just a concoction of petty bourgeois nationalists. This is an adaptation to white racist workers fears of indigenous people taking their jobs and scrounging on their taxes. I will concentrate on the International Socialists and Socialist Alternative as the main examples.

In 1994, in response to the Mabo decision, the Socialist Worker in Australia (ISO) published a pamphlet called The Fight for Black Rights by Diane Fields. Its basic message was that Aboriginals are oppressed because they lack equal rights. However, Blacks are considered part of the working class that has on many occasions united to fight for Black rights. The way forward is in the future is to unite around black rights and build ‘the socialist alternative’. The problem with this analysis is that is sees ‘racism’ as just an ‘idea’ that can “break down when workers are involved in common struggle”(1994:38). But racism is more than an idea. It is an ideology with a material basis – the dispossession of the indigenous people. Racism historically justified the dispossession of Aboriginals and white workers complicity in this.

Because of the key nature of this demand, the ‘common struggle’ for land rights is the only way that racism will be overcome. White workers have to unconditionally support land occupations to restore land rights, collective ownership and control and mineral rights as well. But more than this ‘socialists’ have to recognise that the struggle for land rights is not separated from the right to self-determination. Not until white workers take on this fight as their own will it be possible to unite the working class to build the ‘socialist alternative’.

In NZ, Evan Poata Smith’s work is similar to the IS standpoint. The strengths of his work are that it is based on an analysis of New Zealand as a capitalist country. Therefore Maori inequality/oppression is not the result of the primitiveness of Maori or the inherent racism of Pakeha. The Pakeha (and more recently the ‘brown table’) capitalist class is the problem. Poata-Smith recognises that what he calls “cultural nationalism” is not a strategy for liberation. It is similar to the concept of petty-bourgeois nationalism raised in TSP since it is middle class or petty bourgeois Maori who benefit from it at the expense the majority of working class Maori. Poata Smith recognises that “[r]eal liberation for Maori will not occur without a fundamental transformation of capitalist society” (1996:116 ).

What weaknesses? These are first, a failure to explain clearly how Maori fit into a class system where two sets of social relations are articulated. For example, the emerging Maori bourgeoisie is very much a ‘lumpen’ bourgeoisie in terms of its limited ability to accumulate capital. Second, he does not demonstrate that ‘tribal capitalism’ has generated a Maori bourgeoisie. Therefore he cannot show how the exploitation of Maori workers by Maori capitalists will generate a break from the trap of a ‘cultural nationalism’. Third, while his solution to the Maori question is class unity and socialism, Poata-Smith does not put forward a concrete analysis or programme to make it happen.

This failure is also evident in Andrew Geddes’ pamphlet The Way Forward to Tino Rangitiratanga which draws heavily upon Poata-Smith. Published by the Socialist Workers Organisation in 1997, apart from general statements about Maori liberation happening only in a ‘socialist society’, there is not much indication in this pamphlet on how to get there. Geddes uses the examples of fighting for democratic rights such as the funding of Maori language broadcasting, and the return of stolen land and taonga (cultural treasures) as part of the struggle for socialism. These are necessary democratic demands that must be part of a transitional programme. But there are two problems with this.

First, the SWO does not define self-determination to include the right to secede. In others words, sovereignty is divisible only because it isn’t real sovereignty – merely ‘autonomy’. This is a fundamental break from the Leninist concept of self-determination and a major concession to bourgeois ideology.

Applying Lenins’ conception, TSP stated that if the majority of Maori responded to their worsening economic oppression with a call for secession (independence), then Pakeha workers must support them in order to win them to socialism. How this can happen today needs to be clearly spelled out. Specifically, Pakeha workers need to give critical support to the demands of urban incorporations for inclusion in the Treaty settlements, and for the return of stolen land, fisheries and other resources. However, despite the hysteria of the ‘Pakeha backlash’, such an inclusion would clearly fail to meet the needs of Maori, and if the majority of Maori workers called for political independence, then that should be strongly endorsed by non-Maori workers as a democratic demand.

Second, the SWO does not integrate immediate, and democratic demands (including the right to secede) with transitional demands that include many other demands to unite Maori and non-Maori workers in class struggle all the way to “workers power”. Therefore there is a split between the immediate demands and the goal of socialism that becomes, like the petty bourgeois Marxists, a split between a minimum and maximum programme, in which Maori have minimum (democratic) rights, but Marxists have the maximum (socialist) solution. Ironically for a group that stresses the ‘self-activity’ of workers, the petty bourgeois ‘Marxist’ notion of stages is slipped into its politics in a disguised form of support for Maori liberation.

Revolutionaries must fight to combine the struggle from democratic demands to those of transitional demands for jobs, workers control, etc to prepare the ground for the socialisation of all capitalist property as the expropriated labour of generations of Maori and Pakeha workers. Concretely, then, this means supporting the return of Maori land, fisheries, compensation etc. up to and including the demand for independence (should it be demanded by a majority), as part of a programme that, at the same time, calls for the nationalisation of the land and fisheries under workers’ control (with Maori guaranteed traditional rights of use), the re-nationalisation of state assets without compensation, the expropriation of capitalist property, a workers state able to plan the economy, and a workers’ militia to defend the state from the international bourgeoisie.

Going beyond the IS position requires concrete analysis to be fused with revolutionary practice. There is a need to develop Antipodean Marxism in theory and practice so as to relate the indigenous peoples and class questions in a programme of action all the way to the seizure of power. First, the inability of capitalism to deliver to indigenous people has to be demonstrated to win them way from reformist illusions in the law to revolutionary politics. Why would capitalists who stole the land in the first place, now return enough of it to allow indigenous peoples to reproduce themselves independently of capitalism?

Decolonisation allows the pretence of political independence, accompanied by continued economic super-exploitation and oppression. Small scale tribal enterprises or royalties from fishing, mining or agriculture may allow a small class of bureaucrats or lumpen-bourgeoisie to expand, but will not provide the means of subsistence let alone means of production based on collective property. Thus the polarisation of classes and divisions within the indigenous populations will intensify and further impoverish workers and small farmers as well as squeeze the petty bourgeois and small capitalists down into the proletariat.

Pink-Greens/green left

The pink-greens are today’s radicals and take indigenous peoples struggles seriously. This is because they are closer to nature and value conservation. Their anti-capitalism sees the struggles of the Zapatistas against the IMF, WB, WTO etc to replace these oppressive institutions with a decentralised, popular and democratic capitalism as the model of a ‘peoples’ capitalism. The oppression of indigenous peoples is caused by a white, racist, largely male neo-liberal elite that can be defeated in parliament. What of the latter day Maori radicals like Tama Iti etc? Where have all their protests gone? Gone to parliament under MMP, which is the latest fraud to be perpetrated on the workers and oppressed. From Mat Rata to Mason Durie, the Maori intelligentsia envisages Mana Motuhake as sharing power in the bourgeois state. Maori will have their own economic base and governance. All that is required is for Maori to mobilise as people(s) and assert their right to share power under a new constitution. Even the centrifugal forces of globalisation can be offset by counter-hegemonic indigenous rights movements backed by international law.

The premise of this liberal post-colonialism is that ‘sovereignty is divisible’. By this is meant that minority nations can gain political autonomy within a larger federation. The Nunavut nation of the Inuit has the autonomy of a Canadian province or an Australian state, with control over not only education and health, but over business and economic resources (??:1999). Quebecois autonomy is another example. Such examples are feasible when large minorities still occupy tracts of land and control economic resources. In the case of indigenous peoples who have been largely dispossessed, political autonomy is little more than a ‘treaty’ required to establish ‘tribal’ land and resource ownership that provides a ‘capital’ fund for a capitalist incorporation. Political autonomy therefore depends upon survival in business.

In Australia the main ‘green left’ advocate of this position is the Democratic Socialist Party. This party has been outspoken in the cause of land rights for decades. Its position has moved from one of ‘permanent revolution’ to that of ‘divided sovereignty’. The DSP recently stated its position on land rights:

“Aboriginal people have been developing political solutions since the European invasion. For instance, to end the Tasmanian resistance war, Aboriginal leaders sent a petition to the Queen of England arghuing for a political solution. For its time this wasn’t a bad solution, especially given that a number of Aboriginal warriors had learned the invaders’ language and studied their customs in order to relate to the wage battle with them.”

“Today demands include community self-government and self-policing by expanding democratically elected community organisations and councils with funds allocated directly to these councils for the delivery of health, housing, education, employment and legal services.”

“Land rights is the basis for self-government. Without the restoration of land to communities and adequate compensation for dispossession, community leaders agree that adequate provision of services will not be possible.” 24

The DSP calls on the whole working class to rally in solidarity with the land rights movement. However, rather than seeing this as part of a necessary first step towards socialism, the DSP promotes a reformist position that claims that land rights can produce Aboriginal self-government and sufficient economic and social services to meet Aborigines needs. Underpinning its reformist politics is an an exchange based analysis of racism that claims that racism can be eliminated without revolutionising capitalist social relations of production.

In NZ such an exchange-based analysis is spelled out by Elizabeth Rata who applies ‘Regulation Theory’ to the Treaty settement process. She sees the current ‘settlements’ as no more than creating a form of ‘tribal capitalism’ as a post-Fordist mode of regulation. That is, she recognises that Maori have been co-opted into state-defined tribal entities to produce a settlement that is in the interests of international capital (1997).

The problem is that Regulation theory is neo-Ricardian rather than Marxist. It explains that the exploitation of Maori requires a political conspiracy on the part of the white ruling class to contain Maori demands for autonomy and sovereignty within the structures of the capitalist market. This is similar to Kelsey’s view of ‘passive revolution’. A section of the ruling class has imposed a neo-liberal mode(l) of regulation (capitalist conspiracy) to contain the threat of revolution from below. This being so, then it must be possible for democratic forces to counter-mobilise to remove that oppressive mode(l) and open up a process of radical social democratic, evolutionary socialism (1994).

The pink-greens still regard the issue as about land or capital i.e. an economic base of sorts, which becomes the material base for ‘autonomy’ short of self-determination. Yet even such a limited struggle for land rights has the potential to challenge the system and can be transformed into a struggle against capitalism. For Post-modernists however, the issue is about indigenous rights and nothing else. They think that the struggle for equal political rights is an end in itself since it makes possible equal participation of Aborigines alongside all other minorities in the marketplace. The means become the dead end.

The ‘promised land’: pomo meets Indigenism

Now that most of the Maori compradors have been bought off and the Pakeha liberal left have bought into the honouring of the Treaty the debate is now about how much? First the fiscal cap on the amount of settlements was imposed by Government but rejected by Maori. Then a sped-up process of direct settlements with iwi rather than hapuu was rammed through. Even so, the petty bourgeois nationalists are satisfied that the Maori nation can now take its place alongside the Pakeha nation in a multinational commonwealth of difference. Ranginui Walker expresses this sentiment in terms of “…the postmodern world of multiple discourses, negating the grand narrative of the Pakeha. …the Maori desire for self-government will not dissipate. It has grown stronger along with the cultural renaissance and the new-found confidence of Maori in the multiple discourses of the post-modern era”. 25

All that is required is ‘cultural therapy’, a hell of a lot of talk, some attitudinal change and cheap goodwill. Steven Turner writing about the legacy of colonialism in NZ employs a ‘non-Enlightenment’ frame to respect Maori cultural difference to overturn 160 years of ‘Enlightenment history’ (1999). 26 So we see the post-modern turn as Maori are transformed into fully blown ‘subjects with attitude’ in the marketplace, with the past ‘pardoned’. Donna Awatere personifies the excess play of post-modernism with the market in the ACT Parties Maori programme of ‘self-reliance’. The Treaty will be turned into the base document of a new Constitution in which token partnership status is accorded to the tangatawhenua but where a ‘once and for all’ settlement removes past wrongs and creates an equal ‘playing field’. This goes under the fashionable term ‘post-colonialism’ meaning essentially a ‘divisible sovereignty’ in which all are at last equal bourgeois subjects of difference within the sovereign market. A recent book dedicated to this enlightened project of cultural politics ends with the prospect: “Towards a multiculturalism within a bi-national framework” (Fleras and Spoonley, 1999).

In Australia a revised Constitution with a suitable preamble will acknowledge Aboriginals as the ‘first inhabitants’ while at the same time under the Liberal Government’s Native Title Amendment Act of 1998 land rights are bitterly contested all the way through the courts for those who were pushed off their land 200 or 100 years ago. The legal catch-22 is that Aboriginals who were forcibly removed from their land and whose links to the land have been “washed away by the tide of history” cannot meet the test that they are still the occupiers! (Alford, 1999:78).

What the new right and the postmodernists all agree on, is that the market creates the conditions for freedom and these can now be realised. Not in terms of land titles but the commodification of indigenous cultural artifacts and practices separated from the land. Every ethnic group and nationality can take their place in international society with their ‘identity’ i.e ‘difference’ recognised and respected.

Recognising this, Steve Mickler asks the question of the ‘Left’ which failed to rally to the support of the Aboriginal struggle for the site of the Old Swan Brewery in Perth in 1989. He concludes that the ‘left’ is preoccupied with international examples of decolonisation because it is in denial of the Aboriginal struggle.

” ‘Our Aborigines’ may have a ‘plight’, we might deplore their ‘condition’, but we don’t think of ourselves as having an unresolved colonial problem in the international sense…The resistance at the Waugal ground is an epic act of counter-colonialism waged by Aborigines…”

“Traditional supporters of Aborigines have to come to terms with the problem that cosmopolitan rhetorics of ‘the public’ are disguised rhetorics of imperialism and colonialism. They project a socialistic-sounding, multinational, multiracial one-worldness, while effacing actual relations of production and distribution which impoverish and ghettoize cultural minorities. It is the self-flattery of the imperialist subject, a pleasant illusion, that the City in itself transcends class, national and racial contradictions that structure it…When did the City of Perth, for Aborigines, cease to be a city of colonizers? What processes of decolonization have taken place, what recompense provided, tracts of land returned, cultural rights conferred?” (1989:87).

Post-colonials believe that once the ‘whites’ have unmasked the power base of their ‘whiteness’ they to can be proud of their Ango-Celtic or pakeha identity (McKay, 1999). The Treaty Industry becomes part of the ‘culture industry’ looking to protect indigenous ‘cultures’ as commodities that can fund their ethnic “difference”. Green applies Lyotard’s concept of the ‘differend’ in recognising the ‘incommensurability’ of white settler and Aboriginal law. According to Lyotard, “A case of differend between two parties takes place where the ‘regulation’ of the conflict that opposes them is done in the idiom of one of the parties while the wrong suffered by the other is not signified in that idiom.” (1994:158). In the case of the Mabo decision a judgement ‘without precedent’ went some way to recognising native title. “The decision threatens Capital’s ability to reproduce itself” (ibid:166). However, this decision will not be a mortal threat unless the logic of Aboriginal social relations is liberated and expressed as the dominant law. The necessary ”incommensurability’ of the law reflects the essential contradiction of the modes of production. Might is Mother Right!

Meanwhile, ‘the differend’ becomes trivialised as ethnic ‘difference’. Cultural becomes the irreducible, undetermined act of consumption i.e. a difference that the sovereign consumer notes when s/he buys a commodity as it appears in TV or ‘performances’ such as the opening and closing ceremonies of the Sydney Olympic Games. Maori too have been have only been re-landed so as to be re-branded.27 Tama Iti, once the firebrand radical who spat at the Governor General, is now an entrepreneur who sells his ‘native art’. The ‘promised land’ of liberation becomes the freedom to buy and sell commodities in the market. But as I have argued Australasian capitalism will deny that freedom to most Aborigines and Maori so long as they/we do not revolutionise the relations of production.

Proletarian politics

As TSP predicted, and Antipodean Marxism has explained, most Maori ‘honoured’ as a reserve army of labour find themselves still trapped in the proletariat with the obvious consequences. There are few Maori bosses. Not because of ‘stone age’ economics like neo-liberal mouthpiece Gareth Morgan thinks, but because if you didn’t have individual title you could not raise capital. Talk about the new right blaming the victim. Today the corporatisation of iwi opens up the capitalist road, but too little too late to get anywhere. Maori as a people are stalled on the road to nowhere.

In Australia, the Mabo and Wik decisions which opened the way for recognition of land titles have been reversed to protect land as the private property of the runholders and giant mining companies. Reconciliation is class reconciliation or not at all. Australasian capitalism is in the hands of the MNC’s. They won’t sacrifice their profits for the sake of any proposed Treaty or land rights. We have “the GAP” instead. Profits continue to accumulate while Aboriginals and Maori get the leftover crumbs. Today Maori own no more than about $10 Billion in assets. The majority earn well below the average wage. Maori youth unemployment is over 20%. The new Maori bosses’ economic prospects are as sprats among the sharks, not good. Many self-employed have been dispossessed. Small farmers and fishers swamped by globalisation. Which class will benefit and what will the masses do?

Aboriginals and Maori remain part of the reserve army of labour. Land rights settlements and special welfare policies that are ‘race based’ perpetuate this reserve army by perpetuating ‘reserves’. In NZ land settlements which create iwi incorporations still act as reserves because they boost the material subsistence of tribes in the form of ‘settlement shares’ at the same time locking them into wage labour. The difference today is that the modern reserves are administered by a Maori bureaucracy and petty bouregoisie.

Are urban iwi incorporations the answer? No. To reconstitute iwi in the cities is to actively promote urban reserves. But as multi-ethnic working class organisations they have potential. This potential is not to set up a separate backward economy for an urban peasant existence, or try to compete in the corporate rat race, or with a vote to a second chamber, but to mobilise Maori along with all workers through the unions to expropriate the national wealth as their historic stake in socialism.

So the answer is to find a way to transform the national question into the class question. But how to do this? First the national question has to be addressed as real. It will not go away because Australasian capitalism cannot eliminate its ‘racialized’ reserve army of labour. This is why oppression of the landless indigenous people continues today. Opposing it means rejecting the policy of reserves, of trying to survive in ‘bantustans’ like the Pacific Island neo-colonies, Aboriginal tribal reservations or iwi incorporations. Instead we must fight for the return of stolen land and fisheries including mining rights under collective ownership. White workers must make that commitment before any other. Then the common cause against the common class enemy becomes a possibility.

Why stop at reclaiming bits of land on the bourgeoisies’ Treaty terms? That’s still fraud. Maori and Aboriginals as proletarians helped make theses countries. Surplus labour accumulated over generations is congealed as the wealth of these nations and of the major imperialists. But before they were proletarians they were landowners. But in order to create a reserve army of labourers, the colonists created the native ‘reserves’. The land rights struggle is to turn all stolen land into ‘native land title’! Not until white workers unconditionally demand indigenous land rights, will Aboriginal and Maori open up to the struggle for socialism.

The land rights struggle fulfils two conditions. First it proves that the working class can unite and fight. Second it proves that land rights under capitalism cannot realise the self-determination of indigenous peoples. To escape the barbaric fate of a destructive, inhumane capitalism, the working class as a whole needs a revolutionary programme to unite the masses in the struggle for socialism.

To ensure that nature’s resources are protected to provide for the needs of the masses, it will be necessary to nationalise the land, rivers and seas under workers democratic control, with indigenous peoples’ rights to their use guaranteed. To ensure that people have access to essential resources, energy supplies and services vital for their existence, it will be necessary to re-nationalise privatised state assets without compensation and put them under democratiic workers control. To prevent the wholesale destruction of past labour by footloose Multinationals it will be necessary to expropriate the assets of the capitalist corporates.

All of this will be possible only if the working class and its allies mobilise to fight for a workers’ and working farmers’ government based on workers councils and militia. Then it will be possible to build Socialist Republics of Australasia as part of a Federation of Asian/Pacific Socialist Republics.

——————–

References

Alford, Katrina (1999) ‘White-Washing Away Native Title Rights’ ARENA journal no.13 67-83

Awatere, Donna (1984) Maori Sovereignty. Broadsheet. Auckland.

Awatere Huata, Donna (1996) My Journey. Seaview Press. Wellington.

Awatere Huata, Donna (1998) Zero Tolerance. ACT New Zealand. Wellington.

Ballara, Angela (1998) IWI: The dynamics of Maori Tribal Organisation from c.1769 to c.1945. Victoria University Press. Wellington.

Bassett. Michael (1998) The State in NZ : Socialism without Doctrines? Auckland University Press

Bedggood, David (1978) “New Zealand’s Semi-Colonial Development:A Marxist View” Australian and New Zealand Journal of Sociology Vol 14 (3) October 1978 285-290.

Bedggood, David (1979) ‘The Conquest of Maori Society: the Articulation of Modes of Production in NZ’ paper presented to ANZAAS Conference, Auckland. Bedggood, David (1980) Rich and Poor in New Zealand: A Critique of Class, Politics and Ideology. Auckland. Allen and Unwin 1980

Bedggood, David (1999) ‘Saint Jacques: Derrida and the Ghost of Marxism’ in Cultural Logic, Vol 2 no 2 1999 note 18. http://eserver.org/clogic/

Burgmann, Verity (1993) Power and Protest. Allen and Unwin, Sydney.

Caselberg, John (1975) Maori is my Name: Historical Maori Writings in Translation. John McIndoe, Dunedin.

Cleave, Peter (1998) The Maori State. Campus Press. Palmerston North.

Coates, Ken (1998) ‘International Perspectives on Relations with Indigenous Peoples’ in Coates and McHugh et al. Living Relationships.

Coates, Ken and P.G. McHugh et al. (1998) Living Relationships. Kokiri Ngatahi: The Treaty of Waitangi in the New Millennium. Victoria University Press.

Cronin, Grant (1999) ‘The Politics of Primitivism’. revolution, August/September. Christchurch.

Daunton, Martin and Rick Halpern (1999) Empire and others: British encounters with indigenous peoples 1600-1850. University College London Press, London.

Duff, Alan (1993) Maori: The Crisis and the Challenge. Harper Collins. Auckland.

Durie, Mason (1998) Te Mana, Te Kawanatanga: The Politics of Maori Self-Determination. Oxford University Press. Auckland.

Fields, Diane (1994) The fight for black rights. Socialist Worker Pamphlet, Sydney.

Fleras, Augie (1999) ‘Politicising Indigeneity: Ethno-politics in White Settler Dominions.’ in Havemann (ed) Indigenous Peoples’ Rights.

Fleras Augie and Paul Spoonley (1999) Recalling Aotearoa: Indigenous Politics and Ethnic Relations in New Zealand. OUP. Auckland.

Gager, Owen (1982) Towards a Socialist Polynesia. Spartacist League of New Zealand. Auckland.

Geddis, Andrew (1997) He ara tika ki te Tino Rangatiratanga: Decolonisation and Class. Socialist Workers Organisation. Auckland.

Gilbert, Kevin (1987) ‘An Aborigine Speaks: On Treaty ’88.’ Arena, 78, 9-10

Gould, Bob (1999) ‘Deconstructing Ghassan Hage.’ Pamphlet, Newtown, Sydney 4/9/99.

Graham, Douglas (1997) Trick or Treaty? Institute of Policy Studies. Wellington.

Green, Ricki (1994) ‘Lyotard and Mabo’, ARENA journal, no/3, 149-168

Haebich, Anna (1988) For Their Own Good. University of Western Australia Press, Nedlands.

Hage, Ghassan (1998) White Nation: fantasies of White supremacy in a multicultural society. Pluto Press. Annandale.

Hall, Richard (1998) Black Armband Days. Vintage. Sydney

Harris, Paul and Linda Twiname (1998) First Knights: An investigation into the NZ Business Roundtable. Howling at the Moon. Auckland.

Havemann, Paul (ed) Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Oxford University Press. Auckland.

Hinkson, Melinda (1995 ‘Making Meaning of the Yuendumu Doors. ARENA journal no 5 5-15

Hogan, Trevor (1998) ‘Dead Indians, Flawed Consumers and Snowballs in Hell’ ARENA journal, no 10. 151-158

Kelsey, Jane (1994) ‘Aotearoa/New Zealand:The Anatomy of a State in Crisis,’ in Sharp, Andrew. A Leap into the Dark. Auckland University Press. Auckland

Kelsey, Jane (1995) The New Zealand Experiment. Bridget Williams Books. Wellington.

Lenin, V.I. (1964) ‘The Revolutionary Proletariat and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination’ Collected Works, Vol 21. Progress Publishers. Moscow.

Lenin, V.I. ((1970) Lenin on the National and Colonial Questions. Peking Languages Press

Marx, Karl (1976) Capital. Volume 1 Penguin Books, Harmondsworth.

McDonald, Geoff. (1985) Shadows over New Zealand. Chaston Publishers. Christchurch.

McDonald, Geoff. (1986) The Kiwis Fight Back. The Raven Press. Christchurch. McHugh. P.G. (1999) ‘From Sovereignty Talk to Settlement Time: The Constitutional Setting of Maori Claims in the 1990’s.’ in Paul Havemann (ed) Indigenous Peoples’ Rights.

McKay, Belinda (1999) Unmasking Whiteness: Race Relations and Reconciliation. Griffith University, Nathan.

McRae, John and David Bedggood (1978) ‘The Development of Capitalism in New Zealand’ Red Papers, No 3, Marxist Publishing Group. Auckland.

Maka, Roger (1998) “A Relationship, Not a Problem’ in Coates and McHugh et al. Living Relationships.

Maka, Roger and Augie Fleras (1998) ‘Re-Constitutionalising Treaty Work: The Waitangi Tribunal’, paper delivered to Sociological Association of NZ Conference, 1998.

Maka Roger and Augie Fleras (1998b) ‘Indigeneity at the Millenium.’ Paper given to the Sociological Association of NZ Conference, 1998.

Markus, Andrew (1987) ‘Land Rights, Immigration and Multiculturalism: the assault from the right.’ in A. Markus and R. Rasmussen (eds) Prejudice in the Public Arena: Racism. Centre for Migrant and Intercultural Studies, Monash University.

Maxwell, Anne (1991) ‘From Cannibalism to Biculturalism’ Arena, 96 89-104

Mickler, Steve (1991) ‘The Battle for Goonininup’, Arena, 96, 69-88

Middleton, Hannah (1977) But now we want the land back. New Age, Sydney

Miles, Robert (1987) Capitalism and Unfree Labour. Tavistock. London.

Minogue, Kenneth (1998) Waitangi: Morality and Reality. NZ Business Roundtable, Wellington.

O’Lincoln, Tom (1993) Years of Rage: Social Conflicts in the Fraser Era. Bookmarks,Melbourne. http://www.anu.edu.au/polsci/marx/interventions/aborigines.htm

Orange, Claudia (1987) The Treaty of Waitangi. Allen and Unwin. Wellington.

Pocock, J.G.A. (1991) ‘The Tangata Whenua and Enlightenment Anthropology’NZ Journal of History, Vol 26 (1) 28-53.

Prebble, Richard (1999) Waitangi policy Press Release. Act Party. November.

Pullin, Lara (1996) ‘Land Rights and solidarity needed to defeat racist attacks’ http://jinx.sistm.unsw.edu.au/greenlft/1996/236/236p14.htm

Rata, Elizabeth (1997) ‘The Theory of Tribal Capitalism.’ Paper presented to the Sociological Association of NZ Conference, Massey University Albany, November 1997.

Rata, Elizabeth (1999) ‘The Theory of Tribal Capitalism’ Review – The Fernand Braudel Centre, Vol XX11, (3).

Reynolds, Henry (1996) Aboriginal Sovereignty: Three Nations, One Australia? Allen and Unwin, Sydney.

Russell, Peter H (2000) ‘Corroboree 2000 – A Nation Defining Event. ARENA journal No 15. 25-38

Sahlins, Marshall (1987) Islands of History. University of Chicago Press.

Scott, Stuart. C. (1995) The Travesty of Waitangi. The Campbell Press. Dunedin.

Sharp, Andrew ((1997) Justice and the Maori. (2nd Ed) Oxford University Press. Auckland

Sharp, Nonie (1994) ‘ Native Title: The Reshaping of Australian Identity’, ARENA journal, no.3, 115-147

Sinclair, Keith (1961) The Origins of the Maori Wars. 2nd Edition. Auckland University Press.

Sorrenson, M.P.K. (1999) ‘The Settlement of NZ from 1835’ in Paul Havemann (ed) Indigenous Peoples’ Rights.

Steven, Rob (1985) ‘A Glorious Country for a Labouring Man’ Race, Gender, Class. Vol 1, No 1, July.

Steven, Rob (1989) ‘ Land and White Settlement: The Cast of Aotearoa’ in D. Novitz and B. Willmot, (eds) Culture and Identity in New Zealand. GP Books Wellington.

Stratton, Jon (1998) Race Daze: Australia in indentity crisis. Pluto Press Annandale.

Sykes, Roberta B. (1989) Black Majority. Allen and Unwin. Sydney

Tucker, Marilyn (1982) ‘The National Question in NZ’ Socialist Politics no 80/82. Socialist Unity Party of NZ. Auckland.

Turner, Steven (1999) ‘ A Legacy of Colonialism: The Uncivil Society of Aotearoa/New Zealand’. Cultural Studies, Vol 13 (3) 408-422.

Tucker, Marilyn. (1980) ‘The National Question in NZ’ Socialist Politics. Journal of Marxist-Leninist theory and practice. No 80/2.

Waitangi Action Committee (1985) Te Hikoi Ki Waitangi. Auckland.

Walker, Ranginui J. (1990) Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou: Struggle without End. Penguin. Auckland

Walker, Ranginui J. (1999) ‘Maori Sovereignty, Colonial and Post-Colonial Discourses’ in Paul Havemann (ed) Indigenous Peoples’ Rights.

Ward, Alan and Janine Hayward (1999) ‘Tino Ranatiratanga: Maori in the Political and Administrative System’ in Paul Haveman (ed) Indigenous Peoples Rights.

Webster, Steven (1993) ‘Postmodernist theory and the sublimation of Maori Culture’ Oceania, March, Vol 63, No 3, p222.

Webster, Steven (1997) ‘Maori Hapuu as a whole way of struggle: 1840-1850’s before the land wars’. Unpublished paper. Social Anthropology, University of Auckland.

Webster, Steven (1998) Patrons of Maori Culture: Power, theory and ideology in the Maori Renainissance. University of Otago Press. Dunedin.

Weiner, James F (1995) ‘The Secret of the Ngarrindjeri’ ARENA journal no 5 17-32.

Wilson, Margaret (1995) ‘Constitutional Recognition of the Treaty of Waitangi: Myth or Reality?’ in Wilson and Yeatman Justice and Identity.

Wilson, Margaret and Anna Yeatman (eds) (1995) Justice and Identity: Antipodean Practices. Bridget Williams Books, Wellington.

Workers’ Communist League. (1980) Programme. Wellington.

Wolfe, Patrick (1999) Settler Colonialism and the Transformation of Anthropology. Cassell. London and New York.

Wright, Judith (1987) ‘The Landless Peoples: Aborigines and their Rights to Land’. Arena, 80, 5-11

Yeatman, Anna (1995) ‘Justice and the Sovereign Self’ in Wilson and Yeatman (eds) Justice and Identity.
Notes

1 McDonald proved that his Stalinist training could be put to good use as a neo-fascist of the League of Rights. His grasp of Marxism was superficial as we would expect in one recruited into the Eureka Youth League of the Comunist Party of Australia.

2 The articles of the English version of the Treaty referred to are: “Article the first: The Chiefs of the Confederation of the United Tribes of New Zealand and the separate and independent Chiefs who have not become members of the Confederation cede to Her Majesty the Queen of England absolutely and without reservation all the rights and powers of Sovereignty which the said Confederation or Individual Chiefs respectively exercise or possess, or may be supposed to exercise or to possess over their respective Territories as the sole sovereigns thereof. Article the second: Her Majesty the Queen of England confirms and guarantees to the Chiefs and Tribes of New Zealand and to the respective families and individuals thereof the full and exclusive and undisturbed possession of their Land and Estates Forests Fisheries and other properties which they may collectively or individually possess so long as it is their wish and desire to retain the same in their possession: but the Chiefs of the United Tribes and the individual Chiefs yield to Her Majesty the exclusive right of Preemption over such lands as the proprietors thereof may be disposed to alienate at such prices as may be agreed upon between the respective Proprietors and persons appointed by Her Majesty to treat with them in that behalf. Article the third: In consideration thereof Her Majesty the Queen of England extends to the Natives of New Zealand Her royal protection and imparts to them all the Rights and Privileges of British Subjects. (Source. Orange, 1987:258)

3 Minogue is well known as a right wing academic with several books promoting market economics, Thatcherism etc. See Harris and Twiname, 1998:51

4 In his NZ Herald column on April 15. My reply was submitted unsuccessfully to the NZ Herald op ed page, April 15 1998.
“What sheer hypocrisy! The demands Maori are making today are pitifully small compared with the almost total destruction of their society and its bastardisation by colonialism. If any forces pose a threat to social order today, they are those which the new right represent; the rapacious mulitinationals who are the descendants of the imperialist troops who conquered the Maori. Today those same forces seek to dominate and oppress NZ in the name of their super-profits. Such is their greed, that even a token settlement of a few billion dollars, a miniscule part of the wealth ripped off the Maori over the generations, is resented. When that is bantustan-like welfare statelets for their people, suddenly the ‘tribal elites’ become cronies, no doubt ripe for corruption. Anything less than a total ‘transparency’ on the global playing field is presented by the new right as a form of primitive communism or state socialism akin to Asian cronyism which handicaps the market god. A few billion to keep Maori out of jail becomes ‘barbaric’ compared to the ‘civilised’ behaviour of Ameritech and Bell Atlantic grabbing $7 billion in profits from Telecom since 1990.
The new right is frank in admitting that conquest leads to civilisation. Yet they take no blame for creating the current situation in which Maori have yet to achieve equality as citizens. The idea that Treaty claims reverses the oppression of Maori is ludicrous. The reason that these claims have been recognised in legislation is because they are made in terms of the bourgeois right to property introduced by the colonists but blatantly flouted in the case of the Maori land grab. The notion that Apartheid exists today in New Zealand is laughable. Apartheid in South Africa was the creation of the ruling class/caste. Its purpose was to provide state legitimacy for a form of forced labour. The current situation in New Zealand has nothing in common with this. The chaos feared by Morgan and Minogue is the creation of decolonisation, and the undoing of some of the damage of conquest. The real threat posed to ‘civilisation’ is not some pre-capitalist, non-democratic tribal hangover from the past. It is the anarchic, destructive nature of the glorified market and the uncontrollable forces of rapacious finance capital roaming the world for the biggest buck. It is this destructive process which forced Maori to mobilise behind Treaty claims when their jobs and wages started dissappearing. The vaunted Morgan/Minogue market could not even deliver jobs and a living wage let alone equal citizenship, so Maori had no option but to invoke bourgeois rights to reclaim part of the conquest just to survive. This is nothing to do with ‘re-inventing’ the past, but making use of the documented colonialist abuse of bourgeois rights in the past to secure their future. What Minogue and Morgan fear more than anything, is not only further Maori demands to realise equality, but worse, the joining together of Maori and Pakeha workers as a class bent on overthrowing their market god. That’s why Maori bashing is an unscrupulous racist attempt to rewrite history and blame Treaty settlements for the plight of pakeha workers today. That’s what makes the apologists of the new right take every opportunity to voice their alarmist fears. They want to ‘re-invent’ the past to cling onto their class privileges in the face of growing criticism of the gap between rich and poor of every race and nation.”

5 Here is my reply also submitted unsuccessfully to the NZ Herald op ed page on June 17 1998 in response to Morgan’s column.
“Gareth Morgan shows that the core of Pauline Hanson’s ideas are quite consistent with his New Right thinking. New Right thinking blames market failure on traditional barriers to the market such as tribalism, collectivism, and dependence on the state which saps individual will. Of course Morgan is more consistent than Hanson and opposes all forms of economic protectionism. But they both agree that if Aborigines and Maori are to compete in the marketplace they must abandon their traditional tribal, collectivist practices. Hanson wants Aboriginal land rights removed and welfare payments stopped so Aboriginals are forced to learn some civilisation. She justified the ‘stolen children’ on the basis that it was good for them. Morgan similarly fears that Treaty settlements are reproducing “Stone Age” economies that cannot succeed in the market environment. In both cases it is the historic racism of the white-settlers towards their own indigenous peoples, which sets the terms of the debate. These terms need to be exploded. In the first place, how realistic is the fear that Aboriginal and Maori land rights will undermine the market economy? In the case of Australia, this is not a credible argument. Hanson has rekindled the deeply rooted white racism towards Aborigines held by the colonisers. Aborigines were considered to be animals, or children at best. They became citizens as recently as 1967. The recent Mabo (1992) and Wik (1996) land right decisions recognised for the first time that Australia wasn’t empty when the white settlers arrived, and that Aboriginals had historic land rights. These rights could be claimed if Aboriginals could prove a ‘continuous historic connection’ to the land. This is difficult to prove except for small areas, but nevertheless these decisions have provoked a racist backlash against Aborigines by small farmers and large mining companies. John Howard’s current 10-point plan is designed to make it even more difficult to claim a ‘historic connection’ to the land. Yet such is the furore that Hanson has been able to appeal to farmers and mining companies’ fears of an Aboriginal land grab at the expense of individual private property rights. That’s why she wants the Wik decision reversed, and welfare payments to Aborigines on their land stopped, to force then to follow the path of the ‘stolen children’ and be force fed some civilisation.
That this racist backlash is totally out of proportion to the amount of land in question (little more than 1% even in Queensland) and the numbers of Aboriginal’s living on this land (a few thousand at most) proves that it is not the Aboriginals getting a tiny part of their land back who are responsible for the fears of farmers. The rural downturn is easily explained by the long-term decline of small farming, falling prices, and droughts. By extension, Hanson’s claim that migrants are taking Australian’s jobs defies reason. Almost all jobs in Australia are held by migrants or the decendents of migrants. It is crazy to say that long-term or cyclical unemployment is caused by migrants. The labour market responds to trends in economic expansion or contraction. Australia has always had a policy of giving preference to white settlers, and maintaining a reserve of Aboriginal and Pacific Island labour which could be turned off and on like a tap as boom turns to bust. So in turning off the ‘Asian inflow’ Hanson is doing no more than reviving an Australian racist tradition. It is even more crazy to claim that the Treaty settlements in NZ work against the market. Morgan cites the case of Tainui iwi operating in a way that “subjugates the rights of the individual for the benefit of the collective”. Whatever we might think of the way Tainui are using the small part of their land and financial loss compensated for by the state, they are at least investing most of their capital in jobs and education. This is a thousand times more productive, in market terms, than say the speculative ‘hedge funds’ that are run by prominent capitalist entreprenuers like George Soros, and who causes runs on national currencies including our own. What of all the other Treaty settlements, such as fisheries and forestry, being turned to productive investment? Far from a revival of tribalism, the Treaty settlements have actively promoted a breakdown of tribalism as tribal leaders take on the role of entrepreneurs and the majority of beneficiaries become mere shareholders. Even more, urban Maori so far left out of most settlements, are now little more than detribalised workers. So where is the evidence that the so-called “tribal model” ascribes a “low value” to education and conventional workforce participation? It is a racist figment conjured up to fuel a reactionary panic.
Therefore, by comparison with the large Western banks which are bringing the Asian tigers, and quite probably Australian and NZ economies to their knees, it is a sick joke to blame Aboriginal and Maori land rights settlements for the failure of the market to perform. Yet both Hanson and the New Right in NZ are beating the drum of racism and fomenting a redneck backlash against Treaty and land rights. The question is why? There can only be one answer. Racism, and its logical extension, fascism, diverts attention away from the real causes of economic crisis towards the most convenient scapegoat – the racially impure alien whether indigenous or foreign. It is not a revival of indigenous tribalism that is the real threat as Morgan claims, but a racist nationalism that can easily develop into fascism. This is clearly evident in the revival of the racist right in Europe where up to 20% of the population support neo-fascist parties and movements. ”

6 “The party officials enjoyed the elegance and power you associate with kings. The party officials ran everything. Theirs were the only views that counted. That doesn’t appeal to Maori because that’s not how it works on a marae. My suspicions had been aroused and I wanted to get to the bottom of them. Marx had many interpreters in NZ. Factions and sects told us their version about the struggle of the proletariat to seize the means of production. It was naturally very confusing. So I suggested to a few colleagues that we should read the book ourselves rather than listen to their interpretations.
We started a study group in an upper Queen St. office to read Das Kapital.This was quite an undertaking for Sunday mornings. Most of us had extreme, almost experimental, hangovers. The study group consided of university students doing law, medicine and so on. We took a chapter a week, read it, and applied the thinking to modern Maori life.
I have been told now by an economist friend that the book is based on a mistake, that Karl Marx found this out towards the end of writing it, and put the book in his bottom drawer without ever publishing it. After he died, years later, his collaborator Engels tidied it up and published it. I’m not going into an analysis of Marx’s thinking here, but his mistake it is based on his theory of price. No-one in the 19th century knew why things cost what they did. There were many theories, and Marx had one that was still followed in NZ in the 1970’s. He thought, as we did, that it was a cost-plus deal; a banana custard, for instance, cost a dollar because a dollar’s worth of labour had gone into making it. The value of labour, in a capitalist system, was simply what it cost to kekep workers alive and breeding. When Marx finished Volume One of his book, an economist came up with the law of supply and demand and that was the end of that. Banana custards cost a dollar because that’s how much people were prepared to pay for them. There was no ‘iron law’ of wages, and that was why workers’ wages under capitalism are ever-increasing. Half-way through the book we all moved from potential communists to capitalist sympathisers.7 The more we understood what he was saying the less we agreed with his analysis. His argument that people sell their labour to capitalists to produce a good and the capitalist keeps the profit instead of giving it to his workers didn’t square with my experience. I had a shop where I’d hire part-time workers to help my mother. I’d pay them and use the profits to buy more stock. When we had made enough and saved enough we bought another shop. These activities made more jobs for part-time workers. And in the question where did the jobs come from we agreed that profit was the incentive that drove people on in economic lifeWhen Marx was writing it was much harder for ordinary people to acquire capital. But in modern life it is not such a problem. I was thirty, and from a standing start I owned a house, a shop, a couple of cars. I’d started a business. Today, capital is far more readily available. My uncle had started with nothing and now owned the largest tackle and game shop in Rotorua; other uncles owned a fleet of plumbing trucks, another uncle gook tourists out on Lake Taupo fishing. So the lesson I took from it was that if you don’t want capitalists to make a profit from your work then don’t work for them: do it yourself.”

7 Writing about the ‘pioneers’ who settled NZ to improve themselves and “achieve a better life” he says: “There is nothing wrong with that. To work hard for economic improvement is not a sin. There would be no jobs and wealth to be distributed to other if it was not for those who were ambitious. The person who is contented with being a worker for an employer has no need to feel less dignity than the employer, nor any feeling of envy.”

8 See Awatere (1998) in which she puts forward ACT’s views on eductation for Maori as “self help” views very close to those of Minogue and other BRT or Centre for Independent Studies sponsored tracts on privatising education.

9 Wilson, 1995; Mason Durie, 1998; P.G. McHugh, 1999; Augie Fleras, 1999; Ken Coates, 1998; Alan Ward and Janine Hayward, 1999.

10 This is precisely the point that Minogue makes because he sees the “Treaty process” as a limit put upon the bourgeois constitution by “primitive communism”. He links the empowerment of Maori to the international moves for the UN and international jurisprudence to recognise “indigenous rights’ as part of world-wide marxist conspiracy to take power by stealth. Andrew Sharp makes a classic liberal rebuttal (1997:317) . There can be no threat by Maori as a pan-Maori collective, as the constitution has adapted to demands by iwi and hapu under pressure of neo-liberal policies it has incorporated, but no co-opted, them as legitimate actors. No doubt Kelsey would see this process as the continuation of the ‘passive revolution’.

11 See Marx, 1976 Chapter 33 “The Modern Theory of Colonisation.” The “two birds” are dispossessing the indigenous population to create modern landed property, and creating a free labour force obliged to work for wages.

12 See the report of the speeches in Caselberg, 1975. See also Sorrenson, 1999.

13 Sahlins, (1987: 61) says ” Beyond all Western ideas of property or sovereignty, the land is ‘the inorganic body of the class community’ (to adopt Marx’s phrase). It is the objectified mana of the kinship group. Maori and Western concepts on this score are incommensurable. Still Firth must be right when he says that ‘the concept of mana is connection with land is…most nearly akin to the idea of sovereignty’ (1959:392). For when Heke determined that the Treaty of Waitangi was proposing some new sacred arrangements of property, he concluded that it must mean for Maori the loss of mana; as occurs in conquest, dispossession, and enslavement. The British were putting up their own tuahu.” (70) While Sahlin’s interpretation is a materialist reading of mythology, its more likely that Heke had up to then seen the loss of land as outweighed by the benefits of British “protection”. When these benefits failed to materialise, Heke acted against the symbol of the rival British authority.

14 See Windshuttle’s (1996) critique of Sahlins post-modern account.

15 Despite a stalemate in the North these conflicts lead to the conquest of Maori society and its subjugation as a Sub-Mode to the Capitalist Mode of production. See Macrae and Bedggood, 1989 and Bedggood, 1980.

16 Walker (1990, 1999) affirms the history of struggle. Webster (1996) sees Hapuu as changing organisations of resistance though bending to the stornger power of capitalism. Ballara (1998) sees Hapuu as adapting to demands put upon them, while Rata (1997) argues that ‘tribes’ have been reinvented as a mode of regulation (domination) of Maori by post-fordist capitalism. I argue below that the power of resistance in the transformed hapuu draws not only on surviving elements of ‘primitive communism’ but also from Maori memhership of the working class so that hapuu and unions are the two roots of Maori anti-capitalist resistance.

17 In the 1970’s and 1980’s most Eurocentric currents of ‘socialism’ saw third world liberation movements, even ‘fourth world’ indigenous peoples’ struggles, as the in the vanguard of the world revolution. The US ‘new left’ and ‘black power’ movements projected minority social movements such as women and blacks as the leading progressive forces inside the imperialist states.

18 Middleton (1977:25) makes the point that Aboriginal land rights contain a revolutionary challenge to re-appropriate the means of production. A similar challenge exists in NZ with among those who reject the liberal belief that land rights can be realised by honouring the Treaty. The Treaty is still a fraud, because the land and tino rangatiratanga that was taken has not been returned, and Maori separatism is still a means of winning for Maori the bourgeois right to self-determination. Separatism however, does not yet mean secession, since there is still hope that self-determination short of secession will win Maori sufficient access to an “economic base” to ensure their survival.

19 See also Sid Scott’s “Lenin On New Zealand” in NZ Labour Review, Vol 8 (1 &2), Feb & March. 1953.

20 This is not ‘self-determination’ in the Leninist sense. See Sid Scott, NZ Labour Review, Vol 8 (4) May 1952. However, in ‘NZ’s Road to Socialism – Draft Programme’ NZ Labour Review, Vol 7 (7) August 1952, we find a more Leninist formulation. “In certain areas of NZ where the Maori people predominate, they must have the right of determining the course of their own economic and cultural development and their relationship to the nation as a whole.” What this proves to mean however, is ‘equality of opportunity’ in a socialist NZ.

21 The Republican, #43 December 1982

22 Bruce Jesson, “Reviewing the Maori Sovereignty Debate” The Republican, #48 December 1983; #49 February 1984.

23 The Republican, August 1984 “The Latest Contribution to the Maori Sovereignty Discussion”.

24 “Land Rights and Solidarity needed to defeat racist attacks Green Left” 1996. Available on the Green Left website http://jinx.sistm.unsw.edu.au/greenlft/1996/236/236p14.htm

25 Walker, 1999

26 Steven Webster has argued forcefully against post-modern attempts to ‘sublimate’ Maori culture from a critical theory perspective (1993). Unfortunately, while Webster locates the sublimated culture firmly in land rights and hapuu “as a way of struggle” (1997) he does not explain that ‘struggle’ as resistance to antagonistic social relations of production and the need to revolutionise those oppressive relations.

27 Wilson, 1995, (cf Yeatman,1995) explores the redefinition of the subject that will be necessary in a new constitution in which ‘justice, identity and difference’ can be ‘reconciled’ (210). All of this occurs in the realm of discourse of course. For a recent account which attempts to re-situate identity politics in a material base of capital accumulation see Poata-Smith, 1996.

[This article is unpublished. It went through several drafts in the 1990s and this draft dates from 2000. Ive put it up as a backgrounder to the current Australian Labor Party attempt at ‘reconciliation’ after the Howard years of open racism and military intervention in the NT. ‘Sorry’ is a start…but towards what?]

Advertisements