Introduction (updated 2001)
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?
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.Full Text