The question of rightful authority in New Zealand, has been a contentious issue for the Crown and the many tribes and organizations representing Maori. Since the signing of the so called Declaration Of Independence in 1835 and the Treaty Of Waitangi in 1840, the scene has been set for a state of political confusion that has thrown up more questions than answers. Least answered of course is the debate concerning the role of workers in the whole matter. We argue that today the only way forward for Maori is as members of the working class.
The purpose of this article is to establish an alternative to the archaic legalisms being trotted out by those who quite rightly seek redress for past and continuing injustices against Maori control over their own destinies. But the issue must finally become one of workers control from all races.
Since new progressive knowledge has been gained in the last 150 years such as Marx’s Communist Manifesto of 1848 and international workers struggles against the rule of "Law" have come to light, the major question becomes, "Whose Law?" Its origins and "Class" content becomes central to the inevitable answer.
A short history lesson of events surrounding the 1835 Declaration shows that far from being a founding document based on noble principle, it was in fact the result of personal animosity between its author James Busby the first crown appointed NZ resident and Thomas McDonnell the second appointed resident. McDonnell together with local chief from the Hokianga initiated laws banning the landing or sale of liquor.
As far as Busby was concerned, this was an affront to his authority. To make a public issue of it, would have made Busby out to be petty minded.
At exactly the same time, Busby received a letter from Frenchman Baron De Thierry stating his intention to establish a sovereign independent state in the Hokianga. Busby would use this as a means to remove McDonnell assumed authority with Maori by claiming that the French had imperialist designs on NZ and that it was important that a confederation of chiefs declare a state of independence friendly to Britain.
In all, 52 chiefs signed the DOI1835 with Potatau Te Wherowhero from Waikato being the last to sign in 1839. Clearly the document conceived at very short notice was never intended to be sincere and in the spirit of goodwill to Maori. Its expedient purpose having achieved its outcome, its authors' hopes were that it would just fade away. As far as the chiefs who signed were concerned, all was above board and in good faith.
This is very much the position held today by the Confederation of the United Tribes of Aotearoa, Te Kingitanga, Te Kotahitanga, Tinorangatiratanga Maori, The Peoples Sovereign Independence Movement, Mana Maori, and The Tenants Party of Aotearoa etc.
Whether ignorant of the declarations true origins or not, the above parties rely on a mandate borne of traditions and practices stretching back to the dawn of humanity in exactly the same way as the British Crown’s own authority originated. If those laws or authority handed down through the generations, were the result of a ruling layer wishing to impose their will on subordinated subjects, then it calls into question the validity of that authority.
The issue of Class
But this question can only arise when one is faced with the issue of class. Stacked up against idealised or even romanticised tradition, the class issue is treated as an anathema to God and religion, the very bulwarks that prop up the power of the ruling class through fear.
Equally reactionary by its effect, is the process of culturally marginalizing a people to such an extent, that the victims in order to fight against their masters, end up adopting the very same methods used against them. In the case of Aotearoa / NZ, it has been an adaptation to the capitalist mode of production by tribal leaders to form an economic base without understanding the contradictions of their actions.
Most of those nationalists who support Maori Independence and struggle, fail to see the irony of their predicament when many are heard to say that they can cut deals with other capitalists under the auspices of the DOI1835 document.
Who needs those buggers down in Wellington anyway?
The Auckland APEC conference of 1999 saw representatives from various quarters within the Confederated Tribes try to cut deals with corporates, while anti-globalisation protests were taking place outside. One such group claiming to be a Maori workers co-operative and supporter of the "Green Dollar", proudly placed its banner under the Confederations flag. They have even printed their own money. The confederation has never claimed to be an advocate of socialised means of production, so it is not surprising that within its ranks, its programme is the maintenance of the economic status quo.
"Class" is not an issue confined to school, grades of meat or wool. It is central to understanding what is required to seriously tackle the root cause of societies problems. Many in the Maori struggle have yet to understand this. By taking the traditionalist path, they come face to face with their own contradictions.
Much tribal land was not only lost through raupatu [confiscation] during the colonial period, but sold out right by chiefly rulers who were the only ones mandated to do as they liked regarding land. This dispossession of their tribes’ peoples birthright is a clear illustration of the class divisions that developed in the past and will be further encouraged if some in the nationalist camp have it their way.
It is exactly the same method as practiced by the most cunning and calculating captains of industry whose high standing in mainstream society is a function of their ability to rip people off.
If this article looks like yet another attack on Maori, it is not meant to be. The problem has had to be faced up to by every people and culture on the planet confronted by the big question of "class." Calls to overthrow the Monarchy in England pre-date both the DOI1835 and the Treaty of Waitangi in Aotearoa. Cries of emancipation from within that culture, recognised that something was seriously wrong with its rulers as an example. Dissent was practiced in pre-Europe and Maori society in much the same way as it was practiced everywhere else. There were those who posed serious questions to their leaders, running the risk of serious reprimand or worse.
So it is pointless idealising a past that probably never existed. Having witnessed the antics within my own tribe Tainui, and having seen those responsible for the monumental screw-up go up the road to Ngati Whatua and make a $17 million mess of it for that tribe, we can clearly see that those given authority to lead, have no authority worth a damn.
To avoid the class issue altogether, all Maori nationalists have sought redress through legal processes starting with the DOI1835. The nationalists overlook the Statute of Westminster of 1931 that ended British political sovereignty over NZ. By viewing the Crown as still having ‘authority’ over NZ they oppose NZ breaking completely from Britain and becoming a Republic.
NZ a Republic?
If ties to Britain were severed completely as in the case of the United States, whose leaders were all bourgeois anyway, then NZ could say that its mandate to govern was made unilaterally by the people of NZ through a referendum, so long as an Independent Republic was proclaimed at the same time. This would give substance to laws passed in NZ.
The idea of declaring a Republic, scares the hell out of many in the pro- Te Tiriti / The Treaty camp, because it wipes out the Crown part of the equation. While this is true, it does not remove the NZ government’s obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi a document that is legally held to supercede the 1835 DOI in NZ law.
This makes the nationalists position politically reactionary. By holding to the Crown, the nationalists become the unwitting instrument in its continued preservation, [partners with British Imperialism.] .
And it is a reactionary utopia anyway. Busby’s appointment as NZ resident by the British government did not give him the status equal to a Governor General, [ in other words, a King by proxy], which by the nationalists own argument, puts Busby in the same boat as the current NZ settler government. As the initiator and author of the DOI1835, Busby was a mere witness to the Declaration by the Confederated chiefs of Aotearoa.
Because the British were deemed more trustworthy [according to Busby] than the French, Maori leaders [through Busby], sought to put themselves under the protection of the British in the event that their position became threatened by outside powers. King William IV was asked to be, the "parent protecting the infant state." This is stated in article 4 of the DOI1835, a major stumbling block for the Confederation. It paternalistically places their Sovereignty under the protection of Britain on the key issue. Like Rangatiratanga and Kawanatanga as mentioned in Te Tiriti O Waitangi and The Treaty of Waitangi, interpretation of terminology depending on whom it suits, soon acts like a spanner thrown into the works.
Sucking up to the G-G
The problem for the current Confederation is, having side lined the Wellington government as irrelevant, protocol according to them, requires that the correct channels be established to the British Crown through its proper representatives, such as a Governor General to make full and to the letter, the demands as prescribed by the 1835 Declaration.
So far, the invite has never been taken up, nor will it ever be. To do so, would undo the original intention of Britain [through Busby and the missionaries] to colonise Aotearoa on its terms and not that of Maori. Like the Wellington government, the DO1835 should equally be seen in the same light by the same standards.
Except for article 4, the declaration might have something going for its advocates, yes?
Don’t hold your breath! Having been repeatedly ignored by the British Crown for more than 150 years, surely its time to wake up and realise that the games up. So called good intentions were always going to be followed by a big stick. The coming NZ land wars were to be the proof of that.
Each time Maori interests make representations to the Privy Council, the response is always the same, "Go home and sort it out with your own NZ government." Trying to keep alive a process that is never going to deliver to Maori, benefits only but a few lawyers and the legal merry go-round and squanders any chance of making better use of limited resources. Just look at the Fisheries Commission circus as an example. Which brings us back to the question asked at the beginning of the article, " Whose law is it anyway?"
As mentioned earlier, laws and power as practiced and imposed by rulers for most of humanity’s existence, have come about because those subjected to them have never had a say in their implementation. The only time that has ever been achieved in recorded history, was during the Paris Commune of 1871, brutally suppressed by Louis Bonaparte and the short number of years immediately following the 1917 October Russian Revolution until Stalin.
"Rank and File power to Workers" is a total anathema to ALL rule outside of those two major events. Cloaked in religion and mystique, past rulers were able to impose their will to such an extent that their practices became accepted as normal and hence became a part of "Tradition and Lore". Religion and imposed power from outside of workers control are one and the same. A static state beyond question far removed from the dynamic and fluid forces taking place around it. Nature being the starting point of all things, tells us that material reality is the only basis on which to win a positive future for humanity and not fanciful metaphysical delusions.
"Where do you get your authority?"
This is a common call often heard from those involved in the Maori struggle when directed at the settler government and its representatives, especially the Police and the Judiciary. But equally it is a question that could be asked of themselves and many more in society at large.
The lack of an answer is an immediate recognition that history shows that no one can lay claim to legitimate authority outside of a Workers Revolution on its terms. If cutting deals with the US President and knowing his track record against workers, but recognising his authority is OK, then spelled out under workers control and conditions, that authority would be deemed unacceptable. Indeed that authority would be labeled criminal.
The past like the future doesn’t exist, so the only conditions necessary to judge the legitimacy of authority, should be based on the dynamic conditions of the present and not archaic forms.
So where does that leave the Maori struggle today? Rather than relying on the leaders of the past, whose own laws and traditions have been trampled on, a new start is necessary. That dynamic condition that affects us all, is modern destructive neo-liberal Capitalism. Already the forces of collective workers struggle are marshalling in places such as Argentina against the powers of "Authority". Corrupt, because they were the power of the few over the masses, like the rest of human history. No amount of parochial tribalism or petty nationalism is going to be able to fight against the forces of the bosses being mustered at the present moment.
Already Bush has pledged trillions more dollars to his military to fight against the up coming struggle against the poor, the downtrodden and indigenous struggles. The NZ settler government has indicated in no uncertain terms that it is determined to be a part of that effort. The future of Maori struggle in Aotearoa lies with it taking on board the international workers struggles as its own. The forces of the boss class know no borders. So like them, we as Maori and workers should also not recognise the limitations of borders in our struggle. To do so, would be like fighting with both hands tied behind ones back while blindfolded.
The struggle has to be truly United International and Revolutionary.
The struggle is based on the international unity of workers. The big weakness within the Maori struggle is the inability to grasp what internationalism is. Token discussions by Tame Iti about class struggle, amount to nothing if he suddenly decides to shoot over to Fiji and give moral support to anti-trade union capitalist George Speight. Looking native has never been a good excuse to lend support to any body if their agenda is the further subjugation of workers. It is a known fact that Speight intended to introduce legislation, not too dissimilar to the Employment Contracts Act after his coup, which really would have screwed workers. Not falling into that trap and getting caught up in the contradictions that it throws up is possible only if Maori choose to make their struggle a Workers struggle.
The future leaders of Maori are not the entrepreneurial captains of capitalist industry or those limited by petty tribal demands, they are after all, the whipping boys of the bosses above them. They are not those who promise a better future under a reformed and more humane capitalism either. They will come from the ranks of workers within the trade unions and those in the general labour work force not in unions because of destructive in-roads made by bosses in previous years and their union bureaucratic lackeys.
It’s always been cool to be called a Workers Revolutionary. But to be called a Maori International Workers Revolutionary, sounds even better. How ‘bout You ?
Te Taua Karuwhero, Waikato, Ngaruahine Hapu O Ngati Ruanui O Taranaki
For Workers Internationalism
For Rank and File control of all industry and utilities
Open borders under Workers control
For a Workers Republic of Aotearoa
[from Class Struggle, 43 February/March 2002