Aotearoa: Socialise the Foreshore and Seabed!

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

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

Brash and Bush

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

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

Labour’s ‘public domain’

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

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

From nationalization to socialisation

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

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

From Class Struggle 54 February-March 04

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