Maori Party Debate: Anti-Communist means Anti-Maori
Jesse Butler made a number of replies to the CWG’s Open Letter to the Green Left Weekly (see next post) in response to Butler’s article after it was posted on the indymedia news service. Here we reprint one of Butler’s replies and our response to him.
To the CWG,
Once again we are bombarded with the outdated rhetoric of the communist party, now focusing on Tariana's reasonable comment to work with anyone, including National, to obtain equality and justice in Aotearoa.
Where is the alternative system of the communist party? I hear a lot of bullshit from the sidelines yet very little in the way of an alternative game plan.
You’re not still waiting for your 'revolution' are you? Do you mean to say that the vast majority of the masses would rise up against the system that supplies them security, income and a future to your unarticulated communist system?
Surely, you are not suggesting another failed communist experiment experienced in Russia, China and North Korea to happen here in Aotearoa?
Communist dictators make Donald Brash look like a lollipop. And you want the New Zealand public to take you seriously?
No, I’m afraid your ramblings are blinded by ideology and obviously flawed in the political reality of this country.
My advice to you is to wake up and get off the sidelines, and have a real go at the opposition like we are. Basically put up or shut up.
We need all hands on deck against the neo-liberal onslaught, and sometimes that involves getting inside next to them so we can beat them at their own game.
The CWG replies:
Jesse’s response to our criticisms of his article shows very clearly that Green Left Weekly and Socialist Worker were wrong to print his accounts of the hikoi and the formation of the Maori Party. Jesse’s anti-communism would make Joe McCarthy and Ben Couch proud!
It's sad to see some supporters of the Maori Party engaging in a red baiting that belongs to the days the Cold War, because it was Maori who were regularly asked to go abroad and die in the US's wars against 'communist tyranny' in Korea, Malaya, and Vietnam. Thirty-two of the thirty-five Kiwi troops who died in Vietnam were Maori - what did they die for? Hasn’t Jesse learnt anything?
And Vietnam and Korea weren't the first wars that New Zealand fought against 'the communist menace'. The Waikato and Taranaki wars were crusades against communism, fought for the interests of settler capitalists who were infuriated by the Maori refusal to sell collectively-owned land.
Te Whiti and his followers at Parihaka was targeted by the warmongers not because they wore feathers in their hair but because they praised 'the miracle of collective labour' and refused to sell their collectively-owned land.
The gardens of the Maori kingdom in the Waikato were destroyed not because the people who worked them were using collective land ownership and labour to feed the fortress city of Auckland, where would-be land grabbers railed against 'the socialistic natives'.
The CWG remembers the communism of Te Whiti, as well as the communism of Marx and the communism of the occupied factories movement in today's Argentina. We want to see the foreshore and the whole of Aotearoa run collectively.
That’s why we reject the Maori Party.
Different party, same mistakes
The Maori Party's strategy is to capture the balance of parliamentary seats, and try to get good deals for Maori, and especially for iwi commercial interests, by using the balance of power in negotiations with the major parties. This strategy cannot succeed for two reasons.
In the first place, the ability of the major parties to influence the economy in favour of Maori business is limited, because the New Zealand economy is mostly owned offshore, by US and US-Aussie companies.
The domination of the Kiwi economy by US and other imperialisms means that iwi businesses have little chance of succeeding, or even surviving.
They do not have the capital to compete with the multinationals, and as little fish will inevitably be swallowed up by the big fish. But even if Maori capitalism were a viable venture, the Maori Party would not benefit many Maori, because very few Maori are capitalists.
The vast majority of Maori are workers or the dependents of workers. All Kiwi workers have an interest in better pay and conditions, and better social services like health and education.
These interests clash with those of capitalists, because capitalists make their profits from the wages of workers. It's no coincidence that employers' groups have been at the forefront of campaigns against pro-worker arguments and policies like the minimum wage, the right to strike, paid parental leave, and increased funding for public health.
Brown bosses are no more pro-worker than white bosses, and the mini-capitalists of the iwicorps are now fighting class wars of their own. Look at Ngati Whatua bosses wanting to sell off housing their own people won back in the Bastion Pt struggle. Look at the struggles against Robert Mahuta and more recently Tuku Morgan by Tainui Maori sick of corporate cowboy behaviour.
The Maori Party's strategy has been repeatedly tried and repeatedly found wanting over the past few years.
The tight five of NZ First and then Mauri Pacific tried to advance Maori interests in coalition with National, and ended up supporting the privatisation of Auckland Airport and rimu logging on the West Coast. In return they got fat salaries and some nice undies. Nice for them, but not so good for their supporters, who booted them out in 1999.
Mana Motuhake entered government in 1999, but Willie Jackson and Sandra Lee were as unable to win concessions as the tight five before them. They couldn't even stop Labour junking its weak-as-water Closing the Gaps scheme after National kicked up a proto-Brashian fuss. In return for his non-existent policy wins Jackson ended up having to back the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, on the grounds that 'The SAS boys are Maori and they want to go'.
Tariana played a key role in the Pakaitore occupation in 1995, but got sucked into the Labour Party by the promise of winning those elusive policy concessions. We all know how she got on there.
The hikoi could have turned into an alternative to parliamentarism – there were militant elements on it that rejected the failure of repeated attempts to work 'within the system'. Why get blisters walking from Te Hapua to Wellington, if you can influence policy from the comfort of the cabinet room?
Back to the future!
For these advocates of extra-parliamentary protest action, the hikoi looked back to the great days of the 1970s and early 80s, when Maori and their supporters waged a series of struggles which shook the Kiwi ruling class to its core.
The Great Land March of 1975, the epic occupation of Bastion Point, the struggle to reclaim the Raglan Golf Course, and the hikoi to Waitangi in 1984 were all examples of Maori direct action against 'the system'.
Before it got tied up in the red tape of the 'Treaty process', the Maori direct action movement managed to win a whole series of victories.
Make no mistake: Bastion Pt was won back by direct action, not parliament. The Maori land at Raglan is no longer a golf course because of direct action, not some cabinet seat.
Language nests exist today because Maori kicked up a stink in the streets in the 70s and early 80s, not because of Tau Henare or Tariana.
The partial victory Tariana helped win at Pakaitore in the mid-90s stands in stark contrast to the same woman's utter failure to influence Labour policy as a cabinet minister.
And the hikoi struck far more terror into the hearts of the establishment than the electoral triumphs of Tau, Willie and the rest of them combined. 'Wellington under siege!' the Herald screamed.
There was a palpable sense of relief when Tariana turned the final day of the hikoi into an electoral rally, and went on TV with Gerry Brownlee to announce her openness to a coalition deal with National.
Tariana played the same role in Wellington as Dame Whina played after the Land March. Dame Whina told the militant young Maori who set up an occupation of parliament grounds to pack up and go home and work inside the system, and the militants were right to refuse, and to lay the ground for the occupations that were to come!
Today Tariana is telling us to forget about the old hikoi, that the 'next hikoi will be the ballot box'. We should refuse her call too, and organise occupations of threatened sections of foreshore up and down the country.
While Tariana sets out her election stall and promises the same things as Tau and Willie promised, the theft of the foreshore proceeds, the American mansions go up on wahi tapu, and the 'free' trade deal gets closer and closer. Labour and the bosses aren't stopping, so why should we?
Browns and reds unite!
We can make sure occupations and other direct actions are successful by building on the tradition of Maori-communist struggle which Jesse mocks.
We have already mentioned the armed struggle to defend the collectively-owned and worked Waikato from capitalists in the 1860s, and the passive resistance to privatisation which Te Whiti is famous for, but Maori struggle against capitalism didn't stop in the nineteenth century.
There is a long history of collaboration between revolutionary socialists and Maori, a tradition which includes the solidarity the Tainui Maori showed to the Red Federation of Labour during the revolutionary General Strike of 1913, through the socialist and trade unionist presence in the occupations of the 70s, to the anti-Springbok protests of 1981, right up to the present day actions of communist Maori activists like Justin Taua.
Communists have always understood that only the muscle of organised workers can win crucial struggles like the Maori struggle for land rights. Unlike Tau or Tariana, communists recognise the common interests of Maori and Pakeha workers, and the importance of getting them together on the picket line.
Since we've mentioned it already we'll use the example of Bastion Pt to illustrate the point we’re making in more detail.
By the 1930s almost the only piece of land the 'friendly' tribe of Ngati Whatua possessed was a small strip of coast near Bastion Pt.
Auckland city authorities wanted to strip Ngati Whatua of this piece of land and the village that stood on it, but they reckoned without the alliance which Ngati Whatua's Tainui ally Princess Te Puea had made with the Pakeha-dominated trade union movement and with the Communist Party.
Tainui solidarity with the workers' movement went back to 1913, when iwi leaders urged Maori not to undermine the General Strike by signing on to do the jobs of strikers.
Communist Party unionists returned the favour by championing the grievances of Waikato Tainui, who since returning from exile in the Rohe Potae in 1883 had struggled relentlessly to regain their confiscated lands.
When word went out that the government was about to move on the Maori village near Bastion Point in 1937communists in Auckland's trade unions swung into action.
Ron Mason, who was organising with the General Labourers Union, put out an urgent call to the city's builders, and four hundred of them descended on the threatened settlement.
With the help of Ngati Whatua and Tainui, the builders worked non-stop to fortify the village, laying tall palisades in a concrete foundation. Workers prepared to defend the village, and the government backed down.
It was not until sixteen years later, in 1953, that the government was finally able to burn the village of Orakei to the ground.
It is no coincidence that this act of ethnic cleansing took place after the defeat of the radical workers movement in the Great Waterfront Lockout of 1951. Without the support of organised labour Ngati Whatua were weakened. The fortunes of the workers' movement and Maori have always been linked.
When the struggle for Bastion Pt and surrounding land revived in the 70s, trade unionists and a new generation of communists were amongst the vanguard.
Unionists took the issue into their organisations, raising thousands of dollars in aid and bringing in work teams to help the occupiers build a new village on Bastion Point. Communist organisations turned their dinky printing presses to the task of publicising the cause.
When Muldoon sent in the armed forces to crush the occupation at Bastion Point, trade unionists and communists stood on the picket line, and thousands of workers walked off the job around Auckland in a spontaneous protest strike.
Carpenters and truckies who had been called out to a mysterious 'big job' refused to work, when they found that they were being asked to help demolish the Bastion Point settlement.
Solidarity continued into the 80s, when Ngati Whatua were finally able to recover their land. The degeneration into corporatism of the leadership of Ngati Whatua doesn't wipe out the victory of Bastion Point, but it does show once again that without a strong workers' movement the Maori flaxroots are weak.
Occupy for sure!
Today we need to revive the spirit of Bastion Point by building on the support for the hikoi shown by unions like the National Distribution Union, the Service and Food Workers Union, Aste, and the Manufacturing and Construction Union.
Neither Pakeha nor Maori unionists will ever back a party that makes overtures to National, but many of them will back occupations of a foreshore which all ordinary New Zealanders value and worry about losing.
By occupying the foreshore and inviting ordinary Pakeha to join them, Maori can take the wind out of the sails of the right-wingers who say that the hikoi was about Maori privatisation, while at the same time thwarting the iwicorp opportunists who think that Maori sovereignty means Maori capitalism.
Sea farming and tourism ventures can be controlled by workers, not by brown or white capitalists.
And if the foreshore and its industries can be socialised, then why not the whole economy? A movement to socialise the whole of Aotearoa can take inspiration from the occupied factories of Argentina and the collective farms being established in Venezuela, as well as the indigenous communism of Rangiaowhia and Te Whiti.
This is the argument that the CWG made on the hikoi and has been making at Maori Party hui.
The argument from which this reply is taken can be read in full here:
From Class Struggle 57 August-September 2004