Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The 'First White Marxists' reach Tuhoe Country

In his famous 1965 essay 'The Peculiarities of the English', EP Thompson ridiculed the eternal tendency of radical young intellectuals to assume that everybody older than them is full of outdated ideas. Thompson wrote his essay because he was grumpy with a group of former proteges, led by the Eton graduate Perry Anderson, who had decided that Britain's working class was hopelessly 'backward' in its thinking and culture, and needed to be introduced to the 'rigorous' ideas imported from more 'advanced' countries like France and Italy.

While Thompson's essay was at times unfair - the young Anderson and his friends did have some interesting things to say, and Britain's trade union movement and Labour and Communist Parties could have done with a little intellectual stimulation in the mid-60s - it does sound a necessary warning about the dangers of intellectual arrogance on the far left. In one particularly amusing passage in his polemic, Thompson found an historical analogy for his opponents' ideological zeal:

[Anderson and his circle] are heroic and missionary. We hold our breath in suspense as the first Marxist landfall is made upon this uncharted Northland. Amidst the tundra and sphangnum moss of English empiricism they are willing to build true conventicles to convert the poor trade unionist aborigines from their corporative myths to the hegemonic light...Pulling their snowcaps over their ears, they disembark and struggle onwards to bring the intense rational consciousness of their cutting instruments to the 'traditional intelligentsia'...There is a sense of rising suspense as they - the First White Marxists - approach the astonished aborigines.

I remembered these words recently, when I stumbled upon the intervention of a group of pious white revolutionaries into a discussion about Tuhoe nationalism at indymedia. Where the targets of Thompson's polemic sought to bring the true faith to the 'astonished aborigines' of Britain, the missionaries at indymedia sought to convert the indigenous people of Aotearoa to the creed. Inserting himself into the discussion under an article about Tuhoe's ongoing Treaty of Waitangi negotiations with the Crown, the self-proclaimed 'anarchist communist' and indymedia regular named 'Olly' warned that Tuhoe who wanted their land back were nothing more than capitalist rascals:

any redress [for past wrongs] on the part of the government will necessarily involve co-opting the struggle through the creation of a Tuhoe bourgeoisie, hence the need to 'create a Tuhoe economy'. By a Tuhoe economy we should make no mistake, this means a new Tuhoe capitalism - a capitalism with the added nicety of an anti-colonialist face...

Once again Aotearoa IMC has proved its worth as little more than a stooge for the more disaffected factions of the ruling class rather than a subversive voice which seeks confrontation with the exploitative and oppressive society we are all forced to live under, and which, despite the ernest efforts of both national liberationists and their many cheerleaders, has the unfortunate tendency of constantly reasserting itself.

When a Tuhoe reader responded to Olly by suggesting that he find out more about Tuhoe history and culture, instead of 'spouting middle class theories' from 'aloof' positions, the heroic missionary responded contemptuously:

To be frank, capital doesn't give a damn about cultural practice...

The way forward for Tuhoe is, it seems, straight and narrow. They must abandon their reactionary attempts to regain stolen land, forget about their irrelevant culture, and join Olly's revolutionary organisation of choice, an organisation which surely has, at present, only a tenuous existence in the offline world.

Olly's argument about the uselessness of Tuhoe history and culture to progressive politics was taken up with enthusiasm by another regular indymedia commenter, who uses the rather unfortunate nom de plume 'Madman'. According to 'Madman', all good Marxists realise that Maori history and tikanga is not only political useless but positively obnoxious:

Karl Marx was quite right when he emphasised the necessity to push for progress...We may indulge in romantic ideas about some South Pacific Societies living in harmony, the truth is that they were very much tribal and did not hesitate to fight between tribes on different islands, in different valleys, in some cases even went as far as cannibalism and had a very strict hierarchy...Even in Europe we had our "ancient" times with "Neandertal Man", "Cromagnon Man" and later tribal warfare...The same applies to modern-day thinking about the rights of Maori tribes, whanau, whatever. Once we go down that way we end up again in tribalism, hegemony, dividedness, envy and social hierarchy.

For reasons which will no doubt continue to escape their understanding, 'Olly' and 'Madman' failed to convert their Tuhoe interlocutors to the revolutionary creed. I'm sure that won't stop them, and sundry other members of the online far left, from trying again and again in future threads at indymedia and similar sites.

While Olly's kneejerk opposition to the culture of an indigenous people is hardly surprising - such prejudice is, after all, a perennial symptom of Eurocentric forms of Marxism and other socialisms - I was impressed by the sheer historical illiteracy of his claim that 'capital doesn't give a damn about cultural practice'.

Olly's formulation would be come as a surprise to a lot of the people who brought capitalism to this part of the world. They were always complaining about the obstacles which Polynesian cultural practices created for them. The refusal of many Polynesian groups to divide collectively-owned land into individual title and offer it for sale, the failure of Polynesians to work on newly-established plantations as individuals, rather than in groups, and their tendency to work their own hours, and to clear off for days or weeks whenever an important events like a wedding or funeral was being held - these and many other contradictions between Polynesian culture and the practices of capitalism are noted again and again in the journals and letters of nineteenth century colonisers and business-owners.

Collective ownership of land, collective organisation of labour, and the primacy of kin relationships are central to most traditional Polynesian cultures. They presented, and in some places continue to present, major obstacles to the encroachment of capitalism. There have been many times when the conflict between Polynesian culture and capitalism has flared into conflict.

Many of the conflicts grouped together nowadays under the heading 'the New Zealand Wars' were the product of the contradiction between Polynesian collectivism and the requirements of capitalism. Maori wanted to hold the land collectively and work it; capitalist farmers and speculators wanted to take it and subdivide it. The Mau rebellion which led to Samoan independence from New Zealand was triggered when Kiwi administrators tried to 'modernise' the country by breaking up old collectively-owned parcels of land and imposing more 'discipline' on Samoan labourers. The contradiction between Polynesian culture and capitalism persists today in various forms. The protracted and bitter struggles in parts of the Cook Islands against advocates of capitalism who want to break collectively-owned land into individual pieces and make it available to foreigners for purchase is one sign of the contradiction. Another symptom of the contradiction is the well-publicised failure of World Bank microcredit schemes to influence the economies of Polynesian nations like Samoa and Tonga. This failure has occurred because the individualist cultural bias of the World Bank clashes with the culture of those nations. Loans which were given to individuals were distributed in the kin group; profits which were supposed to be churned back into a business established with a microcredit loan were shared out amongst a village.

In this country, the conflicts within some iwi between those who want to adopt a corporate-style structure, divide up and sell some collectively-owned land, and invest rather than redistribute income, and those who want to follow different, anti-corporate practices are another sign of the continuing contradiction between Polynesian culture and capitalism.

I think that Olly's interlocutor was correct, then, to suggest that Tuhoe tikanga does in important ways contradict the practices of capitalism. And I think that, if Tuhoe were successful in winning real control of major resources from the Crown, this contradiction would make itself felt from within the iwi. Tuhoe versions of Tuku Morgan and Graham Latimer would emerge to argue that the iwi must ditch some parts of its tikanga and embrace 'corporate culture'. They would advocate cutting deals with multinational companies and working with parties like National. They would tell us that economic development can only come through capitalism.

But there are alternatives to capitalism as a motor for economic development. There are examples, both in New Zealand and in other parts of Polynesia, of peoples using modern technology and modern trade networks to develop their economies, and yet retaining collective control of their land and other resources.

In this country, the classic example of this alternative to capitalism is what some sociologists have called the 'Polynesian mode of production', which flourished in the Waikato Kingdom and in Parihaka before those places where invaded and conquered by Pakeha. Using imported technology, the peoples of the Waikato Kingdom and of Parihaka grew food for export to the Pakeha cities of Auckland, Wellington, and Sydney, but they grew the food on collectively-owned land using collective labour. Their economic success and their refusal to sell their land infuriated Pakeha capitalists, and led to their eventual conquest.

The sort of hybrid economy which was developed in the Waikato and Parihaka - using modern technology and trade, and yet retaining collective forms of labour and land ownership - is still seen today in a number of Polynesian nations. It is also being experimented with in Venezuela and in Bolivia, where left-wing governments have returned large areas of stolen land to peasants, some of whom are indigenous peoples, and urged them to use the land collectively, by forming co-operatives or communal farms. There is no reason why Tuhoe could not retain returned land and resources in collective ownership and develop their land and resources for the benefit of the whole iwi. There are already examples of iwi who are opting for the collectivist 'Polynesian mode of production' model of development over the 'corporate' model. Recently I visited a tourist attraction which is sited on land returned to a hapu. The land is jointly-owned by the whole hapu, and the tourism business employs members of the hapu and places an important part of the income it generates into a trust fund run by the hapu. This fund pays for things like tertiary fees and dental treatment for members of the group. Important decisions about the strategic direction of the business are made collectively, by the hapu. It seems to me that the model of economic development being pursued by this hapu is not only consistent with Maori tikanga - it is inconsistent with the dictates of capitalism.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Olly also uses the name Oliver Twister. He attacks all types of national liberation struggle. Says that Palestinians who fight Israel and Iraqis who fight the US are reactionary because they are doing so as nationalists. Says that Aboriginal nationalists in Australia are as bad as Howard. This type of anarchist/ultraleft 'marxist' is just an extreme culturalist in disguise - everyone has to belong to THEIR culture, ie wave their flag and shout their slogans, or they are bad. Also they are unconscious imperialists. Their hostility to anti-colonial and national liberation wars menas they actually back the colonial power/imperialist occupier. Pillocks.

3:34 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is 'Madman' really saying that 'whanau' should have no rights because it would lead to 'tribalism' and 'dividedness' [sic]? And this racist idiot is a spokesman for a Marxist group?

3:43 pm  
Anonymous omar said...

Olly is a young student and eager anarcho-communist who should be forgiven for his naivety.

His anarcho-communist beliefs seem to have been learnt of the internet and not through actual practical experience in the real struggle against capitalism and colonisation.

I'd be surprised if Olly had even met someone from Tuhoe let alone been anywhere near the Uruwera.

However he and his gang of comrades at AWSM should stop slagging of anti-colonial struggles, it really does give libertarian socialism a bad name.

Other than that, great post maps.

4:27 pm  
Blogger - said...

I really can spell 'off', : )

4:29 pm  
Blogger Comrade Alastair said...

Omar, perhaps we can discuss the issues here without resorting to patronising rudeness? You're the last person who should be lecturing anyone on being politically naive.

You're a reformist and a nationalist. You talk about the need to unite kiwis against aussie bosses, you think the election of the first labour government was a 'revolution', and you vote for the Greens. You called yourself an anarchist for some time without even knowing what the word meant and now you think you can lecture someone like Ollie on how they give 'libertarian socialism' a bad name?


6:27 pm  
Blogger - said...

I know there is nothing that pleases you and Asher more than to harp on about my psuedo-radicalism but for an anarchist to openly attack indymedia as a "stooge for the more disaffected factions of the ruling class" shows some naivety.

7:20 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'Madman' compared Maori to cavemen...isn't that racist?

certainly doesn't sound very 'Marxist'...

but maybe people like 'Comrade Alistair' prefer to defend the indefensible...

I guess there's a double standard.
Tuhoe are not allowed a state, Pakeha are.


9:31 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"... the idea that its chiefs surrendered their mana to Queen Victoria defies belief, the Waitangi Tribunal was told yesterday.
Northern leader Erima Henare said chiefs rose to power through merit by proving themselves in war. Every single one present in 1840 at the signing of the Treaty was a battle-hardened warrior.
Each would have been clear that under the treaty - which was explained to them by missionaries - their tino rangatiratanga, chieftainship, was guaranteed to them under article two of the treaty.
"To suggest then, that men from that cultural milieu would, or could, surrender their personal and hapu sovereignty without a fight is again absurd.
"Every rangatira present would have not merely been offended by unjustified suggestions for them to surrender sovereignty, but would have been outraged and would have acted accordingly."
Ejection from the country or worse would have followed, he said. "The fact that Te Tiriti was signed and that the foreigners were not annihilated is the best evidence that no demand to cede sovereignty was made."
That is such a great point that is hardly ever raised. Mana was/is everything and many maori were killed all around this country when someone's mana was attacked or reduced. To think that maori would have laid down their mana is nonsense and stupid - it actually does defy belief.

So what happened - try lies, deceit, misinformation, abuse, and a bit more lying.

9:35 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Olly here, I don't post under the name 'Oliver Twister', that is a different person.

Omar, I have not been involved in activism for very long however to say that my political views are not based on real word experience is insulting and dismissive. Especially considering you hardly even know me.

Considering your article is pointing to Venezuela as a model for socialism, we really don't agree much to begin with.

11:41 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also Omar, my views are not the views of AWSM, I was speaking in an individual capacity. As you probably know there are differing views on this subject within the group.


11:47 am  
Blogger maps said...

Hi Omar, good to hear from you. Dogmatism is certainly an ever-present danger for the young - I know that from personal experience! (Perhaps I'm still suffering from the malady, even though I'm no longer young?!) It's much easier to look at a tidy schema than at the messiness of reality. I thought it was notable that, in all his comments on indymedia, Olly did not once mention a single event from Tuhoe history or even a single member of the Tuhoe iwi.

Olly, it seems to me that the basic problem which I'm criticising is exemplified by your claim that I am 'pointing to Venezuela as a model for socialism'.

I am not doing any such thing: I am just pointing to one development in Venezuela - the redistribution of land taken from latifundia and farming MNCs to groups of formerly landless peasants - that seems to me a good thing.

It seems to me that you are over-interested in 'models', and too little interested in studying the details of the real world. It's very easy to construct a model of an ideal society or organisation, then find reality wanting against that model. Of course neither Venezuela nor the Tuhoe political movement represent anything like a utopia. But does that mean that they contain nothing of value?

I'd be interested to hear from you not some abstract denunciation of Tuhoe or Venezuelan politicians, but an explanation as to why things like the establishment of Berbere commune and scores of other farms on land taken back from the latifundia, or the recovery of stolen Tuhoe land, are not worth supporting.

12:26 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In case I sound like (horror of horrors!) a naive empiricist, I should qualify my criticisms of the use of models by admitting that some sort of model - by which I mean a set of presuppositions - is necessary for the study of any piece of reality. When we study something we have to have some way of processing the material we gather.

The problem occurs when the model predetermines the outcome of our study, or when we don't feel we need to look at the facts of a particular situation in detail because we have a model which can 'explain it'.

There's an excellent passage near the end of 'The Peculiarities of the English' where Thompson talks about the need to find a balance between evidence and model:

'Must we dispense with any model? If we do so, we cease to be historians, or we become the slaves of some model scarcely known to ourselves in some inaccessible area of prejudice. The question is, rather,
how is it proper to employ a model? There is no simple answer. Even in the moment of employing it the historian must be able to regard his model with a radical scepticism, and to maintain an openness of response to evidence for which it has no categories. At the best—which we can see at times in the letters of Darwin or Marx—we must expect a delicate equilibrium between the synthesizing and the empiric modes,
a quarrel between the model and actuality. This is the creative quarrel at the heart of cognition. Without this dialectic, intellectual growth cannot take place.'


2:27 pm  
Blogger Comrade Alastair said...

@ Omar: My problem here isn't so much with you and the way you put forward Alliance-style politics in public, it's with the fact that you felt you have the right to talk down to Olly and call him naive. You're not exactly that old, you're not all that experienced (although you have been involved for a few years more than Olly), and frankly your politics are shite on so many levels that it's laughable for you to patronise Olly about being politically naive. There's a noticable trend here of you responding to people who disagree with you by insulting them, trying to put them down personally and make yourself out to be some amazingly experienced working class hero and anti-colonial messiah. It's embarrassing to watch man - time to stop.

And as for the way you jump to the defense of Indymedia... it's a terrible website, and one of the worst Indymedias in the world. It's slowly dying, barely anyone posts there any more, and those that do tend to be trolls or abusive idiots. Why anyone would defend that place is beyond me.

This is one of the problems on the NZ left. Amongst some sections of it, it's sacrilegious to want to discuss things like whether there is a Maori nation that needs (or wants) independence. Anyone who questions this is attacked as a racist and insulted, patronised and shunned. Now this isn't that big a deal really, since the left in New Zealand is tiny and there is no Maori nationalist movement... this boils down to a few small sects throwing insults at other small groups.

But if we can't discuss issues like Tuhoe separatism calmly and reasonably, we have a problem. I think the analysis of Olly and most anarchists is quite dogmatic, yet at the same time I think his line of questioning raised some important issues - does Tuhoe separatism actually seek to challenge the power of the ruling class, does it seek to empower the working class, and how does it seek to do these things? I don't pretend to know a great deal about Tuhoe history and I don't know the answers to these questions. But to create an atmosphere on the left where they can't even be asked... that's dangerous and frankly very silly.

This is an interesting post by Maps and he makes some very valid points. They deserve to be discussed and looked into.

But can we please carry this discussion out without insults and patronising, arrogant bullshit? From all sides of the debate?

2:31 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

maps, firstly I never said that it was a bad thing that Tuhoe were regaining stolen land. If my comments came across that way then I apologize, but its not at all what I meant. Likewise I wouldn't view the distribution of land to Venezuelan peasants as a bad thing, however I do take issue with leftist support for Venezuela, and not for abstract reasons. Venezuela has arrested and detained anarchists, trade union militants and other activists. It is not a matter of Venezuela being a utopia, its a fact that the Venezuelan govt. aims to maintain capitalism and repress working class struggle where it does not bolster its own political hegemony.

The issue here has nothing to do with land rights, its with the ideology of national self-determination. The article in question, iirc was entitled 'Government takes Tuhoe autonomy seriously' (or something to that effect). This is where I took issue, I simply cannot see how it is possible for Tuhoe to have autonomy in a meaningful sense while we are living in a capitalist world. How would it work?

As for the communes, like most workers co-ops I would be surprised if they are in any way egalitarian a few years down the track. At best the 'positive developments' you point to are a form of self-managed exploitation rather than a challenge to capitalism. And I think this is where we diverge, I support movements and struggles which are capable of putting an end to the existence of capitalism. That is different from supporting idealized 'models' (which I have never attempted to construct) and demanding reality conform to them.

You also accuse me of being abstract, however what could be more abstract than whether or not I 'support' a struggle which has nothing to do with me? What does this support actually mean in a concrete sense for Tuhoe workers? It seems to me that the accusation of abstraction is constantly being leveled against critics of nationalism, however nationalism is itself an abstract political ideology - it constructs a theoretical community between workers and bosses.

The only non-abstract struggle I can engage with here in the city is the struggle of workers to defend themselves against the ruthless attacks of the ruling class. That is what I am trying to do, and will continue to do. This may come as a shock to you, but for many workers it is Tuhoe autonomy which appears to be an abstract struggle, not the class struggle.

You are right however that my knowledge of Tuhoe history is slim, and I admit that this is a fault on my part, so I will go away and do some reading in order to engage you in a more useful debate. However I stand by my views on nationalism and I doubt any amount of insight into Tuhoe history will change them.


p.s. I would also like to point out that I'm not a student, as Omar claims.

3:01 pm  
Blogger maps said...


you ask 'how is it possible for Tuhoe to have autonomy in a meaningful sense while we live in a capitalist world?' To me this is another question which reflects a tendency to create an ideal model, and then judge reality against that model.

You seem to imagine an ideal post-capitalist world, in which everyone lives in absolute freedom, and then contrast it with what an autonomous or independent Tuhoe Country would look like if it were achieved today.

As I understand it, Tuhoe are demanding not total independence but measures like the return of land which was taken from them, control over social spending in their rohe, and the extension of cultural programmes like the school near Ruatoki that teaches Tuhoe te reo. These measures seem to add up to a sort of regional autonomy - or to the creation of what Jose Alywin has called 'pluri-nationalism' in New Zealand.

Now, the achievement of these demands would not transform Tuhoe Country into a utopia. It woudn't abolish capitalism. It wouldn't start a world revolution. But I think it'd make the lives of Tuhoe better.

Here's an analogy: the winning of independence by Samoa in 1960 - after decades of sometimes-bloody struggle against New Zealand - did not make that country into a paradise. Samoa still has many problems. It is a small, dependant country on the fringes of the world economy. But its people are better off for the freedoms they won from their anti-colonial struggle, and they are better off for keeping much of their land in customary ownership. None of them would want to go back to the days where white administrators decided where they could live, how they could plant their gardens, and who they could socialise with. None of them would want to revisit the police raids and arbitrary arrests of the 1920s and '30s. None of them would want to lose their land again to foreign plantation owners.

Do you really think that Samoans haven't gained anything from their national independence struggle and their independence from Wellington? Do you think an independent Samoa is no more progressive than a colonial Samoa?
That's the sort of strange position that your blanket opposition to national liberation movements seems to point toward.

And if you would have supported the Samoan quest for self-determination, why do you now not consider the Tuhoe quest for increased autonomy worth supporting?

3:47 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also Maps, you have put a lot of words in my mouth in this blog post. For example:

'The way forward for Tuhoe is, it seems, straight and narrow. They must abandon their reactionary attempts to regain stolen land, forget about their irrelevant culture, and join Olly's revolutionary organisation of choice, an organisation which surely has, at present, only a tenuous existence in the offline world.'

I never said anything like this, and would never argue for anything like this.

3:50 pm  
Blogger Jared Davidson said...

I think you're missing the point Scott. No one is arguing that an autonomous Tuhoe or a post-colonial Samoa would not/is not an improvement on what existed before it, but that autonomy within the wider system of oppression (capitalism) is self-defeating.

This isn't utopian modelling of a post-capitalist world, rather an understanding of both historical precedent and the current world we live in. Social relations don't exist in a vacuum, as the failed co-operative movement of Britain found out. So while moves for more autonomy within capitalism is a good thing, any autonomy without a wider analysis on actively fighting capitalism in the here and now (and outside of regional or community limitations) aren't doing much but loosening chains.

Surely you acknowledge that autonomy is far from liberation — liberation from capitalism being the only way to ensure real autonomy and freedom for either Tuhoe or Samoa? I like the following quote from Libcom.org:

"Self-managed exploitation is not just a neat turn of phrase, it is a recognition of how capital rules social life. It does this both vertically through the person of the boss (Pakeha, Tuhoe or Samoan), and horizontally, through market forces".

I'd like to hear your response to Olly's last comments, as I feel he made some good points about existing within capitalism and it seems you've skipped over them.


4:28 pm  
Blogger Asher said...

Hi folks, thought I might join in on this discussion. Before I get to the substance, there's a couple of quick remarks worth making...

"Olly also uses the name Oliver Twister. He attacks all types of national liberation struggle."

I don't know who this anon commenter is, but they really have their facts wrong. I assume they read and/or post on LibCom, because there was a user there called Oliver Twister who held the politics (albeit without Anon's twisted caricaturing), however he was based in the USA. He also hasn't posted on LibCom for quite some time.

"However he and his gang of comrades at AWSM should stop slagging of anti-colonial struggles"

Omar, this was a pretty bizarre comment - firstly, because it was obvious that Olly was talking for himself, and secondly, because you know personally some AWSM members who's politics on issues like Tuhoe autonomy are probably closer to yours or maps' than to Olly's or mine.

I know there is nothing that pleases you and Asher more than to harp on about my psuedo-radicalism"

Another bizarre comment from Omar, assumingly relating to the thread on Alastair's blog (at http://comradealastair.wordpress.com/2010/05/03/432/) in which Alastair criticised Omar's politics, as expressed in Omar's speech at a May Day march. I just clarified that I didn't think you called yourself an anarchist anymore - I felt that this was important as I see a value in the anarchist label despite all the shit politics that are often attached to it. So I felt it was necessary to clarify that while yes, I agreed with Alastair that the politics he says you expressed are crap (and you assumedly disagree, otherwise you wouldn't hold them), they certainly shouldn't in any way be attached to anarchism as a political theory.

Anyway, onto the topic at hand.

I agree with Alastair that if we "create an atmosphere on the left where they [questions around Maori/Tuhoe nationalism, national liberation etc] can't even be asked" then that is "dangerous and frankly very silly."

In my experience (~5 & 1/2 years or so of active involvement in NZ revolutionary politics) there is certainly a tendency to accept uncritically the politics of some Maori, and to ascribe that to all Maori. Amongst anarchists, that is sometimes replaced by a tendency to accept uncritically the politics of some RADICAL Maori, and to ascribe that to all RADICAL Maori. Either way, it's obviously totally fucked.

Maoridom (and indeed Tuhoe) is not a homogenous unit, with 1 set of coherent politics. Neither is the Tino Rangatiratanga movement (if you want to give it that label).

I would agree with Olly that there can be no meaningful autonomy for Tuhoe under capitalism - there can be no meaningful autonomy for anyone under capitalism! That's one of the reasons I'm an anarchist, because I believe human liberation can only be achieved with the overthrow of capital relations and the state.

I come from a culture (Judaism) with a recent history (the last 115 years or so) of national liberation politics. It's from this (in addition to reading theory, discussing with people etc etc) that I draw a lot of my own politics around nationalism/national liberation. As some reading this might know, prior to becoming interested in anarchism, I was a socialist-Zionist, an anti-state cultural national liberationist in a sense.

Prior to WW2 / the Holocaust, Zionism was primarily a non-statist movement - it was a movement for autonomy and for the revitalisation of Jewish culture.

(comment was too long, part 2 below)

4:32 pm  
Blogger Asher said...

Many of the aspects we see today in the Tino Rangatiratanga movement were mirrored in the pre-WW2 Zionist movement: a strong feeling of connection to particular pieces of land; a push to restore a near-dead language to daily usage; a desire for education based on traditional values which would utilise traditional mythologies; and a desire for a particular ethnicity to control their own affairs without outside interference. The question of formal statehood was not considered to be particularly relevant.

What I would argue (and I think Olly would agree, although I don't want to speak for him) is that regardless of the intentions of the (often socialist) immigrants, this was always inevitably going to end up creating a Jewish ruling class and a Jewish working class (not to mention a dispossessed Palestinian working class, of course). The push towards statist forms of Zionism from the mid 1930s onwards (and the subsequent formation of the Israeli state in 1948) may have exacerbated this, however the process began with the first aliyah (wave of immigration) in the late 1800s.

We all know (I hope) that individuals can't "escape" capitalism like some (eg CrimethInc) suggest, that squatting and dumpster diving don't remove oneself from capitalist social relations, but the same is also true on a larger scale - lasting socialism in one country/area is an impossibility. Capitalism is a global system, and can only be abolished globally.

In fact, even today, within Tuhoe, this process is visible. While I haven't spent as much time in Te Urewera (or talking to Tuhoe) as some, I have had enough conversations to know that there are certainly massive differences of opinion among Tuhoe. I've talked to some who are opposed to even entering into the treaty process in the first place and advocated taking back stolen land using direct action. I've talked to some who were worried about past crown settlements with other Iwi, who had seen Iwi elites benefit far more than flaxroots Iwi members, and who didn't want the same thing to happen to Tuhoe. I've talked with Tuhoe who disagreed massively with TKAT and who felt that many involved in running TKAT were self-serving and out for themselves rather than Tuhoe as a whole. So obviously there are already divisions within Tuhoe, those with more power and those with less - throw a few hundred million dollars into the mix from a treaty settlement (or land that gives the prospect of making even more) and what do you think will happen?

I think regardless of where you stand on Tino Rangatiratanga or Tuhoe autonomy, we need to be able to have discussions on them without resorting to slander, baseless accusations etc.

Most of us in and around revolutionary organisations have shown with October 15th stuff that we can effectively come together to offer solidarity to those attacked by the state regardless of our thoughts/politics around what those arrested may or may not have done. Likewise, if Tuhoe decided to declare their independence tomorrow (for example) and then were under attack from the state, I have no doubt that they would be defended - that doesn't mean we have to give up our right to criticise their decision to declare independence, or raise questions about what that means for the vast majority of Tuhoe (ie working class Tuhoe).

4:33 pm  
Blogger Asher said...

Just to add something I forgot to make clear in my (already too long) comment:

I think the turn towards (non-statist) Zionism by (predominantly Eastern European, working class, often socialist, Jews) was a massive mistake, and certainly did not offer the best path for their liberation. A better path would have been one without nationalism, working alongside other revolutionary movements for human (rather than ethnic) emancipation, which would obviously entail the destruction of capital and the state.

Of course, many Jews did take that path (the huge Jewish anarchist communities in London and New York being examples).

Likewise, for Tuhoe (and Maori in general), linking up with other struggles for human (not ethnic) liberation is key for them to attain true autonomy. That doesn't mean losing their culture, denying their heritage or anything like that - but rather acknowledging our common humanity.

5:00 pm  
Blogger Jared Davidson said...

Thank you Asher for your comments. Hopefully Scott can reply in a manner suitable for comradely discussion.

5:00 pm  
Blogger maps said...

Thanks for the comments folks. I can't respond in to all of them at the moment, but I just wanted to try to pin down the position that Jared puts forward, and also ascribes to Olly.

Jared says that 'no one is disputing that an autonomous Tuhoe or an independent Samoa is not an improvement on what came before'.
But Jared goes on to say that, if it exists within capitalism, national independence is 'self-defeating'.

Don't these two statements contradict each other? Samoa is independent, but it is (mostly) part of the capitalist world. It is post-colonial, but certainly not post-capitalist.

So has the national independence Samoa won as a result of the Mau movement's long struggle been self-defeating? Is it an improvement on what came before or not?

My position is that, whilst Samoa has many problems, and while many of these problems are the result of that fact that it is effectively 'plugged in' to the periphery of capitalism, as a small dependant economy, the nation's independence is a huge improvement on what came before it.

And it is not only the absence of the bad practices of the former colonial powers that makes independent Samoa progressive - the national liberation movement bequeathed the country with some positive features, too. One is the retention of much of the land in collective title. Another is the wide autonomy that individual villages have, reflected in the special parliament that represents them alongside the Westminster-style parliament.

These achievements might seem like trifles, set next to the glorious vision of an anarchist communist utopia - but just ask an Aboriginal Australian or a Tuhoe from the coastal regions confiscated in 1866 whether they would trade places with someone from Upolu or Savaii.

It would be good if members of the Pakeha far left were able to acknowledge the positive features that exist in indigenous nations like Samoa, despite the negative influence of capitalist economics and economic dependence on those countries.

5:06 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


'Tuhoe are not allowed a state, Pakeha are.'

The State, which is a means of protecting the privileges of an elite minority (be it pakeha, Tuhoe, Palestinian, Iraqi or whatever) is not something I think anyone is 'allowed.' It is forced on us as a necessary means of maintaining the present mode of production.


5:10 pm  
Blogger Jared Davidson said...

"Jared says that 'no one is disputing that an autonomous Tuhoe or an independent Samoa is not an improvement on what came before'.
But Jared goes on to say that, if it exists within capitalism, national independence is 'self-defeating'.

Don't these two statements contradict each other? "

No they don't. Some bosses are better than others, but they're still the boss : )

5:16 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It would be good if members of the Pakeha far left were able to acknowledge the positive features that exist in indigenous nations like Samoa, despite the negative influence of capitalist economics and economic dependence on those countries."

The point though Maps is that these gains are a double-edged sword when they encourage unity between bosses and workers based on an abstract 'national' community.

5:24 pm  
Blogger Jared Davidson said...

"These achievements might seem like trifles, set next to the glorious vision of an anarchist communist utopia - but just ask an Aboriginal Australian or a Tuhoe from the coastal regions confiscated in 1866 whether they would trade places with someone from Upolu or Savaii."

It seems to me that your issues are with having a vision beyond reform. Throwing around the word 'utopia' to shadow the constructive and positive aspects of having an anarchist vision AND praxis isn't helpful. Another quote:

""Positivism, modernism and the Cartesian world view has lead to the de-emphasising of visionary thinking. The rationalist, pragmatic paradigm easily dismisses it as 'unrealistic' and impractical...

The importance of an alternative vision is not necessarily that it will ever be achieved in full, rather it serves as an inspiration for change, and as a framework for interpreting and seeking change from the perspective of medium and long term goals, instead of being purely reactive. It allows one to seek an alternative, whereas purely reactive 'problem-solving' and it's insistence on being realistic mean being permanently imprisoned within the existing dominant paradigm. If we are to change the world we must be able to say 'I have a dream' and seek to share and live that vision of a better world."

5:25 pm  
Blogger maps said...

I agree with you, Jared - visionary thinking is important. EP Thompson used to baffle some of the staider parts of the British left by quoting William Blake from the podium at political rallies. Blake's poetic vision of the world contrasted with the narrow, pragmatic economism put forward by other speakers at those rallies.

But why can't our 'vision' come not from (or not only from) any European society or Western intellectual tradition, but instead from the place where we all live - the Pacific? I find the political and intellectual traditions of the Pacific far more visionary than anything produced in the northern hemisphere. I find Samoa (for example) far more inspiring than any socialist or anarchist utopia.

For me, the politics of the Kingitanga, of Parihaka, of the Mau movement, and of Walter Lini, and the intellectual traditions represented by Tonga's 'Artenisi movement and by palangi intellectuals like Smithyman or Judith Binney, who have broken with Eurocentric ways of seeing the world and accomodated Polynesian as well as European culture, are what is truly visionary.

There is a sense in which all the commenters here on Tuhoe and Samoan and other Polynesian liberation movements are looking at these movements in the light of political and intellectual traditions that come from outside the Pacific: traditions like Marxism and anarchism and liberalism. What about beginning in the Pacific, instead of treating the Pacific as a site where theories created elsewhere are 'applied'?

That's my five cents' worth anyway. I've got to get back to the launch of Ellen's book and score some more free booze! I'll reply to Asher's very interesting comments tomorrow. I do think this is a useful debate.

6:50 pm  
Anonymous Lentil said...

This article doesn't accurate record the indymedia discussion at all.

Olly's comment about "capital not giving a damn about cultural practice" was in response to a comment by me about Maori culture and capitalism, not a comment by Paru.

The "Tuhoe interlocutor" that you waste so much praise on, Paru Kiore, is nothing more than the typical Maori bully with the single minded arrogance that he should get what he wants. He's not interested in rationale debate. He doesn't give a shit about other points of view. He probably knows less about Tuhoe history then you do. Don't waste your words on him.



7:19 pm  
Blogger Jared Davidson said...

Hi Scott, I agree that this is a debate worth having. And I recognise that a lot of theory is Eurocentric, which does throw up a lot of interesting issues for the left in Aotearoa: something not entirely resolved.

8:54 pm  
Blogger Dave Brown said...

Unfortunately capitalism doesnt leave us the option of liberating ourselves short of socialism, as has been pointed out.
The main flaw in Scott's position is that what were once nonclass modes of production cannot be reproduced and provide a shortcut to socialism. We have to unite workers in all modes of production however more or less integrated into world capitalism to smash all the ruling classes.
The 'polynationalism' theory in Latin America divides workers in the interest of national bourgeoisies. Bolivia is a better test case than Venezuela. Since the revolution in 1952 based on the miners, politics has gone backwards, ending up in 'polynationalism' where Morales and the rich peasants lord it over the poor peasants, marginalising the miners vanguard and allowing the white ruling class in the East to retain the best land and mineral wealth.
For those who may be interested in a our take on the national question in the Pacific here is "Towards of Socialist Polynesia" produced by Communist Left (forerunner of CWG) in 1982. http://www.geocities.com/communistworker/tsp.html

12:44 am  
Blogger ryan bodman said...

Great post Maps, and interesting discussion. Though I find it interesting that you should suggest examples like Walter Lini (by which I assume you mean the role he played in the Vanuatu independence movement) and the Kingitanga, or 'Atenisi (which is a transliteration of Athens) movement. All of these, are they not, are either attempts to replicate a western structure, or are deeply inspired by western thought. Like anarchism and socialism. I suggest next time you go to the islands you check out some of the village organisational structures. For example the ni-vans have chief nakamal which is an example of direct democracy and consensus which we could learn a lot from. That's not to say it's perfect, but it is a truly pacific example of social organisation.

7:55 am  
Blogger maps said...

Hi Ryan,

it was a bit lazy for me to throw all those movements and thinkers together in a sentence - I was just trying to draw attention to the fact that, contrary to what many Pakeha leftists and intellectuals so often seem to think, the Pacific is not some intellectual wasteland into which ideas have to imported wholly formed from the northern hemisphere. All of the movements and thinkers I mentioned seem to me to have been attempts to fuse aspects of non-Pacific and Pacific thought and practice.

The 'Artenisi movement seems to me to be an attempt to bring together Western and Pacific thought.
Although the school's founder Futa Helu was a classicist who brought the Socratic method to the kava circles of Tonga, he also pioneered the teaching of Tongan Studies and the analysis of Tongan literature and dance. He was a big critic of the University of the South Pacific and many other Pacific educational institutions because he considered that they were too Westernised and too focused on economic outcomes.

In the work of some of the second generation of the 'Artenisi movement we can see a development of Helu's attempt to bring Western and Tongan thought into a dialogue. Okusitino Mahina, for example, takes the Tongan traditions of oral history and song and tries to show how they contain an implicit philosophy which is just as sophisticated and interesting as the thought of the great Western thinkers.

Thanks to Helu's fascination with Heraclitus, the 'Artenisi school has also had a knowledge of dialectics that would put most antipodean Marxist outfits to shame!

8:55 am  
Blogger Jared Davidson said...

"I was just trying to draw attention to the fact that, contrary to what many Pakeha leftists and intellectuals so often seem to think, the Pacific is not some intellectual wasteland into which ideas have to imported wholly formed from the northern hemisphere."

I don't think this is the case at all. I think a lot of anarchists would recognise that indigenous forms of decision making have been close to a lot of what they advocate. Although this isn't what Olly or previous comments were concerned with: rather that the existence of these indigenous forms within capitalism shouldn't be an end in themselves, for the reasons others here have pointed out more succinctly than myself.

9:28 am  
Anonymous mike said...

One of the strong points of the "Polynesian mode of production", not debated here, is that it doesn't require factories or other forms of soul-destroying work. Why is it that no one on the "orthodox Left" - socialist, communist, whatever - ever seems to make abolishing the factory a priority?

Granted, they want "us all" to own them and reap the benefits, but some poor bastards are still expected to waste their lives in them.

In my view, if people become more self-sufficient in a subsistence way - individually and communally -deep political change becomes more possible. They don't have the capitalist threat of "work or starve" hanging over them.

An aspect of NZ's militant unionist past that has never been discussed, to my knowledge, is that most workers used to have backyard vege gardens and chook coops. In the event of a strike they could hold out longer, couldn't be starved into submission quite so easily.

Also, for many Maori, traditional forms of food provision were a great advantage during the Great Depression and ever since.

These approaches provide a very real way to short-circuit the economic blackmail of capitalist wage slavery and commodification of basic needs.

9:51 am  
Blogger Chris Trotter said...

This whole discussion has, I believe, failed to grasp the true meaning of Olly's comment about Capitalism not giving a damn about cultural practice.

Scott interpreted the comment as meaning that capitalists were unaffected by cultural practices - which is clearly untrue.

But that is not how I interpreted Olly's comment. I believe he meant that the cultural practices of the peoples capitalists encountered during the historical process of colonisation were ruthlessly brushed aside, or, when those peoples resisted, crushed by military force.

Certainly, that was the fate of the Kingitanga and Parihaka.

Tuhoe, in their own terms, have an excellent case for reclaiming the lands and resources that were stripped from them by the Settler State. The point, of course, is that this matter will not be decided "in their own terms" but in terms acceptable to the New Zealand State.

John Key's arbitrary scuttling of the Tuhoe's bid for "Mana Motuhake" is a stark warning to all those on the Left who believe that unitary states can be dismantled by anything less decisive than mass ethnic defection (as in Yugoslavia) or by the straightforward application of force majeure.

Since Maori are currently too few in number to successfully defect, and lack the military wherewithal to force the situation, the New Zealand Capitalist State will go on "not giving a damn about cultural practice" well into the foreseeable future.

10:16 am  
Blogger maps said...

'I think a lot of anarchists would recognise that indigenous forms of decision making have been close to a lot of what they advocate'

But isn't this statement a symptom of the problem I've been discussing? The very word indigenous, which we all use, with greater or lesser sensitivity, is fairly Eurocentric, or at least imperiocentric, in that it lumps thousands of different cultures into one concept. While it can make sense in certain contexts - for instance, when we talk about the 'indigenous people of Aotearoa' it is clear what we are talking about - in others it seems only to obfuscate.

I can't see how it makes any
sense to talk of 'indigenous forms of decision making', because there are so many societies, with so many different practices, covered by the term indigenous.

Even within Polynesian societies, which all descend from one fairly homogenous parent group, there were quite different ways of organising and making decisions, even before the arrival of Europeans into the Pacific.

Do anarchist methods of decision-making really have much in common, for instance, with those of Tongan culture, where traditionally rank rather than the force of an argument settles a dispute?

I think that the willingness of some contemporary Pakeha leftists to claim an affinity between their politics and practcies and those of 'indigenous' people has more to do with Western Romanticism than with anything else. And the romantic myth of the noble savage is just the flipside of that other Western caricature, the bestial indigene. (George Steinmetz has a brilliant book called The Devil's Handwriting which analyses German colonial policy in Samoa, Namibia, and China, and shows how the two myths were both employed by administrators. The Samoans got to be the noble savages, while the Herero people of Namibia were bestial indigenes.)

I think it's necessary to use the work of people like Futa Helu and Judith Binney, who have studied individual Pacific cultures rigorously, rather than generalise about an imaginary single 'indigenous' people.

10:23 am  
Blogger maps said...

mike: I don't agree with your vision of a return to a pre-industrial world. I'm thankful for many of the things modernity has given us - good medicine and health care, speedy communications, the computer I am typing this message on - even if I am critical of some of the forms it has taken.

As I understand it (and someone like dave might like to correct me if he thinks I'm wrong) the Polynesian mode of production mixes collective ownership of resources (eg land, the tools used to work the land and so on), collective labour, and access to the market. Goods are sold on the market, but their production is based on non-capitalist forms of organisation.

The Polynesian mode of production is in some ways a misleading term, because similar modes of production have often existed in non-Polynesian societies. Walter Lini's concept of 'Melanesian socialism' and the co-operative economy established on East Timor by Fretelin in 1973-74 both made use of similar forms. Marx studied the Russian peasant commune, which seems likewise to have produced collectively for the market, and concluded it could serve as the basis for agrarian socialist development in that country.

I don't think that the Polynesian mode of production is inherently pre-industrial. You could potentially organise a factory along similar lines. In fact, one could argue that some of the occupied factories in Argentina have operated on roughly similar lines. They have been taken over by workers, but they produce for the market (the Venezuelan occupied factories, on the other hand, seem now to be protected from market forces by state subsidies and guaranteed prices - and this seems to me to be a good thing).

Nor do I suggest the Polynesian mode of production is inherently good. Although it seems hard to dispute the argument that the Waikato Kingdom and Parihaka were dynamic, historically progressive societies which were cruelly broken up by invasion, the sad fact is that the Polynesian mode of production was also employed on the Chatham Islands, after the conquest of the Moriori in 1835 by Ngati Mutunga and Ngati Tama. Those Taranaki iwi used Moriori slave labour to grow potatoes in huge quantities for the markets in Port Nicholson, Auckland, Sydney, and even San Francisco. The result was genocide.

I am not, then, trying to fetishise the Polynesian mode of production as some sort of ideal way of organising a society. It can be used in different ways, for different ends. (Despite what the creators of utopias might argue, I don't believe there is any single eternally correct way of organising a society.)

11:06 am  
Blogger maps said...


The importance of the Polynesian mode of production is that it is a form of organisation which has emerged in a series of societies in opposition to the encorachment of imperialism and the threat of dispossession, and it has actually worked in helping prevent dispossession and the loss of independence by members of those societies. It may have been quashed in the Waikato and at Parihaka, as Chris points out, but it continues to be a model for organisations like the hapu-run business I mentioned in my post. And it is still going strong in societies like Samoa and Tonga, despite the best efforts of the IMF and leaders like the neo-liberal King Tupou IV. Try going to either of those countries and setting up a business, and you'll soon find that the rules and practices and cultural attitudes businesses can take for granted here in NZ do not apply.

Given the fact that, unlike anarcho-syndicalist unions or workers' soviets or Trotskyist parties, the Polynesian mode of production actually has a history and a reality in this part of the world, it seems to me a real alternative to neo-liberalism, and - if it a whole series of other factors came into play - a possible starting-point for post-capitalist economic and social development.

Here's a link to Marx's letter to Vera Zasulich about the Russian peasant commune and its potential as a starting-point for post-capitalist development:

11:06 am  
Blogger Jared Davidson said...

This is getting off topic, but I would like to point out that you've read A LOT from that one line of mine. And I actually agree with your comment.

Firstly, while I said that some anarchists would see forms in past societies that are similar in practice to modern concepts of direct democracy, community assemblies etc, I didn't say that all past societies were examples of this, or that all anarchist would agree. I'm actually of the opinion that anarchism as an organised practice/movement originated in the First International of 1860's and would agree with you about the problems of trying to claim a heritage that diverges on a number of key points.

The argument that anarchism can be traced back into antiquity, or is a universal aspect of society or the psyche is disputed and convincingly disproved in a new book called Black Flame: "not only is it the case that anarchism did not exist in the premodern world, it is also the case that it could not have, for it is rooted in the social and intellectual revolutions of the modern world."

So again, I agree with you. On another side point, the advantage of anarchist decentralisation would allow communities of whatever geographical/cultural group to decide and practice whatever forms of organisation would suit them. But again, within the broader capitalist society we need to go much further than self-managed communities.

11:35 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

allow communities of whatever geographical/cultural group to decide and practice whatever forms of organisation would suit them...


what if a churchy community democratically decided they want to be led by their minister/ban fornication/teach their kids creationism in school?

'decentralisation' is what allowed segregation to exist for so long down there...

11:42 am  
Anonymous mike said...


Maybe I painted too rosy a picture. I was not intending to promote a "utopia", in fact, the opposite, a practical course of action. A gradual strengthening of independent means of survival.

But I notice you don't address my central point about industrial work as soul-destroying, whether it comes in a captialist or socilist guise. I am typing on a computer too, but am much less happy about the process by which it arrived on my desk.

Working like robots in a computer factory, day in day out, millions of Chinese people waste their only life.

Will modernity ever get round to addressing this?

I think it was Edward Bond the playwright who said something along the lines of "Our cars are clothed in human skin".

11:58 am  
Blogger Jared Davidson said...

"Given the fact that, unlike anarcho-syndicalist unions or workers' soviets or Trotskyist parties, the Polynesian mode of production actually has a history and a reality in this part of the world..."

This is simply not true. Anarcho-syndicalism has been a strong minority, if not the majority, ideology in numerous worldwide labour movements. Spain aside, the examples of Latin America (FORA and Mexico), Japan, Korea, China, Eastern Europe, Germany, France and the UK all offer concrete examples of a working class putting anarcho-syndicalism into practice in the real world. As recent as 1987 in Spain community assemblies, together with the CNT union, played a pivotal role in winning demands in Puerto Real. And this is an example of how anarcho-syndicalism is broader than pure workerist unionism: it's always had the commune or community as a featured player in it's practice.

I'd recommend you read more about anarcho-syndicalism before writing it off. You'd also learn that different countries put their own spin on anarcho-syndicalism. For example, FORA in Argentina (numerically more powerful than the Spanish CNT) had very interesting takes on industry, the role of unions and the commune/community factor. Damier's new book 'Anarcho-Syndicalism in the 20th Century' would be a good place to start.

12:00 pm  
Blogger Jared Davidson said...

Sorry Maps I apologise, I huts re-read your comment and saw 'this part of the world'. I won't comment now as I'm at work, but NZ actually does have traces of an anarcho-syndicalist past. I was just trawling the Roth papers at Archives on this very topic!

Obviously NZ is not Samoa, but Fiji has quite an interesting union history. Have you read 'Protest and Dissent in the Pacific'? Quite a good section on Fiji c. 1951.

12:08 pm  
Blogger maps said...

Er, Jared, I said anarcho-syndicalism means nothing in 'this part of the world', meaning Polynesia. That's not an attack on anarcho-syndicalism - it's just a fact. I'm interested in looking at forms of organisation that have been a feature of history here - ones that people have evolved to deal with changes they have experienced. It was never possible that anarcho-syndicalism, whatever its merits, would appear in a society like Samoa.

I don't mean to be negative, but it doesn't sound like anarcho-syndicalism is doing much in the northern hemisphere either, if you have to write that 'as recently as 1987' some anarcho-syndicalists ran a popular campaign in Spain. As recently as 1987!? Geesh!

12:11 pm  
Blogger pollywog said...

Another great post Maps and one i have a vested interest in.

My family has a few pockets of land in Samoa i one day hope to return to and farm, live off and help support the family there.

But i was just wondering, I've heard rumours of gov't proposals to appropriate land for sale to private interest if it's not being worked/lived on ?

I've also got 'extended' family with tenuous links to our main bloodline squatting and encroaching on family land to which they are not truly entitled to ?

do you know of likewise examples and what the recourse for appeal/punishment is for polynesians who choose not to exercise traditional collective modes of organization and production ?

Maybe point me towards the laws which govern said actions. I know a lot of it is dealt in house by families/aiga. The thing is, in traditional Samoan culture if you're not sitting at your post in the big house your opinion carries no weight.

and maybe therein lies a problem for Tuhoe living apart from the rohe too, the danger to which broader tribal interests can be usurped by unscrupulous iwi members or favoured partners within the rohe to further commercial enterprises with no recourse for appeal.

The worst example being that oaf of a king Tonga has, as witnessed recently by the comic tragedy of errors that was the Princess Ashika disaster.

12:14 pm  
Blogger Jared Davidson said...

Actually I used 1987 in terms of the Spanish context, in that people often associate it ending in 1939. Currently the IWA has had an upsurge in membership (not that that is an indicator of struggle). Obviously we're in a low point of organised struggle, but things are happening. Solidarity Federation in the UK, as well as Libcom.org, have very good up to date summaries on current struggles. I'd argue that with the failure of Marxism and the current economic climate, anti-authoritarian and anarcho-syndicalist struggle is more relevant than ever.

12:23 pm  
Blogger Dave Brown said...

Some clarifications.
The concept Polynesian Mode of Production was a popularisation by Owen Gager in 'Towards a Socialist Polynesia' [TSP] of the 'Maori Lineage Mode' used by myself and John Macrae in the 'Development of NZ Capitalism' in 1978. http://maximumred.blogspot.com/2006/03/development-of-capitalism-in-nz-part-2.html
The term 'Maori' concretises the term 'Lineage' which was the then Marxist Anthropological term for 'primitive communism' a label appropriated by the white settlers.
In TSP Gager extended the MLMOP to the PMOP to signify that various forms of this mode existed in Polynesia. The literature at the time made it clear that a Lineage mode is pre-class but tends towards a class mode, as the forces of production develop, i.e. a form of 'Tributary' mode which is a preferable term to Marx's 'Asiatic' Mode. One can trace this process in Tonga, Havaii, and even in NZ as the Ngapuhi gained guns and economic power over other iwi. We could even speculate that Polynesian migrations were effects of this process of class formation.
Thus given a rising surplus class emerges in the PMOP and ends in a TMOP.
Second, we say that the imposition of the CMOP "smashes" the PMP. Parihaka is an historical testbed of this process. What is left is not a PMP because most labour is commodified as wage labor though often based on residual subsistence production as a capitalist reserve army.
The prognosis of any 'progressive' development of the remnants of the PMP from its "destruction" in NZ to today is about the same as Lenin's rejection of Marx's Russian commune the the 1880s which was already subordinated to capitalist agriculture.
This is the short version.

12:25 pm  
Blogger maps said...

dave wrote:

'we say that the imposition of the Capitalist Mode Of Production "smashes" the Polynesian Mode Production'

The key word is 'imposition'. Capitalism doesn't simply take root naturally and flourish, like ragwort: it has to be seeded and cultivated and protected by state or colonial forces.

Capitalism was able to flourish in the Waikato and south Taranaki, but in places like Samoa and Tonga its growth was stunted by political opposition, inertia, and the weakness of the state.

In Samoa colonial modernisers tried to enclose the commons and rationalise agriculture; they were met by a rebellion and eventually retreated, granting effective autonomy to the villages outside Apia and allowing the pre-capitalist social structures to remain intact. Today the extremely decentralised nature of Samoan society and the weakness of central government still hamper capitalist development.

In Tonga, where power was far more centralised even in pre-contact times, the monarchy largely suppressed efforts to develop a capitalist mode of production until the 1940s, out of a mixture of self-interest and paternalism. After the war efforts began to create a capitalist class, and Tupou IV eventually embraced right-wing modernisation theory and dreamed of turning his country into another Singapore. But the incompatability of this vision with local culture and institutions meant that a lot of Tupou's business schemes ended up being run by (and bailed out by) the state, and the new bourgeois class that Tupou had had educated abroad became a managerial class instead. Today in Tongaa capitalist economy dominated by the state co-exists uneasily with a pre-capitalist economy.

In their very different ways, Tonga and Samoa are hybrid societies, which combine pre-capitalist and capitalist features. That's why the IMF is on their case demanding the reforms - crucially, the freeing up of laws surrounding foreign ownership of land and resources - which will make capitalist development easier.

12:55 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John Key makes racist crack about Tuhoe:


1:12 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

in the interests of historical progress sometimes we have to support capitalism coming in to a society and dissolving the old social relations into air thus creating a working class that can create socialism

critical support for the international monetary fund... comrades?


1:30 pm  
Blogger Edward said...

While I acknowledge what Jared is saying I agree with Maps and think it important in such discussion to steer clear of hijacking indigeneity for political ends.

It seems at one end of the spectrum one person in the article was attempting to argue that 'Maori' were too tribal and hierarchical or socially stratified in the past, and as such would be susceptible to capitalism and elitism if given self-governance today. Beside the inherent eurocentricism, such views are problematic for two reasons. The first is a rather muddled and outdated adoption of culture evolution theory used in the Pacific in prior decades which failed to understand instances of dynamic and fluid social organisation in pre-collonial Pacific societies, especially in NZ. The second is what appears to be a social analogue to biological determinism and a view of history and time as static concepts which cultures and societies are stuck within.

At the other end of the spectrum there are those who seem to try and take hold of indigeneity, or aspects thereof, as exemplars of social organisation analogous to particular western political concepts. As Maps points out, there is a tendency in the language which, while perhaps unconscious, seems to invoke romanticism and visions of the noble savage. Those indigenous cultures which do not fit this category are then discarded as destined to become capitalist institutions for the elite.

I have a problem with both ends of the spectrum. They seem to me to come from very much a westernised concept of social organisation infused with a hangover from 19th century imperial views of 'other'. I think the enormous variety in both the ways various NZ Maori organised themselves and interacted with others and the ways in which there was both continuity and change through time make it impossible to meaningfully encapsulate 'Maori' into any form of linear cultural theme. I think it is both interesting and useful to study Pacific modes, but any meaningful characterisation or employment of social mode will ultimately come from within those societies themselves rather than the values we ascribe to them. It comes down to apples and oranges.

At any rate, this is a very fascinating and useful discussion and I think most have interesting things to say. I will read on with interest.

2:04 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Olly here again, Chris Trotter wrote:

"But that is not how I interpreted Olly's comment. I believe he meant that the cultural practices of the peoples capitalists encountered during the historical process of colonisation were ruthlessly brushed aside, or, when those peoples resisted, crushed by military force."

Thanks for pointing this out, it is more or less what I meant. To expand a little further, I think cultural practice can be brushed aside using more subtle methods than brute force. Any cash handed out by the govt. would probably come with strings attached, I seriously doubt I am the first person to suggest this.

This discussion has spiraled far beyond my comprehension since I last checked it this morning, so despite being the one to spark it with my IMC comments a few weeks ago I am now going to duck out.


2:52 pm  
Anonymous Quoth the Raven said...

Good post. As an anarchist I find the extremes of our extremist movement inc anarcho-communism and anarcho-capitalists can be at times rather odious. I always like to think if it's anarcho it's more anarchistic than anarchist. Besides intra-anarchist factionalism what I really wanted to say I think Venezuela is a poor example of the kind of hybrid economy you want to see. Take the following (sorry for the long quote) Que se vayan todos "This massive campaign of strike-breaking, union scabbing, and union-busting, which would have done Frick or Carnegie proud, is passed off today by compliant State Socialists in the U.S. as if it were a triumph for the working class. Meanwhile, in Argentina and then increasingly throughout South America, workers began to reclaim abandoned factories, and to run them under participatory, rotating worker self-management (autogestión); when Chávez and his revolutionary bureaucracy took notice of the trend, they started to heavily promote their own favored alternative: government expropriation of factories and the institution of “co-management” (cogestión), in which workers’ associations pay for the government’s help by ceding a substantial share of ownership (often up to 51%) and management (often filled by political appointees) to the Venezuelan government. The excuse for this gutting of worker management in favor of state bossism is that by putting the factory partly under government command, co-management ensures that it will produce in the interests of the “public” or the “nation” — as those interests are defined by detached government bureaucrats, rather than by the actual members of the public or the nation who happen to be engaged in doing all the work of making, buying, or using the factory’s products.

When Chávez, former leader of a military coup d’etat, rose to power, he took it upon himself to send out the military in virtually every one of his government welfare projects, and rather than altering, containing, or abolishing the existing military and the state security forces, he and his bureaucracy have taken deliberate efforts to militarize the civilian police forces and integrate paramilitary training and discipline throughout the government schooling system that they have been so assiduously expanding and remaking in their own Bolivarian image…

Or, in other words, under the name and banner of a “socialist” and “revolutionary” movement, the emerging Boli-bureaucracy has used subsidy, co-optation, conversion, and violent repression to devour any and every independent project or association, whenever, wherever, and however it could get them into its ravenous maw. All too many Potemkin-tour “Progressives” and authoritarian Leftists have deluded themselves into believing that this process of the endlessly self-aggrandizing State bureaucracy engorging itself on the living remains of industrial and civil society, is something that Leftist, grassroots, and populist tendencies ought for some reason to support; the Libertarian Left — i.e., the real, anarchistic Left, unencumbered by the reactionary apparatus of Authority — knows better than that."

3:24 pm  
Blogger maps said...

Hi Pollywog,

the land question in Samoa seems very complex and I'm afraid I can't claim any insight into it.

When I heard Samoans talk about the way land was distributed and read about the issue I was reminded of EP Thompson's writings on the customary laws that governed the countryside in eighteenth century England. Thompson said every farm was like a little world, with its own set of rules (the retired law lecturer and poet Bernard Brown told me that he confronted Thompson about this statement when the great man visited Auckland in 1987, and told him that there was in fact a different set of rules for every field, not every farm!).

My understanding is that quite a bit of good coastal land, especially on the north coast of Upolu, was alienated during the late nineteenth century - this is where a lot of the biggest plantations were established. The land which was never alienated, and remains under customary title,
seems to be allocated through a complex, almost invisible process. Although customary title is protected by national law - there is apparently a provision in the constitution saying that any piece of legislation affecting customary title requires the support of two-thirds of parliament - the actual decisions over how the land is used seem to take place at the local level. Once a family or village member who has tenure over a piece of land dies, the extended family or the village convenes and allocates the land to somebody else. This is obviously likely to be quite a political process.

I'm sure you're right when you say that you don't have much influence over the process in New Zealand. A friend of mine who spent a lot of time in Niue trying to set up a business reported that Niueans often had to return home to sit in on meetings relating to the use of village and family land. It seems as though e mails and cellphone calls don't quite cut it!

Is the recent law you refer to the Land Titles Registration Act? This measure seems to have been an attempt by supporters of the 'modernisation' of the Samoan economy to break up the old collectively owned blocks and allow foreign buyers and investors in. The Act was apparently worded in a way that was very hard to understand, but its critics interpreted it as shifting ownership of land from the larger group - either the extended family or the village - to the individual. I understand that comparisons were made to the way that the Native Land Court shifted so much New Zealand land from customary to freehold title in the nineteenth century, thus helping dispossess many Maori.

The law caused an outcry after it was proposed, and a United Front of organisations campaigned against it, holding big public meetings. Eventually it was revised, so that it specifically excluded land held under customary title from its provisions. I'm sure the IMF was less than happy...

3:29 pm  
Blogger maps said...

Hi Quoth the Raven,

I haven't kept up with events in Venezuela over the past year, to be honest, but I did do some research on the revolution back in 2005 and 2006, and I also looked into the texts produced by the anarchist group you cite. They really did seem quite unbalanced in their views to me - totally negative about every feature of Chavez's programme, even things like the land distribution programme, and prepared to march with the right-wing opposition on the day back in 2002 when it launched its coup. I wouldn't take what they say at face value, though as I say I can't comment on recent events in Venezuela.

I wrote an essay on the origins and first few years of the Bolivarian revolution, which turned up in the short-lived Red and Green journal and is online here:

3:38 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

that quote that the anarchist guy put up about venezuela and the bosses lockout of 2003 is pure bullshit. the lockout was not a workers but a bosses strike, and the workers who broke it were not scabs. it was an attempt by a labour bureaucracy to crush the venezuelan economy. workers who wanted to keep the oil industry going were targetted with petrol bombs. if an anarchist group is lining up in defence of a lockout by the bosses it is on the wrong track.

3:48 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'I always like to think if it's anarcho it's more anarchistic than anarchist'

u want chaos?

4:01 pm  
Anonymous Quoth the Raven said...


They are not defending the lockout. You simply haven't bothered to engage honestly in reading the piece. The point is not about the lockout it is the scuttling of any chance of worker self-management at PDVSA. A quote from a piece on Al Jazeera recently I thinks sums up Chavez's time "The oil company has become the state".

maps - Whatever the bias of the piece (and every single piece that is critical of Venezuela is according to defenders of Chavez is ipso facto biased) the general thrust of the critique of the co-management system as opposed to the self-determination of the workers remains. Chavez made hay whilst the sun shined (the oil boom), however the inevitable economic consequences of an overly dirigiste economy are beginning to eventuate.

6:04 pm  
Blogger maps said...

Well, Quoth, I guess you could oppose co-management between the state and workers at a factory because of the form you think it has taken in this or that workplace, or you could oppose co-management because the very concept clashes with your belief-system. I strongly suspect that group of Venezuelan anarchists would oppose any sort of co-management as some sort of betrayal of revolutionary purity. I remember reading them denouncing the redistribution of land to peasants simply because the state was doing the redistributing! I don't think the peasants who got land would have had the same objection.

I'm not in a position to be able to pass judgment on the present state of co-management in Venezuela, but I do see the logic in having the state involved in running an occupied factory, for the benefit of the workers, who can have their products shielded from the market (subsidies, guaranteed prices, help finding export markets abroad), and so that the wider community can benefit from and have a say in the running of the factory. I don't see how a society made up of autonomous economic units working in isolation from another could function. I have the same problem with the anarchist group's claims that Chavez's expansion of the health sector is reactionary, because it was the work of the state. Thank goodness for state health care and big hoary health bureaucracies, I say, as a regular patient of the system here! So I support the idea of co-management, and of the use of the state to remould society in general, but have to refrain from saying how successful it has been in Venezuela. I'm sure that's enough to make me a servant of the bourgeoisie and a Chavist-fascist, or some equivalent phrase, in the eyes of that rather fanatical anarchist outfit!

If you read my essay on the orgins and early years of the Bolivarian revolution you'll see that I regard all the arguments about whether Chavez is God or the Devil as a diversion from serious analysis.

6:40 pm  
Anonymous Quoth the Raven said...

So I support the idea of co-management, and of the use of the state to remould society in general, but have to refrain from saying how successful it has been in Venezuela.

I'll cut to brass tax and address this statement. You are arguing for the top-down imposition of your preferred order onto society. You cannot simply plan society. Order emerges in society. The idea of using the state to "remould society" is repulsive to me. What is the state? The state is simply an entity with a monopoly on the "legitimate" use of violence in a given territory. As Gandhi said "The State represents violence in a concentrated and organized form." The state is always going to be used to further the interests of some at the expense of others, it's always going to used by various groups in society to exploit each other, it's always going to breed corruption, and it's always going to employ violence. These are simply inevitabilities of the set of human relations that make up the state. The inevitable result of ever increasing state power can be seen by any cursory glance at the history of the twentieth century. Anarchists say these particular human relations are not necessary that centralised authority is not necessary that hierarchies are not necessary. The state is not benevolent. It can't be made benevolent. It can't be made neutral. The contradictions arise sooner or later. In Venezuela we now see corruption trials taking place, we begin to see the economic failings, we see strikes being broken up by the military and strikers arrested and we see the creeping erosion of liberties.

8:04 pm  
Blogger maps said...

Well, that's why you're an anarchist and I'm not, comrade! Not all states are the same. Not all bourgeois states are the same. I'll take the New Zealand state over the Nazi German state, for instance. And not everything the state does has the same end. The public health system in New Zealand is in large part the result of left-wing campaigns for the amelioration of suffering, and has positive consequences for many Kiwis; the SIS has different origins, and does not have contribute to social wellbeing. I didn't feel oppressed yesterday when the state paid three hundred dollars for my health care.

I can't comment on very recent developments in Venezuela, but in my essay I give a number of examples where the state responded to popular demands and did things which improved the lives of members of the Bolivarian movement - the liberation of hundreds of thousands of acres of land from the latifundio and its distribution to landless peasants is one example. I don't think it
is possible to get rid of a state in a modern society - even in anarchist-run Catalonia in the mid-'30s a de facto state existed with prisons and bureaucracy and so on.
But I don't think we're going to agree on this...

8:47 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the articulation-of-modes-of-production literature there is a tendency to treat conceptual structures as if they had lives of their own. Thus modes of production are sometimes portrayed as meeting, intertwining, and reproducing like giant organisms animated by ineluctable laws of motion. But these structures and categories are primarily the products of thought. As such, they cannotdo anything, and they possess no motivational capacity whatsoever. They are simply analytical tools, more-or-less useful in explaining how and why history unfolded in the way it did.

9:35 pm  
Anonymous Quoth the Raven said...

I support land reform and most anarchists do as well. Venezuela is an interesting experiment. The drop in oil revenue has shown the emperor has no clothes. Venezuela is in the midst of stagflation now. It is expected to have a another quarter of negative growth and inflation hit 5% in the last month alone. There have been blackouts and water shortages. You may or may not know about the currency devaluation earlier in the year. As it always goes government intervention in the economy requires more government intervention in the economy to remedy it's own ills. Or as someone once put it government is a disease masquerading as its own cure. Chavez is of course blaming the bourgeoisie (it would be Kulaks or wreckers if it were another time and another country) for the failure of his economic planning and economic planning is always doomed to failure. The wreckers include dozens of butchers who were arrested recently for raising prices. Those very policies you cited above, price fixing, subsidies, are the major part of the problem. On striking workers here's an example (from a suitably non-anarchist source) SIDOR is where the strike breaking occurred.

10:10 pm  
Blogger Dave Brown said...

Maps the Island states where land is still collectively owned does not mean that they are an alternative to capitalism. They serve as labour reserves providing subsistence to keep wages down, supplying migrant workers and some cash crops to capitalist markets.In TSP we called these 'bantustans' andn say that South Africa shows us the future of the Pacific. Where the Islands offer something of value like timber in Fiji they spark local factional wars to get the franchise for imperialist firms.

The fuss over the Tuhoe getting the Urewera is because suddenly there is the prospect of mineral wealth in them there national parks. If it was just a forest, Tuhoe would have got co-management. But of course Key has to make a racist joke to rev up his rednecks so he can find a justification for not allowing the Tuhoe to own anything of value.

On the laws of farms and fields. What's wrong with the laws of cells?
Marx made a lot of the commodity as the cell of capitalism, and worked out a pretty good account of where we come from and where we are going. Not sorry if that upsets some of the postmodernists here.

11:30 pm  
Blogger maps said...

Dave, you seem to arguing that collectively owned land and pre-capitalist forms only exist in parts of the Pacific because the bourgeoisie of countries like New Zealand and Australia want them to. The persistence of the commons has nothing to do, you seem to suggest, with the agency of Pacific peoples. You can only maintain such a view of the Pacific if you ignore virtually every anti-imperialist movement there over the past hundred and fifty years. The Mau, the Ba rebellion, the war in Bougainville, even the campaign I mentioned recently against the breakup of customary title land in Samoa - these were all responses to attempts by capitalism to get its hands on land and resources held in common. The Polynesian mode of production thing really needs a proper post...

Quoth, wasn't the Sidor strike that was attacked by a local police militia in 2006 called to demand the nationalisation of the plant? And didn't the long-running campaign for renationalisation of which this strike was a part eventually force Chavez's government to nationalise Sidor? I'm happy to agree with your criticism of the attack on the strikers in 2006, but I wonder whether you shared in the celebrations of the workers of Sidor when their mill finally was nationalised?

If Venezuela is suffering from staglflation, then this seems to me to be a positive rather than negative thing, given the global recession right now. Stagflation, ie the combination of wage rises and rises in the cost of living, occurs in response to Keynesian stimulus policies that counter a recession by keeping wages up. Stagflation was a fact of life in Britain and some other Western countries in the '70s, when the unions were strong and could stop the bosses paying for economic crisis with steep wage and social spending cuts. It disappeared in the '80s when Thatcher and other leaders broke the unions and cut wages and social spending. I expect that, if the austerity measures their governments have planned go ahead, Greece and Britain will suffer deflation rather than stagflation this year. Venezuela is better off with the stagflation caused by steady or rising labour costs in a recession than with deflation caused by neo-liberal austerity.

11:57 pm  
Anonymous Quoth the Raven said...

maps - Whatever the reasons for the strike, you either support the right of workers to strike or you don't. If you do then you condemn the strike breaking and arrest of unionists by the Venezuelan government. At the heart of the matter I believe the workers want the yoke of bosses and management removed and to be able to manage their own affairs. Not to have new bosses from the state and its parasitic bureaucracy placed like a millstone around their necks.

Stagflation is not a positive. You talk of wages rising, but high inflation only eats away at the wages and savings of workers. Whilst European and other South American economies have returned to growth Venezuela's economy is contracting. No matter how redistributionist the state maybe a contracting economy is bad for all. Keeping wages high during a recession is not a Keynesian imperative. In Keynesian theory to counteract "sticky wages" nominal wages are supposed to rise to fool workers into accepting lower real wages as prices rise. You forget to mention the high unemployment throughout the seventies as a result of Keynesian policies and the corollary of high public debt. As much as you may dislike them there is little escaping the austerity measures. Take Greece for instance if they repudiated their debt the austerity measures would still be necessary. Even Keynesian Krugman understands that.

1:16 pm  
Anonymous Quoth the Raven said...

I might add, just quickly, that real wages in Venezuela have been declining recently.

4:38 pm  
Blogger Carey said...



8:47 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

What is the difference between anarchism and communism?

10:16 pm  
Anonymous Fydd said...

This is an interesting discussion. I agree with my old ultra-verbose sparring partner Dr Hamilton that a most of the Pakeha dominated far left overlook the specifics of Maori culture, and see the world through eurocentric ways. Fair point. But I think he pushes the point too far, and misrepresents people like Olly in the process.

Specifically, I think Scott seems to know a bit about Tuhoe in the 1860s and 1870s, but seems to know little after that (correct me if am wrong). I think Tuhoe have a long standing attempt to come to grips with capitalism in particular, and to experiment with capitalism (out of material necessity) in different forms since at least the 1860s, and to mix capitalism with their traditionally communal culture.

I'm no expert on Tuhoe history. I don't pretend to know it, i'm just a keha, and what I know is just a glimpse from the outside.

I'll illustrate my point with a story from Rua's 'new Jerusalem' at Maungapohatu, an attempt by 500-600 Tuhoe to revitalise themselves from 1907. This is something i wrote for a blog entry for a broader audience than a few far lefties, so apologies if it reads like a basic bit of writing.

Rua Kenana was a millenarian prophet leader from Te Urewera, a remote mountainous and forested area in the North East of the North Island. From 1907, Rua attempted to build a ‘New Jerusalem’ at Maungapohatu, right in the spiritual heart of Te Urewera after his iwi, Tuhoe, had suffered from a series of famines, food shortages, and rampant diseases in the 1890s and early 1900s, which can be seen as all resulting from the loss of their best resources to government and settler capitalists.

There's much of interest in this community: the way they pooled resources for everyone’s benefit, the way they distributed food freely, and worked the land co-operatively, their suspicion of money, their antipathy to the state, and how they tried to mix the best of European and Maori culture (Rua was no traditionalist).

It has been said that Rua’s community resembled that of the utopian socialists, and has echoes in the European peasant millenarian movements written about in the swashbuckling novel Q and Norman Cohn’s less enthusiastic The Pursuit of the Millenium, as well as many other authors.

But that does that mean Rua is beyond the pale in terms of criticism? As Mark Derby writes in his book The Prophet and the Policeman (the prophet being Rua, and the policeman the infamous Ulsterman John Cullen, who raided Maungapohatu in 1916 after, sadly, having many successes in suppressing revolutionary syndicalist workers) there is a need to go beyond the uncritical adulation he now receives – see, for example, in Vincent Ward’s film Rain of the Children. A lot of this history is driven by Pakeha (white) guilt. Derby points to Rua’s personal wealth and his fleet of Cadillac cars as an example.

In 1925, there is a great example of how Rua used his authority to get work done. Following a typhoid outbreak in Maungapohatu which killed a few people, Rua sought advice on how to avoid such a catastrophe again. Recommendations included pulling down houses and building cleaner, more sanitary ones, building latrines, as well as cleaning wells, and so forth. Yet the marae committee which had just been formed to help with health matters at Maungapohatu did not want to pull down the wharepuni (sleeping houses). So what did Rua do? Irene Paulger, the first teacher at the ‘Native’ Primary School at Maungapohatu recounts:

(to be cont)

1:51 pm  
Anonymous Fydd said...

"At a meeting of his people Rua prophesied that the end of the world would come at the end of the month. First would come a bombardment of stars, and after everything else had fallen from the heavens, then God Himself would appear. His people were told that the only way in which they could save themselves was to build houses (after the method described to Rua by the Health Department) with tin roofs, and on the night of the end of the world, they were to remain indoors.

There was a frantic rush to build the new dwellings, the outdoor conveniences etc. before the time prophesied. This was done. Then came the day itself. The people kept indoors and waited. Next morning the Maoris of Maungapohatu were glad to see that their homes were still standing. The world had not come to an end! However, the coming of God did not occur either, and the people were disappointed. They went to Rua. He told them that as they had built their houses to save themselves, they did not prepare their hearts for the coming of God. Therefore, it was their own fault and not his, Rua's. Still, despite all this, a new, clean, more sanitary village had been built."

One way of getting work done quick. Of course, it was for the greater good of the community, but the working conditions and hours didn’t sound too flash.

Anyway, i'll make some general points to add to the debate in my next comment (only 4,096 characters per comment, jesus christ).

1:55 pm  
Anonymous Fydd said...

General comments:

(1) Tuhoe have an amazing capacity and history of self-organisation that is ofen incompatible with many aspects of capital and the state, and Maungapohatu, despite its limitations, was an inspiring living example of something socialistic;

(2) But their attempts to live outside capitalism have failed. Most Tuhoe themselves have recognised this, and have sought to adapt to the encroachment of capital and the state in their rohe in many different ways. Even Maungapohatu was I think a mixture of capitalism and socialism. It was dependent on the wider capitalist economy in terms of income on seasonal wage-labour (sheep shearing) in places like Gisborne, among other sources of income. The various attempts by Tuhoe to set up self-development ventures in more recent times eg. Tourist ventures, are much of the same mixture from what I hear (though a few have been successful in capitalist terms). (This is not to suggest such ventures are wrong because they are not socialist enough though - they are an understandable product of material necessity, namely lack of jobs and income).

Utopian socialism is doomed to fail (he almost quoteth Marx) because of the reasons already discussed more eloquently than me above. I'd like to stress that this applies to Pakeha as well. for example, the attempts of Pakeha lifestyle anarchists to live outside capitalism (in some form - i'm not sure if they actually have) are parasitic on capital (living off scraps dumpster diving) and the state (the dole), and thus dependent on them for their survival. (However, i don't think lifestyle anarchism is in no way comparable to Maungapohatu - i'm just making a point that Pakeha attempts to live outside capital and the state have likewise failed).

In particular, capital and the state either attempt to crush these experiments, as they did in Maungapohatu, or co-opt them. It can be argued that the Maungapohatu experiment was crushed by the invasion of Czar Cullen in 1916, esp. the resulting court costs, which meant they had to sell off all their livestock and yet were still in debt, though there were many, many other factors.

(3) There were internal contradictions inside the community at Maungapohatu which may have produced tensions and perhaps contributed to its failure without the state's invasion anyway. Namely, the division between a prophetic leader, and the led, which may have led to a proto-class system being developed, and resulting class conflict between the dispossessed and the prophetic elite. I don't doubt Rua was genuinely concerned for Tuhoe's well-being though. From my agnostic keha eyes, and I'm sorry if am being culturally insensitive here, i think it shows prophetic religion is in the end incompatible with collective liberation from capital and the state, and maybe a classless society.

(4) I don't think the clash between Maori and Pakeha, or Tuhoe and the state, was a simple clash of cultures.

Finally, my opinions that i've expressed in these three comments are just that, personal opinions. they in no way, i stress, no way, reflect any authorities I may or may not work for.

1:58 pm  
Blogger Dave Brown said...

It is a contradiction to talk about our society as capitalist, and Maori society adapting to capitalism, and then inveigh against 'Eurocentrism' without saying what it is.
The difference between Marxism and European bourgeois ideology is that the former is scientific whilst the latter is based on a fetishised inverted view of capitalism. I think this latter category is 'Eurocentric' because Europe is the centre of civilisation in this ideology.
Did the critique of this ideology, Marxism, retain Eurocentric aspects. Undoubtedly. But anyone who has read Chapter 33 of Capital 1 on the New Theory of Colonisation will see that the critique therein exposes the material foundation of bourgeois ideology; the belief that capitalism falls from heaven ready made as the pinnacle of human civilisation.

4:10 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maps - please - capitalism is not only imposed by state forces!
To use marxist analysis we could strip it back to the commodity or money. As soon as 'money' is a commodity in Maori (or pacific) lineage society then capitalism has imposed. When maori or pacific people buy & sell commodities (including their labour) capital has penetrated their commun$$$$. (The impact of remittences is missing from the above). Hybrid economy is a falsehood - capital dominates the international organisation of labour. How capital dominates may vary. (could compare Western Samoa with US Samoa?? - US Samoans get to die in Iraq/Afghanistan and military based remittences)
Sure state force will back the impositions of (taxes, rates & power bills).
Where capital cannot extract a profit the 'fragments' of past modes of production - ways of organising the work - can remain. - and can subsidise the costs of reproducing the working class - including reserve army of labour.
Working class support for the 'rights of nations to self-determination' (refer Lenin) must maintain the independence of the working class organisation. While (neo-colonial) nation opposes capital / imperialism it is progressive, as the resistence struggles you mention. When nation is dominated by a capitalist layer, it exploits labour (eg. Sealords , Treelords)and then independent working class will be needed (to support Sealords workers in case of strike / lockout - redundancy).
The communist knows we need a marxist party to provide leadership in that and in constructing a workers state to run & plan the economy.

10:34 am  
Anonymous Quoth the Raven said...

anon@10.34 According to you then pacific island cultures that used shells or stones as a medium of exchange had capitalism imposed on them long before the arrival western colonizers and Marx's interpretation of history was incorrect because society didn't proceed from earlier epochs to capitalism because capitalism was already imposed thousands of years ago when a medium of exchange was in use. What you fail to grasp is that capitalism is not simply the market (exchange, comparative valuation, etc) and the use of medium of exchange. There's something more substantive to it. You can have markets with the used of some medium of exchange and it not be capitalism and you can have markets without, as you say, capital domination of labour.

12:38 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, u take the piss. since this was all about the capitalist epoch, i was making the assumption it was "money" in the capitalist sense connecting to that capitalist world market.

9:13 pm  
Blogger maps said...

Thanks for the comments folks. Good to hear from you Fydd - I've replied to you and Asher in my usual long-winded way in a new post. I've included a hyperlink to a post I did a couple of years ago about the way modern Tuhoe attempts at economic development have been frustrated by the NZ state. Besides the Rua stuff, Judith Binney has a good essay on how the government deliberately neglected Maungapohatu in the decades after WW2, and there's some material in Ranginui Walker's bio of Ngata about frustrated attempts to get Tuhoe dairying going in the '20s.

Anon: I actually disagree with the idea that captalism can spread without a state. I know that Marx's Capital suggests that it can, but in his late research into Russian development he came to the view that accumulation was dependant upon the state. This is probably one of the reasons why volumes two and three of Capital were never finished. Using some of Marx's still-unpublished Russian-language manuscripts, James D White discusses this subject in his book Karl Marx and the Origins of Dialectical Materialism.

2:04 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Richard Taylor asked a question which was not answered.

7:28 pm  
Blogger maps said...

Hi anon, here's an excerpt from another post where I explain the argument re Marx and the state's role in capital accumulation:

It was not until 1996, when James D White published Karl Marx and the Intellectual Origins of Dialectical Materialism, that English-language readers, at least, got a good hint of how Marx’s late work might have entered volumes two and three of Capital, had illness, death, and Engels not intervened.* In the course of a long, meticulous chapter on ‘Marx and the Russians’, White guides his readers’ attention towards an obscure, unfinished text Marx wrote in 1881, around the same time he was wrestling with his letter to Vera Zasulich.

In ‘Notes on the 1861 Reform and Russia’s Post-Reform Development’, Marx struggled to relate his studies of Russian economic development since the emancipation of the peasantry to the schemas laid out in the drafts of volumes two and three of Capital. Marx was particularly preoccupied with the relation of events in Russia to the ‘circuits of capital’ he had sketched in volume two. By 1881, he had long since abandoned his old view of the inevitability of the break-up of the peasant commune and its supersession by capitalism; the data he had accumulated showed that, far from occurring automatically, as a part of some sort of faux-Hegelian ‘destiny’ of capital, the destruction of pre-capitalist economic forms in Russia was taking place due to heavy and sustained government intervention in the economy. The levying of massive taxes on landowners was a far greater contributor to the break-up of the commune than the ‘natural’ processes of capital accumulation which had been announced in volume one of Capital and elaborated in volume two. The state had been only a ghostly presence in those texts, but it could not be excluded, even at a preliminary stage of abstraction, from accounts of the growth of capitalism in Russia.

In ‘Notes on the 1861 Reform and Russia’s Post-Reform Development’, Marx sketched a new schema for the circulation of capital that included pre-capitalist as well as capitalist economic forms, and pictured the activity of the state as an indispensable part of the process. White notes that:

The account of the circulation of capital in ‘Notes on the 1861 Reform and Russia’s Post-Reform Development’ represented a significant departure... For here the circulation was not simply that of one capital among many, but of the whole national economy. By taking the nation as his unit, Marx seemed to indicate that the circuit of capital by which the peasantry was increasingly expropriated and which expanded the capitalist class was one which was completed only on a national scale, and which involved the agency of the government. In other words, capital did not circulate in Russia locally, and one need not look in the peasant communities themselves for the force which created proletarians on the one hand and capitalists on the other. This position was of course consistent with Marx’s failure to discover any instance of original accumulation that did not involve state intervention.

By making state intervention a necessary condition for the accumulation of capital, Marx’s new circuit of capital brought ‘superstructural’ elements like ideology and politics into the heart of his economics. Capitalism did not develop automatically, according to strictly economic laws: it had to be constantly supported by state action. In a country like nineteenth century Russia, which was overwhelmingly pre-capitalist, the use of the state to build up capitalism was dictated by pro-capitalist ideology, not the inherent logic of capital. Capitalism was a political creation, not the inevitable working out of economic laws.

10:12 pm  
Anonymous Quoth the Raven said...

maps - Brilliant piece there. That perfectly relates to mutualist thought. I highly reccomned the work of Kevin Carson in this area. For a sample of his work have a look at his The Iron Fist behind the Invisible Hand or Austrian and Marxist Theories of Monopoly Capital

9:07 pm  
Anonymous Fydd said...

Maps, i've read your off-the-cuff piece 'don't blame Tuhoe for underdevelopment'. OK you've got some sweeping knowledge of Tuhoe history. i can't comment on your argument for work reasons. i'll comment on some details instead.

you write:
'Modern agriculture was difficult in the Tuhoe enclaves, but with the help of Apirana Ngata’s land consolidation and development schemes thriving dairy farms and factories were established at Ruatoki and Waimana.'

from what i have read in books like Sissons Te Waimana Tuhoe dairy farming in Ruatoki and Waimana began in 1906/7, not with the development schemes which began in 1929 in NZ. private dairy factories were established in those valleys at about that time, not after 1929. some argue that the Urewera Consolidation Scheme did not help Tuhoe economic development at all in Te Urewera.

also, i believe some have made the argument that the development schemes in Te Urewera helped to subvert the communal farming Tuhoe had largely employed up to then by enclosing the commons in fenced off whanau-worked small individual plots of land (and under a scheme run by the government), when previously it was more hapu-based and controlled. certainly, at the time, people in the govt. saw communal farming as uneconomic and unproductive, when others argue the opposite as regards the development schemes. i think you might have got a bit of soft spot for Ngata perhaps? Most Tuhoe certainly did not. again, i write all of this in personal capacity.

10:04 pm  
Blogger maps said...

Thanks for that Fydd. My knowledge of Tuhoe history is broadbrush rather than detailed so I'm probably wrong in thinking Ngata was the key man behind dairying in Tuhoe Country. I was quite surprised by how likeable Ngata was in Walker's biography. I particularly admired tha man's rural development programme for Maori (which got stymied by racism) and his opposition to the importation of capitalism into the Cooks. But a far less likeable man seems to emerge in Judith Binney's new book, at least as far as the tratment of Tuhoe is concerned. I've always meant to read Te Waimana but I've never gotten around to it.

10:24 pm  
Anonymous hinepukohurangi said...

well what an interesting read so far, as someone from tuhoe i would like to hear what you think we need to do in order to move forward and prosper, i find these comments very fascinating indeed!

2:59 am  
Anonymous Strypey said...

With respect, I offer these suggestions to Tuhoe:
- understand that unless you believe you can win an all-out war against the NZ state, you will need support from outside the Urewera
- that support will be won by convincing other working class paheka that what you are demanding is the freedom to manage yourselves in your own ways in your communities, not to impose your ways on anyone else
- discuss openly the problem of class divisions and heirarchy emerging in your community, sunlight is the best disinfectant and squabbles over assets are a common cause of those infections
- understand that your communities will always be at risk from capitalist-funded invaders until all communities on the whole planet find a workable alternative to capitalism
- like the people of Cuba, you will need to form alliances with others around the world who are attempting to create a life without capitalism
- also like the people of Cuba, who brought in Ozzie permaculture trainers to teach them how to grow their own food in the cities, you can benefit from the ideas and skills of outside supporters without giving up autonomy

Kia kaha
Kotahi te aroha

5:27 am  
Anonymous Strypey said...

BTW If there's anything that's self-defeating it's your own dogmatic belief that autonomy cannot co-exist with capitalism. This belief comes perhaps from the reduction of any discussion of tactics to 'reform vs. revolution', where reform is something that is happening in the present, and revolution can only exist in a failed form in the past, or a potential form in the future.

Reality is not nearly so tidy. Like peak oil, the revolution will only be understood to have occurred in hindsight. You are welcome to waste your lives in a futile attempt to to construct a perfect, rational model for observing revolution as it happens. Or you can get your hands dirty with practical projects that make peoples lives better in the present, and make the ruling class upset, and hope that you'll see some of them in the history of the revolution after it happens.

You can read as many gardening books as you want, and write as many essays based on them as you want. But at the end of the day, if you want veges, you have to plant some seeds, water them when it's dry, and learn from what happens.

Even taken literally, this is not even incompatible with lefty workerism. As Mike so aptly pointed out (and which was so pointedly ignored):

>>An aspect of NZ's militant unionist past that has never been discussed, to my knowledge, is that most workers used to have backyard vege gardens and chook coops. In the event of a strike they could hold out longer, couldn't be starved into submission quite so easily. <<

Love to all

5:37 am  
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9:21 pm  

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