Friday, July 22, 2011

Hone should be complemented, not condemned

Last week Hone Harawira tried to revise the oath members of New Zealand's parliament have to swear before taking their seats. Fresh from his victory in the Te Tai Tokerau byelection, the leader of the Mana Party refused to acknowledge the sovereignty of the British Crown, and instead tried to affirm his loyalty to the Maori version of the Treaty of Waitangi. Harawira's oath was unceremoniously rejected, and he was asked to leave parliament, for the time being at least.

Over at Bowalley Road, Chris Trotter has pointed out that Hone's oath reflects his commitment to a 'bi-cultural Aotearoan republic'. Chris' sympathy for Harawira, in this and several other recent posts, has agitated some of his left-leaning readers.

A number of these readers have argued that Hone's support for the Maori version of the Treaty is inherently anti-democratic, because the Maori version of the document promises to protect the autonomy of chiefs. Here's how one dissident explained his preference for the English version of the Treaty, which he interprets as placing Maori under the control of the British Crown:

[M]any Maori and most Pakeha (myself again included) would object to Te Tiriti's reactionary, feudal principle of Tino rangatiratanga being imposed on us. Amongst other things, this would be an assault on our most precious Taonga as equal members of the human species, a principle for which a very large number of New Zealanders have laid down their lives. Our constitutional monarchy, whilst also obviously reactionary and feudal in form, provides us, in practice, with a reasonably effective way of fudging the harsh choices that a republic would force on us.

The view of New Zealand history encapsulated in this comment seems to me extraordinarily sanguine. It is no good citing the words about equal rights in the English version of the Treaty of Waitangi as though these words alone proved that, despite certain regrettable errors and a few unpleasant incidents, Maori and Pakeha have generally lived happily and harmoniously together since 1840.

The historical record contradicts such a whiggish narrative of progress. All too often, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries alike, Maori were offered the 'right' to assimilate completely to Pakeha culture, and to give up their land. If they did not gratefully accept this 'right', then they were held to be enemies of British values, and were regarded with contempt. (There are numerous nineteenth century examples of newspaper editorialists and mainstream politicians advocating the physical extermination of the Maori, on the grounds that they had failed to assimilate to British civilisation.)

Just as it is wrong to assume that the universalist language of the English version of the Treaty automatically implies something progressive, so it is a mistake to assume that the reference to chiefly autonomy in the Maori version of the Treaty means that every advocate of tino rangatiratanga is a proponent of 'feudalism'.

Tino rangatiratanga may well have implied chiefly abuses of power in 1840, at the tail-end of the Musket Wars, but one hundred and seventy years of thought and action have surely given us a variety of ways of interpeting the term. It is hard to imagine Wiremu Tamihana or Eva Rickard or Hone Tuwhare as an enemy of democracy, and Hone Harawira is not a twenty-first century incarnation of Hongi Hika.

It's not only at Bowalley Road that leftists are dissenting from Mana's Maori nationalist agenda. Oliver Woods, who was a leader of the RAM Party, which contested the 2008 election on a left-wing platform, has made his lack of enthusiasm for Hone's new organisation clear:

The unionists and working class activists...are biting their lips and hoping that on top of the very Maori nationalist focused identity of the party, there will be socialist policies. Those who felt let down by the Maori Party, I suspect, should get ready to experience that same emotion once more. Hone Harawira is going in to this election wanting to ruin the Maori Party, which booted him out...Mana is a revenge vehicle to take over the electoral territory of his former bosses. Its primary lens is race...

This year Woods is giving his vote to Winston Peters' New Zealand First Party, which has been one of the most vociferous critics of Hone Harawira and his new organisation.

But Hone's dream of a binational 'Aotearoan republic' is not, as Oliver Woods and the dissidents at Bowalley Road suggest, something foreign to the left. Socialists ought to be able to agree with Hone that the state, far from being some natural, neutral, historically inevitable entity, is the outcome of a series of often quite violent struggles, and tends to represent the interests of the victors of those struggles.

The New Zealand state was crafted by a settler capitalist elite in the midst of sometimes desperate battles against Maori nationalists like Tawhiao and Te Kooti, and was later refined to deal with challenges from organised labour like the Great Strike of 1913 and the Waterfront Lockout of 1951.
Not surprisingly, given the characteristics of the people who made it, the New Zealand state is rigged to act against the interests of both Maori and organised labour. The state was on the wrong side of picket lines in 1913 and 1951, and on the wrong side of the barricades at Bastion Point.

And it's not only at times of political crisis that the state shows its essential character. The contempt with which the victims of the Pike River disaster and their families have been treated over the past eight months shows up some of the institutionalised power imbalances in our society. Grieving families wanted a sustained effort to recover the miners' remains from Pike River, but the property rights and lobbying power of the mine's owners trumped their feelings. The miners' union wanted to be part of the initial response the disaster, but the police froze them out. The committee set up to inquire into the cause of the disaster includes representatives of mining companies, but not a single trade unionist.

Hone's stunt in parliament last week was an attempt to draw attention to the fact that the New Zealand state has a pronounced ethnic-national character, and to promote the idea of a binational rather than a Pakeha-chauvinist state. But the oath Hone tried to swear included a reference to 'the dispossessed' of New Zealand as well as to The Treaty, and this phrase can be seen as his nod and wink to the socialists and trade unionists who have rallied round his new party.

Socialists should take Hone's hint, and complement his call for the reorganisation of the New Zealand state on binational lines with their own proposals for a fundamental change in the class character of that state. We should argue that
the reform of the anti-Maori features of the New Zealand state will mean nothing if it is not accompanied by the empowerment of 'the dispossessed'.

The sad story of the Maori Party shows what happens when the quest for tino rangatiratanga is divorced from the politics of the left. After asserting that class politics have nothing to do with Maori advancement, Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples have led their party into an alliance with National and Act. A party supported by the poorest section of the Kiwi population has voted for budgets which cut taxes for the rich and slashed spending on community education. The Maori Party's hammering in the recent Te Tai Tokerau byelection was inevitable and well-deserved.

On the other hand, the victories won in recent years by both indigenous peoples and organised labour in Venezuela and Bolivia show that national liberation movements and class politics can cohere powerfully.

In Venezuela, indigenous tribes and workers' and peasants' groups have staged hundreds of occupations of idle land held by multinational companies, and much of the occupied land has become their property, as the state has been pressured into creating institutions which prioritise the needs of people over capital. Indigenous groups have been allowed to set up their own governments, and peasants have set up cooperatives and, sometimes, collective farms on their new territory. Urban workers threatened with job losses have learned from the example of the countryside and taken over hundreds of businesses. In Bolivia similar events are occurring, as the indigenous majority asserts itself after centuries of marginalisation. Drawing on New Zealand traditions like Te Kauhanganui, and perhaps also on recent events in Bolivia and Venezuela, Hone has called for the establishment of a parliament to represent the Maori nation. Like Hone's abortive oath last week, this proposal is an unabashed challenge to the uninational character of the present New Zealand state.

Why don't socialists complement Hone's call for a Maori parliament with a call for a workers' assembly? We could argue that, like Maori, workers are neglected by the existing parliament, and that workers' interests need to be championed by an independent body elected through organisations like the unions.

Like Hone's call for a Maori parliament, the demand for a workers' assembly has no chance of being granted in the current political climate. The demand might well, however, stimulate discussion about the class nature of the New Zealand state, the institutionalised discrimination against organised labour, and the parallels between Maori nationalist and socialist politics. It might enrich and enliven the political discussions Hone and his new party have already prompted. It would certainly make a good deal more sense than Oliver Woods' endorsement of Winston Peters.

Footnote: in the original version of this post I wrongly identified a 'Victor' who had made several negative comments about Hone at Bowalley Road with the trade unionist and former Alliance co-leader Victor Billot. My apologies to comrade Billot: as someone who has often been mistaken, on the basis of my name, for an ice skater or a jazz saxophonist with a cheesey moustache, I ought to have been more wary about jumping to conclusions. Thanks to Bryce Edwards for pointing out my blunder.

23 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

so what do you want if not the state...

ananrcry...lawlessness...yeah right

what an egg

12:12 am  
Anonymous Victor Billot said...

I was waiting for it to happen . . . I've only posted on Chris' blog once or twice, and always under my full name.
But there is a regular poster there who goes under the name of Victor. I have no idea who this is, but I wish he would use his full name or another pseudonym! Because I get the feeling that a few people might think its me. It wouldn't be so bad if I agreed with what he wrote!

10:11 am  
Anonymous Zesti Stan said...

unable to find anything on the web about ananrcry, I pronounced the word aloud. A-nanar-cry.

I think that Anonymous is onto something. Anything that makes a nana cry ought to be illegal. This might make things difficult for granddads, but they could join with some others disaffected by the rule of Ananrcry to form TePapaCry. Or something like that.

Anon's other suggestion of a society based on Lucy Lawlessness seems a bit far fetched.

12:24 pm  
Anonymous Victor said...

Good. I'm glad this issue of identity has been settled.

Mr Billott, since discovering that you were 'under suspicion' of being me, I've again posted on Bowalley Road, apologising to you for this untoward confusion.

I'm not a public figure and prefer a degree of anonymity. However, Victor has been my name since 1946.

I remain flabbergasted that anyone should conclude that I am you or you are me just because me share this far from uncommon name.

12:33 pm  
Anonymous Edward said...

"The view of New Zealand history encapsulated in this comment seems to me extraordinarily sanguine. It is no good citing the words about equal rights in the English version of the Treaty of Waitangi as though these words alone proved that, despite certain regrettable errors and a few unpleasant incidents, Maori and Pakeha have generally lived happily and harmoniously together since 1840."

This is so true. I've often run into similar sentiment which seems bizarre given our historical realities. The egalitarian myth disseminated constantly amoungst many NZers conveniently forgets the sustained second-class treatment of Maori (and many other minority groups). Cognitive dissonance perhaps.

"And it's not only at times of political crisis that the state shows its essential character. The contempt with which the victims of the Pike River disaster and their families have been treated over the past eight months shows up some of the institutionalised power imbalances in our society. Grieving families wanted a sustained effort to recover the miners' remains from Pike River, but the property rights and lobbying power of the mine's owners trumped their feelings. The miners' union wanted to be part of the initial response the disaster, but the police froze them out."

I'm not sure I fully agree here though. I certainly think, from what I've heard, the mine was run appallingly and that they showed contempt for their workers by not ensuring better health and safety. I also agree with the comment of institutionalised power imbalances and the general contempt for workers in this country, and have sympathy for the vicxtims and families of the disaster. But I'm not sure of the widespread sentiments about retrieval or lack thereof. I don't have all of the information, but from what I've seen it seems reasonable that an attempt at recovery hasn't been made yet. There are legislative barriers, health and safety issues with regard to the recovery workers, and practical reasons involving the mine environment. I think the public often has high expectations of recovery and Disaster Victim Identification which are a bit unrealistic and not inline with the science or skills involved. Without trying to be goulish, recovery of highly fragmented and burned remains isn't a job which can be done by mine workers, even if the mine environment was safe (which I don't think it is). Given that, in the international arena, forensic teams won't be sent into situations involving mass graves or disasters where immediate danger is likely, I don't see how they can be expected to in this situation. That said, I have the hugest sympathy for those families and do think we should continue to assess the situation to try and get those men home if possible. Just not at the risk of others being hurt.

3:21 pm  
Anonymous Victor said...

As well as, for no good reason, confounding me with someone else,Maps has traduced my sentiments by highly selective quotation.

I do not believe, as Edward suggests, in the "egalitarian myth disseminated constantly amoungst many NZers (which)conveniently forgets the sustained second-class treatment of Maori (and many other minority groups)"

However, from the Maps version, I can see why Edward would conclude this.

That's my last word on this absurd fracas.

6:09 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about those who celebrate Hongi Hika and argue he was an historically progressive figure?

Shane Cotton, for instance.

8:22 pm  
Anonymous Victor 3 said...

I am the true Victor...the Victor of Victors!

Don't have and opinions on Hone or politics thingys tho.

8:55 pm  
Anonymous Reactionary rubbish from Harawira said...

Education basics lost in experiments
Friday 22nd July, 2011



Mana leader Hone Harawira is calling for a return to the three Rs.



A report from the New Zealand Institute has identified under-investment in training for jobs and careers and failure to engage children at school as being behind high levels of youth and Maori unemployment.


But Mr Harawira says academics and administrators have been experimenting with kid’s lives for too long, and he wants to see more emphasis on reading, writing and arithmetic.



“There's a lot of ethereal stuff going on, stuff about teaching people to think. That’s great. But if they can’t read well, write well, count well and speak well then all the thinking in the world won’t get them a job, so I think we need to be a little more direct about some of the basics,” he says.

11:08 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

I haven't read this post yet but re your names (Victor) my son's name is Victor and I like the name - so you both have good names!

You don't have to agree with each other though , that isn't a bad thing...

Harawira is a largely controversial figure and there will be a lot for and a lot against him.

But I'm suspicious of any politician of any ilk or persuasion or anyone who is "representing" us: (I mean of any party) who gets the huge wages they get.

I always doubt their sincerity. But maybe that is not fair.

11:20 pm  
Anonymous Minglar District Maoist said...

Sorry to change subject, but this book might interest Richard Taylor and other sympathisers of Mao Zedong thought at this site......

comradely,
Minglar

While returning home late on a cold night in December 1981, composer Cornelius Cardew was struck by a hit-n-run driver. The situation surrounding his death is indeed opaque, that he may have been murdered by the extreme right-wing working in London. Cardew led a dangerous life, as an activist Marxist. He was arrested for his activities in Camberwell and for a time was homeless,living in a train station in the north of London. The last year of his life he was learning various Asian languages, Pakistani,and Indian to work within those communities against a growing racism,where firebombings of homes was becoming a frequent occurence. He also had an innate gift for organizing rallies and demonstrations against the Right-Wing, and that may have been the cause of his demise. Still he was loved and admired by countless musicians,artists and activists. There were numerous memorial concerts after his death in London,Rome,New York,Toyko, Australia and Chicago, as well as specific pieces written for him in remembrance by Skempton,Curran,Lombardi. This work"Stockhausen serves Imperilaism" was like a cup of hot black coffee for sobering the musical avant-garde when it was written in the early Seventies

12:56 am  
Anonymous Minglar District Maoist said...

A really exciting biography of Cornelius Cardew has been recently published in paperback by Copula (Matchless Recordings). It is entitled: Cornelius Cardew, A Life Unfinished. Written by the pianist John Tilbury - a close friend - , this complete account (1069 pages) offers a sincere, vibrant and truly touching portrait of one of the most remarkable British musician. It is just quite regrettable that no disc is added as a useful supplement to the book - so the reader would be able to turn words into sounds - and vice versa.

The dialogue Cardew set up between marxism and contemporary music reveals indeed more than a theoretical interest. It's useless - and in some extent dishonest - refusing the fact that a creative process always carries social consequences - for the creative process itself necessarily taking root somewhere, in a particular social context.
Cardew's work and reflections simply undermine this illusion and redefine the subversive potential of music: 'Music is a vagrant; it has no fixed abode. It's a menace to society. It needs cleaning up. The impossibility of abolishing music. Its omnipresence. Its uncatchability. Perhaps after all we have to step down and let music pursue its own course.' (Diary entry, 25 February 1965).

When I heard about Cardew for the first time it was through his articles - even though he is not (alas) well recognized in France. Had until then a really nice professor of philosophy, Monsieur Dubois, who unfortunately for his marxist students devoted himself both to Heidegger and Stockhausen. Meeting Cornelius Cardew at that point was saving!
A powerful and exhilarating antidote to what Theodor Adorno called The Jargon of Authenticity, this sort of coded language filled with esoterism and hieratic pretension, turning ordinary concepts in more - allegedly - profound sense.

Adorno demythologized the world of philosophy and it's quite probable that Cardew did exactly the same in the world of experimental music.
That's why his sounds, writings and thoughts deserve to be remembered.

1:01 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hone Harawira...Hongi Hika...Hone Heke

what's with all the aitches?

are they running out of Gs up north?

10:08 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nazis notice Celtic NZ
http://www.stormfront.org/
forum/t349483/

11:02 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Hone should be complemented, not condemned."

The Labour Party formed an Alliance with Ratana in the early thirties, with Ratana retaining its own identity.
Now, Pakeha leftists are supporting Mana, but without any non-Maori base of their own, and without any real standing within Mana (which remains a left-Maori party). They remain just supporters.
Yes, Mana should be complemented by a non-ethnically based left organisation which could then form an alliance with dignity with Mana.

Did you mean, though, that Hone should be "complimented" rather than "complemented"?

Farrell

1:34 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

Hi Farrell,

the 'e' was deliberate, because I think that Hone's thinking needs to be complemented by socialist thinking. I suppose I imagine that tino rangatiratanga and socialism could be the two legs a new left-wing movement might eventually be able to stand on in this country.

(I don't mean to imply that all the Maori in Mana are innocent of socialism: Syd Keepa, who is an influential member of the new party, is a long-time trade unionist and an old mate of Bill Anderson, and Justin Taua is a Trotskyist. There are other Maori socialists like Evan Poata-Smith - a relative of Hone's - whom I'd expect to be involved in the party, as well.)

I see your point about the lack of mass support, outside Te Tai Tokerau at least, for the new party. I think that Hone's reputation as a demonic Maori nationalist will act as quite a barrier between him and most of the non-Maori working class. Mana might have better short-term luck with the sort of middle class Pakeha liberals who used to support the Alliance, and with students, but I'd imagine that most of its support at the upcoming election will come from voters in the Maori electorates. But if the party can establish a democratic nationwide structure, avoid cooption by Labour or the Greens, and drag a one ot two MPs into the house alongside Hone it'll have done well.

2:26 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

While I am interested in Mao tse Tung I am also interested in Stockhausen! And Varese et al...

9:37 pm  
Anonymous free online Mahjong games said...

i like this

10:26 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for getting back, Scott. I shouldn't have even queried your "e". Mea culpa.
"But if the party can establish a democratic nationwide structure, avoid cooption by Labour or the Greens, and drag a one ot two MPs into the house alongside Hone it'll have done well." Indeed.
A friend commented, "The left's role in Mana at the moment is really simply as a cheer squad."
I just hope that a largely Pakeha cheer squad is not counter-productive and undercuts Mana's credentials as a radical Maori party. Thanks to the Maori Party's escapades with National/Act though, many Maori will be less responsive than ever to the charms of rangatiratanga as incarnated by the Brown Table.

Farrell

11:38 pm  
Blogger Robin Johnson's Economics Web Page said...

"The committee set up to inquire into the cause of the disaster includes representatives of mining companies, but not a single trade unionist."

I am just wondering which one of Justice Graham Panckhurst, Stewart Bell, Commissioner for Mine Safety and Health (Queensland) and David Henry (ex IRD) is a representative of a mining company?.

I do agree that the early media narrative, prior to the Royal Commission stage 1 hearing, was completely pro-corpore.

1:19 pm  
Blogger Robin Johnson's Economics Web Page said...

I mean 'pro-corporate'

1:20 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

Interesting thought Farrell - maybe the Kiwi far left is the kiss of death, not an invaluable ally!

7:38 pm  
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10:49 pm  

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