Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Hone versus Brash: good argument, bad analogy

Since I complained last week about the attempts of some right-wingers to compare Hone Harawira's newly-formed Mana Party to the Khmer Rouge, I've been accused by some of those same right-wingers as being a one-eyed leftist, who is only interested in inappropriate historical analogies when these analogies are made by people at the other end of the political spectrum.

When it comes to pseudohistory and pseudoscholarship, I've always tried to be an equal opportunity offender - I managed to wind up a few Greens with my criticism of Jeanette Fitzsimons' Trooferism, and one of Hone's staffers got pretty grumpy about my objections to his use of nineteenth century pseudo-science last year - but I might as well acknowledge, yet again, that the left as well as the right can be guilty of making crude connections between different political ideas, and between different historical situations.

I'm in many ways a supporter of Hone Harawira and his new party, but I think that Hone's recent comparison of Don Brash with Adolf Hitler was as lazy as the comparisons of the Mana Party and Pol Pot on Kiwiblog. During a televised debate with Brash , Harawira told the Act leader that 'When you target Maori, it's very much like Hitler targetting the Jews'.

The debate between Hone and Brash laid bare the very different interpretations of New Zealand history held by the two men. Hone used the debate to argue that the Treaty of Waitangi was intended to guarantee the national self-determination of Maori, and to establish a partnership between Maori and Pakeha. Hone believes that, by waging war on Maori, confiscating large areas of Maori land, and suppressing Maori culture, Pakeha governments have ignored the words about partnership in the Treaty. He wants to establish a bicultural and binational state in New Zealand to turn the Treaty's promise of partnership into reality.

During his debate with Hone, Brash repeatedly insisted that the Treaty was 'not about partnership'. Brash regards the third article of the English version of the Treaty, with its talk about 'Natives of New Zealand' having 'Rights and Privileges of British Subjects', as proof that the document was intended to cede Maori sovereignty to the British Crown, and later to Pakeha governments, and not to establish a partnership between Maori and Pakeha nations.

Brash's interpretation of the Treaty is problematic. He reduces the meaning of the entire document to a single sentence which the vast majority of its Maori signatories would have been unable to read. The Maori version of the Treaty promised the chiefs who signed it 'te tino rangatiratanga', or sovereignty over their lands.

Armed with his reductive and tendentious interpretation of the Treaty, Brash leaps over the entire messy history of New Zealand - the wars of the nineteenth century, the confiscations and repression of Maori culture which followed them, and the long struggle by Maori for justice in the twentieth century - and claims that Maori have no right to think of themselves today as a distinct people, and to demand their own political institutions.

Hone's exasperation at Brash's tendentious reading of the Treaty of Waitangi and refusal to consider the real history of New Zealand is understandable, but his comparison of the Act leader to Hitler can only do the Mana Party harm. Hone's analogy is not only hyperbolic - Brash, for all his sins, is not about to open any concentration camps - but fundamentally inaccurate.

Jews were part of the mainstream of German life in the early twentieth century, but Hitler used rhetoric and later enacted laws which made them into a dangerous 'other' which had to be isolated and ultimately destroyed. Hitler took a socially assimilated cultural minority and pushed them out of German life.

Unlike Germany's Jews, Maori are a national minority, with a history of asserting their national rights and creating their own political institutions. Brash denies the right of Maori to maintain their separate national identity and their separate national institutions. He cynically invokes universalism and democracy when he says that institutions like Maori seats are incompatible with 'equal rights' for other New Zealanders.

Where Hitler hated and wanted to reverse the integration of Jews into German life, Brash, like virtually all mainstream Pakeha politicians fifty or sixty years ago, wants to forcibly assimilate Maori, by making them abandon their own institutions for ones created and dominated by Pakeha. Brash promotes racism, but he does so under the guise of universalism.

In this respect Brash should be compared not to Hitler but to politicians like Pauline Hanson in Australia, who attacks state funding for institutions which represent Aborigines, and Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who criticises Israel's Arab minority for asserting its own national identity and creating its own national political institutions.

It is no coincidence that, like Hanson and Lieberman, Brash is hostile to discussion of the colonial history of his country, and the wars of conquest, enclosures, and attempts at forced assimilation which were such features of this history. If he were to acknowledge the colonialist origins of New Zealand, then Brash would have to acknowledge that the state and other leading institutions of present-day New Zealand are not as neutral and just as he claims, but rather the creations of a coloniser nation.

Hone made a just argument against Brash, but chose a bad analogy to illustrate his argument. Just as the right does real political debate a disservice when it tries to conflate the Mana Party with the Khmer Rouge, so Hone damages the cause of the left when he tries to present Act's leader as a neo-Nazi.


Anonymous Edward said...

Excellent post, I'd been waiting for someone to analyse that TV debate. I think you hit the nail on the head: good argument, bad analogy. As you say, Brash's views of Maori assimilation belong back in the 1950's, and the man is obviously a-historical or historically incompetent (I've marked 1st year essays which demonstrate far more understanding of the Treaty and the reality of Maori/Pakeha relations), but despite that it's grossly unfair to compare him to Hitler and just puts people off. The 'H bomb' is indeed lazy argument in this context. I think the whole situation was a unfortunately a disaster waiting to happen - two polar opposites smushed together for ratings perhaps?

3:48 pm  
Anonymous Keri H said...

Thank you Maps!
This condenses and makes explicit some long arguments I've had with rightwing whanau (Pakeha side,distant, but there) over Brash's stance, and Harawira's response.
Will be referring them to it - after outting up a sanitising barrier.

5:09 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why join in the mass media's anti-Hone campaign if you support him?

6:14 pm  
Blogger Sensa said...

Excellent point, maps. The huge Jewish cemetery to the east of Berlin is a testimony to the integration of Jews into, and their contribution to, German daily and, of course, intellectual life. The bare ground of a little empty graveyard near my flat (all stones destroyed/removed) in central Berlin testified to the programmatic effacement of that dedicated hard work. One thing I'm unclear about though : If sovereignty were ever ceded to Maori, would that mean the Queen (or King) of England/NZ would cede it to a Maori king or queen? I've never been clear about that. Is Hone Harawira talking about replacing the (monarchist) Constutional democracy with a Maori monarchy, or is he proposing a Republic (as with the Republic of Zimbabwe, 1991), or has he suggested a new form of government based upon yet-to-be-defined (but existing or historical Maori) ways of governing communities? Can anyone help me there, as I'm very interested in progressive alternatives to monarchy-driven constitutional democracies.

7:14 pm  
Blogger Dave Brown said...

I don't have any problem with Hone beating up Brash with Hitler analogies. It was an analogy after all. Fascism as a term is used pretty loosely so it doesnt pack the same punch. Hitler however is the model for every dictator that the West dont like from Milosovic to Mugabe, and reversing the charges makes a refreshing change. No doubt the Kiwibloggers chose Pol Pot to reactivate this historic red scare to divide workers. And when the NZH can run a racist cartoon depicting Hone as a stray half breed dog its obvious that the dog whistles are coming to sic the rednecks onto the Mana party like its a mad dog. I think the time has come to call out the racist rednecks in this country. I see them as protofascists targeting a party that will rally Maori and non-Maori workers in an election fight that will become the dirtiest for years. After all the real purpose of fascism is to divide the workers along race lines to smash any real threat posed by organised workers to the capitalist state. If saying Brash is like Hitler wakes workers up to the threat of fascism in this country, I'm all for it, all petty bourgeois illusions of fair play firmly laid aside.

1:07 am  
Blogger Marty Mars said...

I'm with Dave on this one. The analogy may not be true but it does express the concerns accurately. Assimilation is a euphamism like collateral damage - a bland term that hides the true horror of what assimilation means for Māori.

10:30 am  
Anonymous Edward said...

I just wish Brash would read something other than the economist or the business review. I get sick of him telling us how culture, history, society and biology work based upon victorian notions and a lack of appropriate knowledge or experience. Blind leading the blind.

2:01 pm  
Anonymous Edward said...

Oh, but that last comment by Scott pretty much sums it up I feel. I don't think the working class in NZ will rise up against Brash just because someone labels him a Hitler. It's hyperbole without a point.

2:05 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spain's royal academy of history has triggered a row after publishing a publicly funded dictionary of national biography which includes an admiring description of the country's bloodiest 20th-century figure, General Francisco Franco.

After 12 years' work and more than €6.5m (£5.7m) in taxpayers' money, the first volumes of the encyclopaedia were unveiled last week only for readers to discover that the dictator's biography had been written by Professor Luis Suárez, an 86-year-old Franco apologist who is better known as a medievalist.

The entry describes how Franco "became famous for the cold courage which he showed in the field" while a young officer in Africa, and goes on to say that his brutal years in power saw him "set up a regime that was authoritarian, but not totalitarian."

But Suárez failed to mention the tens of thousands of people killed during the Francoist era and refused to describe him as a dictator, arguing he had been authoritarian rather than totalitarian.

"That is simply recreating the old propaganda in favour of Franco," said Julián Casanova, a historian of 20th-century Spain.

"It is not serious to allow someone like this to write Franco's entry, when there are plenty of specialists on 20th-century Spain who can do it," he said. "It brings our whole profession into disrepute."

Suárez is an acquaintance of the Franco family and a senior figure in the Brotherhood of the Valley of the Fallen. The group, which takes its name from the controversial underground basilica where the dictator was buried in 1975, is actively opposed to the so-called "historical memory" movement in Spain, which has recently been searching for, and digging up, the mass graves of the victims of Francoist death squads.

For many years, Suárez was one of the few historians allowed by Franco's family to study the personal papers of the man most Spaniards recognise as having been the country's dictator for 36 years from 1939. In 2005, Suárez, after a career spent studying the 15th and 16th centuries, published a biography of the dictator.

7:22 pm  
Blogger Sensa said...

I'm interested to know what sovereignty / tino rangatiratanga would mean in terms of future rule. Constutional democracy with a Maori monarchy, a Republic, two republics, or a new form of governing based upon yet-to-be-defined but existing Maori ways of governing communities? Has H.H. proposed anything yet?

7:48 pm  
Blogger maps said...

Hi Bill,

I think the question of the British monarchy is only indirectly related to the issues raised by advocates of Maori sovereignty, because of the way that the British government long ago handed over its responsibilities in New Zealand to governments here.

There have been a number of groups of Maori representatives which have travelled to London at various times to present governments there with complaints about breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi and injustice in general: even in the late nineteenth century, they were being told by the Brits that they should take up their case with the government in Wellington, because this government had inherited the rights and responsibilities of the British in New Zealand.

The situation is the same in other ex-colonies: as someone noted in a comments thread at this blog recently, a group of Kenyan survivors of the Mau Mau movement against British rule have been attempting to sue the British government for the suffering British colonial authorities caused back in the '50s, when thousands of Mau Mau members were imprisoned and killed. The government of Britain has responded by saying that the Kenyan government has assumed its old role, and that demands for recompense for past wrongs should therefore be aimed at Nairobi, not London.

All this doesn't mean that members of the Mana Party don't have opinions on the monarchy and its future in New Zealand. I'm unsure what Hone Harawira thinks, but Matt McCarten, who is playing a key role in Mana, wrote an opinion piece a few years ago which argued that the Maori King should take the Queen's place as New Zealand's head of state.
I thought McCarten's was a slightly silly argument...

8:27 pm  
Blogger Sensa said...

Thanks for that info. I see the issue is oblique, in a way, though not irrelevant if a new form of government is really being considered. I wonder if Maori culture might indeed contain within it seeds of a wonderful form of government, much as (feminists used to argue that) women have a distinct way of networking and of dealing with conflict that might benefit humankind. Perhaps this might not be in the form of chieftainship. Over and out, as this is not my domain and I probably deserve to be told to stick to music and poetry. Cheers.

12:56 am  
Blogger maps said...

Don't knock yourself Bill!
After reading your latest comment, I'd be very interested indeed to see what you thought of the concept of the Polynesian mode of production, which some leftists have suggested could be a model for a modern New Zealand socialism, and also of the concept of binationalism, which visiting South American scholar and activist Jose Aylwin discussed with Maori activists last year.

Here's a post on the Polynesian mode of production:
and here's a report on the discussion of binationalism:

5:07 pm  
Blogger maps said...

Btw, I must apologise for the typos which have been allowed to remain in this post: there's one in the very first sentence, I know!
I've been locked out of blogger, for reasons that are most mysterious. I can sign in and make comments under my blogger name, but can't edit my own posts, or make new posts!

Blogger really can be frustrating at times...I avoid defecting to wordpress.com only because I lack the technical nous to affect the move...

5:10 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Maps - can you contact Blogger?

7:33 pm  
Blogger maps said...

I can't even bring up their homepage, Richard, once I've failed to sign in! The buggers...

8:00 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

The Hitler comparison is not right (not very accurate). An analogy can certainly be made but it requires more detail,more explanation. Harawira might well antagonize a lot of people who might want to side with him. Is HE a Maori Hitler?

The question is "What actually happened in NZ and world history?"

Hitler is interesting. He was a brilliant politician. He perfected the modern (and ancient?) art of being a politician inside a democracy (or say a republic as in Ancient Rome).

But this means that, compared to him, Brash is a moron! Hitler, before he assumed dictatorship (remember he was voted in, In a democracy - so much for democracies!) would give (well-paid and often well attended) lectures and speeches all over Germany and Austria (while his propaganda teams worked on all kinds of pro Nazi themes that made Nazism appear to many "normal pepple" very enticing as a philosophy and a "way forward").

Briefly, his method (still used today especially by American politicians) was to appeal to whoever he was talking to. To Jewish intellectuals he was going to do wonderful things for them. To other intellectuals the same. To workers there was going to be great time with high wages and so on. To the army he was going to give great support and not muck around with "Commos" or anti militarists. To liberals he was going to keep order, foster ideas and culture, and all was to be good. To Big Business he was going to suppress strikes and lower wages of the workers and business was to be fostered (all said in such a way that it was hard to realise he was constantly contradicting himself. His contradictions (like God's) were too difficult to analyse for most people, he was just too subtle. He was everywhere. The news people, as always, were obtuse. He milked the media as politcians do e'en today). He was a political genius. He was Richard the Third, my name sake. He was Iago, and an evil Hamlet. He was nearly Hannibal the Cannibal (but more organized, and more subtle)! Like the Greeks he and esp. Goebbels knew the power of drama. Riefenstahl was or allowed herself to be used to make her huge film. He exulted sport as Key does. (People believed what they wanted to believe, as they always do...so "contradiction "was irrelevant" ). It was the WAY he made these speeches or gave discussions about what he did or "would do" that mattered.

Nazi Germany's triumph of will and power became the greatest movie until it was out-boxed by 9/11, staged by the US in New York. Vast blood letting followed both beautifully staged events.

Hitler knew the power of "religion" and ceremony. He consecrated,he blazed, he glowed with with priapic energy and hope, he was strong. He was moral upright and right. Women fell for him and his twinkly blue eyes as they always "fall" for power. He became Emporer, then God.

He became History and re-emerged as Sacred Hollywood and 9/11 and the Holy War on Terror.

Hitler-Bush used psychology, rhetoric, and deceit. Many Major Capitalists were interested in what he had to say and also so were many working class organizations.

There were marvelous times coming for all Germans-Americans (Brash-Harawira-Bush-Obama followers).

Ultimately, all politicians are like Hitler, "They talk out of both sides of their mouths.

Trust none of them, Maori or Pakeha (or any other "ethnicity").

8:23 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting analysis, but far too much credit given to both participants and audience.
In the far more likely intention of his comparison - simply that both Hitler and Brash deliberately incited racial hatred directed at a minority - Hone was spot-on: and judging by ACT's current polling, consequently accepted as such by 98% of the population.

9:50 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maps - I like your distinction between separatist and assimilationist racists - with Brash being the latter.
I had always thought of him as a 'conceptual' ethnic cleanser,i.e. not wanting to eliminate Maori, but to eliminate 'Maoriness'.

9:50 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just say that as it is to get the information out...to white patriots.

Note that Maps as they call him has a criminal conviction for anti-white hate crimes but of course ths was overthrown after the PC court establishment intervened against white patriot Kyle Chapman and now all evidence of his misdemeanour is hidden up.

10:30 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In general this blog is not a safe place for young white patriots especially to hang around as it is full of propaganda against the white peoples.

10:31 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hone Harawira's supporters have been screaming abuse and spitting at Maori Party activists on the campaign trail in Kaitaia, party vice-president Ken Mair said today.

Mr Harawira is contesting the June 25 Te Tai Tokerau by-election as leader of his new Mana Party, running against Maori Party and Labour candidates.

Mr Mair said a small group of Mana Party supporters yesterday set up a protest directly opposite the Maori Party team in Kaitaia's main street.

"They yelled and screamed abuse at our team while children were on the street," Mr Mair said.

"I also heard that one of them tried to spit at us...the vitriolic and personal attacks were completely over the top."

Mr Mair said the behaviour was in total contrast to the meaning of the word mana.

"It was that bad that even one of their own supporters crossed the road and apologised to us for their disgusting behaviour," he said.

Mr Harawira's sister Hinewhare and his mother Titewhai last month disrupted a Maori Party hui in the Far North when they yelled abuse at party leaders and officials.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia said it was the worst behaviour on a marae she had ever seen.

11:07 pm  
Blogger Dave Brown said...

Adds a bit to my perspective.

10:14 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personally, I think Hone’s comparison of Brash to Hitler is misguided at best, and irresponsible at worst. I think the case you make for the terms ‘separatist’ and ‘assimilationist’ as differentiators of the historical practice of racism in both cases are sound.

James Blaut argues that racist theory (i.e. the rationalization and justification of racism) has evolved over several hundred years; that it has been supported by a historical sequence of various theories, each consistent with the intellectual environment of a given era, and that the racist theory of one epoch is in part a refutation of the racist theory of the preceding one.

In a somewhat oversimplified manner, the dominant racist theory from the period of European exploration through to the early 19th century was essentially a biblical argument, grounded in religion; the dominant racist theory from the industrial period to around 1950 was a biological argument, grounded in natural science and influenced by biological theories of the day (e.g. Darinism) as well as increasing secularization of thought.

But by the 1960s, biological racism had lost much of its respectability due in part to the recent history of Nazi Germany, in part to a failure of the scientific community to provide the biological basis for the idea of innate European biological superiority and in part to the pressures of various national liberation and civil rights struggles of that era.

The new racist argument that came out of this period was the theory of ‘modernization’ which was a refutation of the biological racism of the previous period. This theory (which has continued down to the present) advances two anti-biological racist propositions: that Europeans are not genetically superior after all, and that economic development can bring non-Europeans to the same level as Europeans. In other words, non-Europeans, although equal to Europeans in innate capacity, cannot develop economically to the same level as Europeans unless these non-European societies voluntarily accept the continued domination of European capital, i.e. neocolonialism.

Brash may or may not hold biologically racist views, but if he does he is probably careful about whom he shares these with. In public he is, in my opinion, essentially a proponent of cultural racism and is immunized from racist scrutiny because the argument he uses rests not on some notion of Maori biological inferiority, but on the notion that in order for Maori to modernize and catch-up with Pakeha, Maori essentially have to stop being Maori, and it is in their interests that we should dispose of the Treaty and ‘special’ treatment as this can only promote continued Maori underdevelopment and national division.

How many times do we see this type of argument being used to dismiss Maori rights? Brash and Muriel Newman are from the same mold. The language they use masks any sense of biological racism – something that is at odds with an egalitarian NZ society - by casting Maori culture and Maori rights as essentially anti-progressive, anti-egalitarian and despotic, all of which is at odds with a modern NZ society.


6:19 am  

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