[Marxism] Whale Rider - response to Jurriaan

Philip Ferguson plf13 at student.canterbury.ac.nz
Wed Mar 3 22:31:15 MST 2004

Jurriaan wrote:
> In this sense, the NZ Government was politically much smarter than the
> Marxists, because the NZ Government validated the real experience of real
> Maori people, while the Marxists thought Maori should think about something
> else, such as class struggle or Marxist-Leninist ideology.

This is too broad a stereotype.  The most significant left current in NZ 
at the time was porbably the SAL, the NZ section of the FI.  From the 
beginning it called for self-determination for Maori - actually before 
this became a slogan in the hands of people like Donna Awatere - and the 
SAL was very involved in several Maori land right struggles.

If anything, the problem with the SAL was the opposite.  Lots of 
sloganeering about self-determination and very little in the way of 
serious Marxist education.

The most workerist groups were the Albanian line CP and the Peking line 
WCL.  The WCL later flip-flopped from extreme workerism to extreme 
feminism, separatism and so on and then dissolved, while the pro-Tirana 
group ended up as followers of Tony Cliff.

The other problem with what you say is in relation to what the 
government validated.  Most Maori were *not* calling for the 
implemetation of the Treaty of Waitangi and the position of Maori 
radicals had been to reject the Treaty as a fraud.  The Treaty process 
developed by Labour had nothing to do with validating the feelings of 
ordinary Maori, for whom the Treaty was irrelevant - especially since 
most Maori were urbanised and proletarianised well before the Treaty 
industry was developed by Labour in the 1980s.  The Treaty process was 
about co-opting Maori radicals, creating a Maori middle class as a 
buffer between the state and an increasingly downtrodden Maori 
proletariat in the big cities (esp Auckland and Wellington) and smaller 
North Island cities, and forging effective *new* forms of social control 
to replace those which were made obsolete by the end of the the postwar 
boom and the onset of a long-term economic malaise.

The bulk of the left in NZ never really studied 'Capital', so the idea 
that different stages of the accumulation process would produce 
radically different government policies was never understood by most of 
them.  Jurriaan's group was something of an exception, and had a much 
better grasp of what Labour was up to in the 1980s, but was not able to 
create an ongoing organisation.  The group that I belong to has 
inherited what I would regard as the best parts of the legacy of that 
group, although none of us were ever members.

> That was already really clear at the Three Nations Conference, and at the
> 4th Marxian Political Economy Conference at the beginning of the 1980s
> (which Donna Awatere and Ripeka Evans attended as well as Bruce Jesson). I
> remember that, because Donna was rather bitchy at the time and I couldn't
> get much sense out of her.

Well, Awatere, who wrote the handbook on 'Maori Sovereignty' in the 
early 1980s, was already hooking up with the Mont Pelerin Society by 
1984.  That year she attended their international gathering here in 
Christchurch, as you will know from living here then.

Awatere subsequently became an MP for the Hayekian party (ACT NZ) 
founded by Sir Roger Douglas, the architect of the neo-liberal/new right 
economic reforms of the 1980s (a Labourite, of course!).

Recently, Donna has fallen foul of ACT as her and Wi Huata's financial 
racketeering at the taxpayers' expense has started to be exposed, and 
ACT has had to boot her out.  (She's currently fighting this in the 
courts, especially as she wants to stay in parliament for another year 
because then she'll have been a three-term MP and get a life entitlement 
to free air travel for her and Wi, a big pension and lots of other 
goodies that retired politicians get.  On top of her own personal wealth.)

Ripeka Evans went on to find fame and fortune as the Maori cultural 
advisor to TV1.  I'm not sure if she's still mates with Donna or what 
her politics are exactly these days.  I don't think she moved quite as 
far towards neo-liberalism as Donna, though.

But it's all a far cry from when they declared themselves to be NZ's 
leading revolutionary theorists and activists.


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