[Marxism] Accumulation in New Zealand

dave brownz davebrownz at yahoo.com
Tue Feb 20 03:44:04 MST 2007

The problem is that while you deserve respect for taking up the need for
an analysis of capital accumulation in NZ, and you did before others,
your analysis of the process of accumulation in NZ was fundamentally
flawed and so you ended up describing NZ as a semi-colony even though it
has none of the key characteristics - economic or political - of a

I would appreciate the respect if I thought that Phil knew why it was deserved. I have yet to see where Phil proves that NZ has its own finance capital and draws superprofits from colonies and semi-colonies. Or how it can be imperialist when all of its main trading and merchant banks are Australian, UK and US owned? 
The chronic balance of payments deficit reflects not only rising import prices and falling export prices, typical of countries that specialise in land based semi-processed commodities, but net capital outflows. On these fundamental Leninist criteria of imperialism, Phil's case for NZ as imperialist fails to stack up.

Even something basic like your comment that NZ relies on the export of
"cheap raw materials, mainly agricultural commodities" is nonsensical.
In fact, because advanced capitalism was implanted here directly from
Britain (along with a mass settler population), the relationship between
Britain and NZ was totally different form the relationship between
Britain and India or Britain and its African colonies.
Far from exporting "cheap" raw products, NZ received guaranteed good
prices from Britain for increasingly processed dairy products (and, to
some extent, meat) - entirely different from India or Africa.  And while
agricultural products continue to be NZ's main exports these are not
raw, cheap agricultural products.  

First, Phil makes the mistake of comparing NZ as a semi-colony to raw material colonies. Relative to colonies, NZ commodity exports are not 'raw'; relative to imperialist countries, they are 'raw'. 
Second, Phil mistakes guaranteed prices to mean that high profits, or more exactly differential rent, from agriculture stayed in NZ. Macrae and I argued on the basis of our analysis of the distribution of agricultural rent, that much of the rent went to British bankers, insurance, freight etc. That share that was retained and accumulated by farmers on the best land, was not redistributed to NZ workers as high wages. 

Dave also writes:
"This created a local economy in which a white labour aristocracy could
flourish at the expense of a mainly indigenous reserve army."

This is bizarre.  Wealthy white farmers did not share their largesse
with the pakeha section of the working class.  
The state and employers paid lower benefits and wages to Maori using the
fact that Maori were still rural with bits of land on which they grew
food.  The state and employers used this to pay wages less than the
value of labour-power.  

I did not say that wealthy farmers shared their rent profits with pakeha workers. 
The protected economy based on relatively low tech manufacturing in small workshops was quite labour intensive and pakeha workers got preference, and still do  to some extent,  for such jobs, at the expense of the Maori reserve army. 
Since Phil seems to agree, how can he then argue that NZ was/is imperialist, if the 'labour aristocracy' did not benefit from high profits generated in NZ as the result of a redistribution of super profits from the colonies and semi-colonies.  So NZ does not have significant super-profits, nor an imperialist labour aristocracy.

More generally, since the process of capital accumulation was planted
here by Britain with all the benefits you would expect in a
settler-colony, NZ from the start had a modern bourgeois-democracy.
Indeed, we got fully bourgeois-democratic institutions even before
Britain and we got them without having to fight for them from a colonial
power.  A very odd kind of semi-colony!
For instance, this was the first country in the world where the
indigenous population got the vote - actually all Maori men got the vote
before all pakeha men did! - in which women got the vote in 1893 (first
in the world) and in which there has been continuous and unbroken Maori
representation in parliament since the 1850s when NZ got its own
parliament!  What a truly bizarre semi-colony!

Phil, having failed to show why NZ is imperialist on basic economic criteria, now shifts the argument to the level of the state. The US had a war of independence but this occurred well before Britain's free trade domination of the world economy. Australia and Canada both adopted the Westminster system because it made it easier to establish capitalist social relations. By the mid 19th century, Britain had no interest in direct political rule as it could rule by the power of capital. As Macrae and I show, NZ was setup as a colony directly linked to the City of London. Its banks, insurance and shipping was under British control. The implantation of a British parliamentary system here was consistent with the rule of British finance capital, as it guaranteed the repayment of the national debt via taxes and import duties etc. NZ loosened these ties somewhat over the next century but until recently its highest court was the British Privy Council, and its Governor-General still
 represents the Queen of England.  So rather than being evidence of imperialist independence from Britain, the NZ Westminster type government is evidence of its many ties to British imperialism, and more recently to US and Australian imperialism. 

Moreover, the logic of Dave's position would be to argue that Canada and
Australia are also semi-colonies because their history and ours,
including the history of accumulation, are so alike - certainly more
alike than either of these three are with the actually-exploited British
colonies in Africa, the Caribbean and Asia.

This is not my logic but Phils. I do not say that Australia and Canada have the same character because of common settler origins and state forms. The history of accumulation is all important. And they are not alike at all. That is why I said that Phil should actually notice what these histories reveal. Canada and Australia have a much larger resource base and escaped the narrow dependence on primary exports so that the accumulation of capital led to the export of capital and import of super-profits that saw these economies shift from semi-colonial to minor imperialist status. 

It really is a mystery why Phil talks so much about capital accumulation when he doesnt understand the difference between imperialist capital accumulation, and that relatively minor share of capital that is retained in dependent, relatively backward semi-colonial economies. 

Now that's room service! Choose from over 150,000 hotels 
in 45,000 destinations on Yahoo! Travel to find your fit.

More information about the Marxism mailing list