A Facebook page – The Pakeha Party – has been launched in response to the Mana Movement’s Maori housing policy announcement during the Ikaroa-Rawhiti by election. This is the second racist backlash in as many months, the first being the cartoon in the Marlborough Times attacking Mana’s ‘Feed the Kids’ campaign.
The rhetoric of the ‘Pakeha Party’ contains the same anti-working class, racist sentiment as was mobilized by defenders of Al Nisbet’s cartoon. On the one hand it is meant to a light-hearted joke, poking fun at the very idea of ‘race based’ Parties such as the Maori Party or Mana. Ironically Mana is not a “raced-based party” but it does have the struggle for Maori rights at its centre.
This is beside the point. The fact is that Maori are oppressed in Aotearoa. They have been systematically dispossessed by the capitalist system since the colonisation of these Islands by the British Empire.
It is nonsense to claim that Maori are in some way a ‘privileged’ section of society. This cannot be further from the truth. While there is a small elite of Maori business leaders and tribal CEOs the vast majority of Maori are working class, they have to sell their labour to survive. Maori are concentrated in low paid, insecure, and dangerous jobs. Maori are more likely to be unemployed, suffer bad health, and struggle in education. These are very real aspects of racist oppression and are not the result of individual Maori character flaws – it is the result of almost 200 years of colonisation and the systematically racist nature of the system.
What is it that Maori got that the Pakeha Party feel they have missed out on? Dispossession? Being strapped at school for speaking English? Rheumatic fever? Disproportionate rates of incarceration? A lower life expectancy?
This is not to say that Pakeha workers are not also oppressed by the capitalist system – they are. All people who have to sell their labour to survive are part of the working class and have an interest in the fight against racism and the struggle for workers rights. But the rhetoric of the ‘Pakeha Party’ is about building an identity based on being white – not being working class and it must be understood as racist to the core. It is no joke – Pakeha workers do not have the same interests as the Pakeha business elite.
Pakeha workers do not benefit from colonisation or anti-Maori racism – it is those business people who own and exploit Maori land for profits that are the real beneficiaries of colonisation. Racist philosophies like the ‘Pakeha Party’ are aimed to stop Pakeha workers from supporting movements like Mana, movements for justice for tangata whenua. If there was real justice for Maori in society it would not be average Pakeha workers that would lose out – but the business elite which exploits stolen Maori land and workers’ labour.
The racist backlash against the Mana movement must be opposed in the strongest terms – even if the backlash is in joke form. All workers have an interest in cutting through this divide-and-rule targeting of Maori political aspirations. The fact of the matter is that while there is not justice or equality for Maori then there will be no freedom for working people in general.