Indigenous Sovereignty and Socialism

45480373._SY475_A review of Valerie Lannon and Jesse McLaren, Indigenous Sovereignty and Socialism (Toronto: Resistance Press, 2018)


By Dougal McNeill


The epic struggle of Wet’suwet’en against the state and Coastal Gaslink playing out currently gives this title a special relevance. The Canadian state, like the New Zealand, has a wholly undeserved reputation for liberality and ‘generosity’ when it comes to the question of Indigenous rights. Justin Trudeau is happy to talk the language of rights, respect and reconciliation. The idea that Canada is a nicer, kinder society than the United States is important to its nationalism. But the reality, as Valerie Lannon and Jesse McLaren show in this important book, is the same as in every other settler-colonial capitalist society. Canada was built out of invasion, by the French and British empires, of Indigenous lands; and North American capitalism – in the fur trade, in forestry, and, later, in resource extraction – required the systematic degradation and attempted genocide of First Nations. Treaties were broken, or never signed; sovereign nations invaded; children taken from their families (a process ongoing to this day); and cultures degraded. This is the true history of liberal Canada, and it deserves to be more widely known. Lannon and McLaren, two socialist campaigners, outline the history of European colonisation and the capitalist state. And, crucially, they connect this history to the needs of capitalism. Canada’s leaders were motivated by a bitter racism, certainly, but their actions in dispossessing and oppressing Indigenous peoples were linked also to the needs of the profit system. They show how racism served to unite settler workers with the settler state against Indigenous resistance; and how tools of oppression, like the residential schools (state-run institutions now revealed to be rife with abuse, presented as ‘enlightened’ educational settings for Native children), tried to “instill passive acceptance of capitalist exploitation” while Indian Agents “helped recruit for employers”.

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Labour’s and the Greens’ Reactionary Road Plans


Thumbs up from Labour for increased emissions and private transport

By Martin Gregory


On 28 January Jacinda Ardern announced the general election date. The following day, Grant Robertson unveiled a $12 billion spend on road, rail, schools and hospitals infrastructure: clearly the start of Labour’s pitch to the electorate. Labour is calling the plans the Big New Zealand Upgrade. Not all the $12 billion is actually new. Labour is pulling the usual stunt of including what had already been committed: in this instance December’s announcement on money for school building upgrades. The bombshell in the package is the money for road schemes. Out of the $6.8 billion for transport, roads gets the lion’s share with $5 billion. Rail, cycling and walking share just $1.8 billion.


The plans for road schemes are outrageously at variance with Labour’s supposed commitment to reducing emissions. They show up Labour’s reactionary side. In fact, Labour is taking over the National government’s ‘Roads of National Significance’ building policy. No doubt Labour’s strategists think this is awfully clever, adopting a National Party policy to neutralise criticism from the right. If this is sign of things to come this election year, heaven help us.

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The Fourth Labour Government and the Destruction of the Welfare State

By Keith Davies

Ever wonder about the days when universities were free and not run as a business? When the social welfare safety net was available to all that needed it and could sustain a decent living? When the government worked towards a goal of total employment, not enabling a system that requires unemployment to function? When vital services were owned by the people, serviced the people and could subsidise each other? When employment was secure, people were trained and skill bases maintained instead of short term contracting? Not all of this was benevolent, of course; some of it suited the needs of capitalism at the time, and others parts had been won only after long battles by workers. But it is a stark contrast with today’s world of debt, privatized services and shortages in areas, like housing, of crucial public need. New Zealand before neoliberalism was no paradise, and workers, women, Māori and migrants had to fight hard against Muldoon’s converative government. But the neoliberal transformation was in the interests of the rich, and serves them to this day.


One event, person or condition cannot be solely blamed for the introduction of neoliberalism into New Zealand – like most things in history, it was a perfect storm coming together that allowed it to take hold and run rampant. However, one group holds much more responsibility than others for allowing it to occur and not stopping, or at least tempering, it when it had seen the outcomes. That group is the Fourth Labour Government.

In 1984, a snap election was called by National Prime Minister Robert Muldoon. His third term government was growing increasingly unpopular with the public, the economy was in a so-called crisis and the seas of change were on the horizon. The Labour Party campaign ran on social, anti-nuclear, and Treaty of Waitangi issues. Their manifesto and campaigning had no real mention of the brutal economic reform that would be forced on the population. In fact, many candidates had little insight into economics, something the right was able to use against any lingering left-wing doubts in MPs minds.

In the background of all this political turmoil Treasury had been flooded with Chicago School economists and business elites. Tired of being ignored by Muldoon and having to compete with the Ministry of Works for attention and helped by the Business Roundtable lobby group, it set about its plan to open up New Zealand’s economy to the free market. Going behind the government’s back in a pretty unconstitutional move, Treasury had been espousing their ideas to Labour MPs. Unfortunately for the public, one MP took this idea hook, line and sinker: Roger Douglas.

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A review of Tina Ngata’s Kia Mau: Resisting Colonial Fictions

By Serah Allison

Tina Ngata of Ngāti Porou has recently published Kia Mau: Resisting Colonial Fictions. At the launch of this book on 28th November 2019, Tina Ngata described how she had started with a blog called The Non-plastic Māori, exploring “the experience of living for a year without purchasing any new plastics”, which quickly developed to explore wider environmental issues and then progressed to a critique colonialism as the mindset of subjugation, disconnectedness, and exploitation. Kia Mau is born from that critique.

The New Zealand Government, through the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, has been celebrating through 2019/2020 an event called Tuia 250, dedicated to the “encounter” between Captain James Cook and Māori. With encouragement from activist Valerie Morse, Tina Ngata collected together nine of her essays on colonialism, with a focus on the modern Tuia 250 event and the historic arrival of Cook. Tina Ngata works to dispel the myths of Cook’s voyage being one of scientific exploration, and reveals that Cook was driven by a mindset known as the Doctrine of Discovery which held that non Christian indigenous people such as Māori could be conquered, enslaved, and used for the profit of Christian empires such as that of England. Cook was on a military mission to expand the British Empire, and commanded the naval vessel Endeavour for that purpose. The chapter Cook’s crime spree in Aotearoa is a two page timeline and map depicting a roughly three month period during which Cook killed, wounded, kidnapped, and tortured Māori. And all this was only the celebrated “first encounter”.

Tina Ngata goes on to draw parallels with the struggles of other indigenous peoples, call out the environmental consequences of the colonial mindset, and in the final essay Wetewetehia 250 she describes educational guidelines to address misinterpretations and correct colonial mistruths. In Tina Ngata’s own words, this work discusses: “how we might envision a more ethical remembering of who we are and what is important in order to set a pathway for who we want to be in the future.”

As a Pākehā who has learned what Tina Ngata describes as colonial fictions, I found this book at once thought-provoking, enlightening, sobering, and motivating. Tina Ngata has produced an important work that deserves attention.

Kia Mau: Resisting Colonial Fictions is published by Rebel Press, and is available from Unity Books, Wellington.

Vale Dick Scott

Obituaries for Dick Scott, who died on New Year’s Day, have emphasized his importance as a figure changing how New Zealand history was written about, taught, and imagined, especially by Pākehā. He deserves those accolades, but we should remember too that his early, pioneering histories were written as part of a project to change the world, not just to understand it differently. Scott’s radicalism was forged in the clashes and struggles around the Depression and its legacy, the Second World War and, most importantly, the post-war labour battles that came to a climax in the 1951 Watersiders’ Lockout and supporting strikes. He left the Communist Party in his late 20s, but his early formation in class struggle politics helped shape his attention to injustices done to Māori, the bloody history of colonialism in New Zealand and the Pacific, and his determination to write popular, accessible history.


Scott’s two classics, 151 Days and Ask That Mountain, are essential reading for every socialist. The former told the story, in detail and for the first time, of the heroic Waterfront Workers’ Lockout in 1951, their battle against both a National Government determined to offer up the destruction of their militant, democratic union as a warning to other workers in Cold War New Zealand and the class-collaborationist politics of the trade union movement leadership. Scott was active in the Lockout as a journalist, reporter, inventor of solidarity schemes, and Communist activist. The watersiders recognized him as one of their own, and his account buzzes with the reality of the battle. The latter, a development of his 1950s work The Parihaka Story, told the story of the Crown’s attacks in Taranaki and the visionary resistance leadership of Te Whiti-o-Rongomai and Tohu Kākahi. Scott’s early interest on Parihaka grew out of anti-racist reporting he had done for the Communist Party, and appeared at a time when few Pākehā, even on the socialist left, were familiar with the details of this history.

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A looming world recession?

At the ISO’s annual conference over the weekend 7-8 December a session on the international situation was led off with this introduction by Martin Gregory.


An assessment of capitalism internationally, both in its political domination and the state of its economy, is essential for forming a view of what might lie ahead for us in New Zealand. To state the obvious, New Zealand capitalism does not exist in a vacuum but is part of an international web of production, trade and imperialist political alliances. Ever since 1848, that year of revolutions, events in one country have synchronised with events in others. Therefore, an estimate of the global situation is the framework under which our expectations for NZ can be anticipated.


The 2008-2009 global financial crisis is still a useful reference point to start talking about the world economy. Under the cyclical theory of capitalism, crashes are supposed to be followed by booms, but a boom did not happen after the GFC. Governments intervened with bank bail-outs and spending schemes to boost their own economies. China helped out the world system with a stupendous spending and lending spree that stimulated a rapid recovery world-wide. But while there was a recovery there has not been an economic boom. No boom because the conditions for boom – increased rates of profit, and consequentially increased investments in the productive economy – were not created.


The creation of boom conditions would have required drastic courses of action by political leaderships of capitalist states. Here are three examples of drastic action that might be taken in a recession to create in a new lease of life for capitalism.


  1. Non-intervention by governments to allow more companies to go to the wall, leaving fewer competitors with greater global market share. This was the policy of Reagan and Thatcher in response to the 1982 crash. Mass unemployment is created.
  2. Repression of trade unions in order to drive down workers’ pay and working conditions to extract greater surplus value from their labour.
  3. War to destroy capital and competitors.


Because drastic actions like these did not happen following the 2008-09 financial crisis, or did not happen sufficiently, increased rates of profit and boom-level investment in the productive economy did not follow. Basically, the 2008-2009 crisis solved nothing. Shattering confrontations between states and/or between classes were postponed. Consequently, the long-term trend of the rate of profit to fall before the GFC has continued to trend down since.

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Labour’s Housing Policy: What does it mean for Porirua?

By Martin Gregory



It did not take long for Labour’s flagship KiwiBuild housing policy to come to grief; and if ever there was a minister likely to embarrass the Ardern government it was that rightwinger Phil Twyford. It was he who in 2015 infamously blamed Chinese for Auckland’s high house prices. The failure to get anywhere near Labour’s target of 10,000 KiwiBuild houses a year for ten years forced Ardern to execute a ministerial reshuffle in June. Twyford was dropped as housing minister and demoted to minister for urban development answerable to new housing minister Megan Woods. Kris Faafoi picked up responsibility for public housing, also answerable to Woods. On 4 September Woods announced the abandonment of KiwiBuild targets altogether.


Nevertheless, the toned-down KiwiBuild remains the government’s central housing policy. Under KiwiBuild private developers do the building and the profit making, underwritten by public money. All that the developers are required to do is to include some “affordable” units in their developments. The meaning of affordable price has been ridiculously stretched to mean up to $650,000 in Auckland and Queenstown, $550,000 in Wellington and $500,000 elsewhere. These capped-price units are reserved for qualifying buyers. The whole scheme is predicated on the private development industry and private ownership being the solution to the housing crisis. What has held back the construction of KiwiBuild units so far is the developers holding out for super-profits. In addition to guaranteeing the sale of KiwiBuild units, the industry wants the government to provide easy-to-develop land, to pick up the tab for infrastructure costs and to be allowed higher density under relaxed consenting conditions.


KiwiBuild has nothing to offer low-income working class people. What is really needed is a programme of building state housing. There is a massive demand for state homes to get people out of the clutches of private landlords or out of overcrowded homes and into independent living. As of June there were 12,311 applications for state homes on the Housing Register. Only the state, or local council, can be made accountable through the democratic process, especially when well-organised tenants associations bring pressure to bear on elected politicians. At its best, state housing can provide secure high-quality homes at a low rent. It spares tenants the costs of repairs, updates, rates and insurance. Through the transfer system state housing can be flexible to meet the needs of growing or shrinking families.

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Chile: The beginning of the end of neoliberalism?

Samuel F, a former member of the ISO now active in Chile, offers these reflections.


After more than 40 days of almost non-stop demonstrations things are on the surface somewhat quieter on the streets of Chilean cities. Quieter does not mean “normal” in any sense of the word – the streets are filled with political graffiti, today we were sent home early from work, and shops are boarded up to repel looters; on the other hand at least one can go about life without constantly worrying about getting tear gassed. It is common to hear people discussing politics in the streets – something rarely heard before, and hatred of the police is a more or less universal phenomena. The recent viral hit “Un violador en tu camino“ not only attacks rape culture, but also targets state violence quoting in irony the hymn of the national police force, Carabineros. On a personal level, most people are utterly exhausted both physically and emotionally, and according to news reports demand for psychological consultations has gone off the scale since the start of the crisis.

Politically, the president Piñera is doing all that he can to remain in office, and at the same time being politically isolated including by his own party. His strategy can be described as both a war of attrition against the protestors, and an attempt to divert the movement against the government by pushing a law and order agenda. The law and order agenda appears to be faltering a little, not least because a city council representative from his own right-wing party was recently arrested for organizing the looting of a shopping mall. The fizzle of the law and order strategy is promising, because by reducing the call for a crackdown amongst certain sectors, in particular small business – the short term risks of further violence and economic deterioration have receded somewhat. [Read more…]

Land is the Price: colonialism then…and now

Nothing to “celebrate” in Tuia 250 – Cook is a symbol of ongoing colonial violence

By Josh O’Sullivan

Throughout history capitalists has searched the world for profitable exploitation. To create a paradise for capital, lands were sought, claimed and the people that lived there forced off their communal property. Those commoners then became the pool of labour that the industrial revolution was built on. From the enclosing of the commons in Britain to the colonisation projects the world over, this pattern was repeated. The robbery of land, and the subsequent creation of wage labour, is found throughout histories of colonisation.

The means by which this accumulation is first gathered has its roots in slavery, alienation, pauperism and genocide. As Marx stated “Capitalism comes into the world dripping from head to foot, from every pore with blood and dirt.”

Plotting an empire

The economic crisis and wars in Europe during the 1830’s drove the push for colonial expansion. There was not only the unemployed labour but also unemployed capital which could not be invested at a profit in Britain. This situation was driving down the rate of profit of capital already invested. Not only did the Empire need a place to send its “unwashed”, unemployed masses, it also needed new markets to sell in, new profitable investment opportunities and, most importantly, to accumulate natural capital.

Edward Wakefield was one of the most ardent British politicians to argue for capitalist expansion and accumulation in the colonies, particularly in Aotearoa. Wakefield deplored the fact that in the American colonies men acquired land easily, supported themselves by their own labour. This made it difficult to accumulate capital for there was little unemployed labour to put to work. He attributed this ability of some working men to acquire land and develop self-sufficiency as a direct cause of the American Revolution.

Wakefield was fixated on how to replicate British class society where, instead of each man having his own plot of land, some would have to work for others and accumulate wealth for their employers and not for themselves. Previously slavery had been used to generate a reserve supply of labour. For later colonies slavery was no longer an option as it had been abolished in 1833.

The convict method in Australia was the next evolution of the colonial endeavour. Vagrancy laws were introduced in Britain to round up the poor and dispossessed who were suffering from the effects of the economic crisis. Prison ships, “hulks”, were used at first then the poor were shipped to Australia. Because of their convict status, Australian workers were unable to accumulate capital themselves but made their employers rich. Convicts from Britain, however, were not enough. After clearing the numerous Aboriginal lands in Australia through genocidal policies, the new colony found itself with thousands of acres and too little “free” labour to do the work. [Read more…]

Ihumātao: a Struggle for Justice

Protectors march for Ihumātao

By Josh O’Sullivan and Lozza Kiff


The fight for land rights in Aotearoa is the essential question for radical social change for both mana whenua and tau iwi. To resolve this question requires challenging some of the most fundamental aspects of capitalism in New Zealand – the rule of private property. Property held purely for profit, for factories, for land farming and for speculation. This struggle is crystallised in battle over Ihumātao.

Ihumātao is considered to be the oldest settlement in Auckland, and holds cultural and historical significance as an archaeologically rich landscape. It holds evidence of early Māori agricultural activities and is one of the last remaining sites of stone field crop propagation, for which it has been recognised as an at risk site on the United Nations International Council on Monuments and Sites. The whenua tells us stories of the origins of Tāmaki Makaurau. It is the only place in Auckland where pre-colonial stone structures can be found, all other stone garden complexes in Auckland have been destroyed, and it contains the oldest example of pre-colonial architecture in the remains of the Whare. Ihumātao is Waahi Tapu, a sacred place to Tangata Whenua.

Ihumātao was stolen from Māori in 1863 during the Waikato Invasion, along with 1.2 million hectares across the North Island. The Waikato invasion was a premeditated war of conquest directed against the Kingitanga. Their land expropriated and military conquest birthed what we now call Hamilton. The Crown did this under the New Zealand Settlements Act, a parliamentary act that confiscated land owned by anyone deemed to be rebels. In the government’s eyes anyone who associated with the Kingitanga movement were rebels. The Mana whenua of Ihumātao went from feeding and protecting the fledgling town of Auckland, to being accused by the Crown of plotting to massacre those very same pākehā. A desperate lie by the Crown to fuel greed of land speculators, who expropriated all of South Auckland, forcing the Māori to become refugees in their own land.

The land remained in private hands for over 130 years until in 1999, as historian Vincent O’Malley writes, “Manukau City Council, Auckland Regional Council, the Department of Conservation and the Lottery Grants Board jointly purchased a 100-hectare site from several owners and two years later officially opened the Ōtuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve”.

The treaty settlement with one of the iwi, Te Kawerau a Maki, was completed in 2014.  The land however was not returned. Originally, the Manukau City Council tried to make the land an open public space, but after the merger into the Supercity, legal action forced the council to rezone the land. As a result Ihumātao was designated a Special Housing Area (SHA), and was sold from the Wallace family in 2016 to Fletcher Residential. It was at this point that SOUL was formed. Since that point SOUL has occupied the land and laid challenge after challenge in every possible legal avenue, through the environment court, the Land court, the Waitangi tribunal, and even the UN. [Read more…]