Saturday 27 March 2021

Unbalanced Compulsory NZ History Curriculum Lacks Humanity. Special Guest Post by ROGER PARTRIDGE*

Contested Ground: The “foundational” histories of the new nation that emerged from the signing of the Treaty are the meeting and blending of two histories: those of Māori and the British Crown. Both histories have rich tapestries, with their own mythologies, customs and culture. And both histories have chequered pasts, including injustice, warfare, and slavery.

EIGHTEEN MONTHS AGO, the Government announced a curriculum change making it compulsory for all schools to teach “key aspects” of New Zealand history. The Ministry of Education was tasked with creating a new curriculum to “span the full range of New Zealanders’ experiences… with contemporary issues directly linked to major events of the past.”

Asking the Ministry of Education to draft a compulsory New Zealand History curriculum for school children was always fraught with risk. The Ministry has disavowed knowledge-based curricula – to the extent that the much-vaunted National Curriculum fits on a scanty 64 A4 pages. It covers the entire social sciences for years 1-13 in a single page.

As educationalist Briar Lipson revealed in her 2020 book, New Zealand’s Education Delusion: How bad ideas ruined a once world-leading school system, overwhelming evidence suggests the Ministry’s anti-knowledge stance is behind the decline in Kiwi students’ educational outcomes over the last two decades. Consequently, the shift to a knowledge-based curriculum at least for teaching New Zealand history is a welcome development.

But how would the Ministry cope with designing a curriculum that does justice to New Zealand’s rich history?

Not well, is the answer. As everyone knows, there are many sides to history. Yet few would have predicted the Ministry could have produced such a loaded, myopic and politicised account of New Zealand’s past as the draft curriculum released for consultation in January.

To be fair, Aotearoa New Zealand’s Histories in the New Zealand Curriculum is not all bad. Its ultimate goal is enabling students to “make an informed ethical judgement about people’s actions in the past, giving careful consideration to the complex predicaments they faced, the attitudes and values of the time, and [students’] own values and attitudes.” No one would quarrel with this aim. Surely that is precisely the goal of studying history.

“The” or “a”?

Yet, despite the draft curriculum’s reference to plural “histories,” the curriculum’s first of three “big ideas” that all students are expected to understand prescribes a much narrower learning outcome. After 10 years of compulsory study all students are expected to understand that “Māori history is the foundational and continuous history of Aotearoa New Zealand.”

Precisely what the words “foundational and continuous” mean is not clear. The pages of most New Zealand history books stretch back millions of years before any human foot stepped on Aotearoa’s shores.

Indeed, humanity arrived late to New Zealand – by most accounts, a little under a thousand years ago – more than 50,000 years after Aborigines settled in Australia and more than 200,000 years after the first human footprints in Africa. In the absence of human and other mammalian predators, New Zealand developed its unique bird-dominated fauna, including the wondrous Moa (not to mention the humble Kiwi).

Māori history is undoubtedly the first human history of Aotearoa. But the country has a rich history before settlement by homo sapiens.

But even ignoring the country’s pre-human history, the “first big idea” is loaded with a second problem: Māori history is not simply “a” foundational history; it is claimed to be “the” foundational (and continuous) history.

Yet surely the history of a country formed by a treaty signed between two peoples is founded on two histories? Indeed, until the arrival of British settlers in the early 1800s, there was no “Aotearoa New Zealand.” Māori were tribal, rather than organised as a nation state.

The “foundational” histories of the new nation that emerged from the signing of the Treaty are the meeting and blending of two histories: those of Māori and the British Crown. Both histories have rich tapestries, with their own mythologies, customs and culture. And both histories have chequered pasts, including injustice, warfare, and slavery.

Since the birth of New Zealand, the country has added its own history to the histories it inherited. For good and for bad. A history of civil war during the 1860s, followed by unjust confiscations by the state from Māori. Of leading the world with the grant of voting rights to woman. Of triumph on the sporting field and in the laboratory. Of creating one of the world’s first welfare states (and thereby providing the blueprint for “mother” Britain’s National Health Service). Of consistently ranking in the top echelon of countries for human development, prosperity, economic freedom and freedom from corruption. And of bi-partisan support for settling historical grievances from past injustices to the nation’s first settlers. Along the way, New Zealand’s initial history of biculturalism has been supplemented with a modern history of tolerant multiculturalism.

Māori history is foundational to New Zealand history. But teaching children in 21st century New Zealand that it is “the” foundational history of the nation is simply wrong.

Colonialism and power

The second and third “big ideas” all children are expected to understand from their 10 years of compulsory history study are also erroneous – or at least exaggerated. The other two ideas are that:

·         Colonisation and its consequences have been central to our history for the past 200 years and continue to influence all aspects of New Zealand life (emphasis added); and

·         The course of Aotearoa New Zealand’s history has been shaped by the exercise and effects of power.

It is true that colonisation is central to New Zealand’s history. That New Zealand is predominantly English-speaking, has a Westminster-style democracy, and a legal system based on English common law is a direct consequence of the treaty signed by Māori chiefs with the British Crown in 1840.

It is also true that colonisation has seen a litany of injustices to Māori. And not just the confiscations of tribal lands. Who could have conceived, for example, that the Crown would assert the right to make planning decisions over iwi landholdings?

All Kiwi children should learn about the confiscation of taonga, harm to iwi institutions and consequential loss of mana these injustices involved.

Yet the notion that “colonisation and its consequences continue to influence “all aspects” of New Zealand society is exaggerated.

There are many aspects of New Zealand society that owe little or nothing to colonisation and everything to human nature and human enterprise: familial love, romantic relationships, the enjoyment of art and culture, friendship, recreation, industry and trade, and even everyday work.

The idea that the struggle for power (above all else) have shaped New Zealand history, with power-wielding “victors” and powerless “victims,” is also flawed. This view is predicated on Marxist notions of class warfare. Of different individuals, groups and organisations engaging in a perpetual contest to decide who gets the biggest share of the spoils.

At critical times in New Zealand’s history, power structures have had a profound effect on social justice and social outcomes. And never has this been more true than during the New Zealand Wars and their aftermath.

But New Zealand’s history is much more complex than can be explained by the exercise and expression of power.  It involves a spirit of community and shared values, reinforced by our small size and geographic isolation. It has been shaped by both bold and foolhardy political leadership. It has been buffed and buffeted by world events, including two world wars and periodic global financial shocks. It has been forged on the sports field, in the science lab and elsewhere by great New Zealanders performing on the global stage. And it has been enriched by immigration and multiculturalism.

At significant times, relations between Māori and Pākehā have involved a profound struggle for power. But for all its chequered past, New Zealand’s history has been shaped not just by conflict but by consensus and by a sense of common humanity.

Sadly, the drafters of the New Zealand Curriculum seem to have misplaced theirs.

*Roger Partridge is chairman and a co-founder of The New Zealand Initiative and is a senior member of its research team. He led law firm Bell Gully as executive chairman from 2007 to 2014, after 16 years as a commercial litigation partner. Roger was executive director of the Legal Research Foundation, a charitable foundation associated with the University of Auckland, from 2001 to 2009, and was a member of the Council of the New Zealand Law Society, the governing body of the legal profession in New Zealand, from 2011 to 2015. He is a chartered member of the Institute of Directors, a member of the University of Auckland Business School advisory board, and a member of the editorial board of the New Zealand Law Review.

This essay is exclusive to Bowalley Road.


Geoff said...

An excellent article.

Thank you for publishing it.

Although you have 'exclusive'rights Chris, it needs wide dissemination & honest discussion.

That we have come to the stage where this type of article needs to be written, is in my opinion at least, a DISGRACE . It reflects extremely poorly on both the Government and 'educationalists' ( pfffft ! ) behind it !

Brendan McNeill said...


As much as I am encouraged by your advocacy for free speech, this history curriculum is just one example of your neo-Marxist sympathies coming home to roost. This must hardly come as a surprise to you.

Anonymous said...

"....the notion that “colonisation and its consequences continue to influence “all aspects” of New Zealand society is exaggerated."
Roger Partridge

Replacing the word "colonisation" in the above paragraph with the word "imperialism" and adding a commitment to teach an understanding of what imperialism is, might be a better choice of words. After all the effect of imperialism on all aspects of New Zealand society or indeed global society can hardly be exaggerated even into the 21st Century.

Anonymous said...

No surprise that a British-based legal careerist should write that the drafters of the curriculum seem to have "misplaced their common humanity". Tikanga Maori is a growing part of the legal landscape and his successors will increasingly embrace it, reinforced I expect by the three big ideas in the NZ History Curriculum. Human history in Aotearoa began with Kupe and is continuous and now inseparable from the histories of later arrivals. Colonialism and Power are among the strongest manifestations of our common humanity and deserve to be named and engaged with. Reaction is to be expected and affirms the emergent.

DS said...

As much as I am encouraged by your advocacy for free speech, this history curriculum is just one example of your neo-Marxist sympathies coming home to roost. This must hardly come as a surprise to you.

There is absolutely nothing Marxist about this at all. Marxism is, at its heart, an analysis of relationships to the means of production, not a fetishisation of identity and cultural essentialism. Class Warfare is not a struggle between identities, but the innate struggle between those with power over economic production and those who do not. Power and its lack is a matter of circumstances (which can be changed), not identity (which cannot).

Anonymous said...

I have just been reading Tamihana Te Rauparaha's 1860s account of his father's life, recently republished in an excellent scolarly edition. One smallepisode (among the general mayhem) of the operation of Maori law struck my attention. A bird hunting English ship's captain was killed by one of Te Rauparaha's subordinate chiefs on the mainland. Te Rauparaha needed to reassure other ships' captains that New Zealand was a safe anchorage, or genuinely felt that an outrage had occurred. He set off to kill the murderér, no other punishment than death being available in such a situation. The miscreant managed to flee and so justice was satisfied by killing one of the man's slaves. This has been the rule in tribal pre-state societies where groups are held responsible rather than the individual.

I think there is a terrible danger in cultural relativism in that it dismisses any idea of progress in civilisation. New Zealand law is the product of millenia of experimentation in managing conflict in large-scale complex societies and the relevance of Maori tikanga can only be marginal I think.

I also take issue with the black armband view that Maori were impoverished by colonisation and loss of vast areas of unused land. Huge new economic opportunities became available for commerce and wage labour and the bigger picture was actually one of increasing wealth, better housing, better clothing, burgeoning populations and eventually all the advantages that accrue today as part of a first world country.

David George said...

Be under no illusion; the new school history curriculum is part of a general push to negate, devalue and replace the values of an entire culture. It could scarcely be more obvious but, as Donna Awartere said when challenged to explain why Pakeha would simply sit back and let the tangata whenua re-establish their hegemony over Aotearoa, Awatere responded:

“The strength of white opposition will be allayed by the fact that Maori sovereignty will not be taken seriously. Absolute conviction in the superiority of white culture will not allow most white people to even consider the possibility.” (quoted from Chris's 12/03 essay)

For all those that value our western heritage, it's religion, it's achievements, it's history and it's heroes how to make a stand? The path is narrowing; try and get a letter in support published in one of our newspapers - as Dr Michael Bassett found out, banned from the Herald group for questioning what is now The Orthodoxy.

How to push back?
Here's a good discussion and readers advice

"I find that I am being asked the same thing more often in interviews for Live Not By Lies. It’s a hard question to answer, because I don’t want some poor soul who is a family breadwinner to blow that up on my advice, when I don’t know all the pertinent facts. The fact is, there is no way to do this without risking suffering — and that’s okay. What I usually tell people is to talk about it with their pastor and with others whose wisdom they trust before doing it. But that seems unsatisfying too. I want to give people clear, unqualified advice, but I find that to be impossible without knowing more about their personal situation."

David George said...

Anonymous provides a clear illustration of the toxic underlying ethos inherent in all of this.

He (apologies if it's a she) asserts that the author's beliefs are purely a product of class/race/culture and therefore dismissible and inadmissible.
He finishes with the astonishing claim that "Reaction is to be expected and affirms the emergent." I take that to mean that any criticism, concerns or questions as to validity is taken as proof of the assertion. How convenient. Is this a battle, a war against the forces of evil, "Colonialism and Power", the Enemy, one that justifies anything and everything?
Mutual respect and cooperation, civil discourse, the search for the truth dismissed as unnecessary impediments to the "final solution".
Now where have we seen this type of "thinking" before?

"It is necessary to think when you read such a thing, to meditate long and hard on the message. It is necessary to recognize, for example, that the writer believed that it would be better to execute ten thousand potentially innocent individuals than to allow one poisonous member of the oppressor class to remain free. It is equally necessary to pose the question: "Who, precisely, belonged to that hypothetical entity, 'the bourgeoisie'?" It is not as if the boundaries of such a category are self-evident, there for the mere perceiving. They must be drawn. But where, exactly? And, more importantly, by whom-or by what? If it's hate inscribing the lines, instead of love, they will inevitably be drawn so that the lowest, meanest, most cruel and useless of the conceptual geographers will be justified in manifesting the greatest possible evil, and producing the greatest possible misery.

Members of the bourgeoisie? Beyond all redemption! They had to go, as a matter of course! What of their wives? Children? Even-their grandchildren? Off with their heads, too! All were incorrigibly corrupted by their class identity, and their destruction therefore ethically necessitated. How convenient, that the darkest and direst of all possible motivations could be granted the highest of moral standings! That was a true marriage of Hell and of Heaven. What values, what philosophical presumptions, truly dominated, under such circumstances? Was it desire for brotherhood, dignity, and freedom from want? Not in the least-not given the outcome. It was instead and obviously the murderous rage of hundreds of thousands of biblical Cains, each looking to torture, destroy and sacrifice their own private Abels. There is simply no other manner of accounting for the corpses."

Brian McDonald said...

As a person part Maori and raised at a time when the "mother England" shine was growing dull some of the changes seem abrupt and sharp - probably like having your land taken from you and your language banned.

Nick J said...

Brendan, I have been reading Trotter for several decades, I really don't remember him espousing Marxism or neo Marxist ideology. He gives it fair airtime admittedly but he critiques it fairly. In more recent times Chris appears to me to be actively against the damage neo Marxism is doing to the old Left.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Brendan McNeill.

DS, commenting above, has set the ball rolling on this one, Brendan, so I will limit my response to the following.

It is most unwise for conservative commentators to avail themselves of terms such as "Neo-Marxist" and/or "Cultural Marxist". All it signifies is that the user is deploying the terms "Marxist" and "Marxism" as scare-words. (Think swearwords.)

The appendage of the prefix "Neo" and/or the word "cultural" indicates a profound ignorance of Marx's ideas and of what has come to be called "Marxism". Any reasonable degree of familiarity with Marxism would preclude the use of such terms. Not least because there has been no "new" iteration of Marx's ideas; and because the nature of "culture" is a subject about which Marx and Engels, and a host of their successors, had a great deal to say. It makes as little sense to talk about "cultural" Marxism as it does to talk about "economic" Marxism. Both aspects of human existence are part and parcel of the Marxist world-view.

Which is why, Brendan, your use of the term "Neo-Marxist" in relation to this (and other) postings merely indicates that you have no idea what you're talking about.

A good reason to desist - I would have thought.

Brendan McNeill said...

Dear Chris

Like it or not, the phrase ‘neo-Marxism’ is a thing; it has currency:

I used this phrase specifically in reference to the Curriculum changes because Marxism as formerly expressed by Marx applied the lens of power and powerlessness primarily to the issue of a person’s class in society. Martin Latsis wrote:

“We are not fighting against single individuals. We are exterminating the bourgeoisie as a class. Do not look in the file of incriminating evidence to see whether or not the accused rose up against the Soviets with arms or words. Ask him instead to which class he belongs, what is his background, his education, his profession. These are the questions that will determine the fate of the accused. That is the meaning and essence of the Red Terror.”
— Martin Latsis, Red Terror[

What is ‘new’ in the current expression of Marxism, is that it has ceased to focus upon a person’s class or status in society, rather instead it redeploys the Marxist ideology of power and powerlessness across the intersectional spectrum of race, gender, sexual orientation, and any other self-identified victim group embraced by the left.

Those who have embraced neo-Marxism refuse to view people as individual human beings each with their own strengths and weaknesses, beauty and failings, but simply as belonging to a particular tribe, and consequently deserving of praise or derision.

What I don’t understand is why you are now apparently concerned about Marxist ideology expressed in the new History Curriculum, when you appear to support the revolutionary views of Marx in some of your other columns?

The Barron said...

Behind the gigantic heads of a couple of slave holders and an imperialist, Donald Trump expanded his culture wars by announcing a 'garden of American heroes', he then listed all the figures I remember when Uncle Walt would introduce Frontier World. I imagined an entire park of Fess Parker statues.
Often, what is seen as 'revisionist' history, is simply the history held by the disempowered. History is written by the winner is not social science but propaganda. History and Anthropology are social science disciplines which must be subject to peer debate. Many people seem to have problems that the peers now include those that listen to the voices once silenced.
I found Roger Partridge's article Problematic. His delve into the pre-human pre-history of NZ outside the curricular being discussed, as was his pre-NZ prehistory. Law as a discipline does not always coalesce with history. The Waitangi Tribunal is an example in which the historians and the lawyers often approached from very different starting points and often competing views of what is 'evidence'. I am not sure Roger Partridge actually understands history as a social science, and seems to have a strange mistrust of the capacity of the New Zealand history teachers to deliver the discipline in which they have trained for. This is implied throughout his article, yet it is devoid of any actual mention of those charged with the delivery.
He inserts victors and victims with quotation marks as if the curriculum dichotomises history in such a way. He and others make assumptions that by understanding the Maori view through cultural ontology, it somehow misrepresents rather than offer explanation.
As with Trump's 'garden of heroes', to freeze and romanticize history is appealing to the right as it justifies the status quo and history remains through a dominant voice, and others histories are suppressed. I am pleased that the Ministry have a goal that those coming out of our school system are equipped to differentiate myth from evidence in social science. I think NZ will benefit greatly by critical analysis from the next generation.

Kimbo said...

@ DS and Chris Trotter

What Brendan McNeill incorrectly describes as neo-Marxism - a term popularised, btw, by the likes of Jordan Peterson failing to properly distinguish Marxism, Feminism, Queer and Ethnic Studies and the ideologically unrelated Post Modernism and Post Structuralism - could be better described as dialectics. And that is VERY much what Marx and Engels were about, but focused on the economic proletariat vs bourgeois clash.

But rather than confining the locus of the revolution to the class struggle, the aforementioned Feminism and Queer and Ethnic Studies have applied the clash to the realms of gender, sexuality and race. And utilised the unrelated Post Modernism in a tactical fashion to undermine the prevailing hegemony.

For those of us who don’t view the dialectic as the one size-fits-all explanation for life, reality and truth, the shibboleths, ongoing patch warfare and tests of doctrinal purity among the competing branches of the radical left such as Chris Trotter’s unease with a/the new history curriculum are an amusing imitation of The Life of Brian’s dispute between the People’s Front of Judaea and the Judean People’s Front, and the right of every brother (and sister!) to be known as as...Loretta if they so choose.

David George said...

Thanks Brian, a pertinent reminder to preserve and propagate your culture, it's values and it's language. No?

Chris, you are, of course, correct, the use of "Marxist in this context is less than ideal although I'm sure Brendan was not being intentionally misleading. What would be a better alternative?

The philosopher Yoram Hazony confronted this issue in his essay:

Anti-Marxist liberals have labored under numerous disadvantages in the recent struggles to maintain control of liberal organizations. One is that they are often not confident they can use the term “Marxist” in good faith to describe those seeking to overthrow them. This is because their tormentors do not follow the precedent of the Communist Party, the Nazis, and various other political movements that branded themselves using a particular party name and issued an explicit manifesto to define it. Instead, they disorient their opponents by referring to their beliefs with a shifting vocabulary of terms, including “the Left,” “Progressivism,” “Social Justice,” “Anti-Racism,” “Anti-Fascism,” “Black Lives Matter,” “Critical Race Theory,” “Identity Politics,” “Political Correctness,” “Wokeness,” and more. When liberals try to use these terms they often find themselves deplored for not using them correctly, and this itself becomes a weapon in the hands of those who wish to humiliate and ultimately destroy them.

The best way to escape this trap is to recognize the movement presently seeking to overthrow liberalism for what it is: an updated version of Marxism. I do not say this to disparage anyone. I say this because it is true. And because recognizing this truth will help us understand what we are facing.

The new Marxists do not use the technical jargon that was devised by 19th-century Communists. They don’t talk about the bourgeoisie, proletariat, class struggle, alienation of labor, commodity fetishism, and the rest, and in fact they have developed their own jargon tailored to present circumstances in America, Britain, and elsewhere. Nevertheless, their politics are based on Marx’s framework for critiquing liberalism (what Marx calls the “ideology of the bourgeoisie”) and overthrowing it. We can describe Marx’s political framework as follows

Lindsay Mitchell said...

The introduction of a compulsory history curriculum comes from the plan for Maori to share power fifty/fifty by 2040, the 200th anniversary of the signing of the treaty. In some cases - over resurces for example - Maori will have more input than other citizens. It's all here at TPK:

Lindsay Mitchell said...

A non-searchable document, see p38.

Chris Trotter said...

To: The Barron.

History is NOT a social science.

History belongs among what used to be referred to - correctly - as "The Liberal Arts"

Kimbo said...

@ Chris Trotter

...and my apologies for my carelessness in failing, in my previous comment, to notice that that this thread was initiated by Roger Partridge’s thoughts on the NZ history curriculum, rather than your own. However, judging by your many previous commentaries on Maori activism as I’ve discerned them, including that it is essentially a distraction from the essential class warfare in which tangata whenua are currently among the disproportionate primary losers, I’m assuming you are more or less in agreement with Partridge’s analysis.

Chris Trotter said...

To: All the Subscribers to "Neo-Marxism" and "Cultural Marxism" out there leaping to the defence of their terminology.

Sigh. A system of political, social and economic analysis driven by anything other than humanity's historically determined relationship/s to the means of production CANNOT BE a Marxist system.

If you replace the bourgeoisie versus the proletariat with some other antagonistic social confrontation, the result is not a hyphenated form of Marxism - it is a new and distinct system of thought.

If you replaced The Father, The Son and The Holy Ghost with a new set of identities, what you would have is NOT Christianity - but something quite different.

Marxism is the system of thought developed by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in the second half of the 19th Century.

End. Of. Story.

John Hurley said...

I see noble Maori person with barcode on the Nation and my reaction is "Jehova's Witness" - not today thankyou!

They can subject us to it but a subculture will develop.

Spoonley and Fleras now take it upon themselves to 'mark' Pakeha culture and thereby dismantle the myth that Pakeha do not have a (specific) culture, that theirs is just the normal and natural way of doing things. By 'marking' Pakeha culture, so the (implicit) argument runs, Maori culture loses the taint of deviance from an imagined norm, for if there is no norm, Maori culture cannot deviate from it and appear somehow different and unnatural. Both cultures are thereby given equal status - which is what the project of turning the settler colony New Zealand into a postcolonial, bicultural Aotearoa/ New Zealand is ultimately all about.

While I find myself in general agreement with the authors' call for bi-nationalism, as a logical consequence of conflicting messages of kawanatanga and rangatiratanga in the Treaty, I reject their easy acceptance of essentialism as an unproblematic part of that bi-nationalism when they say:

The rationale behind bi-nationalism reflects an essentialist reading of diversity - that is, each group of people is fundamental [sic] different, and these primordial ('essential') differences constitute the basis for entitlement and engagement.

I do not agree that it is necessary to re-introduce 'essentialism' into the discussion. In fact, I think it is dangerous, because it adds fuel to the fire of those who love engaging in 'authenticity talk' to establish that there are no 'real' or 'full-blooded' Maori left in New Zealand anyway, and that consequently nobody can be entitled to anything simply on the grounds of 'being Maori'. The authors should have made clear that it is a strategic essentialism that underlies a commitment to bi-nationalism. Qualifying the essentialism as 'strategic' makes explicit that the Maori nation is constructed as an imagined community with the aim of wrenching power from the 'mainstream', while at the same time avoiding the 'authenticity trap'.

He's the expert on the "far right" [snigger]

John Hurley said...

There is no p38 Lindsay Mitchell

Looks like the journalists are with the program. As Mani Dunlop says "you've got to get on the Waka because this is the way this nation is going". Given they are throwing everything at it and banning dissent (I'm blocked on Q&A Twitter) they wont know how people feel. How will Jacinda look when she is connected, not with history but Critical Race Theory. -is there a journalist in the house?

Sam said...

The education system was created for the benefit of New Zealand's of European descent so the rest of the system has to be dumbed down and limited trades training now we have the lingering effects of European superiority and now it's a burden but society has to decide how to spend taxes - do we want to spend our treasur on European superiority or New Zealand?

Nick J said...

That Chris is a little too convenient. I agree Marxism per se is the doctrine of Marx and Engels written in the manner of a holy text.

What that convenience misses out on is subsequent development by the likes of Lenin, Mao, Gramschi and now a succession of subsequent thinkers. The one thing that doesn't change is the principle of oppressor and victim Marx so elegantly modelled in the relationship between bourgeoisie and proletariat.

When referring to neo-Marxist its a bit like calling somebody a fascist or Nazi. We all recognise their methodology if not their specific ideology. Its an imprecise catch all for a methodology and manner of thinking. The Left calls people fascists all the time, often with justification to call opprobrium upon them based upon past misdemeanours. Neo-Marxism as a term does precisely that too, as the record of Marxist misdeeds is equally extensive.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Nick J.

Oh, come ON, Nick.

"The one thing that doesn't change is the principle of oppressor and victim Marx so elegantly modelled in the relationship between bourgeoisie and proletariat."

If every purveyor of political thought who posits an oppressor and a victim is to be construed as a Marxist, then Plato and Aristotle were Marxists, Machiavelli was a Marxist, Thomas Hobbes was a Marxist and so was Thomas Paine.

You see the problem, Nick?

You would be much more sensible to call those systems of thought which draw heavily from the ideas of Karl Marx by the names of their creators: Leninism, Trotskyism, Stalinism and Maoism. That way you could, at least, offer a little ideological specificity - not to mention coherence.

Lindsay Mitchell said...

John Hurley, There most certainly is a p38. Scroll down the body of the report.

Nick J said...

I see your point Chris and the problem of specificity of ideology.

Id ask however did not Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and Mao identify as Marxists? Their own ideologies were underpinned by the works of Marx were they not? Should we no longer refer to them as Marxists?

Specificity may be a semantic issue, just look at how "alt-Right" and "fascist" gets cast as a catch all for the basket of deplorables / Trumpists / Republicans.

I will try and be more specific, maybe start by desisting utilising the terms Left and Right.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Nick J.

Once again, Nick, the problem resolves down to what Marx - and Marxists - believe.

Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin were all pretty conventional Marxists in the sense that they accepted the basic Marxist argument that humanity's relationship to the means of production prevalent at any given historical moment and the class relationships resulting therefrom constitute the primary motive forces of history.

Mao, by contrast, significantly revised the Marxist schema by elevating the Chinese peasantry above the Chinese proletariat (which was very small by comparison) as the principal vector for revolutionary change.

It is possible to argue, particularly in relation to Stalin, that the immense human suffering for which the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was responsible had its genesis in Stalin's determination to make Russian society conform to the Marxist paradigm - i.e. by turning its millions of peasants into industrial workers and shooting all those who objected.

After all, according to Marx's theory, socialism (let's leave the utopian goal of communism out of the picture here) could only arise in a highly sophisticated industrial society (like the UK or Germany) where the proletariat constituted a sizeable plurality of the population. Clearly, Russia in the 1920s was very far from being a highly sophisticated industrial society - so the prospects for establishing a successful socialist society there were hardly encouraging.

Unless ... the CPSU could, in the space of 10-15 years, transform the Soviet Union into just such a society. This is what Stalin set out to do, and, at enormous cost to the Soviet population, he succeeded.

I hope, Nick, that you can see what a murderous distortion of Marx's ideas Stalinism represented. If you can't, then further debate on this subject is likely to prove fruitless.

Nick J said...

On that we can agree Chris. I struggle with the question of whether Stalins criminality was inherent in Marx's theory of class struggle or was entirely of his making. The same question might be asked of Torquemada who professed Christianity. No simple answers, I'm uncertain. Only the lesson of going down well trodden paths knowing where they lead.

Odysseus said...

The idea that Maori history is the "foundational and continuous" history of this country conflates two philosophies of history. One is the "Golden Age" view that sees Maori living innocently in a garden of Eden before the arrival of the European and colonization. So much for the "foundational". The other is the Teleological school which would see the purpose of the history of this country as the fulfilment of Maori Nationalist aspirations. Here is found the "continuous". I am struck by the parallels with the treatment of the Aryan race in Mein Kampf.

greywarbler said...

NZ rides out on Rocinante, ready for to cope with windmills. There is a need to be strong and deal with our history of colonialisation but neither assertiveness or rending of garments about the past is useful. I have been shocked how little many NZs know, or have chosen to not know but many have been working on this situation for years and made good progress. Maori and pakeha have come to terms over reparation, and continue to do so, which is just simply - fair. Now the fascinating history of everything that has happened should be told, and understood so that pakeha faults are displayed but also the efforts to change, and the confusion of the various social and economic changes produced in Maori also understood.

There is no place in face-to-face discussion for smart fellows to argue theories quoting Marx. They might have precedents of restoration and co-operation though which could appear in United Nations law, but not necessarily. We might have to fashion our own narrative, we people together. Academics thinking about life like an academic exercise, apply their education and store-bought knowledge and might mix us up, or legally drag out the procedures such as in Bleak House. That would be degenerating.

The whole idea should be to be informative about our history and not dwell hugely on aspects that are not well regarded. Pakeha were under the influence of colonisers and capitalism. Just bringing the idea of the cash economy and the idea of taking Maori's land they wished to keep, offering them sundry small, possibly useful stuff in return was assymetrical. Forcing Maori to travel long distances to towns and speak in Court to prove they owned their land that was wanted by colonists took their time away from working, and put pressure on local Maori who might be expected to give them accommodation and food. Land and resources were the main interest, while Maori found a playing field that became titled against them.

There are things to describe helping understanding without implying that pakeha have always chosen to be rascals! Make a good informative history and explain how things were then. Don't 'editorialise' and don't politicise and not abase ourselves but look for positives from then, and better schemes for work, health etc starting now and getting revved up when we find ways to move the stonehenge pollies to a safe sideline away from the real people and character-building of new New Zealand and its infrastructure, in every sense.

Anonymous said...

Why is a left wing blog site hosting a contribution from right wing NZInitiative
Almost as bad as the Michael Bassett contribution that was removed

David George said...

There is ample evidence that Marx justified the evils of hate and resentment but that of murder itself: From a 1848 essay “there is only one way in which the murderous death agonies of the old society and the bloody birth throes of the new society can be shortened, simplified and concentrated, and that way is revolutionary terror.”

And this leads to a truly diabolical mindset—in Marxism, there really is no such thing as evil. Marx claimed his analysis of class struggle was purely “scientific” and “objective” (which would be utterly surprising to anyone who ever has read his rantings against capitalism, and virtually anyone else with whom he disagreed!). Marx stated that it was simply inevitable that the bourgeoisie would be annihilated, and that it was simply inevitable that millions would “perish in a revolutionary holocaust.” For Marx, killing of the bourgeoisie was not “murder”—for “murder” was simply a bourgeoisie notion imposed upon the subservient proletariat class to keep them in line.

It therefore is not surprising at all to find that Marx’s disciples—notably Lenin, Stalin, and Mao—were so nonchalant about the millions upon millions of people they killed: it was just the inevitable process of dialectical materialism. It wasn’t murder; it wasn’t genocide—it was scientific, inevitable and necessary for the good of mankind. Yes that’s right—killing and enslaving human beings for the good of humanity was a foundational plank of Marxist philosophy and later Communist ideology. One can see the roots of such philosophy within Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s concept of “forcing people to be free” if they went against the “general will of the people,” which was equated with the “divine sovereign.”

That is why it utterly baffles me when some people try to distance the atrocities of Lenin, Stalin, and Mao from Karl Marx, by claiming they distorted Marx’s philosophy—because it was Marx himself to stated that not only did the bourgeoisie have to be annihilated, but also that countless groups of people who were not yet sufficiently advanced to accept the dictatorship of the proletariat would simply have to be wiped out. Let’s be clear: the mass murder of the 20th century Communist regimes was clearly stated and championed by Marx’s own philosophy.
Joel Anderson.

AB said...

Partridge is correct about the first two "big ideas" being exaggerated though not outright wrong. These are:
1.) "Māori history is the foundational and continuous history of Aotearoa New Zealand.”
2.) "Colonisation and its consequences have been central to our history for the past 200 years and continue to influence all aspects of New Zealand life "
This exaggeration most likely comes from a desire to actually redress injustice in the present - which isn't the purpose of teaching history.
Partridge is wrong about the third "big idea" though - because it is absolutely correct and so self-evident as to be a simple truism. And correct not only n terms of Maori-Pakeha relations but of Pakeha-Pakeha relations too. The third big idea:
3.) "The course of Aotearoa New Zealand’s history has been shaped by the exercise and effects of power."

Interesting post though.

The Barron said...

'Oh, the humanity' -
Herbert Morrison, Journalist 1937

David George said...

Are there several "Anonymous' posters on here.
" Why is a left wing blog site hosting a contribution from right wing"

One of the things I like about this site, and it's founder, is a willingness to encourage,
and engage with, a range of view points. I'm sure there are purely lefty echo chambers you can join in on if confirmation of your ideology is all you're after.

DS said...

There is ample evidence that Marx justified the evils of hate and resentment but that of murder itself: From a 1848 essay “there is only one way in which the murderous death agonies of the old society and the bloody birth throes of the new society can be shortened, simplified and concentrated, and that way is revolutionary terror.”

One can pick and choose anything out of Marx, but you are rather overlooking a quite basic point - that democratic change was not viable in 1848. It was not a matter of simply voting in a Socialist Government, since peaceful transition of power from the Bourgeoisie to the Proletariat was no more possible than a peaceful transition from the Aristocracy to the Bourgeoisie. Which means Revolution is all that is left (and I would note that the level of technology in 1848 meant that Marx could not have endorsed twentieth century totalitarianism even if he wanted to).

This changed towards the end of Marx's life, when the expansion of the voting franchise in the UK opened the door for democratic paths. Marx suggested that the likes of Britain might be able to effect its changes via the all-powerful parliamentary system. He was also a huge Abraham Lincoln fanboy, even going so far as to send Lincoln birthday greetings. Other Marxist thinkers like Bernstein took Marx in a more social-democratic direction - it is why the German Social Democratic Party was officially Marxist until the 1950s.

As for stating that Marx had no concept of Evil... um, yes. He did. "Workers of the World Unite, You Have Nothing to Lose But Your Chains," is a straight-out moral appeal to a cause of liberation. Marx considered capitalism a monstrous and exploitative system - in short, a moral judgement. What set Marx apart from Utopian Socialists is that he thought capitalism was not simply evil, but that its innate contradictions and historical progressions would ultimately serve to destroy that evil.

Finally, as I have noted before, Marxist classes are determined by changeable relationships to the means of production - they are not fixed identities. Change the means and mode of production, and class relationships change. You don't destroy the bourgeoisie via murdering people, you destroy the bourgeoisie by removing the basis of their power (i.e. removing private ownership of the means of production). Nothing in Marx necessitates Stalin or Mao.

Terry Dunleavy MBE said...


Will, you join me in persuading people to stop using the tautological monstrosity "Aotearoa New Zealand." I can accept either as referring to our country when used in appropriate context, but as a native Pakeha of Irish ancestry, I find Aotearoa New Zealand as being as woke and unnecessary as would an Irishman referring to Eire Ireland. I spent the latter half of my 92 years helping to persuade the world to enjoy the unique qualities of New Zealand wine, furthering the impact of the brand "New Zealand" as representing qualify in things to eat and drink that are now the lifeblood of our economy and prosperous way of life. There's as much a place for Aotearoa here as there is for Erin in Ireland in art, culture and the like, but we should cease confusing people about the official name of our country.

Nick J said...

Grey, I like the way you rip away the abstract for the real. Real people, real motives, real at the relevant point.
PS my 46 year old 3 speed that I rode to Uni and still use is called Rocinante, together we have tilted at windmills for years.

greywarbler said...

Why is a left-wing blog ...Because by taking notice of it, you know what being left-wing is.
It's terribly important to keep thinking and checking what actually you are and the group to which you think you belong. If people of standing looked at their behaviour with some objectivity, they might see that they act in total contradiction to their supposed position.

And Karl Marx might have been writing with his ideas illuminated by horrific battles and war. He was perhaps looking at how aeons of human civilisation would have to be sacrificed in a war meant to serve the bottom of society, not the top which is more usual. He would know that peacefully putting ideas forward. The Tolpuddle Martyrs from Britain were sent to Australia for forming a worker's society in 1834. Determined protests resulted in their being brought back home. Is it any wonder that Marx made dark comments in 1848. He could see that the entrenched advantage and natural cruelty of the moneyed classes would only be moved in a short time, by a civil war; [the]'death agonies of the old society and the bloody birth throes of the new society can be revolutionary terror.'

I have made the point that people pushed too far will resort to hate and violence. There were people pushed off their land by owners who lost their means to support themselves such as the Highland Clearances starting in the late 1700s, and the Palestinians from the early 1800s. |

Then was the Jewish, Stern Gang or Lehi who undertook revolutionary action. They had been operating since 1940: Zionist extremist organization in Palestine, founded in 1940 by Avraham Stern (1907–42) after a split in the right-wing underground movement Irgun Zvai Leumi.
Extremely anti-British, the group repeatedly attacked British personnel in Palestine and even invited aid from the Axis powers. The British police retaliated by killing Stern in his apartment in February 1942; many of the gang’s leaders were subsequently arrested. The group’s terrorist activities extended beyond Palestine: two members assassinated Lord Moyne, British minister of state in the Middle East, at Cairo (November 1944).

So there are eruptions from people everywhere: capitalism, communism, they are opposing faces on the same coin. Both of them with something to offer, and yet dishing disaster, perhaps because of human nature inclined to excess, and working to theories of a utopian situation.
At present we are in a utopia of free market perfection which we apparently have to take like medicine until we either become vibrant entrepreneurs or lose our standing as respected individuals becoming units pushed around on a virtual warboard. Communism is a bent reed, but social democracy could have carried us through if there had been disciplined hands on the Left.

John Hurley said...

Do you agree with this Chris?

John Hurley said...

There’s definitely a pernicious twist away from class to essentialized group identity.

But also there is no norm - no better way. Anything beyond the assumption that all cultures are equal Paul Spoonley would call “hate”. In fact as Eric Kaufman has demonstrated secular society is no match for high birth rate deeply religious groups. He gives the example of a Jewish sect, Amish and Muslim and eventually they do become significant in politics.

Globalisation has given us a fudging of borders where those outside represent a moral imperative over and above those (at the bottom) inside. Golriz demonstrates this. She comes across as representing some higher principle (an argument done and dusted).

The thing about class is that it doesn’t distinguish. Every ethnic group has unfortunate people down the bottom.

The thing about nation is that it relates a people to a place measures and maximises their wellbeing.

Statues, flag, names confirm who we are.

As Ze’ev Maghen writes.
To love someone is to count them as being special. And so to love without preference is not the glorious extension of love to all humankind, it is the eradication of the very possibility of love. And the same argument applies, by extension, to friends, and to communities and nations.

As we discuss house prices, one thing becomes clear: immigration has been pushed out the Overton window.

You can see the trouble Biden’s signalling has got him with a new crisis at the border.

John Hurley said...

All this talk about "best race relations" being debunked in the 1970's etc. How do we know this? Who does the talking - silly Maori studies ingrown toenails? I'm picking Old NZ would have been a sensible path -it just interfered with ambitious globalists.
Makes me wonder about Paul Spoonley's biography of Ranganui Walker. Was it a burial?

David George said...

Thank you for your reply DS.
It's not difficult, given the circumstances, to make a reasonable, even a moral case for the bloody revolutions of the twentieth century. What is less easy to countenance was the ongoing oppression, tyranny and murder well after the revolution was secured.
I believe the explanation can be found within the, essentially, anti human nature of the philosophy. A philosophy rooted in the denial of individual guilt or innocence and of individual moral authority itself, the very essence of what it means to be human. That that brought out the very worst and with the worst possible consequences is hardly surprising.

"Marx, however, rather than seeing resentment as a moral aberration, was the first to give it philosophical justification. Resentment became ensconced as the virulent core of Marxism and is reproduced wherever the ideology holds sway. Moreover, Marx scripted an alternative moral-philosophical framework for its justification, in order that the practitioners of political falsehood, hatred and violence were no longer to be considered beyond the pale in moral reckoning, but righteous actors in the vanguard of revolution.

The route by which Marx enabled the transmission of this resentment was to take the ancient concept of dialectic, which Hegel had turned into a metaphysical principle in The Phenomenology of Spirit, and by inverting Hegel transform this into a supposedly scientific process of development through struggle in nature and in history, thus undergirding the idea of the irreconcilability of socio-economic groups.
Marx and Engels, rather than critiquing the conditions of the industrial proletariat from a moral perspective and attempt reform, which many Christians and humanitarians did through charitable work, founding educational societies and pressing for changes in the law, sought to justify their belief that change could only come about through violent revolution. For them, social solidarity, rather than a universal aim, was a partisan identification with an idealised proletariat whose virtue lay in its commitment to the overthrow of Capitalism.

Marxism, therefore, managed to do two things that turned it into an exemplary revolutionary ideology: it legitimated individual hatred of an ‘other’ when one believed that one was wronged in some way or a victim of misfortune; it also objectified this hatred as a fact of the contradictions in economic history, thereby removing any justification for moral approbation. Furthermore, by an intellectual sleight-of-hand it encouraged in those studying Marxism a vicarious resentment on behalf of those believed to have been oppressed and against those not directly implicated in one’s own fortunes. From there it is a short stretch, by the convoluted logic of Marxism, to – even more absurdly – resent the narratively-constructed oppressive class to which one belongs oneself, a tradition of self-hatred that runs from Stalinist show trials, through Mao’s ‘Cultural Revolution’ to the dogmas of ‘toxic masculinity’, ‘White privilege’ and ‘White fragility’ in identity politics."
Don Trubshaw

Nick J said...

Thank you Grey for your plea for social democracy. My own Leftism has in the past, as a youth flirted with state authoritarian absolutism. I once believed you could force and coerce, the assumption being that you knew best. That is a trait at the heart of the extreme Left and Right.

Over the years I grew up and had children, thereby discovering total responsibility with no manual for children who are their own persons. Then leadership roles in commerce where you quickly find out that forcing results is nowhere near as effective as example and influencing thinking.

Given that I reckon that our latest identity politics may encompass worthy causes but their mode of operation is authoritarian in the extreme. They demand outcomes for whichever identity, not mere equality of opportunity. That is to create new oppression. Pastor Neimoller would have understood, once they have got all the stale white males who are they coming for next?

Brendan McNeill said...

The problem we are facing in these ‘woke’ intersectional days is that everything has become political. Every damn thing. Nietzsche pointed out that when God is dead, all we will be left with is a ‘will to power’ by which he meant political power.

And this is where we have landed. Our ability to view people as individuals and treat them on merit regardless of race, gender or religion (which was the context of the black Civil Rights movement in the US with Dr Marin Luther King) has been lost to us. Overtaken by a pernicious critical race theory that condemns all whites as racist, colonialist oppressors. A narrative of sin without redemption.

This ideology has infested our educational system and produced a history curriculum based upon this divisive dogma. One where the ‘sins’ of the fathers must be visited upon their children without remission. Where is the Minster of Education in all this? Too busy with all of his other portfolios to notice?

The ‘beauty’ of this curriculum is that it provides the authors with the ability to accuse anyone who dares to push back as being racist. Who in academia is prepared to risk being labeled in this way? What politician?

We are altogether lacking in courage, preferring the peace that comes from looking the other way. Well, we know how that ends.

sumsuch said...

I'm dead against reversing the narrative 180 degrees. Anyone who did History in 6th and 7th form in the early 80s didn't think Maori were in the wrong. This chap has nil credibility for me being a descendant of TBR, now moded to an elite which remembers social democracy like tinnitus in their ear.

John Hurley said...

Anyone who did History in 6th and 7th form in the early 80s didn't think Maori were in the wrong.

I think people in the 80's rationalised Maori dispossession of land as inevitable. Maori were our own people Millenia ago. I had a Twitter exchange with Moana the Maori she said contact and colonisation were two different things and with contact alone Maori would have developed a modern NZ based on Maori culture, but would Maori culture have produced a modern NZ?

Here is how Kenneth Cumberland treats the NZ Wars

In her address to the high school students, Bell said the land wars affect every single New Zealander.

“It affects our health care, it affects our schools, it affects how much money we have. It affects who goes to prison and who doesn't go to prison.”

This is the O'Malley Kidman message.

Society is becoming destabilized: change the flag, change the people, change the name. People are going to seek certainty - the most basic task for every organism is distinguish them from us (healthy tissue/pathogen).

John Hurley said...

I switched on the car radio and the first thing I heard was this

[2:45] do you get "-----" that you're having to buy back your own whenua
Mani Dunlop

I was called a "racist rat" for suggesting Ngai tahu didn't own the whole South Island (I suggested they rattled around in it). Yet the government bureaucrats and academics are encouraging that view - based on an extreme interpretation of Maori culture (as written by it's press agent).