Tuesday 16 January 2018

The Last Left-Wing Mohican.

Indefatigable Campaigner: Murray Horton has been fighting the good fight on the left of New Zealand politics for nearly fifty years. On Saturday, 27 January 2018, outside the Waihopai Spy Base, he and his comrades will launch the Aotearoa Independence Movement. “It’s time for this country to pull the plug, to finish the business started in the 1980s which saw NZ both nuclear free and out of ANZUS; and to break the chains – military, intelligence, economic and cultural – that continue to bind us to the American Empire.”

MURRAY HORTON really is the last of the Mohicans. I know this because, at one time, I was a member of his tribe. For fourteen years I was the editor and publisher of a left-of-centre periodical, NZ Political Review. Alas, it has been nearly thirteen years since the final issue of that publication appeared on the newsstands. In 2018, the title of “the last man standing” in left-wing publishing belongs, unquestionably, to Murray Horton.

It was not always so. Thirty-five years ago, there were at least a dozen left-wing periodicals published in New Zealand. From the independent, left social-democratic, NZ Monthly Review, to the Workers’ Communist League’s newspaper, Unity, political parties and activist groups to the left of the Labour Party maintained a lively presence on the New Zealand media stage.

Thirty-five years on, only Murray Horton’s Foreign Control Watchdog remains. Officially, the journal of the Christchurch-based Campaign Against Foreign Control in Aotearoa (CAFCA), the Watchdog offers the last substantial paper and ink forum for left-wing commentary and analysis on the vexed question: “Who owns New Zealand – and why?”

Since the first appearance of Watchdog in the mid-1970s, however, the answer to that question has been the same. New Zealanders control less and less of their own country – for the very simple reason that they keep selling off large chunks of it to foreigners.

Perhaps it’s because the answers to the questions CAFCA and the Watchdog were set up to investigate have not changed in more than 40 years, that Murray Horton and his comrades will next week, outside the Waihopai Spy Base in Marlborough, be launching the Aotearoa Independence Movement (AIM).

“It’s time for this country to pull the plug,” says the Horton-penned pamphlet announcing AIM’s launch, “to finish the business started in the 1980s which saw NZ both nuclear free and out of ANZUS; and to break the chains – military, intelligence, economic and cultural – that continue to bind us to the American Empire.”

With President Donald Trump doing such a splendid job of alienating the rest of the world from the American Empire, 2018 would certainly rate as a very good year to launch such a radical project. Not since the American invasion of Iraq, nearly 15 years ago, have the United States’ global stocks been so low. Right now, the idea of severing all New Zealand’s ties to US imperialism sounds pretty good.

But, is it?

Murray Horton is old enough to remember what happened to the last two southern hemisphere leaders who dared to break the ties that bound them to the USA. At roughly the same time as the first issue of Watchdog appeared in 1974, Salvador Allende, the left-wing president of Chile, and Gough Whitlam, the left-wing prime-minister of Australia, had either just received, or were in the process of receiving, a sharp lesson in what the American Empire will – and will not – accept from its “colonies”.

The Whitlam case is especially instructive, with Robert Lindsey, author of The Falcon and The Snowman arguing that the act which precipitated the Labor Government’s 1975 dismissal by Governor-General John Kerr was Whitlam’s declared determination to close the US electronic signals interception facility at Pine Gap.

The Pine Gap facility performs exactly the same service to the US global intelligence gathering effort as the Waihopai Spy Base, in front of which Horton proposes to launch his new independence movement.

The Chilean and Australian examples are instructive in another important respect. In both cases the offending governments were overthrown by internal – not external – actors. The US Marines did not come storming ashore on the beaches of either country. Rather, the tasks of first weakening and then toppling Allende and Whitlam were left to the right-wing parties and national security institutions of their respective nation states.

These conservative bodies strongly suspected that any programme which began with a severing of ties to the USA would be unlikely to end there. Breaking free from the global guardian of capitalism was, almost certainly, the preliminary step towards breaking free from capitalism itself.

To his credit, Murray Horton makes no attempt to hide AIM’s anti-capitalist light under a bushel:

“The stated goal of this Government is to ‘put a human face on capitalism’. But AIM sees capitalism as the problem, not the solution, and this needs to be part of the national dialogue.”

AIM’s introductory pamphlet reassures its readers that it is “a campaign, not an organisation. And definitely not a new political party.”

To which I can only reply:

“Well, Murray, it should be. Because foreign policy reorientations and economic transformations on the scale AIM is proposing are beyond the scope of mere “campaigns”. To bring about the sort of changes you’re suggesting requires a mass political party: well-organised and well-funded; and with a great deal more than just one Mohican.”

This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 16 January 2018.


jh said...

The obsession is with the US? He must be old left. The new left "would not privilege a fellow citizen merely because of a border". And with the new citizen come foreign control.
Why were people on the left (Phil Quinn) upset by "Chinese sounding names " over buying Auckland property- because that is ethnic stratification and that isn't how it is supposed to be? In Christchurch 90% of the motels are owned by Chinese. Are Asian forms of capitalism, especially those more exploitative forms that rely on family and clan links, a model for New Zealand? Asks Paul Spoonley [Review Immigration and National Identity in New Zealand: One People, Two Peoples, Many Peoples? 1995]

peteswriteplace said...

The Whitlam affair couldn't happen again. The Aussies have changed their law that would allow their GG to sack their PM again. The Allende affair was despicable because he was a democratically elected and America's involvement so blatant. All encouraged and supported by Ronald Reagan. Just another role for that former third-rate actor.

Jens Meder said...

It will be interesting to see what the AIM proposes on achieving greater economic independence and reduced reliance on foreign capitalism without the austerity of raising the Aotearoan capital savings and ownership rate.

Sooner or later, Murray Horton will have to explain how an independent Aotearoa is supposed to exist without capitalism, or lose credibility and be seen as nothing more than just a demagogue for the sake of demagoguery who cannot explain what he is standing for.

In that case - yes, a "last Mohican" indeed.

Victor said...

How totally weird that in 2018 we should be reading an item on preserving NZ's independence that doesn't mention China!

Victor said...

peter preston

Sorry to be pedantic, but Allende was long gone by the time Reagan reached the White House.

But, I agree, he would undoubtedly have approved of what happened in Chile and certainly arranged for similar in Nicaragua and elsewhere.

kaya said...

The Empire Strikes Back? Who is Vader in this scenario? It isn't Trump, he's the unwilling captain of the Death Star.

At some point soon we need to break away from the US empire - at least until they come to their senses and take control of their political system back from the corporates and elites who now own the country. It is in a rapid state of decline. You alluding to what happens to those who attempt this makes it even more important, otherwise we remain a US colony destined to be just another "shithole". Mind you, looking at our recent statistics on homelesness and poverty we are well down that path.

greywarbler said...

We still have Russia to fall back on. Yet possibly Australia has done us more economic damage, and has proceeded to extract NZ citizens like dead trees in a forest. They made our Prime Minister go through a security check when first introduced in response to the USA fright over retaliation in that country to their belligerence. She had to step out of her shoes, if I remember rightly, and I also remember thinking that was no way to treat the leaders of a neighbouring country under friendly relations agreements.
I think it also happened to the Papua New Guinea PM who was rather put out.

It is amazing how our trade people managed to fix up relations with Russia back in the day, when they were out of the world currency because of? and the Dairy Board? traded butter for larders (I mean Ladas, cars). So we have managed to adroitly slip between closing doors and get our foot in overseas. We have China buying us up at present, what will happen when there is nothing to sell. Will they drop us like a hot noodle? Will we start Cossack dancing, will we look to the other BRIC nations? Or will we drown in breast milk from cows, slightly greasy, and unpleasantly smelling in our rivers where we have had to pour our excess before we can dry off our cows because of ?... problem blocking our trade.
Woody Allen thought of this seriously and made a DIY movie about what people might do in an emergency of this type. (Note this may shock people of delicate dispositions. Please be warned.)

David Stone said...

Hi Chris

"With President Donald Trump doing such a splendid job of alienating the rest of the world from the American Empire, 2018 would certainly rate as a very good year to launch such a radical project. Not since the American invasion of Iraq, nearly 15 years ago, have the United States’ global stocks been so low. Right now, the idea of severing all New Zealand’s ties to US imperialism sounds pretty good."
Quite so.
When Allende's government was overthrown, as with the series of socialist governments that have been ousted since WW2, I and I suspect most people in the western world just took in what the media at the time(s) had to say. It seemed just like another underdeveloped uncivilised country failing to manage their affairs responsibly. It's only in the last few years that it has become widely understood how much of these troubles was deliberately caused by the U SA 's CIA 's fomenting insurrection .
Now we can all see what was happening in the past it is much clearer what's going on in the present as the same activities all over the world continue.
Having persuaded the world of the benefits of "free trade" which has ever been anything but, administrations all over the world have neglected their economic security in favour of the concept that anything that can be bought or made or performed a tiny bit cheaper somewhere else should be imported rather than maintaining the capacity for self sufficiency, while depending ever more on US banking services and the US dollar for payments and currency exchange to facilitate. Now from east to west America is weaponising this dependance on international trade that the world has been lured into by imposing trade sanctions and finance/reserve freezes left right and centre. And at the same time starting to increase tariffs and import restrictions themselves. The lesson for a country to make and to service what the physically can domestically, with local employment being the priority, and to depend on imports only for what can't reasonably be done locally is demanded by this weaponisation of trade. The only major industry US has left now that their captains of industry have moved their manufactories to low wage no rights administrations ,is the military hardware industry. Finding markets for, and creating need for it's product is now the priority of American foreign policy.

Patricia said...

What has always amazed me is that we weren’t attacked with our anti nuclear policy policy in the 1980s

Nick J said...

True Victor. Seems the resident evil over the decades in foul deeds was a certain unelected uber influencer by the name of Kissinger.

Nick J said...

Seems to me that change only arrives when systems collapse. We won't change capitalism until it eats itself.

Nick J said...

So true D Stone: history indicates that vassal states do as the are told. When the American empire fails as all empires do we might do well to use our remote location to strike out a non aligned stance in all matters.

thesorrowandthepity said...

So will they then go & protest outside the Chinese embassy, somehow I very much doubt it!
Just as the right has its loonies the left isn't short of its share either. Such people as Mr Horton will be forever banging their pots in anger over the past evils of the United States, but it is funny that they never seem to cry foul over similar Soviet aggressions, such as say the 56 & 68 invasions of Hungary & Czechoslovakia (fun Soviet fact of the day; Sachsenhausen concentration camp was used by the Soviets until 1950, 12,000 people including children died there during the post war period).
Bang on Mr Horton, till your pot handles fall off; the past will answer you only with silence.
One day all of you dyed in the wool socialists will miss the Americans, the Chinese are coming, & it's a very different game they'll be playing.

greywarbler said...

Murray Horton is aware that all sorts of politic lines have their faults. He is interested in how they will affect this country - so fair, so frail.
Good on him. while men all over the country spend all their time living off the fat of land and raising heir elbow, he puts a considerable bit of his time into drawing attention to our position being degraded. He is among a not-large group who deserve the Star of Merit of NZ, if there is one.

Gary Young said...

Kaya, given the current trajectory of the USA's standing and influence in the world I don't think the vassal states will actually have to break free.

In due course the smaller (lesser?) countries will be left to drift away from overarching American hegemony by default, in much the same way as outlying regions of the Roman Empire were abandoned by the legions as the armies were recalled, over time, to defend the heartlands of empire.

Guerilla Surgeon said...


I'll gladly demonstrate outside the Chinese embassy, if you can guarantee the government won't Park buses in the way so we can't be seen. :)

greywarbler said...

I seem to remember that Wales had found the Romans reasonably benign overlords and when they left felt the loss and asked if they would come back. (No source provided but I think I picked that up in a book of fiction about the Welsh.) The English had regular goes at them, and it ended up that an accommodation was reached with some southern Welsh lords and the Welsh kingdom was easier to divide and conquer.

countryboy said...

In regard to your Post @ Chris Trotter.
You're right.

However; Great change comes from the most seemingly insignificant beginnings. We must give it that.
Like, inspiration from a beer on a hot day. Without a beer ( And I don't normally drink beer.)I'm sure I can bend forward far enough to put on a sock without scaffolding. With one beer, I can manage underpants too. After many beers, I can, so I think, jump off the roof of the garage and into the next door neighbours swimming pool wearing only socks and underpants. (My partner knows me well and plays me Johnny Cash's ' Hurt' which finds me instead crying under our hedge with my bewildered dog.

The USA just needs understanding. Without sugar and petrol they'd have no energy to get out of bed and no means to go anywhere so don't worry about them.
Our real concern should be for the alien entity that clearly inhabits them all.
That dialect? Those clothes? Their ' food' ? You seen ' That Sugar Film'? Why does Jay Leno ONLY wear denim once off-stage, why does Oprah Winfrey wear Bear skins on her head? A black president with an Arab sounding name. Barak Obama/ Osama Bin Laden? Sounds pretty similar to me. The very best thing about the USA is their vulgarity. No one does it better.
If one thinks about it? Imagine if American vulgarity mated with Italian cool or French style? Or Spanish art? Imagine if Gaudi had built the Twin Towers! Terrorists wouldn't know where to start to knock the bugger over. The terrorists wouldn't have been terrified, therefore terrorists, they'd have parked up the planes and took pictures instead. Or at least the CIA, who organised the whole shebang would've.
What I notice is that most people only see the consequences of money, the lack of, or the abundance of, that causes strife and conflict locally, nationally and, as we can see, Globally.
But what if it were something else. A madness, if you like? A mental illness in those who're afflicted enough to boldly garner vast power by using currencies as a tool to a means to an ends? And that ‘ ends’ is power. And we all know what ‘power’ is right? It’s insatiable. One can never have too much power because there’s no measure for what might be enough.
Your tank’s full of power, so off you go.
Unfettered ego and it’s insidious cousin, narcissism, are as alien to common sense as a tentacle sticking out the port hole of a flying saucer.
Is it cocaine? That blows holes in psychological restraint? Is it a sociopathic anomaly born of seeing Grandma bending over while not wearing knickers? Was it seeing Granddad ‘air bathing’ ? ( Seriously, it’s a thing. )
The best thing to do is ignore them.
Soldiers? If they call you up to go and kill someone else just like you?
Don’t go. Ignore them.
If someone demands that you push The Big Red Button? Don’t.
Do you know the worst thing that can happen?
Nothing. Nothing will happen.
Unlike the alternative scenario. When their mental illness convinces you and me to take them seriously. Then, and only then, are we fucked.
And that’s where I think the internet will come in handy.
We’re already beginning to realise that things are stupendously horrifying and for that, we should feel glad. Now, finally, we can see it. And from that, only good things will come.

Victor said...

Empires fall and empires rise.

Perhaps, it's time to wake up and smell the Lapsang Souchong.

Victor said...


The Romans never put down firm roots in Wales, which remained tribal and Celtic by culture. The same was true in much of the west and north of what subsequently became England. It's not that the Romans were benign. They were just over-stretched.

Meanwhile, much of the south, east and centre of the country became firmly Romanised. The tribal aristocracy shaved off its facial hair, occasionally wore togas and, no doubt, punned in Latin.

The really rich ones built splendid villas with first class central heating, a luxury that the inhabitants of that cool, damp island only rediscovered very recently. The humbler folk, though, probably continued to speak the Celtic tongue and lived much as their ancestors had done prior to the conquest.

We don't know a vast amount about what happened when the legions were withdrawn in the early fifth century. But, to cut a long story short, by the middle of the century, the Angles,Saxons and Jutes (all originally from Germany or Denmark), in loose alliance with the Picts and Irish, were creating extreme mayhem and the Romano-British leadership (presumably the Latin-tagging villa dwellers) appealed to a weakened Roman Empire for help that never came.

The legend of King Arthur comes from this period and seems to be based around the subsequent fight-back of the Romano-British against the invaders. It took more than two centuries for the Anglo-Saxons to finally push the Romano-British into the extreme westerly parts of the island (Wales, Cornwall and Cumberland). By this stage they were far more British (i.e. Welsh-speaking)than Roman, although a few Latin-based words have worked their way into that most melodic of languages (e.g. 'church' is 'eglwys').

Two other things may be of interest. The south of Scotland was also, at this point, largely Welsh-speaking, with the Kingdom of Strathclyde stretching southwards into Cumbria and Lancashire. Much as I like Nicola Sturgeon, I think that the SNP should occasionally ponder the inherent mutability of frontiers, as, of course, should the Westminster parties.

The other thing is that modern DNA-based research has discredited the traditional notion that the Celtic-speaking people of England all headed for Snowdonia to get away from the Angles, Saxons etc. Instead, they seem to have swapped cultures and become Anglicised, although, again, the lower orders probably continued speaking a Welsh-type lingo for many centuries.

And my apologies to all others on this thread for hijacking it to sound off on one of my hobby-horses. If there's a relevant moral to be drawn, it's that empires are rarely benign and not always there when you need them. And a further moral might be that you never know what's coming next!

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I'm not sure what we're talking about here, but the Roman Empire was never benign. It simply existed to funnel resources and money back to Rome. Provinces only existed so that important people could make money on political capital from them. (Studied it a few years ago.)

I think also that while it's a matter of some small dispute, the latest thinking is that the Anglo-Saxons were simply a small layer over the top of Celts who became Anglicised. Largely because to replace all the Celts with migrants would have depopulated large parts of western Europe. (Saw it on Time Team) :)

As a said I have no idea why we're talking about this. And it's too hot and too early in the morning to really investigate. Perhaps more later. :)

greywarbler said...

I am pleased that you lent me your hobby horse and apologise to others.
I prefer the discursive approach to discussion as long as it doesn't stray too far so the intended path is lost! The world is wide and context aids understanding, as we have recently been trying to do in the discussion on Islam. What went before prepared the ground for what grows today, good quote. I think I just thought of it myself but probably I read it a decade ago.

David Stone
You display our position in NZ in a nut-shell. Unfortunately the nutcrackers are lost and at present most of us can't break the shell. I think we need to find our equipment, break open the barriers and get at some truths and facts before we go nuts so slowly that it seems organic.
I quote you below, with some bracketed additions that seem to help it convey your points appropriately; I hope correctly.

The lesson for a country [is] to make and to service what the y physically can domestically, with local employment being the priority, and to depend on imports only for what can't reasonably be done locally
[and this approach] is demanded by this weaponisation of trade.

The only major industry US has left now that their captains of industry have moved their manufactories to low wage no rights administrations, is the military hardware industry. Finding markets for, and creating need for it's product is now the priority of American foreign policy.

Victor said...


We are on the same page. I was responding to greywarbler who might have been lost in Celtic mists but would probably have found his way out anyway.

greywarbler said...

I think GS that what we could be talking about is the circular effect of history and that we face a shifting in political boundaries and populations that has happened before. And Nick J agreed with me that in only a couple of generations we seem to have lost our ideals that emerged mid 20th century. Lost also, it seems, is the humanising effect arising from enlightenment thinking with a turning backwards to a past century in our approach. We have lost empires, internal strife in the leadership of great countries, a loss of scholarship say, and intellectual activity and a great interest in physicality, muscularity and Marathons.

We may find the Welsh and Celts still speak to us with their history, and have examples of events that can still inform. And too their language will show up in our dictionaries here and there with odd words like an insect in amber.

David Stone said...

Thanks for the corrections Greywarbler.
I guess I'd better start proof reading my ravings.
Cheers David

greywarbler said...

Further to mine at 10.15 - in the last paragraphs I am reminded of the Indiana Jones movies where a buccaneering type goes in with all sorts of unique assistance and saves the children from working in the mine digging out precious stuff for cruel and greedy tyrants. Indiana saves the kids, takes them back to their happy parents in the village, earns the admiration of a beautiful and brave woman, and makes it rain too I think.

When I go ga-ga, I think I will sit down and watch these movies all day. They have a story line that is more positive than the one we follow each day with nothing but bad reviews for production and cast. Sometime I'm going to stop bothering about the depravity that is accreting leading to inhuman and unforgiveable behaviour by some against others that is incompatible with expectations in this century after a century's education of citizens and having access to academics who can pass on reflective wisdom, to higher levels than that needed for utility.

victor said...

"And too their language will show up in our dictionaries here and there with odd words like an insect in amber."

So beautifully put, Greywarbler, albeit that there isn't much of a Celtic influence left in English.

"Cymru am byth," says I!