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.