Tuesday 18 January 2022

The Choice.

Revolution From Below Averted: The critical political choice made by leading Pakeha politicians, jurists and bureaucrats in the 1980s and 90s was to halt the momentum of left-wing Māori nationalism from below, by inserting a layer of elite Māori business-people between the Crown and the economically and culturally impoverished Māori working-class. Waitangi Protest 1982 by John Miller.

“INSULATION from the ravages of extreme opinion has been achieved. The settlements have become mainstream.” The words are those of former Labour Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer. The “settlements” he refers to are the Treaty settlements negotiated between the Crown and Iwi.

It is to Iwi, New Zealand’s officially recognised tribal entities, that the responsibility for reinvigorating Māori society has been entrusted. Palmer’s confidence that the process has been walled-off from the “ravages” of democratic interference is important. The critical political choice made by leading Pakeha politicians, jurists and bureaucrats in the 1980s and 90s was to halt the momentum of left-wing Māori nationalism from below, by inserting a layer of elite Māori business-people between the Crown and the economically and culturally impoverished Māori working-class.

Only by fostering the rapid growth of a Māori middle-class could the Pakeha state avoid being compelled to negotiate with social, cultural and political forces with precious little to lose. Forces, moreover, whose lack of a meaningful stake in the capitalist system might encourage their leaders to contemplate sponsoring an entirely different set of economic arrangements.

Fostering a Māori middle-class would not only create social, economic, cultural and political forces with a great deal to lose, but, by frustrating kotahitanga – unity – it would protect the Pakeha state from a popular movement it could not defeat – except by the application of overwhelming military force.

Forty years ago, the vital moral truth that Geoffrey Palmer and, following him, Jim Bolger and Doug Graham, grasped was that a New Zealand state strong enough to, once again, frustrate Māori aspirations by force, would not be worth living in.

That historical choice: to forswear force; made by the more enlightened leaders of Pakeha society back in the 1980s and 90s, was crucial. The settlement process – led and controlled by the Crown – would empower and enrich only a fraction of Maoridom. But, this small, highly privileged group would, in their turn, guarantee the integrity of the core institutions of the New Zealand state.

The Iwi institutions constructed out of the capital transfers at the heart of the Treaty settlement process were modelled on the corporate structures of the Pakeha economy. The name given to this phenomenon by Professor Elizabeth Rata is “Neo-Tribal Capitalism”. Like the Pakeha system which inspired it, iwi-based capitalism elevates a very small minority to great wealth and power, while consigning the majority of Māori to a life of exploitation, deprivation and desperation.

Like capitalism everywhere, it isn’t fair – but it works.

Ironically, the man who came closest to destroying this mutually beneficial system, in which the elites of both ethnic communities gave away a little to get a lot, was one of New Zealand capitalism’s staunchest defenders, Don Brash. Perhaps he intuited that, having indicated their unwillingness to contemplate the force majeure deployed at Bastion Point, the Pakeha elites would inevitably find themselves prevailed upon to transfer more and more power and resources to the iwi-based corporations and the Māori middle-class which serviced them. Perhaps he simply refused to contemplate the evolution of a “bi-cultural” state. Whatever the explanation, Brash’s controversial Iwi/Kiwi election campaign of 2005 brought him within a whisker of discovering exactly how much force it would take to trash the principles of the Treaty and restore the colonial state to its former glory.

Brash’s successor, John Key, moved decisively to restore the relationship between the Pakeha and Māori elites. His reaching out to the Māori Party, and the latter’s positive response, confirmed beyond dispute the truth of Geoffrey Palmer’s assertion that the settlement process had moved beyond the sanction of “extreme opinion” and become part of the mainstream.

Over the course of Key’s nine-year (nearly) reign, the rapidly expanding Māori middle-class grew progressively more nationalistic. That they would promote their language and culture with ever-increasing fervour was entirely predictable. Historically, it has been the practice of all colonised peoples to not only claim full equality with their former masters’, but also to elevate the achievements of their own culture well above those of their brutal conquerors. The strong symbiotic relationship in which erstwhile oppressors and oppressed typically become enmeshed is simply edited out of the ethno-nationalist discourse.

The New Zealand state thus finds itself in a position roughly analogous to that of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the turn of the nineteenth century. The dominant group is no longer confident of exerting its formal (but waning) imperial authority without causing the entire ramshackle edifice to disintegrate. So strident and uncompromising have the nationalist claims of its subject peoples become that meeting them would instantly dissolve the constitutional glue holding the state together. To resist their claims means war. Ultimately, there is no winning move – except surrender.

Certainly, it is difficult to read in John Key’s decision to sign the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and Jacinda Ardern’s decision to allow Nanaia Mahuta to commission a report on its implementation, as anything other than a capitulation to the political logic of Māori nationalism.

He Puapua is an imaginative and honest presentation of the steps necessary to establish a te Tiriti-based constitution based on the principle of co-governance. The fact that its recommendations, which included the elimination of majority rule, failed to elicit any significant protest from Ardern and her cabinet colleagues, indicates just how completely Labour has been persuaded that the future of Aotearoa will be driven by Māori.

The Māori nationalists ideological victory will not, however, be costless. Just as the leaders of Pakeha New Zealand were required to make a choice about the use of force, so, too, will the new rulers of Aotearoa.

It is difficult to see how a system of government permitting 15 percent of the population to determine the fate of the remaining 85 percent can end anything other than badly. Pretty early on in the piece, the Māori nationalists, like the Pakeha liberals of the 1980s and 90s, will also be forced to choose:

Do we preserve our ideological victory and defend our hard won political supremacy by force – or not?

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 18 January 2022.


Kat said...

"It is difficult to see how a system of government permitting 15 percent of the population to determine the fate of the remaining 85 percent can end anything other than badly......."

It won't end badly because it is never going to happen. That is why there was no "significant protest" from Labour or PM Ardern.

Happy New Year Chris.

Shane McDowall said...


Can you give us the names of iwi elite that have gained great wealth and power from the Treaty of Waitangi settlements ?

I can tell you that Stephen O'Regan was granted $300,000 following the Ngai Tahu settlement.

Given that he had worked gratis for 30 years, this works out to about $10,000 per annum.

Who the hell would want to be an iwi leader anyway? Iwi leadership attracts enemies like flies to shit.

I have seen the growth of a Maori petty bourgeois. Most have their lips firmly glued to the state tit. Maori teachers teaching Maori to Maori who are going to teach Maori make up the bulk of this growth.

Do not get me wrong, I am glad that Maori finally learned how to suck on the state tit as well as Pakeha.

If you think I am talking through my arse, you might want to keep in mind that I am a working-class Maori and I live in a city more than one third Maori.

My opinions are based on decades of observation. What are your opinions based on ?

John Hurley said...

Shane McDowell
If there's so much money In Maori hands & most of us don't have it what do we have in common with those who do?

John Hurley said...

I'm always skeptical of predictions of what Maori may or may not do because the 50:50 rule has gone and who knows who is Maori. Also before you talk about what Maori want/don't want, you have to factor Franz Fannon, Edward Said, Derrida, Gramsci and that strand that infects the universities? Since when did the Maori Party get much support?
My guess is most Maori were loyal New Zealanders.

sumsuch said...

How does this matter? In what sense? In this time?

You are perceptive about matters we noddies haven't even thought of but could you give me a date when the Maori 15 % start dictating to the 85 % ? Cos it never seems to arrive in reality. They should have at least a year to do that. In justice.

Jens Meder said...

Ahmmm..."Only by fostering the rapid growth of a Maori middle class could the Pakeha state avoid being compelled to negotiate with social, cultural and political forces with pretty little to lose. Forces whose lack of a meaningful stake in the capitalist system might encourage their leaders to contemplate an entirely different set of economic arrangements".

Quite true, Chris, and the Pakeha anti-capitalist have-nots might join them in yearning for an imaginary set of unidentified "entirely different set of economic arrangements" - apparently without capitalism - which the universal basic process of wealth creation through saving for security reserves, trading and profitable investment at the expense of hand-to-mouth consumption potential.

So, herewith a question for discussion by all middle class and more wealthy citizens - and their opposition - why not join forces for achieving to raise our personal and national longer term (retirement and inheritance) wealth ownership creative savings rates with also welfare beneficiaries included in the effort through the welfare system to achieve a 100% stakeholder democracy eventually ?

The Barron said...

I agree with Shane. I think it is easier to stereotype Maori tribal organization than to analyze.

Angela Ballara wrote her definitive account 'Iwi' in 1998. In this, she established that 'Iwi' was not the primary focus of pre-colonial Maori political organisation, but that it was Hapu, many of which have been subsumed into a wider concept of Iwi (or had multiple Iwi affiliation but placed under only one Iwi). This was organisation which benefited the settler government. Many Hapu feel they are excluded by Iwi negotiations from their historical and cultural rights. That is the criticism within many Maori claimants and commentators.

That said, Shane is right that work goes in, often voluntary and generationally, to give Iwi an economic and social basis. Each Iwi has a constitution which Iwi leaders democratically emerge from and employment processes which complies with employment law.

If there is an emerging Maori middle class, that too requires analysis. Some Iwi have put settlement money into education grants, which benefits those in trades, but also those who will emerge from Universities and wananga /wanaka. Other Iwi are poorer, others have not settled. Other Maori do not know their Iwi or hapu affiliation. The emergence of a Maori middle class has to be seen in a very belted and still very uneven context.

Odysseus said...

The Treaty guaranteed equal civil and political rights for all citizens regardless of ethnicity. That is a core principle of "Te Tiriti". The specific property rights of the tribes were also acknowledged and safeguarded. The Waitangi Tribunal was established to address cases where those rights have been unjustly extinguished.

He PuaPua, with its 15%-85% "co-governance" paradigm, is indeed being implemented. The most obvious example is Health. Under the current bill introduced by Andrew Little healthcare will be racially segregated. Furthermore the representatives of the 15% will effectively have a veto over the level of healthcare afforded to the other 85%. The implementation of this policy will likely be the necessary wake-up call to the country in time for the 2023 election.

David George said...

Kat, I don't know how you can be so dismissive of the consequences (intended and unintended) of the implementation of He Puapua or of the governments resolve to structurally alter our pluralistic democracy with it's implementation. Have you even studied it, do you know something we don't? Do you realise that many of it's proposals are already in place or well down the track to becoming law?

Dr. Elizabeth Rata: https://blog.elizabethrata.com/2021/06/30/elizabeth-rata-ethno-nationalism-or-democratic-nationalism-which-way-ahead-for-new-zealand/
"The fourth belief is a blood and soil ideology. It is the idea that an ethnic group indigenous to an area is autochthonous. The group is ‘of the land’ in a way that is qualitatively different from those who arrive later. As a consequence of this fact the first group claims a particular political status with entitlements not available to others. The ideology is located in mythological origins and seductive in its mystical appeal. By separating those who are ‘indigenous’ from those who are not, a fundamental categorisation occurs which then becomes built into political institutions. Such a categorisation principle can be extended – why not have a number of ‘classes’ with political status based on time of arrival – those who arrived first, those who came a little later, to those who have only just arrived. In an ethno-nation it is quite possible that these ‘classes’ could become caste divisions.

The fifth belief builds on the others. The classification of individuals as members of ethnic categories is extended to political categories. Membership of an ethnic category takes precedence over citizenship as a person’s primary political status. One’s political rights follow from this status. The acceptance of ancestral membership as a political category, rather than a social identity, has huge implications for national cohesion and democratic government. It is where ethnic fundamentalism becomes a major problem for us all.

The democratic political arena is where we meet as New Zealanders, as equal citizens of a united nation. That public arena is textured by contributing communities certainly, but it is the place where we unite – as a modern pluralist social group that is also a political entity. If we choose not to unite in this way, and the He Puapua Report is recommending that we don’t, why have a nation – New Zealand?

When we politicise ethnicity – by classifying, categorising and institutionalising people on the basis of ethnicity – we establish the platform for ethno-nationalism. Contemporary and historical examples should make us very wary of a path that replaces the individual citizen with the ethnic person as the political subject."

Kat said...

David George, you can be influenced, believe in or oppose whatever takes your fancy and that I suspect is one point the author is making. Labour and PM Ardern are not directing, controlling or implementing any measures to structurally alter our democracy.

If your suffering from those bad old He Puapua blues, have a listen to this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYtVc56o9oo

genXer said...

"The dominant group is no longer confident of exerting its formal (but waning) imperial authority without causing the entire ramshackle edifice to disintegrate."

This is the real problem for White NZ, no longer any sense of national and ethnic identity. Economically and Culturally wrecked by Globalism.

Only a reawakening of a White NZ ethno nationalism will save this country from the same hellish fate as South Africa.

Trev1 said...

Kat, with all due respect the evidence is clearly stacked against your contention that He PuaPua is not being implemented right now, for example in Health. From my experience in Bosnia in 1995, shortly before Srebrenica, and among Rwandan refugees in 1997 I plead with Ardern not to do this. Ethnic hatred is a terrible maelstrom that can be made real by the foolish, vainglorious and manipulative politician before you know it. Like the authors of He PuaPua the brains behind the attempted genocide of the Bosniacs were also university intellectuals.

The Barron said...

Gee, talk about kick her in the guts Trev.

'Evidence is clearly stacked...'. As the cliché says, correlation is not causation. He PuaPua is a discussion paper. That is all. No Minister of Ministry have reported back on the primacy of the paper regarding the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, let alone informed any Government policy.

All the Trevs need to understand, there is nothing in He PuaPua which has not been discussed independently in Maori circles for 180 years. During the first Clark Government (1999 - 2002), a constitutional conference was held in the Parliament building. Treaty based constitutional evolution was the main takeaway. If not before, then certainly after that conference all discussion and legal models of future Government included some form of Treaty based partnership. Countless books have advocated that Government agencies ensure a form of self-determination for Maori service delivery.

The He PuaPua report has simply summarized many of these discussions in one paper. There would not be a single MP from Labour, the Greens or the Maori Party that had not been well immersed in all the points raised before being elected. The fact that the health reforms include provision for Maori to take a greater lead in health delivery for Maori is simply reflection of the zeitgeist, as is He PuaPua.

The evidence stacking up is non-existent. I am sure Trev, you could do a OIA on papers that led to the Health reforms for reference to He PuaPua and probably come up dry. No matter, in you head the evidence is stacking.