Wednesday 31 August 2022

Adapt Or Die: Why New Zealand Capitalism Will Let Co-Governance Win.

An Alliance Of Elites: The deep, deep cynicism of the Crown is almost admirable. To forestall a revolt from below – led by the Māori working-class – it first summoned into existence a neo-tribal capitalist Māori elite, and then joined hands with it to keep the poor in check.

GERMAN CAPITALISM adapted itself to Nazi rule with a minimum of fuss and bother. This is hardly surprising, since Adolf Hitler and his National Socialists were the capitalists’ best defence against the Communist Party of Germany – the political force which frightened Germany’s ruling-class the most. So long as the critical cultural and scientific infrastructure of Germany’s economic system remained intact, its capitalists neither criticised, nor resisted (to any significant degree) the Nazi regime’s monstrous crimes.

The question raised by German capitalism’s close collaboration with the Nazis nevertheless remains a troubling one. Was its amorality peculiar to the German people, or is a willingness to set aside moral considerations a feature baked into all capitalist systems – including our own?

In spite of their name, and especially after Hitler and the SS had purged its Stormtrooper militia of all those who took the socialist half of National Socialism seriously, the Nazi regime would prove to be a powerfully reinvigorating tonic for a capitalist system brought to its knees by the Great Depression. The full-scale rearmament of Germany, crucial to the Nazi project of securing “living space” in the east, reduced unemployment dramatically, lifted the living-standards of the ordinary German worker, and restored capitalist profitability – all with astonishing speed.

With the outbreak of war, especially its extension to the Soviet Union, and following Hitler’s declaration of war on the United States, German capitalism’s adaptation to the realities of global conflict involved it increasingly in activities of unprecedented human depravity. Not only were German capitalists forced to accept slave labour as indispensable to the maintenance of the Third Reich’s war production, but they were also required to involve themselves in determining the most efficient methods for keeping their slaves alive and working, and for how long.

Paradoxically, the necessity of boosting war production forced German capitalism to become vastly more efficient than it had been in the pre-war years. In Germany, as in the United States, the Soviet Union and Great Britain, mass production and the economies of scale rationalised industrial production in ways that would force the world’s most powerful states to shape the “peace” of the post-war world in conformity with the needs of what came to be known as “Military Keynesianism”.

Following Germany’s surrender in 1945, American capitalists were keen to “compare notes” with their German equivalents. All agreed that while the need to fill the depleted ranks of the Wehrmacht with more and more German workers made the use of first, women, and then slaves, unavoidable; forced labour in the context of complex industrial processes was grossly inefficient.

Not that these inefficiencies prevented the I.G. Farben industrial conglomerate from establishing a vast synthetic rubber production plant on the outskirts of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Now in the territory of the Polish Republic, the plant’s successor operation remains in production to this day – one of the largest such facilities in the European Union.

Capitalism, like the cockroach, is infinitely adaptable – and very hard to kill.

Which raises the question of how New Zealand capitalism (and foreign-owned capitalist enterprises operating in New Zealand) are likely to react to a fundamental cultural and political power-shift from Pakeha to Māori – as envisioned in the He Puapua Report of 2019. Would such a radical and racially-charged re-constitution of the New Zealand state prompt capitalist resistance, or would New Zealand’s capitalists, like their German counterparts of the 1930s, simply adapt themselves, and their businesses, to the requirements of the new regime?

The first point to acknowledge is that German capitalists, regardless of their personal feelings towards the Nazis, were, as a class, in broad sympathy with their objectives. Reassured by Hitler that the “socialist” part of national socialism should not be taken seriously, the leaders of German industry and finance poured money into the Nazi Party’s coffers, and endured the street violence and antisemitism of its brownshirts as an unfortunate political necessity. Not only did Nazism hold out the promise of rising profits, but it was also in sympathy, culturally and politically, with the most powerful elements of German society.

Can the same be said of the most powerful elements of New Zealand society? Broadly speaking, the answer is Yes.

The creation of neo-tribal capitalism, via the Treaty settlement process, beginning under the National Party in the early 1990s, was welcomed by New Zealand’s leading capitalists as infinitely preferable to the radical politicisation of a Māori working-class immiserated by Rogernomics and Ruthanasia. A Māori “renaissance”, guided by traditional iwi leaders working hand-in-glove with the Crown, was containable. An angry cultural “revolution”, fuelled by poverty, and sweeping up poor Pakeha in its wake, was not.

The Māori and Pakeha urban poor, united in pursuit of a bi-cultural and socialist Aotearoa has been the New Zealand capitalists worst nightmare ever since their own, neoliberal, revolution in the mid-1980s. Just as the Communist Party of Germany terrified the German ruling-class, a flax-roots alliance of the brown/white poor, is what New Zealand capitalism has always feared the most.

That is why neo-tribal capitalism and the He Puapua prescription are political manna from heaven for Pakeha capitalism. The deep cultural, social and political divisions which the co-governance project is bound to stir up is the perfect prophylactic against the horizontal unity engendered by a flax-roots rebellion of the poor (of all colours) against the rich (of all colours). The deep, deep cynicism of the Crown is almost admirable. To forestall a revolt from below – led by the Māori working-class – it first summoned into existence a neo-tribal capitalist Māori elite, and then joined hands with it to keep the poor in check.

As the machinery of repression is rolled into place in advance of this new, undemocratic – but te Tiriti affirming – Aotearoa, New Zealand capitalists will hold themselves aloof from all the violence directed against the “racist settler” resistance. They may wince at the shutdown of dissenting media, and shake their heads sadly as the “wrong sort” of parties are proscribed, and defiant democratic resisters are carted off to jail, but, like their German counterparts in 1933, they will not lift a finger to save “New Zealand”. Like the Weimar Republic before it, the good and the bad of the doomed “Settler State” will be swept into the dustbin of history.

Aotearoan capitalism, however, now a proudly bi-cultural affair, will survive – and prosper.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 30 August 2022.


David George said...

The big business embrace of the current woke nonsense is more marketing than morality, I'm not even sure that morality, as we usually understand, it is a real thing in a large corporation. Individual capitalists, in contrast, are, in many cases, a lot more forthright in their observations. Bob Jones here or James Dyson and Elon Musk overseas for example.

I guess most people, including the "capitalists", just want to get on with their lives and end up accepting the lies, the totalitarian dictates and directions - particularly if they're fed a diet of unchallenged propaganda. It's up to us, those that can see where this leads, to speak up.

"The simple act of an ordinary brave man is not to participate in lies, not to support false actions! His rule: Let that come into the world, let it even reign supreme—only not through me. But it is within the power of writers and artists to do much more: to defeat the lie! For in the struggle with lies art has always triumphed and shall always triumph! Visibly, irrefutably for all! Lies can prevail against much in this world, but never against art.… One word of truth shall outweigh the whole world" –From the speech delivered by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn to the Swedish Academy on the occasion of his acceptance of the Nobel Prize for Literature

"Thus the doctrine of group identity inevitably ends with everyone identified as a class enemy, an oppressor; with everyone uncleansibly contaminated by bourgeois privilege, unfairly ­enjoying the benefits bequeathed by the vagaries of history; with everyone prosecuted, without respite, for that corruption and injustice. “No mercy for the oppressor!” And no punishment too severe for the crime of exploitation! Expiation becomes impossible because there is no individual guilt, no individual responsibility, and therefore no manner in which the crime of arbitrary birth can be individually accounted for. And all the ­misery that can be generated as a consequence of such an ­accusation is the true reason for the accusation. When everyone is guilty, all that serves justice is the punishment of everyone; when the guilt extends to the existence of the world’s misery itself, only the fatal punishment will suffice.

It is much more preferable ­instead — and much more likely to preserve us all from metastasising hells — to state forthrightly: “I am indeed thrown arbitrarily into history. I therefore choose to voluntarily shoulder the responsibility of my advantages and the burden of my disadvantages — like every other individual. I am morally bound to pay for my ­advantages with my responsibility. I am morally bound to accept my disadvantages as the price I pay for being. I will therefore strive not to descend into bitterness and then seek vengeance because I have less to my credit and a greater burden to stumble forward with than others." Jordan Peterson, new Foreword to The Gulag Archipelago.

Gary Peters said...

Two points. Firstly, it is not an either or situation. New Zealand is not on the verge of an uprising of the poor seeking to destroy the rich capitalists so your agument of capitalism accepting co-governance as a way of blocking this uprising is moot.

Secondly, for capitalism in it's basic sense to operate it needs consistancy and anyone on this planet is well aware that maoridom has no abilty to create consistancy and the "way" things wil be done is as likely to be influenced by the moon as any other orderly process.

In my opinion.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

If big business can make money out of being "woke" that's what they'll do. If they figure they can make more money out of pandering to the anti-woke brigade, that's what they'll do. They're in the business of making money after all, and it would be naïve to think otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Nazi Germany mobilized women into war production? Well no, not many German women, at least. There were pre-war plans to do exactly that, as it had been done in WW1. Albert Speer, after he became responsible for war production, wanted to implement the plan. Hitler declined to do so, saying he was not prepared to sacrifice "Nazi ideals". The Nazi view that women belonged in the home meant very few were mobilized out of it into factories. Of course, that meant slave labour became even more important to the Nazi war economy.

MIillions of women on the Allied side worked in factories, or served in uniform. (That well known army mechanic/driver Elizabeth Windsor was just one of many). The Soviet Union saw millions of women serve in the front lines, in roles including snipers. (They were better than men in this role, according to at least one Soviet general).

How well the Nazi's preserved Germany's scientific expertise is, at least, debatable. Some scientists, like Hans Geiger, of counter fame, remained in Nazi Germany. Many more, like Einstein, went into exile. It was the combination of scientific expertise, including many exiles from Europe, and the decision to commit huge economic resources to the effort, that resulted in the atomic bomb. Nazi Germany had neither the human or economic resources to build the bomb. But probably the biggest block to a Nazi bomb was admitting that the "Jewish physics" of Einstein was a more accurate, and useful, view of physical reality, than the purported "Aryan physics" fostered by the Nazis. Indeed, as unacceptable as mobilizing German women into war production.(Women slaves of "inferior races" were, of course, another matter altogether).

But it is true the traditional German excellence in chemistry was again harnessed to the war effort, as in WW1. The production of synthetic rubber was a vital part of the war economy. And the German development of nerve gases was a nasty surprise to the Allies, discovered only when Germany was defeated and occupied. (Hitler had declined to use them, perhaps because he had been a casualty himself of British mustard gas in WW1, and therefore knew firsthand what retaliation in kind would be like).

The Allies however, had a vital edge in physics. Not only the atom bomb, but radar systems the Germans thought impossible (until they discovered the apparatus in a downed RAF bomber).

And the Germans discounted any possibility their Enigma codes had been cracked. They were so convinced that was impossible, they discounted it as a possibility when the Allies seemed to be aware of their plans in advance. Of course, as is now well known, the Bletchley Park code crackers had been reading German radio traffic for years.

But I think the core truth here is that the capitalists will indeed resort to any measure to cling to power. That's hardly a new realization. Jack London's "The Iron Heel" has been seen as an uncannily accurate prediction of fascism. London didn't have a crystal ball, just a very clear understanding that a powerful ruling elite will do anything to cling to that power when that power is under serious threat. I'm sure that is just as true now in New Zealand as it has been anywhere in the world at any time in history.

greywarbler said...

Gary Peters - I tend to look askance at sweeping statements like this of yours.

Secondly, for capitalism in it's basic sense to operate it needs consistancy and anyone on this planet is well aware that maoridom has no abilty to create consistancy and the "way" things wil be done is as likely to be influenced by the moon as any other orderly process.

I had a look at Slavoj Zizek and this is a link to his talk with Unherd, fronted by an attractive redhead with a high degree of smarts as a bonus.
His theme : 'We are addicted to chaos' 57.05 mins - Try listening right to the end, as he explains his thoughts rather than just making statements you hold out to be incontrovertible.

He talks about capitalism's drive for surplus enjoyment I think he calls it. We really have to examine the old shibboleths that have ruled for so long. Society and the planet are changing inexorably and the Maori moon may be part of it. So come down off your high horse, you might be lucky to have a Shetland pony to ride.


I'm with Gary Peterson on this one.

Let's just keep this David George-postulated-"preposterous?" war of the rich V poor-brown and white ... SIMPLE.

I imagine that our beloved Blog sponsor is most at home in front of a posse of post Grad-class Pol Sci wonks but hey ... some of us don't immerse-read so deeply as CT hence "we" decline/are unable to join the threads of the more cerebral contributors ... OK?

By SIMPLE I mean less (no! more) turgid psychobabble "Analysis" and instead a confident reliance on the majority of fair minded racially colour-blind average Kiwi's good sense and pride in Country.

Intelligencia as much as radicalism has been firmly rejected by Joe and Josephine Public up till now.

Kia Kaha to that!

Mobfiz said...

A strange and weak argument from you. Capitalism will follow the money, hence its durability. Co-governance teeters on a precipice of rejection by the entire electorate, and such instability is anathema to investors. It's sponsorship by this government looks likely to be a major blunder.

Dave said...

You lost any reader of merit with "woke nonsense".

David George said...

Gary Peters: "New Zealand is not on the verge of an uprising of the poor seeking to destroy the rich capitalists"

Yes Gary, the revolution has no legs for several very good reasons. Does the typical person, dicking around in an airconditioned office for a few hours a day, and able to avail themselves of incredible abundance as a result, really believe that they're an enslaved victim? That the system, for all it's faults, is unfairly impoverishing them? The revolutionaries like to pretend, for obvious reasons, that inequality is everything but most people have the good sense and inherent morality to not wallow in envy like that.

I was watching an interesting interview, the expert was asking how much labour would be required for the average worker in 1850 to buy, for example, a pound of sugar. How much sugar would that same unit of labour buy today? It's, remarkably, two hundred and twenty seven pounds! The danger of a system capable of delivering that kind of abundance being torn apart on the basis of relative poverty is zero. Some redirection of resources is clearly justified, an anti capitalist revolution is not. That's probably the reason those Hell bent on upheaval have had to invent other grievances - as we are seeing.

Link to Superabundance clip:

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Actually, studies have shown that Nazi Germany had a slightly larger proportion of women involved in the economy than the British or Americans. In 1939 German women were "more actively involved in the labour force than Britain's women were to be even at the end of the war". In 1944 51% of the women in Germany were participating in the economy – 41% in Britain. The difference being that most women in Germany worked in agriculture which was far less developed than most. They were peasants. Sorry about that – but you're perpetuating a myth here.