Sunday, April 29, 2012

Archive 1982: Towards a Socialist Polynesia

2004 Foreshore and Seabed Hikoi


(1) Racism, Marxism and Internationalism

New Zealand’s massive demonstrations against the Springbok Tour in 1981 became, especially in Auckland, demonstrations of Polynesian protest against racism. In spite of every effort by Halt All Racist Tours (HART) leaders and the Workers’ Communist League (WCL) and the loyal opposition of ‘labour left’, it proved impossible to limit the struggle against racism to South African apartheid. The slogans directed against South Africa were also directed against the New Zealand government’s racist policies at home. ‘Protesting’ every inch of the way, the HART leaders were forced to accept that the struggles against racism in South Africa and New Zealand were both part of the same international struggle against racism.

So long as South African racism alone was attacked, postures of moral outrage could be adopted and political issues avoided. The New Zealand movement refused to even discuss the political differences between the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan African Congress (PAC). Once it could no longer be denied that racism was at home and alive and well in Queen St., the need to bring the South African struggle home forced the movement to rub its nose in grubby politics. Turning moral outrage against Bantustans into moral outrage at the oppression of Maori people, black radicals adopted the positions of the PAC, hiding behind Protestant morality and issuing ultimatums that the ‘black movement’ should be given the same uncritical support as that HART gave to the ANC/PAC.

This is not only a means of avoiding political debate about the relationship between race and class, but of keeping democracy out of the anti-racist movement. Without political debate on the character of racism in Aotearoa, its relation to capitalism, and the working class, white militants turning toward anti-racist working class internationalism, away from single-issue moralism, will not move forward.

Just as the entire South African left has chosen, is choosing, and will chose between the opposed political lines of ANC and PAC (and also the Non-European Unity Movement) so, at a time when a mass movement in Aotearoa is forced to take a stand on New Zealand racism, it must face political choices between different political lines. The same choices present themselves, essentially as on the pakeha left, between populism and Marxism, but it is always populism which tries to avoid debate and political struggle.

The anti-racist movement will grow powerful and break the alliance Muldoon tried to forge with the backward sections of the working class during the Tour only by making New Zealand racism towards its own Bantustans in the Pacific and at home an issue with workers. That involves raising, debating and resolving the relationship between race and class – the issue which ‘Black Unity’ evades in every way at every point. The task is to bring the South African war back home by showing that racism is an international creation of imperialism, and that it can only be brought to an end by the international working class.

“Communists” wrote Marx, “are distinguished from other working class parties by this alone: in the national struggles of the proletarians of all the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality, in the various stages of development which the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interest of the movement as a whole.” (Communist Manifesto)

The working class of this area of the Pacific, Polynesia, is made up of both Pakehas and Polynesians. They work in the same factories, queue for the same unemployment benefits, and live in the same boarding houses. Their interests are common interests; their fight against imperialism, capitalism in its epoch of parasitism and decay, is a common fight. In the South Pacific, the working class cannot develop a clear consciousness of its interests and goals outside the framework of working class internationalism. Against imperialism and its class collaborators, the Spartacist League opposes the revolutionary tradition, the tradition of the Communist Manifesto, the tradition of working class internationalism.

In this pamphlet, the Spartacist League puts forward its position on the question of racism and capitalism. We oppose those white ‘left’ chauvinist groups like the Socialist Unity Party and the Workers’ Communist League, who suppress the history of the Polynesian working classes and subordinate the national rights of Polynesians to a white-racist, reformist, programme to “fight racism”. We oppose just as firmly the petty-bourgeois black populists who too turn their backs on the proletarian history of their peoples, in order to establish “sovereignty” on capitalism’s terms. We also oppose those radical groups like HART, the Socialist Action League and the Republican Movement, who in giving their uncritical support to black populism, also give their support to imperialism’s attempts to deepen divisions in the working class in order to smash working class internationalism. The Spartacist League is uncompromising in exposing those forms of petty-bourgeois chauvinism, and we expect to be called all sorts of names for doing so. But let them be called in public debate, and the real issues argued. 

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