Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Aotearoa/NZ: Treaty Politics

The Waitangi Tribunal Report on the Nga Puhi Treaty claim re-asserts the finding that Maori never signed away their ‘sovereignty’ when they signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. Most of the chiefs believed that they retained ‘tinorangatiratanga’, or chiefly authority, over their people. That meant in terms of Maori society, the exercise of chiefly authority over use of land and all things Maori.

Hone Heke, the first to sign the Treaty, was also the first to declare war in the North when it became clear that the British had effectively seized sovereignty. Many other tribes, including Te Arawa and Tuhoe, never signed the Treaty for this reason. Some Waikato chiefs including Potatau Te Wherowhero refused to sign and formed the King Movement to resist pressure to sell land.

The Treaty was always a fraud. There was never any 'partnership'. The Treaty was a ruse to disarm Maori when the British did not have the forces on hand to establish a capitalist colony by force. Maori soon found that this required the dispossession of their land and their conversion into landless wage workers. Maori society was all but destroyed and forcibly subordinated to the British Empire. 

The Treaty settlement process of the last 40 years has glorified the Treaty as New Zealand's 'founding document' that was only dishonoured by excessive actions of military intervention and land confiscation.  This has sustained the bourgeois liberal view that the Treaty can be 'honoured' retrospectively by settling all historical claims with token distribution of land and money, the modern equivalent of beads and blankets.

The Waitangi Tribunal Report doesn't challenge this bourgeois settlement. It points out what most iwi traditions have always known - that Maori never signed away sovereignty. The Tribunal is merely adding its authority to the current bourgeois legal fiction of the Treaty as a ‘partnership’ of two sovereign peoples. So apart from some arid academic disputes, the Report will do no more than provide the Maori Party embedded in the NACT regime with grounds to claim bigger crumbs under the Cabinet Table on behalf of the Iwi Leaders Forum.

The vast majority of working class Maori will not benefit in any way from official endorsement of the Report, or from further compensation trickling into iwi capitalists pockets. For them it is their class struggle as workers against the re-colonisation of NZ by US and China that is dominating their lives.

No reformist project to 'honour' the Treaty today can overcome the historic defeat of colonisation. Despite the massive wealth accumulated off the stolen land, and from generations of Maori workers, no capitalist government, left, right, Green or Brown,  can redistribute value or assets to Maori workers when global capitalism is facing an existential crisis of economic and climate collapse.

Capitalism is on its last legs and only survives by speculating in the inflating 'prices' of land and existing assets. For this reason any demand today to impose a speculation tax or a land tax to compensate for the widening income gap between rich and poor, would meet with massive resistance from capitalist property owners. 

That is why we advocate a speculation tax as a transitional demand. The impossibility of meeting this demand would demonstrate the futility of taxing the rich and prove the necessity of a revolution to socialise the land and all economic assets so that the working class can collectively survive the economic bust and climate collapse.

For as Socialist Republic of Aotearoa in the United Socialist States of the Pacific!

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