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(en) New Zealand, Dissident Voice* #7 - Labour Farewell their Social Democratic Pretensions

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Tue, 21 Dec 2004 08:38:04 +0100 (CET)

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For many years the Labour Party has been able to coast on Maori issues by
using lots of sympathetic rhetoric and never doing anything.
It was National's ‘fiscal envelope' that, while an appalling policy, did
actually put something concrete onto the table and allowed some room for
treaty settlements to progress. Generally, Pakeha governments have
regarded anything to do with Maori as cans of worms best left unopened.
No matter what they do, they're bound to annoy more people than they
To the Labour Party, the Court of Appeal's rather innocuous decision to
allow Maori to test a claim of property rights in court – hardly legally
controversial – was a dagger thrust straight into the flabby gizzard of
their social democratic pretensions.

All at once, all sorts of deeply held principles and much revered facades
melted away like ice cream on a hot tarmacadam pavement, leaving the
government forlornly hoping the whole sticky mess could be made to
vanish by the next election.

Rather than face the dreaded possibility that the courts might rule in favour
of Maori custom and give iwi the limited property rights over the seabed
and foreshore they were seeking, Labour decided to decree these rights

This made a joke of the principle of an independent judiciary. It also made
clear something that many of us had suspected for some time – that
the government holds Maori customs in much lower regard than Pakeha
customs (law being only codified custom, after all) and will always go with
the latter in matters of importance.

It's OK to throw a few dollars at Maori TV, or teach Te Reo in schools,
but when it comes to something as serious as owning land,
Pakeha/Capitalist tradition is unquestionable.

In other words, forget all that rhetoric about partnership, Maori are still the
poor cousins as usual.

The policy is also another example to toss onto the growing pile of
instances of Labour's authoritarianism. The problem for Labour is the
increasing difficulty of posing as social democrats when their real
philosophy is a mix of market capitalism and old-fashioned feudal

Labour considers society to be a collection of interest groups, each of
which can be bought off. Give a little to Maori, something to gays and
much more to the local capitalists and all will be well in Labour la la land.

This is a corruption of the original theory of social democracy. They take
some of the tools created by social democrats to serve an ideal, such as
income tax, social welfare and government provision of some essential
services, but forget the aims these tools were intended to further.

It's a bit like anarchists forgetting about working towards a future society,
forgetting their ideals of freedom and equality, but continuing to do
political work using anarchist methods out of habit. Pretty soon all sorts of
nasty tendencies are going to creep in.

So the new Labour, personified in its Clark Monarch, doles out gifts to
peasants and asks only loyalty in return.

Except, of course, that the gifts were stolen from us in the first place. They
could make a bit of difference by, say, cutting tax for the lower paid, but
people are disinclined to feel grateful for being allowed to keep what they
earn. Funny that. Much better to seize it, then give it back in another form
while making much ado about next to nothing.

Pakeha are so used to having the government steal things and give a little
back in election years that the capitalist media refers to the process without
even a hint of outrage. Maori aren't such suckers. They've been much
harder hit and have reaped far fewer benefits. Neither do they suffer from
the short-term memory loss that afflicts Pakeha.

The only question is whether Maori anger with the government will be
directed into something positive or be once again co-opted by another gang
of parliamentary wheelers and dealers.

--- Sam Buchanan
# Aotearoa Dissident Voice - New Zealand's most unrespectable
revolutionary rag. Aotearoa Dissident Voice is a free volunteer-run
magazine that aims to provide an open space for the free flow of
anarchist and libertarian left news, analysis and creativity.
www.dissidentvoice.org.nz edcollective@dissidentvoice.org.nz

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