Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Treelords deal – an opportunity for flaxroots Maori to assert their rangatiratanga

UNITYblog editorial 15 July 2008 For Labour the $500 million “Treelords” settlement with central North Island Maori was a calculated attempt to win back Maori support in election year after a series of recent injustices perpetuated against Maori. It remains to be seen how successful they'll be. But whatever the motivation of Labour’s leaders, the Treelords deal has set a new precedent for Treaty settlements in terms of comprehensiveness and size. Other iwi and hapu will now push for similar sized settlements in the years ahead. Treaty settlements are going to remain an important battleground for Maori in their struggle to achieve justice in the 21st century. The question for Maori, is how will the resources gained under such settlements be managed and who will benefit? Maori activist and lawyer Annette Sykes believes the Treelords deal is underpinned by a “corporate model of management” which won’t see benefits flow to all Maori equally. In her article The Sovereignty Debate? Has it been silenced? she asks whether this model will “respect all rangatira in the tribal community, women and children alike, and ensure an active participation by those affected by decision making processes around land use and benefit distribution?” Sykes believes Central North Island iwi are at a “crossroads in their journey to protect their sovereignty and self-determination”. While there’s certainly a real danger of corporate capture, Treaty settlements like the Treelords deal could also be an opportunity for flaxroots Maori to assert their rangatiratanga. Truly public ownership of resources “by the people for the people” through hapu or iwi structures, or other democratic organisations would bring the most benefits to flaxroots Maori. The years ahead are likely to see struggles within Maoridom between the corporate model of management favoured by a Maori elite and flaxroots Maori who want to see equal distribution of resources and wealth, co-existing with sustainable management of the land. The outcome of that struggle could have a wider impact on all communities living in Aotearoa who are being battered and beaten by market forces. If wealth and resources coming to Maori through Treaty settlements were to be used in a co-operative, equitable and sustainable way then this would show other people living in this country what public ownership of resources might also mean for them. See also Rawiri Taonui: Cullen's Waitangi deal too late to swing Maori votes


Tim B said...

Who exactly are "flaxroots" Maori?

Do you mean working class Maori? If so, would it not be better to just say this rather than fudging the issue?

Ondine Green said...

Can you confirm, Tim, that you believe that the presence or absence of the words "socialist" and "working-class" are infallible indicators of the presence or absence of radical political content within a particular text? I think you might call that the "Google Search" attitude to political discourse.

Tim B said...

No, but any political analysis which fails to even reference the class struggle rules itself out of consideration a priori, since after all it is only when the working class become conscious of their own separate class interests as workers (not Pakeha or Maori or whatever) and act on them that a revolution is actually possible. Furthermore, the emergence of such revolutionary consciousness is hardly aided by leftists using langauge which blurs or even obscures completely the existence of class divisions, simply becuause they don't want to scare or alienate people.

I would have thought that for marxists such as the comrades in Socialist Worker this would be axiomatic :)

Ondine Green said...

What should be axiomatic for Marxists is a materialist approach to political activism, based on concrete facts and activities. An idealist approach - one based on what literary iconography is being used - is not only doomed to failure, but looks more like religion than political strategy.

The recent barrage of Workers Party attacks on Socialist Worker and RAM bases itself entirely on the kind of language used in various articles and analyses, rather than anything that RAM activists or SW cadre are doing in the real world. It doesn't even deal with the actual content of these texts - just the form. This is not in fact materalism of any sort, let alone dialectical materialism. It looks more like bourgeois literary criticism - in fact, that particular spurious kind of criticism where the critic attempts to psychoanalyse the author via the text.

This idealist attitude that form is more important than content in political discourse is also shown by WP activists thinking that they can read off the political content of RAM activism by the kind of clothes that the activists wear (I refer to comrade Jared's sneering comment about "suit-and-tie populism").

Tim B said...

I think the issue is much more than one of simply what labels or terms we use - SW's current project RAM for instance limits itself to campaigning to lift GST on food but not on other essential items because the complete abolition of GST would be impossible under capitalism. It also seeks to represent not just the working class but also ratepayers, small business owners and other non-working class groups.

Whether marxists use terms such as "working class" or other terms such as "grassroots/flaxroots folk" is of more than literary significance, given that revolutionary class consciousness is not something that workers can or will develop spontaneously. This is because under capitalism (unlike say feudalism) the actual relations of exploitation are completely obscured.

Thus an actual conscious intervention by a revolutionary organisation is needed - especially now that the complete collapse of social democracy in NZ has seen the erosion of even basic reformist class consciousness, with many workers no longer thinking of themselves as belonging to an economic class.

A true materialist approach to politics starts not with whatever ideas are in workers' heads at the moment or what issues are "popular" at any given juncture, but rather with what workers *objectively need* in order to achieve genuine liberation.

This is why it is important, in addition to immediate defensive demands such as higher wages, it is important for revolutionaries to put forward slogans - such as Open Borders - which challenge the basis of the capitalist system itself.

Tim B said...

P.S. while you write of the "recent barrage of Workers Party attacks on Socialist Worker and RAM" I think it would be more accurate to describe what we have been trying to do is to debate with SW members some extremely important differences to do with revolutionary tactics and strategy.

We take an active interest in what other marxist groups are doing because we hope to convince them that we can accomplish more working together to build a united revolutionary party of marxists rather than orientating to forces which are to the political right of us and ideologically hostile to marxism.