Friday, February 09, 2007

The tino rangatiratanga flag

I have decided to keep the tino rangatiratanga flag on my blog. I put it up in response to this call. I thought I should write a little bit more about why I put it there and what I mean by it.

Article two of the treaty guarantees Maori tino rangatiratanga over their lands, villages, and all their property and treasures (that translation is from Obviously this clause has been broken many, many times, but it is in the treaty. The claim for tino rangatiratanga is not a radical claim, but a most basic one.

All too often discussion of the treaty of waitangi gives this document an almost mystical status. There are references to the principles of the treaty of waitangi, or it is referred to as a living document.

I think this is bollocks. The treaty of Waitangi is a historical document, written by actual people in a particular historical time and place. They were not all knowing and had agendas of their own. They were unable or unwilling to even translate what they had written in English accurately into Maori.

This time last year Reading the Maps reproduced a Communist Workers Group leaflet the treaty is a fraud:

The question is, why on earth does the left need a piece of paper to tell us that Maori are an oppressed and dispossessed people? If the Treaty did not exist, would we not champion Maori land rights? Do we ignore the right to self-determination of the Aborigine peoples, because they never signed a treaty?
I agree with this analysis - anti-capitalists, anti-colonialists, must reject the legitimacy of any action by the British government in the 1800 - whether it's taking a country by force or signing (and breaking) a treaty.

The CWG seem to be implying that this must mean that Maori should not organise around treaty grievances. I don't think that follows - I think powerless people can claim their rights under the current legal system, even if they're are entitled to much more. But even if I did agree in principle, the most basic right to self-determination is the right to determine your struggle. It is not up to me, the CWG, or any other Pakeha to direct the Maori movement for self-determination.

So when I fly the flag of tino rangatiratanga, it is not becuase I think the treaty of waitangi, a document written by colonisers, define Maori rights in this land, but because I see them as the most basic of rights that Maori hold.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:22 pm

    The CWG wouldn't disagree with anything you say here, and nor would I.

    We certainly should support all Maori struggles against the legacy of the dispossession they have suffered and against the continuing discrimination they face, regardless of how these struggles are 'framed' ideologically by their participants.

    I remember arguing with a couple of holier than thou self-proclaimed Marxists a few years back about the occupation of land at Ngawha slated for a new prison. The 'Marxists', who happened to be postgrad students at a flash university, said that they couldn't support the occupation, because some of its spokespeople had talked about 'backward' ideas like the existence of a taniwha under the proposed prison site.

    To me this sort of attitude is no better than run of the mill right-wing bigotry. How are indigenous people living in great isolation without access to the fancy libraries and internet servers uni-educated Marxists take for granted supposed to understand the world? Do they have to quote from Das Kapital before we support them?

    There's a division amongst Marxists over what attitude to take toward indigenous peoples fighting to save wholly or partly pre-capitalist societies from 'development' at the hands of imperialism.

    There are those who, usually under the influence of Stalinism or some sort of Fabianism, look back to the first section of the Communist Manifesto, where the young Marx praises capitalism as a liberatory force dragging societies out of feudal bondage, and give the thumbs up to the MNCs clearing Amazonian rain forest or putting small farmers in India out of business with copyrighted seeds.

    There are others who remember that the world has moved on since 1848, and that even Marx radically changed his attitudes toward pre-capitalist societies after he took the time to study the Iroquois Federation and (especially) the Russian peasant commune in the last decade of his life.

    The tradition that the CWG belongs to argues that, far from simply collapsing in the face of the superior social system brought by the British, Maori fused elements of capitalism with elements of their own traditional society to create a new 'Polynesian mode of production'. In places like the Waikato Kingdom and (later, on a smaller scale) Parihaka, Maori established a thriving garden farming economy that combined collective ownership of land and collective labour with the capitalist market. The Waikato war was begun by Pakeha colonists frustrated by the success of the Polynesian mode of production. They were sick of sitting in Auckland shelling out for the food that Maori were producing in huge quantities with their cultivations and flour mills.

    Elements of the Polynesian mode of production still survive - think of the collective nature of much Maori land ownership, which drives both Pakeha bankers and iwicorp capitalists wild - and the memory of the Waikato Kingdom and Parihaka still inspires both Maori and Pakeha lefties. I've written a little bit about this at:

    The CWG's position, which I certainly share, is that we should support all Maori struggles against the legacy of colonialism and continuing discrimination, and respect the right of Maori organisations to make their own decisions about their own future, while also arguing that the best way to overcome the legacy of colonialism is to unite Maori with working class people of other races against the New Zealand capitalist class and the US imperialists who stand behind it.
    That means we do have to criticise the false ideas put forward by the advocates of Maori capitalism who sadly are setting the agenda in the Maori Party.

    What does this mean in practice? On the seabed and foreshore hikoi the CWG distributed leaflets and made speeches calling for Maori and non-Maori working class supporters to occupy the foreshore, using the Bastion Pt occupation as a model. But Maori will probably only come to the view that a class-based struggle for socialism is the solution if they see socialists bringing working class Pakeha along to events like the seabed and foreshore and seabed hikoi and the Ngawha occupation. That's why the CWG and other groups and individuals with the same views tried hard to build support in the big trade unions for the hikoi. We didn't succeed, but there are many examples like the Bastion Pt struggle which show that working class Pakeha can come to the side of Maori.

    Personally, I believe that the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela offers some good examples of the way that the struggle against imperialism and for workers' interests can be combined with the struggle for the interests of indigenous peoples:

    Not that the process is without
    its difficulties:

    Apologies for such a long comment -this is a subject close to my heart!