Eddie at The Standard has posted the latest in a long line of post-election attacks on the mÄori party, this time for Tariana Turia criticising Labour’s filibuster against the supercity bill. Leaving aside the fact that I disagree with Tariana’s remarks on the filibuster, this attack is typical in that it picks up some specific decision and applies a convenient ideological misinterpretation of its purpose and likely consequences to prove the existence of a traitorous conspiracy against MÄori, the working class, the broader left, freedom, truth, justice, motherhood and apple pie. The Standard is far from being alone in this – others on the left resort to this tactic, and the the original and most egregious example of the form is Chris Trotter’s rabid “Kupapa” attack on Tariana Turia (which doesn’t seem to be online but was helpfully reproduced in full by DPF).
There are good grounds upon which to criticise the mÄori party, but engaging with the government in good faith and using their independence to progress their agenda, however incompletely, isn’t one. Or to put it another way, it’s reasonable to criticise them on the success or failure of their programme, but not for having a programme at all. Having been caught between the devil and the deep blue sea the mÄori party decided that the devil needed to be taken at his word for once, and at this point their good relationship with National is all that stands between us and a National/ACT government with a clear mandate to enact precisely the sort of jack-booted majoritarian agenda against which Labour and the Greens are now filibustering. The decision to work with National was a risky one, and if that risk doesn’t pay off they will be sorely punished by their electorate. Labour supporters seem intent on undermining the relationship in order to regain the political allegiance of MÄori, and that’s a very big risk. They are also intent on undermining the Greens’ more recent relationship with National, thereby undermining what few progressive options exist for this term. Just because Labour has to sit out the coming three years doesn’t mean others on the left must do so – or even that they should, because every progressive voice involved in the governmental process has a moderating effect on what would otherwise be a very ideologically homogeneous group. The mÄori party isn’t strictly a left party but it remains a potential ally which Labour alienates at its peril.
If it is to be a credible force, progressive politics in this country should be about more than the kind of `my party, right or wrong’ partisan blindness that these sorts of attacks suggest, and which Trotter’s columns make explicit. The greatest weakness historically faced by progressive movements is their fractiousness in the face of a united opposition movement who are just as strongly factionalised but are prepared to put their individual differences on hold in service of common goals. The greatest strength of progressive movements is their independence and tactical diversity, but this is only of value when that diversity is allowed to stand, rather than being cut down if it does not conform. The left must be as politically inclusive as the society it wishes to create. Howling denunciations and ostracising those who disagree plays directly into the hands of the massed forces opposite.
The impression given by attacks like this is that Labour want three disastrous years, so they’ll have an easier time regaining the treasury benches in 2011. I hope, for all of our sakes, that they have a Plan B.
Yes yes :)
I think the MÄori Party can be criticised for some of the programmes, policies and pieces of legislation they’ve added their weight to. Criticising them for using their power at all is just bizarre, what’re they supposed to do, sulk and refuse to achieve anything?
Yes, because (pick one or more):
– Labour has always done what’s right for MÄori
– dividing the left vote is dangerous and unwise
– how can they be so stupid/ungrateful as to think they can do better?
– working class people all have the same priorities
– the party has been hijacked by the MÄori elites and doesn’t represent its constituents
– if you’re not with us you’re against us
– everyone knows National and ACT are just waiting for MÄori to get friendly so they can give them a whack*
* Stuff cartoonist Mike Moreu actually published a cartoon around the time of the confidence and supply agreement which depicted Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples digging their own graves while John Key stood over them. Outrageous.
You missed out “because they’re class traitors”.
I’d say the low point at The Standard was zetitic’s post here claiming Maori Party MPs were behaving “like good house slaves”.
But that’s just me. I’ve got a tin ear.
Well, it’s implied, but you’re right – I should have included it because it does actually get used as explicitly as that.
Yeah. Do they realise how much like the KBR they sound?
BK Drinkwater writes,
There I was thinking that Zetitic’s lowest point was covered here by the incomparable Queen of Thorns.
With all due respect to the better informed, it strikes me that the more the Maori party deviates from a working class orientation, the more cooptable they become (at least at the elite level). Of course, they should use every power leverage offered to their advantage, but, at least at times, the maori political elite seem to act as a type of ethnic royalty who have lost sight of the fact that most of their constituents are firstly poor or working class, then brown (even if false consciousness leads the principles to think the reverse). Not to disparage ethnic identification as the first political referent, but it would seem that, given the location of maori on the socio-economic ladder, the Party that invokes their name would have the class aspects of the constituency foremost in mind.
I agree that Labour have no grounds to whine, and that the Maori Party “has to do what its gotta do.” I just wonder about the principle-agent issues that have started to emerge in wake of the MOU with National.
Not all identity politics is the same, and I cannot speak for MÄori.
I identify as a feminist first, a disabled person second, a socialist third. To progress a feminist or disability agenda I will work with capital if I wouldn’t aid their agenda by doing so. If I would then I’ll weigh up the the benefits: in many cases I’ll take a win for feminism at the cost of a win for capital because identity politics is more important to me than class politics.
I agree that the MÄori Party needs to have a class based analysis, and that they need to be aware that many of their constituents may have a class allegiance that is at least as strong as their MÄori allegiance. However I would never expect class to be foremost in their minds. If they can make more progress for MÄori issues by working with capital than labour for the next three years then I would expect them to do so.
(Just as I will work with National to progress feminist issues if it’s what’s needed to get it done)
It’s late, I’m not very coherent, I will do better tomorrow :)
P.S. There is a lot of analysis and strain within the feminist movement about the way the movement is dominated by elite (middle class white) women. I’m not sure it’s the exact same issue as the dominance of the MÄori Party by the elite, but it feels very familiar. If it is similar then external analysis may well misinterpret and overemphasise the distinction because it doesn’t see how significant the common identity and experience of oppression is.
P.P.S. There’s a similar issue with analysis of environmental political parties which, for example, sees the Green Party as socialist first and environmental second, because it’s more used to the labour-capital axis. I’m not sure I’ve got the analysis nailed and I’m sure you, Lew and Rogernome are far more on top of it than me, but it feels similar. Old left-right political analysis (particularly from the media) struggling with the new left.
Yeah, I have a few problems with this reading. `False consciousness’ only really holds from within a Marxist paradigm, and since the mÄori party doesn’t operate within that paradigm, that position is vulnerable to accusations of well-meaning colonialist paternalism. Throughout NZ’s parliamentary history MÄori have allied with Labour for essentially Marxist reasons (leaving aside the Ratana alliance, which is complex), and general discontent has been bubbling away beneath the surface of that relationship for generations because Labour, and even MÄori Labour MPs, haven’t delivered as much as might be expected for the number of votes they’ve received. All that said, I agree that the future for MÄori lies with the Labour bloc rather than with the National bloc.
I agree that failure to account for political and economic realities facing MÄori as a group will result in the party being (rightly) branded irrelevant to those they claim to represent, but I don’t agree that that’s happening now and I would be frankly amazed if it did happen. For all that they’re playing statespeople, the MPs of the mÄori party remain fairly close to their humble beginnings, tied there by large extended family networks who, on a personal level as well as on a political level, will demand results. The party constitution requires that they confirm their mandate by consultation hui, which they did between the election and the signing of the confidence and supply agreement.
It is a risk they’ve taken – that they’ll be vulnerable to being used and abused by the government. However it’s an important risk to take because it sends a signal that the old Labour loyalty can no longer be relied upon to deliver MÄori votes, that the Labour party has to earn them.
But the mÄori party’s primary purpose isn’t really to achieve policy goals, but symbolic goals – normalising the role of kaupapa MÄori politics in the NZ system and modeling political biculturalism. Those goals are a long-term survival strategy for MÄori interests as distinct from other interests, and are more important than individual policies because once entrenched, those norms will (in the view of the mÄori party and presumably its constituency) pave the way for development of better policy outcomes for MÄori and the rest of the country as well.
I think the Labour tribe need to accept that the MÄori Party and the Greens have their own interests, some of which can be advanced despite National being in power. They don’t want what you want; get over it.
(This is not intended to suggest that there is not at the same time far more common ground and scope for cooperation between those groups and Labour. But its both mistaken and arrogant to view the left as a monolithic entity whose interests are aligned with or set by the Parliamentary Labour Party)
The class war model is a distorting lens.
“I came to Parliament thinking that the members were all a bunch of bastards, and I was wrong. There are many good people here…we should raise our expectations”
I think pablo hits the nail on the head.
Labour seems to have decided that the for the meantime the Maori Party is part of the enemy. And as part of the enemy, Labour is probably of a mind that the longer the baubles of power compromise Tariana and co the more likely it is they will succeed in painting the Maori Party as yet another dead end for Maori.
And Labour clearly believes they can destroy the Maori party by winning back the Maori seats. And good job to if they succeed.
Lets face it, the Maori Party is a way for the tribal elite to take ‘their people’ to its loving grandmotherly bosom and systemactically suffocate them.
When Tariana talks about
devlovingprivatising social services, it sickens me to the core, she should know that Maori benefit from universal public health care, universal education, decent housing, and a secure social safety net, as well as secure jobs with decent wages. She damn well knows that it will not help ‘her people’ one iota to have to go begging to a tribal iwi elite for their entitlements of citzenship, to patronizing gits like John Tamihere, Willie Jackson and Brian Tamaki.
The electoral reality is that the Maori Party’s only real political opponent is Labour. They do not have to compete with National for votes because National have no chance of winning Maori seats. Maori have more MP’s than their list vote so their list vote is irrelevant. For this reason, they will have difficulty ever allying with Labour and will be forced to forever rationalise right wing ideas, despite being ideologically closer to the left. They can only ever increase their representation marginally since the hold most of the Maori seats.
Alex, how do you see the privatisation of health, welfare, education and prisons as being ideologially closer to the left?
Can you show me where Tariana Turia or Peter Sharples has spoken in favour of public sector health provision?
Why do you think it’s better for MÄori to “go begging” to a pÄkehÄ elite for healthcare, housing and education than it is for them to receive it from an iwi structure?
Because your beloved iwi structure, would nowhere be as comprehensive as a “pakeha elite”, and Maori will have to jump through all sort of hoops, and there will be all sorts of strings attached. Do you really thing that John Tamihere is going to just let ‘his people’ just say in the state houses he wants to own forever? No, he will turf them out in a couple of weeks.
Are you saying the current public healthcare system is complete (although it won’t fund the pills that prevent me having chronic iron deficiency but will fund iron pills which don’t) and has no hoops to jump through (although the meds that keep me alive require Ã¼ber paperwork every two years and I can only get them dispensed two pills at a time)?
But seriously, what’re you basing your criticism of iwi provided health, housing and education on?
Thanks Lew and Anita for the edification. From all of what has been said so far, this is what I gather: the Maori Party is a self-recognized ethnic party rooted in pre-colonial and pre-capitalist identifications whose constituency is 75% poor or working class (and often dependent on the capitalist state). Its ideological foundations are not “progressive Left” but a mix of socially conservative and seemingly progressive perspectives, most of which are rooted in issues that have to do with traditional land claims and the dislocating effects produced in the social division of labour by modern techniques of production. The Party uses modern forms of outreach to engage political society at large, but the principle-agent problem is overcome by the binding properties of pre-modern extended blood ties connecting the two. The result is a Party that focuses more on the superstructural aspects of its constituent’s orientations rather than on their structural insertion (or not) in the mode of production. This is what allows it to negotiate with parties that primarily represent the interests of the Pakeha bourgeoisie as well as those that represent Pakeha workers. In its mix of pre-, post- and modern features, that makes it truly unique yet, as has been mentioned, perhaps ideologically and organizationally vulnerable should it not be able to reconcile some of the fundamental antagonisms produced by the disassociation of its superstructural emphasis from the structural realities in which the majority of its constituents live. In that light my difficulties in grasping the true nature of the Maori Party are due to the fact that I may be too doctrinaire in my read, in that I tend to believe that in capitalist societies, even in their post-industrial guise, location in the structure of production is what matters most, with all other forms of identification (primary group or not) subordinated to the imperatives of the (democratic) class struggle.
Yes and… :)
1) The elite/non-elite relationship in pre-colonial MÄori society was quite different from that in Europe, so the relationships within MÄori society are not quite as we might expect them to be. It also means that PÄkehÄ elite cannot relate directly to MÄori elite without significant accommodation, something I think National struggles with.
2) You say
I would argue that the destruction of society and culture by colonisation and policies of assimilation is at least as much at the root as the two causes you describe. The breakdown of whÄnau, hapÅ« and iwi structures (and the consequent cultural and social dislocation) that occurred during urbanisation was as much caused by government policies (like pepper potting) as it was by the change the location and techniques of production.
3) I think we’re hitting redistribution vs recognition here in a big way :) I imagine (with little foundation perhaps) that the leaders of the MÄori Party would say recognition is the primary goal and that redistribution will follow naturally. That is if the structural, social and cultural biases against MÄori were removed their economic situation would improve in consequence.
Although perhaps I argue that because my primary lenses are identity/recognition issues. As a feminist I believe that it is structural, social and cultural gender biases that lead to women’s relative poverty.
P.S. I would like points for not saying “subaltern counterpublic” on the blog yet :)
I am just saying that Maori would benefit more from a comprehensive public health, education and social safety and security net system that puts people before profits, rather than some iwi based service which will be infinitely more underresources, and require them to jump through more hoops than nessesary.
You have to remember, my dear, that before Roger ripped the guts out of this country in the mid-1980’s Maori were doing OK economically, much of them had jobs in the factories, on farms and forest, and in the works. They were able to access decent health and education systems, which their taxes paid for, and they could afford housing through all sorts of support, sich as 3% housing corp loans and having a decent job down at the works, made it possible to pay the mortgage. I am not saying it was perfect, as Maori fought discrimination at every corner, but it was a damn sight better than throwing a whole generation of Maori on the scrap heap and then paying iwi to send them on bone carving courses. Now, I have no real problem with iwi owned businesses, and the like, what I do have a problem with is a group of tribal elite wanting to gain tight control of the affairs of the Maori people, and effectively have them dependent on the elite rather than the state that they fret so much about.
1) Of course MÄori would be better off with a well resourced comprehensive health system than with an under resourced gappy one. But is that a state provided/iwi provided issue?
2) Are you saying that MÄori were doing as well as PÄkehÄ before the 4th Labour government? Or that they were doing worse but the disparity was increased? Or that they got significantly worse off to the same extent as PÄkehÄ of comparable incomes/industries?
Can you please provide me with an example of an iwi run hospital providing complex surgical and treatment facilites?
Anita, Maori were in some areas doing well as Pakeha before the 4th Labour government. Yes, there was still some disparities, but that was due to the fact that Maori typically were seen as more suited to the likes of the meatworks and the forestry plantation, or on the MOW gang. I think I read somewhere that appearently the unemployment rate among Maori was actually quite low compared with other ethnic groups. It was only due to Rogernomics that the gap blew out, and dozens were left on the scrap heap.
For example, lets take Murupara. We fret a lot about gang warfare there, but we all know, if the forests werent sold by the government, the Tribesmen and the Mongerel Mob would be finding it difficult competing with the forestry industry for recurits.
I’m pretty sure the MÄori Party is talking about transferring resource to iwi so that they can provide the same services as the state system. I don’t think the current state of service provision is the point.
I couldn’t find a nice graph of MÄori employment stats, but here is a handy speech from Hone Harawira: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0812/S00125.htm
Employment rates aren’t the same as income rates of course. Are you arguing that their incomes were comparable to PÄkehÄ?
The key for me is whether it is ‘as well as’ or ‘instead of’. I have no problem if the former is applied, but it seems that all signs are pointing to the latter
General award rates from freezing workers in the late 1970’s early 80’s were quite generous.
Labour want three disastrous years
National’s strategy is to try and soft-pedal for the next three years and then implement their real policies after the next election.
Given that, and given that their program is pretty much entirely negative for most people, I’d suggest trying to trip them up at every turn is a good plan. It isn’t the job of opposition to make governments life easier.
(The supercity reorganisation isn’t needed or urgent. If they had a plan with consensus support, then they wouldn’t need to worry about councils trying to frustrate it).
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Well, well, coming back after a few days of trying (and failing) to make deadline, I’m pleased at what an excellent thread this is. I’ll try to cover everyone’s remarks in one go.
You seem to be advocating a sort of ideological bigotry: Marxist class solidarity at the expense of other considerations of identity. Matters of identity can’t (or shouldn’t) be imposed from outside; where they are it’s almost always to the benefit of the imposer rather than the imposed. What MÄori signed up to in the treaty was tino rangatiratanga – self-determination; their own best interest is for them to determine, not for others to impose upon them as in the past century and a bit. Why should a progressive party want to destroy another group’s bid for political self-determination? Isn’t that the whole point of progressive politics?
You’re right in the tactical analysis (Labour<->mÄori party is zero-sum as far as the MÄori seats go), and I think this is Labour’s analysis as well. However I think it’s a dangerous game for Labour to try to squash the mÄori party and all it represents like a bug. Labour, and with it other parts of the non-Green left, seem to still be in some sort of denial, or labouring (heh) under grand delusions that they were god’s gift to MÄori. Being better than the alternatives and exploiting the electorate’s loyalty was never going to be a permanent strategy, and its time has come. They need to concede that alienating some MÄori by passing the FSA was a necessary tradeoff for not losing the 2005 election to what Jon Johansson called `the rhetoric of illusion’ after Orewa.
It seems you see this competition as intractable – I see it as grounds for a working relationship. Just as they realised they couldn’t squash the Green movement, Labour will have to learn to accomodate the mÄori party on one flank and not take the party vote for granted in 2011 as they took the MÄori seats for granted in 2005. For its part the mÄori party will probably need to work with Labour because they could share a fair bit of policy (although the strongest policy cohesion remains with Green). I certainly don’t see National being any more loyal toward them once the chips are down; but National would like nothing more than for Labour to give the mÄori party no alternative than to continue in a blue government.
Your analysis is pretty much right on; the thing I’d elaborate on is that there are two traditional dimensions to the party: first, trying to revive a political philosophy based in tikanga MÄori with a view to gaining acceptance for (some of) those customs and norms in wider society; and secondly trying to mature and adapt that philosophy to modern usage without it being redefined or hijacked. The broader goal, as Anita says, is recognition; once there exists sufficient acceptance of tikanga MÄori cultural systems – that is, genuine throughgoing biculturalism – MÄori will no longer need guaranteed representation or other so-called special treatment in order for their needs to be considered in politics and elsewhere. This will have flow-on benefits for others in the society, who will no longer have to support a sub-society of dysfunctional, underperforming, alienated people.
Things weren’t as rosy as you make out in the pre-Douglas days. You’re making out the life of a meat-worker to be pretty luxurious or the end-point of a struggle, rather than a means to make the best of a bad situation. That’s bollocks, from a social democratic perspective as well as a Marxist perspective as well as a capitalist perspective; primary industry labour including the freezing works was was the family business for my father’s side in the 1970s, and some of them are still doing it now. It’s no picnic; it’s not now, it never was.
You seem to have bought the Trotter-Laws-Brash line of idiocy that MÄori elites want to go it alone and leave their people to starve. This is a convenient stalking-horse for the real agenda, for which see my remarks to Tom Semmens, above.
I’m inclined to agree, but your example (the supercity) works against your thesis. This isn’t the action of a government which wants to tread lightly for fear of waking the baby – it’s a serious old-fashioned scruff-of-the-neck structural reform which is almost certain to go completely haywire, right in time for the Rugby World Cup and the 2011 election. It’s a massive liability in the making, and I can’t for the life of me think why a government intent on winning a second term on the basis of a moderate image would go ahead with it. The Transitional Agency seems to bear some resemblance to authoritarian reformist regimes elsewhere – though in this case it’s not backed by military force, which is the only way it could work beyond the 2010 local body elections. I’m still puzzling at it.
The Labour Party, as one founded on the idea of working class solidarity, has tradition as an excuse for their supporters reaction to the use of MP and GP independence. However since 1993 we have had MMP and an experience of coalition government politics, so their excuse is just not good enough (as I pointed out for a couple of days on the Standard)
As to the issue of a Maori Party role in our political society – its premise is based on a continuing identity of Maori as the indigenous people. This claimed as a natural right AND a legal right (Treaty). That the later was formative to the colonial settlement and government of the land gives the indigenous peoples claim a “credibility” lacking in other nations. This combined with their ability to sustain a significant share of the population (no less than 10 to 20% of the population identifying as Maori for the forseeable future) means the MP has a future.
As to whether the MP would dissolve with the forming of a bi-cultural nation – I suspect they see themselves as the means to and a continuing part of such a nation (but then no government has ever recommended that voters choose their opposition).
Yes, absolutely – the purpose isn’t to work themselves out of a job, it’s to bring about a society where MÄori can compete and expect to succeed without artificial structural supports – in politics, by contesting the party vote and general electorates. The party’s policy isn’t that the MÄori electorates never be abolished – it’s that they aren’t abolished withough MÄori consent.
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