A Stuffed History means a Stuffed Future
The recent apology by the Stuff media group for its history of reportage that had a strong racist bias towards Maori, has won the praise of many as a major step towards a non-racist media in Aotearoa. Marxists however, see this mea culpa as part of an international move by liberal media to identify racism as a cultural problem to cover-up the deeper causes of racism inherent in global capitalism. Its purpose is to buy-off the rising threat of a united working class capable of uniting anti-racism and anti-capitalism as a revolutionary threat to the capitalist system.
The problem is that dissing the past from the present also has to be explained and in such a way as its points to the future. All of the reactions to the stuff mea culpa have only pointed to the present utopia of a capitalism that can ride out the storm. More specifically, the “honouring of the Treaty”, when it is evident more than ever that the Treaty was a “fraud”.
Honouring the Treaty takes no account of real history of capitalism nor its terminal crisis that makes this utopia reactionary today and in the future. The European global conquest continues today but is now confronted by its nemesis, the rise of imperialist China that turns that history on its head. The world is headed for counter-revolution, war and extinction of humanity, or, if we can make it in time, socialism and liberation.
Dying capitalism leaves no room for honouring treaties with indigenous peoples. Quite the reverse. They continue to be murdered, locked up and their lands stolen and destroyed from Asia and Africa to the Americas. What happens to Maori in NZ is part of that history. What happens to the mainstream media treatment of Maori is complicit in that history.
The Liberal story of Honouring the Treaty
Facing this grim prospect, Stuff’s superficial revision of history, and the emotional chorus that welcomed it from John Tamihere to Anne Salmond misunderstands imperialism in its age of decline and fall. It dissolves everything into the ahistorical chaos of postmodern celebration of nothingness. Stuff owns up to its historic racism. But it does not dig deeper into the cause of racism then or now. The result is tokenism, and the reproduction under the guise of anti-racism of the roots of racist oppression and the class exploitation that underlies it.
Let’s summarise Stuffs revision and its welcoming committee. It catches up with the liberal story of NZ that wrongs were done, but doesn’t say why, or why the wrongs continue today. It didn’t acknowledge until recently the crusading journalism, of say Dick Scott on Parihaka or Rawiri Taonui writing as a Stuff columnist for the Maori cause, that goes to the heart of NZ’s colonial history. It’s mea culpa remains token as a parochial scoop so trivial that it ignores the documented causes of colonialism that drove the racism that remains intact and embedded in today’s ‘culture wars’.
Why liberal revisionism now and why the pomo supporters’ club?
The second question Stuff does not address is why, other than to invoke ‘institutional racism’, it could not make this mea culpa until now. But that leaves the “why” of institutional racism unexplained. It’s not as if Maori haven’t been raking over the causes or racism for generations, from the land wars and Parihaka, to the revival of the Sovereignty movement in the 1970s. The deepest critique over that period was the resistance to colonisation of Te Whiti O Rongomai who understood that the evil of the capitalist market would destroy Maori society.
Donna Awatere’s Maori Sovereignty published in 1981 was the product of the Treaty protests at Waitangi, the Land March, Bastion Point, and the Springbok Tour. Awatere flirted with Marxism briefly before putting out the challenge to the system to recognise Maori sovereignty within the framework of capitalism. Other land struggles followed notably at Pakaitore and the Foreshore and Seabed in 2004 and Ihumatao today.
The Maori and Pakeha revolutionary left in NZ has also taken a stand on colonialization, notably Marxists who have critiqued the causes of racism and recognised Maori have the right to self-determination up to and including secession from New Zealand. Marx showed in his critique of E.G Wakefield, “The Modern Theory of Colonisation” that settler colonisation meant the dispossession of land, and the creation of a landless labour force obliged to work for capitalists to create value and hence profits. This was the beginning of the story of the development of capitalism in NZ
The subordination of Maori society to colonial rule by capital was justified by racism. The Treaty was always a fraud. To eliminate the virus of racism, the Maori right to their land has to be restored through their own act of political self-determination. For Marxists that is not possible short of a future socialist society where all peoples are free to determine their future.
The media serves to mystify the real cause of racism
The answer to the question “why now” is not parochial but global: Black Lives Matter and its global repercussions which goes to the roots of colonial dispossession and slavery. BLM has challenged the ruling classes around the world to face up to the rise of a united working class which joins up the struggles of race, gender and class.
The challenge for the ruling class is to co-opt and isolate these struggles. To contain and diffuse the merging of struggles, the ruling class uses its media to divert attention away from its common cause – capitalism, and to seek token solutions to buy-off the leaderships.
This is why the liberal media at this time is reviewing its past through the late-capitalist post-modern lens to minimize these struggles as merely ‘cultural wars’, buy-off its leaders into liberal politics and so keep the working class divided. For that to succeed the struggle must be kept within the sphere of culture which allows for reconciliation and ‘inclusion’ within the state institutions of capitalism.
If the race wars are merely cultural, peace can be declared in ignorance of the deeper class forces that are dividing society. In Aotearoa, Stuff’s revision, merges imperceptibly with The Labour Government’s sleepwalking cultural ‘transformation’ with the ‘team of 5 million’ dreaming of a classless, peaceful world riding out the storms ahead.
Marxism on the roots of racism and the seeds of liberation
Marxism, born of the bourgeoisie, is a world view that originates as a critique of the dark history of capitalism, understanding the necessity of its revolutionary origins and eventual limits, having formed within it the embryo of the commune that will return humanity to nature in the future.
Therefore, we don’t look to the role of those caught up in capitalisms rise and fall, the actors good, bad and ugly, or the media that mediates the ideology of capitalism, for answers to our current predicament, but rather to the scientific critique of the class contradictions that drove and continue to drive that history.
When Marxism becomes once again a common currency of social critique, and postmodernism lost and forgotten among the crap of prehistory, we will see that most commentary about race, class and gender, is scratching around on the surface of things, in ignorance of the deep social forces that drove the past and which also open the road to the future.