Surviving Extinction in a Socialist Aotearoa

Māori protesters on Waitangi Day, 6th February 2006 (Credit: Charlie Brewer)

COP 27, the official annual forum of capitalist states which represents the interests of the capitalist ruling classes to continue destroying the Earth, met in Egypt from November 6-18. With an attendance of thousands, dominated by the giant polluters, it succeeded in emitting much hot air and greenhouse gasses. Predictably it failed to take the ‘transformational’ measures necessary to halt the rush to extinction. Carbon neutrality by 2050 is a death cult. Capitalism is bankrupt and unable to halt its own demise. A Socialist Aotearoa would give us a fighting chance for our survival. How you may ask? The first step is to organise the resistance.

Socialism or Extinction Conference

Recognising that no reforms can stop capitalism from destroying nature, the recent Socialism or Extinction conference in Mexico City in October was convened to rally workers internationally to socialist revolution. Read its Manifesto. Participating in this conference were revolutionary socialists from the Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, the United States, New Zealand, and Zimbabwe.

The conference agreed to four resolutions for united front action. The key resolution states: “characterising the Ukraine war as an inter-imperialist proxy war, and identifying the task of building a working-class united front for dual defeatism [we need] a new Zimmerwald that builds for a new International based on the method of the 1938 Transitional Program“. Let’s unpack this resolution.

The war in Ukraine is between Russia on the one side, and on the other the US/NATO using Ukraine as its proxy. Therefore, we are for the defeat of both imperialist powers and the national self-determination of Ukraine. The call for a new Zimmerwald is modelled on the World War 1 Zimmerwald Left formed in 1915.  It resolved that the ‘main enemy is at home’ and that workers must ‘turn their guns on their own ruling classes’. This led to a revolutionary left movement around Liebknecht, Luxemburg and Lenin that resulted in the Russian Revolution two years later.

Today our resolution calls for a new communist international to be built replacing the Third which surrendered to the Nazis in 1933, and the Fourth which degenerated after the murder of Trotsky in 1940. The new international will lead the workers’ revolution, ‘turning their guns on their ruling classes’, defeating imperialism, overthrowing capitalism, and building socialism against human extinction.

Against those who say the war in Ukraine can be stopped by democratic uprisings of the people, we say: you are deluded! Beneath the surface appearances of chronic stagflation and market chaos is the true reality of capitalism rotting on its feet. In the epoch of imperialism, beset by crises, wars and revolutions, the concrete reality is the Bi-polar world where the two great imperialist blocs around the US in the West, and China in the East, fight by any means necessary to take control of Eurasia and the world.

Inevitably this leads to wars to re-divide the world drawing the workers into wars against other workers. Capitalist ‘democracy’ no longer serves to delude the masses and the state resorts to open repression. Individuals are reduced to pawns and cannon fodder in this great game. The current proxy war between the US and Russia in Ukraine is the first of many wars that will spread across the world unless the working class unites around a new Zimmerwald conference to win workers to the Bolshevik position on imperialist war – to turn imperialist war into class war and ending the reign of the Capital once and for all. How does a Socialist Aotearoa fit into this scenario?

NZ as Capitalist Semi-Colony

First, New Zealand is a capitalist semi-colony – it is politically independent but its economy is owned and controlled by imperialist powers including Britain, Japan, China and the US. Its role in the world division of labour is to import advanced capital goods and some consumer goods while exporting commodities (including education and tourism) to pay for them. Its class structure is determined by its colonial history and economic role. 

Who is in the working class and does it have political allies in other classes that have an interest in socialism? We determine class interest as arising from their exploitation, that is, producing surplus value which is appropriated by capitalists, landlords and banks as profits, rent and interest. Their common class interest is to end the exploitation and take back the surplus value appropriated from them by socialising the means of production, distribution and exchange. 

We define the working class as those who are forced to work for wages because they do not own their means of subsistence. They must work or starve! Those who comprise the paid workers are about 70% of work age population. Add to this around 10% who are unpaid labour made up of domestic workers in the home, or voluntary work. Third are the self-employed, in particular, those who are disguised workers who work as contractors, and those who own small businesses, eg. family farms or dairies who pay themselves a wage but also have to pay rent and interest. The total of those who work to live is around 80% compared with 20% employers and small employers who live off the labour of others.

Within the working class the consciousness of class interest will vary from largescale production workers who are unionised, to those self-employed who don’t see themselves as workers having escaping the working class into a ‘middle class’. All are potentially part of the wider working class but will not necessarily recognise to the same extent a class interest in socialism. It is vital to awaken the consciousness of disguised workers to their underlying interest in socialism to convince them not to join the hostile petty bourgeois bloc against workers as occurred in the National Socialists in Germany in the 1930s.

Workers who define themselves as ‘middle class’, show that they are really no more than relatively high paid individuals who have no solidarity with other workers. Like the petty bourgeoisie historically, they see self-employment as a step to becoming petty capitalists. This may involve buying farms and employing labourers, buying houses to rent out to workers, or investing in SMEs and employing workers. All will attempt to escape rents and mortgages by appropriating the surplus labour of their tenants or employees. The middle-class interest can be summarised as that of aspiring to become capitalist and avoiding sinking back into the working class.

Overcoming divisions in the working class

Because of the potential power of workers and their allies, the national bourgeoisie and their imperialist masters try to smash our organised resistance, by creating violent divisions in our class along nationalist, racist and sexist lines, to destroy its solidarity and its capacity to fight the rise of fascism, oppose imperialist wars and global warming. In Aotearoa, these divisions are clearly the product of white settler colonisation where racism was and is still used to suppress Māori rights, and sexism remains alive and well in the patriarchy today.

To pour fuel on these fires the bourgeoisie play on the fear of the middle class, of being driven back into the working class by bankruptcy. The declining middle classes historically have been the main source of fascist fodder used by the bankers and financiers to attack workers, blaming them as the cause of crises rather than capitalism itself. In Aotearoa the current broad frontal attack on rising wages as the cause of inflation serves to stir up petty bourgeois hatred of the working class.

Socialist revolutionaries work to overcome the divisions in the working class and its potential allies.  At the same time we warn against making alliances with the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie as hostile class forces exploiting those divisions along race, gender and class lines. Aotearoa as a white settler semi-colony is something of a laboratory of the social divisions and conflicts that were a necessary part of colonisation.

These divisions have their origins on the wrong side of the history of colonisation. They are ingrained in the white bourgeois and petty-bourgeois class bloc that defends private property from the threat of ‘socialism’ or ‘communism’. When unpacked this fear of revolution also includes hostility to Treaty rights and a patriarchal hostility towards women in society. Referring to the Prime Minister as ‘Cindy the communist’ imposing Māori control of water rights, killing democracy as a biproduct, says it all. White nationalism, racism and sexism were not invented by Critical Race Theory, but are fused in the black heart of Eurocentric fascism.

Meanwhile, the left is falling apart. Long-time Fabian socialist Chris Trotter has fallen for the revisionist settler narrative that somehow de-colonisation can be peacefully negotiated politely in parliament between the indigenous Māori thrown off their land facing near extinction, defrauded by the colonial state the mouthpiece of the settler gentry, while the stolen wealth of today’s gentry who extort rent from all of us keeps piling up on the heads of Māori.

Co-Governance is not self-determination

Water is the new land grab. The gentry got its water rights with the stolen land, the dispossessed lost both the land and attendant water rights. Co-governance, is a token policy of redress sponsored by the UN serving the interests of the ruling classes and inseparable from the US state. Do you see the hegemonic power giving up its power and wealth without a nuclear war? Witness Ukraine as the beginning of the end of the world in motion.

To repeat the now obvious, we live in a bi-polar world in which the Eastern and Western blocs are now going to war in the Great Game to carve up the wealth of Eurasia. What room to manoeuvre is left for that small footnote in history, the NZ state, but to beg indulgences from these great powers?

What possible power do Māori have to shift this global balance of power to its own advantage. Clearly no more than negotiating the power brokerage within the Labour Party, itself stuck negotiating minimal power within the dictates of the semi-colonial template imposed by the real state power the Central Banks, not in Wellington, but in New York and Beijing. So, co-governance is a pathetically token gesture designed to pacify Māori living at the bottom of this historical heap of shit. Tino rangatiratanga will be sold off cheap.

Why then, the hysteria about co-governance?  Well, the gentry are dependent on nature, and nature is on its death bed being burned up by the capitalocene, and this is choking off the rent bounty with inflammable pine trees. Water in the age of global warming has become the new gold. Just as the big powers are battening down the hatches to hoard gold ahead of the big bang of climate crash, economic slump and the threat of nuclear war, the prospects for the gentry surviving by extracting monopoly rent from the land are dwindling.

And as for the peasants who scrape a miserable existence off the crumbs from this pillage, the only alternative offered is to squeeze out of the neoliberal Labourites, the token whiff of the dying earth. The apologists for neo-colonialism are running around in a panic while their Eurocentric, Anglo-American world collapses. We are with the wretched of the Earth, the dispossessed whose time has come. We have to wake and fight for survival socialism if we want to inherit a liveable Earth.

For a Socialist Aotearoa

The solutions are on the right side of history, that of decolonisation and socialist revolution. Here the revolutionary class bloc unites exploited wage workers, gender oppressed women, and nationally oppressed Māori within a wider working class. Their shared class interest is to fight for national self-determination against the national oppression of Aotearoa as NZ, the semi-colony of the UK, Japan, China and the USA.

This means that workers and their allies must be against Aotearoa supporting any imperialist country in an inter-imperialist war. We must demand that our ruling class breaks from the US/NATO alliance and refuses to participate in any war. Workers must refuse to go to war for profits. We must call for our troops to refuse orders to kill. And in the event of invasion by any imperialist power to defend the sovereignty of Aotearoa.

If in the struggle for national self-determination against imperialism Māori are suppressed, then the fight must also include support for the Māori right to self-determination, including secession. No national can be free from imperialism while it oppresses another. If in the struggle for national self-determination against imperialism, women are suppressed, then the fight must include the right to women’s self-determination against the patriarchy.

Socialism can only guarantee freedom as the self determination of the individual by removing the material basis for class, national and sex exploitation and oppression. Without Māori and women in the leadership of the revolution for socialism there can be no Socialist Aotearoa. Without a Socialist Aotearoa that is part of a federation of socialist republics from Argentina to Zimbabwe there can be no end to capitalism and the threat of extinction.