Naval frigate Te Mana; behind the official anti-nukes policy, Lange stepped up NZ miitary involvement in Pacific to levels not seen since WW2

Naval frigate Te Mana; behind the official anti-nukes policy, Lange stepped up NZ military involvement in Pacific to levels not seen since WW2

The pamphlet reviewed below was produced by the Christchurch-based Revolutionary Marxist Collective in 1997 and reviewed in issue #2 of revolution magazine, June/July 1997.

In review: Grant Cronin, Andy Morris, Phil Duncan, New Zealand and the New World (Dis)Order, Christchurch, Revolutionary Marxist Collective, 1997, 24pp, $3; reviewed by Susanne Kemp

People in the West were told for forty years after World War 2 that the ‘Stalinist bloc’ was the main obstacle to peace in the world and that its disappearance would lead to a world of harmony and prosperity. But as New Zealand and the New World (Dis)Order notes, the post-Cold War world is one of continuing Third World immiseration and escalating Western intervention. The notion of the ‘white man’s burden’ has returned with a vengeance.

This pamphlet seeks to explain how and why this has happened. The intorudtction argues that, “Western ruling classes have no answer to the economic and social problems of their own countries. Meanwhile, the demise of the Soviet bloc has robbed them of the invented external threat, ‘the red menace’, which was used to cohere those societies behind the leadership of the ruling class. The Western elites, robbed of the authority they enjoyed during the post-war boom and the Cold War. . . shore up their authority by waving the big stick abroad, especially in the Third World.”

In the opening section on “The New World Order”, Grant Cronin investigates these factors more closely. He also looks at the new justifications for Western intervention in the Third World. From ‘the war on drugs’ to calls for ‘democracy’ to claims of ‘genocide’ or that Third World countries are incapable of exercising sovereignty within the framework of nation states, the Western powers, especially the USA, have constructed a ‘new ideology of imperialism’ which has politically disarmed much of the old liberal and left opposition. The Western powers, for instance, ovdersaw the break-up of Yugoslavia , and then militarily intervened, with very little protest at all; in fact, much of the old opposition to such interventions these days actually calls for Western intervention.

One of the focal points for Western action against the Third World is the invention of terrorism and, in the second section, Andy Morris looks at how images of ‘terrorism’ are socially constructed in the West. Morris notes that “The myth of terrorism is the successful outcome of the propaganda war conducted by the Western powers through an unquestionming media. The myth turns upside down the reality of Western domination and brutality.” Morris follows this with a section on ‘peace processes’ and shows how these are simply new forms of continuing the war against oppressed peoples in places such as Ireland and the Middle East. As he puts it, “The reality of the ;peace porcess’. . . is not an impartial, negotiated peace settlement, but an imposition of new structures of domination.”

While the bulk of the left in New Zealand is infected withg the disease of kiwi nationalism, and therefore tend to think that NZ is somehow different from other advanced capitalist countries, Phil Duncan cuts through these illusions in the section “New Zealand foreign policy, nationalism and the left”. Duncan shows that the NZ ruling class has its own distinct interests in the world, especially in the Pacific. He argues that the ban on nuclear warships, so celebrated by the left, fits in neatly with the interests of the ruling class and, for instance, helped unite the country behind the 1980s Labour government, putting that regime in the best position to slash workers’ living standards and rights. It also helped obscure the fact that Lange’s government stepped up NZ military activity in the Pacific to levels not seen since World War 2.

Duncan also shows how the left united with the NZ ruling class at the time of the French tests at Moruroa in 1995. Instead of attempting to introduce class politics into the midst of the national unity and anti-French chauvinism that gripped the country at the time, the left insisted on narrowing the focus of anti-testing groups to the single issue of the tests and the single demand to stop the tests. Yet this was a demand supported by the entire NZ ruling class! The left’s classless approach – the left in fact played thekey role in limiting the focus of the anti-testing groups – meant that the political force which benefited most from the protests was the National Party. As Duncan notes, National rose six points in the opinion polls, gaining a momentum they were able to maintain all the way through to the October 1996 elections, while National Party leader Jim Bolger for the first time topped the polls as the person most preferred as prime minister! With such helpful friends on the ‘left’, the NZ ruling class clearly need never worry about their ideological, political and economic power over society being threatened.

The pamphlet argues that the kind of single-issue campaigns so preferred by the liberal and reformist left in this country are useless for challenging the interests and prerogatives of the NZ ruling class. In contrast to the multi-class approach of the left in uniting NZers on the basis of kiwi nationalism and moral outrage, the authors conclude with a series of points which they argue are necessary for the establishment of a genuine anti-imperialist politics in this country.

New Zealand and the New World (Dis)Order is essential reading for anyone wishing to understand what is happening in the world today, NZ’s role in it, and how to do something effective about it.

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