Maori rich- poor divide reflects world trend

Posted: February 6, 2016 by daphna in Uncategorized
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by Daphna Whitmore

On the eve of Waitangi Day thousands of people marched in protest against the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. Many Maori took part believing the TPPA will undermine indigenous rights. That protest was expected to spill over into Waitangi Day events, but with John Key staying away from Waitangi the annual February 6 protests have been muted. That left Steven Joyce to take one for the team and cop a flying sex toy.


Despite Maori economic assests worth over $40billion, Treaty settlements have not ended Maori deprivation and poverty.

The settlements are constructed in market-based terms which means the majority of Maori remain economically at the bottom – joined by tens of thousands of pakeha.

Iwi leaders and Treaty lawyers have done nicely and now the top ten Maori businesses have a combined asset worth of nearly 5 billion. Over the last three decades Treaty settlements have established a stratum of Maori capitalists, while the vast majority of Maori are worse off in measures such as jobs, housing and health.

Greater inequality is a worldwide trend. Oxfam reports 62 billionaires have as much wealth as half the world’s population. The divide is expanding at at a lightening pace. Oxfam notes that in 2010, the 388 richest people owned the same wealth as the poorest 50%. By 2014 it was the 80 richest, and again in 2015 the wealth has concentrated into fewer hands.

The article below looks at Treaty politics and why the income gap is not closing.

Maori liberation versus the Treaty process

Also Maori, identity, equity and the economy 

  1. Jared says:

    While the first part of this post is sound, that article you linked to is pretty poor in my opinion. Firstly, it speaks to the English version of the Treaty, and not Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the document that was signed by the majority of rangatira and the document that clearly shows Māori sovereignty was never ceded.

    Secondly, it – and other posts about Te Tiriti on Redline – fails to account for tikanga Māori and pre-capitalist forms of Māori economy that is woven into the concept of Māori sovereignty. To say that the left should not support Māori sovereignty fails to acknowledge what some have called the ‘economy of mana’ – that is, an economy based on meeting the needs of the community, and designed to uplift the entire community.

    I really enjoy the analysis on Redline and have worked with a number of Redline comrades in the past. And yes, the Tribunal process has channeled dissent into a controllable form. But the analysis offered in the post is old, stale, and outright colonial in its framework.

  2. daphna says:

    I don’t think Maori ceded sovereignty regardless of which version of the Treaty we are talking about as there was no Maori nation and the western concepts of sovereignty, private property, the monarchy etc were pretty foreign to the chiefs. Nevertheless, both versions made the monarchy the head of state.

    Furthermore, when the land grab picked up pace Maori resisted with an armed struggle that nearly succeeded. If there had been a Maori nation they would have won, but tribal divisions prevented that., and the rest is history.

    As for the pre capitalist forms of economy they simply don’t exist today and were largely extinguished by the Land Courts breaking up communal ownership in the 19th century, and then finished off with the postwar move to urban areas. Anyway, if Maori sovereignty is a worthy cause then surely it is for Maori to determine whatever economic system they would have in a sovereign state?

    Is there a recognizable Maori sovereignty movement today? It is barely heard of anymore. One that is actually calling for a Maori sovereign state? New Zealand’s population is very mixed, as the article points out. Over half of Maori have a non-Maori partner. There is no part of the country where Maori are concentrated and comprise a majority. The Maori Party is open to all, and Maori run medical centers and other services are similarly open. Doesn’t Maori liberation make more sense in this context? The demand for full equality of rights and opportunities?

    Furthermore, the treaty settlement process has deepened the hold capitalism has and the communal hapu as the economic unit has been well and truly extinguished.

    • Jared says:

      Have you read any work by Mānuka Hēnare? His work on He Whakaputanga and the development of nationhood pre 1840 is pretty interesting. He would suggest that it’s a generalisation to say that Māori had little concept of western notions of sovereignty and nationhood, especially considering the diplomatic visits to both Sydney and London from the early 1800s -such as Waikato and Hongi visiting the british parliament in 1820.

      Anyway i agree with your comments, mostly 😊

  3. daphna says:

    I haven’t read Henare’s work. I guess those who did travel were exposed to the old world and its workings.

  4. Phil F says:

    Jared, the problem with suggesting that the diplomatic visits meant Maori understood concepts of “western notions of sovereignty and nationhood” especially due to a couple of diplomatic trips doesn’t really stand up. Maori existence was pre-capitalist; the concepts generated spontaneously by Maori arose out of their day-to-day existence, just as was the case for Europeans.

    Capitalist society generates capitalist ideas; feudal society generates feudal ideas; chattel slavery generated the ideology that went with chattel slavery. That’s not changed by diplomatic visits. In fact, if you look at why a section of Maori adopted a king, you can see that their understanding of what a king was was distinctly different from the British understanding – this was because two very, very different social systems were involved.

    Phil F

    • Jared says:

      I’m not suggesting that – I’m just saying you can’t generalise and say that Māori had no notion of sovereignty. Speeches and other letters from 1840 and earlier clearly show some Māori did. Again, it’s just not as straight cut as the linked article suggests : )

      • Phil F says:

        I also disagree about it being “old, stale and outright colonial in its framework”.

        It’s three-and-a-half decades since Donna Awatere wrote the handbook on Maori Sovereignty and there were people on the (mainly pakeha) left before that who were big advocates of what was then called ‘Maori self-determination’. The most prominent was the Socialist Action League. I joined the SAL when I was at high school and those were the politics I was initially educated in – so, to me, it is those politics which seem old and stale – and even colonialist in the sense that Maori radicals’ view of Te Tiriti still centres around a relationship between Maori and ‘The Crown’.

        I stopped being a supporter of sovereignty politics when I lived in a country that suffered national oppression and contained an actual nation that was oppressed as a nation. The demand for self-determination was very clear – a completely independent, separate, fully-fledged nation.

        Even when I was very strongly geared towards Maori self-determination, I always had a niggling feeling that something was not quite right about it because there was nowhere a separate Maori country/state could exist, with the possible exception of a wee bantustan in the Ureweras and a wee bantustan in a bit of Northland.

        As Daphna noted above, Maori and pakeha are so intermingled that they can’t actually be dissevered, and would it be progressive to try? Moreover, in the days when I was strongly drawn to Maori self-determination, there was no Maori middle class, let alone a Maori section of the bourgeoisie. Maori were overwhelmingly proletarians, with a small layer being (very) small farmers.

        These days, there are substantial class divisions among Maori, although still nowhere near the extent there is among pakeha. But the direction is certainly towards more and more inequality among Maori. And the state has consciously promoted this. This is a key reason for treaty settlements.

        Unfortunately, most of the left is still stuck in the politics of the past 40 years, sovereignty politics which have failed and now seem to some of us to be old and stale and in desperate need of a thorough-going critique and alternative.

        An interesting case study here is the group that most of us involved in Redline belonged to – the Workers Party. WP made headway, including among a wee layer of working class Maori, *because* we didn’t advocate or blindly support TR politics. In Christchurch about a fifth of our activists were Maori (and, yes, obviously, we are talking very small numbers). After the departure of the people who went on to set up Redline, the young Turks who took over quickly moved to staunchly TR politics and thus drove the vehicle, renamed Fightback, into the same-old same-old left swamp and destroyed it. The organisation recently collapsed. Absolutely no surprise at all. But most existing leftists simply refuse to critically reflect on all this – eg on where TR politics have taken them over the past 40-odd years.

        The Huw Jarvis piece was a talk given by him at a WP meeting at Victoria University and it was a refreshing antidote to the kind of TR politics that dominate chunks of the far left and are just taken as part of the furniture. HJ was on the editorial board of *revolution* magazine, which in some ways pioneered the reassessment of politics which had clearly failed and taken the left up a cul-de-sac.

        We need a new left, one based on anti-capitalist politics.

        Phil F

  5. Mark says:

    There are some interesting statistics to think about in this article by Ross Himona. He shows that most Maori do not speak Te Reo, and are not that connected to their traditional culture, and there is a huge divide between the Maori elite and the rest of the population. He sees the focus on culture and language at the expense of everything else as a failure. “For the last thirty or forty years policy has been driven by the Maori elites, driven down the Maori development or Maori advancement track of language and cultural revival (including Maori medium education and Maori broadcasting), neo-tribal invention and identity, treaty settlements, business development, and primary healthcare engagement. But that is not where most Maori are. That is where the elites are. If Maori policy were to address the needs and aspirations of most Maori where they are it would tackle first and foremost the hard issues of poverty and unemployment”.

    • daphna says:

      Thanks Mark for the link to Ross Himona’s blog, that article of his was excellent. His piece on whanau,hapu and iwi construct is also very illuminating. It explains too why there is so much resistance among the hapu in Northland to get behind an ‘iwi’ settlement.

  6. Pauley says:

    I think the debate raised here highlights an important difference/opposition between a materialist/marxist approach and a leftist/political one — including the vast majority of anarchism — primarily concerned with realm of consciousness (“speeches”, “notions”) abstracted from social relations, which the latter consider (if they do) as merely one “factor” equal to every other. A theoretical lack that leads many well-meaning radicals into confused and self-contradictory positions as the most extreme sections of nationalistic and/or middle-class movements.

    • Jared says:

      You might want to refer to my first comment which refers to the social relations of pre-colonisation i.e. the economy of mana. This was essentially competing with and then displaced by capitalism, primitive accumulation etc as Daphna noted. I don’t think this thread has shown what you suggest at all. What I don’t understand is why or how the settler left we make up could not support decolonization when decolonization necessarily entails the abolition of class relations.

      • Pauley says:

        You mean the Maori pre-capitalist economy that, as Daphna pointed out, was abolished and shows no sign of revival? You’re just cherry-picking historical evidence to suit your ideological preference. Instead of proceeding from existing social relations, you’re imposing dead forms/ideas upon it, i.e. utopian idealism.

        As if to confirm my point about anarchist confusion about nationalist movements you give us this howler: “decolonization necessarily entails the abolition of class relations”. Seriously?

  7. Jared says:

    If anything, this debate shows the different understandings of what ‘sovereignty’ means to different people. It would be an interesting discussion to have, as I’m getting a sense (and I’m happy to be shown otherwise) that sovereignty from a te ao māori perspective is being conflated with western notions of nationalism and statism, and from a race perspective rather than an indigenous/settler framework. The implications of these differences are pretty crucial to what we mean by supporting Māori sovereignty.

    It would be really great to hear from our Māori comrades on this too.

    • Pauley says:

      Sorry this just sounds like leftoid academic theoretical hair-splitting. Interestingly no mention of an anti-capitalist or communist perspective either.

      • Jared says:

        If you can’t see how the colonial state and capitalist social relations are interrelated then you miss the fact that decolonization has to be anti-capitalist. I would have thought any materialist or class analysis would take that as a given.

        Your also missing the point I’m trying to make, that communist social relations – the abolition of the value form, wage relations and labour as a separate sphere of life i.e. alienation – has similar features to the economy of mana. Yes it does not exist now but nor does libertarian communism! Does that mean it’s not worth struggling for or is idealistic? If so all we have are the limits of what capital imposes on us as Phil pointed out earlier.

    • daphna says:

      Sovereignty is essentially the authority of a state to govern itself or another state.

      It’s not about whether I can decide to put sugar in my coffee or not (ie some form of personal autonomy). It’s not a nebulous personal choice thing. Nor is sovereignty about whether a school committee gets to decide the school curriculum (or determine the kaupapa).

      Especially in the context of Maori oppression talking about sovereignty as a woolly thing that means different things to different people is pointless. Sovereignty is about state power.

  8. Pauley says:

    I don’t think you’re getting *my* point, either, but I’ll let it rest with this paraphrase: Communism is not an ideal or something nice we’d like, but the real movement to abolish existing conditions.

    • Jared says:

      Yes. And existing conditions in Aotearoa include settler colonialism. So the movement to abolish capital needs to have an understanding of how those relations support and are given support by colonisation.

  9. Phil F says:

    I think the term ‘settler colonialism’ was relevant in the 1800s but it has long ceased to have that meaning. Maori are now thoroughly integrated into capitalism, just like pakeha. Maori and pakeha are very much intertwined. There is now a significant Maori capitalist sector and a significant Maori professional middle class. Maori are still disproportionately represented in all kinds of negative statistics, but these are *working class* Maori, not middle and capitalist class Maori. The class interests of Maori workers outweigh interests as an ethnic group.

    Referring to fifth and sixth generation pakeha as settlers is actually closing off any prospect of revolution. The bulk of pakeha workers can be won to anti-racist perspectives rooted in class – because no-one is saying that there aren’t specific issues of maori oppression – but they can’t and won’t be won to the notion that they are settler colonialists who enjoy privileges over and above Maori per se.

    The logic of the settler-colonialist stance is not to make common cause with pakeha workers but to look to the institutions of the capitalist state, one of which is the whole ‘race relations’ industry around an 1840 Treaty, a treaty that was symptomatic of the ones the Brits used to grab territory around the world and which radical Maori activists used to denounce as a fraud. It is a mark of the retreat of the left, that so much of the left now embraces what was once denounced as a fraud.

    Similarly, the left now defend SOES, the creations of Roger Douglas and things that the left of the late 1980s totally opposed!

  10. How strange that people can even imagine that a pre-capitalist social formation held the particular legalistic conception of exercising power “sovereignty” as a 19C capitalist empire and then lambast people as “colonial” for not agreeing with this absurd claim.

    Reparations is a good hustle. I don’t begrudge anyone their reparations at all, or the Casinos built from it, or whatever social goods tumble from it, or from a new class re-composition of Maoridom. That’s beside the point and it’s only a matter of course as things go now. It’s certainly better than total immiseration.

    The point is the confusion of socialism with TR is an absurdity. There is only one kind of socialism congenial to that confusion, and it is not socialism at all, but opportunistic, mendacious weasely populism, the kind that social democracy and every colour of stalinism has mastered for diverting the course of history, or perfecting its necessary perversion.

    Mainstream political Maoridom – not Mana – will never have anything to do with a TR slogan interwoven into some activist opportunistic misreading of Marx (like Fightback, the bottomless cesspit of every opportunism, a rotting corpse of post-89 panaceas exhaling its stale breath and thoughtless activist desperation in every direction from a clique of spineless weenies whose sole charge is placating Grant Brookes, the Bernstein of the New Zealand left).

    • daphna says:

      Jordan, if you want to comment on Redline please leave out the personal attacks, especially when done using a pseudonym. If you have criticisms of someone’s politics please stick with facts.

  11. Barrie says:

    The interpenetration of Maori and Pakeha socially, economically and (since the 1940’s) mostly geographically is surely the best argument in favour of a call to their common class interests above narrow sectional ones. I certainly think that any perspective based on some idealist and often post-modern culturally essentialist claim that leads to total separatism is a dead end. The difficulty though is that you nevertheless have to acknowledge that Maori workers do have their own distinct views which are based on points of cultural difference and contrasting historical experiences. Therefore the tricky thing is how to give primacy to a class based form of struggle but one that still not only acknowledges but values cultural difference?

    I may not agree with everything Grant Brookes says but I kinda like him as a person myself.

    • Jared says:

      “I certainly think that any perspective based on some idealist and often post-modern culturally essentialist claim that leads to total separatism is a dead end”

      No offense, but this sounds like something straight out of the mouth of Finlayson and the National Government ie that power is not divisible. I would have thought that any Marxist or anarchist can see the fallacy of that argument.

      • Phil F says:

        Jared, Finlayson is one of the key race relations liberals of the National government. National loves a degree of TR because they understand it means much more thorough incorporation of Maori in capitalism. National want more Maori in business, more Maori in positions of power in the state apparatus, more Maori National MPs, etc etc.

        Some of us were around when Donna Awatere was in full flight declaring herself modestly to be this country’s “leading revolutionary theorist and activist”. You couldn’t have a political disagreement with her without her playing the ‘Maori woman’ card. Disagreements indicated you were some kind of colonialist. For a while she used the term “missionise”. If you politely disagreed with her you were trying to “missionise” her. Those of us who experienced all that are far, far less impressed by TR people who try to play that card today.

        What Donna and those who shared her views were doing, of course, was CV building. They built up fake-radical CVs that allowed them to barter their way into the establishment as ‘cultural’ advisers in the state and private sector. Donna became a millionaire out of it, but she was far from the only one.

        TR is very big among Maori professionals and social climbers – it’s part of their entree into wealth and power – but not so big in what’s left of the meat works and the timber towns and so on.

        I remember a turning point with Donna. She used to sometimes come to SAL public forums and other events. After the Sandinistas overthrew Somoza in Nicaragua, the SAL organised a big celebration in South Auckland. There were about 230 people there one week-night evening, probably a third of whom (if not more) were Maori and PI (maybe even more). They were from places like the Otahuhu Railway Workshops, Westfield meat works and other blue-collar workplaces.

        Donna flounced in like the queen she saw herself as, and no-one noticed. She meant absolutely nothing to the Maori and Pacific workers there. She was incredibly deflated and had to undergo the ignominy of talking to someone she would have seen as a pakeha nobody (me), although she did manage to accuse me of trying to ‘missionise’ her.

        Back at the time of the big Foreshore and Seabed controversy, researchers at Massey surveyed Maori attitudes to the issue and found a majority to favour the foreshore and seabed being in public hands. To me, that showed two things: that Maori workers have more advanced class conceptions in general than pakeha workers and that there is a huge disjoint between what working class Maori think and what the advocates of TR think (not to mention the pakeha left sections that take their cue not from Maori workers but from Maori social climbers).

      • Jared says:

        I can’t really make out what you’re saying here (other than some hard feelings against someone from your past), but again, I think there is some confusion around different meanings and conceptions of sovereignty, tino rangatiratanga etc.

        I’m skipping out now (literally, I’m going away for the weekend) so won’t add anything further. But I can see there is some real difference of opinion that probably won’t be reconciled anytime soon.

  12. Phil F says:

    Donna is not someone from my past; she’s the person who wrote the handbook on Maori sovereignty. She wrote the ‘ground-breaking’ articles in ‘Broadsheet’, later turned into the book ‘Maori Sovereignty’. She was the key theorist of MS/TR for 15 years or more – late 70s to early 90s. She was the supreme leader of the Maori and Pacific Island People’s Revolutionary Front, until her MS/TR politics led her into a marked turn against Pacific peoples in NZ. Subsequently an ACT MP. . .

    I agree, however, that there is a real difference of opinion and it’s unlikely to be reconciled soon.

  13. Malcolm says:

    “I think there is some confusion around different meanings and conceptions of sovereignty, tino rangatiratanga etc.”

    Hi Jared, I’d really appreciate it if you could have a go at trying to unpick the different meanings and conceptions you refer to above. It would hopefully help the debate along a little.