Archive for the ‘NZ Identity(ies)’ Category

by Phil Duncan

With Winston Peters announcing that his New Zealand First party is going with Labour and not with National, it looks like the Tories are out and the Xenophobes are in. We’ll now have the two most xenophobic of the four main parties in coalition government (Labour and NZ First). Although the last Labour government was pretty racist in relation to immigration, a Labour-NZF coalition may well be the most xenophobic government since Muldoon in the late 1970s (and the pre-Muldoon Labour government which began the dawn raids on Pacific Islands immigrants).

Watch out immigrants, especially poor people who want to migrate here to make a better life for themselves!

While no-one is under any illusion about Winston Peters’ xenophobia, given that for the last several decades he has made a career out of anti-immigrant – especially anti-Asian immigrant – policies, the liberal left prefers to turn a blind eye to Labour’s anti-Asian racism.  In fact, much of the liberal or centre-left shares  (more…)


Labour’s racist roots

A stain that won’t wash off: Labour’s racist campaign against people with ‘Chinese-sounding’ surnames

More Labour anti-Chinese racism and the left tags along behind them still



The following article first appeared in issue #6 of revolution magazine, May-June 1998.  Although nearly 20 years old, the article – which is actually based on talks given between 1995-97 – unfortunately remains highly relevant.

by Philip Ferguson

Over the last few years the term ‘political correctness’ has started to enter the vocabulary here.  Originating with a layer of liberals and leftists in the United States, politically correct practices and outlooks have gained a hold among elements of the professional classes in New Zealand.  The Anna Penn case in 1993, in which a trainee nurse was expelled from the nursing course at Christchurch Polytech for allegedly being “culturally unsafe”, and several cases in other nursing schools and social work courses, have garnered widespread media coverage.

In many ways, political correctness is stronger in New Zealand than anywhere else in the world.  It has become an important industry, with lucrative financial rewards, for a host of touchy-feely middle class liberals.  We have a range of counsellors now operating in most spheres of human problems, along with various consultancy agencies and individuals doing very nicely for themselves advising establishment institutions on how to be “culturally sensitive” to the people upon whose oppression these institutions depend.

In a real sense, political correctness in New Zealand has become the new (more…)

Tame Iti and mate Jenny Shipley, the Tory prime minister of NZ at the time and a keen advocate of ‘respect for diversity’.

The article below first appeared in issue #14 of revolution magazine, dated Xmas 2000/March 2001.  The introduction to the article stated that it argued “Trendy liberal race relations nostrums are more about social control than emancipation”.  Footnotes have been added for this re-publication. 

by Philip Ferguson

From cultural safety in nursing training to the banning of vegetables from primary school play groups – use of vegetables to make, for example, potato stamps is now regarded as ‘culturally insensitive’ because ‘traditional’ Maori society didn’t use spuds for such frivolous activities – Maori culture appears to be increasingly important and respected.

Virtually everyone from the far left through to much of the National Party (with the exception of the minor-league redneck element typified by the now-retired John Banks)[1] appears to be in favour of cultural diversity and the ‘empowerment of Maori.

Yet, as has been noted in this magazine before, the cultural revival coincides with a worsening of the actual material conditions of the majority of Maori (see, in particular, revolution #7) and the collapse of old forms of collective class organisation.  It is in this situation that some Maori have retreated into idealised versions of the past.  This retreat coincides with an interest on the part of the ruling class in finding new forms through which to mediate conflicting interests and establish social control in the midst of the decay of society itself.

Changing ruling class ideology

The ruling class ideology today is clearly not the one which existed in the decades before 1984 and was reflected in commitment to the welfare state, monoculturalism and the kind of old-fashioned patriotism and nationalism epitomised by powerful right-wing groups like the Returned Servicemen’s Association (RSA).

Today’s ruling class, for instance, actively promotes multiculturalism, liberal pluralism and has no problem with homosexuality and other things that were taboo in the past.  A lot of formal legal inequality has been abolished as it was an obstacle to the needs of a new round of capital accumulation and the new style of managing an increasingly fragmented society.

For someone seen as right-wing economically, such as recent National Party prime minister Jenny Shipley, ‘respect for difference’ is a key principle, as she made clear when (more…)

The piece below first appeared as the editorial in revolution #6 (May-June) 1998.  The trends it pointed to were very strong at the time and, sadly, remain very strong.

downloadby Philip Ferguson

The left was once synonymous with freedom.  This was particularly so during the ‘radical’ 1960s.  Freedom from the moral restraints of the austere and conservative 1950s, freedom for sexual experimentation, for viewing pictures and reading books that had been banned, and freedom for oppressed peoples in the Third World and in the advanced capitalist countries like New Zealand were exclusively the preserve of the left.

A great deal has changed since then!  Much of the ‘60s generation has grown up, gained a ‘stake in society’ and become the new, liberal prudes and social controllers, as fearful of freedom as they once were enthusiastic about it.  These days it is difficult to think of any activity which is not subject to concern or regulation by some middle-class snob or do-gooder.  From anti-smoking campaigns[1] to attempts to censor the internet to moral purity feminism, the grown-up flower children of the ‘60s would now prefer not to let a hundred flowers bloom.

There are, however, two ‘freedoms’ that are not included in their desire to control and constrain.  One is the freedom of the (more…)

by Daphna Whitmore

The internet is a vast ocean littered with so much stuff it is possible to paddle around for many years and miss out on some real treasures. A newly discovered treat for me is Ross Himona’s blog Te Putatara. Thank you Mark Eden, for highlighting the essay The Maori Worldview and Maori Policy, in the comments section of a Redline article. Himona’s essay on the Maori Worldview is one of the most rational discussions on the subject I’ve come across.

Himona starts by asking what is the Maori worldview? To explore that question he lays out the facts of Maori in today’s world.


Maori youth on a reality TV show The Outsiders

He contends what is commonly portrayed as the Maori worldview has been constructed by modern elites and does not represent most Maori. The elites have “cleaved ‘traditional’ tikanga values incorporating them into their various fields of endeavor, and on speaking Te Reo Maori”.

Those elites are a minority, so how can they speak for most Maori? Most Maori are not sitting on corporate iwi boards, or in high paid government department jobs. While it is not news that most Maori are poor – or only just keeping their heads above water –  Himona quantifies it with plenty of numbers.

What he describes is contemporary society. He is not describing Maori of a hundred years ago, but of the 21st century. Most Maori are in urban areas, all speak English, around 22 percent can speak conversational Maori, 98 percent identify as Christian, more than half identify as other ethnicities as well as Maori. Most live in the suburbs, like most pakeha do. Many live in Australia – a substantial 17.6 percent, and they treat New Zealand and Australia as virtually one country. (more…)

downloadby Philip Ferguson

The big victory of the right-wing opposition in Venezuela along with the capitulation to the European bourgeoisie on the part of the majority of the supposedly ‘anti-capitalist’ Syriza governing party in Greece reveal yet again the limitations of a left politics focused on using capitalist parliaments and the capitalist state to carry forward fundamental, radical change. In New Zealand, however, no-one on the left has much to stand on in criticising the Chavistas or the (apparently not-so-left) left social-democrats in Greece; after all, what has the revolutionary left in New Zealand achieved in the past four decades or so?\

Most people who were active in revolutionary groups in the 1970s and afterwards have long since abandoned revolutionary politics and made peace with the form of society based on exploitation and oppression. For individuals, most especially in the imperialist world, there is always a way back into ‘mainstream’ society, successful careers in academe, law, parliamentary politics, the union bureaucracy, the state apparatus, and so on.

Nevil Gibson, the paranoid right-wing editor of the NBR was, in his wayward youth, a Marxist and early (possibly even a founding) member of the Socialist Action League. Another prominent journalist was once in the Workers Communist League. Cheryl Gywn, the inspector-general (‘public watchdog’) of the state’s snoop services (SIS, GCSB) was also in the SAL and was for some years in the 1980s a freezing worker at the Tomoana works in Hawke’s Bay and happily talks about this in interviews. Peter Conway, the last head of the CTU, was around several far-left groups in his 20s. Several ex-SAL and WCL members were MPs for the Alliance and the Greens. And on it goes. Most, however, simply dropped out of politics altogether and slipped easily into ‘civilian’ life, having families, doing DIY and their gardens in the time they once devoted to trying to overthrow capitalism.

Now. . . and then

What is left is a few tiny sects that are not even a pale reflection of the far left of the 1970s and early 1980s. Back then, the collective far left numbered in the hundreds, produced weekly and fortnightly papers that sold thousands of copies, had scores and scores of members in core industrial sectors like the freezing works, the timber industry, the car plants, electrical assembly and elsewhere. I remember in the late 1970s, when I was a full-timer on the SAL’s newspaper, that we had several thousand subscribers and that in some of the timber villages in the central North Island half the houses had subscriptions. The CPNZ, in the last stages of its Maoist period, led a massive struggle by timber workers in the central North Island for a democratic rank-and-file-controlled union against corrupt right-wing union leaders. The WCL, while also having a small industrial base, was a real force among clerical workers in Wellington.

These organisations led real mass movements of tens of thousands of people on the streets: the (more…)