The Ruatoki Raid

In the uproar that has been generated over "military style training camps" in the northern Urewera, the first point to be made is that Ruatoki based Tuhoe activist Tame Iti has not assembled any kind of serious para-military force.   Ruatoki, at the end of a long "dead end" road from Taneatua lined either side by the homes and villagers of Tuhoe loyalists, could have been relatively easily defended by any reasonably well armed militia..   Failing that, merely by clambering over a couple of fences Ruatoki militants can gain the safety of the Urewera ranges within minutes of any alarm.  It is clear from the fact that Tuhoe made no attempt to either fight or flee that there could have been no plans in place for any kind of armed conflict with the regime.

Are the left-wing urban radicals correct when they allege that the New Zealand Police and the Security Intelligence Service are  intent on manufacturing a supposed "terrorist threat" to justify a general assault upon civil liberties?   This is a plausible argument in the light of the history and attitudes of these two state institutions. But one must bear in mind that the raids had much broader  support within the regime.   The main parliamentary political parties, Labour and National, both gave advance approval.   So the initial appearance is one of a regime united in the face of a serious threat to its security.   But what the raids actually reveal is a slowly developing crisis of confidence within New Zealand's political classes, whether of the right, left, or centre.

To appreciate that the problem lies within the regime, rather than within Tuhoe, it is necessary to understand that there has been no significant change in the political conduct of Tuhoe over the past ninety years.    Tuhoe carry arms, as they always have.    They move about the hills and river valleys of the Urewera as they always have.   They maintain an independent stance towards the institutions of the regime, as they always have.  The recent Ruatoki raid, like the 1916 assault upon Rua Kenana's "stronghold" of Maungapohatu in the central Urewera, was provoked by circumstances which have nothing particularly to do with with what is happening within the Tuhoe rohe, but which have caused the regime to suffer a loss of political confidence and credibility.

In 1916 the war in Europe was going badly, and the regime, frustrated in its efforts against the Prussians and the Ottoman Turks, could not pass up the chance of an easy victory over Tuhoe.   In 2007 pretty much everything is going badly for the regime - from the war in Afghanistan to the Rugby World Cup.   Domestic society is also struggling as the regime's socio-economic "reforms" of the past twenty years have left the general populace financially insecure, and afflicted by a sense of moral anomie.  Within the regime itself, the politicians of the right remain anachronistically wedded to New Zealand's traditional role as a far flung garrison of the global empire which is already crumbling at the edges and in danger of complete disintegration.   Meanwhile the politicians of the left, clinging to the more benign colonial vision of "principles of the Treaty of Waitangi", stake their political all on a document which has never amounted to anything more than an act of political expediency, and which, even after the second wind that it received from the Treaty of Waitangi Act, has long outlived its usefulness.   The problem for the regime, then, is that neither its aggressively imperialist right wing nor its softly imperialist left have a viable way forward in the twenty first century.   So once again Tuhoe have become the object of the regime's attention.

That is not to say that Tuhoe have been singled out at random.  There is at least an intuitive understanding within the regime that Tuhoe pose a direct, if implicit, challenge to the imperial/colonial foundations of the New Zealand state.    Tuhoe did not sign the Treaty of Waitangi and remain of a stubbornly independent frame of mind.   When push comes to shove, they refuse to acknowledge the sovereignty of the British crown.    None of this particularly mattered going into the second half of the twentieth century, when New Zealand was a relatively stable, secure, and self-confident society.   But in the beginnings of the twenty-first century, New Zealand is riven by social inequality and afflicted by social breakdown.   In such circumstances Tuhoe's independence will lead others to question the need for a continuation of imperial rule.    Tuhoe have become to the New Zealand state what Islamic fundamentalism is to the global political system: a living, breathing demonstration that there is an alternative to the ideologies and the way of life promoted and maintained by the powers that be in the world.    It is therefore not at all surprising that Tuhoe have been designated as the domestic focus of the New Zealand state's "war on terror".

Two centuries ago the people of Aotearoa met in collision with the mass of an expanding British empire, and a fault runs still through New Zealand society along their line of contact.  As the British sought to impose their own social, political, and economic institutions, they came into conflict with the indigenous culture, provoking a series of wars which raged through Tai Tokerau, Waikato, Taranaki, and the Bay of Plenty in the late nineteenth century, the aftershocks of which are felt to this day.

For many years it was taken as a given on the British side that Maori culture was inexorably sinking into oblivion as British military, political and economic power was being raised up and consolidated throughout the country.   “New Zealand” became a compliant servant of the British empire, owing allegiance to the British crown, sending its young men to fight and die for the empire in far-flung lands, supplying food and raw material for the British industrial machine, and providing a lucrative source of profit for British banks, insurance companies, and financial institutions.    All this helped to foster a colonial mentality which remains deeply entrenched in New Zealand’s political institutions, police, and armed forces.

In hindsight we can recognise that the high point of the colonial order occurred about the middle of the last century after the Labour leader Michael Joseph Savage shamelessly declared “Where Britain goes we go; where she stands we stand”.   But since then both the internal and external conditions of the country have been increasingly unfavourable to the continuation of the colonial order first established in the nineteenth century.   Britain’s military and economic power has declined, her empire collapsed, and her need for New Zealand produce has largely evaporated.    On the other side Maori culture enjoyed a renaissance, and the Pakeha descendants of European settlers have discovered they share more in common with Maori than they do with the “Poms”, and the British ruling class in particular.

However New Zealand’s political class, and it’s political institutions, have proved unable and unwilling to adapt to the fundamental changes taking place at the lower levels of New Zealand society.   They remain committed to a paramount role for the British crown, with its unspoken implication of the political supremacy of the British race.   And they remain committed to the idea of New Zealand as an outpost of empire, albeit with Washington having replaced Westminster as the new nerve centre of the imperial order.

The last two decades, then, have been a time of increasing confusion and desperation for New Zealand’s governing classes, of both the left and the right, as they have struggled to contain the pressures of a people who have little regard for British racial supremacy or the trappings of empire, and no interest in helping to maintain either British or American political or military hegemony in the world.

The ruling class attempt to contain the growth of national consciousness within New Zealand has been driven by a raft of policies, some blatantly reactionary, and others ostensibly progressive, but all of which are fundamentally flawed and doomed to fail.   Labour’s privatisation of public assets, such as forests, railways, electricity production and distribution, telecommunications and so on, was not only intended to enrich the coterie of merchant bankers and investors who were hand-in-glove with the fourth Labour government.   Its broader aim was to undermine the sense of common national interest which derived from common ownership of significant national assets.    The policy of  “globalisation” was similarly designed to counteract and reverse the trend towards a sense of national identity among ordinary New Zealanders, by persuading them that there was no reason why their farms, industries, banks, telephone networks, electricity generators, newspapers, television and radio stations, shopping malls and dwelling houses should not be owned by foreigners.   The end result of the regime's "reforms" has been that a growing proportion of young New Zealanders are effectively denied the right to live in their own homes and to raise families, rights which less than three decades ago they simply would have taken for granted.

The fourth Labour government, however, faced a particular difficulty in the privatisation campaign.   During the decade of the nineteen seventies, Maori had become increasingly militant and nationalistic.    "Economic re-structuring" jeopardised Maori national interests (it being obvious to all that Maori wage workers would suffer disproportionately from the wave of redundancies that followed privatisation), and by the same token, Maori political activism posed a threat to the entire privatisation programme.    The solution to this dilemma was found in the Treaty of Waitangi Act, which provided a means by which Maori themselves could indirectly benefit from the privatisation of state assets.   The government was not at all troubled by the fact that the Treaty of Waitangi Act would have the predictable effect of driving a wedge between Maori and the sometimes enviously resentful Pakeha community.   Nor was it troubled by the fact that the pecuniary benefits of the Treaty would be largely monopolised by a small group within Maoridom (the so-called "brown table") who had close links to the regime.    From the regime's point of view such communal divisions positively benefitted the "divide and rule" strategy by which it has managed to cling to power over the past three decades.   Twenty years on, however, the Treaty of Waitangi Act has served its purpose, which never really extended beyond the necessity to smooth the passage of the privatisation and globalisation programmes.   The "principles of the Treaty" are being rolled back wherever they conflict with the regime's drive to monopolise natural resources, and the role of the Treaty itself as the supposed "founding document of the nation" is being progressively downplayed.    Of course there always was something faintly ridiculous about having the instrument by which independence was surrendered to a foreign power recognised and sanctified as the founding document of the nation, but the problem for the colonial regime is that it has no alternatives.   There is nowhere it can go, and not much it can do to create the mere appearance of nationhood without giving rise to the reality.

New Zealand governments also attempted to dilute nationalist sentiment, and at the same time consolidate their own support, by increased immigration from the remnants of the old British empire, primarily from Britain itself, but including large numbers from South Africa, Rhodesia, the Indian subcontinent, Hong Kong and Fiji.   Some of these immigrant groups come from “conservative”, not to say, racist backgrounds, and the New Zealand Police in particular have become dependent upon recruits from Britain and former British Africa.    In order to further secure its position the regime continues to insist that all new citizens pledge allegiance to “Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successorsaccording to law..”, a blatant shibboleth that it has been manifestly unable to impose on the more stubbornly independent Maori and Pakeha.

Finally, and most desperately, the current regime has resorted to shameless appeals to military tradition, invoking memories of the military disasters of Gallipoli and Paschendaele in a forlorn attempt to breath life into the still born body of the pseudo-nationalism brought into the world by the unholy union of British imperialism and New Zealand colonialism.  Prime Minister Helen Clark never tires of talking about Gallipoli and Paschendaele, where thousands of Pakeha and Maori soldiers died in ill-conceived attempts to invade the lands of peoples from whom they had received no injury and against whom they held no just grievance.   In the Gallipoli campaign thousands of New Zealand soldiers perished merely because the British ruling classes covetted the lands of the Ottoman empire.   They died because of the greed of British politicians, the  callousness of British generals and the incompetence of their own colonial rulers.   Gallipoli, even more than the Treaty of Waitangi, symbolises the tragedy, the stupidity and the ignominy of the colonial regime.   By contrast, you will never hear Helen Clark speaking of Ruapekapeka, Rangiriri, Orakau, Parihaka, Maungapohatu, and Bastion Point, because these are the places where the real and heroic identity of our nation was forged - in the fires of resistance to British rule.

In the long run however, and even in the short run, all these devices of the regime will prove to be ineffectual and even counter productive.   The colonial mythology of Gallipoli, Paschendaele and the Treaty of Waitangi will inevitably succumb to reason and truth.    Immigrant communities will not remain loyal to the existing regime down through the generations, especially when that “loyalty” has been bought or imposed.   They will, eventually, seek to find a home and a sense of belonging to the new land.    And the gross inequities which have followed upon the state’s policies of privatisation and globalization will inevitably trigger a backlash among ordinary Maori and Pakeha.   The regime is by no means oblivious to the dangers of such a backlash, which it has attempted to pre-empt with campaigns of faux nationalism centred around such events as the America’s Cup yacht race, and the Rugby World Cup, and “nation building” activities such as haute couture fashion and Hollywood-style film productions.   (These supposed demonstrations of “national” pride, skill and ability, being financed and controlled almost exclusively by wealthy commercial corporations controlled from or domiciled overseas, are in reality more a demonstration of how shallow the Clark regime’s concept of “national identity” has become).

Both the underlying concept of government-led  “nation-building” and the particular government-sponsored campaigns themselves are imbued with a hubris that can only end in humiliation.   The "nation" (in reality, the glorified colonial artefact) which Helen Clark seeks to build is one fundamentally at odds with the nation which already exists - that nation of ordinary Maori and Pakeha who have no pretensions to rule the world, and little tolerance for being ruled over by others.

As the racial basis of British rule in New Zealand (symbolised in the person of the Head of State who is  unquestionably and, according to law unalterably, British) has become increasingly unacceptable to ordinary New Zealanders, the regime has resorted to ever more desperate and self-defeating efforts to salvage the situation.    The highest and most lucrative office in the land, that of the Governor-General, who exercises ultimate control over the armed forces and the apparatus of state, has now been placed in the hands of a man who is probably unknown to most New Zealanders, and respected by even fewer, a man whose only claim to the right to rule lies in having given a lifetime of service to the British crown, to his own considerable pecuniary advantage.    Helen Clark’s motive in giving Anand Satyanand the keys to Government House was, of course, something else again.   She wanted to demonstrate that even while the British royal family is there to symbolize the supremacy of the British race, appropriately submissive members of other races can still prosper within the system.    But in doing so, Clark has only managed to demonstrate how far removed the apparatus of the state has become from the lives, the sentiments and the affections of ordinary  New Zealanders.

In short, every step which the regime takes to maintain it’s increasingly precarious hold on New Zealand society simply adds to its troubles.    After 160 years, the era of British rule is entering its end phase.    The regime’s recent armed offensive against the Tuhoe people is the final proof of the regime’s desperation, and evidence that it has irretrievably lost the struggle for the hearts and minds of New Zealanders.

In this conflict, Tuhoe represent the soul of our nation.   I endorse their right to bear arms, and their right to independence from the colonial regime.   The recent government raids, far from demonstrating the supposed folly of maintaining a military capability independent of the forces of the British crown, reveal the absolute necessity of such capabilities.