29 January 2016

Pernicious fictions

The division of Aotearoa into opposed populations of "Maori" and "Pakeha" is an invention of the British Crown which dates back to the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi.   Prior to that time Maori lived in separate tribal groups, each of which had its own mana motuhake and what we now term "territorial sovereignty".  However the reality of divided native sovereignty presented a problem to the British as they aspired to impose their own sovereignty over the motu.

If the Crown had acknowledged the truth, that the individual tribes enjoyed their own separate territorial sovereignty or mana motuhake, it would have needed to negotiate a separate treaty with each tribe.  That would have proved impossible for two reasons.

First because most (if not all) tribes would have refused to cede sovereignty over specific areas of tribal land, and even if some tribes had agreed to cession, the British would have been left with a complex and ungovernable mosaic of land under their rule.   They did not want another India, a hotch-potch of vassal states, each with its own native ruler, each being governed according to its own native custom, and each allowing varying degrees of authority or influence to the British Crown.  They wanted, in fact, another Palestine, or more correctly, New Zealand was to serve as the model for the future British Occupation of Palestine in which a fractured yet still militarily potent Arab population were induced to accept British rule and guarantees of protection while the British secretly determined to use their power to foster  mass immigration by European associates of the existing Jewish minority.  In this analogy to the British politico-military strategy in Palestine, Pakeha, who had been present in New Zealand at least since 1798 were the equivalent of the existing Jewish minority, and Maori were counterpart to the originally dominant Arab peoples.

The second reason why the British had to perpetrate the fiction that New Zealand constituted a single sovereign territory was that disagreements over where tribal boundaries lay would inevitably have ended in disputes over who had the right to cede sovereignty over a given area.  Thus disputes of the kind which gave rise to the Taranaki wars of the 1860s would have surfaced in 1840 at a time when the balance of military power was such that the British state could not assert its claims by force and British claims to sovereignty would have been still-born.

Since the Treaty was negotiated with Maori in general, and not with reference to any particular or defined area of tribal land, Maori supposed that it was an offer of protection to peoples, consistent with the Maori concept of the extension of the protective mana of a paramount chief, rather than a cession of sovereignty over land.  The Arab population of Palestine had a similar understanding of the function and purpose of the British Protectorate, yet in both Palestine and New Zealand  the British Crown was double dealing, concluding secret deals on the side that made future conflict and dispossession utterly predictable if not inevitable.

If the Treaty was to have been an effective instrument of cession of sovereignty over the land of Aotearoa by a single pre-existing sovereign authority (say, the Confederation of Chiefs) then it would have required only one signature, and if with a multitude of independent sovereign powers then it would have needed to delineate the extent and boundaries of the land being ceded.  Yet in June 1840 the British Governor William Hobson proclaimed British sovereignty over the entire North Island on the basis of cession and the South Island on the basis of discovery, conclusively proving that there was no real connection between the five hundred or so North and South Island Maori signatures attached to the Treaty of Waitangi and the subsequent British declaration of sovereignty.

This reality of divided native sovereignty has not gone away, and the problems it presents to the Crown have not fundamentally changed in the decades since 1840.   Just as it did when seeking authoritative Maori signatures to the Treaty, the Crown in its "Treaty settlement negotiations" attempted to set up bodies which the Crown deemed to have authority to speak for an iwi.   As in 1840, the Crown is contriving ways of validating its claim to sovereignty through a show of consent obtained at minimal cost and inconvenience, and as in 1840 it is a flawed process which exacerbates divisions between Maori.  Because the Treaty settlements process ignores the sovereignty problem  it fails to resolve conflicts between or within iwi and it cannot solve the fundamental conflict between Maori and the Crown.

At the same time as the Crown, for its own strategic reasons, contrived to aggregate disparate iwi into a single Maori race, it deliberately sidelined the Pakeha population, on the specious grounds that they were already British subjects, or subject to other European sovereigns, or, in the case of Pakeha Maori, tribal subjects of Maori chiefs. Therefore Pakeha, resident in New Zealand for at least four decades prior to the Treaty, were accorded no independent right to either consent to or repudiate the transfer of sovereignty to the British crown and Pakeha submission to the sovereignty of the Queen is imposed purely by dictat.

Yet the supporters of British rule - particularly those of the liberal left, such as the Green Party of Aotearoa - perpetuate the fiction that Pakeha freely consent to be subjects of the Crown and are only present in Aotearoa by grace of the Treaty of Waitangi.   Pakeha did not arrive in New Zealand under the protection of the British Crown.  In many cases they arrived in flight from British authority, in other cases they arrived under the assumed protection of the supreme sovereign authority of all humankind, Ihowa or Ihoa o nga mano, but in every case they relied for their survival upon the grace and favour of Maori tribes and chiefs.   In some cases that grace and favour was well-deserved.   In others it was not.  As Hone Heke observed to his fellow chiefs at Waitangi  "the French or the rum sellers will take us Maori people over...We have already sold so much land here in the north...Why didn't you tell the traders and grog-sellers to go years ago?".   Thirty years later Tawhiao could be more discriminating about what kind of European or Pakeha could live in harmony with Maori, and the grog-sellers were not to be among them.

An even more pernicious fiction is that Pakeha benefitted from the New Zealand wars.   The truth is that the wars were prosecuted by the British Crown, deploying professional British and Australian regiments and, in the latter stages kupapa Maori warriors hired by the Crown, while the "rebel" forces resisting British rule included a significant number of Pakeha or Pakeha-Maori volunteers.  The lands confiscated following the victory of the imperial forces were appropriated by the British crown, which in turn distributed them among officers and soldiers of the British and Australian military forces.   Thus it is doubtful that any Pakeha New Zealander directly benefitted from the confiscations, although some may have purchased and settled land from the military forces of occupation in the decades after the scale of conflict diminished from 1872 onwards.

The suggestion that Pakeha as a whole benefitted from British rule does not come from Maori.   Rather it comes from a particular class of Europeans who enjoy an unusually close association with the state and who on the basis of their own personal experience may quite honestly and naturally believe that the British  monarchy  has been "good" for Pakeha.  In the nineteenth century the proponents of British sovereignty sought to replace widespread Pakeha gratitude to Maori with disdain.   In the twenty-first century they seek to replace those same feelings of gratitude with a sense of guilt which is no more justified and no less destructive of a sound  relationship between our peoples.  Our gratitude, they tell us, should be directed towards the British Crown which conceived the Treaty of Waitangi.

However the experience of ordinary working class Pakeha is different.  They know, in the absence of any text book, that they have been exploited, oppressed and abused by the rule of capital and the monarchist state. They also know that the help afforded to them by Maori in their daily lives has been freely given, arises out of the customary values of Maori society, and has no connection to imperial wars or confiscations.

The liberals perpetuate the idea that New Zealand consists of two peoples, Maori and Pakeha, one of which is here by birthright, and the other by dint of the treaty, that Pakeha are represented by the British Crown, and that Pakeha benefitted from the New Zealand wars and the confiscation of Maori land.  None of these claims are true. They are wrong in fact and mischievous in intent. Their purpose is to divide Maori from Pakeha, to create conflicting and unwarranted feelings of guilt and entitlement on both sides, and to reconcile the entire population of Aotearoa to the indefinite prolongation of British rule.  Such liberal supporters and beneficiaries of British sovereignty enjoy a comfortable existence as Ministers of the Crown, Members of Parliament, and state servants while wagging a sanctimonious finger at "Pakeha" for their supposed cupidity and past misdeeds as an iwi.

Liberalism stands for the unrestrained rule of capital, and the moral degradation of our peoples through the agencies of prostitution, gambling, alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and hedonism of every kind.  Queen Victoria's wars against our peoples were prosecuted in the name of a free market in land, and for the British the rum barrel was a more potent weapon than the Armstrong gun.  It is no coincidence that those who faced down the British artillery, from Hone Heke to Tawhiao, also took a stand against free trade in grog, tobacco and other destructive vices.  The struggle against British sovereignty, which has continued uninterrupted from 1840, remains inseparable from the concurrent struggle against social and economic liberalism of the kind promoted by almost all the colonialist political parties including  the National, Labour, Green, United Future and ACT parties.

 return to republican home page