Do you support Aboriginal nationalism?

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Sam Buchanan
Joined: 25-09-06
Jul 24 2008 01:44

Don't know about Australia, but Maori Nationalism seems to have pretty much disappeared, so anarchist support or lack of it seems a non-issue. There was some attempts to form Maori nationalist groups in the 1860s, which didn't really take hold, or which became regional iwi groupings (Kingitanga). The term cropped up in the 1970s, influenced by other national liberation struggles, but I haven't heard much of it lately. Though I might just not be moving in the right circles.

There's a certain amount of iwi nationalism, but I don't see many Maori advocating for iwi nation states. From the outside it looks as if Maori struggle is largely concentrated on building up iwi and hapu political power and resources with an understanding that this is happening within a global capitalist system that Maori have limited ability to influence. There's attempts to alter local and international legal systems to allow Maori more breathing space, but I'd guess that this is being done more to make space for Maori initiatives rather than in expecting great rewards from legal changes.

Some Maori seem wedded to the corporate iwi model, where iwi members become reduced to shareholders collecting a dividend and eligible for welfare benefits, scholarships and the like, some are struggling against this, both from the outside and within these structures. Debates about which particular forms of struggle anarchists support aren't much different whether you are talking about Maori or Pakeha struggle, except that for Pakeha anarchists there is an added necessity to struggle against colonial assumptions about the culture, history and language which struggles take place within (sorry that sounds a bit wordy, my brain is seizing up).

On another point, I do get a bit sick of the "what about my ancestors being dispossed by the Normans" type of arguments. If Anglo-Saxons were an identifiable group in Britain, still engaged in an on-going struggle against Norman colonisation, suffering discrimination, state attacks and having their resources confiscated by the state, there might be a parallel. But they aren't in this situation so pretending there is a parallel is a bit silly. Colonisation is on-going in New Zealand, it isn't somethimg that happened hundreds of years ago and is now over.



Joined: 7-04-06
Jul 26 2008 23:45

well Maori were never a nation to begin with, but instead a whole bunch of tribes
same with Aborigines too

i guess the question being asked is why the aussie left generally supports indigenous struggles without question.

In NZ, if you question Maori struggle you are generally seen as a racist.
I certainly don't support the struggles of Maori rangatira (chiefs) over the top of other Maori -- does that make me a racist who is disrespecting traditional Maori hierarchical culture? and disrespecting the traditional sanctity of kaumatua (tribal elders) in most iwi? Are whites/pakeha allowed to question the class nature of traditional Maori society, (which had chiefs, commoners and slaves) even if the rule of chiefs was far more democratic, consensual and less hierarchical than in European society? I get the feeling amongst certain sections of the left in NZ this is a no.

i agree with most of your analysis Sam but i would add the added component of capitalism ie. Maori not only face on-going colonisation, but the on-going effects of the capital-labour relation as well -- a combination of colonisation, racism and capital means that the vast majority of Maori are forced into shitty low-paid manual jobs, or on to the benefit, hence a lot of Maori have next to no money and thus have basically third world housing, health and so on.

Capital in NZ has used Maori as a cheap pool for manual urban labour since WWII, and as a cheap pool for seasonal agricultural labour before WWII ever since Maori they were brutally forced off their land, or only left with poor-quality land through the cunning process of individualisation of their communally owned land by the Native Land Court that went on until well into the twentieth century

all this is not just the result of the state's colonisation of Maori. it's a complex web of capital, the state and racism intertwining to exploit and oppress Maori

economics is not just about the loss or enclosure of Maori land. you cant still own land and be poor, as many tribes and hapu know.

i reckon there is a lack of understanding on the left of how the vast majority of Maori are working class, and how this affects broader working class struggle (the struggles of Maori shearers, farm labourers, road builders, freezing workers, timberworkers, pulp and paper workers, hydro workers have been seminal in broader NZ class struggle) and Maori struggle itself (and the new struggles emerging against neo-tribal capitalism created by the state's settlement process as a way to coopt and create a Maori capitalist elite, and to channel flaxroots Maori struggle and direct action into the capitalist "development" model). that's why i support working class maori struggle, rather than Maori struggle in itself.

Joined: 16-08-08
Aug 17 2008 01:37
jason wrote:
But why would aboriginals form an independent interest group (asuumedly based on descent) rather than act as individuals associated with different interest groups of their choice? Take a given tract of land administered by a hypothetical community: there would be groups with productive interests (timber, beekeeping, cattle, etc.) and recreational (hiking/camping, hunting, fishing, dirt biking, etc.). Are you saying someone's aboriginal upbringing predisposes them to certain interests? Are aboriginals that homogeneous?

No, but communities tend to have a certain level of homogeneity, and generally, these claims involve current and established communities living on the land in question. There have been alot of very succesful claims made here in Canada, particularly in the north, and some interesting institutions have been spawned as communities re-establish control of local resources.

I too don't really feel that it's much of an anarchist issue, although in a vague sense it does touch a little on anarchist ideals, at least in some individual cases;; first, it represents a disintegration of the state (as does any separatist issue). Any proliferation of states necessarily diminishes them. Secondly, many of the communities involved have conducted succesful experiments in collective ownership, localized economies and so forth which should be of great interest to anarchists, even if they do not fully conform to anarchist notions about economic organization. They are, in some cases, alot closer to what we would imagine than what is typical of most economies - for instance, direct democracy is a fairly common method of economic organization and allocation of resources and in a informal manner, the culture in some cases is much more predisposed to a gift economy than society at large.

On the other hand, there are plenty of examples of things gone wrong too, with criminal elites engaged in smuggling, drugs, prostitution, and gambling controlling their communities through violence and intimidation, and using the political leverage of land claims issues to further their interests at the expense of their communities. It really has to be judged on a case by case basis - it is very hard to issue a blanket condemnation or affirmation, because the individual communities and their nature and goals vary so widely. Here, in Canada, there is something of a pattern - members of the more remote communities, such as in the far north, tend to see alot more benefit, individually, from settlements and are more likely to undertake the positive forms of organization I have mentioned. Chiefly I think this has to do with the fact that they are more likely to receive actual control of land and natural resources in the area, rather than simply a cash settlement or the right to set up duty-free shops / cheap tobacco shops / casinos for white tourists. And they are too remote to offer much to organized crime.

How much this relates to the issue in New Zealand or Australia, I cannot say, but perhaps there are some parallels.