Anti-capitalism must feature at hikoi against asset sales

Anti-capitalist: Why the ‘C’ word needs to feature as part of the hikoi against asset sales

Starting this week, a nation-wide hikoi is leaving the far north and traveling to Wellington carrying a raft of messages to the government. These include opposition to state asset sales, opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) and opposition to expansion of resource extraction (e.g. off-shore oil drilling, fracking, gold and coal mining). There is considerable appropriateness in bundling these issues together, and the opponents of these issues see them as interrelated. Briefly put, the linkage stems from a view that the country is being sold-out to multinational corporations with little or no benefit accruing to the people, and with negative social, political, economic and environmental consequences. It is hard to overstate the validity of these concerns.

However, absent most of the discourse about these issues is what lies at the heart of all of them: capitalism, in particular neo-liberal capitalism. The failure to direct our analysis to the root cause of these myriad social, economic and environmental issues will allow a further strengthening and entrenching of it.

Neo-liberal capitalism – or neo-liberalism in shorthand – is characterised by the privatisation of public assets; deregulation of trade, finance, investment, education and healthcare by nation-states in favour of trade management through a global rules-based system; the growth of multinational financial institutions (such as the IMF and World Bank); the rise of foreign direct investment; the development of intellectual property as a commodity, and a focus on individualism and societal atomisation. Indeed, neo-liberalism has been called ‘capitalism with the gloves off’ because business forces are stronger and more aggressive, and they face less organised opposition than ever before.[1]
This description fits well with the general thrust of the National Government’s political agenda. In reality, however, it is not so different from that of the previous (and potentially next) Labour government. This is why a debate about the more fundamental organization of our economic, political and social systems must be had. This is why we need to talk about capitalism.

Déjà vu?

New Zealand has already been subject to the extremes of neo-liberal capitalism under the fourth Labour Government and its successor in the 1990s National Government. Under Helen Clark, some of the worst excesses of the neo-liberal capitalist polices were abandoned (like private prisons and charter schools), but in other ways, neo-liberalism became even more deeply embedded into the political, economic and social fabric of New Zealand life. One of the best examples is the vigour with which the Clark government negotiated free-trade agreements and significantly relaxed Overseas Investment Commission oversight of foreign land and asset buying.

New Zealand society and social life has been transformed in the past 30 years. In particular there is a discernable shift from collective responsibility for social issues to individual responsibility. Health care and higher education, once viewed as a right and a collective good respectively, are now sold to us as an individual benefit, the cost of which must be borne individually. As a two-time Victoria University student, I was aghast at the ease with which the University Council raised student fees again and again against significant student protest when they had themselves been the beneficiaries of completely free university degrees.

Capitalism has no country

Part of the uproar about the National government’s approach is simply the brazenness with which it is being carried out. Key makes no apologies to those who don’t embrace his worldview: exacerbating the gap between rich and poor by making the rich richer, blaming the poor for being poor and if possible criminalising them at the same time.

Yet, what is critical for us to understand is that while Key’s approach is utterly odious to those of us who seek a more just world, it is simply part and parcel of capitalism. A government, any government, which operates a capitalist economic system operates a system of unavoidable injustice. That is the very nature of capitalism: it is the theft of the labour of the working class and the transfer of that wealth to the owning class.

The dominant feature of neo-liberal capitalism in the past 40 years is the growth in power of multinational corporations. Again, it is difficult to overstate the power exerted by corporations on the political and economic choices made by nation-states. It is now reported that more than half of the 100 largest economies in the world are corporations. Corporations such as Exxon, Chevron, General Electric, and Walmart have revenues that far outstrip New Zealand’s entire gross domestic product.
While these corporate names may strike you as decidedly American, a number of very well known ‘kiwi’ brands equally well meet the definition of a multinational corporation (i.e. they are a corporation with 25% or more foreign ownership). Included among these are the Bank of New Zealand, Skycity Entertainment Group, Contact Energy and Telecom.

The long and short of it is that the location of ownership is irrelevant; there is no such thing as ‘Chinese capital’ or ‘New Zealand capital’; there is money. The overriding impetus of corporations is to maximise profits. Local corporations exploit the environment and workers just like multinational ones do. The fight shouldn’t be about domestic or foreign ownership; the fight should be about ownership full stop. This is why a fundamental alteration to capitalist economics is so necessary.
In order for us to consider what other ways we can be in the world we must recognise first and foremost that the system is rigged. It is a system reliant on exploitation and inequality. If we don’t want those things then we are going to have to try something else. The first step is to re-introduce the critical discourse about capitalism to the forefront of our struggles; only then we will be able to more clearly see where power lies, and what avenues are available for change.
1. Robert W McChesney. 1999. ‘Noam Chomsky and the Struggle Against Neoliberalism.’ Monthly Review. 1 April.

Aotearoa is not for Sale

 In Solidarity with the Aotearoa is Not for Sale Hikoi  I'm posting a presentation I did Melbourne Round presentation at the  TPP stakeholders meeting held in Melbourne in March this year.

He karanga tenei ki nga hau e wha

Hei tautoko i te iwi Moemoea no Ahiterairia.

Na te mahi whakaware o te Kawanatanga me nga Kaporeihana e whai putea
ana e whai rapatu ana, kei te noho whakawhuia nga tangata whenua

he pouri tenei ahuatanga me kaati ra

Ko te tohenga ma ratou te iwi Moemoea ki te whai i ou ratou ake tino
rangatiratanga kia hapaitia e ratou te mana motuhake kia kaha ake kia whawhai tonu

na reira

Tautoko atu a wairua, a hinengaro, a tinana hoki

Kaati noa ra, ko tenei te wa ki te tu rangatira, tu kotahi i te kawau maro, o tenei kaupapa"

I would like to dedicate this korero to the Urewera 4,Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara , Wairere Tame Iti ,  Emily Bailey & Urs Signer

Indigenous peoples in the pacific have found the great ocean of Kiwa, a spiritual & cultural home for thousands upon thousands of years. We lived in harmony with our environment and each other; we were self-sufficient and had 100% of our lands, & 100% of our Culture, custom & language.

White supremacist, Capitalist Imperialism & genocide shattered that world for many Indigenous peoples in the Pacific last century. As we meet here today, on the stolen lands of the Kulin Nations we are aware that occupied Australia is the land of genocide and apartheid for its Indigenous peoples.

The invasion of Aboriginal lands was illegal under international law at the time of the arrival of the First Fleet. This invasion involved the perpetration of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and theft of Aboriginal homelands.

The current contempt and lack of respect, rights, Treaty and third world conditions that Indigenous peoples face in Australia is an International Shame.

Like New Zealand Canada, and the USA, Australia is a colonial settler state, based on invasion, dispossession and colonisation. Its past 30 years of free market fundamentalism must be understood in the context of an ongoing colonial occupation of Aboriginal lands and resources on which the Australian nation-state is based. As we faced last century, today Indigenous peoples of the Pacific are facing the onslaught of globalisation, trans national corporations and the neo colonialism of the TPPA.

The TPPA is a direct denial of the rights of Maori as stated in the 1835 Declaration of Independence and as reaffirmed in the Treaty of Waitangi [and] the Declaration of the RIghts of Indigenous peoples. It is also a continuation of the 'New' Right policies of individuated colonisation.

For indigenous peoples struggling for liberation this means there are two waves of colonisation to fight. The first wave of colonisation has left the indigenous amongst the most disenfranchised, disempowered and dispossessed groups on the planet. This is well documented. The object of deliberate genocide, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of indigenous people have died during our time in the struggle to retain the right to live on and care for their territories to which they not only depend for survival but also have ancient, deeply-held spiritual and genealogical connections.

The governments of Australia, New Zealand and the United States worry that recognition of collective Indigenous rights could impinge on corporate exploitation of Indigenous resources. Interestingly, these are precisely the three nation-states where intentional genocidal policies were pursued, policies that sought to exterminate all the indigenous peoples living in the lands seized by settlers from the British Isles. The populations of those states should be ashamed, not only of their horrific pasts, but also of the present refusal of their representative governments to make amends with the descendants of those indigenous peoples who survived these genocidal policies. It is within this context that the neo colonialism of the TPPA is seen by Indigenous Peoples.

As wahine Maori, (Maori Women) our long and deeply-held traditional values and understandings of collectivity, of manaakitanga, of kaitiakitanga (Caring for Earth Mother), for Tangaroa (god of the sea) and for their children, is in direct opposition to what is being proposed in the TPPA The TPPA represents a significant and disruptive challenge to Maori.

Similar free trade agreements have had devastating impacts on the lives of Indigenous peoples around the world.  These agreements have by-passed   indigenous involvement at any level. The complete  lack of  consultation with  also contravenes the  United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples &  ILO Convention No. 169

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) is for the overwhelming majority of Maori is just more neoliberal economic restructuring. Maori and Pacific Island communities have already borne the brunt of such policies from the 1980’s and 1990’s.The TPPA will intensify and increase these negative economic impacts in our communities. Such programmes around the world have successfully extinguished Indigenous rights to lands and resources.
The selling off of our mokopuna and their future must stop.

The Example of Latin America
Little or no information on the TPPA is available in Latin America. Indigenous peoples of the region, who have strongly opposed free trade agreements with the US and other leading economies that were signed by several states in the region in the last few years, are even less informed of its existence.

Their opposition is rooted in experience. The governments of these states have subscribed to those free trade agreements (FTAs) without consultation with the representative organisations of indigenous peoples, and even less with their free, prior and informed consent, in open violation of domestic and international law. Moreover, FTAs have triggered investment in natural resource extraction in their lands and territories, with devastating implications for many of their communities. Protest against such investments has been repressed and criminalised. The events that occurred in Bagua in the Peruvian Amazon in 2009, when thirty-four people died, exemplifies this repression. In the clashes, indigenous communities mobilised against legislation that was enacted to make possible the implementation of the US–Peru Trade Promotion Agreement.

A recent continental summit of indigenous peoples held in 2009 in Puno, Peru, reaffirmed their opposition to FTAs, which are clearly seen as a form of domination and colonisation:

We reject the Free Trade Agreements with United States, Europe, Canada, China and other countries which have destroyed our economies, as new instruments of subjugation of our Peoples and plunder of Mother Earth. We reject the tactics of the European Union along with the dictators of Peru and Colombia that would destroy the Andean Community in order to impose their Free Trade Agreement.

Opposition to FTAs and other initiatives aimed at strengthening resource- based investments is grounded not only in political rationales, but increasingly in indigenous world views. New paradigms among indigenous movements in Latin America based on the need to respect nature (Mother Earth or Pachamama)

Clearly, many nation-states regard indigenous rights as a lesser right to the interests of corporations or the military – this tendency is an example of a recurring problem that indigenous peoples face, which is the reluctance and often-outright refusal for states to recognise indigenous land and sovereignty claims.

We need to make the connections between the violence of colonialism and a culture of militarism & corporations that allows for  the militarization  colonial outposts.

As Jane Kelsey states, “Old colonial powers, freed from their responsibilities for poor and vulnerable former colonies, are flexing their muscles and building new empires” –

In the south Pacific that global pattern is repeated. The dominant wealthy nations are seeking to re-colonise what they see as their “patch”. Australia and New Zealand have been colluding to turn the Pacific into their captive market for low value goods, a source of cheap and disposable labour and plentiful natural resources.

In the same vein, the TPPA will have huge impacts on indigenous peoples’ cultures, which are being threatened by the expansion of global culture into their communities and by the modification of their ancestral habitats with which their cultures are intertwined. They are also being impacted by the usurpation of their traditional knowledge, without consultation or compensation.

In Geneva on the 21st of last month the International Indigenous forum at the world Intellectual property organisation released the following stated that the IGC, in its overall procedures, has systematically ignored our rights, as Indigenous Peoples and as Nations with internationally recognised collective rights, to self-determination and full and equitable participation at all levels.

And that  Indigenous Peoples, are the titleholders, proprietors and ancestral owners of traditional knowledge that is inalienable, nonforfeitable and inherent to the genetic resources that we have conserved and utilized in a sustainable manner within our territories. For this reason, we appeal to the States to acknowledge that the discussion on intellectual property rights and genetic resources should include Indigenous Peoples on equal terms with the States since the work will directly impact our lives, our lands, our territories and resources, and will reach to the very heart of our cultures, which are the inheritance of future generations.

The Indigenous peoples present at this forum then decided unanimously to withdraw their active participation from a forum that has systematically ignored Indigenous rights. I don't expect the TPPA to be any different in that regard.

A Pacific alternative to the negative effects of the TPPA is founded on indigenous values as opposed to economic globalisation, which is erected on the value of material goods. We want to live lives of dignity that are sustainable, peaceful and all embracing, where as TPPA  globalisation is unsustainable, damaging, conflict-ridden, and excluding.

These concepts are not merely a dream. It is founded in reality and has been our normal life all through out the Pacific. The institutions and values embedded in our culture & custom may not create wealth on a massive scale but they will never be responsible for creating second class citizens, destroying the environment at will, causing poverty, the debasement of humanity and denial of human dignity, as economic globalisation is doing.

Against all the odds, and the threats we face to our lands, our cultures, and our ways of life in the Pacific, we have survived and we continue to resist. Evolutionary processes have taken their course in the pacific and the time has come for us to reach out across the vast ocean that binds us to support each other’s struggles and start to organise to halt the annihilation that we as a peoples are facing.

The struggle for the power to freely exercise the right of self-determination now takes on a new dimension–indigenous peoples themselves will now come to believe we not only have the right, but we have the duty to freely choose our own social, economic, political and cultural future. The Pacific will face increasingly determined peoples seeking to be free of Colonialism and its twin, Capitalism. The struggle begins! . With an Indigenous orientation and practice we can potentially contribute to a world that will overthrow the economy of control and the class who benefits from it. Those who seek dignity and freedom in the Pacific should settle for nothing less.

Aotearoa is Not for Sale !!!!

na Sina Brown-Davis no Ngati Whatua ki Kaipara, Te Roroa, Te Uri o Hau
for Te Ata Tino Toa