It was interesting to note the mainstream media's response to Prime Minister Key getting jostled at Waitangi last Thursday.
The general theme was Key conducted himself admirably and the activities of two Maori activists did not prevent the Waitangi formalities from still being a 'happy occasion'.
Wendy Petrie of One News, doing her little bit to support the National Party - Maori Party axis, said that the scuffle wasn't going to stop Waitangi being a symbol of 'our nationhood' - or words to that effect. I had my Bullshit Meter switched on at this point and it was rating off the dial while the pathetic Petrie waffled on about 'unity' and other nationalistic nonsense.
It was all just meaningless rhetoric designed to encourage the illusion that we are all 'one'.
What Petrie and co didn't pick up on - despite the fact it was staring them in the face - is that this little skirmish indicates there's already a whole load of dissatisfaction among Maori about the Maori Party's cosy wee relationship with National.
Maori activist Sina Brown-Davis make exactly this point on the Socialist Aoteraoa blog. She writes;
The National/Maori party honeymoon was smashed on Waitangi Day. The brave actions of two young warriors definitely dispelled the pro government propaganda that the National and Maori Party were desperately trying to cement on Waitangi Day. Mrs Harawira’s reaction is complete hypocrisy. Each generation has a right to oppose their oppression. Just because some are sitting at the table with or holding onto the arm of the oppressor that gives them no right to crush dissent when it doesn't suit their own political purposes. Whether our Maori leader’s or Maori elite like to admit it or not there is a groundswell of anger and disappointment that our grassroots have been sold out, again, and wait to get kicked in their teeth by their own.
She goes on to say:
The Maori Party is a right wing party, make no mistake about that. Hiding behind the rhetoric of advancing all Maori, they have shown that they are willing to sacrifice the vast majority of Maori for the enrichment and advancement of a few. Our so-called Maori leaders were unwilling to even discuss huge unemployment amongst our people at Waitangi, yet jump at the chance to be involved in privatisation. These neo tribal capitalists are transparent in their greed and their neoliberal modus operandi. These elements have much to gain from the privatisation of public services and their turning over to Maori business interests in the name of “self determination”.
On her own blog Brown-Davis quotes Professor Elizabeth Rata who identified what is essentially a new Maori capitalism - what Rata refers to as a 'neotribal capitalist regime of accumulation.'
This has seen the transformation of tribes into capitalist enterprises dominated by a small Maori elite of lawyers, businesspeople, leaders, bureaucrats.
Brown- Davis writes
Under neotribal capitalism, this access to what paltry resources have been returned to Maori is effectively exclusively controlled by the new tribal capitalist elite. Even if ownership of resources is nominally owned by the whole tribe (the corporate tribe, and not an individual, is the legal owner), and even if iwi members have a shareholding in the business, the undemocratic nature of neotribal capitalist business ensures that working class iwi do not have any real say in the corporate iwi head office.
This ultimatey exploitative relationship is camouflaged by the Maori elite who encourage the Maori working class to identify with their culture and community above all else..
What has the Maori woman working a minimum wage factory job in Auckland got in common with the wealthy Maori elite? Nothing. But if you listen to the likes of Peter Sharples or Willie Jackson, you would quickly get the impression that Maori aren't differentiated by class.
As the National-led government attempt to make the working class pay for the massive economic crisis, Maori - who are predominantly working class - will very much be in the gun.
They cannot expect any support from the Maori Party which will side with the business class. Nor can they turn to a politically bankrupt Labour Party for help. It's leader described the Waitangi protest as 'unacceptable'. Phil Goff thinks that some protests are more 'acceptable' than others.
The Maori working class needs to recognise that it shares the same economic interests as the Pakeha working class and that the way forward is to build an independent socialist alternative.