12 October 2011
Will capitalism survive this crisis?
Will the political institutions of capitalism survive the current economic crisis? That is the question which many of us are being asked. The simple answer is that those institutions (states or governing parties) which preside over social systems in which wealth is evenly distributed are best fitted to survive, while those which preside over divided, unequal societies face extinction.
So where does New Zealand stand? To answer that question we need to understand the basis of the New Zealand state, which arose out of the colonial project of the New Zealand Company in the early ninteenth century. The New Zealand Company was a private immigration company founded for the explicit purpose of establishing a class-based British-dominated colonial society in the south seas. The colonial project has subsequently evolved into the concept that goes by the name of "New Zealand Inc".
From quite early on the state (originally the imperial authorities in London, and latterly the colonial government in Wellington) presented itself as a moderating influence upon the colonial project. However there have been crucial moments in history when the state has left off being moderate or neutral, to overtly ally itself with the commercial interests of the New Zealand Company.
The first and perhaps most brutal examples were the wars and confiscations of the nineteenth century. Following these wars the colonial authorities (the democratic representatives of the European settlers) assumed many of the powers and responsibilities of the imperial authorities (the government in London and the Governor-General in New Zealand). Having achieved its commercial aims, the colonial state returned to a policy of ostensible "moderation". Even when "New Zealand Inc" was once again politically ascendent in the period from 1984 to 2000, the New Zealand state still wanted to encourage the perception that it desired to mitigate the impacts of its economic strategies upon Maori and the Pakeha working classes.
So over our history, the forces of race and class inequality backed by the colonial state, have contended with the advocates of social egalitarianism and racial harmony, represented in the people of the motu. As the present crisis evolves, the colonial state can be expected to revert to a "hardline" attitude. It can continue to borrow at interest from wealthy foreign lenders in order to maintain middle class incomes, but in the long run that will only aggravate the mis-distribution of wealth which is the fundamental cause of the crisis. Therefore it is only a matter of time before severe "austerity" measures must be imposed in New Zealand.
When considering our future course, we should bear in mind that "New Zealand" is not a nation. It is a commercial enterprise, as it has been from the days of the New Zealand Company. Like so many other commercial enterprises, "New Zealand Inc" is based on exploitation, fraught with inequality and riven by sectional interests. Its major shareholders live offshore, its board of directors is consumed by arrogance, and it goes about its business without regard to the most basic moral principles. This is an enterprise which may well succumb to the crisis of capitalism.
But the people of Aotearoa are a true nation. For far longer than the
Realm of New Zealand has existed, the people of the motu have stood together,
showing loyalty to their kin, kindness to the stranger, resilience in the
face of adversity and courage in times of danger. They have nothing
to fear from the crisis of capitalism. In the fullness of time they
will bring an end to the glorified nineteenth century immigration company
that calls itself "New Zealand Inc", repudiate the British claim to sovereignty,
redistribute the wealth of the nation, and re-establish the confederation
of peoples of Aotearoa.