Friday, August 14, 2015

New Zealand Against War

Maori culture is viewed as being violent and based on the notion of the warrior. An Otago University academic says the image of Māori as a warrior race is misplaced and a colonial construct. Professor Jackson, acting director of the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, however points out that "There are peace traditions in lots of indigenous cultures around the world, including in North American, but again colonialism functioned to primarily focus on the violent aspects and to promote those and to say, you know, these were kind of savages, very violent people, and in many ways that was the justification for colonialism." Professor Jackson said, being in New Zealand, he was particularly interested in the way colonial processes suppressed the peaceful traditions and philosophies of indigenous people and drove those traditions underground. 
"What I'm interested in here is to try and understand a little bit better not just what the peace traditions were in Aotearoa when the colonialists came along, but the interaction between colonialism and those peace traditions. How they were suppressed, but also how they have been revived and brought back to life again in places like Parihaka." Jackson says historically tāngata whenua were cast in that role which was then used against them.

The people of Parihaka in Taranaki, encountered grave injustice. Parihaka became a centre of non-violent resistance following the New Zealand land wars in the 1860s, but was sacked by Government troops and militia in 1881. Hostile colonial forces invaded their streets, fields and homes on 5 November 1881. How did they respond? They decided to ‘fight’ violence not with more violence but with peace and offered bread to the invaders. Will Edwards, Te Korowai o Ngaruahine chairman in Taranaki, said ''They were pacifists, revolutionaries, and stood up for what they believed in.” 
The key concerns of the people of Parihaka today are the same as in 1881: self-determination and peace.

When World War One came Princess, Te Puea Hērangi, the granddaughter of the second Māori King, discouraged Waikato men from enlisting in the army. She was driven by pacifism and rejected the idea that young Māori men should die for a government which had stolen their people's land. And the government responded by extending conscription to Māori – but only Māori from the Waikato. Te Puea coordinated a civil disobedience campaign and refused to hand conscripts over to the authorities. Those who were forcibly transported to training camps refused to take part in drills. 111 men were arrested for his pacifist stance. By the end of the war, we read, not a single Waikato man fought in the conflict against his will. Waikato University lecturer Tom Roasaid the tribe was still reeling from the land confiscations of 1863 and it had not yet forgiven the Crown who had taken 1.2 million acres of their land. "Why would these people, or descendants of these people want to fight for an empire who only 50 years earlier had killed their people and taken their land?"

Likewise, another New Zealander understood the reasons for the war and objected to it. Archibald Baxter, an anti-militarist forcibly transported to the front lines and subjected to military punishment, including being tied to a post with his body weight being supported by his arms alone. The government's goal was to break Baxter's resolve, and the resolve of 13 other activists, both to force them into service and to serve as a warning to all opponents of the war. But whatever they threw at him, Baxter refused to give in, saying that just because "the imperialists and financiers had fallen out was no reason why the workers should be led into war to blow the souls out of one another." Eventually he was returned to New Zealand, and remained a staunch peace activist until his death. It was the workers who suffered the most from the war. With the outbreak of hostilities in 1914 they encountered severe restrictions on their activity. Conscientious objectors, socialists and other opponents of the war were hounded. And as the war progressed, so all socialist publications were banned and suppressed. We also learn of a campaign of the United Federation of Labour against the conscription of young men. Why not, they asked, start by conscripting the wealth of the upper classes, many of whom actively profited from the war? This idea was dismissed out of hand by the authorities of the day. It was far easier then – and is tragically still far easier now – to throw soldiers' lives away than challenge the wealth and power which instigates so many of these conflicts. 

Today, one party exists that still understands that New Zealand workers have no quarrel with workers of other lands and continues to wage war against war itself – The World Socialist Party (New Zealand). Until the hold of nationalist and racist poison on the minds of the world's workers is destroyed, it will not be possible to live the full and satisfying life of socialism. Stand up for yourself as a human being and fight for the only worthwhile end — the achievement of a free humanity. Corpses cannot work for the socialist revolution.

WSP(NZ) website:
http://www.worldsocialism.org/nz/
E-mail: wsp.nz@worldsocialism.org

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