Friends and Allies: What is the “Comprador Bourgeoisie” when it’s at home?



CHINA’S RAPID RISE to superpower status (at least economically) is producing some delicious political ironies. Eighty years ago, Mao Zedong’s communists wrote scathingly about China’s “bourgeois comprador class”. These were the local Chinese capitalists who acted as intermediaries between the Chinese people and the foreign-controlled enterprises and investors then operating in China under the protection of the major imperialist powers (Great Britain, Japan, France and the USA). The expression eventually entered the broader Marxist lexicon as “comprador bourgeoisie” and is defined as: “A section of an indigenous middle class allied with foreign investors, multi-national corporations, bankers and military interests.” The political irony lies in the fact that today’s comprador bourgeoisie is no longer located in China, but in the societies of her increasingly dependent trading partners.

As New Zealand’s largest trading partner, China is steadily wooing our own bourgeois comprador class away from its traditional friends and allies among the foreign investors, multi-national corporations, bankers and military interests of the UK, the USA and Australia. Already, a number of large Chinese banks have set up shop in New Zealand and have thought it politic to recruit both a former prime-minister, and a former leader of the opposition, to sit on their boards of directors. In light of the on-going furore about offshore investment in Auckland residential property, it is clear that this country’s largest real estate agencies must also be numbered among the more prominent members of our comprador bourgeoisie.

The Chinese surnames controversy has also exposed the role played by what might be called “cultural compradors”. The penetration of foreign capital, and the political leverage that goes with it, is only very occasionally accomplished at the point of an imperial bayonet. By far the most common method of establishing foreign influence is by using religion and/or ideology to recruit a local following to perform the role of domestic friends and allies. Such people constitute an invaluable bulwark against any attempt by the opponents of foreign influence and control to reassert national values and interests.

The extraordinary attacks on the Labour Party: the vicious accusations of “racism” levelled against Andrew Little and Phil Twyford; both provide grim evidence of the cultural compradors’ reckless hatred of the bourgeois compradors’ deadliest foe – the national bourgeoisie.

The word “national” notwithstanding, it is the Labour Party which has always represented New Zealand’s national bourgeoisie most effectively. As one of this country’s foremost public intellectuals, the late Bruce Jesson, shrewdly observed: “National knows how to govern for capitalists; but only Labour knows how to govern for capitalism.” The National Party may be “relaxed” about foreign investors pushing the price of a house beyond all but the wealthiest Kiwi’s reach, but Labour, by promising to restrict the rights of foreigners to purchase land, indicates its willingness to put the interests of New Zealanders first.

The University of Otago political studies lecturer, Dr Bryce Edwards, frames the struggle of comprador against national capitalists as a contest between what he calls “Economic Nationalists” and “Global Cosmopolitans”. It’s a neat trick. Rather than dealing with the very hard choices New Zealanders are going to face as the economic and cultural power of China and its local facilitators waxes ever greater, Bryce has simply re-cast the drama as an existential confrontation between ageing patriots, clinging stubbornly to the outdated shibboleths of the nation state; and free-wheeling global citizens of the twenty-first century, possessed of an impressive collection of internationally marketable skills – but no country.

Bryce would also like to cloak his cultural comprador allies in the frayed costume of twentieth century socialist internationalism. He is hardly alone in this. All over the world, the Left is engaged in a bitter debate over whether nationalism can ever be turned to progressive purposes; and if it is still (or ever was) possible to construct socialism in one country. Bryce is, however, wrong to try and smuggle those who would prepare the way for Chinese state capitalism in New Zealand into the honourable precincts of progressive disputation. Cultural compradors, like the comprador bourgeoisie, of which they are part, have no interest in constructing a political space in which the future of New Zealand can be reasonably debated. In their eyes, the future of New Zealand has already been decided – and not by New Zealanders.

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  1. The bourgeoisie, called national (owned by Aussie banks) or comprador (taking their cut from foreign banks) can play no progressive role in NZs future.
    They both exploit and siphon off NZ wealth into foreign bank accounts.
    The progressive role is that of the working class nationalising NZs productive resources and planning production under the democratic control of the the producers.
    This is the only way that NZ along with every other capitalist country can avoid further economic and ecological disaster.

  2. 100% Dave

    The selling of this country was made freely available by this government more than any other, making the question become ‘Why is this government so proactive to offer NZ to these “bourgeois comprador class”?

    Mist be brides going around the back door of course is the only clear answer here.

    A total travesty the traitors, as the money is sucked out of this country and causes us to continue to borrow that $200 Million every single week this Government has been in power driving us towards the bankruptcy rocks..

    • You are aware that their is a whole school of thought that has at its heart the concept the free flow of capital, ideas and goods and services aren’t you? You don’t have to agree with it but it would explain why others support policies you disagree with beyond bribe taking.

      • So when you defend the free flow of capital, ideas and goods, do you also support the free flow of labour, of people, to move wherever they so desire, in whatever numbers?

        Do you also believe in immigration bribes, so desperate workers can come into New Zealand, and get exploited by undercutting local workers’ pay rates?

        Come on Gossy, give us your answer, please.

  3. Chris can I recommend a good book – “Death of the liberal classes” By Chris Hedges.

    Me, I had a go at labour because I’ve fought racist thuggish idiocy, my whole life. And at times that has been literal dust ups with skin heads. I just thought and still think Twity Twyford should have framed the debate to include all international investment, rather than side track the debate by xenophobic whistle blowing. Indeed as I’ve said on the standard – another problem is – not Chinese working people – it is the capitalist class globally, who are buying up everything from under the people who live in these place, and should we not be having that debate.?

  4. The current financial system is imploding. The G7 was ironically referred to by the Chinese as the meeting of the debtors. (I think it was the G7 and not the G20 ….. gee).
    Anyway, a new monetary system is underway and Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (known as the BRICS) are leading the way. Country membership increasing by the minute.

    What they are trying to sort out now is the governance: by the people, for the people, of the people. Those known to have undying ties to the old financial system are best left out of the discussions. Hopefully, egos will be left out as well.

  5. Thanks Dave. Yeah, that’s going to happen.
    In the meanwhile, the grown-ups are trying to find a way to avoid permanent damage from what appears to be a potential path from which there is no turning.

  6. Yes while this evil so called “Government” is now reportedly made itself into another corporation now registered in the US as a registered corporation, what the F***????

    The New Zealand Government: A U.S. SEC Registered Corporation

    1.0 The New Zealand Government: A United States Securities & Exchange Commission Registered Corporation

    Would you be surprised to discover that a company with the same name as your country is registered with the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) in Washington DC?

    The United States Securities and Exchange Commission has the government of New Zealand registered as a corporation:

    Legally as a Corporation the NZ Government cannot govern as a corporation the article says so why hasn’t anyone looked into this corruption for all our sakes..

    • Got another one for you to ponder, Cleangreen. Ever wondered about the word “Crown” when Nats say they are going to “…free up Crown Land”? Very complicated when I try to get a straightforward answer that is understood by me. The International Court of Justice in the Hague identified who the “Crown” is and I understood right away.

      Type in: “GUILTY! Final Verdict Rendered in First Common Law”.

      Look forward to reading your take on this one 😀

      Time for a TOTAL springclean, eh Cleangreen, particularly as so few people in New Zealand are aware of this awful matter.

  7. Just days ago the Japanese government passed a law that now allows them to let their troops fight overseas again, which is a turn away from its past commitment to peace and non-involvement.

    The Chinese have over recent days been busy showing history and drama programs on TV, which refresh memories of past wars between the two nations, the last one involving the occupation of much of China, massacres and so forth.

    China is busy arming itself to match it’s economic power with military power. They also like to show programs on their TV about the strenght and quality of their new fighter planes, ships and various arms equipment.

    The US is busy intensifying ties with East and South East Asian nations, including the Philippines and even Vietnam.

    Humanity has a history to repeat past behaviour, and I think it is just a question of when, not if, we will have another major war again, in the Pacific regions, that will also mean New Zealand will have to take sides.

    How can the greater dependence on trade with China be reconciled with traditional ties to the US and Australia?

    We must remember also how the sensitivity of China and some migrants from there plays out in certain ways here, when leaders visit, and protestors who raise issues about human rights are kept out of sight from such dignitaries.

    And having raised the concern about off-shore buying of homes here by Mainland Chinese rich in cash and other assets, Phill Twiford was instantly called racist. John Key also mentioned in Parliament, that on his last visit to China he was getting concerned or critical comments from Chinese officials, about the discussions here, about the very topic.

    So yes, Chris has a point with what he writes about.

    • Ha!….several years ago I was doing a course near Symonds St/ K road area…there is a large hotel chain nearby that hosted the Chinese leadership when it came to Auckland.

      The Chinese dignitaries were being ferried around by chauffeur ‘s in big black limousines and had a large motorcade complete with their own personal security presence …

      Across the street from where I was there appeared on the intersection about 250-300 members of Falun Gong…and , they were staging a silent and peaceful demonstration about the Chinese communist leaders presence here – and the persecution in China of the Falun gong members.

      The Falun gong are adherents to a peaceful religion in China – and yet have been illegally imprisoned , reports of torture by the authority’s , forced labour , organ harvesting , and psychiatric measures designed to force the Falun gong to recant their beliefs.

      These were Chinese who are over here now – either citizens, students …yet as you could tell…they were fearful standing there in that silent protest…as many would have family members in mainland China they were concerned about…

      And then lo and behold…up Symonds St marched a contingent of NZ Police…about 40 strong….in rank…marching. These NZ Police then proceeded to mix in with and also form a single rank barrier around these people…

      And it struck me as peculiar…that here was this so -called democratic country called New Zealand…obstructing a human rights group…and using its Police to do so….and yet not far away was the cream of the Chinese leadership….

      And communist.

      And this Key- led govt was going to great pains to mute any dissension about the communist Chinese leaders visits and what goes on there…while across the street the REAL DEMOCRATIC VOICE was being surrounded by our own state Police to protect the communist Chinese authority’s who had precipitated this abuse against their own people…

      It speaks volumes about what this govt REALLY thinks about human rights and the people who vote for them,….

      Doesn’t it.

      Totally disgusting.

      • “And it struck me as peculiar…that here was this so -called democratic country called New Zealand…obstructing a human rights group…and using its Police to do so….and yet not far away was the cream of the Chinese leadership….”

        You got it, my friend!

        The same BS was preached after WW2, that soldiers fought for freedom and democracy, while in reality the British elite and aristocracy were primarily concerned about their booty, their colonies and bountiful trade connections, not really about the workers, their freedom and well-being, and not really the same about the soldiers, some coming from places, where they were treated as servants in their own native countries, by the British rulers.

        The US had interests in the Philippines and other parts in Asia, that was more important a reason to fight a war against the Japanese, than caring about the locals, and the only entered the European war theatre after the Germans had already raped and pillaged and killed hundreds of thousands if not millions.

        John Key and basically all the ones that are “chosen” to rule over us, they become part of the elite, the club of the powerful, at least as their loyal servants, to do the work to keep the elite here in power and happy. The real powers work behind the scenes, they give large donations to parties, they own and operate much medial, they work at all levels, to groom the ones they see “fit” to “rule” and “lead” the people.

        We have John Key preach about the freedom and democracy of peoples, about human rights even, while they do not really care about beheadings in a trading partner’s land called Saudi Arabia. But if beheadings of a more lawless lot are learned of, that is reason to go and train a corrupt army in Iraq.

        We are being prepared to keep quiet, as the elite want noone to rock the boat, while the big business players in NZ Inc do deals with who they deem to be important “partners”, never mind what happens behind closed doors in their prisons, hospitals, asylums and torture chambers.

        “(Sieg) Heil” by the Queen, we recently watched, on old footage, even the Queen was “in tune” during her younger years, with what was a power to be reckoned with, so they perhaps in frivolous light-hearted manner joked about one stretching out the hand and arm for the “German greeting”.

        Oh, how terrible, how embarrassing, the elite and obedient media here and in the UK shouted, this must not be shown. The young Queen would not have known what she did, nor her parents then.

        Times change, but human behaviour has not changed, the sycophants abound, the ruthless manipulators and rulers, and the business deal breakers, they set the agenda, the rest are told to shut up, get stuck into your work, and move on, just move on and get on with it.

  8. The “Crown” is a registered corporation. Nat talks about the sale of “Crown” land. The “Crown”. It seems Her Majesty continues to exercise Her Rights. Does Her Majesty split the proceeds with her self Right eous servant, John. The question was rhetorical.

  9. Vicious accusations of racism?

    I am not at all surprised that your ‘national bourgeoisie’ revile in horror of having being called out racism.

    Because the most insidious and harmful form of racism is of the middle classes. The hidden racism, not the call-out from cars, boorish comments by TopGear host. These are easy to identify and condemn; those people are not like us.
    But the hidden more harmful racism occurs in the middle professional classes that you inhabit. These ‘national bourgeosis’ employ people, they look at CV, look at peoples last names. They discriminate based on last names, if you have an asian surname you need to apply to twice amount of jobs than if you have a ‘white’ name. These same people will recoil in horror in the accusations of racism.
    The liberal intelligensia are then surprised that there is sensitivity to same approach to real estate data.
    They expect these ethnic minorities to be supplicants and if they don’t fulfil that role…. they are confounded by the accusation of racism. Because they don’t see it, racism to them is that ugly confrontation variety seen in skinheads, KKK overseas. Not the mundane variety, they practice.

    The general anxiety of changing global order, where the Anglo-Saxon hegemony is eroding is creating much angst. The Chinese are the new old Bogey man, like old cartoons with tentacles of Jews or the Yellow Peril enveloping the globe. The reactions are not new but human nature repeating.

    Note jargon filled terms such as ‘national bourgeosis ,bourgeois comprador class’ are an exercise in self-flagellation and add little to your piece.

    • That may be, David.

      But if rich investors are buying up houses in this country, I don’t really care which country they hail from. I want it stopped. If 99% of those investors are from Country X, then the only purpose of identifying them is to highlight the problem and thus ban 100% of foreign investors.

      I remember a while ago when Americans were buying up farms, high country stations, and iconic areas of the country. People who opposed those sale were called “anti American” and other epithets.

      This issue is about houses being purchased by overseas investors, in the process pushing up prices, out of reach of locals. They happen to be Chinese (according to anecdotes and Labour’s data). They could just as easily be from the US, Germany, Israel, or Britain. In which case, the same accusations of racism would be bandied about with gay abandon.

      I have nil interest in New Zealanders of Chinese (or other Asian ethnicity) being caught up in some kind of witch-hunt.

      But you need to understand that Chinese New Zealanders will not benefit one iota if Auckland house prices are being forced up by multi-millionaires investing from Shanghai. Denying that fact isn’t anti-racism – it’s being patronising.

      You may feel comfortable framing this as ‘hegemony’. I prefer to call it economic sovereignty.

      • To clarify: Anglo-Saxon hegemony as the French have phrased it. With America as the chief actor and Britain as the supporting act, the “Washington Consensus”. We are transitioning into a multi-polar world, and there is angst with the changes.
        Some who were reflexively anti-American when there was a unipolar world will be less so when they descend to baser tribal instincts. Where they saw differences will now be attracted to the common values and customs.
        Economic sovereignty will remain in New Zealand as long as there are nation states. Not co-opted to supranational organisations such as the EU………poor Greece, go Brexit. Beware of wanting a powerful United Nations or any New World Orders.

  10. What if there were a rule in place which obliged non-residents (foreign nationals) when selling their property to place that property on the market for an amount less than (market dictates) but not exceeding the original purchase price. Sounds good to me 😀

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