New Zealand’s Very Own Pinkertons

By   /   June 20, 2018  /   12 Comments

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THE POLITICAL SCANDAL swirling around the private detective agency Thompson & Clark Investigations Ltd (TCIL) lays bare capitalism’s rawest nerves.

THE POLITICAL SCANDAL swirling around the private detective agency Thompson & Clark Investigations Ltd (TCIL) lays bare capitalism’s rawest nerves.

The core function of the modern state is the facilitation of private wealth-creation. The so-called “rule of law” is critical to this function. In the absence of a reliable legal system the protection of private property reduces swiftly to the application of brute force – a most unreliable servant and an even worse master.

Making the rule of law one of capitalism’s central talismans, however, means extending the law’s equal protection to the system’s enemies as well as its friends. When it comes to protecting private property, therefore, the trick lies in learning how to undermine the legal protections guaranteed to those attempting to modify property relations, while taking full advantage of the protections made available to property owners.

The private detective agency is the ideal mechanism for giving effect to these contradictory objectives. It is no accident that the first and most famous of these, Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency, was founded in the United States in 1855. The big industrial capitalists of the era were only just becoming aware of their need to be protected from their own employees, who were, similarly, just becoming aware of the need to protect themselves in trade unions.

Allan Pinkerton, a Scotsman, offered his services to these captains of industry. His spies would provide them with intelligence about who their employees were listening to and what was being planned. If worse came to worst and a strike broke out, Pinkerton also offered to organise strike-breakers and provide them with armed protection.

As the Pinkerton agency grew in size and strength it found itself providing intelligence and muscle not just to private industry, but also to the federal government of the United States. In 1860 the “Pinks” as they were called, foiled a plot to assassinate the President-Elect Abraham Lincoln and were immediately hired as his bodyguards for the duration of the Civil War.

For the next 50 years, the Pinkertons would occupy that shadowy territory between the lawful and the unlawful. Their principal value lay in their ability to do what was necessary in such a fashion that their actions could not be attributed directly to either big business or the state. In carrying out their employers’ dirty-work, however, the Pinkertons were forced to descend deeper and deeper into the criminal underworld. It was in no one’s interests to ask too closely how the trade union organiser fell into the ravine, or who was responsible for beating the muck-raking journalist senseless.

As the federal government expanded, the work formerly contracted out to the Pinkertons was taken in-house. The “Pinks” were replaced by the “G-men” of the FBI, the Secret Service and the CIA. The need for “the work”, however, never ceased. Keeping left-wing dissidents and activists under surveillance; intercepting and reading their mail; sowing suspicion and discord in their organisations – such services were always in high demand.

As the rapidly emerging picture of TCIL’s activities in New Zealand makes clear, when the official organs of law enforcement and national security find themselves lacking the human and material resources – not to mention the legal authority – required to carry out “the work”, being able to contract the private sector to assist the public sector in fulfilling its core function of keeping the country safe for private wealth-creators – is extraordinarily helpful.

Like the Pinkertons of old, TCIL has parlayed its ability to move with confidence in the shadowy territory between what is lawful and unlawful; ethical and the unethical; into a highly lucrative business. There has always been, and will always be, a lot of money to be made out of letting capitalism’s friends know, in some detail, what their enemies are up to.

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12 Comments

  1. Jack Ramaka says:

    So why do we need the SIS & the GCSB ?

  2. R.P Mcmurphy says:

    I read the article but am not persuaded that the use of private gumshoes in New Zealand is not the paranoid fantasy of infantilised childish civil service who cant do their own job properly and have a permanent desire to sneak snoop and pry just because they can.

  3. Afewknowthetruth says:

    It can be argued that what happened in the latter portion of the nineteenth century in America -shady deals, land theft, genocide and exploitation of migrants etc., all backed up by covert violence (and sometime overt violence)- was template for the US-dominated modern world.

    Of course, one of the greatest myths of all time is that America stands for freedom, democracy and justice: throughout its blood-soaked history America has stood for land theft, racism, genocide and betrayal. And since WW2 it has stood for global hegemony, bullying, destabilisation of legitimate governments, perversion of justice and increasing inequality, with the agenda of corporations and money-lenders driving most policy, both at home and abroad.

    As a vassal state of the American empire, NZ must do as it is told, or be annihilated.

    Ironically, doing what it is told [by America] leads to NZ being annihilated in the long term, not via the US military or its covert agents, but via environmental collapse and energetic collapse.

  4. Marc says:

    My comment last night has been censored again, I note, the chilling effect by the agencies works.

  5. Marc says:

    Thompson & Clark and their links to the SIS reminds me of what citizens in Germany did once the East German regime collapsed, and the Stasi Offices were raided and occupied:

    https://www.nytimes.com/1990/01/16/world/upheaval-east-east-germany-angry-crowds-east-germans-ransack-offices-spy-service.html
    https://www.thelocal.de/20141204/how-ordinary-people-smashed-the-stasi

    Perhaps the Russia and Putin lovers may take note of this:
    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/6455858/Vladimir-Putin-saved-KGB-offices-from-East-German-looters.html

    So while we have people take action then, why are NZers so quiet and happy with their SIS?

    It seems Orwell’s 1984 has well and truly arrived here some time ago, nobody dares speak out too loudly, or dares to even take any protest action.

    The chilling factor is at work, it seems.

    • Sam Sam says:

      Sensitive documents have been leaked to media for decades. I recal media had access to information about the Tuhoe raids when the defendants lawyers where denied access, even up to now. It’s privatisation and designation of the security apparatus. Still maintain former NZDF staff should be reinstated to leadership positions with in the NZ security and intelligence act.

  6. Jack Ramaka says:

    Are you referring to the Stazi Networks in East Germany ?

  7. Christine says:

    “Being able to contract the private sector to assist the public sector in fulfilling its core function of keeping the country safe for private wealth-creators – is extraordinarily helpful. ” Isn’t it just. Except that the public sector represents the public, and not just a small elite group of citizens.

    Time and again I’ve been sceptical of bloggers asserting that NZ public servants have their own separate independent agendas. Sceptical no more.

    I think it’s more than infantile snooping – in most if not all govt depts one can access a surprising amount of personal knowledge about people – but not without leaving tracks; and it’s likely more than just doing mates favours, it has an odour; it suggests Bill of Rights infringements; it may be good if all that it represents is stupidity, but stupidity isn’t really good enough either, and hats off to Peter Hughes calling them to account.

    • Sam Sam says:

      That’s why I don’t like right angles. A set of publicly available indicators allows for an open budget architecture that the Greens are currently working furiously to make work first time. It’s the Greens last chance to turn there fortunes around. Don’t let the public sail by.

  8. Jack Ramaka says:

    Problem we have here in NZ is no one is held accountable and a worst case scenario is a slap on the hand with a wet bus ticket. One set of rules for the blue bloods and one set of rules for the brown skins ?

  9. countryboy says:

    Great Post @ CT.

    Wasn’t the IRD used as a weapon of choice to send the fear of God up any dissenters opposing the sell off’s of our stuff and things back in the 1980’s? I seem to remember reading something along those lines.

    I also heard that, the above, is one of the reasons for the right to bear arms written into the USA constitution. “ No one fucks around with a well armed population.”