The struggle for land rights at Ihumātao reveals the ‘secret’ of capitalist society in Aotearoa much more dramatically than the case of Mr Peel on the Swan River in Western Australia. Māori land was privatized by confiscation, collective labour privatized as wage-labour, and the value produced on the land expropriated as absolute rent for many generations. The recent ‘settlement’ at Ihumātao ignores this history, nationalizes the land from the private owners, yet expects the mana whenua to jointly manage a public reserve with some provision for housing. Private landowners are claiming Government has set a precedent to nationalise their property. Racists object to Maori breaking ‘one law for all’ to get any land rights. Meanwhile Māori self-determination (Tino rangatiratanga) is patronized.
It is clear that the state did a deal with the Kīngitanga to prevent the land being returned under the control of mana whenua who might revive the tradition of the original King movement and Te Whiti at Parihaka. Communal land, collective labour and sharing of production would be a major challenge to capitalist private property. That is why revolutionaries demand that Māori land rights be restored in full to mana whenua whose lands were confiscated or swindled by rapacious settler governments. What must be done to undo this violent history of colonisation if not the socialisation of land, labour and capital? We need a transformational program designed to support those land rights by uniting all workers in a revolutionary movement for socialism.
Socialising the Land
It is not enough to nationalise land since the state represents the capitalist owners rather than the working people as we see at Ihumātao. The colonial capitalist state invaded, confiscated, gave private title and kept some land in ‘public’ ownership of use-value to the capitalists as regulated by the state. It defends private property and serves the expropriation of value as rent. The Labour Government buys the land back from the private capitalists at a value that includes an accumulation of 160 years of capital gain, but continues to control the land in a partnership of interests governing its use as a public reserve. In doing a deal with Government, the Kīngitanga has adapted to the capitalist system and renounced full land ownership rights of the mana whenua over the use of the land including compensation for the absolute rent expropriated since its confiscation.
As we wrote last year, “Any settlement that falls short of the full return of the land to the Iwi will be a compromise that props up private property rights at the expense of the Iwi right to communally owned land…the fight for the return of communal land is more than a matter of historical justice for dispossessed Māori, but critical in re-uniting the people with the land and to bring an end to colonialism and the threat of human extinction.”
Socialisation, by contrast, is the collective ownership by society, meaning those who work to produce value to reproduce that society. Socialising land ownership means individuals no longer own land and forego unearned capital gain. But they can use the land; work it and benefit from the fruits of their labour including improved value. Homeowners would no long own their private section, but would continue to own their homes and any improvements they make. The expropriation of absolute rent or capital gain from the ‘unearned increment’ of society, would mean that land values would revert to their true value – the labour value produced on the land, or in the case of housing – the value of the actual labour required to build houses. It’s not difficult to see the housing question would be resolved in one stroke. But of course, there is much more to it than that.
The standard socialist demand for land ownership is: land to those who work it. Socialists need a program for those who work on the land who have a common interest to unite with workers to fight the rent seekers. This includes all those who work to live off the land, rather than live off wage workers. In Aotearoa that means all working farmers, often ‘disguised’ wage slaves who work to pay off mortgages and debt (the absolute rent deduction) and take a ‘wage’ from what is left. The labour of the family/whānau creates the value which is divided between subsistence and the absolute rent. The expropriation of the big banks and finance houses would leave working farmers debt free. They would be better off as leaseholders as part of a socialist plan that allows them to benefit from their work and improve their farms with state research & development and interest-free loans for development. They would also be compensated for the cost of changes necessary to meet carbon zero by 2030 to avoid burning up the planet.
Socialisation of land cannot happen without socialising labour and capital
In this way labour value as rent would be retained by the collective owner – society. Socialised land that eliminates private property in land, would at the same time require the socialisation of labour value, and capital as accumulated surplus value. The expropriation of capitalist enterprises under workers control within an economic plan would at once collectivise labour, amass a surplus fund for planning the economy, and restore the balance between society and nature. Surplus value as rent and profit would no longer exist nor would capital as the accumulation of surplus value. Labour value would cease to be expressed as value, or price, since no market would exist to respond to price signals. Work would be measured by labour-time. Society would decide what labour-time was necessary to reproduce workers, and what surplus labour-time was needed for investment in production. Under socialism, this would be according to the maxim: from each according to their ability, to each according to their work. That is, all must work and all must receive an equal reward for equal work. Capitalist inequality would become the stuff of pre-history.
It is obvious that none of this would happen without the end of capitalism and the birth of socialism. So, the immediate and urgent task is to build an independent workers movement; an independent workers’ labour party; elected workers’, and working farmers’, councils/rūnanga in every neighbourhood, town or city, to coordinate decisions taken at local and regional level with a central workers’ and working farmers’ government/kāwanatanga. These are the essential workers organisations that are necessary to make the transition from capitalism to socialism.
A Transitional Program for Socialist Revolution
Decolonisation means cutting off the flow of surplus-labour from producers to the parasites by socialising land, labour and capital. For this to happen the producers have to be united as a force for change, reversing the stock and flow of rent and profits from parasites back to producers. Our strategy must be to reverse this download of oppression and attack the root cause – private ownership of land, labour and capital. We have to build workers’ power to take on the power of imperialism and their comprador agents who control the extraction of absolute rent. So, our strategy is to develop a workers’ revolutionary movement capable of expropriating the imperialists and the compradors – politically and economically. For that we need a transitional program which fights for socialism now, starting with the immediate problems created by private ownership of land, labour and capital, and building the struggle towards the goal, which is a revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist state and creation of a workers’ state.
Aotearoa’s semi-colonial status is worsening because its imperialist ‘partners’ are all looking to extract more absolute rent from Aotearoa impoverishing the producers of value. During and after the neoliberal deregulation of the 1980s, natural monopolies that were in state hands were privatised. State assets were turned into SOEs trimmed down for auction to imperialist and colonial vulture capitalists. In energy, transport, finance, retail, property, tourism, media etc. rent-seekers added value as more of the value chain was monopolised. Neoliberal deregulation means that imperialism grabs more absolute rent at the expense of compradors (which is not a bad thing) workers, and working farmers. The result is a low wage, a flat tax, increasingly casualised migrant labour semi-colonial economy, as the value of wages are squeezed to extract surplus profits.
What we need now!
All of this is downloaded onto the working class as a cut in value-share leaving it lacking in jobs, a living wage, housing, health, education and social welfare, which all blow up as ‘social problems’ –unemployment, homelessness, child poverty, falling education standards, health standards etc. We can no longer waste time begging capitalist governments to fix these problems as they are part of the problem. We have 10 years to prepare to take power. We start with immediate demands mobilise producers to resist the download of the destruction of the terminal crisis of capitalism by working class action, starting with strikes, occupations and going on to workers’ control, and finally workers’ power.
To reverse the download of capital’s crisis on workers, we upload our demands as direct class struggle. We attack inequality, organising militant, democratic unions to fight for jobs for all to end unemployment and the dole and unite the working class. We attack poverty demanding a living wage for allby strikes and occupations, and we peg wages to inflation based on what it costs workers to live including housing and health costs. We demand homes for all through rent strikes, occupying vacant housing, and collective action against parasitical landlords. We support the health workers on the frontline against Covid 19 and demand a return to fully funded public health and end to the private sector as a parasite on the back of workers. In all of these struggles the object is to build organisations for workers control of jobs, wages, welfare, health and housing etc.
To fight for what we need now, we have got to defend our right to do so by any means we see necessary. Marxists support demands for individual democratic rights within the bourgeois state only insofar as they advance the collective interests of the working class. We do not demand that the bourgeois state defend our ‘free speech’ because we know from history that the only right workers have is to be exploited. Since the 1848 revolutions, confirmed by the Paris Commune of 1871, the bourgeois state has been the open enemy of the working class. We fight for workers democracy, not bourgeois democracy. We fight for our rights to freedom of speech, to organise, to strike, to arm ourselves, defend oppressed minorities, defend national self-determination, and so on, but we know that to win and defend these rights we must organise independently against the bourgeois state. The organisation that embodies workers democracy is the workers’ commune/ohu modelled on the Paris Commune and put to good effect in the Russian October Revolution.
As the pressure to resist the capitalist crisis of falling profits and absolute rent downloaded onto the working class, compounded by the threat of Covid 19 and human extinction, calls for direct action outside the law, we must fight for the freedom to build a class-conscious resistance to the crisis. As we fight the oppression that suppress our resistance to the extraction of surplus profit and rent, further resistance will inevitably be met with the repression of state and paramilitary forces. Against fascism and reaction, we build self-defence organisations, workers’ and working farmers’ militia/taua and appeal to the rank-and-file military to mutiny and create soldiers’ militia. In the struggle for democratic rights in our interests, the workers’ movement will learn that democracy can only mean workers’ democracy in the socialist revolution and the workers’ state.
For a Socialist Aotearoa in a Socialist Pacific!
As the struggle for immediate and democratic demands brings workers up against state repression, workers need to build independent class organisations to advance their struggle for workers’ power and socialist revolution. Socialist demands are political demands to expropriate capital, both current and accumulated, by the revolutionary working class. We distinguish between nationalisation, where the bourgeois state owns assets, or takes over private assets, in the interests of the wider capitalist class, and socialisation, which means expropriation of capitalist assets without compensation. In Aotearoa, nationalisation is common, to subsidise capital by investing in infrastructure, or energy, and basic services such as health, education and housing. Such subsidies increase differential rent at the expense of workers’ labour-value. Since the 1980s neo-liberal counter-revolution much state property has been privatised to extract new sources of surplus rent.
Socialisation, however, means the expropriation of current and past capital (including nationalised assets) accumulated from generations of labour value extracted from the producers. This includes the expropriation of the assets of imperialist enterprises as well as the assets of nationally owned enterprises. The expropriation of capitalist assets will be met with an investment strike and imperialist attacks on currency, trade, and military intervention and counter-revolutionary coups. Clearly then, socialisation cannot be attempted short of a workers’ state capable of expropriating these assets, defending them against imperialist intervention, and putting them to work as part of a national economic plan. Hence, socialist demands take the logic of the transitional program to its end – workers organised into workers’ councils/rūnanga and militias/taua take power and install a democratic workers’ and working farmers’ government to administer a workers’ state and an economic plan which includes the expropriation of capital and the building of a socialist society restored to nature.
For a Socialist Republic of Aotearoa within a Socialist Federation of Pacific Socialist Republics!
Dave Brownz is TDBs guest marxist blogger because every left wing blog needs a Marxist