GUEST BLOG: Dave Brownz – Aotearoa: let’s decolonize our rip, shit and bust capitalism

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The 2-hundred-year ‘weather event’ of Cyclone Gabrielle was a momentary deluge compared with NZs 200 years of colonisation.  Let’s get things in perspective. There is nothing natural about either, but colonisation frames the conditions for the cyclone. This was nature warning us that if we don’t act to undo our past we are doomed to extinction.

When Marx talked of the modern theory of colonisation revealing the hidden secret of capitalism, he was right on the mark. Capitalism was not possible without separating the indigenous people from their lands to create private property as the basis of their exploitation. Killing two birds with one stone, labour was separated from the land and starved of its means of subsistence to create a class of landless labourers ripe for exploitation. Colonisation was all about ‘Aotearoa- the land of the wrong white rent-seekers’.

But this was not an isolated event in Aotearoa. When capitalism alienated humanity from nature it created the capitalocene – the obscenity of a colonised world where ‘progress’ was measured by the destruction of nature. Wealth was the accumulated dead labour of humans and the appropriation of nature’s bounty. Privatising nature set in motion the forces of destruction of the planet that now shows its rage in the rain-dark clouds, floods and whipping winds. The warming ocean disrupts the jet-stream which oscillates wildly across the latitudes bringing with it the promise of climate catastrophe.

So, when we suffer growing disruptions to our lives from pandemics, climate catastrophes and economic crashes, remember that these are not natural events. Colonisation destroyed the harmony of indigenous societies organised as families, tribes or clans, adapted to nature, cooperating in reproducing the material world, and sharing everything according to need. When tribes went to war and captured enemies, they did so as ‘utu’, to restore a balance between tribes and nature, not to please any foreign king.

Colonisation fought wars to privatise the land, destroying the forests and wetlands ripping out raw commodities for the imperialist motherland, shitting on the environment, and busting the natural order in the process. This was overseen by kings and queens who claimed divine rights over the suffering masses. Today these regimes of naked emperors are now locked into a war dance of death and destruction in which the benighted masses are ground up as cannon fodder. It follows that to escape the inevitable destruction of a rip, shit and bust economy we have to decolonise our capitalist past.

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When un-natural events threaten to overwhelm us, we fall back on what seems to be our social instincts of solidarity and sharing. What we don’t see at first, is that that solidarity and sharing was part of our human story, beginning over 200,000 years ago. For many millennia humans lived in large family communes in which adaptation to nature led to social selection of genes which favoured cooperation and sharing. Many such societies still survive on the margins of the capitalocene, and are embedded as part of our human phenotype. The disruption of these societies in the last two millennia by colonisation and kings reached its peak with the arrival of capitalism in the 1700s. Globalisation was the rip, shit and bust colonisation of the commune writ large. But today we can see more clearly that this was a relatively short deviation in human history, that can be set right by decolonising the capitalocene and returning to the human commune.

 

Dave Brownz is TDBs Guest Marxist, because every left wing blog should have a guest Marxist.

9 COMMENTS

  1. When Marx talked about socialism, he was providing a vision for the next stage of human society, and of economic progress — an inevitable progression from capitalism, based on its evolutionary development and fatal flaws.

    Romanticising the misery of the epoch of savagery is quite un-Marxist. Being trapped in the early stages of pre-history is only ‘harmonious’ in the sense that there is no surplus being produced from human labour — it is impossible to even try to exploit anybody, because you are constantly on the brink of starvation, and are living at the mercy of the elements. Private property is impossible.

    Any such society must develop its productive forces through the epochs of barbarism, slavery and feudalism before it can reach the capitalist stage of development — and thereafter, it can become advanced enough to attempt the construction of a socialist economy.

    • You completely misunderstand life in the Mesolithic as ‘savagery’. Some anthropologists now recognise it as more civilised than European ‘civilisation’ that gave rise to the capitalocene.
      Surplus is not in itself good. For 100,000s of years, sustainability avoided a surplus and served to allow humans to live comfortably with less necessary labour than under hierarchical class society in which surplus labour was expropriated from slaves, peasants and wage workers.
      That the commune was sufficient to sustain life and freedoms is shown by the resistance it put up to attempts to destroy it by establishing ruling classes and states. Most notably, the struggle of women against the patriarchy for millennia continues to this day.
      For all its faults ‘The Dawn of Everything’ by Graeber and Wengrow debunks the simplistic view of evolution as a transition from savagery to civilisation.
      Of course a return to the commune today does not mean to turn back the clock, but rather what is called for by many – the end of capitalism, the end of extracting a surplus which destroys nature, the collective planning of highly productive labour to meet social needs, all creating the conditions for sustainability of life in harmony with nature.

  2. Ah yes the beautiful balance of Maori burning more of NZ than the settlers did.
    More species extinct before white settlers got here than after, don’t worry about the facts.
    And when they were killing and raping or eating or enslaving their enemies it was sweet because it was utu?
    Aotearoa sounds like a mad place where reality is inverted.
    New Zealand still has some common sense and knowledge of actual history I hope.

  3. Colonization & rapid climate heating are incestuiously related. The huge slips across and land degradation in Aotearoa is mostly due to colonization by Europeans and globally this is the case. The swiftness of culling native forest to make land available for European farming practices and introduced species like rabbits and other marsupial creatures has taken its toll on our beautiful country which has done irrefutable damage.

    The Moa story and Maori burning native bushes to clear land employed by some people to regularly justify European exceptionalism and expansionism colonization whateva label it’s a fact that European imperialism have contributed to a faster degrading planet and its reflected today.

    Indigenous people’s values and beliefs are key to longevity on Earth but I have little hope for humanity fixing this catastrophic weather events that only going to get worse. The Indigenous people’s especially here in Aotearoa didn’t subscribe to a one god (Monotheistic religion) philosophy that was all mighty sitting on a cloud in the sky. Their Gods were Mother nature whom dictated their lives.

    Todays Cyclones are becoming more prominent in our region of the world and it’s a kindly reminder to humanity that Mother Nature is going to be the dictator once again on how we survive moving forward.

  4. Does capitalismation equal exploitation? I’ve been reading Catherine Cookson and many of her books have classism and excpoitation in aid of capitalism as the basis for the stories of men and women trying to uve their days and lives in a complex world. But for many it has a simple theme. The poor weren’t to learn to read and write otherwise they wouldn’t be willing to work in the terrible conditions that prevailed, they would get ideas above their station.

    The too frequent outbreaks of cholera, smallpox, typhoid, and the tuberculosis that could be traced back to the poor living conditions, two-room hovels and piles of excrement that were dumped in middens with a terrible stench, and also likely affecting drinking water were known and continuing burdens of life then. But education for the masses might get them thinking – so disapproved of. The churches – Sunday Schools started am improvement there. Apparently having a library of classic books all in matching bindings of leather was a decorating feature in upper class homes, but the words might never be read. So education can be feared and disregarded. And now we find it needs some philosophy and humanities in it or else it just trains us to be efficient automatons.

    • Grey, capitalism and exploitation? I think you come closer to an answer by looking at human nature. If we as a society had a Socialist economy before we discovered oil I suspect we would, (for the greater glory of the workers) have given away cars free, burnt the oil and created climate change.
      PS the unread leather bound books should include Thorsten Veblen.

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