Election week is here and it seems all but certain that a Labour-led government will come into power after the 17th of October. Though the outcome seems clear among major parties, there are large new developments in the clamorings of minor parties for a seat. The Advance Party NZ and its co-leader Billy Te Kahika Jnr. have amassed an embryonic fascist movement behind their ‘anti-lockdown’ campaign and are now attempting, with a huge amount of funding, to enter Parliament and grow a mainstream support base. Though their Facebook was recently deleted due to their constant misinformation, the three main Māori affairs shows have now each given him a platform where he has been presented remarkably positively. This poses serious questions about the interests of Māori capitalists and the future of the struggle for Māori liberation.
The leaders of the party first appeared on Maori TV’s ‘Te Ao with Moana’ on the 28th of July this year to discuss the merging of the TK’s Public Party with disgraced former National Party MP Jamie-Lee Ross’ Advance Party. In it host Moana Maniapoto, on top of being generally soft and ‘balanced,’, went so far as to ask TK whether his Party, with which he is running for Te Tai Tokerau, was “more Māori than the Māori Party.” Despite having negligible support in the far-North, he was then invited onto Newshub’s ‘The Hui’ to be a participant in the half hour Te Tai Tokerau debate on the 29th of September. This saw TK given the opportunity to appear as a legitimate voice for the rights of Māori while his Party has next-to no published policy on the subject.
The next week he was invited for the Te Tai Tokerau candidates’ sit-down interview on TVNZ’s ‘Marae’ where he was allowed not only his own couch, but free reign to command the conversation and spout dangerous misinformation. When asked about his conspiracy theories, he was able to claim as fact that the World Health Organisation, the Centre for Disease Control, and Oxford and Stanford Universities have all said that lockdowns and elimination strategies don’t work, and that the WHO is a “puppet.” All of this was said with no interruption or clarification from the programme. The host Miriama Kamo’s only response was to ask the other candidates “how do our people know what’s the truth here?” And most extraordinarily, while Davis and Kapa-Kingi were giving their weak, vague responses to these dangerous lies, the show played a seemingly prepared series of clips from TK’s rallies. Bear in mind that all of this publicity was given while polling at less than 1% in the rohe, with Labour’s Kelvin Davis and the Māori Party’s Mariameno Kapa-Kingi polling at 36% and 18%, respectively.
So why are Māori capitalists giving this reactionary such a platform? What do they see in a politician who sees the UN as an existential threat to the rights of Māori, and whose solution to the severe housing crisis is to “free up” land for private speculation? It is because these people serve primarily their own interests as capitalists, which run contrary to those of the vast majority of Māori and the entire working class. The development of Māori capitalism since the 1990s has been shackled to, and reliant upon, NZ monopoly capital and its State, as highlighted in Katjo Buissink’s recent article. The effect of this was seen very clearly at Ihumātao last year, where Te Kawerau Iwi Tribal Authority & Settlement Trust sided with the construction goliath Fletcher Building and the New Zealand State in their attempt to evict tangata whenua from their land.
In response to due criticism for giving TK a spot in the Te Tai Tokerau debate, the host of Newshub’s ‘The Hui’ Mihingarangi Forbes claimed that “Māori electorates are different. They are more like a marae where all views are heard, considered and either supported or not.” This notion that Māori are magically aware of their own interests and immune to reactionary ideas is dangerous, insidious and false. It is essentially the racist ‘noble savage’ trope updated for the 21st Century. Te Kahika’s appearance on these shows greatly legitimised his ideas and the fascist movement coalescing behind him. This is evidenced neatly in a post by a viewer that Forbes retweeted during the debate: “Hate to say it, Billy TK won the opening statements. No waffle, to the point, and on the attack. Refreshing to see after the last few lovey dovey debates.”
Advance Party NZ co-leader Jamie-Lee Ross was recently interviewed by the fascist ideologue and former Chief Strategist of the Trump Administration Steve Bannon on his far-right Youtube show. This is the first clear sign of a formal relationship with the US far-right and the AP. For all Ross’ talk of ‘Chinese interference’ in our political system, here we have real support from a leading US reactionary.
It is in light of these dangerous developments that we have to understand that foreign and local big business doesn’t just stand in the way of the rights of workers, it is the root cause of the oppression of broad sections of New Zealand society. Māori face the same opponent in their struggles as all oppressed people in this country: the NZ monopolists and their State. The media arms of these forces have proven themselves to be far from neutral in this central conflict in the history of Aotearoa and, indeed, the world.