The content of our Justice Programme was informed by attendees of two public hui in Auckland and Wellington in December 2018, as well as justice organisers and thinkers. This is the third of six sections analysing the state of class warfare in Aotearoa, and laying out a plan for building a movement for liberation and socialism.
- Any justice system in Aotearoa must be firmly rooted in Te Ao Māori.
While the settler-colonial state of Aotearoa makes some attempts to put a Māori face on its monopoly on violence; incarceration, policing and long-term punishments are antithetical to Māori concepts of Utu, or equitable balance when dealing with social harm. Only a system of justice which places community and interpersonal satisfaction with the results of justice at its core can address the vast scale of social harm across an entire nation.
- Incarceration is both inhumane and counterproductive. Prisons must be abolished.
Incarceration is a recent phenomenon, with imprisonment for fixed sentences only becoming common in the last two centuries. All of the available evidence points towards mass incarceration as the greatest single cause of recidivism and recrimination, as well as a major barrier to rehabilitation. Prisons must close if we are to progress as a society.
- Crime and interpersonal harm stems from material conditions.
A major barrier to any meaningful attempt to address social harm is the idea that crime is the result of an inherent evil within certain people. A new justice system must recognise this as nonsense, and that as social creatures, any interpersonal harm we cause is the result of social conditioning just as much as it is the result of individual agency.
- Rehabilitation should be free and accessible to the whole community.
Constructive aspects of prisons and policing are not inherently tied to the system of mass incarceration. We should not take an “ambulance at the bottom of the cliff” approach to social harm: rehabilitation programmes, education programmes, and mental health services must be made available to whole communities, rather than just inmates.
- The New Zealand Police must be abolished.
The defining characteristic of the Police is their monopoly on violence. The Police exist to enforce colonial property relations, as can be seen by their disproportionate response to any threats to property in Aotearoa, compared to their lackluster response to true interpersonal harm. This force, with one foot in the past era of colonial armed constabularies, and one foot firmly clamped down on the neck of the future, must end.
- Communities should have access to both internal and external means of conflict resolution.
Communities and local authorities must have access to both internal and external means of justice depending on the situation at hand, as well as the agency to democratically determine what responses are appropriate. Communities may opt to either address crime and social harm using tools and skills available within the community, or they can use the tools and skills available outside the community on matters that the community can’t address.
- Justice must first be sought on a voluntary and transformative basis.
When it comes to true interpersonal harm, the colonial justice system can act as a barrier to a mutually agreeable, transformative solution. Transformation, as opposed to restoration, implies a structural change has occurred, or power dynamics have been negated, as opposed to a return to a status quo whose material conditions may have given rise to the instance of harm in the first place. Coercion must be used only as a last resort when all attempts to facilitate a mutually agreed upon solution fail.
- Justice must centre the person or community that has been harmed.
The colonial justice system acts to enforce an extremely individualistic model of crime and interpersonal harm. Punishment, followed by rehabilitation and reintegration is a model that completely bypasses victims of harm. New justice systems must allow for community or interpersonal satisfaction with the terms of accountability, reparations, and reintegration, rather than the blunt and clumsy tool that is state-mandated punishment.
What is Justice?
Justice is a concept with a lot of different meanings. For some, Justice is a simple process of crime and punishment, locked in a permanent spiral of recrimination and built up around a deep-seated cultural myth of a war between order and chaos. For others, Justice would mean a righting of past wrongs, a process of both healing the gaping wounds in land and people, and building new social structures to prevent future injustices. For many, however, Justice is simply an impossibility, something that no-one has ever seen, let alone experienced for themselves.
The current capitalist global economic system doesn’t permit the extension of concepts of Justice beyond the resolution of petty interpersonal disputes. This is necessary because in order to justify the persecution of only certain segments of the population, they must first be taken out of their context as members of cultural groups, classes, identities, religions and families. Only once an individual has been completely stripped of their social context can they be charged with a crime, because crimes under capitalism are the exclusive domain of free individuals.
Why is this? What stops the courts from ruling that the defendant was a victim of circumstance, economic and social pressures, or other factors that stripped them of the agency to do anything but the crime in question?
If a court were to acknowledge the existence of crime beyond the scale of individuals, it would mean having to reckon with the concept of injustice between economic classes, of crimes against whole cultural groups, of crimes of one gender against another, of social crime. Capitalist courts may make some attempts to address this glaring contradiction, but these are typically heavily controlled, measured and insignificant responses. To take one recent example, a drug manufacturer can engineer an opioid epidemic that garners their shareholders approximately $30 billion in profits. Once a class-action lawsuit is filed, they pay $600 million in damages1. Capitalist courts, as a rule, are structurally incapable of addressing the ongoing violence between exploiters and the exploited.
Why then do we talk about Justice at all when it was clearly a concept created for the sake of the slave-driver, the feudal lord, and finally the capitalist oligarchies? It’s because there exists a massive gap between the ideals of the exploiters and their own practices. The capitalists may have been the ones who pushed the hardest for concepts of equality amongst all individuals, of individual rights, of international laws, of Justice. But it was also they who did their best to destroy these concepts by making a mockery of them. It’s now up to us to fill the massive void between the aspirations and applications of Justice by instituting true equality, true rights, true internationalism, and finally impose a Justice upon capitalism for which we make no apologies.
The state of Justice in Aotearoa.
In order to understand what true Justice would look like in Aotearoa, we have to look at the ways “Justice” is currently used and abused in order to enshrine inequality, cultural genocide, and settler-colonial property rights in law.
The founding myth of the New Zealand state is that our foundational legal document is the Treaty of Waitangi. This is untrue. The basis of New Zealand’s justice system is in earlier feudal law and the laws of the first capitalists of Europe – the Doctrine of Discovery2.
The Doctrine was one of the first examples of de-facto International Law. In the Catholic world, this Doctrine was first put into place in the form of Papal Bulls (decrees) affirming the rights of Catholic monarchies, particularly the Iberian states, to claim any non-Christian lands in the name of Christendom. After the Protestant reformation these Bulls were replicated in Secular law as the sovereign right of Monarchs to claim any land deemed Terra Nullius, or otherwise inhabited by people deemed less than human (The foundations of these laws are discussed further in Appendix Ia).
The sovereign right of the British Crown was the basis on which Captain Cook claimed Aotearoa for the British Empire, as well as the basis on which British companies and settlers flocked to Aotearoa in an effort to beat the French colonists who were also seeking to dominate the last non-European nations of the South Pacific. A series of Supreme Court rulings in the United States during the late 18th and early 19th centuries codified the Catholic Bulls and Protestant standards of sovereign law into a unified Doctrine that applied to all European powers and their breakaway colonies, setting a precedent in public international law3.
The Doctrine was not displaced as a foundational law of colonisation by the Treaty of Waitangi, in fact it was reinforced by the signing of the Treaty. The fraudulent and intentional translation discrepancies between the Treaty and its Māori equivalent, Te Tiriti ō Waitangi, meant that the Treaty only served to legalise the processes of extractive capitalism and land appropriation that had already begun under the first settlers and the New Zealand Company4.
What followed was even more unjust: even if the fraudulent Treaty were legitimate, its terms would still have been repeatedly violated by the actions of innumerable settlers, companies, and the New Zealand state, particularly during the massive punitive land appropriations of the Grey governorship. Māori land, even that which was protected by the supposed foundational legal document of New Zealand, was confiscated and invaded at an astounding rate.
While a small portion of the Treaty violations against Iwi have been remunerated through Treaty settlements since late last century, they also serve as an illustration of our point in the section above: Capitalist legal authorities cannot meaningfully rectify crimes beyond the scale of the individual, unless this takes the form of purely symbolic or inadequate compensation. Iwi that have received settlements recieved only a tiny portion of the total economic profits gained through treaty violations (the full cost would have easily bankrupted the New Zealand state unless it was paid in the form of ongoing reparations). There were also no provisions to ensure that settlement money would reach the members of the community most affected by colonial violence and dispossession. Indeed, settlements often further entrenched the colonial order by creating a buffer between the most dispossessed Māori and settler-colonial capitalists in the form of a Māori capitalist class5, whose interests would align more closely with developers, landlords, and other agents of colonialism. Finally, Treaty settlements were used as a covert way of convincing Māori to sign away any potential legal right to challenge European Sovereignty.
So far we have discussed the farcical and deeply unjust foundations of colonial law, but these are not aspects that most people come into contact with on a daily basis. The main form of contact most people have with the justice system comes in the form of petty property laws (which make up the vast bulk of the legal code), and the enforcers of these property laws – the New Zealand Police. The signatories of Te Tiriti ō Waitangi actually encouraged the enforcement of kāwanatanga (to some this translates to Crown Law, but not to others), as they believed stricter laws around petty property disputes would serve to regulate the incredible lawlessness and violence of the earliest settlers. These signatories intended for kāwanatanga to be applied mainly to the most invasive elements of Pākeha society6, but they could not have foreseen the total replacement of Tikanga with kāwanatanga, as well as the vastly disproportionate use of kāwanatanga against Māori, the violence of the constabulary, or the racial bias of the courts and lawmakers.
As Pākeha settlements grew, so did the influence of Crown Law. Māori communities, initially subject to community justice and tikanga, instead became “royal subjects,” subject to the laws of the colonisers whether or not they were Treaty signatories, and whether or not their respective signatory understood at the signing that Crown Law would be applied to Māori. The armed constabulary supervised the expansion of the scope of colonial law with a brutality, inhumanity and malice that only 400 years of European colonial ideological development and racial “science” could produce. Instead of a society based on legal equality between treaty partners, the New Zealand state instead imposed a direct copy of the British judicial system and Westminster system of lawmaking, replete with the prisons and constabulary to enforce this new order.
Having discussed the foundations of the current legal system, it seems almost irrelevant to discuss the crimes of individuals. Instead we should be focusing on the injustices of the current system – the vastly disproportionate rates of Māori imprisonment, the increased rates of recidivism encouraged by expanded prisons, the addiction issues that stem from incarceration itself, the violence of the New Zealand Police.
In light of this, it’s hard to even begin meaningfully talking about individual crime. Suffice to say that every human society in history has in some way reprimanded individuals for theft, murder, rape, or really any form of social harm that was not otherwise permitted or necessitated by their economic and social structure. What distinguishes “criminals” in Aotearoa is that they have been prosecuted under a legal system that has no distinguishable legitimacy. It is a sham system, made up of brute force and fraudulent documents, and while working within its frameworks may be necessary or even helpful to a revolutionary decolonial movement, we can’t lose sight of this fact. It is on this basis: a recognition of the inherent illegality of our legal system, that we now discuss our demands and resolutions.
We must continue the legal struggle against capitalism, even as we live under it.
While the foundations of the national and international laws we are subject to are undoubtedly based in colonial violence, as we discussed in the section What is Justice? the ostensible values, ideals and goals of the capitalist legal system are completely compatible with our own, they are simply never put into practice. The result of this contradiction is that there are many lawyers and lawmakers who seek to uphold the values of Justice, even if they are structurally prevented from implementing it. Through such people, victories for workers and colonised peoples can and have been won through the very frameworks put into place by colonial violence. Even though securing these often temporary or minor victories for workers and indigenous peoples isn’t inherently revolutionary, the legal struggle (i.e. the struggle to put in place and maintain laws that protect workers and colonised peoples) has sometimes provided revolutionary movements with a secure set of conditions from which to build movements. Examples of this include the 1973 ohu scheme, which if pursued fully would have provided socialist and Māori activists with a series of rural areas to work from7.
For this reason we advocate for greater involvement and interaction between revolutionaries, lawyers and lawmakers wherever our goals align. While true change can never be implemented by legislating it into place, lawyers and lawmakers can help people to survive long enough to start thinking about systemic change rather than what to feed their families. Welfare and work reforms can and should be pursued, as we have discussed, alongside these legal battles against prominent capitalists and firms. The recent effort to fund the legal defense of Renae Maihi against billionaire capitalist and white supremacist Bob Jones is an excellent example of a worthy cause to mobilise around, so as to protect the right to speak out against Billionaires without being sued8.
Using the tools of the legal system against the very forces that put it into place doesn’t constitute a compromise of values, nor a legitimisation of colonial law. It is simply a pragmatic reality that anti-colonial, anti-capitalist lawyers, and sometimes lawmakers, are worthy comrades, and in many cases are already doing good work by providing legal counsel to arrestees of NVDA actions, opposing sales of Māori land, and supporting workplace rights and safety legislation. It is also true that both the judicial and parliamentary systems are quite capable of forcing these individuals to compromise their values, and as a result our alliance is not unconditional.
In some cases it may even be prudent to strengthen the existing state apparatus in terms of its ability to enforce restrictions upon the bourgeoisie, however we should be careful not to simply increase the overall power of the state. A call to increase police funding so that they may establish a white-collar crime unit is an example of something we should not support, as it increases the overall resources the police have at their disposal to fulfill their main goal – the enforcement of property law. Such increases in state power invariably backfire on workers, even if it is towards an ostensibly progressive goal. Compare this to a call to increase legislative powers to combat abusive landlords, something that would actually decrease the overall repressive power of the state as it would draw resources away from state apparatuses which specifically target workers and dispossessed people. As a general rule, increases in state powers or funding should never be supported unless they are structurally incapable of backfiring on us.
We must support the self-organisation of imprisoned workers in penal slavery, as well as the general prison population.
A growing class of workers in Aotearoa work in conditions that are best described as slavery. They work for less than one dollar an hour, or sometimes nothing at all. Some even work for private companies for upwards of 40 hours a week with practically no pay, while others are punished for pointing out safety concerns, or asking for bathroom breaks.
These workers are victims of the New Zealand Department of Corrections, which under the “Working Prisons” programme has managed to implement a form of slavery under the guise of a liberal-democratic governmental policy since 20019. This may at first appear to be hyperbole, after all, Corrections has stated that “inmates cannot be compelled to work or study” in accordance with the International Labor Organization’s Forced Labour Convention10. However in the same statement, the department also said that prisoners will “face penalties if they do not take part” and that any prisoner who is not currently undergoing addiction treatment would effectively be coerced into working up to 40 hours per week for no pay. We do not understand how this could possibly be defined as anything but slavery.
Even more farcical is the “Release to Work” programme, the “market-oriented” alternative to “Working Prisons” where penal slaves are effectively loaned out to private companies. While the programme is ostensibly an upskilling project intended to provide inmates with better job prospects upon release, the “market wages” these workers receive rarely filter down to them after they are forced to cover their own transport, tools, and clothing costs, as well as a cut of their pay that goes directly to the Department of Corrections of up to $250 per week. Compared to the prisoner working units, these penal-slaves-for-hire are much less common as most working prisoners (90-94%) prefer to work within prisons.
Since 2014, these programmes of penal slavery have been implemented at every prison in Aotearoa. Perhaps counterintuitively, many prisoners actually prefer forced labour to life within the general population, since penal slavery often means they can go outdoors for a greater part of the day and enjoy a degree of privacy. The greatest tragedy of the “Working Prisons” programme was that it somehow made slavery the prefferrable option, compared to the mind-numbing boredom, loneliness, and abusive surveillance of non-working units.
The counterintuitiveness of organising within prison conditions means that the robust self-organisation of prisoners is the only way forward in terms of securing better conditions, living wages, or an end to inhumane practices like solitary confinement in prisons. Much of this organising is already underway but goes unseen, and in order to assist this we must make the most of channels of communication between different prisons. Involvement in prisoner penpal networks (such as the Prisoner Correspondence Network) and proliferating prisoner newsletters would greatly assist in organising and sharing conclusions between different prisons. From this basis, we can begin working towards organising committees among prisoners, such as the US Incarcerated Workers Organising Committee11, using tools such as the prison strike, which was used to great effect across American prisons in 201812.
This is one of many ways to reintroduce politics into prisons, a space which is designed to strip away political agency from those who enter. While incarcerated people do have some rights under the law, Corrections regularly finds ways to undermine what few rights they do have, and absolve Corrections officers of their responsibilities to act within guidelines and laws13.
Aside from the economic struggle within prisons, we must also speak of these ways in which the prisoner is reduced from a political and social being into a non-political being that is only incorporated into the legal system through their exclusion from it14. A first step is the act of deregistration from the voting register. This is an issue that incarcerated people have organised around before in New Zealand’s recent history15, a struggle which may yet lead to the overturn of legislation passed in 2010 that disenfranchised all sentenced prisoners16. If this effort is successful, prisoners who are serving short-term sentences (three years or less) will attain the right to vote. So long as the New Zealand courts can determine whether we have the right to vote, those in power have mechanisms to ensure they cannot be held accountable by classes of people. Voting is thereby reduced to a conditional privilege that can be stripped from citizens at the discretion of the state.
However, the right to vote every three years does not mean people have true political power, and the ruling classes have other ways to deprive people of political power, including the deprivation of knowledge. Not only are political initiatives by prisoners cracked down upon17, public education efforts are difficult as well.We must work to make revolutionary theory and literature accessible to prisoners, and hold Corrections to account as it deprives incarcerated people of the literature and resources to take political action. Incarcerated people are regularly engaged with political action, whether these are collective civil court cases, or struggling for their complaints against a Corrections officer to be heard and taken seriously. Outside organisations can work productively with incarcerated people and their families to support and give visibility to these efforts.
We must demonetise the justice system.
The current justice system is structured in such a way that the rich can effectively buy their way out of jail time or other punishments. This is a result of both design, and a result of the monetisation of certain aspects of policing, particularly traffic offenses.
There is significant evidence that the policing of minor traffic infringements, such as fines for speeding, does not actually increase road safety by any meaningful margin18. Instead these schemes are a means of providing supplementary income for Police forces precisely because fines have a minimal impact upon infringements, and therefore constitute a stable revenue stream.
Fines for traffic infringements, as well as petty property offenses, constitute one of the most noticeable and routine ways that the Justice system disproportionately affects the poor. Minor traffic fines can easily cost as much as a whole week’s food budget for a beneficiary, while providing very little disincentive for middle and upper income earners. The monetisation of Justice can be felt even more profoundly in situations where money can be substituted for jail time. Petty property crimes, such as trespassing, can result in fines of up to $1000 (about three fifths of the median cash savings of people in Aotearoa)19 or three months’ imprisonment20. This essentially means that anyone with $1000 to spare can trespass with virtual immunity, while someone without $1000 will receive a 3 month sentence – more than enough to ruin job prospects or any chance at future economic security.
For these reasons, the Justice system serves as a systemic barrier to class aspirations, as it is one of many social factors that exert a constant downward force on the class position of any individual. This downward force is multiplied, depending on how close a person is to rock bottom.
The court system is also monetised in such a way that the rich can effectively buy their own form of justice as they see it. Expensive lawyers can be bought by the rich, while the most basic legal expenses can bankrupt the poor. This has led to the contemptible practice of capitalists starting punitive civil cases against those who oppose them, simply because they know that their opponent can’t afford legal fees. Billionaire property tycoon Bob Jones’ defamation case against Renae Maihi is just one recent example21.
Finally, there is the most systemic, invisible form that the monetisation of Justice takes. Not content with being able to buy their way out of minor infringements and court cases, capitalists also routinely buy the laws themselves. While the New Zealand state routinely achieves low scores on metrics such as the Corruption Perceptions Index, this is mainly because corruption is extremely hard to quantify beyond perception alone. More developed countries such as New Zealand rarely allow for the most obvious forms of corruption, such as bribery and blackmailing, but more socially accepted forms continue to thrive to the point that they are a feature rather than a bug in the system. Of particular relevance to New Zealand is the concept of Influence Trading, wherein capitalists do not buy out lawmakers directly through bribery, but rather by monopolising public access to politicians through paid lunches, charity events, and other public events which require paid entry22. Influence trading is so prevalent that it is indistinguishable from normalised political routines such as lobbying. On the other hand, sometimes influence trading is so nakedly corrupt that it is indistinguishable from blackmail, something commonly seen in cases wherein capitalists threaten to withdraw investments in key industries unless lawmakers play ball. This was the case when filmmaker and aspiring oligarch Peter Jackson effectively pressured the New Zealand state to illegalise unionisation in screen industries, by threatening to move his productions overseas23.
It is through these methods of limiting punishments, buying out court cases, and trading in influence to rewrite laws, that capitalists continue to tailor the Justice system to their needs. While totally removing the influence of money on the Justice system is impossible without a total rupture with the current state apparatus, there are several measures we can push for even as we are forced to engage in a system that was never meant for us. Demonetising the Justice system is one of many campaigns that could weaken the ability of the state to provide cover for corruption, and would weaken the class solidarity felt between capitalists. This is because once Justice is applied on the basis of greater class equity, it can create situations in which the capitalist state is forced to prosecute capitalists themselves in ways that might actually be felt.
In practical terms, demonetising the Justice system would mean scaled fines based on a percentage of income rather than flat rates. It might also mean a public fund levied to provide for the legal fees of those under a certain income bracket. Finally, toughened laws around access to politicians would have at least some impact on influence trading, especially if this was pursued on the basis of a broader demonetisation of law rather than as campaigns against organised crime, or for national sovereignty, as previous anti-corruption legislation has been framed24.
The bourgeoisie are experts at circumventing laws that confine their influence, or limiting the corruption that they spread. None of the measures described above would end corruption and disproportionate punishments for the poor, but by providing some semblance of a barrier to crimes committed by the richest members of society, conflicts and contradictions between capitalists and the state can arise which may be exploited.
We must first limit, and finally overcome, the power of the New Zealand Police.
The New Zealand Police are the primary barrier to any and all progressive social movements in Aotearoa. Any permanent positive step that is initiated by community action, be it a movement towards indigenous land rights, a movement for workplace democracy, or a movement for housing rights, is inevitably going to contradict the primary goal of the Police: the protection of private property rights and the enforcement of petty property law25.
Anyone who doubts that this is the primary goal of the Police should be shown the numbers. Every major deployment; every spike in expenditure; every mass arrest performed by the New Zealand Police has been conducted not for the sake of public safety or the protection of individual rights, but in response to social movements that threaten property. Thousands of officers, often flown in from all over the country, were mobilised in response to Nuclear Free protests, to Bastion Point, or during the 1981 Springbok tour. More recently, hundreds marched to defend weapons conference halls, city streets, or vast empty fields at Ihumātao. Such numbers are never mobilised to protect individuals or communities, only the right to make profit.
For these reasons, one of the highest priorities for a revolutionary movement is to undermine and weaken the public image and capabilities of the New Zealand Police.
Compared to any other aspect of the state, the Police have the most independence from lawmakers, indeed they function in such a way that lawmakers have virtually no means of impacting the police beyond increasing or decreasing their funding. The Police are also unique in that they have an almost unlimited ability to increase their own capabilities and pursue their own militarisation, thanks to the complimentary role played by the New Zealand Police Association, a “union” which largely fights to increase the power of its members’ employer, often citing vastly overblown safety concerns or pushing fear-mongering narratives in the media.
The only factor which sometimes limits the extent of Police militarisation in Aotearoa is the potential for negative public relations. Many of the increased powers that officers seek inherently result in situations that generate bad PR: More Police firearms directly correlates with more unjustified shootings; more officers patrolling the street directly correlates with more arrests; more unjustified prosecutions leads to more resentment in the community. The Police recognise that bad PR is often the greatest barrier to increased powers and privileges, and consequently put more funding into advertising and public relations than any other arm of the capitalist state. The Police media team is the busiest and most well-funded of any Government department, dealing with over 200 media requests and interviews per day26. Police recruitment and public relations advertisements are omnipresent in Aotearoa, pushing the narrative of the Police as responsible and compassionate caretakers of New Zealand society, acting in partnership rather than opposition with civilians, and pursuing “Safer Communities Together.”27
The vast gap between the desired public image of the Police and their structural role in society is a result of class and cultural disparities. This vast PR apparatus is not designed to mask the ongoing violence and institutional injustices of the Police from those most affected – this would be impossible. Instead the goal is to make the most violent, desperate and ugly aspects of the capitalist system invisible to certain upper strata of the working class and the bourgeoisie by putting them behind a blue wall of Police PR. This serves to further divide working people and beneficiaries from one another by separating them into a social and anti-social element: one which sees the Police as protectors of the peace, and another which sees them for what they truly are. Only by uniting these two elements can the Police be challenged in any meaningful way.
For these reasons, attacking Police PR opportunities has been one of the most effective agitational strategies when it comes to limiting their reach. Campaigns to obstruct “pinkwashing” (attempts to add a queer-friendly sheen to Police violence) at Pride events pioneered by No Pride In Prisons, later known as People Against Prisons Aotearoa, have been some of the most effective forays into this strategy28.
Once the myth of Police benevolence is shattered, the real role of the Police becomes clearer to many more people. Contrary to popular belief, the Police have changed little since the newly monied oligarchs of the 19th century first hired armed men to patrol their properties29.
However, encouraging a broader shift in our societal understanding of the Police isn’t the only strategy we can use against the Police; there are other reforms that can be pushed for in the present moment. Chief among these is the disarmament of regular Police officers30, who currently carry Bushmaster M4 assault carbines as standard issue within patrol cars, as well as less lethal weapons such as tasers on their person. As discussed previously, the Police are only limited by PR when it comes to increasing their own capabilities; however, the image of “community-oriented” policing is important to them, meaning that measures to increase Police firepower may be introduced in an atmosphere of social crisis, only to continue well after the crisis has ended.
This is what Naomi Klein has called the “Shock Doctrine,” in which social crises are used and abused by the state to introduce draconian legislation or massively increase repressive force31. One example of this is the introduction of Armed Response Teams in the period after the 2019 mosque shooting, in which the atmosphere of social crisis created by fascist terrorism was used to massively increase the firepower of the police in predominantly Māori and immigrant communities32. Since this doctrine has proved successful so far, we can predict that the Police will steadily increase the firepower available to them whenever national crises arise. Breaking this cycle would be a matter of calling out the Shock Doctrine whenever it is employed by the Police. If the public can put a name to the phenomenon, then it appears all the more manipulative and obscene.
With significant effort and public pressure, the Police might even be forced to adopt the appearance of a disarmed service. This has been achieved in some capitalist countries such as the United Kingdom, where only specialist response teams and counterterrorism officers are armed33. This is not disarmament, as even though the total number of guns would be reduced, the Police would still maintain a total monopoly on violence through their armed specialist teams. Truly disarmed Police is an oxymoron, and an impossible demand, however reduced gun use would still mean vastly fewer Police shootings, vastly safer communities, and an improved quality of life for targeted communities such as those which are currently being terrorised by roving vans of paramilitary men in Auckland’s Counties Manukau, Hamilton and Christchurch34.
We demand an end to all inhumane practices within prisons.
People incarcerated in Aotearoa are routinely forced to endure inhumane conditions and practices. Not only are New Zealand prisons severely overcrowded, but every single incarcerated person is required to undergo invasive strip searches, and many are held in conditions that constitute solitary confinement, although the Department of Corrections denies that solitary confinement is used at all35.
By their very nature, prisons isolate incarcerated people from their friends and whānau, ties of emotional support which have been proven to reduce reoffending36. This isolation is exacerbated by draconian rules around visitation and receiving mail, lack of access to phone calls, and the fact that many prisons are located in remote places which are only accessible by car and may be hundreds of kilometres away from an incarcerated person’s friends and whanau.
Prison staff are trained to show little respect for prisoners’ privacy and dignity. The degrading practice of strip searching is commonplace upon arrival37, and solitary confinement is utilised as a form of punishment; taking an extreme, highly traumatic and often irreversible toll upon a person’s mental health.
While many people in Aotearoa consider harsh punishments to be necessary to contain criminality within prisons, what is remarkable is the total lack of evidence that any of these brutal practices fulfil their ostensible goals. Time and time again, the state’s justification for these measures can easily be proven to be hollow and meaningless when investigated38. Strip searches, essentially a state-mandated form of sexual assault deemed a necessary evil for finding contraband, only uncover a statistically negligible amount of illicit items39. Isolation units, indistinguishable from solitary confinement practices criticised by the UN, are deemed necessary so as to protect prisoners from other inmates or prevent suicide, however in practice the majority of isolations are punitive rather than protective.
There are no humanitarian justifications for extreme punishments within prisons, no matter what the Department of Corrections may say40. These measures are instituted for control, degradation and psychological torture, in order to break down prisoners into more managable subjects at the expense of their mental and physical health, and their chances at rehabilitation.
We demand an end to isolation from families, strip searches, life sentences, double-bunking and solitary confinement, as all of these practices are a violation of human rights and are incompatible with rehabilitation or social reintegration.
We demand a moratorium on construction of new prisons.
In response to the inhumane conditions that arise as a result of prison overcrowding, double-bunking, understaffing and under-resourcing, the Department of Corrections, as well as some NGOs, have called for increased funding for DoC, and the construction of new prisons as a means of solving overcrowding41. This is misguided in the extreme.
A well-known principle of microeconomics is that increased supply will result in reduced demand. However it is also true that increased space for demand will create a demand of its own. This is known as induced demand, a phenomenon more commonly observed in traffic planning, wherein adding additional lanes to a road can actually increase congestion42. On the surface, this phenomenon may not seem to apply to prisons. After all, even if the overall demand for prison beds increases, surely the Police wouldn’t simply arrest more people for the sake of economic necessity?
Unfortunately the complexity of the criminal justice system, and the degree to which private companies are embedded in the construction of infrastructure and even the creation of laws (as described above), results in just that: an overall increase in convictions. Whether it is due to added political pressure from lobbying groups like the Sensible Sentencing Trust, New Zealand Police Association, or private prison multinationals like Serco, incarcerations typically increase wherever new prisons are constructed43. In the United States we can see how this feedback loop can reach frightening proportions, with the demand for prison labor and filling private prison beds leading to prison companies holding entire state legislatures to ransom unless they increase the rate of incarceration44.
For these reasons we demand an immediate halt to all new prison construction, even when it is under the guise of “humane” prisons (as these still contribute to the demand for new beds in less humane prisons)45. The only evidence-based means of reducing prison overcrowding is to reduce the rate at which petty crimes result in prison sentences, and to repeal acts such as the Bail Amendment Act 2013 that massively increased the number of prisoners on remand46. If total transformation of the criminal justice system is not an immediate possibility without transforming property relations, then at very least we can demand improvements to overcrowding through the most straightforward manner imaginable: reducing prison sentences.
We must develop techniques of addressing social harm through restorative and transformative justice.
The dominant ideology within the New Zealand state’s court system is Retributive Justice, with some allowances for Restorative Justice processes in special circumstances. Retributive Justice is undoubtedly the most widespread way of thinking, in all non-indigenous societies at least, when it comes to punishment, rehabilitation, and the satisfaction of the victim and state47.
Retributive Justice is a concept that can be found in societies dating back thousands of years. Within the framework of socialist anthropology (see Appendix IIa. of the Work and Welfare section), Retributive Justice could be said to be symptomatic of the Advanced Theocratic Chiefdoms mode of production, under which slavery, organised religion, and the state begin to dominate society. Texts from this period are considered foundational to capitalist liberal-bourgeois states of the Western European Christian type, in particular the Bible and Greco-Roman philosophy. The best examples of this philosophy of law can be found in biblical law, expressed as the principle of lex talionis, “an eye for an eye,” and in the work of the Roman philosopher Cicero’s De Legibus, in which proportional retribution is considered a form of natural law which transcends history and human thought48.
As capitalism grew to become the dominant mode of production across the world in the 18th and 19th centuries, Retributive Justice found new theorists in the form of Enlightenment thinkers like Immanuel Kant, who argued in Metaphysics of Morals that:
“Judicial punishment can never be used merely as a means to promote some other good for the criminal himself or for civil society, but instead it must in all cases be imposed on him only on the ground that he has committed a crime.”49
In short, Kant’s principle can be interpreted to mean that Justice is not conducted for the sake of society or for the sake of the criminal or even the victim, but for the sake of the rule of law itself. This way of thinking still has many proponents today, and is an excellent illustration of how capitalist oligarchs view law and state violence: as something not necessarily in service to them, society, or victims of social harm, but something that must strengthen itself for its own sake so as to pursue transhistorical goals of ensuring a balance between order and chaos, a total and unconditional maintenance of any status quo.
This view of Justice for its own sake is often contrasted with more Utilitarian forms of Retributive Justice which aim to balance a perceived need for punishment with the needs of a society to heal and reintegrate its members. This was common amongst prison reformers of the mid-20th century, who reached this position through their conclusion that personal agency was an insignificant factor compared to social conditioning and biology, and therefore punishment was a less significant factor in combating recidivism than rehabilitation. However this Utilitarian-Retributive philosophy did not challenge the underlying assumptions of Retributive Justice, and these two schools of thought drifted in and out of favour in the Philosophy of Law community, washing in and out with the twin tides of liberalism and conservatism in capitalist society.
All of these schools of traditional Retributive Justice proved to be totally unsustainable when working in tandem with neoliberal states. Starting in the 1970s, US lawmakers announced a “War on Drugs” policy (see discussion below) which led to a sharp rise in prison populations. In the 1980s the war escalated, and as part of an overall shift towards privatising government infrastructure under the neoliberal revolution, private prisons were established to supplement overcrowded public prisons. Both the “War on Drugs” and the prison privatisation measures were copied by many US-aligned states during the 1980s, including New Zealand50. Everywhere that this system has been established, prison populations massively increased, leading to a widespread disillusionment with Retributive Justice in the Philosophy of Law community51.
In direct response to the clear failure of Retributive Justice under neoliberal capitalism, Howard Zehr published his book Changing Lenses–A New Focus for Crime and Justice. While the term “Restorative Justice” had been coined much earlier52, Zehr was recognised as the first to develop a comprehensive system of thought around the term. Of particular interest for decolonial socialists in Aotearoa is Zehr’s use of concepts borrowed from Māori conceptions of Circle Justice (Utu), stating that:
“[I]n many ways, restorative justice represents a validation of values and practices that were characteristic of many indigenous groups, whose traditions were often discounted and repressed by western colonial powers.”53
Restorative Justice is structured around facilitated meetings between the victim and perpetrator, wherein both parties can discuss the incident in question and reach conclusions about who was harmed and how. Based on these shared conclusions, both parties can work out a means of resolving the harm done, whether it is through the actions of the perpetrator or through some form of compensation. However this is not the only form that Restorative Justice can take, in fact there are many variations, since Restorative Justice is not a set of procedures but rather a developing field of philosophy as applied to legal practice. One thing that most of these systems have in common is a Victim-Offender Dialogue (VOD) in which the perpetrator is given an opportunity for moral development (understanding why their action was harmful), is forced to understand the impact upon the victim, and has the opportunity to learn about or even modify their punishment, and in doing so see the punishment as legitimate and proportional. In turn, the victim has a more active role in the Justice process, is less likely to feel helpless, and can shape the way in which the perpetrator is punished to better suit them or their community. The result of Restorative Justice programmes is a moderately reduced rate of recidivism, and a vastly increased chance of the victim being satisfied with the outcome54.
This philosophy of law has even been applied on the scale of harm between whole nations and cultural groupings. One example of this, which is particularly illustrative of how Restorative processes might look after a political revolution, is the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission55. The TRC was one of the first attempts at nationwide Restorative Justice, and sought to provide opportunities for communication, accountability, and amnesty concerning the racist Apartheid regime that had ruled South Africa with immense violence for the previous four decades. On one level, the TRC was an unprecedented success in that it effectively recorded the testimony of thousands of victims, elicited statements of accountability from former officials, and made the crimes of the Apartheid regime a matter of public record. On another level, the TRC completely failed the activists killed or disabled by the regime, failed the families of victims, and failed to address ongoing structural inequalities, as it was outside the mandate of the commission to demand compensation or reparations, to meaningfully punish the Apartheid police and military, or to demand that Apartheid officials had to be held to account beyond simple admissions of guilt.
Indeed even on the scale of individual-on-individual harm, Restorative Justice practices have been rightly criticised by many former participants and practitioners, largely because of the ways Restorative Justice must be contorted and restricted in order to fit the needs of a capitalist state56. Since many Restorative Justice practices are implemented in the context of limited supplementary programmes to traditional Retributive Justice, Restorative Justice practitioners are often pressured to mete out additional punishments that were not asked for by the victim, or otherwise apply some of the principles of Retributive Justice, so as to avoid accusations of “soft” sentencing, or the closure of programmes due to Police or public pressure. Where Restorative Justice programmes touch on structural problems or require the accountability of large companies and state entities, the opposite is true, and the programme cannot be completed because punitive measures against the powerful prove to be impossible, or the programme lacks the resources or mandate to enact deeper change.
For these reasons Restorative Justice is no magic bullet that will completely reform the Justice system. It requires a total transformation of the dominant political and economic order before it can even hope to be implemented on the required scale, and even then it is not a perfect system for dealing with complex social harm on the interpersonal level. Any large-scale implementation of Restorative Justice would require the supplementary implementation of a similar practice: Transformative Justice.
Transformative Justice is an emerging philosophy of conflict resolution that takes many of the principles and goals from Restorative Justice but takes it out of the courtroom or jailhouse57. It typically deals with a more thorough investigation into the root causes of social harm beyond just the evidence and feelings of the parties involved. It does not categorise the parties involved into a victim and perpetrator, nor does it force these parties to meet in person, in stark contrast with Restorative Justice, which often emphasises face-to-face communication. There is also very little pressure to return to a particular status quo, as the process accepts that “closure” is often impossible. Instead, parties are free to disagree with one another, and it is completely possible for one party to continue to seek retribution upon the other, or for a party to come to the conclusion that they perpetrated harm, but feel no remorse. The parties then work with the community to envision a desired outcome for all parties (often some form of compensation, or the removal of one party from a community) and put supporting structures in place to work towards that outcome.
In doing so, the goal is to avoid social pressure to forgive, or apologise, when that is not the sincere decision of either party. This can be a potential problem in Restorative Justice, as it is largely oriented around the perpetrator and their rehabilitation, and the victim can feel pressured to accept a new status quo or forgive the perpetrator in order to conclude the process. Transformative Justice removes the distinction between perpetrator and victim, as well as the pressure to conclude the process. It also removes a great deal of idealism from Justice, as it is a fundamentally realist and pragmatic approach that is built around a communities’ de facto understanding of justice rather than subordinating legal processes to the validation of societal ideals. The practical result of this is that outcomes can appear unjust to outside observers, but appear just to those most affected by social harm and their community.
The degree to which Transformative Justice can or should be implemented is heavily tied to our material conditions. A Transformative Justice process, if conducted improperly, or even conducted properly but in a context of inadequate public education, could result in practices that appear indistinguishable from, or worse than, Retributive Justice. This is therefore a system of justice that should be implemented as a means of investigating future justice solutions, providing public education, and developing a more full body of thought. These processes, by their nature, can’t always be successfully implemented by outsiders, untrained practitioners, or state entities, and must be developed and initiated by survivors and affected communities.
What is fully clear, however, is that Transformative Justice, when conducted in a manner initiated by survivors, has proven to be greatly effective in dealing with the extremely complex emotions and social situations that arise from crimes such as sexual assault and child abuse. Excellent work has been done by survivor-initiated organisations like Generation Five in the United States, which develop Transformative Justice processes for survivors of child sexual abuse (CSA), who feel that the current punitive justice system’s approach to such crimes are more for society’s gratification than meeting the needs of survivors58.
No one system of Justice can accommodate every emotion brought on by social harm, every statistically negligible case of a truly inhuman sociopath, nor every potential social conception of Justice. However by adopting proven systems of Restorative Justice as a basis for a new Justice system, supplemented by opt-in Transformative Justice programmes for cases of egregious interpersonal harm, we can develop a basis in Philosophy of Law for a socialist system of Justice.
We must recognise and combat the epidemic of traumatic brain injuries among prisoners.
The public health system and the criminal justice system of the New Zealand state are inexorably linked, both in terms of the late-capitalist mental health crisis, and also in terms of basic physical treatments and outpatient support. Both mental health factors, and physical injuries, particularly head trauma, vastly increase the chance of workers and beneficiaries being arrested and imprisoned.
Studies have shown that nearly all long-term prisoners suffer from some form of brain injury. This startling fact was acknowledged by the chief science advisor for the justice sector, Dr. Ian Lambie, in January 2020, when a study of Christchurch Women’s Prison inmates showing that 94.7% of prisoners had suffered repeated head injuries, with all reporting at least one, was cited in a government discussion paper59. An earlier 2015 study, which had a much stricter criteria for recording traumatic brain injuries, recorded 46% of prisoners as having TBIs, however the authors acknowledged that given the strict criteria, the number was likely much higher. This study was also more thorough in recording contextual information, and from it we can see that the rate of TBI increases with the severity of punishment, Māori were the ethnic group most likely to face criminal proceedings after suffering a TBI as children under 10, and the most likely cause of TBI (44%) was by assault or “other form of contact with a person.”60
The study did not record how many traumatic brain injuries were inflicted by Police or Corrections staff, indeed no recent studies have been conducted into head trauma inflicted by corrections staff or Police due to the sheer difficulty of pursuing police brutality claims through internal Police investigation or the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA). The IPCA also does not collect data on Police-inflicted head injuries, however this is not to say they are not a regular occurance. Police are not required to give information to the IPCA upon hearing a complaint unless the claimant pursues the claim independently. On top of this, of 2,592 total IPCA complaints, and 191 Police Brutality complaints received in 2018 (the most recent annual report), only 72 resulted in investigations. This can be explained by the underfunding of the IPCA, which has faced increased complaints every year since 2013/14, as well as decreases in participant satisfaction61. Since no reliable measure of Police-inflicted head injuries exists, despite several buried high-profile complaints against Police, including one 2019 incident where a man was repeatedly punched in the head on the Police’s own helicopter camera62, we are forced to make conclusions based on anecdotal evidence. Many of our own members have suffered concussions at the hands of Police, to the point that we could say that untreated concussions are a standard form of punishment for short-term arrestees. This no doubt has some impact upon independent findings that the rate of traumatic brain injuries increases in relation to the severity of criminal punishment.
Head injuries are, aside from the mental health crisis, perhaps the greatest invisible epidemic under Capitalism. Data on traumatic brain injuries in Aotearoa is somewhat hard to interpret because of the disparities with international studies on the rate and causes of TBIs. The main measure for TBIs used in studies is the number of TBI-related claims made with the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC), however the ACC’s own TBI Strategy Action Plan states that most people (61%) with TBIs do not realise they have suffered brain damage or do not make an ACC Claim. A 2013 study confirms this drastic underreporting, citing an annual rate of 790 TBIs per 100,000 people in Aotearoa, which given our current population would mean roughly 38,000 TBIs annually63. Domestic reporting on TBIs has concluded that 11% are workplace related, however this is based on the flawed ACC statistics, and contradicts international studies which have concluded that roughly a quarter of TBIs happen at work64.
Given these factors – the likelihood of police-inflicted head injuries, the extreme rates of incarceration for those suffering from head injuries, and the vast number of workplace head injuries – it is worth considering the possibility that TBI-related incarceration is not simply a tragic accident, but a tool of class control that has developed out of the necessity of state violence in upholding capitalism and the sheer inability of the state to investigate itself. It is also remarkable that this state of affairs has received very little media attention, and no major calls for reform apart from a few internal discussion papers. This is just one example of how all moral standards are waived when discussing Punitive Justice: we have to reckon with the fact that the paradigm of crime and punishment places us in situations where punishments are cumulative and can expand upon themselves exponentially. A workplace accident can lead to a disability, that inherently increases the chances of prosecution by the criminal justice system, which can in-turn lead to the exacerbation of that disability65. The recursive and self-perpetuating aspects of the capitalist justice system are the greatest examples of mass-torture in history, and will only conclude once we break the endless cycle of Retributive Justice under capitalism.
We must completely change our approach to drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
The history of drug criminalisation is extremely rich and of great importance to socialist conceptions of history. We have included extensive additional information in Appendix II.
The criminalisation of specific drugs has an extremely long history of being a tool of racial oppression within New Zealand, as well as being a tool of international imperialism. The first act to prohibit the sale of drugs in Aotearoa was an oddity for its time, as it took place in a period known as “the great binge” in which drug use was largely unregulated, socially accepted, and in many cases medically recommended. It is therefore telling that the first drug prohibition targeted a specific ethnicity as a source of moral panic, given the enormous quantities of drugs consumed by the Pākehā middle and upper classes.
This was the 1901 Opium Prohibition Act, which explicitly targeted the sale of Opium to Chinese migrants. This act was the result of a tragic series of events that started in 1888, with a movement within the Chinese community itself that begged the Government to better regulate Opium traders, who had historically targeted the Chinese community ever since the British Empire imposed a massive, predatory Opium trade upon mainland China in a series of wars some decades earlier. This plea was ignored for 13 years, until fears grew of Opium addiction spreading to Pākehā, and an emerging Chinese petty-bourgeoisie threatened Pākehā trade66.
The State realised that this request from addicts for better regulations could be turned against the Chinese community and used as a tool of repression. Instead of the ban on predatory Opium traders and better regulations that the Chinese had hoped for, the Act instead singled out Chinese buyers as the group to be criminalised. This tragic episode exemplifies a common theme in the capitalist approach to drug regulation: the legitimate needs of addicts in search of better regulation, health, and addiction services are instead used against them in pursuit of control and profit.
This was but one exception to a period that could otherwise be characterised as the golden age of legalised and unregulated drug markets. However, this is not to say that total legalisation during this time was superior to our current system of heavy criminalisation; far from it. There was a total lack of effective addiction services, and while the general medical consensus was that addiction was a public health issue, there was no real incentive for Governments to intervene while drug manufacturers were reaping massive profits, and drug use could be used, as in the Chinese example, as a tool of racial control and even international imperialism. For this reason, there was little criminalisation of drugs during this period, apart from basic consumer safety laws to discourage “quackery” (the common term for dishonest pharmacists).
It wasn’t until the 1920s that moral panic around recreational use of narcotics grew. In particular, newspapers began to cover in graphic detail the decadent drug scenes of Sydney, London and New York. This began an ongoing trend of New Zealand drug policy being propelled forward not by any specific domestic conditions (in 1927, a government minister stated that addiction issues were barely noticeable in Aotearoa), but rather by international pressure on the New Zealand State. All New Zealand drug laws from 1912 to 1975 were a reaction to international obligations, very rarely mentioning any pre-existing addiction issues at home67.
Based on an international resolution in 1912, opium importation began to be controlled across all ethnicities (it was perfectly legal for any non-Chinese person before this point). From 1919 the prohibition extended to other opiates and cocaine. From 1924, growing most drugs was prohibited, although sale and consumption continued. Only in 1927 were most of the restricted drugs of the 21st century regulated, and even then, cannabis and heroin were imported on a large scale for medicinal purposes until 1955.
Global imperialist attitudes towards narcotics began to shift in the 1950s and 60s. While up until this point, narcotics in the west were a rarity – the subject of much moral outrage but very little illicit consumption – changes in the overall direction of the global drug trade began to influence capitalist policy. In short, the War on Vietnam created the conditions for a dependent population of opiate users in the US, and the moral panic which followed created the conditions for a “War on Drugs” that started in America but quickly became global. We discuss this in more detail in Appendix IIa.
If the War on Drugs was a reaction to such a specific set of material circumstances in the US, why then would the New Zealand state enact its own piece of War-on-Drugs-inspired legislation in the form of the 1975 Misuse of Drugs Act? As we established earlier, New Zealand drug policy was always a reaction to international pressure up until this point, and domestic conditions didn’t really matter compared to the State’s perceived need to toe the line set by the Imperial powers. The US War on Drugs was tied to a corresponding piece of international legislation: the 1971 UN Convention of Psychotropic Substances, championed by the US and UK as well as many of the under-developed colonial nations that felt they were unfairly punished by earlier restrictions on organic narcotics while developed nations continued to produce synthetic drugs. The New Zealand state was a signatory to all UN drug laws, and so the 1975 Act was in part, a ratification of the UN Convention.
However, unlike earlier pieces of legislation, the 1975 Misuse of Drugs Act was not only a reaction to international standards, but was also a response to a minor increase in domestic drug consumption. Aotearoa was no stranger to the cultural phenomena of the 1960s in which LSD and cannabis use was a common theme, however this was largely a cultural import and had little-to-no impact on addiction, but it nonetheless produced a moral panic. The New Zealand state had been a minor participant in the imperialist wars in Southeast Asia, and the small but continuous deployment of 500 or so troops until 1972 might explain the only major uptick in heroin consumption in the early 1970s, resulting in the first known cases of illegal heroin smuggling, which in 1974 resulted in 24 criminal cases68.
As a direct result of this policy there was a major shift in the criminal justice system as a whole. By copying the US model of drug policy, knowingly or unknowingly created the conditions for an explosion in prison populations. In the US, this was a desired outcome (see Appendix IIa.), however in Aotearoa it is impossible to tell how much lawmakers understood that the War on Drugs was a cynical ploy to destroy opponents of the state by, as Nixon advisor John Ehrlichman revealed, “associating the [anti-war left] with marijuana, and the blacks with heroin.”
Drug users filled the prisons to a degree few could have imagined. By 2013, it was revealed that the number of prisoners serving sentences for the most petty drug crimes (possession of small quantities of illegal drugs, or possessing paraphernalia), had grown to be roughly equal to the number of prisoners serving major sentences. In terms of filling courts and generally increasing the demands placed upon the Justice system this was much worse, as most minor convictions resulted in punishments other than imprisonment69. This is despite the fact that most people in Aotearoa consider minor drug use, especially cannabis, to be an accepted part of society. It is ridiculous to hear a state complain of prison overcrowding, when a large percentage of prisoners have committed only the most victimless of crimes.
But what of genuine social harm caused by drug use? While half of drug-related imprisonments are genuinely victimless, there is still an epidemic of assaults, overdoses, and family violence resulting from addiction issues, and we do not wish to minimise that. The two main recreational drugs aside from alcohol and caffeine consumed in Aotearoa are cannabis and methamphetamine70, and it is the latter that accounts for the vast majority of cases of real social harm aside from alcohol. We go into greater depth about these drugs in Appendix IIb. but the solution to all cases of real social harm starts with the same first step: legalisation71.
Total legalisation of drug use, while retaining some limitations on supply, is a well-tested solution to drug-related social harm. Portugal, which totally decriminalised all drugs in 2001, is often held up as a world leader in drug policy and harm reduction, but this is a more complicated story than it is often portrayed internationally. From 1933 to 1974, Portugal was ruled by a Fascist government that heavily suppressed education, as well as drugs, as a technique of social control. By the 1980s, the newly created liberal-democratic state of Portugal was in the midst of a health crisis brought on by the sudden liberalisation of drug markets and lack of public education or harm-reduction facilities, conditions that created the worst heroin and HIV epidemic in the European Union. The 2001 decision to decriminalise all illegal drugs was an abrupt and unprecedented change, and was largely not expected by harm reduction activists after several decades of slogans such as “Drugs are Satan.”
Decriminalisation was simply a first step. Alone, it simply stabilised the opioid crisis, rather than solving it. It also created a new legal code that was better in some respects, but hideously contradictory in others, forcing use of drugs into the open, while forcing production and exchange further into the shadows. What was much more effective was the associated reallocation of funds from criminalisation efforts towards harm reduction programmes, a gradual process that took over a decade. Today, Portugal has widely accessible drop-in-centres for addicts, featuring “psychologists, doctors and peer support workers (themselves former drug users) [who] offer clean needles, pre-cut squares of foil, crack kits, sandwiches, coffee, clean clothing, toiletries, rapid HIV testing, and consultations – all free and anonymous.” This focus on broad-scale peer-support-based harm-reduction was what ensured the long term success of the Portuguese experiment, with HIV transmissions falling from 104.2 new cases per million in 2000, to 4.2 cases per million in 2015. The Portuguese example also shows the limitations of decriminalisation under Capitalism: harm-reduction experts cite a poor rate of improvements since the drastic step taken in 2001, as the State is reluctant to take any second leap forward ahead of the rest of the capitalist world. Portugal is yet to follow up its decriminalisation programme with a legalisation and regulation programme, which local experts suggest would be the only way to eliminate the remaining health issues associated with addiction72.
The relationship between socialists and drug reform should be based on three pillars: analysis of the international drug trade and how this is used by states (see Appendix IIa); total legalisation of all substances; and a reorientation away from criminalisation and stigmatisation of addiction towards peer-support-based harm reduction to be conducted across communities. The first pillar is important because it forces us to consider drug addiction as a historical phenomenon, intertwined with imperialism and internal social control by capitalist states. The second pillar is the basis on which all internal programmes must be based, as only then can addiction be accurately measured and addressed, and stigmatisation reduced to a point where addiction services are no longer hampered by public perceptions. The third pillar is the tool with which addiction can be eliminated for good, through a gradual process based in the solidarity between users and the social conditions they find themselves in, overseen by professionals who understand that addiction is a medical and social issue rather than a crime or personal failing.
The social consequences of a successful addiction abolition campaign would be wide-reaching. Prisons would no longer be a site for the self-perpetuation of addiction, as addiction would no longer be punished by increasing proximity to factors conducive to addiction. There would be a drastic decrease in the number of incarcerations for victimless crimes like possession and use of substances73. Child safety would drastically improve and the breakup of families would decrease in regularity. Drug use would no longer be attached to heavily racialised stigmas that perpetuate colonial and paternalistic ideologies. These are just the most obvious results of such a programme, and in many ways we will only see the full scale of the social harm the last 40 years of the War on Drugs has caused once we start to clear it away.
We must abolish the unitary court system and replace it with courts that are answerable to communities.
As we have noted in the sections on Restorative and Transformative Justice, non-adversarial courts, and Māori approaches to justice, there are already reasons why a single, centralised system of courts is inadequate for the needs of a decolonised, socialist Aotearoa. But before we can make a substantive argument for the division of legal power into several layers without them still referring back to a higher court that determines legal norms, we should first analyse the causes of our current situation in which all law practiced in Aotearoa is by default, an expression of a single source of power.
This legal power is the sovereign, an amorphous, composite being that should not be confused with the actual British monarch herself, but rather everything that the crown represents. We discuss this at length in Appendix Ib. but in short, the western legal tradition is built upon a concept of power which flows from a transcendent and transhistorical idea or unknowable divinity, which flows through the sovereign (a being that manifests not only in kings, but parliaments, senates, and other democratic bodies), whose power is conditionally delegated to representatives. From this sovereign body flows all biopolitical power; the power over life and death; the state’s monopoly on violence.
This conception of power as something that exclusively flows from the top down, in fact from the highest high to the lowest low, is something that all current state powers have in common. Whether it is power invested by a people’s assembly, a divine entity, or a liberal-democratic mandate, this top-down idea of power as something that starts with the power of the state over life and death is something that is both incompatible with our decolonial goals, and irrelevant to the needs of local communities when dealing with the vast majority of socially harmful acts.
For this reason, a revolutionary system of justice would be built from the outset not as a continuation of a centralised legal authority, but as a series of parallel bodies that may share resources and delegate authority to one another, but which ultimately do not derive their mandate from a higher, centralised authority, rather from the individuals in their jurisdiction.
It would be a mistake to call this process “decentralisation” as this has a number of connotations we do not necessarily mean. For example authority can be decentralised through delegation, but would still be a manifestation of a higher authority. The inverse is also true: authority can be highly centralised, but beholden to distributed will of individuals. A society can be hierarchical but decentralised, decentralised but undemocratic, undemocratic but non-hierarchical, and so on74. There are a number of false dichotomies presented in most discussions of decentralisation and so for our purposes we might describe this process as the distribution of authority between layers of power.
This division of authority into layers is what Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk-Iroquois) theorist Taiaiake Alfred cites as one of the key features of indigenous or decolonial systems of law, and we can see this in Māori circle justice75. Each layer is able to re-litigate the decisions of others, and is able to come to conclusions that are binding in the sense that they bind layers above themselves to an agreed outcome, rather than binding to those below themselves. To put this in an analogy based on western systems of law, it would be as if a collection of courts with local jurisdiction could bind the supreme court to a decision, rather than a supreme court binding all lower courts to its findings. The specific functioning of such a system which Alfred describes is similar in some respects to the models of restorative and transformative justice, and non-adversarial courts we have described in other sections, but what is more important is the ways that these layers interact in order to preserve a firm, voluntary system of justice76.
Fear of jurisdictional conflict is a major barrier to a number of projects for justice, in particular for indigenous groups, or groups suffering from internal conflict who do not wish to appeal to the capitalist police and courts. In both cases, the capitalist state will fear that its own justice system is being subverted by groups using alternative means of conflict resolution, and may demand relitigation in one of its own courts, or will treat communities seeking alternative justice solutions as accomplices in any crime committed. This intense fear of losing the unitary qualities of a state justice system is something rooted in the foundations of Retributive justice (the Kantian idea, discussed above, that justice must always be pursued for its own sake in order to authenticate government), and has produced a situation in which any attempt to provide alternatives to the Retributive system either have no actual powers to enforce outcomes, or are so indistinguishable from the standard courts that the distinction doesn’t matter. Examples of this abound in situations where capitalist states establish indigenous or community self-policing authorities, only to have them function as eyes and ears for the regular police. A particularly egregious example can be found on US Indian Reservations, where Tribal Police are only allowed to arrest fellow first-nations people, and must call US Federal Police, often many miles away, if any non-indigenous Americans commit crimes on reservations77.
Instead of each layer having a clear geographic or legal boundary to its power (the conventional meaning of jurisdiction), these layers would only have decision-making power over those who consent to their legal procedures. While one method must be chosen, this is not the false voluntarism of capitalism (in which there is usually only two choices: labor or death), but a substantive range of legal solutions that are not constructed in order to uphold a social ideal, but are constructed out of the active participation of communities who determine situational and context-based rules. This is something that cannot be achieved while retaining notions of capitalist sovereignty and legal unitarianism, as a capitalist legal system can only respond to jurisdictional conflict by clumsily subordinating conflicting systems into the same unitary model, as we have seen in the Northland “Matariki” courts, which are actually very standard Retributive-Adversarial courts with some small changes78.
As an example of how these jurisdictions would be defined, we can imagine a situation in which social harm (an apparently unprovoked assault) is committed in a suburb of Ōtepoti. In this imagined community, there are a number of broad social conflicts due to the transitional nature of the local economy, but despite the issues, each suburb has managed to set up conflict resolution committees run by elected mediators, with some outside help from justice experts who travel in from the city. The case of social harm is brought to the committee, who decide that the circumstances involve mental health issues they feel are beyond their level of understanding. Both parties are given a few options for solutions: they can work with a one-on-one mental health expert before going through a facilitated meeting (a restorative approach), or they can convey their needs to the committee without a meeting, who will then conduct an investigation and work out a solution based on providing barriers to contact between the two people (a transformative approach). They may even feel that the capabilities of the local committee are lacking and opt to seek a different group of facilitators, or the committee can appeal to other layers of power for help. In the end, the process only concludes when the elected committee, the mental health expert, and both parties are able to establish a new normal for the future. This is the essence of providing a non-unitary, voluntary model of justice.
Once we develop a system of law which is not based on preserving a unitary model, issues of jurisdictional overlap and conflict will fade away. This is because the renewed focus on power as something that flows from constituents, rather than a sovereign body, means that jurisdiction can be determined by the participants in the legal system.
We must move away from adversarial court systems towards a system that rewards investigation and collectively-determined conclusions.
The criminal court system of the New Zealand state, like most court systems that evolved out of common law, is an adversarial or party-based one, in which Parties present their evidence to a decision-maker, who must impartially assess evidence without conducting investigation of their own. It is also a system which has largely failed to achieve its ostensible goals of impartial assessment and just sentencing that is conducive to a lower rate of reoffending79. Better court systems have been developed even under the current economic order, and implementing these would simply be a matter of political will.
Several alternative systems have even been implemented by the New Zealand state, wherever the main adversarial system produces morally questionable results that are unpalatable or damaging to the authorities involved. These are the Specialist Criminal Courts, which either modify the main adversarial system to lessen its negative effects, or supplement the main adversarial system with small-scale “non-adversarial” systems. In terms of effectiveness they vary greatly, with some, such as Northland’s so-called “Matariki Court,” only providing a band-aid solution added on to the existing courts, while others, such as the Tāmaki “New Beginnings” court and Pōneke court of “Special Circumstances,” have seen much more concrete successes due to the fully non-adversarial systems they use80 81.
Both the “New Beginnings” and “Special Circumstances” courts deal exclusively with urban homeless populations, with the aim of improving the material circumstances that lead to offences. While this is a noble aim, it is hampered by the fact that these courts are still expected to deliver a (lesser) punitive outcome, and the crimes they deal with are often petty property crimes rather than anything a socialist society would consider socially harmful. Nonetheless, even within the limitations of bourgeois law, these courts have seen considerable success, with the Tāmaki court reducing re-incrimination by 66%, imprisonment by 78%, and hospitalisations by 78%82.
The success of these systems lies in their investigative nature. In contrast with the adversarial or party system, these “inquisitorial” systems do not result in one sides’ case being interpreted to be true or false, but rather the court itself is empowered and encouraged to conduct its own investigation into the broader context surrounding social harm. The court then works with other governmental welfare bodies to see what structural barriers it can put in place to make social harm less likely. This is a form of Restorative Justice, which we discussed in-depth in previous sections83.
Under capitalism these approaches are limited in their capabilities, often running into budgetary, bureaucratic, and socioeconomic barriers when it comes to uplifting people out of homelessness (the sheer lack of houses being built is one example). However the fact that such successes have been possible should empower us to imagine non-adversarial, socialist, and democratic systems which will not be constrained to specific socioeconomic groups, nor will they be constrained by limitations of vision, or punitive ideology.
Such a socialist non-adversarial system would apply the same principles of social upliftment not just to homelessness, but to all society. It would be empowered to conduct more far reaching investigations into the context of social harm, rather than being limited to the evidence submitted by parties. It would not be strictly presided over by judges, as in inquisitorial systems, but democratically-determined local bodies could be substituted in cases of social harm that stretches across classes or communities. In all, we believe this to be a clear case of a more just system, existing as a kernel of hope within a larger, unjust system, and we would be foolish to not use this existing body of research, evidence and experts in the construction of a socialist society.
We require a system of legitimising revolutionary acts and ensuring they are conducted in a just manner.
The historical experience of revolutionary expropriation, the seizure of capitalist property, is one of extreme violence, desperation, and in many cases, civil war. The capitalist classes have succeeded in convincing many that the blame for these most gruesome aspects of revolution falls squarely on workers and revolutionaries throughout history. In fact, they have almost exclusively been the domain of the forces of reaction – the police, military, and paramilitaries – in response to threats to private property.
This powerful piece of ideological misdirection plays on our moral sensibilities, and has led many people to conclusions that form a barrier to dissenting thought. Why even talk about a revolutionary rupture, they think, when I can’t imagine myself, my co-workers or my friends, rioting, burning, or killing our way to a utopian ideal? Surely this is something only the most desperate people in the most horrible conditions would think of doing?
There is some truth to this – after all, it’s often those who are the worst off in society who are the first to think about simply taking what they need – but in general, worse conditions are just that: worse. We can’t simply wait for things to get worse before people will take action, for quite often, worse conditions sap all of the energy out of those thinking about change, and force them to focus on survival.
Faced with prevailing narratives of gruesome revolutionary violence, a far more common response than accelerating the worst aspects of capitalism is a tendency towards incremental reformism – the idea of using the pre-existing capitalist state apparatus and legislature to expropriate property. This is a path of thinking that has led leftist states, who secured power through social democratic means, to expropriate property from the capitalists by passing laws nationalising industry and resources, rather than conducting expropriation through force. In many examples, such as in Salvador Allende’s path to socialism in Chile, this has even involved the full financial compensation of the capitalist class for the seizure of their property. Many thought there could be a completely peaceful path to socialism, if we played by the rules of the capitalists – winning a liberal-democratic election, then passing laws to nationalise the means of production, while justly compensating the capitalists for their trouble.
In the case of Chile, the September 11 coup, the murder of Allende, and the subsequent fascist-neoliberal dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet put an end to these hopes84. The lesson of Chile’s experiment is that we cannot legitimise revolution to capitalists by showing, without any doubt, that it is the democratic will of the majority and that no crimes have been committed by their standards. Socialism is, by definition, incompatible with the goals of international capitalists, and they will find no shortage of mercenaries capable of putting things back as they were. Whether or not violence is used is irrelevant, as to a capitalist all threats to their property are violence. This was seen recently when white South African farmers had their stolen land confiscated and were justly compensated, only to successfully convince many people around the world that this was tantamount to white genocide85.
This is the challenge of thinking within the context of a unitary system of laws and morals. Revolutionaries who seek to be moral, upright and legitimate often can’t help but shape their legitimacy through capitalist legal and moral standards. Instead, they either achieve nothing, or whatever “legitimate” actions they undertake are nonetheless considered crimes by the international capitalist class.
If these three paths – sudden insurrection, accelerationism, and reformism – aren’t realistic, how do we summon the force necessary to wrest our future from those who don’t wish to give up their power? We believe this is a question that puts the cart before the horse. Instead, we should be thinking of how expropriation should be conducted in a just and legitimate manner, one which in no way necessitates preemptive violence on our part, but which does not leave us defenseless against reaction either.
By legitimising the process of expropriation, we mean going directly to assemblies of the people and establishing a collective definition of what is and isn’t legitimate, in direct opposition to the unitary legal system. These legal assemblies would be part of a broader programme of building up institutions of the working class, such as unions, renter’s associations, and alliances of beneficiaries, which are able to offer alternatives to the unitary capitalist state systems. To create such assemblies would achieve three things: establishing new standards of legitimacy through discussion and research, developing viable alternatives to state institutions, and challenging the unitary system of law, a pillar of the state’s monopoly on violence.
Therefore, the chief concern in the process of expropriation is not violence, but justice. Not a just transition on the terms of capitalists, but a just transition as workers see it. This process is not mutually exclusive with simple coercion and force. In fact, these would still be major factors, but by conducting confiscation according to new standards of legitimate conduct, we can avoid the twin problems of undermining a future justice system by building it on a foundation of pure force (a state of exception; see Appendix Ib), and seeking legitimacy on the capitalists’ own terms.
In terms of the actual processes of expropriation and defense such assemblies would devise, they would likely need to consider the historical problems that expropriative projects have faced. These are direct state violence, scorched earth programmes, capital flight, underground exploitation, human capital flight (brain drain), capital strike, blockades, embargoes, and infiltration. Direct violence, infiltration, blockades and other acts of war are beyond the scope of our programme, so instead we will talk about the challenges which can be overcome with the help of a justice system.
Scorched earth, capital flight, capital strike, and embargoes are some of the likely short-term challenges to expropriation. By scorched earth, we mean the destruction of the means of production before workers can seize them. Capital flight is the evacuation of assets or currency from an economy where conditions for capitalist investment are declining86. A capital strike is when corporations pull investments out of a country to increase their bargaining power87. Embargoes are an act of solidarity between international capitalists to collectively refuse trade with a nation undergoing revolution.
Even extraordinarily mild measures by liberal or social-democratic governments have been met with these weapons in the past. As we write, mining giant Rio Tinto is holding the New Zealand state to ransom, threatening a capital strike over the government’s reasonable request that they move toxic waste from their aluminium smelting facility at Tiwai Point out of the Southland town of Mataura88. One of the major steps backwards in union rights of recent years, the introduction of the “Hobbit Law ” restricting the unionisation of screen industries, was also a result of threats of a capital strike89. This massive power that international companies hold over the state would be one of the first things to change under a socialised economy, which is better able to make up for any shortfalls in investment from overseas, and which can contract to absorb losses without causing systemic collapse. The bizarre constructs of international corporate law, which afford corporations rights somewhere between those of an individual person and a sovereign nation, would no longer apply, and so a socialist system of justice would not be restricted in violating these “rights.”
While some of the threats international capital might levy against a socialist Aotearoa would fall flat, others would present a very real problem. Sabotage of the means of production, through destroying or relocating productive machinery, would be a severe danger that could cause shortages and immiseration after an attempted expropriation90. Therefore, the legitimate seizure of these means would need to be coordinated and sudden, and conducted with the full backing of workers and beneficiaries.
Longer term issues would also create compounding issues if they are dealt with through states of exception or other illegitimate measures. “Brain drain” or human capital flight is one of these issues. This was the tendency of individuals who had undergone a socialised education and achieved qualifications to travel to capitalist nations with the hope of securing highly paid jobs. Whether or not these people achieved their goals is irrelevant91 as it was a real material incentive for many valuable individuals to leave countries with socialised education systems. The response of soviet-aligned state-socialism of the late Cold War period was to either impose heavy leaving fees upon emigrants to recoup perceived losses of investment in education and welfare, or to simply close borders and harshly enforce them, as was the case with the infamous Berlin Wall. Both solutions are incompatible with our current age of climate refugees and weaponised immigration – the use of refugees for political capital and bargaining between states – and as such, rather than a legal barrier on movement, we must allow free movement and create economic or social incentives for highly educated individuals to stay, such as favourable research conditions and funding, or transitional systems of payment. Research has shown that emigration actually has a net positive effect on the sending country92, meaning “Brain Drain” is something of a misnomer, and some have proposed that emigration constitutes “Brain Gain”93, however it should be noted that these studies were conducted in situations without major ideological and propaganda conflict, and in situations where emigration is largely due to political affinity with more reactionary states, any potential benefits for the people of the sending country are reversed94. Therefore it may be necessary to differentiate between positive emigration for educational and economic reasons (which should be encouraged, albeit with incentivised repatriation), and negative emigration for the purposes of benefiting from capital flight, imperialism, or overseas worker exploitation.
The final long term issue that a socialist system of Justice would need to combat would be the continued exploitation of workers in underground conditions, or the continued operation of international industries and markets which exploit workers of other countries95. These are the greatest challenge to any socialist project and would be very difficult to detect in the context of economic transition. All of these practices would be considered highly illegitimate in the context of the justice assemblies we describe above, and all people in Aotearoa would need some means of reporting abuses against workers, and access to the resources required to combat these tendencies. As we discussed in the Work and Welfare programme section, the current New Zealand state can’t even stop conditions of illegal slavery in our fisheries, and so we would need a new means of investigating and enforcing workplace rights that is based on both well-resourced investigation, and worker self-reporting to a centralised database.
Whatever system of establishing legitimate conduct and ensuring Justice we implement, we can never allow continued abuses of worker rights, or the continued hoarding and wastage of markets, to continue in a post-revolutionary period. Creating a Justice system that is voluntary and does not rely on coercion does not imply that we should not fight tooth and nail to eradicate abuse and social harm, just that we need to first establish the boundaries of legitimate conduct, with active participation from communities, prior to the use of force in revolutionary projects.
We must recognise that the ideology, and sometimes structures, of punitive justice linger on even in revolutionary societies.
Criminality and punishment is a duality maintained not only by the actual institutions of state violence, but also through an ideology of punishment that has been passively absorbed and internalised by many workers and beneficiaries. Even those who have been most abused by Police violence often believe themselves to be the ones at fault, or have been otherwise convinced, consciously or subconsciously, that criminality is something inseparable from who they are. The most courageous and knowledgeable of people might stand up to police violence and state overreach, and they might understand the inner workings of the state and how it reinforces the dictatorship of capital, but even then some will still go on to perpetuate an ideology of punitive justice in their own lives, families, and organisations.
This is the insidious way in which state ideologies permeate through everything that we might create. So long as Capitalism remains the dominant economic mode of production, the ideologies of state violence and repression are to some degree, inescapable, albeit only in the sense that it is impossible to have thoughts and actions which are not influenced by these ideologies in some way. It is still possible to consciously identify and reject these manifestations of dominant ideology as they arise in our minds, and in the minds of our friends and families.
History shows us that although many revolutionary societies were able to eradicate the economic base (those capitalist enterprises which pay for the advertisements, articles, and think-tanks) which generates regressive ideology, these ideologies did not always die along with the conditions that allowed them to exist96. Ideologies can go on existing long after they have any real reason to do so, lingering in a half-life composed of the memories, writings, and actions of those who were exposed to them. It therefore follows that no new understanding of Justice will spread through society overnight, and no sudden rupture will be enough to change the minds of everyone that liberal-democratic understandings of crime, punishment and policing must be discarded immediately. Any mass change in ideology has to be argued for long in advance of the rupture that might allow for it to become dominant, and long after as well. The new Justice can’t simply be imposed upon people with the same force as the old, they must be convinced.
Revolutionaries would have to show leadership and restraint when it comes to Justice, as the combination of a deteriorating capitalist state, a resurgent workers’ power, and a still dominant ideology of punitive justice would be perfect conditions for mob justice. This would be a phenomenon just as bad as the most repressive capitalist justice system, as it would be guided by all of the same ideologies, but without the legalism and restraint required for it to be sustainable. Furthermore, these situations have shown themselves to be given to a violence and impulsiveness that makes societies vulnerable to fascism and sheer force as a substitute for legitimacy.
This also means that there cannot be a “people’s militia” which would maintain a total monopoly on legitimate violence. While the ideal of police abolition was alive from the very first socialist projects, the practicalities of force, legitimacy, and unitary justice, caused many societies, in particular those based on the Soviet model, to create forces that were police in all but name. Often called “militia” in an attempt to distinguish them from bourgeois police, this concept of socialist policing did often lead to many improvements over capitalist police forces as a natural result of changing their primary objective from the protection of private property to the prevention of social harm, but this did not challenge the concept of unitary justice or necessarily democratise the enforcement of laws. Democratically elected and publically recallable positions offer a vastly more accountable system of enforcement, and these would be an extension of the non-adversarial court system, which requires an investigative body97.
Whatever influence revolutionaries possess in a period of crisis, paranoia or mutual suspicion should be put towards forgiveness, restraint and amnesty. Democratically mandated and legitimate forms of Justice need time and community involvement to be put into place.
True Justice in Aotearoa would mean a renewed commitment to international Justice.
What we currently call “International Justice” is anything but. International Law is a patchwork of contradictory, unenforceable or easily ignored laws, conventions and regulations that range from archaic vestiges of feudal and papal law (such as the Doctrine of Discovery, described above), to laws put in place by the capitalist great powers to further entrench their dominant positions.
To see how Aotearoa would fit into a new system of International Justice, we first have to acknowledge that International Law is currently always subordinated to imperial power. Justice institutions such as the International Criminal Court may every so often convict war criminals and profiteers, but only in situations where imperial power is able to back it up. A warlord from an impoverished nation may well be guilty of their crimes, but their conviction would be a farce if conducted by a system that is completely incapable of prosecuting those with greater power, who may have either propped up, or fought proxy battles against that warlord. To illustrate the inability of institutions such as the I.C.C. to pursue true justice, the court is unable to prosecute anyone from the United States, as the US state retains the legal right to militarily strike or invade the Hague should the court ever go against it98.
As such, when we talk about International Justice, we do not necessarily mean upholding commitments to organisations with aspirations to global jurisdiction. The courts such as the I.C.C. invariably seek harsher sentences on opponents of imperialism, while the few enforcement agencies that do exist, such as Interpol, often pursue those fleeing from illegal repression as if they were criminals. One example of this is Interpol’s tacit support for the right-wing coup in Bolivia that took the form of an investigation into ousted indigenous leader Evo Morales99.
Instead, Aotearoa should seek to be a global force for a new kind of International Justice, which focuses not on councils of the most powerful nations, but rather the most overlooked and impoverished nations, as well as sub-national cultural groups. Such an international body would not be restrained by institutions such as the UN Security Council which exist to protect the most powerful nations from being outvoted by the general assembly, and would instead be focused on constitutional equity, protection of indigenous peoples, and resolution of international disputes. Simply instituting structural protections against unilateral and unjust actions would not be enough to protect all people from international crime, imperialism, and extractive capitalism, but it would be a vast improvement over existing international bodies.
Once some semblance of International Justice has been achieved, and imperialism is no longer the greatest threat to liberatory experiments across the world, international bodies would be required to legislate and enforce the total disarmament of militaries, as well as whatever vestigial police forces, extractive or ecologically destructive industries, and exploitative enterprises may still exist in a world that has acted upon a realisation of the truly apocalyptic destructive capabilities of capitalism.
We must move towards a Justice system based on Whakapapa and enforced through Utu.
This section is supplemented by Appendix IV. which contains visual aids and charts to help with cross-cultural understanding.
Meaningful involvement of Māori concepts in a Justice system comes up against two main barriers: the limitations of operating under a capitalist state apparatus which is inherently opposed to indigenous systems of governance, and the limitations of a sovereign-unitary ideology of Justice, which is a transhistorical issue that began with the development of the first states100.
This first barrier can be seen in the current manifestations of concepts borrowed (or more accurately, stolen) from Te Ao Māori in the criminal justice system. These are the ‘tikanga’ programmes within prisons, and the supposed ‘tikanga’ courts such as the Northland Matariki Court101. These programmes are instituted out of the need for the justice system to legitimise itself in the eyes of a multicultural society, and overcome the negative perceptions that arise out of the perpetual issue of unresolvable structural racism on all levels of the Justice system, such as the disproportionate rates of Māori imprisonment.
On one level, tikanga programmes within prisons may help some prisoners with establishing cultural and interpersonal connections. According to the Department of Corrections these programmes are integrated under the “Te Ihu Waka” (bow/tip of the waka) framework, which are “structured around the four kaupapa of manakitanga [sic] (hospitality), whānaungatanga (attaining and maintaining relationships), rangatiratanga (autonomy) and wairuatanga (spirituality and wellbeing).”102 The contradictory nature of speaking of rangatiratanga within a prison run under Crown law should be apparent to most. However, even the most beneficial aspects of these programmes are undermined by their use as a form of social control: placements in these programmes are highly limited, with only an estimated 5% of imprisoned Māori able to access them, and even this level of access is restricted based on prisoner compliance and discipline – the programmes are a privilege that can be taken away, as part of a carrot and stick approach to control103.
The timidity and clumsiness with which Corrections implements “tikanga” programmes can be explained by the Retributive Justice ideology that all prison models must adopt to some degree under capitalism, in order to perpetuate a class of undesirable workers (a permanent reserve army of labour) and enforce social control. This social and class control-based approach to justice is incompatible with tikanga, a set of cultural norms developed by a society without fixed classes.
The second barrier that prevents Māori concepts from entering the justice system is the sovereign-unitary model of law, which we have described in detail elsewhere. This is the idealisation of systems of law which are universalist, totalising, transhistorical and pursued for their own sake rather than the sake of society or the parties involved. This is the dominant ideology not only in capitalist systems of law, but also some proposed or historical socialist systems of law. The sovereign-unitary model by its nature cannot tolerate any jurisdictional conflict, as any alternative model of law would by its very existence undermine the legitimacy of unitary law, and would challenge the notion that legitimate power can only flow from the biopolitical power of the sovereign body (see Appendix Ib.).
We can also see this ideology manifest in essentially good-willed attempts to model the inclusion of indigeneity into an idealised model of Justice. For socialists who support the national self-determination of minorities, which is certainly more liberatory than absolutist sovereignty and homogenisation, this leads to the practice wherein indigenous or minority groups are afforded limited autonomy, within a broader framework of a sovereign federation of states. This was the case with indigenous groups within the USSR, and was even afforded to non-indigenous minority groups in (failed) attempts at artificial autonomous zones such as the Jewish Autonomous Oblast. These historical examples show the limitations of retaining sovereignty-based federative models while maintaining an ideal of national self-determination, as it creates a contradiction between a unitary national interest of the federation, and the national interest of minorities who lack access to the creation and enforcement of laws and justice. Although it wasn’t the primary reason for their collapse, these historical soviet-type societies inadvertently created the conditions for national chauvinism and conflict, which can be seen in the “Great-Russian Chauvinism” of the Brezhnev era, or the national conflicts that developed in the Balkans during the collapse of the Yugoslav federation.
Therefore, Māori concepts of justice should not be subordinated to a more powerful “default” system of courts or enforcement, as in doing so we would continue to perpetuate a sovereign-unitary model of justice104. Tikanga is not an optional addendum to a more conventional western system, it should be a guiding principle spread across a multi-layered system of law. To compartmentalise it into a separate system with no impact on western laws, or to create courts modelled off of the default (European) system with ostensibly “tika” aspects, is to eliminate the threat to sovereign colonial law that alternatives represent.
This is not to say that a dual system of conventional courts and Utu on an equitable basis could not be a transitional situation that arises out of the practicalities of implementing Utu in a modern context, as well as institutional inertia. However, this transitional model should not suggest that either system cannot intersect or impact one another, nor should it suggest that the western model is a default system which must receive more resources and structural power.
But what do we actually mean by implementing Utu on a structural level within a system of Justice? Indigenous systems of being and organisation are easy to reduce to meaningless platitudes about balance, respect, gratitude and welcoming, and this is partly why states will strip them down to these qualities when using them for public relations opportunities. The values of hospitality, attaining and maintaining relationships, autonomy, and spirituality and wellbeing cited by Corrections are certainly important qualities in Te Ao Māori, but just as important is the tenacity and force with which major injustices and violations of these values would be dealt with. We do not seek to make a paper tiger out of Māoridom, as one of the chief conditions on which any power is given to Māori under the settler-colonial system is that it can be rescinded at any time without recourse. Instead, balance – the driving principle of Utu – should also mean that imbalances may be righted by force should the need arise, and any dual system should not be built upon the monopoly of violence of one side or the other.
Another key aspect of including Māori concepts within a system of Justice would be maintaining the right to self-determination of hapū. In the era of treaty settlements and trust boards, hapū have largely been subordinated to the will of iwi, which the settler-colonial government prefers to deal with due to the greater ease of centralised administration over larger groups. As such, any court, committee, or justice circle may elect to deal with social harm on an intra-hapū basis, or represent parties in cases of inter-hapū conflict with individuals who can speak for hapū as a whole. Self-determination in pre-colonial Aotearoa was not expressed in terms of national or iwi interests, but by the decisions of hapū. In an example cited by Moana Jackson: “If Te Rarawa wanted to make decisions for Te Rarawa, they never travelled down to Pōneke to ask Te Āti Awa for permission.”105
The interests of hapū would be balanced with the principle of whānaungatanga, which implies a subordination of personal or familial interests to the interests of society as a whole106. Whānaungatanga, which we saw feebly characterised by Corrections earlier as “attaining and maintaining relationships,” is better characterised as an ironclad obligation between all members of social groups, to allow for contradiction, discussion and difference of opinion without coercion, but to ultimately forge these qualities into a greater whole. Those with knowledge of socialist history might draw parallels with the historical aspirations of socialist parties to similar ideals. These principles combined to ensure a degree of consensus in all decision-making, although not total unanimity, an important distinction since consensus decision-making has become associated with total subordination of the majority to the minority, whereas this would be totally out of step with a pre-colonial understanding of whānaungatanga.
If we were to replicate aspects of this multilateral form of decision-making in law, what then, of the various manifestations of sovereign power in our current system of lawmaking and enforcement? Would the judges, members of parliament, and other bodies with the ability to act unilaterally be done away with completely? In part, yes, but leadership would still have a place, and to understand this we should look at the closest point of comparison to these colonial agents of sovereign power, the rangatira and ariki.
This is what Matike Mai call the Māori “site of constitutional power,” or the conduit through which the concept of power flows. While the European sovereign body is the conduit for unknowable and transcendental power, expressed as a biopolitical power over life and death, this Māori equivalent instead draws power from whakapapa, which means both genealogy and a balanced regulatory system between dualities (old and new, people and ecology, etc.)107. Whakapapa is in turn enforced through Utu, the active effort to maintain balance and reciprocity. The sum of all of these parts can be expressed as mana and rangatiratanga, loosely meaning social standing (although the true meaning defies easy classification) and self-determination respectively. This complex structure is illustrated in Appendix IVb.
The specific executive powers of ariki and rangatira are situated at the highest level of diplomacy, war, and conflict resolution. They are expected to be chief negotiators and representatives for their communities, as well as the catalysts for Utu and Whakapapa, the maintenance of balance in terms of specific conflicts of interest as well as more abstract contradictions. However, while there are superficial similarities to agents of sovereign power, there are important differences in constituency and ideology, namely that for the most part, rangatira only possess influence over a small group of people with direct genealogical ties to one another, and they are ideologically bound by the principle of whānaungatanga. This means that as far as can be understood, in pre-colonial society conflict between rangatira and their constituent hapū was rare to nonexistent. Ani Mikaere notes that:
“The presence of balance necessarily negates the concept of dominance and its corollary, subservience… The word… rangatira, provides a clear indication that Māori leadership has nothing to do with the assertion of power by one (or some) over others. With “ranga” coming from the word “raranga” which means “to weave” and “tira” referring to a group, it is apparent that the task of the rangatira is literally to weave the people together.”108
From this, we can see that rangatira and ariki are not a direct analogue of agents of sovereign power, with executive power by virtue of their mandate, but rather facilitators of whānaungatanga tasked with building a degree of consensus and ensuring that decisions are made on a multilateral basis. By contrast, sovereign bodies are defined by their ability to act unilaterally, outside of the law, and as a result of a mandate that transcends the understanding of their people, rather than a mandate built out of the decisions of those people. Taiaiake Alfred confirms for us that this form of power is something that can be found across all indigenous societies, or at least those which possess a similar economic base to pre-colonial Māori, saying that:
“The indigenous tradition sees government as the collective power of the individual members of the nation; there is no separation between society and state.”109
Where State power in the Socialist sense (armed and organised bodies in defense of class interests) does arise, it is not based on the suspension of all other socially-determined laws. The executive does not, as it would in a sovereign-unitary system of law, declare an emergency and gather additional powers, cutting itself off from civilian decision-making and enforcing law for the sake of law as a last bastion against existential internal threats. While internal contradiction does indeed exist in such societies, and is in fact fostered for the sake of making more holistic decisions, it is not a contradiction between class interests but a reflection of social harm in a more transhistorical sense. Internal conflicts that do arise are ones that we can assume any society might experience, such as petty theft of items with sentimental value, violence borne out of ill-considered anger, or contravention of socially-established law. Contrary to the popular image of Utu as a violent process, these imbalances were mainly resolved by rangatira confiscating or destroying personal possessions. When existential threats did arise, as in the case of foreign colonisers, or other iwi undergoing rapid and violent social transformation in the case of the Musket Wars, then a call to war would be made and normalcy suspended, but usually on a voluntary basis – calls to war were seldom universally heeded.
Why is it that we should adopt Māori approaches to Justice, and how do we do so in a world that has largely rejected or subsumed any alternatives to sovereign-unitary models of power and law? These questions should be a constant point of reflection for socialists, especially given the dishonesty, conscious or unconscious, of many ostensible attempts to decolonise institutions, states, parties, or private companies.
We do not propose a decolonial solution to Justice problems out of a legalistic sense of obligation that comes with being a Tiriti partnership organisation, nor do we propose it as a transitional demand to gain leverage over Māori proletarians’ dissatisfaction with settler-colonial governance, with no real expectation that these solutions will be implemented. To use Māori concepts is neither a Tiriti obligation to be dutifully observed without enthusiasm or critical thought, nor some sort of gift or concession to Māori whom we imagine to be grateful for being included in some way.
We propose a decolonial solution out of recognition of the real value that Māori concepts present to a socialist workers’ movement, especially with regards to concepts of justice and sovereignty. This is because for all the genocide, denial of culture, and deliberate rewriting of history, Māori society is one of the very few in the world to have only been introduced into the capitalist global system a few centuries ago. While no longer in living memory, a society that, while it would be idealistic to call purely communist, was certainly not capitalist, feudal, or slave-owning, is only a few generations removed from today, and is alive in what remains of Māori oral and written history.
Actually implementing a Māori-influenced system of justice is another matter, and aspects that appear inapplicable to modern contexts may require substantial changes in the mode of production in order to make sense. It would be a mistake to think that there needs to be a transitional period in which rediscovery of Māori approaches to justice and a broader socio-economic revolutionary approach to justice would need to be kept separate, for fear of one contaminating the other – one is not possible without the other. Public education about Māori concepts may not, from day one (if such a day could be said to exist), be up to scratch in order to introduce all relevant Māori concepts into a justice system for all society with some degree of democratic consensus. We expect the full implications, and our understandings of these implications, of a Māori system of justice to emerge slowly out of the interspersion of changes to the economic mode of production and a broad socio-cultural revolution and reappraisal of Māoritanga. From day one, a system of justice should borrow whichever Māori concepts are applicable to modern contexts, provided that in doing so these concepts aren’t reappropriated outside of their original meanings, as has been the practice of Corrections in the current era.
What is clear is that a basic understanding of Utu should guide any system for the enforcement of Justice, as balance and equity is key from the outset of our project. So too, should any system of judgement or lawmaking be guided by the practices of historical rangatira and ariki in upholding whakapapa (which we mean in the broad sense of the regulation and resolution of dualities). Finally, socialised decision-making as a whole must reflect whānaungatanga, not as a loose set of values, but as a resolute principle of conduct in which decisions must be based on some degree of consensus, and individual interests should be balanced with the interests of broad groups. Through this we can create a new understanding of Justice, not confined to a system of law and punishment, but as a guiding principle of nationhood, self-determinative governance, and social conduct.
Appendix I: Law in Settler-Colonialism
Ia. The development of colonial law under early Capitalism
Many activists for Tino Rangatiratanga, such as Professor Margaret Mutu and Tina Ngāta, have identified the beginning of colonial law with the passage of Papal Bulls under the reign of Pope Alexander Sextus in the 15th century110.
The context of these laws is the transition from more decentralised systems of feudal economics, towards the period of Absolutism, or highly centralised monarchies which had a codependent relationship with the emerging capitalist classes.
Under early European feudalism, sometimes referred to as the tributary mode of production, monarchs had a very small base of power, usually no more lands and armies than the nobles they nominally ruled over. By contrast, the Catholic Church was a supremely powerful entity which taxed all European lands directly, and was by far the largest landowner in its own right. The Bishop of Rome, the Pope, even had his own ‘kingdom,’ the Papal State, in central Italy, which was able to dictate laws to catholic monarchs from the Iberian peninsula to the frontiers of the latin west in the Baltic. This desire to spread the power of this broad cultural-religious grouping manifested in the Crusades, which deeply entrenched the idea of a cataclysmic battle between Christendom and the Saracens (a term for Muslims borrowed from ancient roman descriptions of levantine peoples) and this influenced European political and legal traditions for the next several hundred years111.
However this battle was one of cultures and religions, not of nations and races, concepts which only emerged during the Enlightenment, the philosophical and cultural upheaval that followed the victory of the bourgeoisie in the 18th century. Therefore, we cannot say that the origins of colonial ideology can be found in the Crusading period. It wasn’t until more powerful, centralised states emerged in the late-feudal period that the first foundations of colonialism were laid, as crusading came to be a chiefly financial and political exercise112.
In the Iberian peninsula, the Crusader mentality of a cataclysmic battle between Christian and Saracen was more pronounced than elsewhere. In contrast with other European states, Iberia was a multi-ethnic society in which Muslims, Jews, and Christians coexisted to some degree for centuries, acting as the main gateway for Islamic philosophy (a mix of greco-roman platonic thought from Alexandria, and the traditions of Arabia) into the west, where it formed the foundations of the western philosophical tradition. Muslims, first from the Maghreb and later possessed of an indigenous Iberian Andalusian culture, had settled amongst the Christian kingdoms early on in the history of Islam, and it was not until the Crusading period that major inter-cultural warfare was fought. The Christian kingdoms of Galicia, Portugal, Leon, Castile, Navarre and Aragon engaged in a process of systematically dividing and conquering Muslim emirates (theocratic states), known as the reconquista. By the end of the 15th century, the various Christian states had accumulated great wealth from their conquests, and had centralised into the kingdoms of Portugal-Algarve, Castille-Aragon, and Navarre. Castille-Aragon was a union of the “Catholic monarchs” Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Spain, who were renowned for their ostensible commitment to the Catholic church, and wished to show it by launching a latter-day crusade against the sole remaining Muslim community in Iberia: the Emirate of Granada. If the later Papal Bulls were the first exercise in De Jure colonialism, the conquest of Granada was the first De Facto attempt. Many of the later hallmarks of colonialism were established here: the Andalusians were subject to wholesale genocide, Islam was completely erased from the land, and even non-Muslim minorities were subjected to the violence; Sephardic Jews were forced to leave Iberia soon after the fall of Granada, as an idea of a purely Christian Iberia had gained traction113.
At the same time, the Iberian pope, Roderigo Borgia, was installed as Pope Alexander VI. Anxious for support against his rivals in France and Naples, the Pope sought an alliance with his fellow Iberians, whom he hoped would support him in future conflicts. This, as well as the renewed fear of Islam in the form of the Ottomans, and the news of lands ‘discovered’ by Christopher Columbus, was the context in which the first “Alexandrine Bull” Inter Caetera was signed114. This gave Castille-Aragon the right to invade new lands in the Americas, however, even by the standards of the time, the legality of the Bull was questionable115.
Portugal-Algarve had earlier been granted Bulls which invested them with land and slaves in Africa, the first of many to come in the later Atlantic Slave Trade. Again, this bull Dum Diversas had been justified out of fear of Islam (the Ottomans had seiged Constantinople the year before), and used the language of the Crusading period to justify what was essentially a new practice: conquest and enslavement for profit rather than moral or religious obligation. The Bull granted the right to enslave any Pagan or Saracen and commit them to “perpetual servitude.” Slavery had long been uncommon among Europeans up until this point, but this was to change. These pro-portuguese bulls, such as Dum Diversas, conflicted with Inter Caetera. Portugal-Algarve and Castille-Aragon both believed that the Pope ought to establish more laws granting lands to the two kingdoms in order to maintain balance and peace in Iberia. In 1494 the Bulls were consolidated into the Treaty of Tordesillas which gave the Iberian Kingdoms control over one half of the world each, under full recognition of Catholic law116.
By the time major Protestant naval powers had emerged in Northern Europe, chief among them the emerging empires of England and the Netherlands, the Papal Bulls were no longer relevant. Protestant nations had discarded all existing Catholic law, and had replaced the Pope as head of the Christian church, either through legal separation of church and state, or by creating a joint head of state and church, as was the case in England. This meant that new lands were to be conquered not under the grounds of religious investiture but through the legal mechanism of sovereignty.
Even though the Papal Bulls were largely superseded by other legislation, or were entirely unrecognised by most nations, they continued to linger on in a half-life of convenience. Because of the vagaries of international common law, once a legal precedent for any action is set, it can be used as a justification for this action any time in the future. Whether or not anyone accepts this citation is a matter of military might. For this reason, the Papal Bulls were cited as recently as the Indonesian annexation of West Papua, the Chilean claim to the South Pole, and the Argentinean claim to the Falklands117.
It is because of this law of convenience and might that Papal Bulls are sometimes cited even in the courts of modern Liberal Democracies. Since the law has never been repealed, it even has relevance for Aotearoa, and many indigenous leaders continue to demand that the church rescind the doctrine118.
This is because the Bulls were cited in a series of US Supreme Court lawsuits, which contributed towards the so-called “Doctrine of Discovery” as an accepted part of public international law. These late 18th and early 19th century legal decisions were the result of a concerted effort by land speculators to ensure that no indigenous nation would be able to claim sovereign title over lands desired by whites, and instead merely held a right of occupancy that could be rescinded by a lawful buyer. This racist supreme court decision from colonial america has never been rescinded, and still forms a foundational part of international law. The Doctrine was used to deny first nations peoples in the US the right to prosecute those outside their tribe in rulings as recent as 1978 and 1990119, and as public international law would theoretically apply to Aotearoa.
The Doctrine does not even stand up to critique from within the very limited framework of international law. The Papal Bulls never applied to or were cited by Protestant nations such as the British Empire, and so there was no universal recognition of this law until the US decision. It also contravenes an earlier standard of public international law, Ius Gentium, which held that indigenous peoples lawfully exercised land ownership and the jurisdiction of chiefs, based on the “intrinsic dignity of man.”120
While the Doctrine continues to be theoretically applied to this day, the only real way for socialists to combat its influence is to seize the power required to denounce the law with some meaningful public support and backing. A more immediate aspect of decolonising law is to look at the construction of sovereignty, which we examine below.
Ib. The construction of sovereignty
This appendix owes much to the work of New Zealand communist theorist Ben Rosamond, whose thesis Sovereignty, Countersovereignty, Rangatiratanga provides a basis to our analysis of sovereign power.
In our justice and constitutional transformation sections, we talk extensively of the figure of The Sovereign. But what is this Sovereign, and why do we talk about it even in the context of countries without monarchies?
The nature of Sovereignty as a dominant legal and ideological construct means that whether or not states actually possess a Sovereign, such as a king or queen, is irrelevant as the position is merely implied by the existence of a vast body of historical precedents, political theory, and international laws. From its earliest conceptions, Sovereignty was never conceived of as requiring a literal Sovereign, but rather all of the structures around this being. The Sovereign is therefore a stand-in for whatever mechanism of absolute authority is required to suit the conditions of the state, whether it is an actual monarch, a president, or a council of elected officials121.
The western legal tradition of Sovereignty begins with Roman law, which divided state power into a number of qualities. Auctoritas, or personal political authority derived from charisma and respect, is contrasted with Potestas, the political authority derived from one’s position in the legal or political system. The sum of all Potestas within a political system is the monopoly on the use of violence, Imperium, the right to command the military to kill others122.
In the idealised Roman republican system explained by Cicero, the Auctoritas of charismatic elected officials such as senators must exist to balance the dispassionate and violent power inherent within Potestas. To Cicero, having all Potestas contained within one person, such as a king, would throw out this balance, and would result in state violence being used for the illogical purposes of the individual123.
In Cicero we can see parallels between Roman thought and the contrast between liberal democracy and more authoritarian capitalism. In this analogy, both an authoritarian dictator and a more conventional legal system possesses Potestas, the sum of which constitutes Imperium, which is analogous to sovereignty. The only difference between these two dictatorships is that one is dispersed among a bureaucracy , and the other is concentrated in an individual. Both systems have a pyramidal structure, in which higher ranks can veto lower ranks, and it is this pyramidal structure that is a precondition for sovereignty. Whether or not there is a literal human sovereign at the head of this pyramid, the tip still exists.
In time, Auctoritas, Potestas, and Imperium all became concentrated within one individual, the Roman Imperator124. This Emperor became the model for many sovereigns that followed, and the memory of the absolute power possessed by the Roman Emperor became a vital part of the superstructure of Feudalism. Feudal petty-emperors, such as the Carolingian (French), Holy Roman (German), Byzantine (Greek), and Muscovite (Russian) emperors all claimed to wield these qualities of Auctoritas, Potestas and Imperium, but in actual fact their bureaucratic and economic systems were vastly more decentralised and inefficient than those of the Romans. The material realities of rulership in Europe had changed to a point where the incredible disparities in primitive accumulation between nations, which created conditions for massive slave economies built on conquest in antiquity, had evened out, and power was necessarily dispersed amongst thousands upon thousands of petty landowners125.
It was not until new changes to the mode of production began to be felt in the late-Feudal period that the qualities of absolute power could manifest within one ruler. Rural populations, which had grown in the early-Feudal period in order to serve the interests of evenly dispersed petty landowners, had been vastly reduced by the Black Death. As a result many peasants’ labor became much more valuable overnight, with some even earning wages or entering the ranks of the merchants. Guild economies amongst the burghers, the artisans and manufacturers within the towns, had developed in the wake of new production techniques, and were now producing much more than subsistence demanded. Trade developed between towns, and individual wealth began to be determined not through land ownership but through control of the flow of commodities. Power and money was now centralised within the great cities, as it had been at the height of the Roman Empire, and new kinds of ruler were needed to effectively exercise control over the new urban populations.
This was the context in which French polymath Jean Bodin first coined the term ‘souveraineté.’ Bodin wrote his masterpiece Six books of the Commonwealth after experiencing 16 years of civil war between Catholic monarchists and Protestant Huguenots, a war that had been fought along the lines of regional and feudal allegiance rather than national identity. Bodin attributed the religious wars that were sweeping Europe to the decentralisation of power that had occurred in the early-Feudal period126. To Bodin, without the centralisation of these powers within a figure with absolute power, no peace, and therefore no reason, could ever prevail. He summarised this power as:
“the most high, absolute, and perpetual power over the citizens and subjects in a Commonwealth … This power must be incontestable within the borders of a nation, outside of any imposed limits, the presence of which would suppose a power higher than that of the sovereign and undermine the claim to absolute authority. The only being with authority over the sovereign is God, and the only authority that can limit the sovereign’s powers is His, as written in divine and natural law. This absolute power enables the sovereign to pass any laws, to appoint representatives to carry out his will, to declare war, and to make peace. In effect, the sovereign is outside any temporal law, even those of their own making … the prince is acquitted from the power of the laws.“127
Even though he wrote in an age of monarchs, with very few examples of alternative forms of government, Bodin actually prefigures the understanding of sovereignty that would become dominant in liberal-democratic states of the Capitalist era. He proposes hypothetical systems in which the sovereign body is instead composed of democratically-elected officials, or a council of powerful men128. Once again, the actual form that the sovereign body takes is irrelevant, it is the structure around the sovereign body that gives it power and allows for absolutist government.
Writing in more recent years, Italian theorist Giorgio Agamben ties Roman law and Bodin together, along with Thomas Hobbes and modern writers like Walter Benjamin and Carl Schmitt, into a cohesive narrative of the development of sovereignty. Agamben cites several common elements within conceptions of the Sovereign figure, which we might summarise as:
i. Paternalism of power
Cicero, Bodin and Hobbes all identify a connection between the head of the family, the Roman patria, and the power of the Sovereign. Cicero is first to use this analogy, linking Auctoritas to the role of elder children, and Potestas to the role of the father129. Bodin identifies the Sovereign as a product of natural power dynamics found in the family, in which the father is the head who is not appointed but rather comes to power through natural processes130. Hobbes sees power as the result of natural rights to self defense through the exercise of power over life and death in the self, which extends to the family as a whole in the case of a father, and to the citizens of a state in the case of a sovereign131.
ii. Power over exceptions to the Law
Agamben uses examples from the Roman law of homo sacer (sacred man) and Nazi Germany to describe how the Sovereign is able to excersise total power over life and death by deciding when and where a person is outside of the law. The Sovereign retains the right to strip a person of their rights under the law, reducing them to “Bare Life,” a totally unprotected, inhuman state wherein the person’s interactions with the state are no longer conducted in terms of legal punishment, but rather pure force, enacted regardless of law132.
iii. Paradoxical internality and externality
Agamben uses examples from the work of Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt to explain how the Sovereign is both within the law, and outside of it. Both men agree that the Sovereign is that which determines who is inside of the law, and who is outside of it, and is therefore both within and outside of the law himself (since this same state of exception cannot be applied to the sovereign recursively)133. Returning to the Roman duality of Auctoritas and Potestas, Agamben describes the Sovereign initiating the state of exception as Potestas overruling Auctoritas, or legal power overruling power established through consent (to act unilaterally)134.
iv. Right of total suspension of Law
In Roman law this is called the state of iustititium, or the ability for the senate to declare a state of emergency in which all laws are suspended, and all citizens and officials are granted any powers they wish for the sake of defending the state135. The Sovereign’s power of Auctoritas is used to disestablish or reestablish the basis in legitimacy required to suspend all law, leaving all citizens in a state of exception. For Agamben, like Walter Benjamin before him, this state of exception is largely the norm, with extrajudicial killings a normal occurrence in most countries.
Appendix II: Socialist perspectives on drugs
IIa: Origins of the War on Drugs
From the beginning of the 19th century onwards, the vast bulk of the global drug trade had taken place between trading ports in India and China controlled by British merchants, exchanging Indian-grown opium for Chinese-grown tea. Throughout the 18th century the British East India Trading Company had cultivated markets of tea-drinkers in India and opium addicts in China, typically through sponsoring illegal smugglers in the latter. This created the conditions for an intra-Asian circular trade, in which all profit could be siphoned off to British shareholders, at the minor expense of causing history’s largest addiction epidemic and immiserating millions of Chinese. When the Qing Empire banned opium smugglers, the British twice defeated them with their massive navy funded, in part, by the largest drug cartel of all time, they then used these defeats to secure contracts (known as the “Unequal Treaties”) for acquiring the treaty port of Hong Kong. By the early 20th century, most European powers had treaty ports of their own in many Chinese coastal cities, with most becoming new centers for the opium trade. Opium was at this point synonymous with the Chinese national identity, and was a substitute currency in many areas.
This changed in 1949 with the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, which under the newly victorious Communist Party of China enacted the first successful ban on opium in China. The capitalist Kuomintang, which established a government-in-exile in Taiwan, sent their vast supplies of opium south into what is now Myanmar, where large armies of US-supported Kuomintang exiles had set up a base of operations to continue resistance against the PRC, to be funded through a huge network of opium farms: the “Golden Triangle.” This new center of the global drug trade was largely limited to Southeast Asian markets, and what little opium could still be funneled into southern China, but this was to change in the following decades.
The Kuomintang narco-armies declined in influence throughout the 1950s as various unreliable drug barons they trained, such as Khun Sa, began to challenge them. US-sponsored drug lords such as the Laotian Hmong general Vang Pao began to control large parts of the Golden Triangle as part of CIA fundraising efforts for the “Secret War” against the Pathet Lao movement in Laos. This was the beginning of the CIA’s involvement in the global drug trade, which started with Air America flights being used as a smuggling front for Hmong drug lords136, and would eventually grow into the more well-documented CIA drug smuggling operations in Latin American countries like Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, and Venezuela, some of which continue to this day.
The Laotian conflict took place at the same time as the comparatively well-known imperialist war on Vietnam, and the two conflicts would often overlap. The proliferation of opiates grown in the Golden Triangle into Saigon, where most US Troops spent their rest and relaxation time, would have profound effects on the overall orientation of the global drug trade. Drug addiction became a major issue amongst US and allied forces, especially heroin addiction, which increased exponentially after the Saigon government cracked down on cannabis, forcing soldiers onto other drugs to deal with untreated PTSD. Based on interviews with US Army surveyors in 1971, heroin use rates were between 10 to 25% of all US GIs, with some units reporting 50%137.
It can’t be overstated what a profound impact this had upon the global drug trade. For the first time, massive addiction epidemics were no longer contained to the Third World. For over two centuries, European colonial powers had cultivated an East Asian market for narcotics, and had profited both in the financial sense and in terms of power-projection. The CIA’s use of Hmong-grown opium to fill its black budget (finances it did not have to disclose to the public), was just the latest example in a long line of clandestine western profiteers that stretched back to the late 18th century opium smugglers funded by the East India Trading Company. What had changed in the 1960s however, was that for the first time, the narcotic addiction epidemic spread to a massive population of white Europeans. The moral panic that followed was therefore the culmination of two centuries of fears that drugs would “orientalise” a white population, as we saw while discussing the 1901 Opium Prohibition Act in Aotearoa, and these narratives were only reinforced in the context of Cold War rhetoric about a final showdown between East and West.
The panic in the US developed slowly, as initially the military attempted to suppress information about the magnitude of the epidemic. Of 12,000 soldiers who sought treatment for addiction, the military only treated 3. The remainder continued to be addicted and massively increased the domestic demand for narcotics in the US138. By 1971, the first limited public acknowledgement of addiction issues was made by Congress, and President Nixon declared drug abuse “Public Enemy Number One.” This was simply a continuation of rhetoric that had started based on an earlier moral panic about (comparatively harmless) hallucinogens like LSD in 1968, however this time Nixon funded a massive public awareness campaign based on celebrity endorsements, which did very little to combat addiction, but did result in the popularisation of the phrase “War on Drugs,” and would mark a sharp uptick in the number of drug-related incarcerations.
But why would Nixon focus on a PR campaign and tougher penalties without funding major addiction services or anything which public officials knew might make a real impact? The answer lies in an inflammatory 1994 interview with Nixon’s chief domestic advisor John Ehrlichman, who said:
“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”139
From this we can see a major paradigm shift in the attitudes around the drug trade expressed by the ruling class in the 1960s. No longer were drugs a reliable tool of international colonial domination that could be safely contained within the Third World, instead a domestic market for drug consumption in the Imperial Core (the most developed nations) had risen, not among the upper and middle classes as before, in the “Great Binge” period, but rather among the lowest rungs of society: internally colonised populations and the declassed elements (see Appendix Ia of the Work and Welfare section). Drug production and prohibition would therefore need to shift from being a purely international system of subjugation, to also being a system of domestic social control that could be used to repress internal surplus populations and reinforce class stratification.
In conclusion, we might divide the history of drugs under capitalism into three key eras:
i. 1780 to 1949: the era of Narcotic Colonialism, in which the vast bulk of drug trafficking was conducted in order to create circular trades among Asian nations, and to perpetuate imperialism and weaken major non-European powers. The era began with opiate smuggling conducted in China with a view towards creating a mass market for opiates grown in India, at the behest of the East India Trading Company. After the Opium Wars, this underground trade was conducted openly, and any Chinese force that resisted was crushed mercilessly. In this period, the main market for opium was largely contained in China, with smaller markets elsewhere in Asia. In the west, opiates were commonly used in medicine and were very loosely regulated, however moral panic was limited since alcohol was seen as much more damaging, and narcotic addiction was largely contained to non-white populations. The period ended with the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.
ii. 1950 to 1970: the era of Narcotic Transition, in which the previous trade relationships and methods of subjugation were overhauled, and a new system slowly fell into place. The effective ban on opiates in China shifted opium production into Southeast Asia (The Golden Triangle) and Southwest Asia (The Golden Crescent). Narcotics came to be grown by criminal warlords and narco-armies rather than states, and global intelligence agencies began to realise the efficacy of using off-the-books drug trafficking as a supplementary income for black budgets. Facing a massive decline in demand from China, drug traffickers attempted to find new markets, first creating local dependent populations, and finally trafficking into the imperialist nations via their armed forces. A corresponding cultural change in the west made drugs a permanent part of youth culture, and new markets developed among internally colonised peoples such as Black Americans.
iii. 1971 to Present: the era of the War on Drugs, in which the moral panic produced by the orientalisation of western populations in the previous era created the conditions for massive social stigma for drug users, mass incarceration, and heavily racialised battles for social control over workers, the unemployed, and internally colonised populations. All western nations introduced heavily punitive laws for possession and use that did little to contain supply, but effectively criminalised demand, creating a feedback loop wherein more criminalisation led to worsening conditions, which led to more demand for drugs, which led to more supply, and more criminalisation. Imperialist wars, which were once fought to protect drug traffickers, were now being fought using the rhetoric of the war on drugs (such as the wars in Panama, Colombia, and Afghanistan).
IIb: The history of specific drugs in Aotearoa
As we discussed in our first section on drug reform, the only major period of illegal heroin use was linked to the end of the war in Vietnam in the early 1970s. This had all but disappeared by the 1980s, while whatever opiate addiction that continued was tied to abuse of legal opiates like prescription morphine, “homebake” (refined codeine), and opium tea made from poppy seeds (the only potential source of opium permitted by the 1975 Act)140. The New Zealand state’s criminalisation of opiates is therefore more of a historical anachronism rather than something that has ever had a measurable impact on supply.
Stigma around “drug-seeking” behaviour, on the other hand, arguably has a greater negative impact on society than opiate abuse ever had in Aotearoa, as it prevents chronic pain sufferers from getting adequate treatments, and has produced a situation where medical practitioners prescribe Tramadol rather than more effective prescription opiates, due to its cheap costs and lesser stigma, despite its far worse side-effects, addictive qualities, and the well-documented negative effects the Tramadol market has on the Third World (such as the Tramadol addiction epidemic in Nigeria, and corresponding use by Islamist militias as a tool of social control)141.
Legalisation of opiates would therefore involve a resumption of all medicinal opiate use, as was the case before 1955, potentially with a publicly-owned source of supply, since we would need to avoid the twin evils of contributing towards illegal producers in the global south, or initiating a capitalist free-for-all by relaxing restrictions on doctors purchasing opiates through private companies. This was the case in the US, where the opiate addiction crisis was linked not to illegal heroin, but to legal oxycontin (a slow-release opiate pill) dealt out freely by corrupt doctors. Purchases from private manufacturers would therefore need to continue to be restricted, so as to avoid creating the conditions for these “pill mills.”
ii. Chemically non-addictive drugs
This includes drugs which are regarded as relatively harmless, such as Cannabis, LSD, and organic hallucinogens. While it would be a stretch to say they are totally harmless, they have a very low corresponding social cost which is much less noticeable compared to legal drugs like alcohol. As we have seen, these drugs are prohibited due to a range of international pressures, historical moral panics, and efforts to enforce social control based on race or class142. That being said, efforts to legalise these drugs under capitalism have lead to a perverse injustice of their own, such as in the US where legalisation of cannabis in many states has been less of a win for civil liberties, and could more accurately be described as a case of enclosure in which private companies have displaced small-scale growers and dealers, who are still criminalised to much the same degree, and on the same heavily racialised basis, as they have ever been. For this reason, we support the total legalisation of such drugs, which should be pursued without any continued excessive criminalisation of un-licensed producers. Consumer protections can and should be enforced, however, as should addiction and harm-reduction services, since such substances are still psychologically, if not chemically, addictive. Alcohol addiction treatment would be upgraded to the same standards, since it has similar addictive qualities. Aotearoa has some relatively well-regarded outpatient services for alcohol addiction, but our inpatient (institution or hospital-based) services are widely regarded as inaccessible to those on low incomes, and are generally beholden to the questionable practices of private rehab companies and charities. All addiction services would therefore need to be reformed as publicly-owned institutions.
There is another class of drugs that exist purely because of drug criminalisation. These are synthetic alternatives to more commonly-known drugs, such as synthetic cannabinoids, synthetic cathinones (alternatives to MDMA), and NBOMe (alternatives to LSD). These were typically developed in labs to be chemically similar to the drugs they intend to mimic, but just dissimilar enough to circumvent legislation. Because of the ad-hoc nature of their development and the fact that they are usually cheaper, and therefore cut with the drugs they mimic, synthetic alternatives are much more dangerous. While these drugs should also be legalised so that harm-reduction can take place in the open and social stigma can be reduced, this should be conducted with the end goal of reducing the market for such drugs and preventing mis-labelling143.
Finally there is a class of drugs for which there is a medical and scientific consensus around the social harm caused to communities. This includes potent amphetamines like meth, which is the only illegal drug that has had a truly widespread detrimental effect on communities in Aotearoa144. Methamphetamines were initially used as a legal stimulant, several times more potent and fast acting than any previously known stimulants. The rapid onset and intense rush provided by meth made it ideal for use as a wartime drug, given to soldiers in order to increase their ferocity and speed of attack, and decrease their critical thinking skills and empathy.
The earliest and most enthusiastic adopter of the new drugs was Nazi Germany, which manufactured methamphetamine under the brand name Pervitin, and made it standard issue for military forces from 1939 to 1942, leading to some speculation that it contributed to both the inhumanity and the speed of early Fascist armies. By the end of the war, all military powers apart from the Soviet Union were regularly providing amphetamines to their frontline troops, making it the first drug-fueled war. The use of amphetamines in the Second World War was dwarfed by the scale of amphetamine use by the imperialist forces in the War on Vietnam, in which more speed was consumed than all armies of 1939 to 1945 combined, with 225 million tablets consumed in just three years at the height of the war. For this reason, as with heroin use, it would be fair to link widespread amphetamine use to participation in the War on Vietnam.
However, it wasn’t until the 1990s that high-potency crystal methamphetamine began to replace low-potency amphetamine sulfate pills or powder. The latter had been somewhat available thanks to old diet pills, wartime “go-pills,” and certain prescription medications, but crystal methamphetamine was better suited to mass production, typically in gang-owned labs. Meth, and to a lesser extent, Cannabis and Ecstasy, began to be associated with gangs in Aotearoa, which due to the basis of some drug-producing gangs in working class Māori identity, added a pronounced racial element to the criminalisation of methamphetamine.
Aotearoa’s drug-producing gangs fell into a cyclical, and in some ways co-dependent relationship with the Retributive Justice system. The more working class Māori communities were stigmatised and immiserated, the more drug-producing gangs came to be the only viable form of class mobility for Māori youth. The more these gangs grew, so did the production of drugs like meth in order to fund the expansion of gangs; drugs which have a high social cost and stigma that further immiserated communities. For this reason, drug-producing gangs in Aotearoa follow many of the same laws of expansion and growth, and parasitic development at the expense of working class communities, as the petty bourgeoisie. They have many of the same class interests as the petty bourgeoisie, albeit with additional social stigma and criminalisation that ultimately creates a closed market and decreases competition or regulation. The overall character of drug-producing gangs in Aotearoa is therefore a mirror image of the capitalist class, and moreover one whose development is accelerated and is especially pronounced in its social harm.
This situation could not have developed without the criminalisation of methamphetamine use and the attached social and racialised stigma. While we are no friends of drug-producing gangs, it is nonetheless immensely hypocritical of the New Zealand state to focus so intently upon criminalising gangs and using them as a general social scapegoat for the inability of the state to support Māori communities. Legalising methamphetamine use, while redirecting the funds used in criminalisation towards harm reduction services such as needle exchanges and safe-use facilities, would immediately take away the primary cause of gang-related drug production, and end this heavily racialised social conflict for good.
We should also pause to clarify that this position on gang production of methamphetamine does not mean that we are necessarily an anti-gang organisation, nor do we think that the moral panic of the last twenty years around methamphetamine use is justified. Several gang-led initiatives to distance gangs from drug-production have been successful and should be supported by socialists, such as the Manawatu Mongrel Mob Kingdom’s attempts to end meth production and use of fascist symbols among their members. We also acknowledge that much of the rhetoric around meth is overblown and used as cover for increased Police repressiveness, and in fact there is evidence that meth use has been going down since 2011. Despite this, capitalists and landlords continue to use meth panic to push for disproportionate restrictions on renters, workers and beneficiaries, such as the 2018 law that landlords may evict tenants for meth contamination with very little evidence, a law that cited the social costs of meth ($364.2 million annually). To talk of the social cost of meth in order to support a restriction on renters is laughable, when the total social cost of cold houses and mold inhalation caused by landlord neglect could be as high as $5 billion, and causes 1,600 deaths annually145.
Appendix III: Apparatuses of the capitalist state
IIIa. Ideological State Apparatuses vs. Repressive State Apparatuses
State Apparatuses are now a common part of socialist theory, proposed by French marxist Louis Althusser in his 1970 essay Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses146.
While earlier socialists such as Marx had theorised about a superstructure of capital, which included the state, ideology (which to marx had a strictly negative connotation), and various other institutions such as academia and civil society clubs, his work in this area was limited as all of his efforts were first to be spent describing the base of capital, the most fundamental economic conditions such as the mode of production, which gave rise to the broader superstructure intended to mask and reinforce the base. It was not until the work of Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci that a more holistic analysis of the superstructure was made, which he termed the theory of cultural hegemony. Marx had used this word (from the ancient Greek word for leadership) to describe the way the worldview of the ruling class was used to dominate others. In Gramsci’s theory, this worldview seeks to justify the social, political, and economic status quo of the society as if it were a natural and normal, inevitable and perpetual state of affairs that always has been so147.
Gramsci’s solution to this was to urge worker’s movements to create consciousness about the false nature of bourgeois cultural hegemony, and poke holes in its claims to trans-historicism by pointing to a new cultural hegemony of the future: that of the proletariat. Once this base of proletarian culture is built, by fostering the local culture of workers and encouraging working class intellectuals, only then can the party seek to form alliances without compromising its own nature. This construction of proletarian culture he termed the war of position, which was to be followed with war of manoeuvre, the creation of conditional class and organisational alliances to defeat the bourgeoisie in detail.
This theory was highly influential, and was seen by many socialists as an excellent description of the superstructure, on which theory was severely lacking. This theory was also unfortunately misinterpreted, as many European communist parties used it as a theoretical basis for Eurocommunism148. Cultural Hegemony, they thought, could only be overcome by abandoning the revolutionary economic struggle entirely, and shifting into cultural and political critique as either parliamentary political parties, or media organisations. This proved to be a dead-end of thought, and most Eurocommunist parties declined within a few decades, or completely sold out their original ethics.
Althusser agreed with Gramsci on many things, but believed that there were more structured and well-defined ways to characterise Cultural Hegemony into distinct areas of struggle. He divided previous theories about the base and superstructure into distinct categories, starting with the Infrastructure and Superstructure:
This is Althusser’s term for what previous authors called “The Base,” it might also be called the mode of production. This is made up of three factors:
- The Forces
These are the organic elements of production: the workers, their skills, and their training.
- The Means
The inorganic elements of production: machines, tools, software etc.
- The Relations
The social dynamics which allow for capitalist production, namely the interactions between boss and worker.
These are elements which do not serve a direct economic function, but are nonetheless funded or allowed for by the Infrastructural Elements in order to justify or mask them.
This is the more concrete, conscious superstructural world, that of the state, laws, and political parties.
This is the more abstract, unconscious superstructural world, that of belief, values and morals.
Althusser goes on to say that these latter superstructural elements are themselves created by another structure, the State Apparatus. The more concrete aspects of the superstructure are built and maintained by Repressive State Apparatuses, while the more abstract aspects are built and maintained by Ideological State Apparatuses.
Repressive State Apparatuses are typically strong and coherent state agencies with a centralised command structure and ability to use violent force. These include the military, police, and intelligence agencies, which we analyse further in the next sub-section.
Ideological State Apparatuses are much less unified and cohesive, and use violence only as a secondary quality. Althusser describes their method of operation as part psychological, as they are intended to subtly push an individual towards a particular worldview through ostracisation, ridicule, and repetition of myths. The most dominant form of ISA in early capitalism was the Church, which appealed to spiritual salvation to control workers. In later years, the Church was replaced by the School and University.
Althusser might be misinterpreted as saying that ISAs are purely cynical and oppressive, but this is not true. Unlike RSAs, these apparatuses are highly decentralised, and are not watched over closely by the ruling class. Workers sometimes fight for their interests through engaging with the ISAs, especially those which are influential but ostensibly politically neutral such as schools and churches, and this is one of the chief areas of background class-struggle under capitalism (struggle which occurs with or without consistent input from the organised revolutionary left). This can be observed in many public schools in developed nations, which through the concerted efforts of many teachers, are not a pure reflection of coercive state power, and can instead sometimes offer counter-narratives to students.
IIIb. Capabilities of the Repressive State Apparatuses of New Zealand
i. Military capabilities
- The New Zealand Army
The Army is the most obvious example of a Repressive State Apparatus within the New Zealand State as it holds a theoretical monopoly on the use of violence on the international stage. During colonisation, the military and constabulary were nearly identical in their function (the extermination of dissident Māori) and so the force was not established as an official army until 1909149.
Because of the geographical isolation of Aotearoa, the New Zealand military has always been an order of magnitude smaller than the military of most nations. Limited in capabilities, it has rarely taken anything more than a supporting role in the conflicts between imperialist powers. In the First and Second world wars the military was integrated into the forces of the larger antipodean dominion: Australia. In Vietnam, the NZ military was little more than a handful of artillery batteries and troops supporting the larger imperialist force, and this is a role it has pursued to this day.
The NZDF was forced to transition away from its role as a supporting actor in a larger imperialist force during the last stage of the Cold War. US imperialist policy was directly opposed to Aotearoa’s nuclear free movement, and facing civil disobedience at home, Prime Minister David Lange forced the Army to back down from forward positions across East and Southeast Asia (particularly Singapore). This chain of events eventually led to New Zealand’s suspension from the ANZUS (Australia-New Zealand-United States) defence treaty. This relative distance between Aotearoa and the broader imperialist military order continued until the late 2000s, when the ANZUS treaty was partially resumed150. Since then NZ troops have continued to be deployed to the Middle East and other sites of imperialist warfare.
In terms of the threat the NZDF faces to revolutionary movements within NZ, we find difficulties in accurately assessing the willingness of Army personnel to intervene on political matters. Since 1990, there has been an effort to distance the NZDF from parliamentary control, and as such, like the Police there is very little that elected officials can do to control the Army other than increasing or decreasing budgets. There was also a substantial effort by the army and intelligence agencies to oppose the Lange governments’ concessions to the nuclear free movement in the 1980s. Finally there is the matter of fascist infiltration of army structures, with at least 2 cases of known fascist aspiring terrorists since 2019151.
While it remains a comparatively small volunteer force, the NZDF is very well funded, with a budget of roughly $4.2 billion152. It has roughly 6,400 personnel, but regularly keeps tabs on the recruitable population that can be conscripted in the case of an emergency, with about 2 million potential recruits. In terms of equipment, the Army is lightly equipped compared to most capitalist militaries, but nonetheless has stocks of 8,800 of the most modern rifles (MARS-L), and keeps vast quantities of rifles from the 1950s (the L1A1) and 1980s (the Steyr AUG) with up to 20,000 in storage. The pride of the army are a fleet of 105 NZLAVs (New Zealand Light Armored Vehicles) which have seldom been used in combat (apart from one blown up in Afghanistan), more often being deployed within New Zealand to assist the Police or for PR stunts (such as the “rainbow tank” in the 2019 Wellington International Pride Parade)153.
It may seem unlikely to suggest that the NZ Army would repress a civilian movement within Aotearoa, but we do not suggest this without precedent. The NZ Army has been alarmingly willing to assist Police with its NZLAVs, even in situations where they constituted comical overkill. They supported Police operations in response to a domestic shooting in 2009, and were used in a bizarre show of force aimed at discouraging looting after the 2011 Christchurch earthquake. Their most recent policing usage was in 2016 in Kawerau, where they supported another Police siege.
Another alarming aspect of the NZ Army, apart from its tendency to be infiltrated by Nazis, is its insistence upon maintaining the capability to rapidly raise a reserve conscript force in the case of an “emergency,” with 2 million potential conscripts of whom up to 28,000 could be armed.
- The Royal New Zealand Air Force
The NZ Air Force has few capabilities in its own right, but supports other RSAs in a logistical and transportation capacity. The RNZAF, like the Army, frequently supports police with military equipment, such as allowing the Police Special Tactics Unit to use its NH-90 Helicopters154.
The RNZAF has very few combat capabilities, but is in the process of ordering 4 P-8 Poseidon aircraft, which are capable of Anti-Submarine Warfare. This is part of the US military’s “Pivot to Asia” programme initiated under Obama, in which the RNZAF is projected to play a role in the force-projection capabilities of the US Navy in the event of an attack upon China.
The RNZAF also fields a small unit of armed military police.
- The Royal New Zealand Navy
Of the three main military components of the NZDF, the RNZN has the greatest civilian policing role. The stated goals of the RNZN include maintaining New Zealand’s influence over Pacific neighbors (since any unrest would affect the New Zealand state’s interests and pacific migrant populations in Aotearoa), and the patrolling of New Zealand’s exclusive economic zone, a vast stretch of territory that the RNZN patrols constantly.
The RNZN has two dedicated warships, which carry the largest weapons in the arsenal of the New Zealand state. These include 127mm rapid-fire cannons that are designed for bombardment of the shore with high-explosive shells. It also has four patrol vessels, two with machine guns, and two with 25mm autocannons. Finally, there is HMNZS Canterbury, itself armed with cannons and machine guns, which is intended to carry helicopters.
The RNZN is expected to respond to unrest in the Pacific, but would also support the NZ Police in maritime matters, as the Police have few boats.
- The New Zealand Special Air Service
While technically a part of the NZ Army, the NZSAS acts with a degree of independence, and deserves a separate mention because of the NZ State’s tendency to use the NZSAS for their “dirty work.” The NZSAS is by far the force most complicit in imperialist crimes globally.
The NZSAS was formed based on tactical knowledge gained in the Second World War wherein semi-independent regiments capable of clandestine warfare were deployed from the air behind enemy lines. The unit was formed in 1955, after which it was immediately sent to assist the British genocidal campaign in Malaya. Their tasks included demographic control of targeted populations, and the elimination of the Malayan Races Liberation Army, an anti-racist, anti-fascist organisation initially formed to oppose Japanese fascist occupation. The NZSAS has mythologised this campaign, and refers to these first SAS men as “the originals.”155 This pattern of being used in pro-colonial wars continued in Borneo, Thailand and Vietnam.
The NZSAS were the subject of renewed scrutiny after investigative journalists Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson published their findings, based on interviews with Afghan locals, that the NZSAS had launched unprovoked attacks upon the villages of Naik and Khak Khuday Dad in Afghanistan, in an apparent revenge-killing, which included indirect fire into civilian houses and calling an airstrike upon the villages156.
The NZSAS are also trained to respond to domestic threats to the state. They are in charge of training the Armed Offenders and Special Tactics units of the NZ Police, and were even called on to shoot prisoners during the Mt Eden prison riots, although the prisoners surrendered at the sight of NZSAS personnel with bayonets drawn157.
ii. Intelligence capabilities
- The Directorate of Defence Intelligence and Security
Little is known about this fourth arm of the NZDF apart from its small budget of $1.4 million. The DDIS did play a significant role in the military’s efforts to salvage the ANZUS treaty by pressuring the Lange government to drop the Nuclear Free Policy in the 1980s, essentially by attempting to terrify numerous government officials with threatening security briefings about foreign nuclear arsenals. It can be assumed that the DDIS plays a strong behind-the-scenes lobbying role within parliament to increase defense budgets through fear-mongering about foreign military capabilities.
- The Government Communications Security Bureau
The GCSB is responsible for all signals intelligence in New Zealand, which means the surveillance of all people in Aotearoa across phone, email, social media, or radio. The omnipresence of the GCSB means it is probably the most infamous security agency in Aotearoa, and is also the most interconnected New Zealand intelligence agency in terms of its connections to the CIA, NSA and other notorious imperialist agencies.
The GCSB operates New Zealand’s most active imperialist bases, at Waihopai near Blenheim, and Tangimoana near Palmerston North. These are part of the “Five Eyes” network, or ECHELON, a programme between the US, Canada, Australia, Britain, and New Zealand started in the Cold War to monitor Soviet diplomatic communications, which has now expanded to include all electronic communications. The connection between Waihopai and ECHELON was first established by Green MP Keith Locke158, while Tangimoana has been a known part of ECHELON since a 1984 investigation by activist Owen Wilkes159. Waihopai tracks signal intelligence using two large radomes, and is believed to monitor “phone calls, faxes, e-mail, and computer data communications.” Since 2007 it also probably tracks satellite data. Tangimoana is a comparatively low-tech facility that monitors all radio transmissions in Aotearoa.
Due to the work of journalists such as Nicky Hager, and the work of the Anti-Bases and NZ Ploughshares campaigns, there is a degree of public knowledge about the purpose of these spy stations. The GCSB has also been marked by poor operational security and a large number of controversies about its operations. In 2013, a leaked report to the Cabinet Secretary revealed that the GCSB spied upon at least 85 people in Aotearoa illegally (i.e. without a warrant)160. Later that year, the GCSB Amendment Bill supported by Prime Minister John Key gave the GCSB the right to share information with other government bodies such as the New Zealand Police, despite the opposition of all other political bodies in Aotearoa at the time.
In 2015 it was revealed that the GCSB was operating a major spying ring in nearly every smaller country in the Pacific. Later that year, leaks released by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden showed spying operations against much larger powers such as Vietnam, China, India, Pakistan, and several unspecified South American nations. Other breaches of diplomatic communications security were also revealed, such as a secret spy installation within the NZ Embassy in the Solomon Islands, and wiretapping of the Chinese Embassy in Wellington161.
The danger of the GCSB is twofold: their total omnipresence across all modern forms of communication, and their incompetence. Their erratic qualities mean they target people almost at random, but never those who would genuinely cause mass terror (for example, the GCSB had no information in the lead up to the March 15 2019 shooting despite substantial online footprints). Their participation in what began as a Cold War covert intelligence programme means that there appears to be a strong anti-leftist bent to their activities, above and beyond what might be expected from a state agency.
For these reasons, leftists in Aotearoa should always assume that unsecured channels are being listened to by the GCSB. The agency appears to do very little targeted intelligence observation that could overcome encrypted chats (such as through viral keyloggers) and so we can assume that even poorly encrypted platforms are safe to a degree. We should also remember that although most electronic information is being collected, little of it is being analysed, and so electronic information gathered on us will most likely be used in hindsight or as evidence rather than pre-emptively.
- The National Assessments Bureau
The NAB has no investigative powers of its own, and is more of an intelligence aggregate service that provides briefs to ministers. Like the DDIS it has historically lobbied ministers to increase the funding and power of the intelligence and defense sectors.
- The New Zealand Security Intelligence Service
While the GCSB is rightly feared for its omnipresence, the NZSIS is seen as more of a joke than a threat to anyone it investigates. Despite a budget of a hundred million and three hundred staff, the NZSIS is probably one of the most unprofessional and ridiculed intelligence services in the world.
An analogue to other foreign intelligence agencies such as the CIA or Mi6, the NZSIS is primarily focused on information security and counterintelligence, meaning that rather than proactively searching for intelligence it is geared towards defending the intelligence gathered by more competent agencies such as the GCSB.
The main danger the NZSIS has posed to the left historically is their incompetence in investigating the far right or other international intelligence services operating within Aotearoa. The NZSIS turned a blind eye to illegal Mossad (Israeli intelligence) operations in 2004 and 2006, and failed to stop the attack on the Rainbow Warrior by French agents in 1985. Like other agencies, it also failed to gather any information on fascists within Aotearoa prior to the March 15 2019 shooting.
- The Special Investigation Group
Formed as part of the global panic in the wake of September 11 2001, the SIG is another secretive group that has been subject to intense public scrutiny. It was formed in order to centralise counter-terrorism assets between the NZDF, NZSIS, GCSB, and NZ Police, with most personell being recruited from the Police.
The SIG was not publicly acknowledged until 2008, when it was revealed that it had been paying informants within several leftist groups. Christchurch man Rob Gilchrist was revealed to have been paid to spy on Greenpeace, Iraq war protestors, student associations, and animal rights and climate change campaigners. Subsequent reports showed that the Union movement was also targeted162.
From this we can see that SIG was entirely oriented towards investigating the left, acting as if left-wing terrorism was ever a major threat in Aotearoa. This was all the more laughable when we consider that the majority of these groups were strictly pacifist in nature.
It is unclear whether the SIG still operates, as most information is from before 2011. Due to the high level of secrecy it is certainly possible. The paranoia the Gilchrist case subsequently caused in the left arguably caused more lingering damage than the infiltration ever did, and we should be mindful of that when concerns are raised about informants.
iii. Policing capabilities
- Regular constabulary of the NZ Police
Much of what we have already written applies mainly to the regular NZ Police officers, which are organised into 12 decentralised districts headed by superintendents, who answer to a police commissioner. Each district has a degree of autonomy, and so Policing practices vary across Aotearoa.
There are roughly 9,000 sworn Police officers in Aotearoa, and it is these 9,000 individuals who are the most common representatives of sovereign power that the public interact with. They act as agents of intimidation and fear, and are responsible for the vast majority of civilian injuries and deaths at the hands of the state.
From 2003 to 2012, 91 deaths were caused by the NZ Police. 10 were cases of neglect and subsequent suicide, 7 were caused by beatings, 7 were caused by lack of adequate medical treatment, 3 were caused by untreated overdoses, 7 were shot (including one bystander hit by a stray bullet), and the remainder, a total of 57 people, were killed in Police pursuits163. The IPCA has not commissioned a similar enquiry into police-related deaths since this time, but evidence suggests the rate of deaths has increased.
These deaths can be attributed, in part, to two factors. One is the structural position of Police within a state of exception, a legal construct in which they are above the law from the moment they suspect a crime. The lack of any real oversight means that even outside of pursuits or other exceptions to normality, police often ignore laws, as evidenced by the common sight of police vehicles parked in the middle of the road.
The other factor is the endless ability of the police to lobby for increased protections, increased punishments for those who assault police, and increased weaponry. This is usually done through the lobbying efforts of the New Zealand Police Association, the industry “union,” which advocates for the “safety” of officers. This is despite the greater danger faced by many other workers, from ambulance workers, to psychiatric nurses, to construction workers, who all face risks to their life on the job. The difference is that none of these other professions are sacrosanct in the eyes of conservatives, and above the law in the eyes of the state.
Of all the agencies and organisations listed here, the Police are most likely to use violent force against opponents of the state or even the most benign and peaceful of protestors. The Police are desensitized to violence against civilians, and are trained to use force as an almost unconscious reaction to danger. Nothing in this world is more dangerous than a particularly cowardly Policeman.
In terms of their equipment, many people in Aotearoa think the NZ Police are a “disarmed” force, or at least they did until 2019. In actual fact the NZ Police have been armed to the teeth since 2005 when all regular officers were granted access to military-style select fire automatic carbines, the Bushmaster M-4. Since then, NZ Police vehicles have routinely carried military weapons to their rear, as well as pistols in the footwell of the passenger seat. Police also have less-lethal weapons such as pepper spray, batons, and tasers.
While it has managed to avoid such a reputation, the NZ Police is actually a highly militarised “US-Style” Police force, with many of the military capabilities foreign forces are routinely criticised for. As discussed above, the Police regularly use armored vehicles loaned from the army, helicopters loaned from the RNZAF, and have specialist military weapons as standard issue. This makes the NZ Police one of the more militarised and dangerous Police forces in the world, in stark contrast to their community-oriented image.
Other capabilities of the regular police include the Police Eagle helicopter unit, flying Bell 429s with a range of cameras and surveillance equipment, and two catamarans for maritime policing.
- Armed Offenders Squads
While the regular Police are already highly militarised, the AOS is virtually a small army. In addition to the military rifles and pistols of regular police, AOS officers routinely carry high-powered sniper rifles, grenade launchers, and shotguns. For the most part, AOS officers have been incredibly over-equipped for the tasks they are called upon to perform.
The AOS is made up of around 300 or more officers in 17 squads of 12 to 30 officers. Initially intended for extreme situations involving mass shooters, the AOS squads were instead called out roughly every 3 days, usually for routine police work. It is hard to imagine how terrifying this would have been for the individuals involved when black-clad men in full body armor appeared at their door.
Since 2019, using the March 15 2019 shooting as justification, AOS units began conducting round-the-clock patrols in predominantly migrant or Māori communities. Armed to the teeth and riding in black SUVs, these “Armed Response Teams” have caused unprecedented fear and intimidation in the communities they operate within.
- Special Tactics Group
While the AOS is staffed by part-time personnel, the STG is an elite group of 32 full-time officers drawn from the AOS. They are the only Police unit to use fully-automatic weapons, carrying MP5 submachine guns. They are also highly integrated into the NZDF, training with the NZSAS and using RNZAF helicopters in their operations.
The STG was infamous for its use against activists in the 2007 Urewera Raids in which the STG terrorised the remote town of Ruatoki for several days, and at one point searched a full school bus with weapons drawn164. The STG was again called on in the bizarre 2012 raid on Kim Dotcom and other Megaupload executives, notable for the fact that an elite militarised unit was called on to conduct a general search warrant in an intellectual property case165.
Some former STG officers are on the record as later going on to join the SIG (Special Investigations Group), a unit which has exclusively targeted leftist organisations.
Given the STG’s historic role as a very large hammer for very small nails, there is a good chance that any new socialist movement, or even another random school bus, will one day have its doors broken down by this crack team of armed specialists.
- The Diplomatic Protection Service
The DPS is another fully armed section of the NZ Police, and is responsible for protecting foreign dignitaries and diplomats, as well as the Prime Minister. The DPS is known for being heavy handed in its treatment of protesters, especially when they oppose visits by foreign officials.
- The Cook Islands Police Service
The CIPS enforces the New Zealand State’s sovereignty over Kūki ‘Āirani. While nominally independent from some aspects of the New Zealand State, the CIPS is one example of a state agency that is virtually controlled from Wellington. The 100 officers of the CIPS are militarised to a high degree, but reflect their lesser status with regards to the NZ Police in terms of pay, with an annual salary of just $14,000. The CIPS is also the only civilian arm of the New Zealand State to operate a military vessel, a small gunboat mounting a 20mm cannon.
IIIc: Ideological State Apparatuses of New Zealand
Althusser lists the key Ideological State Apparatuses as:166
i. The religious ISA (the system of the different churches),
In Aotearoa this would chiefly mean the Anglican, Catholic, Presbytarian and Methodist Christian churches, with most other religions comprising 1-2% or less of the population167. The Christian right, the main oppositional aspect within this ISA, is small but vocal, primarily aiming to reinforce the state’s oppression of women168.
ii. The educational ISA (the system of the different public and private ‘schools’),
Aotearoa’s schools, as discussed earlier, do not always lend themselves to the cynical framework of analysis provided by the ISAs as they are generally secular, generally apolitical, and provide high basic outcomes169. This is due to the efforts of educational reformers who have had some success in getting colonial counter-narratives into curricula, maintaining strong unions for educators, and pushing for generally progressive socio-culturalist educational theories to become standard practice170. However, the structure of schools, the school day itself, the regressive behaviourist foundation of NZ schooling, and racial-colonial legacies171 all offer challenges, constituting the opposing force within this ISA.
iii. The family ISA172,
The domestic life of workers and everyday political struggles between family members and friends. This is an important site of political struggle that is often overlooked, but is often invoked in the most abstract terms by traditionalist fascists and conservative-liberals as “family values.”173 This term deliberately flattened and homogenised the diverse family structures of Aotearoa, and put them in service of a conservative political agenda. This tendency can be counteracted by re-politicising family spaces, and raising awareness of diverse families.174
iv. The legal ISA175,
The sovereign-unitary court system, of which we have described throughout the Justice section, which might be presented as a clash between Retributive-Adversarial theories of justice, and Restorative-Non Adversarial systems.
v. The political ISA (the political system, including the different parties),
This is mainly the parliamentary system and the political theatre of two party liberal-democratic systems which offer a choice of either progressive-liberal or regressive-liberal parties every election cycle176. While this is still a site of real political struggle in some cases, it is merely one among many, and over-emphasis on this ISA serves to contain political struggle to its very limited channels177.
vi. The trade-union ISA
This includes the many aspects of political struggle within trade unions which we have discussed in greater detail in the Work and Welfare section.
vii. The communications ISA (press, radio and television, etc.)
The most important aspect of this ISA has come to be the many news sites of Aotearoa, such as the NZ Herald, Stuff, RNZ and the Spinoff among others, and the means of distributing their information via links on social media. Political struggle occurs in this ISA through editorialising and monopolising news coverage, and through opinion pieces (the “commentariat”)178.
viii. The cultural ISA (literature, the arts, sports, etc.).
This includes most aspects of political life not discussed elsewhere. Since humans are intensely social and political beings, art and recreation necessarily become key areas of political expression and struggle. Sports in particular has an incredible history as a space for political struggle in Aotearoa, as exemplified by the Springbok Tour179.
Appendix IV: Illustrations of Māori concepts of power and justice.
These appendices have been compiled based on the works of Matike Mai Aotearoa180, Angela Ballara181, Ranganui Walker182, Michael King183, Joan Metge184, and Ani Mikaere185. Additional definitions were sourced from the Te Aka Māori-English, English-Māori Dictionary and Index, and from the OA Māori Caucus.
IVa. Māori terms vs. common translations vs. full range of connotations in te reo Pākehā.
|Relevant Māori Term||Colloquial Modern Meaning||Words in te reo Pākeha which |
convey the full connotations
of the term as it would
have existed in pre-colonial society.
Respect for differences,
Desire for consensus,
Willingness to make concessions
for others’ sake
Proper order of being,
Recitation of specific genealogies,
Relationship between dualities,
Redistribution of power or possessions
|Rangatiratanga||Sovereignty||Appraisal of individual interests |
in relation to a group.
Recognition of hapū and whanau interests,
Layered distribution of power,
Ability to establish consensus,
Ability to interpret wairua,
The community made manifest within the individual
IVb. A diagram of the relationships between pre-colonial Māori social constructs
- Meier B. (2007) In Guilty Plea, OxyContin Maker to Pay $600 Million [online] The New York Times, Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/10/business/11drug-web.html
- Ngata, T. (2017, May) Discovery Doctrine, Pīpīwharauroa/Tūranganua-a-Kiwa p. 4-6.
- Dunbar-Ortiz, R. (2014). An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States. Boston: Beacon Press. pp. 197–201.
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- Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (2020), Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee [online], Available at: https://incarceratedworkers.org/
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- See Appendix Ibii
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- Lamusse, T. (2018), Solitary Confinement in New Zealand Prisons [online], Economic and Social Research Aotearoa, Available at: https://esra.nz/solitary-confinement-new-zealand-prisons/
- No Pride in Prisons (2016), Abolitionist Demands: Towards the end of Prisons in Aotearoa, No Pride in Prisons Press.
- People Against Prisons Aotearoa (2016), Abolitionist Demand 30: Stop strip searching incarcerated people [online], PAPA blog, Available at https://blog.papa.org.nz/post/150949910176/abolitionist-demand-30-stop-strip-searching
- Buttle, J. W. (2017), Imagining an Aotearoa/New Zealand without Prisons, Counterfutures, (3), pp. 99-127.
- FYI.org (2020), Searches of Prisoners [online transcript of correspondence], Available at: https://fyi.org.nz/request/10057-searches-of-prisoners#incoming-33586
- Te Uepū Hāpai i te Ora/Safe and Effective Justice Advisory Group (2019), Transforming our criminal justice system [online], Available at: https://www.safeandeffectivejustice.govt.nz/assets/Uploads/28ce04fd87/Turuki-Turuki-Report-Interactive.pdf
- Nippert, M. (2004), The high price of New Zealand’s overcrowded prisons [online], The New Zealand Herald, Available at: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=3562026
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- People Against Prisons Aotearoa (2016), Abolitionist Demand 29: End the practice of double-bunking and institute a moratorium on all prison construction. [online], PAPA Blog, Available at: https://blog.papa.org.nz/post/150943177409/abolitionist-demand-29-end-the-practice-of
- Brooking, R. (2018), How to cut the prison population by 50% in five years [online], The Spinoff, Available at: https://thespinoff.co.nz/society/13-03-2018/how-to-cut-the-prison-population-by-50-in-five-years/
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- Cicero, M. T. (~43 B.C.E), De Legibus, book II.
- Kant, I. (1797), The Metaphysics of Morals, §49 E
- Section 18 Media (2015), Druglawed 1 [DVD], BT Tokyo Media.
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- Gade, C.B.N. (2013). Restorative Justice and the South African Truth and Reconciliation Process, South African Journal of Philosophy, 32(1), pp. 10–35.
- Zehr, H. (1990), Changing Lenses – A New Focus for Crime and Justice, Scottdale PA: pp. 268–69.
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- Armour, M (2013). Restorative Justice in School Communities:Successes, Obstacles, and Areas for Improvement. The University of Texas School of Social Work.
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- Horspool, N., Crawford, L., & Rutherford, L. (2017) Traumatic Brain Injury and the Criminal Justice System [online], Ministry of Justice, Available at: https://www.justice.govt.nz/assets/Documents/Publications/Traumatic-Brain-Injury-paper-.pdf
- Independent Police Conduct Authority (2018), Annual Report 2017/2018
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- Feigin V.L., Theadom A., Barker-Collo S., Starkey N.J., McPherson K,. Kahan M., Dowell A,. Brown P., Parag V., Kydd R., Jones K,. Jones A., & Ameratunga S; BIONIC Study Group. (2013), Incidence of traumatic brain injury in New Zealand: a population-based study. [online], Lancet Neurology, 12(1), pp 53-64, Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23177532
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- People Against Prisons Aotearoa (2016), Abolitionist Demand 21: End the practice of incarcerating intellectually disabled people. [online], PAPA Blog, Available at: https://blog.papa.org.nz/post/150808859383/abolitionist-demand-21-end-the-practice-of
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- Heather, B. (2013)
- Take as an example these three societies:
– China during the period of independent warlords (~1916 to 1949) in which society was undoubtedly decentralised on every level, with each area, and even each village, subject to the rule of independent warlords and soldiers, who despite having no coherent uniting interests constituted a class hierarchy above all others; this society was hierarchical but decentralised; see Sheridan, J. E. (1975). China in Disintegration: The Republican Era in Chinese History, 1912–1949. New York: Free Press.
– Spain during the period of the First Republic and Cantonal Rebellion (1873 to 1874) in which society was thoroughly decentralised into small autonomous cantons, and national movements for self-determination were recognised and encouraged under a Proudhonist-Federalist model of governance. The chief architect of many of these policies, Francesc Pi i Margall, was also never subjected to any democratic process – coming into various positions via appointment, often from Estanislao Figueras, who was also thrust into power via a royal abdication rather than any democratic process. Therefore, this society was politically decentralised, in a way that served as an inspiration for later revolutionaries no less, but could not be said to have been democratic; see Woodcock, J. (1964) Anarchism: a history of libertarian movements. p. 357
– For an example of a non hierarchical and undemocratic there are no society-wide examples because for a system to become both non-hierarchical and undemocratic is for that system to fail. This hasn’t stopped examples from popping up in the more ephemeral and abstract world of activism, and an undemocratic but non-hierarchical society is only ever briefly prefigured in the activist world before collapsing in on itself; see Freeman, J. (1972), The Tyranny of Structurelessness [online], Available at: https://www.jofreeman.com/joreen/tyranny.htm
- Alfred, T. (2009), Peace, Power, Righteousness : an Indigenous manifesto, Oxford University Press.
- Rosamond, B. (2017), Sovereignty, Countersovereignty, Rangatiratanga [unpublished masters’ thesis], The University of Auckland.
- Crane-Murdoch, S. (2013), On Indian Land, Criminals Can Get Away With Almost Anything [online], The Atlantic, Available at: https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/02/on-indian-land-criminals-can-get-away-with-almost-anything/273391/
- District Court of New Zealand (2013), Matariki: Huarahi ki te oranga tangata [online], Available at: https://www.districtcourts.govt.nz/criminal-court/criminal-jurisdiction/specialist-criminal-courts/matariki-court/
- Abernethy, L (2018), Reducing Recidivism Not Rights: Rethinking Interior Architecture as a solution for New Zealand’s failing prisons [online], Victoria University of Wellington, Available at: https://researcharchive.vuw.ac.nz/xmlui/handle/10063/7622
- District Court of New Zealand (2015), New Beginnings Court [online], Available at: https://www.districtcourts.govt.nz/criminal-court/criminal-jurisdiction/specialist-criminal-courts/new-beginnings-court/
- District Court of New Zealand (2012), Court of Special Circumstances [online], Available at: https://www.districtcourts.govt.nz/criminal-court/criminal-jurisdiction/specialist-criminal-courts/court-of-special-circumstances/
- District Court of New Zealand (2015)
- Australian Law Reform Commission (1999), Discussion Paper 62: Review of the Federal Civil Justice System. Sections 2.21-2.32
- An insightful view on why Allende’s social democratic government failed comes from the leader of the main revolutionary opposition group following the coup, Miguel Enriquez: “The reformist project put in place by the UP [Allende’s party] enclosed itself within the bourgeois order…it aimed to forge an alliance with sectors of the bourgeoisie, it didn’t lean on the revolutionary organizations of the working class, in its own organs of popular power, it rejected an alliance with rank and file soldiers and sub officers in the armed forces, it sought to seal an alliance with the bourgeois faction. The reformist illusions allowed the ruling classes to prevail in the superstructure of the state from where it initiated its reactionary counter offensive, by, firstly, leaning on industrialist federations, on the petty-bourgeoisie and finally on high-ranking officials of the Chilean Armed Forces….” see Enriquez, M. (1998), Miguel Enriquez: Con vista a la esperanza, Escaparate Ediciones.
- Head, T. (2018), Land expropriation: Why South Africa won’t become a “second Zimbabwe” [online], The South African, Available at: https://www.thesouthafrican.com/news/land-expropriation-sa-second-zimbabwe/
- This is often used to mean both withdrawal of currency and fixed capital (the actual means of production), however for post-capitalist societies these are two very distinct phenomena. Asset losses would directly lead to a reduced quality of life as it would reduce real value inputs into the economy, whereas currency crises can only affect such a society indirectly by making foreign debt harder to pay off, creating overseas currency speculation, or creating much worse conditions for international trade – issues which can be resolved through increasing the overall self-sufficiency of an economy and severing ties to the imperialist world, see Ajayi, S. Ibi; Léonce Ndikumana (2015). Capital Flight from Africa: Causes, Effects, and Policy Issues. Oxford University Press. p. 3.
- Young, K., Schwartz, M., & Banerjee, T. (2017), When Capitalists Go on Strike [online], Jacobin, Available at: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/02/capital-strike-regulations-lending-productivity-economy-banks-bailout/
- Braae, A. (2020), Deep dross in the deep south: Is Rio Tinto holding New Zealand to ransom? [online], The Spinoff, Available at: https://thespinoff.co.nz/politics/13-02-2020/deep-dross-in-the-deep-south-is-rio-tinto-holding-new-zealand-to-ransom/
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- The best examples of this in a developed nation come from the UK during the pit closures crisis of the 1980s, in which the means of producing coal was deliberately sabotaged and relocated by the policies of the Thatcher government for political reasons (The Conservative party had been planning the closures largely to curb the power of the militant National Union of Mineworkers, which had cost them the 1974 election). This had an immediate immiserating effect on the villages of South Wales, Yorkshire, Kent and wherever else coal mining and strong unions were prevalent. This is best documented in Grimethorpe in Yorkshire which by 1994 was the poorest village in the UK, see McVeigh, K. (2015). Grimethorpe, the mining village that hit rock bottom – then bounced back [online], The Guardian, Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/mar/03/grimethorpe-hit-rock-bottom-then-bounced-back
- Many never achieved the positions they desired in the west because the meritocratic qualities of capitalism had been oversold to them through propaganda. In fact, many defectors ended up in the lowest rungs of capitalist society, see de la Motte, D. (2009), East Germans Lost Much in 1989 [online], The Guardian, Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2009/nov/08/1989-berlin-wall
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- The uneven way in which regressive ideologies continued to appear under revolutionary societies is exemplified by the contradictions in the 1920s USSR between advocates for the liberation of women and sexual minorities, and the prevailing attitudes on sex work. Endocrinologist and Health Commissar A. Semashko as well as the early Marxist Feminists Clara Zetkin and Alexandra Kollontai were all supportive of the liberation of women and gay men but supported the extreme criminalisation of sex workers, leading to their support of militsya raids specifically targeting gay men and women under the pretense of criminalising sex work – anti sex worker raids simply replaced the already common tsarist raids against “pederasty” and gender nonconformativity. See Healey, D. (2001), Homosexual Desire in Revolutionary Russia, University of Chicago Press, pp. 132-135.
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- By transhistorical, we do not mean that it would be an issue under all possible modes of production [pan-historicity], just that it has been a problem in many modes of production, specifically those within the servitude epoch that began with the first Advanced Theocratic Chiefdoms (see Work and Welfare Appendix Ib).
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- NZ Drug Foundation (2020), Synthetic Cannabinoids [online], Available at: https://www.drugfoundation.org.nz/info/drug-index/synthetic-cannabinoids/
- NZ Drug Foundation (2020), Methamphetamines [online], Available at: https://www.drugfoundation.org.nz/info/drug-index/methamphetamine/
- Nichol, R. (2017), 1600 deaths attributed to cold houses each winter in New Zealand [online], Noted, Available at: https://www.noted.co.nz/currently/currently-social-issues/1600-deaths-attributed-to-cold-houses-each-winter-in-new-zealand
- Althusser, L. (1970), Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses [online], Marxists.org, Available at: https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/althusser/1970/ideology.htm
- Anderson, P. (1976). The Antinomies of Antonio Gramsci. New Left Review. 1 (100): pp. 5–78.
- Anderson, P. (1976), pp. 6-7.
- Defence Act 1909 (9 EDW VII 1909 No 28)
- Alexander, D. (2012), U.S. lifts ban on New Zealand warships, New Zealand keeps nuclear-free stance [online], Chicago Tribune, Available at: https://www.chicagotribune.com/nation-world/ct-xpm-2012-09-21-sns-rt-us-defense-panettabre88k031-20120920-story.html
- Davison, I. (2020), NZ Defence Force says white supremacist is a former soldier [online], New Zealand Herald, Available at: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12316199
- New Zealand Treasury (2020), Summary Tables for the Estimates of Appropriations 2019/20 [online], Available at: https://treasury.govt.nz/publications/summary-tables/summary-tables-estimates-appropriations-2019-20-html#section-9
- Illes, J. (2019), Wellington’s long-awaited Pride Parade features large showing of officers in uniform [online], Stuff, Available at: https://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/112649708/wellingtons-longawaited-pride-parade-features-large-showing-of-officers-in-uniform
- Maas, A. (2011), Black-clad Police to swarm city [online], Stuff, Available at: http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/5422930/Black-clad-police-to-swarm-city
- Smallman, E.R. (2018), NZSAS ‘Original’ marches out with elite friends [online], Stuff, Available at: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/103379529/nzsas-original-marches-out-with-elite-friends
- Staff Writers (2017), New Hager book is Hit & Run: The New Zealand SAS in Afghanistan and the Meaning of Honour [online], The Spinoff, Available at: New Hager book is Hit & Run: https://thespinoff.co.nz/politics/21-03-2017/new-hager-book-is-hit-run-the-new-zealand-sas-in-afghanistan-and-the-meaning-of-honour/
- Cherrett, O. (1989). Without Fear or Favour: 150 Years Police Auckland 1840–1990. The New Zealand Police and L. Patrick Hunter, p. 317.
- Peace Movement Aotearoa (2001), Submissions on the GCSB Bill [online], Available at: http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/subgcsb.htm
- Hager, N. (1996), Secret Power, Craig Potton Publishing.
- Vance, A., & Watkins, T. (2013), Illegal spying: 85 Kiwis watched [online], Stuff, Available at: http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/8524274/Illegal-spying-85-Kiwis-watched
- Fisher, D. (2015). Leaked papers reveal NZ plan to spy on China for US [online]. New Zealand Herald. Available at: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11434886
- Gower, P. (2008). Spy’s targets contradict ‘individuals only’ claim [online]. The New Zealand Herald, Available at: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10548880
- Independent Police Conduct Authority (2012), Deaths in Custody Report [online], Available at: https://www.ipca.govt.nz/site/publications-and-media/2012-media-releases/2012-june-30-deaths-in-custody.aspx
- Haunui-Thompson, S. (2017), Ten years on from the Urewera raids [online], RNZ, Available at: https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/te-manu-korihi/341457/ten-years-on-from-the-urewera-raids
- Leask, A. (2012), Police Complete Dotccom Search [online], NZ Herald, Available at: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=1078014
- Althusser, L. (1970).
- This data is from the 2013 census, as the 2018 census is generally considered unreliable due to low public engagement, see Statistics NZ (2013), 2013 Census QuickStats about Culture and Identity [xls], Available at: http://www.stats.govt.nz/~/media/Statistics/Census/2013%20Census/profile-and-summary-reports/quickstats-culture-identity/tables.xls
- Lange, S. (2019), NZCN is OPPOSED to the “Abortion Legislation Bill” [online], New Zealand Christian Network, Available at: https://nzchristiannetwork.org.nz/nzcn-is-opposed-to-the-abortion-legislation-bill/
- OECD, (2010), PISA 2009 Results: Executive Summary [online], Available at: http://www.oecd.org/pisa/46643496.pdf
- Maitland, T.A. (2018), New Zealand Land Wars should be taught in high school, says Waikato history teacher [online], Stuff, Available at: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/102488733/new-zealand-land-wars-should-be-taught-in-high-school-says-waikato-history-teacher
- Fea, S. (2013), Parata calls for system shift in education [online], Stuff, Available at: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/8481561/Parata-calls-for-system-shift-in-education
- From Althusser, L. (1970): “The family obviously has other ‘functions’ than that of an ISA. It intervenes in the reproduction of labour power. In different modes of production it is the unit of production and/or the unit of consumption.”
- New Conservative Party (2020), Family Policy [online], Available at: https://www.newconservative.org.nz/family-policy
- Du Plessis, R. & Diggelmann, C. (2018) Diverse families [online], Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, Available at: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/diverse-families
- From Althusser, L. (1970): “The ‘Law’ belongs both to the (Repressive) State Apparatus and to the system of the ISAs.”
- A socialist critique of New Zealand parliamentary politics is expressed by Emmy Rākete in Brae, A. (2018), Socialism is back baby, and it doesn’t want your Vote [online], The Spinoff, Available at: https://thespinoff.co.nz/politics/04-10-2018/socialism-is-back-baby-and-it-doesnt-want-your-vote/
- Harris, M. (2017), What we talk about when we talk about politics in New Zealand [online], RNZ, Available at: https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/the-wireless/374654/what-we-talk-about-when-we-talk-about-politics-in-new-zealand
- Owen, D. (2019), The New Media’s Role in Politics [online], MIT Technology Review, Available at: https://www.technologyreview.com/2019/03/11/136690/the-new-medias-role-in-politics/
- Keane, B.(2012) Ngā rōpū tautohetohe – Māori protest movements – Rugby and South Africa [online], Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, Available at: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/nga-ropu-tautohetohe-maori-protest-movements/page-4
- Our definitions of mana, rangatira and ariki come from Matike Mai (2016).
- Our definition of Utu relies on Ballara, A. (1998) Iwi: The Dynamics of Māori Tribal Organisation Wellington: Victoria University Press
- Our presentation of power as based in hapū and expressed without coercion comes from Walker, R. (1990) Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou: Struggle Without End Auckland: Penguin
- We base this presentation of Māori concepts as having largely homogenous pre-colonial meanings on King, M. (2003) The Penguin History of New Zealand Auckland: Penguin, p. 91.
- Our definition of Whanaungatanga is based on Metge, J. (2010), p. 71
- Our definition of rangatiratanga comes from Mikaere, A. (1999).