New Zealand Ruling Elite Glorifies British Monarchy


By Tom Peters

New Zealand’s political and
media establishment has joined in the mind-numbing
glorification of Queen Elizabeth II and the British monarchy
over the past fortnight. The Labour Party-led government
announced a period of mourning, culminating in a state
memorial service and one-off public holiday to be held on
September 26.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a
press conference on September 9 that “this is a time of
deep sadness” and “we share our thanks for an incredible
woman who we were lucky enough to call our Queen.” Ardern
stated that “the Queen has been such a constant in our
lives” and was the embodiment of “service, charity and
consistency… courage, compassion and
humour.”
 

Beyond these platitudes, which
have been repeated ad nauseum by politicians and media
pundits, Ardern was unable to explain why the population
should be particularly moved or interested in the death of
the extremely wealthy 96-year-old monarch.

Throughout
the world, the mourning for the Queen is driven by a
yearning for authoritarian forms of rule, and for a symbol
of national unity and “stability,” which can then be
used to suppress social conflict. As the World Socialist Web
Site noted, her death occurs at a time of acute economic,
social and political crisis for British imperialism and its
allies, including the NATO war against Russia over Ukraine,
collapsing living standards, the ongoing pandemic, and the
threat of widespread class conflict.

In New Zealand,
the endless tributes to the Queen have served the immediate
purpose of diverting attention from the government’s open
adoption of the criminal policy of mass COVID infection.
Just three days after the monarch’s death, Ardern falsely
declared that “the worst of the pandemic is, in many ways,
over” and announced an end to mask mandates and daily
reporting of cases. In fact, COVID has become a leading
cause of death in New Zealand, and during the winter months
the country’s death rate from the virus was among the
highest in the world, thanks to the government’s removal
of public health measures.

The Ardern government also
confronts the re-emergence of workers’ struggles, driven
by the soaring cost of living with inflation at 7.3 percent.
Firefighters, manufacturing workers, healthcare workers and
others have all recently engaged in strike action. Anger
over worsening levels of poverty and homelessness has
contributed to falling support for the Labour
Party.

Amid this rising political uncertainty, Ardern
has downplayed her previous statements that she expects New
Zealand to eventually become a republic. She declared at a
proclamation ceremony that she expects New Zealand’s ties
with Britain to “deepen” under King Charles III. She
told the BBC that moving towards a republic is “not a
process I have any intent of instigating.”

Making
New Zealand a republic, under capitalism, would change
nothing fundamental: all power would remain in the hands of
the super-wealthy layer represented by both major parties
and their allies. The ruling elite, however, is clearly
concerned that opening up discussion on the issue could have
unpredictable consequences.

Writing in the Listener
magazine, former Prime Minister Helen Clark expressed
concern that a debate over “constitutional arrangements”
could contribute to “polarisation in a society where
political rhetoric has become more charged, and where there
are heightened perceptions of marginalisation and
exclusion.”

Ardern’s stance was also applauded by
a September 13 New Zealand Herald editorial, which declared
that the “strength” of aristocratic rule “is that it
places constitutional stability in a person who cannot be
replaced, and a family everyone recognises. It is ancient,
familiar and works.”

Among the key considerations
for Wellington is the fact that the governor-general, the
Queen’s unelected representative, retains significant
anti-democratic reserve powers. The notion that the monarchy
never intervenes in politics is a fraud. In 1975 Australian
Governor-General John Kerr dismissed the Labor government of
Prime Minister Gough Whitlam—who the ruling class viewed
as incapable of suppressing the growing upsurge of workers
against historic attacks on wages.

Referring
favourably to this action, known as the Canberra coup,
Newstalk ZB radio host Andrew Dickens declared on September
12 that New Zealand should keep the monarchy in order to
provide “an impartial tool for when things go very wrong,
as they did in Australia in the Gough Whitlam
years.”

The Ardern government may also be concerned
that a debate on republicanism could encourage opposition to
New Zealand’s role in the imperialist world order. As a
minor imperialist power, NZ has historically depended on its
alliance with the British Empire to secure its own
neo-colonial interests in the Pacific and more broadly.
Since World War II, NZ and Australia have been more closely
allied to the United States. But ties with the UK remain
important as all the major powers charge into another world
war; the Ardern government has sent hundreds of soldiers to
Britain to assist in training Ukrainian troops to fight
Russia.

The bloody history of British imperialism,
over which the Queen presided during her 70 year reign, is
generally being buried beneath a flood of fawning
tributes.

Leaders of the Green Party and Māori Party
referred in parliament to the brutal impact of British
colonialism on indigenous Māori in the nineteenth century.
But this did not prevent Greens co-leader Marama Davidson
from declaring in a statement that the Queen “lived a life
of unwavering public service to her country and its former
colonies.”

Māori Party leader Rawiri Waititi, who
has previously called for a republic, told Radio NZ: “[The
Queen has] been a constant over three generations and an
anchor in a rapidly changing globe, and it’s a huge
responsibility for one person to have.”

One of the
most fawning statements in the media came from Martyn
Bradbury, editor of the pro-Labour Party Daily Blog, who
declared: “She fought the Nazis, empowered Feminism and
was the only functioning Matriarch… She was the
Grandmother to 20th Century Western Democracy.”

This
was followed by a similarly unhinged endorsement of King
Charles III, who Bradbury said was “championing more
resources for climate adaptation,” and would stand up
against Prime Minister Liz Truss’s “free market
fanaticism” and “trashing of the
environment.”

There is no discussion in the media or
political establishment of the many crimes committed during
Elizabeth II’s reign, including the suppression of the Mau
Mau insurgency in Kenya during the 1950s, in which British
troops killed an estimated 150,000 people, and other brutal
actions and interventions in the city of Aden in Yemen,
Cyprus, Malaya (now Singapore and Malaysia), Uganda and
Zimbabwe, known then as Rhodesia.

Instead, the British
monarchy is being falsely portrayed as the guarantor of the
rights of indigenous Māori, who make up about 15 percent of
the NZ population.

According to Bradbury, “Māori
see a personal connection to the Royal Family” because of
the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi between the Crown and
several tribal chiefs in 1840. The Treaty, which is now
treated as a founding national document, made false promises
that Māori land and other interests would be protected by
the Crown.

Queen Elizabeth II played a key role in the
transformation of the colonial-era Treaty into a mechanism
for the enrichment of a small tribal elite. Representatives
of this bourgeois and aristocratic layer, including the
Māori king Tūheitia and Ngai Tahu leader Tipene O’Regan,
were among 20 New Zealanders who accompanied Ardern to the
Queen’s funeral in London.

In 1995, the Queen
personally signed an apology to the Waikato-Tainui tribes
for “the loss of lives because of the hostilities arising
from [the British] invasion” and for the “confiscations
of land and resources.” This was accompanied by a
financial handout from the NZ government totalling $170
million—one of the most significant Treaty settlements,
which have been used in recent decades to transform the
tribes into capitalist enterprises.

As a result,
Waikato-Tainui has since developed a billion dollar business
arm, Tainui Group Holdings. The settlement opened the door
for similar deals, which have converted several tribal
leaders into wealthy capitalists and ardent
royalists.

The total value of Māori business assets,
including in tourism, property, fisheries and agriculture
businesses, has soared in the past 20 years from $16 billion
to $70 billion, creating a bourgeois layer that lives in a
different universe from the vast majority of the population,
Māori and non-Māori alike. In fact, the vast majority of
Māori remain among the most impoverished and oppressed
sections of the working class.

Workers of every
ethnicity and nationality face soaring social inequality, a
worsening public health disaster, and the danger of a third
world war—all of which is pushing them to the left, in New
Zealand and internationally. Whatever the immediate effect
of the barrage of propaganda accompanying the Queen’s
death, it will not hold back the class struggle, which will
continue to intensify and bring workers into direct conflict
with the crisis-ridden Ardern government and all its
allies.

https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2022/09/22/knjp-s22.html

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