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New Zealand’s ruling elite glorifies the British monarchy

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 Labor-led government has announced a period of mourning, culminating in a state memorial service and a one-time public holiday to be held on September 26.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a press conference on September 9 that “this is a moment of deep sadness” and “we share our thanks for an incredible woman whom we have been blessed to call our Queen.” . Ardern said ‘the Queen has been such a constant in our lives’ and epitomized ‘service, charity and consistency… courage, compassion and humour’.

The Queen during her 2015 visit to HMS Ocean in Devonport during a ship rededication ceremony [Photo by Joel Rouse/ Ministry of Defence/Open Government Licence v3.0]

Beyond these platitudes, which were repeated ad nauseam by politicians and media pundits, Ardern was unable to explain why the public should be particularly emotional or interested in the death of the monarch. extremely wealthy 96 year old.

Around the world, mourning for the Queen is driven by a desire for authoritarian forms of government and a symbol of national unity and “stability”, which can then be used to quell social conflict. Like the WSWS Notedhis death comes 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 served in the immediate term to distract from the government’s open embrace 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 the end of mask mandates and the daily reporting of cases. In fact, COVID has become one of the leading causes 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 suppression by government public health measures.

The Ardern government is also faced with the re-emergence of workers’ struggles, driven by the soaring cost of living with inflation at 7.3%. Firefighters, manufacturing workers, healthcare workers and others have all recently taken strike action. Anger over rising levels of poverty and homelessness has contributed to declining support for Labour.

Amid this growing political uncertainty, Ardern has played down her previous statements that she expects New Zealand to eventually become a republic. She said 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 intend to embark on”.

Making New Zealand a republic, under capitalism, would change nothing fundamental: all power would remain in the hands of the super-rich layer represented by the two big parties and their allies. The ruling elite, however, clearly fears that opening a debate on the issue could have unpredictable consequences.

Write in the Listener magazine, former Prime Minister Helen Clark expressed concern that a debate on “constitutional arrangements” could contribute to “polarization in a society where political rhetoric has become more charged and there is a perception increased marginalization and exclusion”.

Ardern’s stance was also applauded with 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 whom everyone recognizes. It’s old, familiar and it works.

Among the key considerations for Wellington is that the Governor-General, the Queen’s unelected representative, retains significant undemocratic reserve powers. The idea that the monarchy never intervenes in politics is a fraud. In 1975, Australian Governor-General John Kerr sacked Prime Minister Gough Whitlam’s Labor government, which the ruling class saw as unable to quell the growing rise of workers against historic attacks on wages.

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

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

The bloody history of British imperialism, over which the Queen presided during her 70-year reign, is usually buried under a flood of flattering tributes.

Leaders of the Green Party and Maori Party have made reference in parliament to the brutal impact of British colonialism on indigenous Maori in the 19th century. But that didn’t stop Greens co-leader Marama Davidson from saying in a statement that the Queen “has lived a life of unwavering public service to her country and her former colonies”.

Maori party leader Rawiri Waititi, who has previously called for a republic, told Radio NZ: “[The Queen has] has been a constant over three generations and an anchor in a rapidly changing world, and it’s a huge responsibility for just one person.

One of the most flattering statements in the media came from Martyn Bradbury, editor of the pro-Labour party Daily blogwho said: “She fought the Nazis, empowered feminism and was the only working matriarch… She was the grandmother of 20th century western democracy.

This was followed by an equally lopsided endorsement of King Charles III, who Bradbury said was “advocating more resources for climate adaptation” and would stand against “free market fanaticism” and the “trashing of the world”. ‘environment’ by Prime Minister Liz Truss.

There is no discussion in the media or the political establishment of the many crimes committed during the reign of Elizabeth II, including the suppression of the Mau Mau insurgency in Kenya in 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, Malaysia (now Singapore and Malaya), Uganda and Zimbabwe, known then as Rhodesia.

Instead, the British monarchy is falsely presented as the guarantor of the rights of indigenous Maori, who make up around 15% of New Zealand’s population.

According to Bradbury, “Maori see a personal connection to the royal family” due to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi between the Crown and several tribal leaders in 1840. The treaty, which is now treated as a founding national document, made false promises. that Maori lands and other interests would be protected by the Crown.

Queen Elizabeth II played a key role in transforming the colonial-era treaty into a mechanism for the enrichment of a small tribal elite. Representatives of this bourgeois and aristocratic stratum, including Maori king Tūheitia and Ngai chief Tahu Tipene O’Regan, were among the 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 “loss of life due to hostilities resulting from [the British] invasion” and for “confiscation of land and resources”. This was accompanied by financial assistance from the New Zealand government totaling $170 million – one of the most significant treaty agreements, which have been used in recent decades to transform tribes in capitalist enterprises.

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

The total value of Maori business assets, including tourism, property, fishing and agriculture, has soared over the past 20 years, from $16 billion to $70 billion. dollars, creating a bourgeois layer that lives in a different universe from that of the vast majority of the population. , Maori and non-Maori. In fact, the vast majority of Maori are among the poorest and most oppressed sections of the working class.

Workers of all ethnicities and nationalities face growing social inequality, a worsening public health disaster and the danger of World War III, all of which are pushing them to the left, in New Zealand and across the world. Whatever the immediate effect of the barrage of propaganda accompanying the Queen’s death, it will not dampen the class struggle, which will continue to escalate and bring workers into direct conflict with the crisis-ridden Ardern government and all its allies.