Kiwis first or workers first?

Below are extracts from two arguments taken from the discussion section of this website:

Phil Toms says:

I find your inability to empathise with your own tribe, those who share your culture, society, economy, welfare, accent, genes, a little breathtaking. Our economy, like that of Iceland or Greece, is vulnerable to sovereign bankruptcy. Germany has suggested Greece should sell some of its islands, which would lead to Greece actually being smaller.

This, I suppose is of no concern to you, capitalists selling to capitalists, but in the world we have to live in, if our economy shrinks we get poorer. It makes little difference whether it is an American capitalist corporation or a Chinese capitalist corporation, and perhaps it is you who imagine a difference. A company registered in the Cayman Islands does so to avoid paying tax where it actually does business, depriving that country of income, which translates into public money.

Had you forgotten this part, or not thought of it, or do you feel that this further down-treading of the people (welfare cuts, pension cuts, health cuts) is necessary to cause them to rise up against the oppressors? Your reluctance to focus on this point, and your bitter disdain for your fellow countrymen suggests the latter. Either way, you are incorrect to pronounce that NZ selling the grass instead of the cheese will not make any difference to the average person. They have been telling us this for 25 years, as they flog off everything and we get progressively poorer.

Your argument that it is no worse than the bad things other corporations do is not an argument to have more bad things done to us. You and Roger Douglas seem to be arguing for free trade, globalisation, the Gatt, the WTO, all the tools of the Global Elite who are tightening their grip and dispossessing people everywhere. If a house here is bought by a resident of another country, the rent goes overseas. It is not spent here, at the dairy, or the movies, or on local building contractors, painters etc. and sure, there are lots of leaks, where some of that money goes overseas but a lot more is injected back into the NZ economy than for someone living in Idaho or Singapore, who of course will spend his money in that economy. Surely the same applies to farm profits, even though too much is lost to our economy already. I am starting to feel I should say, by “our economy” I mean me and the other NZers. If you wish to leave yourself out of that, well, that’s sad for you. in fact by so doing you render yourself irrelevant.

John says:

Phil, there are a couple of key issues here that we differ over. The first is the issue of taxation. You argue that the dairy farming sector pays a large amount of tax which the NZ economy, and therefore “we” would be deprived of it if the farms in question were sold to Natural Dairy NZ or some other foreign owned concern. There are a couple of issues with this. The first is that the dairy sector pays a lot less tax than you might think. Have a look at the stuff that Rod Oram (a pretty well respected entirely pro-capitalist economist) has been saying about New Zealand’s farming sector, and about dairy in particular. His major criticism of the dairy industry is that the land price is grossly inflated. This is because New Zealand’s dairy farmers farm, and this is long term trend, for capital gain rather than for immediate profit. This means that many farms pay little or no company tax or income tax because the farms run at a loss or at about break even. There’s more than one way to skin a cat. Registering your company in the Caymans is only one. The upshot of this strategy – which involves farmers in a highly productive sector often declaring minimal profits and living on bank finance – is that the tax loss to New Zealand from the money being transfered offshore by a foreign concern, would probably be a lot less than you think.

When those farms are sold, the absence of a capital gains tax means that the proceeds are untaxed. Capitalists utilise their profits for one primary purpose: to invest for the purposes of making further profit. The capitalists in Natural Dairy NZ would very likely take their profits and invest them back in NZ if that were considered the most profitable location, or in another, probably offshore, investment if that proved more attractive. A NZ dairy farmer is faced with a similar choice, either invest back in NZ, whether in the farm or something else, or invest in a fund with a higher return elsewhere. The money does not simply reside in a bank account here, waiting to be invested for the welfare of all.

If we are to wait for the NZ capitalist class to collectively come around to deciding they will a) pay rather than avoid tax, b) agree to farm for productivity rather than capital gain, c) convince their political leaders to implement a capital gains tax so that they can then pay it, d) invest their profits for the meeting of human need, and e) hand over political and economic power to the working class, we will be in for a very long wait.

The other, obviously related, issue is whether or not people should identify first and foremost as New Zealanders (or citizens of whatever other nation they were born in or hold citizenship for) or instead as members of a class which extends beyond national borders. This is, I suspect, the more fundamental difference. We in the WP are internationalists. We do not require, or even expect you to be, although we would obviously hope that one day you might change your mind. So when we say it is of no concern to us where the capitalist comes from, it is because we care passionately about the future of our planet, our families, and the families all over the world who struggle to make ends met every day because capitalism exploits them mercilessly and without regard to international borders or to which nation they may owe their allegiance. Like the additional 100 million people in India who now live below the poverty line (US$1.25 a day) since 2004, despite the institution of the so-called economic miracle and over 7% per annum growth in the economy there. Like the millions of people in Nepal struggling to make a better life for themselves, their families and their fellow peasants through the revolutionary process unfolding there. Like the people in Latin America who are working to redefine the political map of that region through the Bolivarian revolution there.

In contrast, I find your seeming “ability to empathise with your own tribe, those who share your culture, society, economy, welfare, accent, genes” quite disturbing. I would have hoped humanity could see the advantage of moving beyond such things.

It seems you are set in you position as a nationalist; I am quite comfortable with my own position as an internationalist.

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Comments

  1. Excellent refutation of Nationalism, John.

    “In contrast, I find your seeming “ability to empathise with your own tribe, those who share your culture, society, economy, welfare, accent, genes” quite disturbing. I would have hoped humanity could see the advantage of moving beyond such things.”

    Disturbing indeed. This is a statement that Adolf Hitler would probably have been quite happy to have uttered. I’m not accusing Phil Toms of being a Nazi but this is not a very enlightened position to take.

    What is New Zealand culture anyway? Do you mean Pakeha or Maori culture? Both? If you mean both well they don’t share the same genes.

    Simply put we are all Human Beings irrespective of culture, accent and the geographic location we live in. To think in such terms is very limiting for any progressive minded person. We in the workers party want to see a better future for all humanity not just for 4 or 5 million people living in New Zealand. That’s why we are internationalists and why we advocate open boarders. The working class is an international class exploited everywhere by the Capitalist class. National boarders do not shape the conflict between these two classes, rather the different interests of the two classes do. Telling workers to identify as members of their particular nation state first and foremost obscures the conflicting interests that exist between the working class and the capitalist ruling class.

    Solidarity,

    Nick

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