Capitalism is a System of Exploitation

New Zealand is built on the land, forests and fisheries of Aotearoa. Colonial settlement took place on the basis of a treaty between an emerging independent nation, 35 Maori chiefs having declared independence in 1835, and the English Crown. The 1840 Treaty of Waitangi guaranteed the Maori full control over their properties alongside English settlement.

Despite the Treaty, the settler capitalists went on to seize the lands of the Maori in a series of bloody wars and commercial fraud. Maori society was devastated by war, disease and the loss of their economic base, reducing their population to a fraction of its former size, now comprising less than 12 percent of all people in Aotearoa. Maori language and culture were denigrated and marginalised.

From the rich natural resources of Aotearoa, the working people of Aotearoa built this country; its industries, farms and cities.

Aotearoa is capable of satisfying the needs of all its people. But today the great majority of our people are faced with the threat of unemployment and poverty, ever-rising prices, deteriorating health, education and other social services.

A handful of capitalists control our country and make vast profits on the labour of the working people and the natural resources of the land. All the major means of production - the factories, forests, farms, fisheries and mines are in the hands of a few hundred capitalists.

Within this capitalist class there is a particularly powerful core of monopolies, many of them transnational, such as Fletchers, Brierleys, Todds, Lion Nathan, Fisher & Paykel. Agrarian food processing, such as meat and dairy works is largely in the hands of capitalist producer-run monopolies such as the Dairy Board, cooperative dairy companies and farmers freezing companies.

There are also a large group of foreign capitalists - principally US interests such as Bell South, Heinz, International Pulp and Paper, Mobil, and Texaco; the Australian banks, Goodman Fielder, Comalco, BHP, TNT, News Corp; Japanese manufacturers such as Mitsubishi, Toyota, and Mitsui; and British banking, insurance, oil and shipping interests. These own many forests, factories and mills, transport and communications in Aotearoa. They control whole sectors of the economy such as car assembly and oil and a majority of the capitalisation on the sharemarket but they do not form a united or hegemonic group.

The people at the centre of the monopolies lord over huge personal fortunes accumulated from the backs of the working class.


Capitalism is a system of exploitation. A handful of parasites live off the backs of the workers and could not care less about their situation. This is how they came to pocket over $23 billion profits in 1991. Every bit of the capitalists' vast wealth was stolen from the working people of Aotearoa. The capitalists get rich from the fruit of our labour.

At the end of the week a worker collects their pay. The capitalists and their apologetic flunkeys claim this is a fair exchange. But it is highway robbery. In reality, workers get paid for only a small part of what they produce. In 1991 workers on average each produced new goods and services to the value of$1,720 each week. However they each received an average of $560 wages per week, before tax. The rest, the surplus value, goes straight into the hands of the capitalists and their flunkeys.

The bosses get rich, not because they have "taken risks" or "worked harder," as they would have us believe. The more they keep wages down and get fewer workers to do more work, the more they can steal from us and the greater their profits. If the bosses think they can make more profit somewhere else, they just close their factories and throw the workers out on the street.

Monopoly capitalism is a system of intemational exploitation - imperialism. The monopolies invest their capital abroad, as "transnational" corporations. They penetrate foreign markets and plunder the natural resources of developing countries. They also attempt to dominate other countries politically and to a degree militarily. This international exploitation brings enormous profits for the big corporations, and wretched lives for the people of the developing world

Economic Crisis

Monopoly capitalism is a system of economic anarchy and crisis. Monopoly capitalism is plagued by periodic economic crises, such as recessions, which are becoming more serious and complex. It is the very nature of each monopoly to try to maximise its profits by pushing production and cutting expenses, especially the pay of workers. Prices tend to go up and wages down. The result is that monopolies find they cannot sell all they have produced, and they lay off workers. This only worsens the situation and the economy sinks even further until the monopolists have eliminated their surpluses.

Economic crises are aggravated by speculation, hoarding and other schemes of the bankers, financiers and industrialists. Each tries to profit in the short run, but their individual greed eventually throws the whole system into turmoil, leading the working class and people to suffer.

This anarchic system wastes a great deal of social wealth. Millions of dollars are spent on corporate takeovers and legal fees. Money is diverted from the expansion of production and social services into speculative frenzies. Useful products and crops are routinely destroyed to keep prices and profits high. Massive industrial plants sit idle as the monopolists decide they can make money in other ventures. Thousands of people and small businesses

are uprooted from one community to another as plants close in one area and open in another. Major advances in public transport are blocked by companies with investments in cars and roads.

Monopoly capitalism is an obstacle to the further advancement of the material well-being of society. It is unjust, wasteful, irrational and increasingly unproductive.

Aotearoa is presently in the throws of a long economic crisis. There has been a serious balance of payments deficit since 1974, high inflation, low growth and the persistence of large scale unemployment. Real wages remain at the level of the mid 1970s.

In the face of economic crisis, monopoly capitalism has always tried to put the burden of the crisis onto the shoulders of working people. It has tried wage freezes, social contracts, cuts in benefits, increases in taxation, cuts in expenditure on health and education, and handouts to business.

Impoverishment of the Working Class

For working people the future is less and less certain. 200,000 people are out of work. Wages fall or remain stagnant while hours increase and working conditions deteriorate.

Every day in Aotearoa a worker is killed in a work accident. Hundreds of others are dying slowly of industrial diseases or are mutilated for life.

More than 40,000 people are homeless, overcrowded in spare rooms, caravans or living in cars. Hundreds of children live in stormwater pipes seeking solace in a bag of glue. 3,000 people attempt suicide each year. 2,400 people are hospitalised by assaults and attempted murder.

People live in misery so a small clique of very wealthy individuals can live in luxury.

The idea that everyone can get rich under this system is a lie invented by the rich themselves. Under capitalism, the only way to get rich is to trample on someone else. There is only room for a few capitalists - at any time the great majority must work and be robbed. This is why workers have only one choice: either submit to this wage slavery or fight it!

Racism and National Oppression

Capitalism in Aotearoa was built on migrant labour from Europe. But in addition the capitalists turned to non-European migration for supplies of cheap flexible labour in times of economic expansion. From the earliest days of settlement Maori were employed as internal migrants from their villages to work on farms as labourers and shearers, able to survive on the low wages offered because of the communal support of their hapu. Chinese were imported to work on the goldfields and railways in the late nineteenth century. Maori were drawn from rural areas to the expanding cities following World War II, and were followed by Pacific Island immigrants in the 1960s.

These national minorities have been employed in the lowest paid jobs, the worst working and living conditions and are systematically oppressed-as a people. They are discriminated against in employment, housing, education, excluded from Pakeha society yet their own languages and cultures are suppressed. Their marginalisation from European culture has made it hard for them to defend their rights.

The state has systematically enforced racial oppression in Aotearoa. There has been a long history of racist laws against Maori, primarily designed to maintain cheap access to Maori land. Until the 1950s laws discriminated against Chinese citizens. In the 1970s the state harassed Pacific Islanders as "overstayers" in an attempt to export some of New Zealand's unemployment. The racial oppression of Maori is especially degrading, since Aotearoa is their own country.

An integral component of this systematic national oppression is white chauvinism and racism. This ideology, stemming from the unequal situation of pakehas and minorities, is pervasive in Aotearoa and helps justify and perpetuate the brutal system of national oppression. Within the working class many pakeha act upon racist beliefs to one degree or another, against their own class interests. Some pakeha consciously ally with the exploiters and promote actions against workers of other nationalities. But in the final analysis, the vast majority of working people of all nationalities have no stake in racism and national oppression.

The long history of oppression of national minorities in Aotearoa has given rise to deep sentiments for equality and liberation, particularly among Maori. Their struggles against national oppression strike at the root of the monopoly capitalist system.

Women's Oppression

Women's oppression is built into monopoly capitalism. Women comprise 44% of the total work force, and over a third of the full time work force but receive only 80% of the income of men. Women fill many of the lowest-paid and tedious jobs in the economy. Women have reduced access to education.

Capitalism profits from the low-paid work of women and the unpaid work of women in the home. Women are exploited by capitalism as a sexual image in commercial culture. The billion dollar pornography and sex industry have reduced women to mere commodities. Women are subject to appalling violence - within domestic relationships, through a daily bombardment of denigration in the media and in social situations, to rape and incest.

The capitalist class has long attempted to preserve the low wage position of women. The state has a long history of systematically controlling women's reproductive, democratic and employment rights. Integral to this systematic oppression is male supremacist ideology, stemming from the unequal situation of men and women. This pervasive ideology leads many men to subjugate women in work, social and domestic situations, through the practice of an intimidatory, harassing, degrading and violent culture. Some men consciously ally with the exploiters to maintain the subordinated position of women. But, again in the final analysis, the vast majority of working people, both women and men, have no stake in women's oppression.

A System of Injustices

Besides the exploitation of workers and oppression of national minorities and women, hundreds of thousands of people in Aotearoa suffer from the hidden hands of the capitalist class.

For young people monopoly capitalism means an insecure and uncertain future. Access to public education is becoming increasingly restricted. Youth unemployment is drastically high and young people in Aotearoa have the highest suicide rate in the world. Few constructive cultural or social opportunities exist for youth. Instead, capitalist society abounds with parasites who spread drugs and destructive pursuits among the young.

The elderly, and the disabled are also treated unfairly. The elderly toil their entire lives, but after retirement they lead lives of fear and worry. Capitalism has no regard for its senior citizens; once it has squeezed the working life out of the workers they are tossed away. Capitalist society also callously mistreats disabled people because everything is geared to the drive for profits.

Small business people and family farmers face ruin as big business drives the small ones into bankruptcy.

Artists, intellectuals and cultural workers find less funds devoted to culture in favour of immediately profitable returns. Few cultural workers can concentrate on their interests since they must find other jobs to survive. The cultural life of the country is endangered by this as commercial, often foreign, interests corrupt the national culture.

This exploitative and oppressive system, where profit is master, has choked our entire society with economic crises, political reaction and social decay. The drive for profits holds thousands hostage to hunger and want; it has poisoned the very air that we breath and water that we drink; it spawns cynicism and violence, drugs, crime and social devastation.


The New Zealand capitalist class stands as a junior partner of the world domination of foreign capitalism - imperialism. Capitalism in Aotearoa developed as an appendage of British capitalism and more recently of the USA and Japan, New Zealand capitalists supplying foodstuffs to the northern hemisphere but dependent on them for industrial and manufactured goods. The small-scale secondary manufacturing developed by New Zealand capitalists is dependent on machinery, fuel and materials bought with the foreign exchange gained from agriculture.

The dependence of the capitalist class on foreign markets and supplies makes it vulnerable to international disturbances. Attempts by the capitalist class in the face of economic crisis to restructure economic activity away from the domestic market in Aotearoa towards exports overseas only strengthens their dependence on the world economy.

Because of their close associations and dependence on the dominant world power of the day, New Zealand capitalists have been anxious to provide political and military support to the dominant imperialists. The New Zealand government is a member of the leading imperialist organisations - GATT, the OECD, IMF - has diplomatic relations with all the major powers and has joined many military alliances. When Britain was the dominant world power, the New Zealand government contributed finance for the British navy, sent troops to fight in the Boer War and World War 1. 17,000 New Zealanders died in World War I for no other reason than to keep the colonial peoples under British rather than German subjugation. The capitalists then used the British umbrella to stake out their own colonial interests in the South Pacific. In the 1950s the New Zealand government sent troops to fight with Britain against the national liberation movement in Malaya.

With the emergence of the USA as the dominant world power after World War 11, the New Zealand capitalists switched their allegiance to the US. They supported the USA's military aggression against the national liberation movements in Korea and Vietnam, and New Zealand joined the ANZUS pact, which was originally directed against China. More recently New Zealand troops have also been sent in support of US military interventions in Iraq, Somalia and Yugoslavia.

Working people make up the overwhelming majority of the world's population. But in nearly every country they are the oppressed majority, labouring to support the luxury of a handful of exploiters. More than 500 million people are on the verge of starvation, while the gap between rich and poor is widening. Aotearoa's largest capitalists through multinational operations have joined the world scramble for quick and easy profits in the third world and the domination of world markets. Companies such as Fletchers, Carter Holt Harvey and the NZ Dairy Board have large investments in South America, while many manufacturers have plants in the low-wage economies of Asia.

Excerpt from 'Towards A Socialist Peoples Republic of Aotearoa', Programme of the Communist Party of Aotearoa (NZ)