Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Real Fascists Don't Use Swastikas.

Everyone Wants To Be Fuhrer: When fascist groups are discussed, the image conjured-up in the minds of most New Zealanders is one of pathetic misfits. This negative impression is reinforced by the latter’s idiotic embrace of the swastika. Even in the second decade of the twenty-first century, the baleful legacy of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich is more than powerful enough to consign those who embrace its iconography to the category of crank and/or criminal.

ONE OF THE MOST puzzling features of contemporary New Zealand fascism is its self-imposed failure. When fascist groups are discussed, the image conjured-up in the minds of most New Zealanders is one of pathetic misfits. This negative impression is reinforced by the latter’s idiotic embrace of the swastika. Even in the second decade of the twenty-first century, the baleful legacy of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich is more than powerful enough to consign those who embrace its iconography to the category of crank and/or criminal. When combined with the contemporary Kiwi fascists’ shaven heads and multiple tattoos, these wilful references to the defeated fascists of the past fundamentally compromise their entire political project.

Such self-destructive behaviour suggests that New Zealand fascists simply do not understand the nature of the ideology to which they have attached themselves. Above all else, fascists validate the national community. In the local context, this means embracing all the myths and symbols of the New Zealand nation state. No genuine New Zealand fascist would consider for a single moment marching down the street beneath the flag of their country’s World War II enemy!

Genuine fascists present themselves to their fellow citizens not as outsiders, but as the ultimate insiders: the ones whose attachment to the core values of the nation is stronger than any of their political rivals.

That Hitler’s stormtroopers wore uniforms did not strike the Germans of the 1920s as either odd or sinister. (As the wearing of uniforms outside the armed forces and the police most certainly strikes today’s New Zealanders as both odd and sinister.) Many groups in pre-World War I German society wore uniforms – student societies in particular. In most Germans’ eyes they simply betokened unity and collective purpose: positives – not negatives. The swastika, similarly, when adopted as the symbol of the Nazi Party, struck most Germans as intriguing rather than threatening. When it was explained to them that it was an ancient symbol, representing the power and purity of their “Aryan” origins, they were impressed – not repelled.

The equivalent in contemporary New Zealand society would be an ancient Maori symbol. A Kiwi fascist would present this as proof of his movement’s mystical connection with land and people.

The people who call themselves fascists while carrying around the swastika flag, understand nothing about the political iconography of radical nationalist movements. Indeed, it is hard to imagine anything more calculated to make the rest of the country regard them as an outside force that must be destroyed – rather than as a deeply patriotic group with privileged access to the inner wellsprings of their nation’s identity.

Perhaps the best way to illustrate what a New Zealand fascist movement might look like is to describe the rise and fall of the New Zealand Legion – the closest this country has ever come to a mass fascist organisation.

In essence, the Legion represented the outrage and distress of upper- and middle-class New Zealanders at the seemingly intractable problems thrown up by the Great Depression. While the incumbent United-Reform coalition government seemed incapable of effective action, the Labour Opposition struck members of the business and professional classes as a clear and present threat to their wealth and status.

Shaken by the riots of the unemployed in 1932, a group of “patriotic” businessmen, professionals, sheep-farmers, teachers and journalists came together, in February 1933, with the purpose of galvanising the respectable classes into action. Within a few months 20,000 people (mostly males over 40 who had served as officers in the First World War) had joined the NZ Legion – numbers rivalled only by the mass membership of the 1930s Labour Party.

On the card they were required to sign, intending members read:

“[R]ealising the present serious National emergency, and the necessity for all good citizens to subordinate private and political interests and to make any necessary personal sacrifice for the sake of the country, [I] agree to become a member of the New Zealand Legion and to further loyally, by every means in my power, by vote, example and personal influence, the objects of the Legion.

They further pledged to be “loyal to his majesty the King, the British Empire, and the New Zealand Constitution.”

In essence, the Legion sought to take politics out of politics by outlawing political parties. (Which was just a typically pusillanimous middle-class way of calling for the outlawing of the Labour Party!)

Politics, however, was what ultimately killed the Legion. Its leaders and members simply couldn’t agree on what it was, exactly, that patriotic New Zealanders needed to do. Unlike a genuine fascist movement, it lacked a charismatic leader capable of preventing such crippling internal debates by reserving all policy-making powers to himself.

By 1934, the legion was on the wane. A year later, the Labour Party, whose 50,000 members had some very clear ideas about what needed to be done, was elected to govern the country. The Legion was over.

Or was it?

According to the historians at the Ministry of Heritage and Culture:

“With the conservative parties being well and truly trounced by Labour at the 1935 election, the Legion was soon forgotten. Some of its members, though, became active in the new National Party formed in 1936. Eight former Legionnaires were selected as National candidates in the 1938 election, and the movement’s greatest success story, Sid Holland, went on to serve as National Prime Minister from 1949 to 1957.”

Contemporary Kiwi fascists would be wise to take heed of the lesson provided by Sid Holland and his fellow Legionnaires. The cause of radical nationalism is best served by aligning oneself and one’s followers with those individuals and groups possessing the power and resources necessary to advance it.

From the very beginning, Hitler’s Nazi Party (like Mussolini’s fascists) was able to call upon the resources of extremely wealthy and well-connected supporters. And you may be sure that when he called upon these supporters for financial and political assistance, Hitler arrived wearing a well-tailored suit and a silk tie – not a brown shirt. He certainly didn’t arrive carrying the Tricolour or wearing the steel helmet of a French infantryman!

Indeed, when he ran for the German presidency in 1932, Hitler presented himself as a decorated war hero who did not drink or smoke and who followed a strict vegetarian diet. Those newspapers sympathetic to his party’s cause told their readers that this former artist and front-line soldier, who had been awarded the Iron Cross (First Class) for his bravery under fire, loved cakes, dogs, children – and, above all else in the world, Germany.

All of these details were correct.

Of course, if the 37 percent of Germans who voted for Hitler in 1932 had known what he would do to their country, and the world, between 1933 and 1945, it is unlikely that quite so many of them would have given him their support!

But, that’s the terrifying thing about real fascists, they don’t come wearing warning signs, and they aren’t obliged to present us with x-rays of their souls.

That New Zealand’s tiny collection of self-proclaimed fascists choose to come before us bearing both of these identifying items, tells us two very important things. 1) They’re not really fascists. 2) If we want to identify those radical nationalists who are truly dangerous, then we need to look elsewhere than pathetic collections of wannabe f├╝hrers.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 20 August 2019.

19 comments:

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"necessity for all good citizens to subordinate private and political interests and to make any necessary personal sacrifice for the sake of the countr"

I think we can be pretty sure who would be expected to make the actual sacrifices
here. :)
"if the 37 percent of Germans who voted for Hitler in 1932 had known what he would do to their country, and the world, between 1̶9̶3̶3̶ 1942 and 1945,"
FTFY :)
Is Colin King – Ansell still around? New Zealand's answer to Stephen Yaxley Lennon. I really think he should have got a mention Chris considering he did start a political party called New Zealand National Socialists or something. Although to be fair it hardly gained the status of a movement – except perhaps the sort you have after a heavy night on spicy food.
Just at the moment I'm reading Adam Tooze's book on the Nazi economy. Treated myself at Christmas time. It's a long hard read, but a real eye-opener, and the reason I lightheartedly corrected that second statement.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

My God, I looked him up and find that he's a couple of years older than me. (Funny how you sometimes forget that people you never see also age. Singers for a start.) And he contested the Eden electorate in '72 and '75, which I had totally forgotten about which is a little worrying considering I lived there at the time. Old age. And he now leads something called the New Zealand National Front. Well well – some memories you could really do without though.:)

sumsuch said...

My delightful History teacher remembered the spectacular uniforms of the Legion to us. Along with a strange preference for the English over , what I assume, his mostly Scots ancestry. And Protestantism over the Catholic -- logical to me -- but a chap piped up one day and embarrassed this gent from his yellowy notes.

John Hurley said...

GS
Is Colin King – Ansell still around? New Zealand's answer to Stephen Yaxley Lennon.
.......
Yes how embarrassing what limousine liberals and Marxists did to the English working classes?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I'd reply to you John, but as I said before you're getting increasingly incoherent.

Anonymous said...

Not quite sure how different what you describe is from the many Marxists in unions, and the left wing "Nationalize everything - we know best" approach.

What actual acts that could be reasonably interpreted as Fascist did they commit?
Violence? Illegally undermining legal authority? Racism (by the standards of the time)? And how did any of this compare to what others were doing?

Its very easy to label anyone to the right of you as a Fascist (or to the left you you as a Marxist!).
See the so called "Antifa" movement, which appears to think that calling their opponents Fascists gives them license to beat up anyone they like - primarily based on what (symbols) their victims are wearing.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"See the so called "Antifa" movement, which appears to think that calling their opponents Fascists gives them license to beat up anyone they like - primarily based on what (symbols) their victims are wearing."

So how do you fight people like fascist who believe violence is simply another tool in their struggle? Are we going to do it in the marketplace of ideas? That's been going on for a very long time, and we still have Fascists. And whatever problem you have with antifa there are a lot less violent than the opposition. Although to be fair they don't usually have the police on their side.
Not to mention that anyone can call themselves antifa, whereas Fascists being a bit more organised have membership lists.
And I am unaware of anyone who is labelling ANYONE to the left or right of them as Marxist or fascist. Perhaps you'd like to give us some examples? It may well be that most of the people I know aren't stupid enough to do that, and most of them know exactly what a fascist or a Marxist is. If you know lots of people who do this, it doesn't say much of the company you keep does it?

Nick J said...

GS, I don't know where you get the idea that Antifa are less violent than Left wing equivalents, they are certainly more numerous and more active.

Because we have rightly demonized the spectre of Right wing reaction based upon historic experience we seem to give Left wing equivalents a blind eye. If you are honest and do an appraisal of "wokesterism" and their Storm troopers Antifa you will find an authoritarianism as extreme as any RWNJ. It's got an equivalent historic lineage, the extreme intolerance of Marxist thought that lead to the gulags. The danger is that we rightly focus on "neo-fascists" but not on the new extreme Left. Myself I will fight both, they share toxicity and lethality. And it's not just down to organisation or membership lists, it's down to the really dangerous things like promotion of ideas that sound noble but contain violence.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"GS, I don't know where you get the idea that Antifa are less violent than Left wing equivalents, they are certainly more numerous and more active."
That doesn't make much sense. But if by some stretch of the imagination you mean right wing equivalents then as I said before, anyone can call themselves antifa – doesn't mean they are. And as far as I'm aware they haven't killed anyone yet, whereas their right wing equivalents kill people all the time in the US.

peteswriteplace said...

They were hoping John Key would be their new messiah, but he proved to be just another self interested and self- centred piece of political flotsam.

peteswriteplace said...

Where is the new extreme left?

Nick J said...

GS, let's address the violence issue. In the 60Ss and 70s I remember well the Bader Meinhoff gang, the Red Brigade, any number of Left wing extremists. Times have changed, currently it's RWNJs doing the killing. Seems to me if you don't have control of the discourse of the day violence becomes preferable. When the populace gives the Antifa types the message that their discourse is bollocks expect extreme violence from their more warped individuals.
That in itself is an issue but it is peripheral, not the main event for violence. The "big one" is where an idea like fascism or Marxism gains political power. The end result is always a body count. That is why Antifa are dangerous, probably more so than current RWNJs who have no real discourse.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

The thing is Nick, that first of all as I said anyone can call themselves antifa. Doesn't mean to say they are, but they can commit violence in its name. And yes there are some people in antifa who believe in using violence. But they don't have a binding ideology. They are just antifascist. And the idea of them gaining political power is somewhat ludicrous. Whereas the neo-Nazis have a well-known specific ideology, and although they do fight among themselves because they're screwing each other's wives or whatever, they are at least consistent. Yet while they stand more of a chance of gaining political power than antifa, it's still ludicrous. Because more than nothing ain't a great deal.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Dammit I accidentally hit the button. Not to say that somewhat extreme right wing parties can't gain power, as they have in Italy, Russia and Hungary. But I do believe they are just short of being Nazis. They have also gained power as Hitler did by winning the popular vote, but as yet there has been only a minimal body count – and most of that in Russia. I don't think Berlusconi engaged in much by the way of murder, can't speak for the Hungarian, Putin seems to be confining his murders to journalists. While all you people of course keep screaming about some boofhead Australian millionaire football player's freedom of speech fee fees.

Robert M said...

Its seems unlikely John Key knew what country or party he was in.Both Key and Brash were ideal vehicles to mislead the middle class and business that National was still in their interests and still supported a free society and sophisticated bussiness and defence forces. About 2016 Key realised he was actually the chairman of the board for the populist version of the far left labour party, Celia was Mayor in Wellington and the country seemed to becoming East Germany in 1979

Robert M said...

The troika of kaos. Venuzela, Cuba and Nicaragua, according to John Bolton(US National Security Adviser and with Ivanka is some respects the US Co President ) speaking to a respectful Oxford Union audience, three weeks ago
Bolton noted he considered running for the Presidency in 2016.My own view in 2020 we may see a three way possibility of Warren 33%, Trump 33%, Bannon 33 %. Given a three way split almost anyone could win, is McGovern or Bill Clinton. After all Bidden is senile and it is not clear that Trumps peace and love, olive branch backgammon relationship with Jong is just good cap, bad cop game theory play in the the Bolton/XI duel/negotiation.Of course in time of war, following the loss of the President the US President is the US defence sec, not the VP.


Nick J said...

Yes GS anybody can claim to be Antifa, as anybody can claim to be alt Right. Each encompasses a very broad church of ideas. I contend that the ideas are the dangerous items, not random extremists. The utopian nationalism of the Nazis created an ideal man, an ideal nation and their corollary, untermenschen. Violence ensued. The current victim dialogue of the Left mirrors the prior Leninist Marxist dialogue that exalted the proletariat as victims of bourgeois capitalists, and in Russia kulaks. We all know what followed. Big ideas, big violence.

Your example of the idiot Aussie sports millionaire calling for the immolation in eternity for those he objects to illustrates how far crazy ideas can be taken. We can ban this speach or take it head on. If you can ban it and let it fester like a gangrenous limb it poisons the whole body.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Warren 33%, Trump 33%, Bannon 33 %"
Is it just me who sees that particular US election result as either impossible or so extremely unlikely as to be to all intents and purposes impossible given the peculiarities of the American electoral system?
But God help us, there is an outbreak of incomprehensibility close to gibberish in the comments at the moment. Could we stop the stream of consciousness and try to make sense?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Nick. Well actually as I said, the alt right are far more organised and do have membership lists, websites and the like – plus when you seen carrying a Nazi flag or a techie torch it's a pretty good indication. An anonymous guy and ask not so much.

"If you can ban it and let it fester like a gangrenous limb it poisons the whole body."
No kidding? That's the received wisdom obviously, but I can't see any evidence that confronting it head on actually works. All this colourful language and no one can really tell me how the marketplace of ideas works. Because it doesn't seem to have worked so far, because fascism is rising over much of the world. And if you're so keen on confronting it head on why are you so against antifa? Seems to me there confronting is a lot more effective than arguing with them.
As far as the boofhead is concerned, no one is banning his speech. Are you of the opinion that you should be allowed to use something someone has constructed to say or publish whatever you like – in spite of the fact that it might be bad for their business? That would seem to be communism. The boofhead hasn't been banned, he simply being punished for bringing the game into disrepute, and possibly losing the Australian rugby union revenue – hopefully.
The same for people like Alex Jones and the other raving nutters – who incidentally have pretty much the same TOS on their own websites. And that whale oil nut job – specifically said he could ban your comments for any reason whatsoever. And banned me for saying something like "Well actually the science shows...... " didn't see any of you guys getting your knickers in a twist about that.:)