Wednesday 31 March 2021

Hiding In Plain Sight.

Massey's Cossacks: New Zealand's employer class didn't need the services of a Pinkerton Detective Agency – strike-breakers par excellence in the service of US industrial titans like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. Not when the strapping sons of Waikato and Wairarapa cockies could be quietly trained and organised by army officers to serve as New Zealand capitalism’s reserve militia against the Reds. 

THE RELUCTANCE of many left-wingers to accept that the Christchurch Shooter could not have been stopped is instructive. It betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the motivation driving “Lone Wolf” terrorists. The perpetrators of the sort of mass killings for which Anders Breivik and Brenton Tarrant were convicted conceive of their actions as grotesquely “inspirational” consciousness-raising “statements”.

Precisely because these individuals operate alone; and because they accept the near certainty of being either killed or captured by the authorities; they are extremely difficult to stop. Their missions are “one-offs”. In this regard, their outrages are very different from those planned and executed by organised groups coolly intent upon securing specific political objectives through intimidation and/or terror.

In a mature democracy, like Norway or New Zealand, it is difficult to conceive of any other kind of terrorism except Lone Wolf terrorism. In the absence of deliberate violent oppression, of the sort currently on display in Myanmar, the chances of any ideological current forging a military unit of sufficient fanaticism and operational coherence to carry out a deadly terrorist attack are vanishingly small.

The nearest New Zealand has come to such a unit was the group of left-wing activists observed “training” in the Urewera Ranges more than a decade ago. It is, however, extremely unlikely that the individuals involved in these exercises could have been prevailed upon to initiate the use deadly force. It is possible that fatalities might have been inflicted inadvertently: the result of some jittery young activist transporting firearms being stopped by the Police and panicking. This is, after all, how the Baader-Meinhof/Red Army Faction’s terrorist killing began, back in the 1970s. Even so, in the context of a government presided over by Helen Clark, the Urewera “guerrillas” struck most New Zealanders as tending more towards the farcical than the tragic.

It is the sheer implausibility of organised left-wing violence that has steered New Zealand socialists toward party political alternatives. Even in the midst of the Great Strike of 1913, when armed “Red Fed” strikers exchanged shots with the “Special Constables” summoned from farming districts by the Reform Party Prime Minister, William Massey, trade union leaders understood that the vast majority of New Zealanders were on the side of law and order. This awareness of the futility of raising the red flag of revolution in a nation as red-white-and-blue conservative as New Zealand has always undermined the efforts of novelists and film-makers to persuade us that an armed left-wing guerrilla force would last longer than five minutes against the NZDF.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work the other way around. The very same conservatism that made revolution so unlikely, has, throughout this country’s history, been more-than-willing to assist the dominant groups in New Zealand society maintain their hegemony against all-comers: Maori, Red Feds, Watersiders, Anti-Apartheid protesters. In practically every instance, however, the form of that assistance has been officially sanctioned and organised.

New Zealand had no need of a secretive racist terror-group like the Ku Klux Klan – not when an armed constabulary of land-grabbing Pakeha could be readied for action against defiant tangata whenua under the watchful eye of Settler Government ministers.

Nor did its employer class need the services of a Pinkerton Detective Agency – strike-breakers par excellence in the service of US industrial titans like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. Not when the strapping sons of Waikato and Wairarapa cockies could be quietly trained and organised by army officers to serve as New Zealand capitalism’s reserve militia against the Reds – i.e. the Special Constables known forever after as “Massey’s Cossacks”. Those farmers on horseback were called out again following the Depression hunger riots of 1932.

The use of Special Constables (recruited this time from the nation’s Rugby clubs!) was also contemplated during the 151-Day Waterfront Lockout of 1951. But, thanks to the National Party Prime Minister’s, Sid Holland’s, fascistic “Emergency Regulations” (which made it illegal to feed a striker’s family) and the sterling work of the NZ Police in enforcing them, the swearing-in en masse of New Zealand’s Rugby players was not required.

Only once has the existence of a shadowy group of “unofficial” right-wing extremists, ready and willing to do whatever was necessary to preserve the capitalist status quo, come to the attention of New Zealand journalists and historians. Between 1972 and 1975, when the government of, first, Norman Kirk, and then Bill Rowling, were engaged in what was indeed a “transformation” of New Zealand society, a group of junior army officers, working secretly with elements of the SIS and the right-wing news media, began using the “C” word.

The mid-1970s was a time of threatened and actual coups against left-wing governments. In 1973, the democratically-elected socialist government of Chile was overthrown by the Chilean armed forces, and the country’s Marxist president, Salvador Allende, gunned down in his presidential palace. In 1974, Norman Kirk, obviously unwell, died alone and unattended in a second-rate Wellington hospital. His successor, Bill Rowling, was intercepted at Wellington airport by a person claiming to have documents indicating secret machinations against the Labour Government. The following year, the Australian Labor prime minister, Gough Whitlam, was deposed by his own Governor-General in a bloodless coup d’état.

That something similar did not happen here was due largely to the extraordinarily successful populist campaign waged against the Rowling Government by National’s Rob Muldoon. With a 23-seat majority, it was not considered possible for the government to be defeated. Had the political scientists been proved correct, and had Labour won a second term, who knows what those junior officers might have set in motion.

It is worth recalling that 1974 also marked the high-water mark of trade union power in New Zealand. The fear instilled in the employer class by the 10,000-strong march of workers up Queen Street to secure the release of the Moscow-aligned communist union leader, Bill Andersen – jailed for contempt of court – was palpable.

Nor should we forget that only 4 years earlier, following Allende’s 1970 victory, the US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, had told his shadowy secret operations group, the “Forty Committee”, that: “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go Communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.”

There was a hard core of far-Right activists living in mid-1970s New Zealand: some in the army; some in the SIS; some in the news media; who endorsed Kissinger’s sentiments 100 percent. Thanks to Rob Muldoon, they weren’t needed.

Those on the left of contemporary New Zealand politics, horrified by the Christchurch Mosques Attack, continue to agitate for the country’s national security apparatus to upgrade its surveillance of far-right, white supremacist, extremists. They are convinced that there is a serious threat of coordinated right-wing terrorist activity once again being unleashed against innocent New Zealanders. More preventative effort from the SIS and the GCSB is being demanded.

Unfortunately, the ability of our security agencies to thwart the attack of another Christchurch Shooter is limited. With a modicum of caution, Lone Wolf attackers can avoid detection and interception – until it is far too late.

As for an organised far-right terrorist movement unleashing horror and death in New Zealand – all of our history points to it being unlikely. Only a government with both the numbers and the will to openly challenge the capitalist system could summon forth such a movement. And when it struck, it would, almost certainly, be acting on intelligence supplied by the SIS, and wearing the uniforms of the New Zealand Defence Forces and the Police.

Our far-right terrorists have always hidden in plain sight.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 30 March 2021.


David George said...

The brave popular resistance in Hong Kong and Myanmar are defined by their governments as terrorism; it's hard to imagine the sort of oppression it would take to motivate anything remotely similar here.
The Maori ethno-nationalists do seem sufficiently devoid of reasonableness to qualify and could, perhaps, be encouraged/motivated to go the full destructive terrorist route. Or give rise to an equal and opposite reactionary resistance. The policy of appeasement combined with the promotion/propaganda of Maori grievance/white guilt is working for now but has it's obvious limits. A government, sooner or later, is going to have to put a spanner in their divisive works.

The idea that Tarrant is far right is a (deliberate?) deception. He is strongly anti capitalist, pro environment and a supporter of China and it's authoritarian policies such as centralised social and economic control and limits on family size etc. He is anti human in the way that many Greens are - the pathological belief that humans are fundamentally nothing more than a cancer on the planet. Eco fascist with an anti Islam cherry on top perhaps.

John Hurley said...

There is always the possibility of backlash against "get on the waka"? I'm not sure how it could come about though given we have next to no right-wing media. Perhaps a subculture develops independently and one-day coalesces into a public movement?

greywarbler said...

This is a timely post, I think we need reminding of the incipient fascism that lurks in NZ, amongst some, or perhaps many. I remember hearing of the prohibition of giving food to strikers families. And the mounted police from the farmers side. And it puts the Tuhoe invasion in another light - that has so many interesting contexts.

I admire Ettie Rout and took note of the conservative and hypocritical attitudes shown in PM Massey's time to her WW1 work. There was an unwillingness to treat all NZ people fairly and support us in our endeavours by the ruling class and Massey and others were very willing to take an inhuman approach, pandering to the upper and business classes, whether man or woman. If fascism is the combination for mutual benefit of government, business and the wealthy, early colonial days were close to it.

Ettie worked hard and selflessly for the soldiers health in WW1 but this was not acknowledged, but actually forbidden information.
At the end of 1917 the NZEF adopted her kit for free and compulsory distribution to soldiers going on leave. Ettie Rout received no credit for her role in the kit's development and adoption, and for the duration of the war the cabinet banned her from New Zealand newspapers under the War Regulations.

Mention of her brought a possible £100 fine after one of her letters, suggesting kits and hygienic brothels, had been published in the New Zealand Times. Ironically, this letter had been instrumental in the decision of the defence minister, James Allen, to approve kit issue. Others, particularly women's groups, accused her of trying to make 'vice' safe. Lady Stout led a deputation of women to ask the prime minister, William Massey, to put an end to Rout's Hornchurch club.

Lady Stout was probably against Rout's initiative which indicated endorsement of sex outside marriage; she had desires to assist women to better lives with more opportunities and was very active in gaining voting rights. There was so much male negative comment about women's suitability that Ettie and her non-judgmental approach would no doubt undermine the idea of women's probity.

Indeed she had concern about the male draconian attitudes shown in their arrest of women 'on the streets' who could have their sexual status questioned and examined. 1918, she led a protest campaign against a police raid on a Wellington house and the subsequent trial of five women for allegedly running a brothel. Her main concern was that putting the women on trial while the men involved went free perpetuated the old double standard.

In 1922, at the height of a wave of concern over the incidence of venereal disease, Anna Stout, fearing the reintroduction of compulsory medical examination of women suspected of prostitution, published a pamphlet opposing medical authorities who were demanding compulsory notification of the disease. Both campaigns showed Stout consistently following her belief in sexual equality.

These matters indicate the class-orented society we had earlier that bent favourably to fascism and away from social democracy and equality.

Anonymous said...

One of the left-wingers who say that the Christchurch Shooter COULD have been stopped by the New Zealand security services is Paul Buchanan. A man who spent many years working with the CIA and who has been closely involved with the intelligence community in New Zealand over a long period of time. His view is based on knowledge and understanding. Your contrary view is simply an assertion.
The point is that when the person in question is known to the intelligence services (Tarrant was known to both ASIO and the SIS) then he will be monitored and can be controlled.
The rest of your post seems to follow your now common theme that because New Zealanders are innately conservative it is folly to work for radical constitutional or political reform.
Actually your analysis is flawed, in part because it fails to account for the profound changes in New Zealand society over the past hundred years.
From where would come a new contingent of Massey's cossacks? Contract milkers? Corporate farmers?
Who will form a twenty first century armed constabulary to suppress Maori? The closest the colonial regime could come at Ihumaatao was a hired posse of hired security personal of Indian origin fresh off the plane, desperate for work, but definitely not eager to buy a fight with tangata whenua.
Neither the private soldiers of the colonial army nor the rank and file police officers are willing to turn against our people.
The New Zealand deep state, of course, works within a constitutional framework which would allow it to carry out an anti-democratic coup. However their chances of successfully imposing fascist rule here would be miniscule.
We have little reason to fear either the colonialist deep state or their Five Eyes partners in the United States and Australia. True, they may have perpetrated the outrageous Al Noor massacre, but we know how to prevent any repetition. In all other respects, they are powerless against us.
Geoff Fischer

AB said...

Historically the intelligence services don't appear to have surveilled the far right with the same vigour that they apply to even the moderate left. In the past I have politely referred to this as 'bias' - while not speculating on the origins of that bias. But the origins are clear enough - the far right are uncomfortably adjacent to the intelligence services' own masters.

Barry said...

I used to operate a small company importing specialised plastic bags for food packaging.
We rented space in the warehouse of a customs agent when we started. We couldnt afford getting into our own building at that time.
Being as we operated out of a custom facility we often saw customs officials inspecting imported shipments - usually stuff from China or Bangladesh or Viet nam which was suspected to be declared at below cost - or shipments from Indonesia (where residents could not send money out of the country - so they did the obvious - send out goods and they dont repatriate the money - it stays in the country the goods went to.)

One day there appeared three crates - each a different size. The people operating the business always opened goods that could be mislabeled to make sure the description was correct. The description was "firearms". Upon opening it was obvious that they were military automatic weapons. All used. All from somewhere in Africa. All the same.
(When I went to school military cadets were common. I went to a school in the Hutt Valley and we went several times to Trentham where we fired Bren guns and sub-machine guns. Bren guns had a fault - they were too accurate. Machine guns are meant to spray bullets around. It was an eye opener to see .303 bullets go clean through half inch steel. I know a machine gun when I see one)
I asked if this sort of stuff was legal. Yes was the answer - quite legal.
Where are they going ? (I thought who the hell wants 50 or so used AK47 type guns).
Whakatane was the answer.
Those import papers would have been filed with customs and I have no doubt that when the police said that there was some nefarious activity going on over there that they knew exactly what they were talking about.

greywarbler said...

What denial, what cherry-picking analysis, what sweeping generalisations.

Barry - Guns to Whakatane, to Black Power there? Though we don't know, but surmise? What year was this?
Geoff Fischer - the reason that Buchanan made the positive statement about how the shooter could have been nabbed, could come from what AB refers to, monitoring right-wing white groups as thoroughly as the Middle East-oriented ones. In fact I think that has been admitted. And the reason why we couldn't catch him is that the intel. bunch need to be more swivel-eyed.
And apparently Tarrant was under watch, the services just needed to co-ordinate. (A problem found in USA as well in recent years.)
If we have such good intelligence and protection already then we don't need to dig deeper to get more info than we have, which seems to be something you are unconcerned about.
And to look at past political action that the PTB undertook is wise just from the point of knowing what has been the default reaction from right-wing elites, it doesn't mean that we should be scared from working for political reform, but should be mindful of folly to work for radical constitutional or political reform. Filly is in the word 'radical'. You should note that point Geoff Fischer.
John Hurley - says we have [next to] no right-wing media. This makes all his POV risible.
David George - Fluent, and I hope not an advisor to government, it would be equivalent to deciding policy with weighted dice.

Odysseus said...

Perhaps Tarrant could have been stopped if the Police hadn't so fecklessly granted him a firearms license? But the Royal Commission appears to have found nobody in officialdom accountable and has buried much of the evidence until most of us are dead in any case. Instead they have taken aim at the public's right of free speech in order to promote "social cohesion". It appears critical discussion of religious dogma and the activities of adherents will be proscribed because this has been conflated with racism. Religious extremists will therefore be enabled to police thought and speech in this country by claiming offense. As the Washington Post says, "democracy dies in darkness". Our strongest defense against fanaticism and terrorism is an open society with free and open debate.

Nick J said...

Timely comment Grey. Couldnt help thinking about conservative authoritarianism then, compared to todays progressive authoritarianism. The desire to dominate remains regardless of view at the extremes.

Nick J said...

Attorney General Martyn Finlay said of the SIS in 1974 that he regarded them as "more stupid than dangerous, wasting time and money". It seems that with regard to the veracity of the SIS work on the Sutch case John Marshall agreed.

Seems nothing has changed, same old Cold Warriors running around without a cause.

Barry said...

Re guns to Whakatane. We moved from the customs agent warehouse 17 years ago and had been using it for 2 years - so the shipment came through probably 18 yrs ago but certainly either 18 or 19 years ago.

Wayne Mapp said...

Five Eyes perpetrated the Al Noor massacre. A ridiculous assertion.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Funny how when a white person commits an atrocity, for some reason they always have to be left-wing. Tarrant said this:

“The origins of my language is European, my culture is European, my political beliefs are European, my philosophical beliefs are European, my identity is European and, most importantly, my blood is European,”
The use of the word 'blood' should be a hint really.

He also said:

“Yes, the person that has influenced me above all was [US conservative commentator] Candace Owens… Each time she spoke I was stunned by her insights and her own views helped push me further and further into the belief of violence over meekness.”

I don't think Ms Owens is a Marxist somehow.

Tarrant finally described himself as an "ethno nationalist eco fascist"– he had shopped around a bit for political philosophies. I think he was a very confused young man, but let's not call him an anti capitalist. At least not any more than any other extreme rightist.