Monday 14 August 2023

The Politics Of National Security.

Strategically Challenged: Of the threats listed by Defence Minister Andrew Little one can only observe, grimly, that they are universal. Every nation state must take precautions against “terrorism, cyberattacks, transnational crime, mis- and disinformation”, even if each state’s degree of vulnerability to these evils is a product of their ideological and political deportment vis-à-vis the rest of the world. 

THE RELEASE of New Zealand’s first National Security Strategy document revealed the inevitable limitations of such exercises. The gravest threats to any nation state are always and everywhere political. From fanatical ideologues ready and willing to commit acts of political violence to advance their cause, to political parties eager to exercise the tyranny of the majority over insubordinate minorities, it is politics that constitutes the most profound threat to the safety of the state. In a democracy, however, any official attempt to designate a political party or movement as a threat to national security would be decried as an outrageous attempt to screw the political scrum. Strategy documents relating to national security must, therefore, be so general in scope as to be useless for alerting the population to the dangers posed by specific political actors.

Which is not to say that historically there have not been instances of the New Zealand state’s security apparatus singling out a political party as a threat to national security. In common with most capitalist countries, the New Zealand state identified its local Communist Party as a palpable threat to the nation’s safety.

Most New Zealanders associate anti-communist witch-hunts with “McCarthyism” and the Cold War, but the truth is the New Zealand state, in the guise of the Police Special Branch, had been watching and harassing New Zealand communists ever since the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917. It is certainly the case, however, that the coincidence of the McCarthyite “Red Scare”, the Korean War, and the hugely disruptive New Zealand Waterfront Lockout, contrived to bring this country’s power elites perilously close to identifying the parliamentary Opposition – Labour – as a national security threat.

The Lockout itself spawned a State of Emergency, complete with a suite of “Emergency Regulations” which effectively suspended New Zealanders’ democratic liberties for the duration of the crisis. This led to the Leader of the Labour Opposition, Walter Nash, being physically prevented from addressing a public meeting on the deepening crisis by a burly Police sergeant. With the Waterside Workers Union defeated, and the State of Emergency lifted, the National Prime Minister, Sid Holland, shrewdly sought retrospective validation for his Government’s actions by calling a snap-election for September 1951.

According to Otago historian Tom Brooking: “The campaign was probably the dirtiest in New Zealand’s political history. National declared that the election was a contest between ‘The People versus the Wreckers’. Hackneyed old stories that Nash had once been a bankrupt were dredged up and his earlier visit to Russia was cited as proof of his communist leanings.”

In the febrile atmosphere of Cold War hysteria and post-Lockout retribution which overshadowed the election campaign (a situation which New Zealand’s conservative newspapers were only too happy to inflame) Labour did not know which way to turn. Unsurprisingly, it was trounced by Holland’s National Party, which secured a 20-seat majority and an impressive 54 percent of the popular vote.

It was to shake-off the red-baiting slurs of the National Party and the conservative press that the Labour Party, in June of 1951, abandoned its explicitly socialist commitment to “the socialisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange”. While the party’s official colour remained a fiery revolutionary red, the complexion of its policies tended more and more towards a conciliatory pink.

To describe Labour’s policies for the 2023 General Election as “pink” would flatter them enormously. The truth is that, colour-wise, they’d fit snugly between green and blue on the ideological spectrum. Certainly, it would be bizarre to cast Defence Minister Andrew Little’s summation of New Zealand’s national security position in revolutionary colours:

Aotearoa New Zealand is facing more geostrategic challenges than we have had in decades - climate change, terrorism, cyberattacks, transnational crime, mis- and disinformation, and competition in our region which, up until recently, we thought was protected by its remoteness.

For a start, New Zealand’s “geostrategic” position is exactly where it has always been – next to Australia and far away from everybody else. In relation to climate change, it enjoys a relatively benign position vis-à-vis those continental nations currently caught between devastating heatwaves and cataclysmic flooding. As the past few months have amply demonstrated, New Zealand is not immune from the effects of global warming, but it is better positioned than many of its allies – and most of its enemies – when it comes to surviving the threat of climate change.

As for the other threats listed by Little, one can only observe, grimly, that they are universal. Every nation state must take precautions against “terrorism, cyberattacks, transnational crime, mis- and disinformation”, even if each state’s degree of vulnerability to these evils is a product of their ideological and political deportment vis-à-vis the rest of the world. If Sweden moves against its citizens’ freedom of expression by banning the desecration of the Koran, then its chances of experiencing an Islamist terrorist attack will be diminished. If New Zealand’s Defence Minister allows himself to be bullied by New Zealand’s Five Eyes partners into signing-up to Pillar 2 of AUKUS, then our exports to China are certain to suffer. In both cases, the outcome will be determined by the respective governments’ political choices – and, because both nations are democracies – the will of their people.

Were Little not constrained by New Zealand’s political conventions, he would be free to identify what really is the single gravest threat to this country’s national security – the Act Party.

If Act finds itself in a position to drive forward its core economic, social and constitutional programme, then the political reaction produced will likely be beyond the capacity of the New Zealand state to manage – without resorting to deadly force. Of course, the presence of blood in the streets will only increase the threat of terrorism, cyberattacks, crime, mis- and disinformation dramatically – most probably to the extent of civil war. The New Zealand state would, doubtless, emerge as the victor of this fratricidal/racial struggle (states almost always win) but only at a truly appalling cost in blood and treasure. New Zealand’s national security would require decades to restore.

But, Little cannot brand Act a threat to national security – not without exposing Labour (and all the other parties) to an equivalent charge. As a democracy, the New Zealand state is obliged to wear the consequences of the people’s electoral choices. If those choices amount to unleashing an existential threat to the safety of the state, then it is only because the nation’s politics have decayed to the point where a dangerous percentage of the population no longer considers it safe to abide by the collective judgement of their fellow citizens.

If the franchise is used as a weapon, then fewer and fewer people will find themselves in a position to accept its judgements with equanimity. The moment the preservation of national harmony ceases to be the fundamental purpose of New Zealand’s electoral politics, then safeguarding its national security becomes an impossibility.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Friday, 11 August 2023.


Geoff said...

The parlous state of race relations in New Zealand can be sheeted firmly home to the divisive path Labour have chosen to pursue.
Furthermore, Hipkins promise to "discuss" He Pua Pua has failed to materialise.
Maori crime is increasingly violent and organised.
It HAS to stop, if it needs a'fight' to prevent be it .
New Zealand cannot be cowed by the not too subtle threats of civil war by violent, Maori ,intent on feathering their own the expense of more than 80 % of us !

SDT said...

If Labour weren't so incompetent and hadn't waged regulatory and financial war on so many aspects of society for so little benefit then Act wouldn't be so strong. Seymour is the antithesis of Labour: competent and prudent.

MPHW said...

I love your blog Chris but your comment that Act could be a threat to national security is ridiculous. A more real threat would be from those politicians that support He Puapua which is a racialist document that is designed to benefit elite tribalism with fascist tendencies.


Chris you write ... "The gravest threats to any nation state are always and everywhere political".

Huh! ... Wrong ... you've gotta be kiddin me?

The GRAVEST threat to any nation state is NOT political.

Politics by definition is not threatening ... it is always optional, judgmental and a choice (in a democracy) ... and an exercise of the free will.

You know what is a grave, albeit uncertain and unpredictable threat?

Answer: Any nation marshalling military capability, issuing serious bellicose threats and establishing influence in our vicinity.

Threatened nations will not be capable of exercising ... their free will.

And who ... pray tell, fits this prescription?

Answers to this column win The Choclate Fish.

Brendan McNeill said...


We don’t have to wait to see ‘the franchise used as a weapon’. Have you forgotten that hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders were mandated to take a medical procedure against their will in order to retain their employment, feed their families, pay their mortgage?

We don’t have to wait to see what totalitarianism looks like, or is it more correctly fascism we have experienced over the last three years, with the state and big business (big Pharma) aligning to impose their political and commercial interests on the people.

Have you forgotten the largest political protest this country has witnessed in decades taking place outside Parliament? The refusal of ALL politicians in parliament to meet with the protesters, the attempts to humiliate and delegitimise them by the speaker of the house of representatives?

Just remind us all again which political party is the real threat to social order, the one most willing to tear the social fabric and gleefully create two classes of people; willing to ‘other’ those New Zealanders who refused to take an experimental vaccine, who were concerned about unknown side effects, who formerly trusted in the NZ bill of rights to protect them from this kind of Government over-reach.

Hint: It’s not ACT.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Was Walter Nash ever bankrupt? I can't find any information about it at all. Just had a quick look though. But if so, using it an election campaign is an order of magnitude better than outright lying which Republicans seem to be doing about various Democrats, and have been doing for some time. Obama apparently was/is a drug addict and his wife is a man, Clinton according to some absolutely nutty right-wingers on a site I went to some years ago, is a witch. And it still goes on.
Hopefully that trend will not as is often the case, reach our shores. It's probably more of a threat to our democracy than any number of "communists", critical race theory, and "post-modern Marxism" (a contradiction in terms in case you didn't know.). Particularly as from what I can gather, much of it emanates from Russian troll farms. Even some conservatives are against this – at least when there is evidence they tried to help Bernie Sanders. 😇

David George said...

There's a strange obsession with the possibility of violence from "The Right"; Ardern's government delegated The Proud Boys as as terrorist organisation despite them having no real presence here, it's a big stretch where they do exist. Strangely incapable of doing the same to organised criminal gangs that are actually terrorising kiwis and their communities across the country.

Madame Blavatsky said...

David George
"Far right" is really just a designation for people who know what is going on. So in that sense, yes, the "far right" in New Zealand and across the globe is probably far and away the biggest threat to "security," which again is just a euphemism for the maintenance in power of the established political orthodoxy. When your system is an elaborate complex of lies, it is only natural that those who see through them are deemed a threat.

Madame Blavatsky said...

Brendan McNeill
Excellent comment. Chris, being the old time lefty comrade that he is, has an ongoing fixation with a situation that occurred in the far off past 70 odd years ago, using it as his go-to "dangers of state oppression and overreach and the manipulation of the public" warning tale. This is very odd because he has a far better and much more egregious example to draw on from only about 2 or 3 years ago. Perhaps he doesn't cite this latter example because, on the basis of his written output at the time, he was all aboard with that particularly hideous example of how a government can stir up a populace with rhetoric and direct them towards supporting a policy that has no place in a supposedly free society.

Anonymous said...

No it’s not fascism. It’s totalitarian liberalism.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

David. New Zealand has designated all sorts of people terrorist organisations who have no presence here. It's usually just a follow-on from the US. And of course several proud boys have been indicted, convicted and sentenced for trying to interfere with legitimate elections in the US. You really need to read more widely David.
Brendan. In times of emergency it's perfectly legitimate for the government to impose restrictions on people, including the necessity to have a medical procedure. This has been established time and time again by both national and international courts. I have also said this repeatedly on this site Brendan so why are you still pushing this bullshit?
Act is competent and prudent? I'm not sure on what evidence anyone would make that statement, given that they haven't done a hell of a lot. And of course they are libertarian. The words competent, prudent, and libertarian should never be used in the same sentence, without the word 'not'. Google the 'Free town project'.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Incidentally, for those who are interested and perhaps less set in their ways and Brendan – have a look at how Tennessee managed the Covid crisis. The lack of "totalitarianism" pretty much at the top of the list for infections and deaths. In spite of several attempts to fix the problem with prayer.
I doubt somehow if the "freedom" in Tennessee was much compensation for the deaths of friends and relatives. I guess religion could be some comfort after the fact. But it's quite possible that the people of Tennessee would prefer their relations alive. Mind you who knows – fundagelical people are strange.

David George said...

Yes Chris (& MPHW) "New Zealand cannot be cowed by the not too subtle threats of civil war by violent, Maori"
It's a pretty damning indictment of our country and her people that we are to be expected to accede to the bellicose demands of deranged ethno-nationalists and race grifters. How real is the threat? Would it be actual violence and terrorism on a scale that threatens the state itself?

Just how seriously should we take these people? Perhaps we'd only get a few instances like the 2007 Urewera Terrorists/circus? Tama Iti (Che Guevara/Chairman Mao or Captain Mainwaring?) making fools of themselves or something far more frightening. Some of that lot are still active - Kiri Allan went on to disgrace herself in politics and others thought detonating bombs in a Wellington Cinema (to terrorise elderly Jews along to watch a film on David Ben-Gurion) was a good idea.

We were told that we would be having a "national discussion" on co-governance. We were lied to. Any discussion that so much as questions the premise is being systemically demonised. The only proper course is a genuine discussion and subsequent referendum as proposed by ACT.

David George said...

Geoff: "Hipkins promise to "discuss" He Pua Pua has failed to materialise"
It's worse than that Geoff. Labour's journalism bribe (PIJF) proscribed and required adherence to treaty and co-governance dogma. Now we have Willie Jackson having another go, lecturing journalists on what can and cannot be reported on these issues in the lead up to the election.

Labour's richly deserved ignominious defeat can't come soon enough.

Odysseus said...

"Almost wherever one looks, from New Zealand to the Netherlands, hundreds of millions no longer feel in control, valued or even consulted by the self-satisfied ruling class."(Allister Heath in today's Telegraph.)

By pursuing a race-based agenda to placate the separatists and extremists in its Caucus, Labour have done grave damage to New Zealand's cohesiveness as a country where all are equal before the law. The use of racial profiling to ration access to surgery and pharmacy care is the latest, most disgusting manifestation of Labour's disdain for the majority of the population, whom they have effectively classified as second class citizens in their own country. And yet here you are pointing the bone at Act? Cast out the beam in thine own eye!

chris prudence said...

I've been on the dole since 2000.I would like to thank the labour govt for a couple of generous increases to the benefit and the winter energy payment of twenty dollars a week.Some people think it should apply all year round.

Apart from studying for a couple of certificates of proficiency papers which I passed I've been in the welfare state for the better part of twenty years.

John Hurley said...

An interesting discussion here about "Twitter Nazis"

sumsuch said...

Re ACT, amusing to see the authors of freemarketism coming out so baldly agin climate change. it pricks their points despite/ because the wealth they've garnered. Not so rational.

I don't like the main media ignoring Seymour's comment, 'subhuman actions' about the gangs riding around in Opotiki. Also Douglas's criticism of Seymour. Those middle class reporters pick and choose with their prejudices.

I'm middle-class myself but I remember. Dad from a working class home on the rise, Mum from a church-mouse poor manse.

sumsuch said...

True Welfare State middle class since Mum maintained she raised the 7 of us on the Family Benefit, since teacher Dad, obviously, had the usual male mid-century vices to spend his money on.