The 12th of September marked the fifth and largest of a string of demonstrations that have been taking place primarily in Auckland since 13 August. It was attended by well over a thousand people and was organised by the Advance Party New Zealand whose co-leader, Billy Te Kahika Jnr., called it a ‘National Rally for Freedom.’ This rally had nothing to do with freedom, it is the murmuring of a fascist movement in this country and it must be opposed at every step.
As was the case in the early formations of fascism in Europe, an incredibly wide and bizarre array of bourgeois ideas have been brought together under one umbrella. This umbrella today is denial of the reality of COVID-19, opposition to the lockdown strategy. This has been helped into formation by the emergence of two far-right political parties in the past few months: the New Conservative Party and the Advance Party New Zealand, which recently merged with the NZ Public Party. Their approaches may be slightly different, with the NC having more of a white christian nationalist presentation and AP using more populist and pro-Māori rhetoric, but their policies directly serve the most reactionary elements of the NZ ruling class. And although they both claim to want a government run “for the people, by the people,” all of their policies present large attacks on the livelihoods of the vast majority of Aotearoa’s people.
For working people, the NC takes a clear stand on the side of large corporations, not only proposing $10b in tax cuts but promoting a policy whereby businesses are able to fire “underperforming” workers at their discretion after conducting performance reviews. Although the AP’s positions on workers’ rights are vague and few, under their website’s “Repairing the Economy and Business” section they let us know on whose side they stand: “Productivity and revenue generation…with business support will be our focus.”
Both of these parties have placed themselves firmly against women’s right to bodily autonomy by advocating for the banning of abortion. This archaic policy is one of the many examples of their ties to the church, with the NC being tied to the more traditional Catholic and Protestant formations, while the AP appears to have the support of the Pentecostal movement that has come to prominence since the 1990s. The NC goes one step further in the trampling of women’s rights by proposing the criminalisation of sex work, which would do nothing to stop prostitution. Sex work is work and those in the industry should be given all the rights and protections of other workers. Criminalising it is an attack on all women and all working people.
It hardly needs to be said that the NC Party is disgustingly anti-Māori, advocating for the disestablishment of the Waitangi Tribunal and the Māori electorates, and the elimination of all funding, co-governance and resource management that is “based on race.” The AP, on the other hand, has made weak attempts to appeal to Māori, confined to occasionally using te reo in their signs and communications. In a recent video, Billy TK told Māori leaders who “get funding from the government” to “wake up,” and implied that the UN 2021 and 2030 sustainable development agendas are aimed at destroying their culture. All this vague and nonsensical rhetoric shows is that the AP does not care at all about the interests of Māori people. Their pro-business, anti-worker and anti-women policies are enough to let people know that their support for Māori is at best tokenistic.
The signs at the September 12th rally brought together a huge mix of different conspiracy theories, such as ‘anti-vaccine,’ ‘anti-5G,’ ‘anti-1080,’ ‘anti-UN’ and ‘QAnon,’ all under the idea that COVID-19 is a hoax and the lockdown policy is draconian. When speaking to friends and whānau who may be affected by these ideas, and when opposing this movement in general, we can’t simply dismiss them as incorrect and ridiculous. We must be able to understand and articulate where they come from and why they are gaining popularity.
We can look no further than massive Western media outlets like the New York Times for the source of the anti-lockdown sentiment. When the Chinese government decided to lock down the city of Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province on the 23rd of January, large media houses in the West portrayed this incredibly successful tactic as ‘draconian’ and ‘authoritarian.’ This firm connection that the capitalist media has established between effective, centralised public health measures and the People’s Republic of China, a country which has been hounded and slandered like few others, has created a fertile ground for opposition to adequate pandemic responses. This plays right into the hands of the capitalist class, who are increasingly desperate to get workers back into their businesses, regardless of the lethal risk. The desires to push people back into work and foster hatred for China are two of the key interests of the US imperialists, whose social media sites continue to amplify reactionaries and their ideas. Naturally, both the AP and NC are right in line with US imperialism, opposing lockdowns – a proven method of eradicating the disease – and attacking China – a major force for peace and common development in the world.
As these groups grow, and their fascist elements are emboldened, we must learn from the experience of previous generations and firmly oppose them even in these early stages, regardless of how silly they seem. Georgi Dimitrov highlighted this exact point in his speech to the 7th Congress of the Communist International in 1935:
“Many comrades did not believe that so reactionary a variety of bourgeois ideology as the ideology of fascism, which in its stupidity frequently reaches the point of lunacy, was capable of gaining a mass influence at all. This was a great mistake. The putrefaction of capitalism penetrates to the innermost core of its ideology and culture, while the desperate situation of wide masses of the people renders certains sections of them susceptible to infection from the ideological refuse of this putrefaction.”