Aotearoa: Mobilise against Fascism!
The documentary Fire and Fury about the February, 2022, occupation of parliamentary grounds, largely confirms the position we took at the time. The leadership was made up of a small group of influential individuals who had links to the growing fascist movement internationally. Key players openly supported Trumpism and the Steve Bannon backed Counterspin Media. They are committed to the violent overthrow of the state in the name of ‘freedom’. Their ability to do this requires the mobilising of a ‘mob’ of disaffected alienated individuals as “fascist fodder” composed of declassed petty bourgeois and lumpen workers from various social backgrounds. The analysis of the occupation offered in the video by Kate Hannah of the Disinformation Project, among others, is mainly confined to explaining conspiracy theory and the role of ‘influencers’ in spreading it to vulnerable individuals. We argue that fascism is much more than an ideology. Fascism is the ultimate tool of finance capital to mobilise the declassed petty bourgeoisie against workers’ revolution. Its roots have a long history going back to the First Imperialist War (WW1). It seeks to divide and rule by playing off the declassed petty bourgeoisie against the working class. Because fascism poses a mortal danger to the proletariat, only the united, organised revolutionary working class, led by a revolutionary communist international, can smash it and the capitalist system it defends, opening the road to socialism.
Fascism’s roots in NZ
Fascism’s roots go back to the colonisation of NZ in the 19th century when settler capitalism was born out of the destruction of Māori society. It expressed the fear of the petty bourgeois settlers that the land grab would be stopped by armed Māori resistance. Not until after their victory in the land wars and expropriation of the bulk of Māori land opened the gates to a new flood of white settlers, did their fear abate.
But the roots of fascism did not wither as its enemy the working class was also born out of colonisation. Many settlers remained landless and found jobs in primary industry and transport where they organised radical unions. Willis Airey describes the Liberal Government by the turn of the century as “invoking the state as the embodiment of community, thus taking the path towards fascism” such as the rise of the Italian Corporatist state that emerged in 1920, and the Fascist regime of Franco in Spain in the 1930s.
NZ was proto-fascist in the sense that it had a white settler state subordinated to the British state, acting as the local agent of British finance capital engaged in global expansion. The colony would be sucked into the inevitable imperialist war and play its part in servicing the national debt to pay for it, and to suppress any opposition to war coming from Māori society and the emerging labour movement.
The state’s ability to manage labour relations was soon put to the test. As the global crisis of world capitalism worsened, so did the drive by imperialist and colonial capitalists to attack wages and conditions. The radical unions broke from the state Arbitration Court and formed the Federation of Labour, or “Red Fed”, in 1908 embarking on strike action that led to the General Strike of 1913 and its suppression by the military, “Massey’s Cossacks” and scabbing workers.
Yet again, with the onset of the ‘Great Wrong War’, the suppression of strikes by the wartime government did not remove the threat of revolution. The success of the Bolshevik revolution inspired mass support among workers, soldiers and poor peasants around the world. War created revolutionary conditions as it armed millions of workers opposed to war. It also armed the counter-revolution. Resistance to war in the ranks, and in the labour movement, was met by brutal force from police and military.
As revolutionary armed workers rallied all over Europe the bourgeois states enlisted paramilitary forces based on the petty bourgeois peasantry to smash the workers and poor peasants. These were the first organised fascist shock troops in Europe. In NZ the pre-war “Massey’s Cossacks” mobilised against the General Strike of 1913 had already flagged the move toward employing fascist paramilitaries in times of war and revolution in the settler colonies.
WW2: The ’war on fascism’
The Great Wrong War did not solve capitalism’s problems. The power of the antagonist classes, bourgeoisie and proletariat, was in the balance. The imperialist expeditionary forces who invaded Russia to smash the ‘Bolshevik Revolution’ were defeated by the Red Army led by Leon Trotsky. The 3rd Communist International formed in 192O reminded that arch nemesis of the proletariat, Winston Churchill, that the day of reckoning was looming. In Germany revolution was suppressed in 1919 but not defeated until 1923 by the mobilization of fascist corps. The 1920 workers insurrection in Italy was smashed by Mussolini’s fascist army. Such national civil wars were rehearsals for the next world war that would re-order the relations between imperialist powers.
Then came Great Depression in the late 1920s making workers pay the price for the collapse of the world economy with their poverty and misery. Hitler’s Nazi Party grew in influence building a movement to bring fascism to power in 1933. The success of the fascists confirmed its ability to defeat the revolution if the workers forces were divided.
In Spain the fascist Franco invaded Spain with his Moorish troops to overthrow the Republican Government in the civil war lasting from 1936 to 1939. Franco won because of military aid from Mussolini and Hitler and the collaboration of Stalin. The Soviet Union and Mexico alone stood by the Republicans as representing ‘democratic’ imperialism. The Soviet Union valued its alliances with the democratic imperialists, so its agents in Spain shot revolutionary socialists and anarchists who saw behind the banner of Franco’s fascism the imperialist powers pulling the strings. The Anglo-US governments made backroom deals with the fascist states to appease the Nazi regimes and avoid the need for war. Churchill notoriously proclaimed his admiration for Mussolini in the 1930s. Long before the war broke out in 1939 it was expected as the “coming war against fascism”.
Over this period, NZ remained a Dominion within the British Empire. Its role in the war was dictated by the opportunist policies of Roosevelt and Churchill. While the allies were officially ‘democracies’ going to war against the ‘fascist axis’, in fact this war was between rival imperialist powers for the re-division of the world, using workers in uniform, and untold civilians, as their cannon fodder. The USSR was an exception, fighting for its own survival. Stalin switched sides from Hitler to the ‘democracies’ when Hitler attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941.
Churchill was to cynically exploit this alliance when to suppress the revolution in Greece, the British army massacred thousands of revolutionary workers in 1945 with the complicity of Stalin. Just as in the First Imperialist War, workers interests were not to support democracy against fascism when both employed them as cannon fodder, but to turn their guns on their own ruling class, democratic or fascist, in a global showdown of class against class.
In NZ, during the First Imperialist War there was some opposition to fighting for the British Empire, notably among Māori, and at least one soldier was shot for mutiny. But in the Second War there was little opposition to fighting fascism. For most New Zealanders, the Second War was ‘against fascism for the defence of democracy’. For a left-wing minority, defence of the Soviet Union was defence of ‘socialism in one country’ in line with Stalin’s popular front with bourgeois democracy. For the tiny number who rejected Stalinism the defence of the Soviet Union was in defence of the gains of the Bolshevik Revolution.
However, the faith in bourgeois democracy as progressive, disarms workers in the face of imperialism. Fascism and democracy are both policies of bourgeois class rule designed to oppress and exploit workers. Trotsky had made it clear that the only defence of the gains of the revolution in the Soviet Union was socialist revolution against the imperialist ruling classes. Workers cannot defeat fascism to defend the gains of socialism by joining forces with ‘democratic’ bosses who interest is to make workers fight wars to defend profits. We defeat fascism only when we defeat the imperialist ruling class and open the road to socialist revolution. This history lesson is important because the imperialist powers always seek to cover up their wars against their rivals as a ‘war against fascism’. The current war in Ukraine proves the point.
Fighting Fascism Today
The recent death of the NZ soldier who took time off from the army to fight as a ‘volunteer’ in Ukraine shows what imperialist war is about. Prime Minister Ardern made her official condolences and the former army major and NZ First Minister of Defence, Ron Mark, spoke of the soldier’s courage and duty, and anticipated other NZ soldiers following his path to Ukraine. Many others have gone to fight in Ukraine in the belief that this war is a ‘war against fascism’. This is not surprising since the US and NATO powers have sold this war between ‘democratic’ Ukraine and ‘fascist’ Russia as a just war in defence of Ukraine’s independence.
This is certainly how it appears on the surface. But Russia is not fighting in Ukraine because it is fascist. Nor is Ukraine fighting for its freedom. When all aspects of the war are taken into account this war is an inter-imperialist proxy war being fought by Ukraine on behalf of the US and its NATO allies against Russian imperialism. It is a continuation of the long war between the imperialist powers for control of Eurasia since before the First Imperialist War. Ukraine as the current battleground in this wider war represents the struggle between the Western alliance pushing eastward to break-up Russia and to weaken its alliance with China which remains the main target of that alliance.
Since this is an inter-imperialist war, and not a war against fascism, then there is no justification for workers to take sides in fighting this war. Workers should take a position in Ukraine for the defeat of both imperialist blocs in the war and for the fight for an Independent Socialist Ukraine. We are for the arming of workers and farmers to defend themselves against both sides, against the Russian invasion as well as the NATO interests behind the war plans of the Kyiv regime. This seems to be an impossible task. But if we do what is necessary, we see what is possible. We fight the meat grinder of war deciding which great power bloc will win by turning imperialist war into an open class war. This is how we halt the terminal crisis of capitalism which is destroying the conditions for human survival, and advance to the socialist revolution.
Back to the death in action of the NZ ‘freedom fighter’. Workers should not rush overseas to fight fascism on behalf of a reactionary Britain, a declining US Empire, or of the Russia/China bloc, in the name of national honour, freedom and democracy, but remain at home and fight fascism in Aotearoa. Let’s recognise that NZ is a semi-colony which has yet to achieve its own national independence. That will not happen while the ‘fascist fodder’ opposes the Māori struggle for self-determination. The fascist appeals by finance capital made to disoriented middle class and lumpen workers to bring down the government can be defeated by a united front between Māori and Pakeha workers that wins mass support for a workers government with a program for socialist revolution to end the death march of capitalism and the extinction for humanity.