Dr Liz Gordon: The racist right in Aotearoa


Around the world, the clarion call of white nationalism, muted for 70 years after the atrocities of the Third Reich, has been growing like wildfire in recent years.

In Europe and the United States, the mix of economic austerity for the poor, gross accumulation of wealth for the rich, and mass movements of people have stoked the belief that ‘they’ are coming to take ‘our’ stuff. Replacement, the discourse is called.

Let’s look a little deeper.  Why are people from so many countries, migrants and refugees, coming to live in New Zealand?  In general, the answer is very simple. They are unable to live any more in the place of their birth.  The diaspora from parts of Africa has been driven by war (civil and external), greed and desperation. Whole nations have virtually no food and no resources for millions of people.

Africa, the source of human life, whose resources have been so exploited that in places it can no longer provide for its own people, with everything, including the trophy shooting of the last of the great animals, for sale to the highest bidder.  The shock finding recently that ISIS sold women as sex slaves to men (with the means to pay) merely underlines the depth of exploitation in parts of that continent.

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Many of the dispossessed have made their way to Europe, often on foot, looking for better lives, exchanging certain death for uncertain life.  But neo-liberalism and resulting economic inequality have made deep inroads into life in Europe too, with huge swathes of poverty, falling educational levels and the rise of political discourses of hate and despair.

And parts of Asia, so overcrowded in the cities, where poverty stymies human hope and aspiration. Many countries again are continually ravaged by war, exploitation and religious oppression.  There is so much space in New Zealand and Australia. Perhaps a new life can be found here?

So let’s take a good look at New Zealand.  For a start, from the 1990s economic inequality grew here at a faster rate than anywhere else in the western world.  We created poverty by sequestering wealth to the rich, by lowering taxes, reducing benefits by huge amounts, making wages fall and cutting government expenditure from around 40% to under 30%.  Ninety percent of New Zealand in income terms are worse off than 30 years ago. Only the top 10% has prospered, and the top 1% hugely (Max Rashbrooke has worked tirelessly to understand these changes).

This government has promised to unpick neo-liberalism and forge a more equal society but, even today, inequality is still increasing.  Like other countries we have many have-nots. We also have a culture of naming and hating those less fortunate than ourselves – yes, the racist right starts in our own media and Parliament, with discourses of derision about the disadvantaged: ‘bludgers’ etc.

And let us not forget the dominant anti-Māori views that have permeated this nation since the settlement of white people after the Treaty of Waitangi, not to mention the carnage and massacres that Māori had to put up with.  Even now, these views are more common than most like to admit.

There has always been a racist right in pākeha New Zealand.  Here in Christchurch, it has been particularly visible with the skinhead violence of the 1980s.  Since then, two whole generations of young people have been brought up, many of them experiencing poverty from their births, lacking education and with a dearth of well-paid jobs to lift them from the poverty line.  

Thousands of young people (and I am thinking mainly of young men here) up to age 24 are ‘NEET’ (not in education, employment or training).  Some have nothing to do but surf the internet all day, where they may find themselves excited by the rhetoric of the far right. Here we see a potential breeding ground for disaster.

Donald Trump is wrong. This is not just a few, a small number of people.  The potential for this sort of attack is widespread, even in New Zealand. It is the operationalisation that has been, to date, rare.  The clarion call for action, though, has the potential to incite many more such attacks.

It is not just about changing the gun laws.  It is about bringing the dispossessed back into the fold.  New Zealand is a kind, friendly country, but also a nation where politics and policies have left many on the scrap-heap, ignored and reviled. Inequality has separated and demarcated the rich from the poor, the white from the brown, the new immigrant from the old.

This is the coalition’s year of action. By the end of it we need to see higher benefits, better wages, better access to education, more jobs.  I am also working with some others towards a plan to replace useless youth ‘training’ with schemes of job creation coupled with qualifications.  

The outpouring of love for our Muslim friends must also be translated into better opportunities for those families. Many hold down two or even three jobs (factories during the day, Uber at night, a side job of mowing lawns), working huge hours to gain an economic foothold in this country.  In doing so they benefit the rest of us.

More urgency, then, in doing what we know needs to be done, in sharing what we have. Our heads, today hanging low in shame for what happened just down the road from where I live, must be raised once more in pride at an immediate, energetic and full political response to the crisis that surrounds us.  This shame must now be parlayed into a political moment for change.



Dr Liz Gordon began her working life as a university lecturer at Massey and the Canterbury universities. She spent six years as an Alliance MP, before starting her own research company, Pukeko Research.  Her work is in the fields of justice, law, education and sociology (poverty and inequality). She is the president of Pillars, a charity that works for the children of prisoners, a prison volunteer, and is on the board of several other organisations. Her mission is to see New Zealand freed from the shackles of neo-liberalism before she dies (hopefully well before!).


  1. Ummm… the main shooter was from Australia not from NZ. Australia has had far less “neo-liberal” economic reforms than NZ has.

  2. Anders Brevik (who the Australian terrorist who committed the horrendous crime in Christchurch admired) came from Norway. Norway has the sort of society that YOU would like NZ to have. It is far from neo-liberal. The economic system does not cause these sorts of people to become radicalised.

    • Oh Gosman, you really are in fear that people will connect the dots and realise that globalisation and neoliberalism have fuelled discontent and acted as a recruitment drive for the far right???

      Tell me, why do you think the far right rail against globalisation? Any clues?

        • Infected by world wide white supremacist movement radicaled by globalisation and neoliberalism. What did you think people would do once they lost their jobs to factories in China Gosman? Take up macrame? It created resentment and fueled hatred

          Look at the events in Germany post Treaty of Versailles and the mass resentment it created amongst the German people. We all know the events that followed

            • It operates under globalisation, and this is pronounced via the inrernet. Do you think Norway is cut off from the rest of the world Gosman?

              Funny that you focus on Norway, but not New Zealand where neo-liberalism has been exceptionally pernicious. You know inequality has grown. This is reflected in falling home ownership rates, something you can’t deny. ( Well, you could, but that would be a dumb thing to do)

              “Australia has had far less “neo-liberal” economic reforms than NZ has.”

              You say Australia hasnt had as many a neoliberal reforms as NZ? So you admit that their circmustances are better than ours?? I think youve just made a remarkable admission

              Time to take responsibility Gosman.neo-liberalism has sent jobs to low wage economies (China, Vietnam, Fiji, Pakistan) leaving behind low-paid, semi-skilled work at best, or nothing. That is your legacy

              • Yeah I focus on Norway because a mass killing White Supremacist who influence the one that carried out the terrorist attack in NZ was Norweigan.

  3. Economics 101: Large-scale immigration suppresses wages and raises housing costs.

    Large-scale immigration is a tool of the right (including the Wage Slave Labour Party) and is compounding inequality.

    • @ NGUNGUKAI.
      Specifically, and as Dr Liz Gordon most deftly points out, the deviant criminalism more commonly known as ‘neo liberalism’ within the national party mandate.
      Roger douglas and his cronies were not, nor ever were, Labour disciples, they were Blue criminals hiding in plain sight within the Labour Party.
      A virus is of no use to its objective by lodging itself on a concrete fence post. ( Unless it’s a concrete post virus of course.) It must get inside its living host then multiply. Neo liberalism is a virus and the means by which it spread was having carriers like douglas and his cultists inject [it] into us before we could realise what was happening.
      Gosman above, ever the reliable fool, or perhaps worse, draws an analogy to AO/NZ to the Australians. I was in Melbourne once some time ago as a protest gained momentum. People were protesting at unsuccessful attempts to privatise health etc. The Australians have shunned neo liberalism because they’ve had a chance to see, first hand, how dangerous, evil and long-term-damage-causing it’s been here and they understandably don’t want any part of it.
      @ Dr Liz Gordon. Excellent Post. Bravo. Why the Hell are you not our prime minister?
      Radicle and direct action is now essential to kill off the virus. Ban foreign banking and write off all mortgage debt now. Today. Criminalise loan sharking and decriminalise all recreational drugs and quadruple public health funding. ( How about stripping out ACC then de establishing it to achieve that?) Create a broad spectrum state funded general insurer to hobble the Insurance Mafia from peddling anxiety and fear just to get their hands on your money then direct the serious fraud office into conducting investigations into the financial affairs of our multi millionaires and billionaires to try and understand just exactly how they managed to accrue so much dollar wealth/power/influence. You must be on quite the hourly rate Boys.
      AO/NZ is at a cross roads. We could either prosper or we can most definitely expire.
      It’s up to us. We must, we absolutely MUST take the Christchurch Mosque shootings and make that horror a positive turning point out of what can only be described as a slow descent into Hell. And it can be done easily. Don’t be fooled into thinking otherwise.

  4. “More urgency” in what we know needs to be done, yes — but NZ is not an urgent country, witness the eons-long Pike River and Chch earthquake aftermaths; never mind the neoliberalism and inequalities which continue to flourish under a very nice, compassionate, kind government full of verbiage. I fear there is an awful lot of mourning, hijab-wearing and sponsored hakas to be done yet.

  5. Pleased to see Liz that you are at the coal face and understand where these young men in particular are at. Yes they can easily become a hotbed of extreme politics, or just as easily criminal, drug abusers etc etc.

    I’m hoping that the politics of inclusion for youth is how we prevent malevolence. Good luck with your work.

  6. “Thousands of young people (and I am thinking mainly of young men here) up to age 24 are ‘NEET’ (not in education, employment or training). Some have nothing to do but surf the internet all day, where they may find themselves excited by the rhetoric of the far right. Here we see a potential breeding ground for disaster.”

    Actually the young men surfing these pages are just as likely employed.

    Or Tradies with their own companies*.

    I’ve seen plenty of Islamophobia in the street perpetrated by young men in company uniforms.

    So its not that simple..unfortunately.


    • National and the Greens voted against a Bill by Darroch Ball to get young people into training ?

      Go figure that out Gosman you Clown ?

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