Dr Liz Gordon: Kristallnacht 2021

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On 9 November 1938, incited by Adolph Hitler, the German Fascist Dictator, mobs of military, paramilitary and civilians smashed into and destroyed the houses and businesses of people known to be Jewish across Germany and Austria. This event happened about five years into Hitler’s rule and the progressive exclusion of Jewish people from German society. It was a precursor to much worse things, in particular the policy of the final solution, which led more than six million Jews – around half of all European Jews – to be murdered in the years to 1945.

There are some disturbing similarities and important differences between these events in 1938 and the current state of things.  The most obvious similarity is the systematic breaking of glass, both in the USA at the State Capitol and in New Zealand’s own Parliament. The most obvious difference is that the Kristallnacht action was targeted at a group in society – people of the Jewish faith – whereas recent actions have been directed at governments.

The reason for this is obvious.  Hitler used emergency powers to shut down opposition parties and run his own Reichstag (largely as a propaganda tool) from 1933 onwards. By the time he was readied for his assaults on parts of civil society, there was no democratic government to oppose him.

The fact that Donald Trump did not ‘own’ the Congress led to him inciting his followers to violence to bend the lawmakers to his will.  Hitler would never have taken such a namby pamby route – he drove the opposition out by banning them under emergency powers and setting up an alternative government. It took Hitler five years of dictatorship to get to the Kristallnacht stage. Trump’s Kristallnacht took four years of Presidency and one of the largest propaganda (the purveying of fake truths) assaults since the second world war.

I think there is a lot to fear in the USA. Threat assessments there include escalating violence against government targets in all 50 states and further uprisings and violence. Some of you who read this blog accuse me of being hysterical. In reply, to treat what has been happening as ‘situation normal’ is clearly wrong. The rise of the Fascist right around the world has been evident for many years now and should not be ignored any longer. To an extent, the Covid situation has brought it to a head, with people combining race, post-truth, misogyny and now anti-Covid positions into a venal new politics highly amenable to political action.

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While millions of people appear willing to do the work that Trump demands of them in the USA, things have been a lot quieter on the fake news front here in New Zealand.  People have, I think, been more bemused than threatened by the issues raised by Billy Te Kahika and Jami-Lee Ross in the election campaign last year.  Nevertheless, the party attracted 28,434 party votes, around two thirds of the 42k received by the equally daft New Conservatives. That is a reasonable haul in a small country like ours. About 1%.

Thursday’s protest at Parliament worked on very similar themes to the US actions, with a focus on ‘freedom’, specifically freedom to opt out of the Covid regulations. The following was on Newshub

Billy Te Kahika… made his usual false claims about the virus’ mortality, praised local scientists (the Plan B group) who urged New Zealand adopt the lockdown-free Sweden response model, called for the death of a German economist called Klaus Schwab, called microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles a “purple pink-haired communist”, ridiculed experts who back vaccines, falsely claimed the new strains from the UK and South Africa aren’t more dangerous, and that five-year-olds are being taught about masturbation in schools. 

This is not generally the same list of things coming out of the US, although there are significant overlaps in context and even more when you look at the overall vibe of the thing. Schwab is reviled by some on the right for his strong views that the world economy needs to be reset in the wake of the pandemic towards a kinder, more inclusive, capitalism.

Te Kahika’s grab-bag of goodies (why do these male right wingers always have to bring a sexual element into their campaigns, FFS?), however, is just the kind of rhetoric to which people with multiple grievances can cling, providing them allies in their struggles against power. It is the American Q-Anon in smaller form.

And just when you dismiss it as a small group of deluded persons, you start reading the comments on blogs like mine. Being a leftist blog, one would not really expect to be read by people on the other end of the spectrum, but evidently they love to disagree.  Hence, in my last blog, I received this tantalising comment:

You folk are all in for a rude awakening, Trump is not going anywhere. have you not learnt the lesson stop following the fake news. Do we not have any journalists “worth their weight”

Is this a New Zealander? What is this rude awakening? Do they really believe that Trump will remain President? What is this (particular) fake news? 

I know that some MPs (mainly from the National Party, I think) believe that our parliament buildings are far too insecure. If people are going to charge in to occupy, kidnap or disrupt, that is clearly the case. There are large public areas, a number of entrances and lots of spaces which are not protected by an electronic key. It would not take too much help from inside to open up the rubber door (a ground-level doorway which is widely used by staff) to intruders. I love the openness of Parliament but if we are moving into more troubled times then I guess a further tightening (for in the past there was virtually no security) will have to happen.

There are barriers to the rightist groups in New Zealand combining into a single movement.  Race is important, and Te Kahika’s followers are notably brown, while there has always been a racist (white) right in this country.  But where there’s a will there’s a way, and perhaps INCEL and Covid concerns might bridge the racial divide in the movement. Also, Trump is not their leader here. I doubt if Te Kahika is either. Leadership is important here, and that is a page that is yet to be written.

Our Kristallnacht this week was a small thing, much less disturbing than the mob that assailed Congress in the US and is poised to protest at every State Capitol next week. As is the custom in New Zealand, the actual window-smashing appeared to have been carried out by a lone person with mental health problems.  But the confluence of that with the Te Kahika protest against Covid restrictions, protests against government measures to restrict freedoms (small as they are) and the much more frequent pops on social media outlining far right views, make me think that there is a rising tide of Fascist right views in Aotearoa.  They may not be coming for us yet, but the price of freedom is, as they say, eternal vigilance.

 

Dr Liz Gordon is a researcher and a barrister, with interests in destroying neo-liberalism in all its forms and moving towards a socially just society.  She usually blogs on justice, social welfare and education topics.

8 COMMENTS

  1. A thought provoking read by Dr Liz Gordon. As she has described, fascist idealism of the past was born of the the same social situations that we see now. The failure of Governments to implement policy that distributes wealth fairly. The use of race and religion as weapons by both the disaffected and those in power and miss information, or fake news. The media of today makes it easy to get your thoughts and beliefs out there. Hitler was able to control what was news by shutting down what he didn’t like. It’s harder now as Trump has found. He has used social media to push his misinformation but he overplayed his hand. We all believe too easily what comes across the internet and for those who feel hard done by they’ll believe in what suits their cause. I Believe the truth does get told albeit too late at times. In NZ it’s a smaller version but it’s there as Liz Gordon suggests, but the lies or half truths get found out eventually. Actions speak louder than words whether it be an assault on the Capitol or lack of action of election promises it’s what we see happen that is what we can believe.

  2. Yep, completely correct.

    From the day I first landed here some 50 odd years ago I noticed a propensity for conservative and right wing beliefs. That opinion has not changed since then. Indeed the monstrous betrayal of the Labour Government when it swerved to the right under the influence of Gruppenfuhrer Thatcher’s and Reagan’s neo-liberal nonsense was a prime example of just how gullible Kiwis are to this idiotic doublespeak.

    Because of my family’s origins, we have seen and felt a very unnerving parallel between the 1930s and the current world developments. We were taught history not only by the school system but by our parents who lived through it all.

    And yes, it can most certainly happen in lil’ ol’ NuZillin.

    The quest for a strong leader typically ends very badly…

  3. One nutter breaking glass at the Beehive, can hardly be equated with Kristallnacht, which was one catastrophic outcome of two millennia of Christian-Jewish antagonism, and one millennium of a singular European anti -Semitism, rooted in the adversarial relationship existent since the first century of the common era, aided and abetted at times by powerful institutional structures such as organised Christianity.

    One wee Billy Te K band-waggon jumping on American extremism, can be seen as a sign that New Zealand democracy is in a reasonably healthy state, which is quite important, when this has never been a particularly good country in which to be seen to be different. He under estimates the intelligence of the peasantry no more than many politicians do, but ultimately probably less successfully, lacking the intellectual mastery which Hitler put to bad use against a very different German background of military defeat, runaway inflation, economic collapse, and loss of control of the Reichstag by the Right. The Right are still in control here in New Zealand.

    As a fourth generation NZ’er I query whether, historically, there has always been a ‘racist white Right’ per se in this country, or whether the white Right has been, or is, any more racist than the white Left. The development of ‘racist’ institutional structures is very much the legacy of British imperialism, which we are still in the process of rectifying, being very much an embryonic nation compared to Germany, and even the troubled USA.

    Criticising Billy K’s “sexual element”, then doing the same by referencing Incels, is a bit rich, when Incels seem to be grounded in sexual inadequacy, as males who can’t get women, and self-importance based on personal inadequacy is sort of sad, but perhaps derives from dumbed-down Western education, shallow media, five year olds being taught masturbation, and pre-school NZ girls talking about their vulvas, who knows ?

    We in New Zealand have responded well to the challenge of the virus, and if renegades do provide future practical threats to the well-being of the community, the law should be able to manage them without any storming of the Bastille on Bowen Street, I suggest. Front-line cops, and the militia, and their families will be at greater risk, but based on the American experience, we’re meant to be hating them, however much we need them – the mentality of the Incels.

    As a fourth generation New Zealander with some solid continental European

  4. Hitler and his mates tried a revolution in Munich, Bavaria well before the Nazis ever got a significant foothold in the Reichstag. So perhaps early beginnings for Trumpism style fascism?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beer_Hall_Putsch

    There is a lot of anger among a large part of the US population, and the country is totally divided, with little signs of coming together. So something much worse may evolve out of what Trump stirred up, and what the motivated radicals probably took much further than even he had intended.

    Kristallnacht only happened once the Nazis got a firm hold on German politics, government and within society.

  5. What do u think these vivid cards and tracer apps are about , in an article on stuff lamenting the fact that the hard decision wasn’t made in time with where we are at currently sounds like the Star of David being worn by the Jews to myself who wasn’t even born when ww2 started and finished I’m an 80s child but I like to think I’m intelligent and impartial to realise that shiteth is going south quickly , all the signs are on the wall, 1984 a phrophecy u have to wonder , which medium is imitating which , hope this makes sense it’s quite early . Why when cash is plastic notes is it likely to carry vivid more so than grubby eftpos terminals or door handles which are never cleaned , is it because once cash is done away with the ability to control will be greater because if u act up ur whole life will be able to digitally be erased or adjusted ur prob thinking yeah right no one can do that but it’s actually not as hard as u think , poof and like that ur entire life savings which is in ur bank account is now gone wat do u do if u can’t feed ur family or pay the bills like electricity and water better get in line and make sure u confirm , I always thought kiwis were more onto it , but for a supposedly intelligent innovative population we sure are stupid , Nz having lived here all my life is and has always been about people cashing in on the plundering of this great country for self own gain and pire greed it is evident throughout our short history and it couldn’t be more evident than today , the big 4 banks withdrew from our economy a couple of billion in profit as they have done every year and they are still closing down all the banks ASB has just jumped on board and in the process , never mind the older people that need that interaction with tellers as they are not internet savvy it’s disgraceful and every one is just sitting by doing nothing , in the states communities have said enough to the banks and gone there own route where community based banks are being set up owned by the people with all profits going back into infrastructure like roads and parks etc as the states has fallen into a state of disrepair and neglected in some part why aren’t we looking st that here is it because we like to be economic slaves , what’s the point of having money in the bank when ur not earning enough interest but being charged exorbitant rates to have it “safely” held gor u in an account , u can’t even draw on ur own money as they don’t keep cash on hand u have to ring days in advance and then they want to know why and what ur up with it , mind your own bloody business and stick to just being a bank that’s it nothing more , sorry got the rant but the state of things in NZ and all over the world is shocking and terrifying of where we are headed.

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