The Politics Of National Security


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.”

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In the febrile atmosphere of Cold War hysteria and post-Lockout retribution which overshadowed the election campaign (an atmosphere which New Zealand’s conservative newspapers were only too happy to degrade) 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, had abandoned its communist-adjacent 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 in 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.



  1. Chris Trotter’s warning to New Zealanders is about the revolutionary party ACT and the ‘Blue/Yellows under the bed’?

  2. Mr. Trotter’s vision of a post-A.C.T. Party “political reaction” sounds a bit like the months following the 1929 crash. Which was followed by Michael Joseph Savage, and the New Deal Coalition of F.D.R.

    Any hope that the establishment might simply “wear the consequences of the people’s electoral choices” apparently disappeared in 2015, however. A serving British Army general had appeared in the Sunday Times, threatening a “mutiny” in the Armed Forces if Jeremy Corbyn won the election. Debbie Wasserman Schultz faced no consequences for rigging the primary for presidential nominee against Bernie Sanders. And there have been no consequences for Adam Schiff & Co. after the Russiagate hoax, nor for the F.B.I-led censorship of the Hunter Biden laptop story during the ’20 campaign.

  3. I keep reading that it’s the “white supremacists” that are the clear and present danger.
    Apparently not.
    If deranged and dangerous “activists” (that is terrorists) have decided to start blowing things up if they don’t get preferential, race based treatment then they deserve all they get.

  4. Washington Post have an essay on the rise of ACT:
    “The ruling Labour-Green alliance has been pushing to provide special government benefits for the island nation’s Indigenous people, the Maori, and even interpreting New Zealand’s founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi, to require “co-governance” between the elected government and Maori leaders. Seymour contends this is wrong and destructive of “classical liberal values of universal human rights” because it gives citizens different political rights and powers based solely upon their race.”

    “Seymour emphasizes that New Zealand is built on the rule of law and parliamentary democracy. This, he argues, comes from the idea of universal human rights, which is “incompatible with regarding a person primarily as an identity before we consider their humanity.”

  5. ACT is an existential threat to NZ harmonial society because its appeal to the far-right of NZ politics under the guise of equality. Seymour use of rhetorical diction ‘paaaart Maaaari’ meme adding his negative connotations more obscenely than Winston that pushes this hatred of things Maori IMO to a level not witness since the 1860s.

    The tyranny of the majority is sadly been weaponized against minority groups by the right to win this election term not realizing the lasting effects this will have on our country peaceful existence. As belonging to Maori ethnicity have always experienced some form of racism in our country but today it’s more profound being stared down by pakeha even when meeting their glare without words “what the fuck are you looking at?”

    ACT & NZ FIRST/NATS are tapping into a resentment that existed since pakeha arrived on our shores and clearly couldn’t give two fucks if this causes our country to implode into a civil strife where there are no winners but the state that will ultimately be viewed as the primary agitator employing racializing connotation to win an election cycle.

  6. Disagree with your point of view.
    What is security? Different ideologies have different definitions of security
    If you agree with another system than New Zealand’s, then the current defense security report is indeed unnecessary.
    Under another regime, your blog will be the first to be shut down. The freedom of speech you enjoy now is precisely the result of the Cold War’s firm rejection of communism and insistence on democracy.

  7. Now recalibrate that with No Zealand’s highest proportion of non-citizen voters on the planet… *crickets chirping*

  8. Little is shite at making good decisions. With all the ‘hats’ he wears, he hasn’t made one good decision as the minister of…

    The pending general election is the only chance to divert NZ away from a War setting, maybe?

    We should be building Nuclear Bomb shelters instead! Oh fuck! No! We can’t even build infrastructure and housing!

    We’re really fucked!

  9. And it just keeps going round and round.
    When we arrived here in 1966 one of the first things we noticed was this strange obsession with defeating communism. I was even queried at school at the age of 13! After a while you get used to being 20 years behind everyone else. Y’all go back to sleep y’hear?

    • JS Bark It was bad. In the 1951 snap election following the watersiders’strike, the Catholic bishops instructed priests and nuns who not to vote for; the Church had more clout back then. In fact there were home grown priests and nuns back then, and church going was a family social event. The post WW11 Cold War communist paranoia was embraced by the Church as Russian Communism was officially godless, and aimed at world domination, just like the WEF and the one world government cabal seem to do now. The massive contribution of Russia, and particularly the sacrifices of the Russian people, to the defeat of European Nazism, were sadly and quickly forgotten.

  10. Disagree with your point of view.
    What is security? Different ideologies have different definitions of security
    If you agree with another system than New Zealand’s, then the current defense security report is indeed unnecessary.
    Under another regime, your blog will be the first to be shut down. The freedom of speech you enjoy now is precisely the result of the Cold War’s firm rejection of communism and insistence on democracy.

  11. Good (Sarcasm) to see the defence reports are woke too. Apparently there are foreign interference by China, Iran and Russia here. But it’s not actually people living here, doing it. Therefore nobody is deliberately sent here to be a PR and spy, but instead all the spy PR nationals apparently need protection by our spy agencies as some unnamed ‘external’ factor might make them spy. They are the victims, just like the gangs. Everyone living here is 100% here for NZ. Phew. Good to know and what a nice defence. Nobody need ever be responsible for their criminal actions, like spying here. All people breaking the law and working against NZ are actually victims too.

    • No SaveNZ, you’ve got it all wrong.

      Our biggest threat in NZ, is all the dyed in the wool dangerous white supremacists out there! I cant tell you how many times I have looked out the window and seen a troop of brown shirts marching by!

    • save NZ. That being so, why did the SIS issue a bulletin advising us to spy on the neighbours ? Watch out for people – presumably females- ha ha- with plaits, ladies who search for knitting patterns, odd behaviourists? Presumably we’ve all been dismal failures if we’ve been unable to produce suspicious onshore characters for the SIS. It’s unclear whether to give up altogether, or to try harder. The weather being what it is, I’ll opt for the former, and in the meantime, stay safe, and enjoy the rest of the winter.

  12. Woe! Woe! ACT is going to be a major part of the next Government! Cry, baby, cry. It’s happening!

    • Not sure National & ACT will get enough votes to form a Government, I think Winston First will swallow up some middle ground and get somewhere between 7-9% IMHO>

  13. The whole problem with the shortage of reds under the beds is that the comfortably off have such deep cushy beds that there isn’t room under the layers of mattress and base that a cockroach can hardly crawl under (have you seen the size of one of those Gisborne cockroaches). And another reason would be that there is a story that John le Carre’ could have written when our most intelligent public servant Dr Bill Sutch was chased to make sure that he wasn’t giving away to Russkies the stats for how much milk powder we had exported in the last 5 years. Later there was a Court case. We can’t have that sort of thing going on. It puts muddy bootprints on the red carpet laid down to the capitalists and their fellow travellers.

  14. Not sure National & ACT will get enough votes to form a Government, I think Winston First will swallow up some middle ground and get somewhere between 7-9% IMHO>

  15. “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.” CHRIS TROTTER

    But that’s not the worst thing.
    Signing-up to Pillar 2 of AUKUS makes us a target.

    The internal contradictions in capitalism that saw the Holland government crush the watersiders union with the full force of the state, will see rival capitalist states turn against each other.
    Just as they have done twice before, a global war between the major capitalist states, over which states have the dominant control of global markets, raw materials, natural resources, trade routes, and territory, is coming.

    New Zealand’s only choice is whether we want to be part of it, or not.

    By signing up to Pillar 2 of AUKUS the Labour Party and Andrew Little are choosing for us.

    But we the people of New Zealand have a small chance to opt out of the coming global slaughter.

    If Te Pāti Māori get enough votes to be in a position to negotiate with the Labour Government, TPM have made New Zealand neutrality a bottom line condition for a coalition agreement.

    War and Peace

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