Don Brash’s leadership coup in the ACT party and his immediate attack on Te Mana and Hone Harawira has raised concerns that he is a racist ‘extremist’, a ‘dinosaur’ out of place in contemporary NZ. The trouble with the argument about ideological extremes is that it tends to treat ideas as separated from historical and material reality. ACTs history represents attempts to impose radical capitalist solutions to falling profits in the period since Douglas and co hijacked the 4th Labour Govt and National took over the mantle under Ruth Richardson. Its project is to complete the so-called neo-liberal revolution. ACT is not a 'dinosaur' but a 'proto-fascist Party i.e. a fascist party looking for a fascist movement.
ACT has been successful as part of the NACT regime making big gains for its class, but falling short of what is required to solve the crisis facing NZ as a weak and declining semi-colony. To do that they need an all out attack on workers, gutting welfare, driving down wages, eliminating rights and preparing to suppress the inevitable working class resistance. Workers will not take the austerity attacks on their living standards lying down as the uprisings in MENA and Europe show.
So the NACT regime cannot win majority support for these attacks. The Capital Gains Tax is a no brainer, asset sales to mums and dad have been exposed as derisory. There is growing hostility to cabinet dictatorship in Christchurch and in attacks of basic freedoms such as ‘Three Strikes’ on downloading from the internet.
Hence the NACT bloc (NACT clearly need ACT to govern) has to break up the working class majority by separating the moderates from the militants (as has been done repeatedly in NZ history) by making more extreme attacks on Maori, women, youth, unionists, migrants in the name of the 'nation'.
The 'underclass', 'Maori radicals', unruly youth, 'criminals' and 'boat people' are all targets which are designed to divide petty bourgeois and redneck sections of the working class against the most militant and advanced sections.
Drawing on whacko theories or fake science (e.g. biological arguments misused to rationalise patriarchy etc) to prove that these categories of people are more backward, stupid, dangerous, inferior (or just conveniently different) etc provides the populist rationalisations for attack on the working class.
Brash showed in 2003 that he was part of this reactionary underbelly with his 'one law for all' which blames Maori, women, youth etc for their 'failure' to compete as equals so that 'special treatment' is a threat to national unity.
The ruling class attacks on the working class threat to its class rule at a time of crisis, by demonising sections of the working class and mobilising a redneck brigade of chauvinist workers and petty bourgeois to divide and defeat it has a name – it’s called fascism.
ACT is not a throwback to the 20th century or a 'dinosaur' out of its time in the 21st century in the sphere of ideas that can be defeated by liberal ideas. That fails to understand its real material base and its potential threat which can only be defeated by cutting its material roots.
ACT is a proto-fascist party that is consciously adopting fascist type appeals in an attempt to build popular support. It has clear material roots in the ruling class confronting a crisis to its class rule. Its object is to create a social movement capable of smashing the working class.
NZ historically is a heavily class divided society in which the petty bourgeois have been rallied to smash militant workers. Those lessons need to be revived today. In recognising fascism as a growing threat the working class can organise itself confront it and smash it before it becomes a decisive force.
There is no split between dry economics and social conservatives in ACT after Brash. Brash in 2004 showed that he was both. The Brash coup is about forcing unity and organisation onto a dysfunctional ACT to pull the NACT bloc together to counter the emergence of a far left pole that can pull Labour to the left.
Why? Well it's obvious that the NACT economic agenda requires massive attacks on workers. The weakness of capital in NZ explains the increasing foreign domination by Australia, US and now China. The NACTs are mere agents for this penetration via the complete deregulation of capital and labour markets.
This will inevitably revive working class resistance. Labour reflects that pressure weakly and has made some small shifts to the left to claim majority support for its economic management of capitalism. The Maori Party play for the iwi leaders to be indigenous agents for foreign capital took it too far right and caused the split and formation of Mana, which despite its leaders’ baggage, is being forced by the class polarisation to fight on a united class line.
Now the NACTs cannot defeat Labour on CGT which is a no brainer, or mum and dad privatisation which has been exposed as derisory. So to regain power to push its finance capital agenda, it has to disguise its dry economics in a cocktail of reactionary, and I would say proto-fascist, attacks on various components of the working class, Maori radicals, the underclass, women as inferior, youth as immature, boat people as terrorists etc to divide and disorganise that class.
The centre ground of petty bourgeois and aspirant workers is not so much vacant as torn by class polarisation pulling in two directions. Usually in times of economic and social crisis whoever wins the petty bourgeois will win the class war. NZ has plenty of historic instances.
On economics alone, the left would win easily as workers are under attack and the petty bourgeois are being badly squeezed. It’s only in the domain of domination of cultural politics that the right can win the swinging middle. Key did it last time with smile and wave attacks on political correctness, but he has pretty much blown his stocks here.
This time it will take a much more deliberate attempt to cover his hard-right economics and mobilise the angry petty bourgeois and elements of the working class by blaming the tradition enemies of capital in the working class, the militant (Mana), the unruly (women and youth), the morally defective (underclass), the alien mob (boat people).
Brash signalled in 2003 that he was the one to provide the ideological rational for this proto-fascist politics. One Law, One Nation, One People. This interprets the Treaty through Article 3 as a founding document for capitalist universality and therefore against all those enemies of modernity who must be excluded. So despite the apparent disarray of ACT and Te Mana, it is not the subjective elements of personalities and factions that in times of crisis set the agenda, but the objective class struggle that to a large extent takes place behind our backs.
We are now in a period of open class struggle such as NZ has experienced before of crisis in the period before WW1 and the 1930s, and the immediate post WW2 period. Today, like in each of these former times of upheaval the forces that propelled the classes into action in NZ are largely external. This time is it the global crisis of capitalism that brings with it increasing competition between the imperialist powers to re-divide the world.
NZ is caught in the vice of the old hegemonic power, the US, and the rising hegemonic power, China. The NZ ruling class is trying to appease both powers, but the result is the total selling out of NZ’s political sovereignty and the impoverishment of its working class. That is why in NZ the class struggle that has been always present as a dull rhythm driving NZ’s history, has come to the surface, like the Christchurch earthquakes, causes large fissures and much liquefaction.