There were two successive decades in which radicals came into New Zealand with the intent of focusing latent societal rage into wholesale changes of our democracy and our society.
They started arriving before World War One.
These people were militants and proud of it. They filled halls and declaimed shouting against oppressors, against the Police, against the state, against the Chinese, against the ruling class, and boy did they get noticed. They were smashed up time and again by Police on horseback acting from real concern that their societal order was under threat.
Those radicals became popular and formed the New Zealand Labour Party. They became the Labour Party. They formed the entire union movement. They also, in time, became the government.
Thank God society’s pearl-clutchers of the day didn’t succeed in banning them from venues.
It was from that radical incursion of unwelcome foreigners that New Zealand under Labour had decades of prosperity and stability.
We need more radical voices again here. But it’s like MMP has turned us once again into the passionless people. It always looks like “hate speech” when you hate it.
Back in the late 1970s there was no problem with the left bringing in radical speakers. From that decade was a huge liberative explosion of ideals and protest and experimentation in environmentalism, anti-war and peace efforts, feminism, anti-imperialism, anti-racism, Maori liberation, and more. That foreign-influenced radicalism also formed the Values and then the Green Party.
But radical ideas have to really work to get popular here.
The 1984 bombing of the Wellington Trades Hall killed one person, and no one even bothered to claim responsibility.
Forty years ago we had the National Socialist Party of New Zealand, and it vanished in 1980 with almost no trace.
When the last Right Wing Resistance rally was organised in Wellington in 2013, 40 people turned up.
The best the Communist Party ever did, while waiting to unite the proletariat to violently overthrow the bourgeoisie, was 5,000 votes nationwide in 1961. Their current Facebook site doesn’t even get 200 likes.
We are shit radicals. And we’re fine with that.
At the absolute fringes of our society, we already have hundreds of people who radically act against society for their own ends, and they are dealt with appropriately by the Police. They are gangs. When the state even thought they had something approaching a radical group in the Uruweras a few years ago, the state made such a hash of it they had to spend years apologising.
So why does political extremism have such a hard time in New Zealand?
Some of it is absence of scale: there’s not enough like minds who are that nutty.
Some of it’s just-get-along: everyone’s related to everyone else, and it’s best not to annoy the parents and relatives of the one you have your eye on. Same with getting a job, leaving a job, and finding another: we know everyone so you just can’t piss anyone off.
We’ve lost our empathy for the radicals, because they don’t sound the way we want. Hint: they never do. But we need radicals. Even foreign radicals. Even foreign radicals who charge for tickets. Even foreign radicals who charge for tickets and say stupid things. In 1912 those foreign radicals all sounded stupid to the Waihi miners … to start with.
We have possibly the most have boring and managerial government I’ve ever seen. The idealistic Greens have had so much colour washed out of them, they look like they’re made of gelatin. That’s because there are no radicals to challenge or provoke with tough ideas. We have made ourselves merely managerial with a complacent righteousness. We have almost no local radicals making any dent in public discourse.
We need more foreign radicals speaking in New Zealand.