Occasionally i get to stand around waving placards and i did it again recently for the cause of anti-racism. Christchurch has the only permanent organised neo-fascist group in New Zealand, curently the Right Wing Resistence. Their leader is Kyle Chapman, who once stood for mayor on a far right ticket. They have been around for a while now, and are getting a bit too much traction here. On that day they were having their own march, from Abberley Park to Papanui Road and back, through the very nice leafy suburb of Merivale. The anti-racism march was a counter-protest.
There were about 50 of Them and about 100 of Us, although estimates vary. We were colourful, diverse, noisy and rude. They were quieter and more self disciplined, and were trying for menacing. They had sub-Nazi uniforms with ranks, and insignia indicating their alliances with other ultra rightists such as Blood and Honour (the number 28) the the Greek Golden Dawn. They had with them an Australian politician of some sort who gave a speech, which was largely drowned out by the chaos on our side. The neo-fascist bunch have been around long enough to have families now, and so there were women and children. In fact someone remarked their gender balance was actually better than ours. They marched and we followed them through the Merivale shopping area and then we stood around a bit and traded insults and then we all wandered off for a latte at Savoire, a Parisian themed cafe that does an excellent chickpea salad*. The arrest tally was one for them and one for us.
When i was much, much younger and making some study of the occult, i had an interest in what i thought of then as the loony right. i thought they represented an interesting sort of disaffection with society and they had some strange alliances - occultists, survivalists, eschatologists, punk rockers. i never took any of their ideas seriously but i shared their sense of being marginalised even thought it took me in very different directions. I thought then that they were undereducated white guys who had fallen into ideological pits.
The size and influence of the ultra right has waxed and waned depending on how the economy has treated undereducated white guys. This happens internationally. Christchurch is a good example because it has only recently become truly visibly multicultural. Although some of these guys' invective is directed at Maori and indigenous rights, a lot of it is about immigration and especially Asians#, along the classic lines of 'They took our jobs!!!'** Christchurch is a very white city and many whites are poor, ergo, somebody has the money and the power, so who is it?
Five years ago i would not have turned up for an anti-racism counter-demonstration. i would have been happy for the RWR to die quietly in a little dark corner. But the post financial crisis world is a bit different. Financial squeeze is also indeological squeeze. People flee to the edges. i don't want the RWR to grow. i get the fleeing to the edges thing. i get that there are a lot of people who have little stake in society and can only see that someone who isn't them has the power and the say. It's sad that they discount their own futures and that they are afraid they will lose what little they have. i would like them to look around and ask who is really in power, and who it is really worth being angry with, and what is really worth working for.
* Actually, no.
# Asia is a barely sensible construct that spreads from Turkey to the Philippines, and in the UK Asian seems to indicate the Indian subcontinent. In New Zealand it means indiscriminately Japan/China/Korea/Vietnam/Laos/Cambodia/Malaysia/Borneo/i think i've missed something out/suggestions welcome. But not India/Afghanistan/Mongolia/Indonesia etc etc which we don't have names for yet in New Zealand.
**A statement said in such a manner that it takes at least three exclamation marks, which is of course a sign of madness, or at least manic punctuation.