The murky politics of the Right
The Press (Christchurch)
The country’s hardcore Right-wing factions look like they mean business. It’s just that their business never gets off the ground. JOHN McCRONE reports.
With a slightly self-conscious smile, the tattooed skinhead, New Zealand flag draped over his shoulder, places a flyer in my hand. Then he and his small rag- tag group continue their quiet parade around the sunny, tourist-filled streets of central Christchurch.
So this is white power, neo-Nazi politics, skinhead malevolence in 2009? Up in Wellington, the National Front’s annual rally drew larger numbers, but was a similarly subdued affair.
The anarchists and anti-fascists, the loyal leftie opposition, did not even bother to show up. With no confrontation, no aggro, the skinheads were reduced to wandering the streets, shyly interacting with the public, passing out their leaflets railing against immigration, multiculturalism, and threatened changes to the national flag. The TV cameras, finding no action, fast got bored and melted away.
White power was looking very much yesterday’s news in New Zealand. But then came the other events of the day. A first surprise was the sight of former National Front leader, Christchurch mayoral candidate and marae fire-bomber, Kyle Chapman, back in the thick of things at the Wellington Cenotaph gathering.
It was only last May that 38-year-old Mr Chapman renounced his white power activities following his marriage to a devout Mormon. Mr Chapman moved from Christchurch to live with his wife on her lifestyle block outside Hamilton.
Yet Mr Chapman says the pull of the movement – the importance of its ideas, the camaraderie of his mates – proved just too strong. “I never really gave it up,” he admits. So there he was with the troops again, split from his wife and full of plans as leader of the new “skinhead survivalist” faction within white power.
Mr Chapman says he wants to spread his Right Wing Resistance, a skinhead “community security” group he claims already patrols Christchurch, across the country. He also wants to build up his Survive Club, a military skills training squad which has been carrying out combat exercises with paint ball guns and ex-army Landrovers in preparation, he says, for the predicted collapse of society.
In a time of desperation and panic there will be no room for pussies, says Mr Chapman: “We want people who will not only stand up for themselves and their families, they have to stand up for the other club members and their families.”
Going even further, Mr Chapman has been fundraising to found a Nationalist Land Base, a protected skinhead commune with long houses and vegetable plots, somewhere in North Canterbury. A “unified mini state for like-minded Europeans”, as he describes it.
While Mr Chapman is organising for the apocalypse, there was also evidence that the National Front, under its new leader, 63-year-old Colin Ansell, is intent on relaunching itself after a chaotic few years under interim chief, Sid Wilson.
Mr Ansell, a Hawera print shop proprietor and former driving force of the New Zealand Nazi Party – in 1967, as a youth in Auckland, he was jailed for 18 months for his part in the fire-bombing of a synagogue – says he agreed to come out of retirement to prevent the movement folding entirely.
Mr Ansell plans to incorporate the National Front for the first time. He is busy redrafting its political manifesto. And crucially, he says, he wants a membership drive to get the party’s paid-up numbers to the point where it will qualify for state funding and free airtime at the next general election in 2011.
This would be following the similar achievements of Australia First, the far Right party emerging to fill the gap left by Pauline Hanson’s One Nation across the ditch. Australia First New South Wales director Jim Saleam was invited as a key speaker at the National Front’s annual meeting which followed the Labour Day rally, and Mr Saleam was able to tell how he has recruited the 500 members needed to take a tilt at Australia’s own next elections.
So this year is about showing the National Front is serious again, says Mr Ansell: “Members who came to the AGM were able to see a proper financial report this time and everything. We’ve set up a bank account to stop the people getting in who’re just going to milk it, as has happened in the past.”