|As the civil union debate reached a fever pitch allegations of all types were slung from both sides, some valid and some not. However there is one that sticks out to my mind above all others courtesy of Murray Smith MP of the right-wing religious party United Future. That United Future would vote as one bloc against the Civil Union bills second reading was never in doubt. I was of course not disappointed and heard the same arguments regarding the destruction of the family, but the surprise for me was the following from Mr. Smith: “One of those who opposed this bill was a highly respected priest of the New Zealand Catholic Church, an older man, clearly with wisdom and experience, and definitely not extreme. He said that the decision on this bill was the most important decision we have made in his lifetime and more important than New Zealand's decision as to whether to go to war against Hitler. He was right.” Understandably I was a little shocked at this – how on earth could this decision be more important than defeating Hitler? How could gay couples opting for a civil union pose more of a threat than the man responsible for the deaths of 26 million citizens of the Soviet Union and the man who gave the words “Die Endlösung” - the final solution the distinct chill which they have today? Am I in fact more of a tyrannical Nazi and threat to society than Hitler was, and is United Future the leading, the only bastion, the protector of our freedom and pluralistic social order against my expansionistic, racist, and twisted ideologies? I think not. However, if it is legitimate for me to be called a greater threat than Hitler was, then perhaps it is only fair to see if the shoe fits on the other foot… On March 5, 1933 the population of the Weimar Republic went to the polls for Germany's last free election until the collapse of the Reich in May 1945. The difficulty the National Socialists faced was one primarily of image. It did not do the party any favours to have brown shirted members parading around the streets giving right-armed salutes, beating and haranguing those who did not fit the ideal. To get around this Hitler played strongly to the conservative vote while hushing up or glossing over the more radical aspects and members of the party. He played up fears of a great uprising from the left, the dangers of liberalism eclipsing traditional German values. He emphasised freedom of business to the conservative right, and yet also played up the aspects of socialism for the conservative left. The Nazi Party tailored its messages to suit whichever group it was addressing at the time while sweeping the rest under the mat. That the party was ant-Semitic was never in doubt – but the extent to which the message was pedaled was different depending on circumstances. In the small village of Nordheim for instance anti-Semitism was played down completely during the elections, with the Party focussing instead on economic recovery for small business. Spurious? Perhaps, but it is not uncommon for political parties to sweep their more undesirable elements under the mat until the ballot closes. If we look at United Future for instance, what do we recall from the election campaign? We think of Peter Dunne sitting in a debate promoting good, honest, common sense policies. Using simple answers to answer simple questions rather than using rhetoric. We didn't see Paul Adams preaching to his new life congregation the benefits of born again Christianity and how all those who have not accepted Christ are going to burn in eternal hell fire. How could those who voted for United Future have foreseen one of their elected representatives in a fit of pique going on a fast in the hope of divine intervention? Of course Ghandi fasted but for different reasons, so I will leave the decision as to who is the better man to you the reader. That United Future is a Christian party is not in doubt. But the extent to which that message is pedaled is different depending on the group – usually it's done under the guise of the ‘family' whereas Hitler's anti-Semitism was pedaled under the guise that the Jew was the enemy of the Volk. Me, I'm only dangerous to the family unit, which is lucky for me. That unit is however the basis for society according to the party literature: “The family (including wider family and whanau) as the primary unit for a sustainable society and its interdependence with strong, caring and compassionate community organisations, such as churches, schools, charitable and other service groups.” Damn, maybe my desire for equal rights does pose a danger to the Volk of New Zealand after all. Ironic isn't it that according to the National Socialists that the family was the essential basic unit of society, to be maintained and protected by any means. However, it's unfair to solely create a match between the National Socialist Parties family ideology with United Future. The Italian and British Fascists also viewed the family in the same way. Kinder, Küche, Kirche -Children, Kitchen, Church. "I would take the opportunity to ask the Gentleman as to what his shoe size is, and if the fit is comfortable so far." Interestingly enough, that same year of 1933 parliamentary government in Austria was also abolished and in May 1934 the democratic constitution was finally stricken and replaced with a new one emphasising the need to create a “Social, Christian, German State, Austria founded upon estates under strong authoritarian leadership". Which brings us to a common theme between the Austrian, German and Italian (even Romanian) strains of Fascism, that is the view that the current world is not whole. In German, there is a concept of the heile Welt or, a world intact. When compared to this world our existing social, economic, ideological structures are compared and found wanting, they are Kaputt, broken. Traditional values are seen to have disintegrated, life has become far more complicated, there is a shift towards relativism, a rejection of the great and glorious past. Fascism looks back to this past to build support and as a beacon for a return to those values that made the nation great. The values, social structures, and morals of the past can be used as a bulwark against the creeping influence of socialism and liberalism. In Austria under Dollfuss and later Schussnigg, this glorious past was one which had a strong spiritual and nationalistic identity centred on the Catholic Church. It is indeed ironic that once again it is a group of Catholic Bishops who have spoken out against Civil Unions undermining society when historically the Church has aligned itself to authoritarian even repressive forms of government. It is even more ironic, that the Catholic Church was willing to speak out about the grave threat of Civil Unions yet remained oddly silent during the years of the final solution. Perhaps Mr Smith's concerned constituent is right after all, maybe I am more of a danger particularly given the views of the papacy on gay relationships as opposed to its historical position on genocide. Of course, United Future doesn't look towards the past to build a better future – not officially anyway. But is it not fascinating that one of its MP's is a pastor at City Impact Church in Auckland? An organisation with the goal of using god to impact community and nation, using a mixture of old (stoning, women as chattels) and new testaments as the only infallible and true guiding light. Not only this but City Impact states “We believe the body of Jesus Christ (the true church) is made up of all born again believers” - deviance from the party line will not be tolerated. Likewise another one of United Futures representatives is Director of Worldview Studies and education lecturer at the Masters Institute, yet another organization advocating a return to those good old fashioned values – a return to those religious principles of unambiguity, black and white delineation of issues and a profound distaste of those who don't think as you do – strong rule which brooks no opposition on moral values. A strong rule with a romanticised view of the past in which there was no social strife over class, gender, environmental issues, racial issues, gender issues or moral ones. A strong rule based if not on, then one that draws its legitimacy from Religion. Just like Austria. "Would the gentleman care to see something in black perhaps? Or maybe Brown?" Given the element of the religious right in United Future, we can touch on another aspect of Fascism. That is the one of truth. A hallmark of the extreme right and Fascist movements is a call to the unalterable truth. To paraphrase from right wingers from Mussolini to Hitler to Pierre Poujade 'in your hearts you know we [alone] are right'(1). Given this absolute conviction of truth, it is easy to slip into authoritarian mode. Once again returning to the German notion of the heile Welt we can draw another strand between United Future and various extreme rightist views. Those who tend to point out current imperfections in society, for example advocates for the homeless, poor, feminists, environmentalists, and minority (for example, Gay) interests often find themselves despised or hated amongst those members of the radical or even Fascist right. However the expectations of the right tend to make it a utopian ideology because it bases its view on social order on a model of the good old days that simply does not exist – despite the rhetoric. However, how to reconcile this fact with the belief that you ARE right and represent the forces of truth? In many instances the default is violence. In others its a hijacking of the parliamentary system by bringing down the government - as Hitler did in 1933, fascinating isn't it that United Future has that power now. Of course, I am the first to admit that branding any party or group as Fascist or Nazi (with the exception of the National Front) is a dangerous undertaking limited to the realms of political crankery (which I suspect is why the member used the reference). However, I would suggest to the member that he perhaps examines his own party and Ideologies before supporting views that Gay people and relationships pose more of a threat than Hitler, when, if we examine the party itself we see that one of us is closer to Fascist ideology than the other. "Will the gentleman be paying for those shoes by cash, cheque or credit?"
Eatwell, Roger., Fascism: A History. London: Pimlico, 2003 Lewis, Jill., 'Conservatives and Fascists in Austria, 1918-34', in Fascists and Conservatives. Martin Blinkhorn (ed.). London: Unwin Hyman, 1990. Merkl, Peter H., 'Why are they so strong now?: Comparative Reflections on the Revival of the Radical Right in Europe', in The Revival of Right-Wing Extreemism in the Nineties, Peter H. merkl and Leonard Weinberg (eds), London: Frank Cass, 1997 Hansard for December 2, 2004, http://www.clerk.parliament.govt.nz And the websites of United Future, Masters Institute, and Impact Churches – without whom none of this could have been possible. Scott Stevens - 10th December 2004