The politics of nostalgia : the petty-bourgeoisie and the extreme right in New Zealand : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Massey University

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Massey University
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From the early 1970s, extreme right-wing groups began to proliferate in New Zealand and to contribute to public debate. These groups represent one response to the growing politicisation of racial and gender issues, a discontent at the trends in modern capitalism and a nostalgia for the unity and certainty that is seen as epitomising the immediate post-war period. Poulantzas identifies these groups as primarily petty-bourgeois in origin and this class link constitutes a central focus of this thesis. It is argued that the old or traditional petty-bourgeoisie are a declining class fraction who exhibit reactionary tendencies. Their form of petty-commodity production, both rural and urban, is threatened by the development of the corporate economy, exemplified by the interventionist state and the growing size and centralisation of monopoly capital. The resulting decrease in petty-bourgeois positions produces a crisis of confidence as the reproduction of small-scale production is no longer guaranteed. The marginal position of the old petty-bourgeoisie is further confirmed by the absence of political influence. They feel unable to halt the growing 'moral decadence' of recent decades because they lack the political power of capital or labour, or that of expanding class fractions such as the new petty-bourgeoisie. Radical right-wing groups are an expression of these class concerns. The old petty-bourgeoisie have not always identified with reactionary political organisations. Their support was an important factor in the election of the Labour Government in 1935. But during the 1930s, they articulated an ideology that perceived speculative capital, and Jews, as an important cause in financial decline. This world-view was reproduced intact into the 1970s. At this point, a general economic recession emphasised the problems faced by petty-commodity production and the contribution of the old petty-bourgeoisie to moral debates on 'race', gender and peace issues was increasingly superseded by post-war generations and movements. Also, the traditional party of this fraction, Social Credit, experienced a change in leadership in 1972 that marked a rejection of 1930s arguments. Extreme right-wing groups were established to articulate petty-bourgeois concerns and to counter weak representational links with conservative political parties. The ideology and political style of these groups is described in detail. Case studies of the League of Rights, the Country Party and Tax Reduction Integrity Movement/Zenith Applied Philosophy are provided, along with profiles of key activists. The class base of these organisations is confirmed by the contrast with working class neo-fascism and forms of conservatism such as the New Zealand Party. An international comparison involving the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada identifies the specific tendencies of the New Zealand situation. The final section discusses the prognosis for extreme right-wing groups in a situation of crisis. The analysis centres on three questions: (1) in order to widen its constituency, are alliances with other classes or fractions possible; (2) is mass fascism a possibility; (3) are the old petty-bourgeoisie a significant or authentic social force. The thesis concludes that extreme right-wing groups are an expression of petty-bourgeois revolt and they constitute one of the most important examples of reactionary politics with an impact on contemporary social relations and debates.
Right-wing politics, Petty bourgeoisie, New Zealand politics, Reactionary politics