The Hollow Fortress

Flinching when someone refers to their future vision of a country as a ‘Fortress’ isn’t an unreasonable response. Festung Europa, for example was the Nazi propaganda term for the occupied European continent and one which has been given fresh employment via the far-right anti-immigration political movements in modern day Europe, as ‘Fortress Europe’.

In Aotearoa, there’s precedent for the fortress label. The first episode of the documentary series Revolution was titled Fortress New Zealand. Then, it referred to the pre-Rogernomics country, still focused on a post-war form of state-led capitalism — the ‘fortress’ that was breached by the radical free-market experiment conducted on the country.

The morbid symptoms of capitalism’s failure in 2008 and the inability to birth a system that can effectively engage with climate crisis, has included the spread of reactionary thought across the political spectrum.

Coming across an left-wing call for ‘Fortress Aotearoa’ was not surprising then. It contained within it a set of contradictory objectives which revealed the essential incompatibility of right-wing immigration and militarism with left-wing policies. Indeed it would likely see the contradictions resolved in favour of the right-wing at the expense of the left. That it would need to be “ruthlessly implemented” recognises its radical nature, but also implies the inherent dangers of such a project.

Parliamentary Reform

  • 5 year Parliamentary term.
  • Upper and Lower House (Upper House 50–50 split between Māori & Pakeha that can hold up legislation if unhappy about Treaty issues)
  • Only citizens can vote.

In the last decade, the UK has experimented with fixed-term 5 year Parliaments. Designed to ensure stability under coalition agreements, it has led to a constitutional crisis and a Government that wishes to be brought down but is at the mercy of the Opposition who are refusing to remove them. Stability yes, but equal stability for opponents of Fortress Aotearoa to reverse your ruthless policies or enact their own equally ruthless ones.

Adding an extra layer of scrutiny to Parliamentary Acts seems to be in opposition to the ‘ruthless implementation’ required of the overall project, as is the assumption that the 50/50 Māori/Pakeha split in the Upper House would necessarily provide the balanced approach towards Treaty issues. It appears to view Māori not as a partner to, but a safety valve against, Pakeha led politics.

And then there’s ‘only citizens can vote’. This is obviously aimed at targeting foreign residents of foreign powers influencing ‘our’ elections, but would this involve disenfranchising current NZ residents until they qualified for citizenship. Who defines the citizenship of this Fortress, how citizenship is earned or gained are all core questions that relate to immigration and refugees.

Immigration

  • Mass limiting of tourism numbers with increased tourist taxes.
  • Sustainable immigration and an end to exploitative migrant workers.
  • Resettlement Programs for all Pacific island neighbours.
  • Increase refugee in-take to 10,000 per year

Mass limiting of tourism numbers with increased tourism taxes? So fewer, but richer people visiting the country. Turning Aotearoa into a verdant playground of the rich sounds like the ideals of the Silicon Valley elites, complete with South Island bunkers and private security forces, doesn’t it?

Sustainable immigration is an interesting goal, particularly around what would make the system sustainable. How much more likely, once more, is a high net worth individual going to find access to Aotearoa in comparison to an unskilled worker escaping crisis. Ending exploitative employers of migrant workers would perhaps be more useful than ending the workers themselves, but more on that shortly.

Resettlement Programs for all Pacific Island neighbours and increase refugee in-take to 10,000 per year. Here’s where we loop back to ‘Only Citizens Can Vote’ which is aimed at preventing ‘foreign influence’ on elections.

The contradiction here be the resettlement of all (2.3 million?) of our Pacific island neighbours, who presumably would fill the role played by the ‘exploitative migrant workers’. Would our neighbours instantly become citizens? If not it creates an instant underclass.

Equally the 10,000 refugees a year policy. Refugees become citizens, its part of the process of being admitted as a refugee. That is, unless, you’re planning to alter that status, in opposition to international legislation on refugees.

It would also require an overhaul of the current racist and discriminatory refugee policy which prevents refugees from Africa or the Middle East being accepted in Aotearoa unless they already have family here. I suspect that the 10,000 would include our Pacific neighbours, shutting the rest of the world out from Aotearoa entirely.

Either way, a mass reduction in immigration would be countered by a new form of mass immigration. Either as refugees they are granted citizenship, and can therefore vote straight away, or would they have to earn it via uncertain means.

There’s also another large assumption at this point that the gratitude of the new arrivals would ensure that the radical political party which had implemented all these changes were rewarded at the ballot box. Which is endearing, if naive.

Militarism

  • Large scale increase in Navy, Army & Airforce.

With 10,000 new refugees as well as ourresettled Pacific neighbours, it is not too difficult to see where the new recruits to the Navy, Army and Airforce would come from. Perhaps this could relate to earning citizenship. Would you like to know more?

The expansion is, apparently, to defend Aotearoa’s fishing grounds against aggressive foreign (the Chinese again) powers. However, with climate crisis the refugee population will swell considerably — 10,000 a year may not cover what’s needed should the ocean rise by 2 metres.

How will these increased armed forces be employed in this regard, and who against? Would we see an employment of Australian tactics towards desperate migrants approaching our shores?

This policy also fails to consider the warping effect an increased militarism has on the society that sustains it. Nationalism and patriotism, the growth of supplying industries, all have effects. The idea of a large military, wielded only for just and good purposes, remains one unseen in historical record.

Fortresses are built to be defended from within against outsiders, but it does not take too much for that to shift to focus on the enemy within.

Left-wing

  • Fully funded public services.
  • Wholesale re-write of state services act to end commercial values.
  • Financial transaction tax
  • Wealth tax
  • Multinational tax
  • Inheritance tax

Here’s the socialism to go with the barbarism of closed borders, rich tourists and an increasingly militarised nation, and it’s almost purely focused on taxation — in order to pay for the fully-funded public services, refugee and Pacific neighbours intake, rapid expansion of the armed forces and maintaining Aotearoa’s borders.

There is a mention of the de-financialisation of state services, which would be a genuine move towards undoing the effects of neo-liberalism — but otherwise it is maneuvering the dials of capitalism to a vaguely more redistributive setting, while assuming the world-as-it-is would continue in a manner that this would be applicable.

It would certainly be interesting to see the effect transitioning to a Hermit Kingdom on the Pacific would have on the potential tax-take from Aotearoa. Even more interesting is the idea that a planet sliding into climate crisis would maintain commerce and industry in terms of viable multinationals or financial transactions.

Green

  • Move away from intensive farming and look to become domestically self sustainable in terms of food.
  • Immediately ban all water exports
  • Mass Green housing rebuild.
  • 100% renewable energy for entire country.
  • Massive tree planting across previous farming land.

Turning inwards is the focus here, the removal of Aotearoa’s farm and primary exports to seal off the produce of the nation for those who live here. Banning water exports (China, again). The mass Green housing rebuild takes its cue from the U.S Green New Deal, obviously. The final two policies are already existing ambitions of the Green Party of NZ, and are the two most achievable within the current framework.

Once again though there’s an expectation of a form of undisrupted normality in which these things can occur, and little thought given to how these policies interact with others. Invest in the military and rebuild housing. Become self-sufficient but also increase taxation on the remaining economy of exports, if one exists.

It’s as if Fortress Aotearoa takes place in a world which is simultaneously being dramatically reshaped by climate crisis, requiring these changes, but the underlying mechanisms of capital will remain constant.

Business

  • Massive investment into R&D from Government with the understanding research is to benefit NZ first before sold offshore.
  • Investment into basic pharmaceutical production.

There’s more than a small element of Soviet thinking running through Fortress Aotearoa and these suggestions bring to mind the Naukograd (Science City) and Akademgorodoki (Academic City) of the late period USSR. In that time, research and development ground to a halt due to a lack of funding. Given the Aotearoa-first approach, R&D would need to be closely guarded — fortunate that the country has expanded its military.

Fortress Aotearoa appears to be a melange of some long-established right-wing approaches to immigration, some extant transitional policies advocated by the Green movement and a socialism that focuses on taxation within the existing system. Yet it also clearly calls for the existing system to be replaced, without clearly articulating what it is that should be replacing it.

In that it reveals a thought void, in that the isolationist approach does not account for the impact of climate crisis on Aotearoa — the slowly submerging coastal regions, the changing weather patterns on our agriculture and forestry.

It also fails to recognise that the reason for isolating ourselves against the world would surely be that of immense calamity on larger continents — multinational companies, financial transactions and markets for that R&D may not exist in the conventional sense.

There is also the absence of consideration that partially implementing the policies above — aggressive immigration controls on the Pacific, reorganising Parliament along long terms, expanding the armed forces and reducing voting rights, would form the perfect basis for an isolationist right-wing government to establish itself and exploit our neighbours and the underclass as free labour. All this while maintaining the same intent as before.

Indeed there is an argument to be made that to overhaul the economy and productivity towards an entirely self-sufficient country, a certain level of aggressive policing would be required to persuade the population to submit to the plan of the radical political party ruthlessly executing their policies.

One thing the Fortress Aotearoa proposal does have is radical intent. However, that radicalism draws as much from the eco-fascist movement and the right-wing with its immigration and militaristic approach as it does from the eco-socialist and left wing views on agriculture and energy production.

What is most concerning though is that it abandons any sense of internationalism in favour of a form of solipsism which seems more attuned with the current strain of atomising neo-liberal thought than thinking beyond the current realities of capitalism towards what needs to be.

It is a left-wing thought that wishes to borrow the intentions of the right, and fascism, in order to do good. In that it relies on an assumption that those in power think the same away as them, that the concentrated power of five-year-terms, a deeply isolationist economic and immigration policy and an expanded militarism will not be abused or turned inwards.

It implies that to be able to save Aotearoa from the climate crisis, then a certain level of quasi-fascistic instrumentation is necessary, just as long as there is a sufficiently socialist taxation and green environmental policy to justify it. If anything it is a mirror eco-fascism, not eco-socialism but eco-Stalinism.

There is little doubt that radical action is and will be required as we travel further into the climate crisis. However Fortress Aotearoa presents a list of ideas which at best contradict and undermine each other, at worst create a breeding ground for an isolationist right-wing nation in the Pacific. But it does offer a starting point for discussion about the climate future of Aotearoa.

Mostly in terms of, “How can we do better than this? Because we must.”

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