Since we are revising history and expunging inconvenient racists from our history, perhaps it is time to look at some left-wing racists and ask whether we should remove their portraits and monuments because of the racist views they held.
Jacinda Ardern chooses to have the portrait of a terrible racist and anti-Semite looking over her shoulder in her office.
It is, of course, a portrait of Michael Joseph Savage. He is venerated by the Labour party, and there are monuments and parks named after him.
But should we venerate him? Should the Prime Minister have a photo of him behind her desk in a place of honour?
Right now lists are being drawn up of statues and place names that should be renamed because of some blight in the past of those honoured. A statue in Hamilton has been pulled down because the person honoured fought and died in the Battle of Gate Pa, against Maori. James Cook’s legacy is being besmirched because apparently he helped to cause colonialism.
Well, let’s look at some left-wing nasties; and who better to look at than the first Labour Prime Minister, Michael Joseph Savage.
Sure, Michael Joseph Savage did some good things. However, we have seen that one’s achievements, no matter how vast, can be discarded because of something they once said or believed. So let’s look a bit deeper at the man the Labour Party venerates: someone the Prime Minister admires so much, she keeps a portrait of him in her office.
Savage was an appalling anti-Chinese racist. He exhibited the worst of the racist attitude of the trade union and labour movements toward Asians after the end of the First World War.
In April 1920 Labour MPs Michael Joseph Savage, Bill Parry and Frederick Bartram telegrammed Reform Party prime minister Massey asking that “steps be immediately taken to deal with (the) menace” of an “alarming influx of Asiatics and other classes of cheap labour…” The Labour figures argued that this influx inevitably involved “the lowering of the living standards of our people, as well as the probable deterioration in the physical standard of all races mixing indiscriminately…”
So not just a racist, but a nasty little eugenics type racist.
Thus Michael Savage, for instance, declared that what was at issue was not only living standards but the “very law of life itself”. Savage, whose knowledge of geography was perhaps in inverse proportion to his racist paranoia, fretted, “we are living practically within a stone’s throw of teeming millions, who continue to increase by millions annually, and (in Austraia and NZ) there are millions of acres of uninhabited territory”. The education test needed to be made more severe, he argued. (This was often known as the ‘Natal formula’ as it had been used in South Africa to have a racist law which could be presented as non-racist.)
Savage wanted not only a lot less Asian immigration, but for the reduced number to be made up of the better-educated only, a rather snobbish view for a party which claimed to represent those at the bottom of society and be internationalist.
So he was advocating for South African style racism.
Some Labour MPs, like Savage, were also so anti-Chinese that they simply couldn’t leave things alone, even though they had helped cut off Chinese immigration. Thus on October 4, 1920, he raised a question in parliament about some Chinese allegedly entering the country without having paid the poll tax. The minister of customs assured him that this was not the case.
Quite the nasty spiteful, little racist. Should the Prime Minister honour him by displaying his portrait? If a hat is evil then what about a portrait of an actual racist?
Then we can look at his anti-Semitism. He may have been one of the first to declare war against Germany in 1939, but he held despicable anti-Semitic views as well.
At the end of August 1938, the annual conference of NZ’s League of Nations Union adopted a motion urging the government “to expedite the admission of a fair and generous number of Jewish and other European refugees and that the present financial guarantees be recognised as unsuitable in the circumstances and be held in abeyance.”
After the government received it, prime minister Michael Savage responded. A Christchurch Press editorial criticised Savage’s response, saying it was “depressingly evasive and contradictory”. In fact, this was standard Labour politics. When they were pursuing their anti-Chinese racism in the years after their foundation, Labour also found it helpful to pass resolutions indicating they were ‘internationalist’ and stood for (what in those days was called) ‘the brotherhood of man’.
Savage ludicrously (and thoroughly dishonestly) claimed “We are taking just as many refugees as we can without.. losing sight of our obligations to Great Britain herself”.
Walter Nash, the great grandfather of current Minister Stuart Nash, was the Minister of Immigration at the time. He repeatedly refused visas for victims of Nazi atrocities and Jewish migration in general.
J.B. Condliffe and other NZers in London came up with a scheme for 500 refugees to settle in Southland to farm and forest, but Labour wasn’t interested. Indeed, Oliver notes, “As events in Europe worsened, the Christchurch committee seemed to be fighting a losing battle”. While they had plenty of local support, “getting Walter Nash to grant permits for new refugees was becoming increasingly hard”. The number of permits which were granted dropped to zero in April 1939, despite the committee sending dozens of supported applications, complete with matching guarantors.
Oliver notes that the Labour government’s “brutally clear-cut” view was indicated in an internal document. It preferred non-Jewish, Aryan, northern European, Dutch, Belgian and French as the “more suitable type of immigrant” (my emphasis); the document stated, “it is the general practice at this time to accede to applications made by such persons”. But as for Jewish and non-Aryan refugees, “it is unlikely that permits to enter New Zealand would be granted to them.”
No wonder the document was confidential; the Labour government didn’t dare say this in public. As Oliver notes, despite the government pretending publicly that it had no policy, “the confidential memorandum reveals that a policy existed, and its purpose was absolutely clear – Aryans were wanted by the present Labour cabinet but Jews were not.”
And this is the person held in such high esteem by our current Prime Minister that he warrants a portrait to peer over her shoulder.
The left-wing like to point out that keeping a hat on a shelf is a thought-crime, and that it says a great deal about the person who keeps the hat. They conveniently ignore the rampant racism and despicable anti-Semitism of the first Labour Prime Minister. Instead, they laud him; hell, one hardcore Labour blogger, Greg Presland, even uses the online moniker of “mickeysavage” as he pours his particular type of poison into the eyes and ears of readers of The Standard. Nice to know that he too venerates a nasty racist and despicable anti-Semite.
I guess my point is this, some people who hold bad views, or indeed performed bad actions, actually did some good things as well. The selective lens of history that we seem to now have says that no matter how much good a person did with their life, if there is so much as a blemish, a small stain of awfulness on their record then we throw all the good out with it, as the good is now tainted, like the proverbial rotten apple spoiling the barrel.
If that holds true, then we really should be demolishing the Savage Memorial, portraits of Michael Joseph Savage should be winkled out of Labour households, halls and meeting rooms and burned and his Wikipedia page altered to reflect his true awfulness.
After all he was pale, male and stale, so his lifetime achievements should be consigned to the dustbin of the new revised history.