For once, this isn’t going to be something I put in the ‘required reading’ list. Despite its title, David Harcourt’s 1972 survey of the Antipodean Nazism Everyone Wants to be Fuerher: National Socialism in Australia and New Zealand only gives a few pages to the Kiwi fascists and is mostly focused on Australia. That being said, Harcourt provides a fascinating insight into the personalities, backgrounds, and internecine political infighting of the self-identified national socialist movement.

Though brief, the four pages dedicated to New Zealand does provide a genuinely insightful look at the early years of the grand old man of local fascist politics, National Socialist Party founder Colin King-Ansell. A unique factor of New Zealand political history was the absence of a fascist movement in the 1930s, it was indeed King-Ansell’s National Socialist Party of New Zealand that became the first to fully don the title in 1969.

The short, and in some respects hilarious (in a pathetic way), history of the NSPNZ does serve as a useful introduction to how such politics operates in this country. As do King-Ansell’s own idiosyncrasies, such as his claim that early on his anti-Semitism drove him to be a follower of Gamal Abdel Nasser before drifting to veneration of the Nazis. To say more would be too much, but suffice to say the section on New Zealand is worthwhile.

In more general terms, Everyone Wants to be Fuerher stands up as a fascinating look into Australian fascism. The small biographies of various figures on the extreme right give insight into the personal workings of self-identified national socialists in the decades after the Second World War. Historically the book begins with the fears of secret fascist sympathisers arriving among refugees in the immediate aftermath of the war. From there it tracks the rise and fall of the prominent Australia Party and its leader, Sydney journalist Frank Browne, over the mid- to late-1950s. For the remainder of the book, an investigative journalistic approach is adopted by Harcourt as he covers the confusing and bitter infighting which dominated Australian fascism in the 1960s into the early ’70s. Primarily, this entails telling the story of the closely linked but often feuding Sydney-based Australian National Socialist Party and the Canberra-based National Socialist Party of Australia. Beyond personal enmity, the only real difference was the attempts by the latter to divorce itself from the image of jackbooted, uniformed, be-swastika’d demonstrations (and the resulting beatings of said demonstrators that followed).

Harcourt also dedicates space to examining the exact policies of Australian fascists, not only on the sole issue on which they base everything – the white race (and its preservation from mythical threats) – but on more standard policy fair like education, agriculture, and crime. The funnier moments in this section being snippets from official party bulletins outlining oddly specific policies on the acting profession (John Wayne? Good. All the others? Bad and also part of the Jewish world conspiracy) or dancing. The latter of which really deserves to be quoted in full:

What white teenager engaged in these jungle-style dances can feel racially superior to the negroes and the Jews, who indeed are their superiors when it comes to this type of activity? The European form is inherently unsuited to this type of gyrating dance and appears absurd while engaged in them.

Australian National Socialist Journal, 1967

Perhaps more interesting than this still are the connections which Australian fascists maintained with other, somewhat more mainstream right-wing groups like the League of Rights, Australia-Rhodesia Association, and conservative immigration lobby groups. These connections extend so far as assertions by ANSP leader Arthur Smith that the party did paid work for regional sections of the Liberal Party, agreeing to do things like attend pro-Vietnam war meetings (out of uniform, of course) to boost numbers and use their printing press to run leaflet campaigns on the Liberals behalf. Both Australian and New Zealand fascists alike maintained relationships and correspondence with their political contemporaries overseas. In particular, Harcourt dedicates some time to the relationship both maintained with George Lincoln Rockwell and his American Nazi Party (later renamed the National Socialist White People’s Party).

I’d say that, although not a required reading for budding Kiwi socialists – Paul Spoonley’s Politics of Nostalgia takes that place on the topic – Everyone Wants to be Fuehrer is very much a worthwhile read on its own merits as a book. The book serves as a fine, hell quite fascinating, piece of investigative journalism into a political fringe of Australian society. Although the incredible dysfunction of the national socialist scene is often more funny than scary, Harcourt handles his material with an eye to the seriousness of what these people desire. Fittingly, it is for this reason that the book ends with a chapter on the internal logic of holocaust denial – capped off with a quote from Himmler on the beginning of the Final Solution and a single, haunting photo of an emaciated prisoner at a concentration camp.