Thursday, May 29, 2014

From Olaf Nelson to Kim Dotcom

A tall, heavy man, who spoke English with a thick, northern European accent, he had built a fortune and a fine home by the time he reached thirty. When he became a New Zealand subject, he believed that the government in Wellington would be happy for him to continue wheeling and dealing under its auspices.

Partly because of its obligations to a distant superpower, the New Zealand state began to persecute the successful young entrepeneur. His businesses were shut down, spies followed his movements, police made unfriendly visits to his home, and plans were made to deport him.

Infuriated by his treatment, the young businessman began to condemn the New Zealand state as an enemy of liberty. Looking about for allies, he discovered that many of the indigenous people of the islands where he lived were also estranged from the government in Wellington. Using his money, his connections, and his flair for publicity, he helped them build a political movement that changed New Zealand history.

Those sentences might seem to describe Kim Dotcom, the supersized German businessman threatened with deportation to the United States who has hitched his Internet Party to Hone Harawira and Annette Sykes' Mana Movement, but they also tell the story of Olaf Nelson, who was born on Savai'i, Samoa's largest island, in 1883 to a Scandinavian trader and his local wife. In the first years of the twentieth century Savai'i and most of the rest of Samoa was controlled by Germany, and the young Olaf Nelson was able to get rich by exporting copra to the imperial homeland.

In 1914, though, New Zealand troops invaded German Samoa, tore down the Kaiser's flag, and raised a Union Jack. British diplomats hailed this victory over the Pacific Hun, and Kiwi newspapers demanded that traders with links to Germany be treated as enemies. Nelson found it much harder to do business.

New Zealand administrators quickly began to alienate indigenous Samoans, as well as 'afakasi like Nelson. Their incompetence and indifference allowed the global influenza epidemic of 1918 to take the lives of a fifth of Samoans, and their attempts to privatise communally-held land and racist snubs to important chiefs aggravated discontent. In the 1920s Nelson helped a number of powerful chiefs lead the Mau movement, whose slogan was Samoa Mo Samoa, or Samoa for the Samoans. Protesters paraded, taxes went unpaid, roads were blockaded, and an anti-colonial parliament was set up. New Zealand police and marines reacted by shooting nationalists in the street and burning Mau villages.

Like Kim Dotcom, Olaf Nelson was a clever and incessant propagandist, who used the media to rile his enemies in Wellington. Today Dotcom uses twitter and youtube to lambast John Key's government as corrupt and autocratic; Nelson funded and ran a newspaper, The Samoa Guardian, that poked pins in the sides of conservative governments of the 1920s and early '30s.

John Key and his colleagues are keen to have Kim Dotcom deported to a United States prison, and the governments of the '20s and early '30s were equally desperate to remove Olaf Nelson from Samoa. After being expelled from the colony for five years in 1928, Nelson toured the world promoting the Mau cause, and persuaded the League of Nations to investigate New Zealand's behaviour in Samoa. Shortly after he returned to Samoa in 1933, Nelson was deported again. This time his destination was a New Zealand prison cell.

New Zealand politicians and editorialists endlessly accused Olaf Nelson of 'stirring up' indigenous Samoans, by filling the natives' previously happy minds with exotic and absurd ideas like democracy and self-determination. Patronising colonial officials accused the chiefs who led the Mau of abandoning Samoan culture by embracing protest marches and the print media.

Similarly patronising charges are being made today against Kim Dotcom and his Maori nationalist allies. Key and his colleagues have faulted Dotcom for 'interfering' with New Zealand politics, instead of quietly submitting to his deportation to an American prison. The New Zealand Herald, that long-time authority on radical politics, has accused Hone Harawira of betraying 'Maori radicalism' by using Dotcom's cash and connections.

By the time he died in 1944 Olaf Nelson had become a hero throughout Samoa. Today the country's national library and a clocktower at the centre of its capital city bear his name.

Olaf Nelson and Kim Dotcom were both avaricious, essentially apolitical businessmen who were radicalised after being persecuted by a New Zealand state acting on behalf of a distant superpower. A cashed-up, radicalised capitalist is a dangerous enemy, especially when he has a talent for building alliances and making propaganda. Kim Dotcom may prove as difficult for the New Zealand state to defeat as his predecessor.

[Posted by Scott Hamilton]


Blogger Matthew R. X. Dentith said...

Hang on a minute: claiming Dotcom is essentially an apolitical businessmen who was radicalised after being persecuted by a New Zealand state acting on behalf of a distant superpower somewhat rewrites history. Isn't this the same Dotcom who donated money to the centre right figure John Banks? Sure, Dotcom has decided that the enemy of his enemies are now his friends, but to claim he was apolitical beforehand and only political now makes for a great analogy, albeit one which is distant from the truth.

7:41 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

There are parallels and interesting ones but I concur with HORansome. I think Bradford did the right thing.

There are no real radicals inside the NZ Parliament.

However, who knows, people change. Perhaps his experience has enlightened Yes he may be a thorn: but what are is his real allegience. (How do you spell that?)

Mind you I evoked Key recently for similar reasons!

I am rather jaded re politicians.

But I can see you, Maps, joining Mana or Labour (cut your teeth on Mana). After all Peter Simpson had a lash at politics...

Hamish is another man I'm sure we will see entering politics as a fiery prophet of change. And Tiso, he is one of those grim Cromwellian idealists like Minto who could make up the team.

I predict this to be the direction you will go as in fact reformism does have it's place (given we are not actually in a fascist country, and due to or size and nature that is unlikely to ever occur(?)

Who knows, maybe Bradford acted precipitously or maybe we are seeing a real and sad sell out.

If Dotty loses some weight and gets within the requisite BMI I might vote for Mana. Otherwise it is looking like I will vote National as a good solid party that is not really doing much either good or bad.

8:52 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

But isn't that what apolitical businessmen do, Matthew - chuck a bit of money at the establishment candidate? Or did the big man have a political agenda he wanted Banks to adopt?

Are you still planning on a Maoist vote for the Nats, Richard? ;)

9:31 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

But isn't that what apolitical businessmen do, Matthew - chuck a bit of money at the establishment candidate? Or did the big man have a political agenda he wanted Banks to adopt?

Are you still planning on a Maoist vote for the Nats, Richard? ;)

9:31 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

If you give a Trotskyist vote for Fatty I might vote for John.

I was once interested in activism etc and the outstanding thing about those days and I think sadly now was that the only real revolution of almost world significance outside of Europe was in China.

Now we know it "failed" but we can see Chavez's government as also a (basically) reformist one. Of course I would support say Allende, Chavez, and Fidel. But in so far as being a Maoist these days: well I was outspokenly critical of the CP in 1970 - but we were not antagonistic to it - there were though as I recall arguments about ways and means between parties and those like myself who were on the outside really.

Then I more or less abandoned politics during the late 70s through the 90s for Nihilism etc and a flirtation with Derrideanism - but I have always been mystified by those who supported Trotsky as the Trotskyites were the laughing stock of everyone in the 70s: they were characterized by an almost invariable stupidity.

They were hopeless.

But such as Shadbolt who was just a glorified hippy, and indeed also a very idealistic liberal reformer, probably in their own way did as much good as anyone else.

What effected change or any political action of value was not mudslinging about who was a Maoist or a Gaoist or whatever it was the united movement of idealists who cared about political events but nowdays we are seeing the Left infiltrated by security agents on a big scale and many masquerading as socialists and Trotskyites who are in fact paid agents.

We are probably seeing the Mana Pary selling out to Pakeha and big business and the Trostkyites are acheiving nothing as usual except they mud sling.

Having failed to achieve "revolution" they fiercely attack anyone who has done anything such as Mao or anyone else. They know they have failed and should give up but they are caught in a hopeless loop.

Being of no political view that is stable these days means I can evade the destruction of politics and the brainwashing that inevitably accompanies any political activity. What it is is a massive Catch 22.

The mud-slinging and rather "challenged" Left these days are largely irrelevant. We require only to survive.

But the vast Comedie Humaine continues to provide much amusement to all.

The Trotskyists are pushing shit up a huge and uninterested hill to nowhere.

9:56 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Richard...Whether extra-terrestrial and / or extra-dimensional visitors, the evidence that we are not alone that has accumulated from - perhaps even further back than hundreds of thousands of years ago - to the present day; is unequivocal.

WAKE UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

10:18 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


for a true view

10:53 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Moreover, some pseudo-lefts were instrumental in campaigning behind the scenes for a deal. Joe Carolan, a leading figure in Socialist Aotearoa, supported it. He told the WSWS before the vote that he “could be” for the alliance, but would not explain why. According to one Mana supporter, Carolan had been justifying a vote for an alliance by drawing a parallel between Dotcom and businessman Alexander Parvus, who supposedly funded Lenin and helped him return to Russia in April 1917 after the Czar was overthrown.
The analogy, which is false from every standpoint, reveals there is no limit to the historical falsifications to which pseudo-lefts will resort to justify their wretched manoeuvres. In his History of the Russian Revolution, Leon Trotsky exposed the claim that Parvus funded Lenin’s return, establishing that it was part of a slander campaign to brand the Bolsheviks as “German agents.” Carolan then piles one distortion on another, ludicrously comparing Harawira, who has headed numerous businesses and now the pro-business Mana party, to Lenin, leader of the 1917 October Revolution and the first workers’ state.

10:54 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The integration of the pseudo-lefts into Mana is not an error, but flows from their class orientation to layers of the upper middle class. The pseudo-left organisations have been instrumental in promoting various forms of identity politics based on gender, sexual preference and race, including the pervasive Maori politics that underpins Mana and the small, privileged layer of Maori businesspeople and bureaucrats that it represents.
Having embedded themselves into Mana, the pseudo-lefts are now seeking to integrate themselves further into the political establishment. They are offering their services to provide a “socialist” or “progressive” camouflage to an anti-National coalition headed by Labour and the Greens and to block any independent movement of the working class against its reactionary agenda.

10:55 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

11:23 am  
Anonymous Scott said...

Silly ultra-leftism from the silly old World Socialist Website in the preceding comments!

11:25 am  
Blogger Richard said...

For God sake Scott "you're in your sixth year!"

I can see the analogies, we are not talking about a "revolutionary party" that is a contradiction. (The only honest Parliament Man of course, as the drollery goes, was Guido Fawkes...) The "old lefties" are right and wrong - if Trotty wrote a book re the Russian revolution - hmm I read 'To the Finland Station' by Wilson and a book about Lenin but that was years ago - I have a book here by Moorehead which looks interesting: well I just found a book about Yeats and was reading something re the Irish events and remembered O'Casey's and Synge's Trotsky wrote a book on The Great Event also?

I remember that what was exciting to read about were the early years of these events, like the English revolution of the 1640s, the French, the Russian and later the Chinese and even the 1968 uprisings in France and mainly Paris.

But once people enter Hell - that is The Beehive - they are left holding their long spoons, cheque books and ccs and it all becomes rather sad.

This doesn't meant that The Large Man is not going to be a thorn. It is a Chestertonian (or Lewis Carrol) comedy or nightmare of a sort... In the politics of Mana which has now become only really reformist but still an interesting party, I voted I think for one Mana candidate once - it means that the bourgeois parties lead my National Tories and the Rich and the even more devious and Hypocritical Labour Party who masquerade as Commies will certainly be non-plussed if not surprised.

So some rather amusing developments with the Internet Party and internet things becoming a big issue, as indeed it is in a way: so we enter the new "Cyber Revolutionary Mana Era", with the old Marxists, Trottys (the old group of Mao-Trotskyists) and SWZSFWAPPAASSS's and other Braches of the Socialist-CIA-Trotskyites etc all looking old and tired (and the "demoralised CP elements" firing shots from their tired sidelines...

And the "mana" itself - wherein lies that?

A fascinating political and ideological soup worthy of a Swiftean pen.

12:50 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

" National Tories and..." should be " National Tories and..." it was not a Freudian slip.

12:53 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nasty tweet from Hipkins. Seems like not all in Labour are down with this deal

2:19 pm  
Blogger Matthew R. X. Dentith said...

Dotcom's stated political beliefs prior to the raid on his mansion were libertarian in nature: he was a centre right creature, politically. Thus his throwing money at Banks (over Brown) seems to fit the characterisation that he wasn't apolitical. As I say, I don't think your analogy holds.

3:41 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

You're probably right, Matthew, but could I perhaps amend my analogy, and claim that Nelson and Dotcom were both moved sharply leftwards by firsthand experience of the nasty side of the NZ state?

I personally don't like Dotcom, but it is curious how certain historical tasks fall on certain unlikely people. I think Chris Trotter and Joe Carolan have been comparing Dotcom with Alexander Parvus.

7:31 pm  
Blogger Matthew R. X. Dentith said...

I'm hoping Dotcom has been moved leftward by his treatment by the Aotearoa (New Zealand) state, but I guess I'm dubious that a man who continues to defend collecting Nazi memorabilia and is happy to engage in casual racism in the workplace has changed his spots. I'm more inclined to think he's being opportunistic in his support for the Left at this time, given that he and they share a common goal: getting rid of the Key government.

5:13 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

I found this article really informative and like the exciting link drawn between the 2 men. Dotcom has done NZ very well so far and I so what that he threw money around teh sleazy pollies - thats wat I spose in the world of money sleaze is the thing toy do and thankfully he did bcoz its been brilliant what he did with it

11:40 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your article lacks fact regarding OF Nelson. His father was Swedish not Scandinavian. Secondly, Nelson considered himself a samoan and was motivated by his love for his country as well. Our people were fighting for independence from assholes who thought they were better than us. To liken him to Dot Com is an insult. Errors in your information on Nelson illustrates your lack of knowledge

2:18 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

Hi anon,

Sweden is part of Scandinavia, so I don't think I'm being inaccurate when I use the term. I agree that Nelson considered himself Samoan, and that Samoans were fighting for independence from racist assholes.

I don't mean to make an exact parallel between the lives and qualities of Nelson and Dotcom. I think Dotcom is a buffoon with deplorable taste in all sorts of things, so it wouldn't take much to convince me that Olaf Nelson was a much more admirable person than him.

But I think that Nelson, like Dotcom, was a very successful businessman who was politicised and radicalised when New Zealand authorities began to persecute him. Like Dotcom, he turned his wealth and his business acumen against the government that tormented him. To that extent, I think there's a parallel between the two men.

I visited some sites associated with the Mau when I was in Samoa in 2009, and have blogged about my admiration for the movement a couple of times:

11:14 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most Swedes don't consider themselves Scandinavian. Anyway my main issue is your comparison of the man. The fact that there are similarities in their wealth and the avenues used to get their point across by no means warrants a "parallel" as you have done. There are 1 or 2 similarities in their situation (finance, physical size) and that's about it. A country was fighting for Independence and he was a member of a movement that played a key role in it. He was not alone in his plight. What is Dotcom fighting for?
I think you should look more at the differences. How do you think Nelson's family feel about this comparison. I think you have taken a few things out of context and done a very lazy piece of work.

7:28 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

Hi anon,

surely Dotcom, like Nelson before him, has thrown his weight behind an indigenous anti-colonial movement? He's allied himself with the Mana Party in the same way that Nelson joined himself to the Mau.

I know many members of Mana, and while they obviously wouldn't make a direct parallel with Samoa, they consider New Zealand a colonial nation and Maori a still-colonised people. Hone Harawira's calls for the decolonisation of government and the legal system recall some of the demands of the Mau.

It's also notable that Mana and its alliance with the Internet Party has won some high-profile support within New Zealand's Pasifika communities. King Kapisi has been happy to introduce and praise Kim Dotcom at Internet-Mana rallies in Auckland. I don't think he'd be offended by comparisons between Mana and the Mau, and comparisons between Dotcom and Nelson. I don't think the descendants of Nelson need to be either, because as I said earlier I'm not implying that Nelson had Dotcom's buffoonish personal qualities - I'm talking about his political career.

Are you sure that Swedes don't consider themselves Scandinavian? The Scandinavian peninsula is the bit of Europe occupied by Norway and Sweden. When people talk about a wider Scandinavian region they seem to throw Denmark, Iceland and sometimes Finland into the mix as well.

8:27 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now you are an idiot. Dotcom is not a Maori and Nelson considered himself a Samoan. Nelson had the ways and means to assist in fighting for the freedom of his country and did so. What role does King Kapisi play in history and in the Mau? As far as I'm concerned you are now just grasping for ammunition and finding as much as you can from people who you think will agree with you to solidify your rubbish ideas. Stick to the point at hand. Say what you will about the motives of Nelson in order to color your document.
Stop trying to be an intellectual. You lack an in-depth understanding of what really happened in Samoa and with O.F Nelson. Find someone else to compare Dotcom to. Hint. Find someone who wasn't born in that country for a start and who didn't actually consider themselves part of it.. ppff.

11:13 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

Surely it's possible for someone to disagree with your interpretation of history, anon, without being an idiot? I've pointed out a series of similarities that I perceived between Olaf Nelson and Kim Dotcom. Both were wealthy men with deep roots in European cultures who enjoyed prosperity in the South Pacific before being persecuted by New Zealand authorities, who were acting at the behest of a faraway imperial power.

Both men responded to that persecution by becoming politicised and identifying themselves with local movements against New Zealand colonialism. Both used their wealth and acumen to support those movements and create trouble for the New Zealand authorities.

You've pointed out some differences between Nelson and Dotcom. Nelson was born in Samoa, whereas Dotcom was not born in Aotearoa; Nelson was an afakasi who identified as Samoan, whereas Dotcom is a Pakeha. Those are good points. But I don't see how they invalidate the comparison I made.

To make a comparison isn't to claim an exact equivalence.

You're obviously offended by the Nelson-Dotcom comparison, but I'm not sure exactly why. Is it because you thought I was downplaying the fact that Nelson had Samoan blood, by comparing him to a palangi? Or is it because you think Dotcom is too cynical and venal and buffoonish to compare with Nelson?

Perhaps you should write something about the qualities that you think Nelson has, and which Dotcom lacks. I'd be happy to put that up as a guest post.

I mentioned King Kapisi because he's someone who is very aware of Samoan history and is strongly supportive of Dotcom. I'm not saying that you have to agree with him; I just mention him because he demonstrates that not everybody agrees with your view that Dotcom and the cause he has embraced are the antithesis of the Mau.

7:31 am  
Anonymous Scott said...

I guess one key difference between us relates to Nelson's attitudes to the German administrators of Samoa in the years before 1914. I suggested that he had good relations with Solf's colonial regime, and profited from these good relations, and that he only became a strong nationalist after being disadvantaged by the new Kiwi regime.

You seem to be suggesting that he was a lifelong nationalist, because of his birth in Samoa and his identification as a Samoan.

What was Nelson's attitude toward the Mau movement of 1909? Did he support it as ardently as he supported the later Mau opposition to New Zealand rule?

If Nelson was a strong supporter of the Mau in 1909, then my claim that he was a hitherto apolitical businessman who was radicalised by New Zealand persecution would look very shaky. But I'm not sure whether Nelson was a supporter of the Mau in 1909.

7:56 am  

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