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06 April 2015
by John Passant

Reclaiming (white) Australia and the fascists

It is clear fascists were involved in the racist Reclaim (White) Australia rallies on Easter Saturday across Australia. There are lots of photos of Nazis present at the rallies, including the one above.

This is not a one off. There are many other similar images of tattooed skin heads and beer drinking middle aged angry men to suggest a significant Nazi presence at the rallies. Obviously not all of them got the message to leave their Nazi paraphernalia at home and some didn’t understand this might mean covering up fascist tattoos as well as not bringing swastika flags to the rallies or giving Heil Hitler salutes.

But the fascists were not just present at the rallies. One of the ‘national organisers’ of Reclaim Australia is Shermon Burgess, a man who a year ago was describing most Aborigines as dickheads and is, according to New Matilda, a former member of the fascist group the Australian Defence League. He ahs since apologised for his anti-Aboriginal comments. Well he would wouldn’t he, now that the tactics of pretend respectability are gaining ground among the extreme right.

Burgess now runs a Facebook page called the Great Aussie Patriot which has 16000 likes and appeals to rank nationalism. Its main (surface) agenda seems to be to return to the days of White Australia (with a few Uncle Toms thrown in to support them on the way.)

Not all those who attended the rallies are fascists. However as a US Nazi site helpfully pointed out many of the people who are demonstrating at these rallies are potential recruits. While this more subtle approach of using concerns over Islam as cover for their real agenda might be new to Australian fascists, historically these tactics are not new. Trotsky identified them in the late 20s and early 30s when he wrote about the dangers of fascism in Europe. Essentially the Nazis used parliamentary democracy and nationalist and racist rhetoric in a time of intense economic crisis as a cover for their main goal of smashing the organised sections of the working class, the unions, left wing political groups from Labor party types to revolutionaries, to restore the profitability of capitalism and particular capitalists.

A movement that starts off as the expression of the despair of the middle classes and disaffect, totally alienated parts of the working class or lumpen proletariat becomes the razor for the capitalist class to excise working class resistance to its agenda of driving down wages, and attacking jobs, conditions and so on. [As an aside, this explains why so much of the reactionary rights’ websites, including the Great Aussie Patriot, spend so much time attacking the left.]

Here in Australia the fascists appear to be doing the same thing. using totally irrational fears of Muslims, they are intertwining with the racist Reclaim Australia movement to win more appeal and influence. In the past when the fascists in Australia have called demonstrations on their own they have managed to corral tens of people. Now, under the guise of Reclaiming Australia, they can bring together thousands across Australia.

The other point about the situation in Australia today is the weakness of the left. First, the revolutionary left is incredibly small. Second the reformist left is also incredibly weak. Labor might win parliamentary elections but its working class support base, although still big, is shrinking and is incredibly passive.

The trade unions for the last 3o years have been on a mission to collaborate with capital in shifting more and more of the wealth we create from us to the bosses. In this the union bureaucrats have been incredibly successful but at a cost to their own influence and power in society. Union membership is now less that 18 percent of the workforce and a major contributor to that has been the lack of fight by unions to defend and improve wages, jobs and conditions. This graph from Crikey last year shows the abysmally low levels of class struggle in Australia now and over the last few decades.

From ABS

All of this, especially the lack of industrial action and the weakness as a consequence of the left, has created an opening for the Reclaim White Australia racists and their Nazi mates to scapegoat Muslims for the problems of capitalism. Further, state sanctioned demonisation and brutalisation of asylum seekers and Aborigines by both Labor and the Liberals has created a climate for acceptance of respectable racism.

Although the mantra of Reclaim (White) Australia is they are just fighting ‘extremists’, their demands paint Islam and hence all Muslims as the enemy. These demands are ridiculous. They want an end to halal funding terrorism. It doesn’t. They want to stop Sharia law. Seriously? WTF are these people on? The answer to that question is that they are fed fear and that feeds on their alienation and economic insecurity. They are either part of a middle class threatened by the economic changes going on in Australia right now or are declassed or fearful workers threatened by or the victims of unemployment, real wage cuts, loss of conditions and penalty rates, and attacks on the social wage.

As the Australian economy worsens the racist and Nazi voices will become louder and, as Europe shows, gain a real and much wider audience. We have to stop them doing that in Australia right now.

A strong vibrant and active left and trade union movement, with a clear understanding of the nature of capitalism and the threat respectable racism and its hidden guest, fascism, pose to us, could act as a pole of attraction offering hope for these middle and working class people currently driven by fear. Building such a left must be our long term goal. In the medium term it means rank and file workers winning back their unions and building strikes to defend workers’ interests. In the short term we have to confront the racists and their fascist bed fellows every time they poke their slimy necks out from the sewers of hate.