2017 was a tumultuous year in world politics, with an almost nauseating amount of growth for the far-right. It saw electoral victories for the extreme right, in France, in Italy, in Hungary, in Poland and in Germany, where far-right nationalist politics have gained enough ground to enter the German Bundestag for the first time post-WWII. In addition to this, street mobilisations of fascist and racist groups have ballooned. In November last year, one of the largest ever European marches of the far-right occurred; 60,000 attendees gathered in Poland to espouse anti-refugee, islamophobic, and white nationalist rhetoric. And who can forget last year’s infamous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia? Trump-supporters touting red “Make America Great Again” caps and neo-Nazis carrying swastika flags rubbed shoulders under the disingenuous rally cry of “free speech.” A white nationalist “alt-right” male drove his car into a group of peaceful counter-protestors, killing Heather Heyer. The president said that there was violence on both sides.
In Australia, racist and fascist groups are attempting to organise and strengthen their forces. Examples include the True Blue Crew (TBC) or the United Patriots Front (UPF), which have been engaging in street demonstrations Australia-wide. Additionally, there is a worrying trend of students and younger people attending far-right rallies and speaking tours of individuals such as “provocateur” Milo Yiannopolous. Australia seems to be a magnet for racist and mysoginistic figures, because there’s a stellar line-up of far-right speakers touring the country throughout 2018. Notorious racists, Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux, will be gracing us with their presence this month. We’re even going to be lucky enough to receive a visit from Donald Trump himself later this year. Perhaps they’re drawn here because of the media scaremongering about “African gangs” running wild in Melbourne, or the fact that the Northern Territory has a youth prison population that is 100% Aboriginal. Maybe its the confidence boost they receive knowing that the likes of Peter Dutton and Pauline Hanson are in power: politicians so adept at being racist, they actually manage to stand out amongst a sea of colleagues for whom indefinite offshore detention of non-white refugees is simply standard procedure.
Southern and Molyneux identify as part of the alt-right, are staunchly anti-feminist, and want to uphold “Western Civilization.” Molyneux has made a name for himself predominantly by creating YouTube videos about his beliefs. He is a “Men’s Rights Activist” and claims that women, especially single mothers, are the cause of societies ills- war, violence, disease, promiscuity and more. He also espouses libertarian and “anarchist capitalist” beliefs, which calls for an end to government intervention into business. No more enforced minimum wage, safety controls, or any other sensible regulations that people have fought for over the past few centuries to ensure a decent standard of living. Southern has similarly disturbed views. She was detained in Italy in May 2017, for interfering with an NGO boat conducting a search-and-rescue mission to save the lives of shipwrecked refugees. The supposed reasoning behind her barbarism is the conspiracy of “White genocide,” caused by immigration. Recently, Pauline Hanson extended a dinner invitation to Southern via Twitter, after she touched down in Brisbane wearing a t-shirt bearing the far-right slogan “it’s OK to be white.”
People like Southern, Molyneux, Yiannopolous, and a host of other far-right figures want to consolidate their base here in Australia. It is up to those of us who want to see their brand of bigotry buried once and for all to confront them, challenge their politics, and keep them confined to the basements they crawled out from. The next opportunity to do so will be hosted by local activist group United Against Bigotry and Racism on July 22, at 6pm (location TBC, via the UABR Facebook page).
The argument is often made that a direct confrontation or protest is not the way to go to achieve this. Instead, anti-racist and anti-fascist activists are encouraged to ignore them in order to deny them a spotlight. Some activists will argue for petitioning the state to ban fascists from entering Australia. Both of these arguments are flimsy when examined under the reality of politicians inviting such speakers to dinner, and mainstream journalists giving them uncritical interviews in newspapers and on TV. Right-wing media and politicians find significant common ground with the far-right, particularly in relation to immigration. Why would we ask those in power who both create and benefit from racist ideas and policies, to oppose speakers seeking to promote racism and xenophobia?
The other important aspect to note is that protests actually work to demobilise the far-right. Challenging, and outnumbering, fascists in public spaces makes it clear that they are unwelcome and unwanted. This was the case last year in Melbourne, where leading activist Vashti Kenway co-ordinated a rally against Milo Yiannopolous. When he first arrived, the media reported kindly (for the most part) on him and his tour. After the rally, they were forced to also report the vibrant and intense opposition to his tour. Anti-racists made their voices heard.
To have a more in-depth debate and discussion about ways to combat the rise of the far-right, attend Perth’s inaugural Socialism Conference, hosted by Socialist Alternative. Melbourne-based activist Kenway will be delivering a speech on the subject at the conference’s closing session. She will address the debates surrounding strategies for defeating fascism from a socialist perspective, and put forward the argument for a building broad, inclusive movement that can challenge fascism and racism politically and organisationally. Tickets can be purchased via http://socialismperth.com/
Nicole Mcewen | @nic2395
Nicole wrote a thesis on anti-fascist activism despite only having attended one anti-fascist protest.