The St Kilda aftermath: Fascists and mainstream politicians

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Fraser Anning shakes the hand of Blair Cottrell at the St Kilda rally (Screenshot via YouTube)

In the wake of the St Kilda rally, John Passant explores the ways in which fascism is creeping into our government.

THE SIGHT OF NAZIS wearing SS paraphernalia and sieg heiling at a protest in St Kilda has shocked many. We are right to be shocked, but in the current climate of government attacks on Indigenous Australians and refugees, we should not be surprised.

The fact Senator Fraser Anning joined the racist gathering also shocked people. It has spurred some but not all politicians to condemn the Senator.

The shock is understandable. Yet despite the claims of various politicians that this is not the Australian way — it is. Australian capitalism is built on the genocide of the original inhabitants — a genocide that continues to today.

Only a just settlement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can start Australian capitalism on a path free from its foundational and systemic genocide.

Even then, the actions of this government and the Labor governments, which went before it in locking refugees and asylum seekers up in concentration camps on Manus Island and Nauru, feeds the fascist frenzy. It vilifies these people for political benefit — the same strategy the Nazis at the rally in St Kilda were using.

The similarities between the Nazis and this government do not end there. The fascists were “reclaiming” St Kilda beach from African gangs, or South Sudanese people, or whatever the latest focus of their racism is. “African gangs” is a consistent theme from this government, especially the Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, the man responsible for locking up refugees and asylum seekers offshore.

In October, in the run-up to the Victorian election, Dutton was telling us, without any evidence, that the African gang crisis could turn deadly. In July and August last year, Dutton was blaming the Victorian Government for “the Sudanese gang problem”. So, too, was the “good” Liberal and then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who went into the Dutton sewer on 17 July last year to warn us that Sudanese gangs were a “real concern” in Victoria.  

Remember in early January 2018, when Dutton was spouting that Victorians were “scared to go out to restaurants” because of “African gang violence”? It was – and is – of course, bullshit.

But, as Hitler said in Mein Kampf:

The principle – which is quite true within itself – that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods.

Some of the broad masses certainly believe Dutton’s big lie about boat people, and locking up refugees and asylum seekers. Some no doubt believe him on African gangs, too, but the spectacle of the Nazis parading their version of Dutton’s racism at St Kilda might see some of them reflect more deeply on that.

Senator Anning certainly won’t be reflecting too deeply. The man who, in his first speech in Parliament, called for plebiscite to give a “Final Solution” on immigration went to the fascist festival in Melbourne and consorted with well-known fascists like Blair Cottrell, one of the organisers of the St Kilda protest. Cottrell, for those who don’t know, wants a photo of Hitler in every classroom.  

Anning won his seat in the Senate on a countback. That happened in November 2017 because the Pauline Hanson's One Nation (PHONy) Senator, Malcolm Roberts, was a dual citizen. Anning was third on the ticket and garnered 19 votes. Once in the Senate, he sat not as a PHONy but as an Independent. He switched to the Katter Party in June 2018. They kicked him out in October 2018 because of his views on race and immigration.

As part of Parliamentary custom, on first entering the Senate, Cory Bernardi and David Leyonhjelm vouched for him as being who he claimed and thus eligible to take a seat in the Senate. Bernardi formed a voting bloc with Anning and Leyonhjelm before Anning joined the Katter Party.

The Prime Minister eventually attacked the reactionary revelry at St Kilda, but with the equivalent of a wet lettuce leaf. After a long delay, he condemned Anning’s views as repugnant (are they any more repugnant than his concentration camps on Manus Island and Nauru and the vile hatred against asylum seekers he stirs up?) but he will accept his Senate vote. If it were me, I’d move to have him expelled from the Senate. But then again, I am not in the Senate.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has condemned the racist protest and Anning attending because, as a Jew, he knows the immense dangers. Will Frydenberg now draw the links between his government’s concentration camps on Nauru and Manus Island, and the support this gives to an environment in which the Nazis can grow?

As Senator Jordon Steele-John put it:

Fascism is a movement of the middle class and street thugs that, in times of crisis, the capitalist class turns to in order to smash the working class and its organised section, unions, political parties and the like. As the history of the Nazis shows, on coming to power they locked the leadership of the trade unions and workers’ parties up in concentration camps in the hope this would help restore profit rates — for example by driving down wages once those powerful defence sections had been smashed.

We need to be clear. Bernardi and Leyonhjelm are not fascists. Dutton is not a fascist. The PHONys are not a fascist party. However, there is a continuum politically from conservativism to reaction and on to fascism. On top of that, the actions of the Morrison Government and its senior members in fanning anti-African racism help fertilise the cesspits in which the Nazis breed.

There are also fascist genes within the DNA of, for example, One Nation, which gives the party the potential to develop in a Nazi direction if, for example, the Australian economy goes into a deep recession.

There are a number of dangers: the government, its use of othering, its treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, and its big lie tactics, along with the reactionaries and fascists this encourages and supports. All are our enemy.

Having said that, the danger from fascism is real. Organisers of the St Kilda rally have convictions, including, in some cases, for violence. They promulgate fascist views which threaten systemic violence against minorities, be they Africans, or Muslims, or Jews. Women, too, will be under attack.

I should add in “the Left” as one of those minorities and one of their targets, too. There is currently a trial going on where one of the Reclaim Australia people is accused of preparing to blow up a Left-wing centre and an anarchist club. Unions, too, will be in their sights if these fascists grow, as will the Left-wing sections of the ALP.

Ordinary workers and others have to unite around the common goal of stopping fascism from spreading and getting a bigger audience before it is too late — too late for Jews, Africans, Muslims, women and the organised working class. Unite now.

You can follow Canberra correspondent John Passant on Twitter @JohnPassantSigned copies of John's first book of poetry, Songs for the Band Unformedare available for purchase from the IA store HERE.

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