The Guardian • Issue #1948

Neo-Nazis gather in the Grampian Ranges

At least forty neo-Nazis gathered at the Grampian ranges in Victoria over the long weekend prior to Invasion Day. In a typically right-wing bastardisation of the word socialism, the gathering was organised by a group called the “National Socialist Network,” (NSN) a Melbourne-based group that has recently expanded to Adelaide and other parts of the country. Drawing the anger and scorn of locals, the group spent three days hiking the trail, during which time they were heard to be yelling phrases like “Heil Hitler,” “Ku Klux Klan,” and “white power.” One local reported they had been putting up “Australia for the white man,” stickers, the NSN slogan.

The police, in typical fashion, did nothing to prevent the group from going on the hike, with local police superintendent Ian Milner stating, “Our members deployed to that group and spoke with them and identified that they weren’t breaking any laws, and that was the extent of our involvement.” The hike would eventually culminate in a cross burning.

Before we can understand why this gathering took place, a more fundamental question must be asked: Under what conditions does fascism emerge?

Fascism almost invariably arises from moments of crisis in capitalist economies. The present historical moment is still marked by the 2007-08 Global Financial Crisis (GFC) which devastated the global working class. Mass unemployment, job precarity, and stagnant wages coupled with increased living costs were then, and remain now, constant wolves at the door. Then came the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying recession, which has intensified an already dire situation. As always, the working class bears the brunt of this devastation, creating the conditions where fascism can arise.

However, fascism does not emerge of its own accord: its growth is facilitated by the interests of capitalists. Georgi Dimitrov described fascism as “the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialist elements of finance capital.” Thus, fascist ideology is an extension of, not a separate phenomenon to, capitalist interests. Fascism is rabidly anti-communist and its anti-communism serves capitalism at a time when workers might be considering an alternative socio-economic system.

Fascist groups organise themselves along various lines of division – nationalist, racial, religious, to name a few – but despite often opportunistically using anti-capitalist rhetoric, they all uphold the capitalist economic system and act on behalf of the dictatorship of finance capital. Capitalism thrives on a divided working class and since fascism seeks to intensify the divisive hierarchies that communism seeks to abolish, it will always be in the economic interests of capitalists to side with fascists, and encourage the perpetuation of the hateful prejudices that fascist ideology appeals to.

Fascists, at the individual level, grasp the notion that there is something fundamentally wrong with our current system. But instead of understanding society through their economic and class oppression at the hands of capitalists, they turn their anger towards the most vulnerable members of society. This leads to overly simplistic, and dangerous, explanations of social phenomena caused by the profit-driven logic of capitalist economics: can’t get a job? Fascists will blame migrants instead of the bosses who hired them for less, or will neglect the fact that their bosses shifted their jobs offshore. This is not to say that anyone who holds such views is a fascist, but rather that this is a foothold for capitalism to spread fascist ideas. Bourgeois media play a role in fanning these flames.

Fascist ideas come apart under the smallest amount of scrutiny. All fascist ideology requires them to hold contradictory positions which cannot be resolved: a migrant is both too lazy to work but also takes all the jobs. White people are the superior race, but they are too weak to defend themselves against being “replaced,” by migrants.

These levels of abstraction get more and more bizarre as fascists attempt to explain larger and larger social and political phenomena. Immigration becomes a “globalist” plot of genocide against white people which fascists call “the Great Replacement,” where somehow white people are bred out of existence. Even the smallest issue, like greater racial diversity in TV shows, becomes part of a plot to destroy “Western Civilisation.” Their particular form of existential paranoia is what fuels their violence towards minorities; their wrath being directed not only to micro level phenomena, but also at the macro level, where the fascist crusade against “globalism” is a dogwhistle for the movement’s inherent antisemitism. All these views are expressed in graphic detail on the NSN website.

So, what has emboldened fascists to show themselves in the light of day once more? They are helped in no small way by the increasingly xenophobic rhetoric of our politicians. The rise and fall of Fraser Anning’s thankfully brief career, Scott Morrison’s repulsive comments about Invasion Day, and the re-emergence of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, all shift the public discourse to the right. Fascists are able to exploit this shift. Australia is not an isolated case. The racist rhetoric of the Trump presidency provided fertile ground for far-right/fascist groups to re-emerge in far greater numbers. This is a trend we have been seeing across the globe; from the resurgence of far-right groups all across Europe to Bolsonaro’s Brazil.

Australia has a long history of fascist groups. In the 1930s a Mussolinist fascist group was founded in response to what they saw as the threat of communism. An ABC documentary shows a small neo-Nazi group from 1960s Sydney. The fascist violence against the Vietnamese population in 1980s Melbourne was dramatised in the 1992 film Romper Stomper, drawing its inspiration from the life of neo-Nazi Dane Sweetman. In 2019, there was a far-right rally on St Kilda beach, Melbourne, which Fraser Anning attended on tax-payer money. There, fascists were proudly making the Nazi salute and showing off their swastika tattoos. Fascists never entirely disappear; they just go underground to regroup.

The timing of the NSN hike was particularly insidious and undoubtedly chosen on purpose. It happened within the same week as Invasion Day and Holocaust Remembrance Day. Gariwerd (The Grampians) is part of the creation story for Wotjobaluk, Jardwadjali and Jupagulk Indigenous peoples, so for white supremacists to set foot there, and indeed anywhere in this country, is a vile act of desecration. The very existence of the NSN is an affront to Jewish people given the self-evident antisemitism of neo-Nazi movements, and the appearance of these groups only emboldens the rise of antisemitic acts we have seen over the past several years.

To comprehend and combat these fascist groups, we need to analyse how they understand themselves. The Australian fascist “news” organisation XYZ, despite claiming that they are “dedicated to the principles of Classical Liberalism,” doesn’t otherwise make much effort to hide their overtly fascistic worldview. They glorified the gathering in an article titled “Establishment SHOCKED that White Men are becoming White Supremacists.” The article is rife with all the incoherent ideas upon which fascist ideology is based – the “globalist” threat to the white race, as well as baseless claims about mass immigration, antisemitism, and racism. It is quite a feat of mental gymnastics to even follow the argument as it attempts to mash all these points together. They see themselves as the defenders of the “White race,” locked in a life-or-death struggle against the very poorly defined “establishment.” In their eyes the “rigged” democratic system has failed them so they need to organise “outside of the traditional party system.” The article gleefully concludes with the statement, “Therefore, it is not simply good to be a White Supremacist. It is your duty to be a White Supremacist.”

This is the distorted worldview that led the NSN out to the Grampians, in the name of what they call the “White Revolution.” While many communists would agree that the system is “rigged,” the fascists lack the class analysis to correctly identify the target. This is no accident, but a product of ruling class ideology taken to its most desperate extreme. The Australian state works in the interest of capitalists and is therefore hostile to the working class as a whole, not white people in particular. That deliberate error is how fascism serves capitalism as a diversion from a correct class analysis. Like many reactionary movements, the fascists co-opt revolutionary language to obscure the emptiness of their rhetoric. The neo-Nazi worldview is a vile substitution of class consciousness with “white race consciousness” in service of the maintenance of bourgeois dictatorship.

So, what is to be done? Just as there has been a long history of small fascist groups in Australia and fascism internationally, there has also been a long history of working-class resistance. All across Australia every time a fascist group has tried to show its face in public, counter-protestors turn up in far greater numbers to prevent their rallies. This is probably the reason why the NSN chose the remoteness of the Grampians. Despite being small in number, the NSN and other fascist groups act as stepping-stones, facilitated by the interests of capitalists, towards larger and yet more dangerous movements, and therefore must be stopped in their infancy. To successfully oppose fascism, we must not only prevent these smaller groups from growing in size but also understand that their emergence serves the broader financial and imperialistic interests of capitalism. Just as XYZ and the NSN believe it is their duty to be white supremacists, it is our duty to oppose and defeat them.

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