- by Peter Wills
- The Guardian
- Issue #1979
It’s 1919. Germany is in chaos after four years of war that ended in a humiliating defeat and surrender. The German economy was crippled by a heavy-handed armistice requiring punishing reparation payments to the allies. The German soldiers were dumbfounded how they were defeated when they weren’t even fighting on German soil. Feeling angry and betrayed, the returning soldiers were looking for someone to blame. Amongst them a young Adolf Hitler, bitter about the armistice and Germany’s humiliating surrender. In the name of patriotic nationalism, the Nazi party was born. The young Hitler joins the Nazi party and, by 1933, with his rise to power, Hitler, then Chancellor, arranges for the Reichstag building to be burned in a false flag attack so that blame could be laid against the enemies of the Reich: the communists. However, it isn’t just the communists that Hitler fingers as anti-German; it’s also the Jews.
The persecution of the Jewish people began in 1933 with attacks on of the civil rights of the Jewish population in Germany, forcing many out of jobs such as civil service. The assassination of Ernst vom Rath by Jewish teenager Herschel Grynszpan served as the pretext for the Kristallnacht (“The Night of Broken Glass”), where thousands of Jewish businesses were attacked and destroyed. Over a hundred Jewish people were killed, and over 600 committed suicide, setting the stage for millions more to die unthinkable deaths in concentration camps all across Europe during WW2.
When General Dwight Eisenhower first saw the death camps at the end of the war, he ordered every soldier to find, and a camera crew to film, the camp inmates. It was his belief at the time that people would try to deny the Holocaust ever happened, thus, in his mind making documentation urgent.
The Nuremberg trials ran from late 1945 till 1949 to prosecute Nazis for war crimes. During his trial, Hermann Göring was asked how they coerced the German people into another war, he answered: “The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”
In closing arguments, the lead prosecutor said that we must be ever vigilant that we never let this happen again. Assigned to watching the defendants at the Nuremberg trials Captain G M Gilbert, a US Army psychologist, reflected that “evil is the complete lack of empathy.”
But what has all this talk of fascism got to do with Australia? We’ve never had fascism in Australia, right? Wrong!
AUSTRALIA’S FASCIST HISTORY
Fascism is a direct result of the failure of capitalism. Thus, it is no surprise that fascism has been part of the political landscape in Australia since the Great Depression. From 1931-32, 130,000 (out of a population of 6 million) were members of far right-wing paramilitary groups, such as the New Guard, composed primarily of people who had the most to lose when the capitalist system collapsed: the wealthy elite.
Formed in 1931, The New Guard had approximately 50,000 members at its peak and it attacked union and communist meetings alike. Eric Campbell, founder of the New Guard, visited fascist Italy and Germany, establishing fraternal relations with fascists in Europe.
Australia’s admiration for European fascism didn’t end with outwardly open fascists such as Campbell. Then-prime minister Robert Menzies open praise for Nazi Germany is also well-known and whose obsessive anti-communist behaviour mirrored many fascist leaders of the day.
FASCISM IN AUSTRALIA TODAY
Today, we are seeing a rise of right-wing fascist groups in Australia. It should alarm everyone. Frighteningly, there has been no objection from the federal government as these hate groups multiply and grow like a virus. Groups such as Antipodean Resistance, National Socialist Network, True Blue Crew, Australian Defence League, etc., are made up of white supremacists calling for discrimination against anyone that isn’t of white European descent.
Some of the Nazi-inspired bigots openly display Nazi symbols and tattoos. However, these white supremacists aren’t just involved in race politics. Many of them are actively involved in the recent anti-lockdown protests, sensing a golden opportunity for recruitment to their ranks, particularly disaffected youth looking for a cause to follow, how successful they are remains to be seen.
FASCISTIC TENDENCIES IN AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT
Many might be eager to dismiss this resurgence as a small group of extremists whose influence is contained but this would be an error. The rise of Pauline Hanson and her One Nation Party has re-entered Australian politics off the back of many of the same disenfranchised peoples who see the parliamentary duopoly representing the wealthy elite, leaving the everyday Australian behind.
On immigration and ethnic minorities, Hanson’s racist rhetoric would make any fascist grin – but she isn’t the only one. Many members of the Coalition have made equally disgusting comments. Perhaps the most egregious in contemporary Australian politics was the Abbott government. Tony Abbott led the Coalition with an election promise to repeal 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 on the grounds that it limited free speech, with then Attorney General George Brandis stating people have “right to be a bigot.” After his ousting as prime minister, writing on Islam in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, Abbott wrote that “cultures are not all equal” and that Australians should be “ready to proclaim the clear superiority of our culture to one that justifies killing people in the name of God.”
This is to speak nothing of the countless policies that have resulted in Indigenous genocide, the mistreatment of refugees, and imperialist wars that have stained our nation’s history.
I would like to say that I am confident Australia will not slide into the abyss of murdering those deemed undesirable as Germany did in the Thirties. However, I am becoming more and more concerned with the increasing violence against anyone that isn’t white while the government remains silent on the issue and continues fear campaigns. Australia of 2021 is starting to look eerily familiar to Germany in the 1930s.
It’s up to the decent people of Australia to stand up and say enough is enough, that we don’t tolerate hate, fear and discrimination here.
We must turn back the tide of fascism before it’s too late.