22-11-2015 – For the third time this year, ultra-nationalists and fascists have once again organised national mobilisations, most of them in public city squares. With actual Nazis at the core of the organising, the Reclaim Australia crew with its United Patriots Front split off (RA/UPF) are of the view that they are onto a winner with their formula of hatred, ostensibly directed at anyone associated with the Islamic religion, but also with what they regard as “communism”. While RA/UPF have not yet become accepted into the political mainstream, this is yet a danger, with the founding of the Australian Liberty Alliance (ALA). Geert Wilders, the Dutch fascist known for his extreme anti-Islamic views, recently visited Perth to help launch the ALA. The “Slackbastard” anti-fascist online blog describes the ALA as “Islamophobia for the (upper) middle class”, given that one of the founders is a millionaire surgeon, along with his partner who heads the Q Society. The Q Society appears to be an attempt to give a cultural spin to anti-Islamic vitriol.
The at times inarticulate and ludicrous claims of RA/UPF, such as the claim that Australia is in danger of implementing Sharia Law, often leads to RA/UPF attracting and mobilising layers of the most politically backward, the most politically disenfranchised and the most disadvantaged. However, their ultra-nationalism also allows them to draw in small sections of disillusioned workers, and unfortunately some Union members. These workers and some Union members see no one standing up for “Australians”, feel betrayed by all politicians participating in or profiting from the breakdown of the economy while the banks reel in billions of dollars, which relentlessly drives up the cost of living. Along comes the RA/UPF waving the Australian flag, blaming “Islam” for everything under the sun, and everything (for them) falls into place.
Despite the irrationality of RA/UPF, there is unfortunately a material reason why such an incipient fascist movement sprung into existence at this particular time. Along with the general breakdown of the capitalist economy, which has been in recession since 2008, 2014 saw the widespread exposure of the role of ISIS (the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), and its promotion by the Western corporate media. The grotesque brutality of beheadings filmed and posted on social media by ISIS, is part of what caused automatic revulsion across the world. Yet this is exactly what it was meant to do. ISIS is almost entirely a creation of the US led war on Syria, and to a large extent is armed, funded and trained by the US and its allies, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and coordinated with Israel and Turkey. Their aim is the overthrow of Syria in the manner of Libya, which may then soften the ground for an assault against Iran. Russia and China remain the biggest targets of the crazed US imperialists. But the beheadings of ISIS were used by the US and their allies to rally their domestic populations behind yet another war, where the blame could be placed squarely on “Islam”. If “Islam” is founding a “state” and waging a brutal war to establish a “state” which could expand across previously recognised borders, then surely “we” have to go to war against it.
Such a ruse worked for the US for a short period of time. In recent months, however, the game has changed with the intervention of Russia militarily supporting the Syrian government, by actually taking out ISIS targets. It was a tactical masterstroke, as President Vladimir Putin called for an international coalition, like the coalition against Hitler and the Nazis, to defeat ISIS. The US could not then intervene to save its creation ISIS, without totally exposing itself. For now, Russia and their allies Syria, Iran and Hezbollah have struck damaging blows against US imperialism and its plans. One wonders what the Australian troops currently in Iraq and Syria are actually doing. As pro-US as their leadership may be, they would hardly dare take on the might of Russia.
The political mistake of RA/UPF, apart from their disposition towards fascism, is that they appear not recognise the extent to which ISIS was a creation of the US state, along with the UK and France and backed by Canberra. For RA/UPF, ISIS was ISIS because they were “Islamic”. Hence, in their minds “Islam” is the enemy which needs to be vanquished. However, there was an echo on the left of the non-recognition of the US state’s role in the creation of ISIS. Some left parties, fresh from their backing of Al-Qaeda linked groups in Libya under the guise of opposing Colonel Gaddafi as a “dictator”, shifted to back some of the same groups in Syria, again under the guise of opposing President Assad as a “dictator”. More than this, they hailed the NATO armed and funded jihadists fighting to overthrow Libya and Syria as “revolutionaries”. That is, they bestowed on barbaric mercenaries the highest honour and title that the left awards. Whether they realise their role in justifying yet another US led war on sovereign countries is immaterial. The fact is, in a small way, such left parties have both done the bidding of the imperialists they claim to oppose, while also contributing to the emergence of RA/UPF, against which they now have to organise counter-rallies.
For example, take this statement from the Socialist Alliance (SAll), the publishers of the newspaper Green Left Weekly, dated June 19, 2014. Ostensibly released in opposition to the suggestion of Australia sending troops to Iraq to counter ISIS, SA comes behind an “uprising” against the then Iraqi President Nuri Al-Maliki, even if such an “uprising” includes ISIS. It states:
“….. ISIL [or ISIS] is only one element in a broader Sunni tribal rebellion against the brutal repression and discrimination inflicted on the local population in Iraq’s north by the US-backed Maliki regime in Baghdad. Horrific images of what appear to be mass extra-judicial killings by the Sunni insurgents must be seen in the context of the Maliki regime’s repression that preceded it.”
It’s there in black and white. SAll has few qualms in backing ISIS, seeing them as only one part of a “Sunni tribal rebellion” against the then Iraqi President Maliki, who was in fact at that point losing US support, rather than being “US backed”, for moving too close to US foe Iran. US pressure did in fact force Maliki to step down, aided in a small part by SAll. But the clincher is the part where SAll asks us to see “mass extra-judicial killings”, i.e. beheadings by “insurgents” of which ISIS form a part, “in the context” of a legitimate uprising. If we should back an “uprising” by Sunni fundamentalists which includes ISIS in Iraq, it’s a small step to back an “uprising” by Sunni fundamentalists which includes ISIS in Syria. Although SAll of course has no written position backing ISIS, the fact is they advocate and share the same aims of ISIS – “regime change” in the secular Syrian Arab Republic.
The left group Socialist Alternative (SAlt) has been the most vocal in opposing the “Assad regime”, while continuing to deny that the US aim in the war is regime change. They have also repeatedly denied the extent of material US support for all mercenary groups in Syria, referring to them as “rebels” and the “opposition”. An article in SAlt’s newspaper Red Flag in June this year states:
“The new flow of arms to the rebels [i.e. from Saudi Arabia and Turkey], and the dramatic shift that has resulted on the battlefield, in fact gives the lie to the claim that the opposition have been armed by outside powers all along. If they had been, Assad would be long gone. What we are now seeing is what happens when both sides of the conflict have substantial outside backing: the rebels make stunning gains, and the regime is isolated and faces growing dissent among its own supporters.”
As referred to previously, the balance of power has since decisively shifted against the US, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and their proxy “rebel” mercenaries, with the intervention of the Russian military. Yet SAlt has been steadfast in their demands for military support for the Syrian “opposition”, regardless of whether they carry out beheadings, or mass “scorched earth” practices against Syrian civilians, as long as they oppose the “Assad regime”. This is blatant backing of US imperialism. In fact, SAlt had been previously known for flying a banner emblazoned with “Smash US Imperialism” in oversized letters. Needless to say, this banner has not been seen in SAlt contingents for the duration of this war.
It is an open secret that the US, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel have either armed, funded, trained or actively supported ALL terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria. Ground breaking US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh also exposed the “rat line” of US backed weapons flowing from Libyan mercenaries to Syrian mercenaries, as well as the staged chemical attack on the town of Ghouta on August 21, 2013. But for left parties such as SA and SAlt, none of this is occurring. What is occurring, according to them, is a mass popular revolutionary movement in Syria. Not even the US ruling class believes this – they had to import the mercenaries, 80% of whom originate from 83 different non-Syrian countries.
Thus, the appearance of the “left” openly backing “Islamic” military groups in Syria has fuelled the formation of RA/UPF. In fact, other left parties, and solidarity groups such as Hands Off Syria, have steadfastly defended Syria against US/Israeli/Saudi/Turkish assault, and have extended no political support to any Wahabist, Salafist or other branches of fundamentalist Islam. Syria today is in fact secular and multi-religious, and moreover, independent of the US dominated world order. This is a major reason why it has been targeted.
It is true that the formation of RA/UPF can’t be reduced entirely to the war on Syria. It is also a response to the years, indeed decades, of assault on the living conditions of working people. This crucial factor was already in abundance before the US led war on Syria broke out. Yet, it is apparent that the current multi-theatre wars (Syria, Ukraine) are also a result of the paralysing economic crisis capitalism finds itself in, and is a major driving factor. After all, all attempts at restarting production in the US, Europe, Japan and Australia have essentially failed. As crazy as it seems to working people, the imperialists are willing to go to war to address falling rates of profit.
As repulsive as the virulent racism and vitriolic hatred which spews forth from RA/UPF is, it cannot be reduced to a lack of reasoning or rational thought on their behalf – though for this there is much evidence. Ultra-nationalism, and its attendant fascism, is a distorted expression of capitalism – private production for private profit – in rapid decay, combined with the distinct lack of a strong left wing political leadership. The fantastic and lurid claims of RA/UPF, such as that Australia is at risk of implementing Sharia Law, have emerged in no small part due to the lack of a left-wing class struggle movement, not to speak of the lack of an effective trade union movement AND the lack of an effective socialist party. The mainstream political parties have long abandoned workers, and trade union leaders have invariably done the same. Into this political vacuum steps “Reclaim Australia”.
Therefore, the tasks to defeat the scourge of RA/UPF led fascism are threefold. Firstly, any attempted mobilisation of a racist/fascist/ultra-nationalist character must be met by a loud and determined united-front counter mobilisation of all progressive political shades in society. While anti-fascist mobilisations should aim to draw in those from a social-democratic background, the political action and outlook must not be subordinated to liberal opposition. The aim should be to confront and, if possible, remove, all fascist groups from all public space. The presence of fascists publicly organising poses a physical threat to workers, migrants, Muslims, people of colour, leftists, Trade Unionists, gays and lesbians and others. The recent example of Greece, where migrants and anti-fascists have been beaten by gangs of Golden Dawn thugs is a stark reminder. This is why they cannot be ignored with the hope that they will disappear.
Secondly, workers must seek to mobilise Unions in opposition to the rise of fascism. Unions are likely to be the first target of a victorious fascist movement, as was the case in Nazi Germany. It is not just for the moral issue – Unions will not even be able to defend themselves as organisations if they do not contribute to the defeat of fascism. Indeed, politically active Unions will be crucial for this battle. An obstacle that will be encountered is the overt nationalism of most Union leaders and officials. Their material interests lead them to defend “Australia” – by which they mean their own overpaid positions. Workers and supporters of Unions can position such officials, however, to drag them into the struggle against the far-right.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, workers and leftists need to counter the ultra-nationalism of the fascists by using international solidarity with the workers and the oppressed of the world, in a concrete way by opposing the very real imperialism of the Australian ruling class, which ties itself by a thousand threads to US imperialism. This means using all means necessary to oppose US/AUS led wars, in Syria, Ukraine and elsewhere. This will then also undermine imperialist armed proxy forces such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda, and thus undermine the basis for the wild Islamophobia of the ultra-nationalists. To permanently defeat fascism, workers will need to carry out their historic task of overthrowing the rule of capital by establishing a socialist republic comprised of workers’ councils, politically led by those most committed to our class. For workers’ victory over fascism!
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