The Australian Far-Right: Strategies of Tension
The resurgence of the far-right in Australia in recent decades has followed similar political trends elsewhere.
For many Australian observers, however, two problems have arisen:
• many people have tended to ignore the problem;
• or they have failed to comprehend what has re-emerged and, subsequently, been misled by older fascist ideas being shrouded in newer political and economic concepts.
The rise of the so-called New Right has, nevertheless, firmly rested upon previous right-wing traditions stretching back to the fascist period of the 1930s.
The recent 2019 Australian federal election provided a number of far-right political parties with opportunities to peddle their spurious manifestos to a largely unsuspecting electorate. Australia, historically, has been relatively politically stable, without violent upheaval; it has enabled many residents to be oblivious to the problems of the far-right.
Voters in the newly defined boundaries of Boothby in South Australia, for example, had the opportunity to vote for two different far-right candidates which did not openly publicise most of their nefarious political agendas. Both Fraser Anning's Conservative National Party and Rise Up Australia stood candidates; the former standing a locally unknown university professor, the latter, a freelance editor with a Chinese-sounding surname. With an estimated 1.2 million Australians being of Chinese descent, the ethnic group have become a political force in their own right. For the far-right, playing off one ethnic group against another, is what their political position is all about.
On election day, however, both candidates in Boothby kept an extremely low profile. Polling booths had very little of their election material, to avoid unnecessary publicity.
To an unsuspecting eye, two small, fringe political parties standing for election opposed to Islamic immigration might have appeared irrelevant for most Australians. The two parties concerned, together with others operating elsewhere, however, were following a common pattern of maintaining a low profile and escalating strategies of tension.
On-line networks bring far-right together
Recent studies of the far-right, for example, have shown supporters rely upon on-line connections for networking, and to avoid detection. The notorious 4Chan message board, Storyful, for example, was recently credited with providing on-line directions for South Australian voters promoting far-right candidates. (1)
Studies of far-right use of on-line facilities have shown relatively small groups of largely disaffected young people clustered around various web-sites including a network of at least fifteen Facebook accounts co-ordinated to spread misinformation and misleading content to an audience of more than 472,000 users. Outside, foreign influences amongst the Facebook sites include three pages listed in Israel and two in India linked to an anti-Islamic website.
The Australian network was subsequently linked into a US counterpart which had a further estimated 1.2 million users. (2)
Studies of far-right political parties in Europe have shown them to be highly vulnerable to 'doubts about the sources of funding and their apparent susceptibility to foreign influence'. (3)
The development in Boothby formed part of a wider political trend sweeping most of the advanced, industrial world. Most of Europe has experienced a resurgence of far-right political parties, united in a distinction between 'pure-bred' nationals and immigrants. The latter are being specifically targeted if they are perceived as non-European and especially if they are from Islamic countries with a Muslim culture. (4)
Far-right divides workers in the interests of capital
The far-right form the most aggressive side of the business-classes, seeking to strengthen the power of capital over organised labour. Their racist rantings are designed to divide working-class people and weaken the bargaining power organised labour with usual industrial relations procedures.
It is not difficult to establish why the re-emergence of the far-right has taken place for two specific reasons:
• decades of economic rationalism foisted upon governments in the advanced, industrial world from international financial institutions controlled by the US have heightened tensions between 'haves' and 'have-nots'. Those on the receiving end of the policies have sought scapegoats including the weak and vulnerable as opposed to identifying the system which has created the problems.
• secondly, over a half a century after the military defeat of fascism in Europe and Asia in 1945, younger generations in contemporary society have little understanding of the historical era in question. The collective memory of the fascist period has slipped into history.
Modern-day far-right political organisations also tend to promote a market-type economy, but with an emphasis upon national characteristics which explains their hostility toward globalisation. (5) Despite an almost fringe-like existence the political organisation also retained linkage to established parties: it is significant to note, for example, Rise Up Australia, at the recent federal election, encouraged their supporters to preference the Liberal Party second, and the National Party third on their voting papers for the House of Representatives. The ALP and the Greens were to be placed 13th and 14th. With their Senate preferences, supporters were encouraged to vote for the Liberals and Nationals in the same manner as the lower house, but not vote for the ALP or Greens at all. (6)
While most of the European far-right political parties remain relatively impotent at the ballot-box, unable to establish viable government, they have, nevertheless, proved highly disruptive. An official media release from the European Union recently warned the organisation was likely to be destroyed by 'the rise of the far-right' together with other factors. (7)
Strategies of tension
A political speciality of the far-right is 'strategies of tension', which they promote wherever possible (8). Civil society is perceived as part of a continuum with stable government control and legitimate institutions of state at one end, with chaos at the other. The aim of the far-right is to promoter disorder, rendering government control difficult and finally impossible.
The political strategy often begins with rumours and promotion of innuendo to undermine the legitimacy of opponents of the far-right, their organisations and institutions, being escalated to random acts of violence and finally terrorism.
Extensive use of agent-provocateurs is also made use of through infiltration of left-wing political groups to enable 'propaganda and action of a sort which will seem to have emanated from our Communist adversaries....these operations will create a feeling of hostility towards the Communists'. (9)
It is important to note the loosely defined term “Communists”. For the far-right, it is used to describe a wide range of political and religious positions which tend to be grouped as left-wing.
Infiltration of left-wing political organisations would appear a process well under-way in contemporary Australia: a media release from David Palmer, leader of the so-called Australian National Socialist Defence of Aryan People Movement twenty years ago specified his organisation had a hundred members inside the Liberal party, 120 in the ALP, a hundred in the National Party and a further sixty in One Nation. Their function was to provide 'intelligence' and 'espionage' on the parties. Part of their espionage duties inside political parties included the stealing of headed notepaper and official stamps to further 'clandestine aims', for operations in the name of 'false flags' designed to allocate blame toward other groups. (10)
The diversity of the far-right political organisations and their inability to unify and co-operate amongst themselves reflects the often diverse nature of membership and the various specific stages of tension along the continuum. Ordinary everyday people, middle-class suburban dwellers, lower socio-economic advocates of street thuggery and former professionally trained military personnel all have their place on the continuum at specific times during the escalation of tension.
Infiltration of established political parties also has other uses for the far-right.
It is particularly important to note the perpetrator of the recent New Zealand terrorist attacks which led to 51 innocent civilians losing their lives, for example, was an Australian citizen, Brenton Tarrant, despite spending sixty days inside the country in the two years before the attacks, was never officially investigated by defence and security departments in Canberra. What cover he used to avoid detection, has yet to be established. Someone, or an influential group, would appear to have been able to hide the identity of Brenton Tarrant from official scrutiny and provide protection.
The position of the Australian far-right toward the terrorism was clearly supportive, with then Senator Fraser Anning blaming the problem upon immigration from Islamic parts of the world; there was no condemnation of Tarrant.
It is also significant to note the Australian input into the forthcoming New Zealand Royal Commission into the terrorist attacks will only investigate the police response and procedures to the shootings, not other highly incriminating material surrounding how Tarrant avoided detection, despite being in contact with far-right websites. (11)
It remains to be seen, therefore, whether the forthcoming New Zealand Royal Commission into the terrorist attacks which have already placed onto official agendas the problem of possible intelligence failures, manages to gain sufficient access into the files of their Australian counterparts. It remains rather curious that it took the New Zealand prosecution several weeks to even charge Tarrant with 51 counts of murder and a further 40 counts of attempted murder. (12)
Strategies of tension conclude the first stage of their operations with the destruction of established political order, by then promoting:
• a stabilising force planned to take power, by force if necessary, to re-establish formal class and state control;
• eradication measures against left-wing opposition figures and their supporters and organisations then takes place under the guise of promoting political stability.
In the case of Nazi Germany, the election of the fascists saw concentration camps being opened for the internment of Communists, later followed by minority groups.
While Australia remains at the lower end of strategies of tension, the process, nevertheless, is well under-way, with far-right candidates using parliamentary procedures to peddle anti-Islamic diatribes. It was, furthermore, noted in the recent study of the Australian far-right that anonymous groups had 'launched co-ordinated activity across on-line platforms in a bid to influence the outcome of the federal election'. (13)
The moves have been accompanied by discovery of a person based near Adelaide, South Australia, found in possession of two terabytes of computer data relating to accessing websites where he had stated he 'hated Muslims'. He was denied bail on charges relating to possession of high-grade explosive materials. The subsequent inquiry found the individual concerned was a far-right supporter with nationalist, anti-Islamic views. (14)
How those concerned manage to further escalate the strategies of tension in Australia remains, as yet, to be established.
It is significant to note, however, following the terrorist outrages in New Zealand in March, that the far-right have already escalated their strategies of tension with further threats to lynch a Greens M.P., Golriz Ghahraman, of Iranian descent. (15)
We should be on our guard; ignorance, and failure to acknowledge the problem, is no excuse. We are under attack from far-right political forces.
1. Far-right unites to sway poll outcome, Australian, 7 May 2019.
3. Europe takes fight to far right, Australian, 22 May 2019.
4. Not your father's far right, Le Monde Diplomatique, March 2014.
6. Website: Rise Up Australia.
7. Russia, Boris, nationalists 'out to kill Europe's future', Australian, 23 May 2019.
8. Website: Wikipedia – Aginter Press.
10. Nazis claim their stamp on all parties, The Age (Melbourne), 13 July 1999.
11. Kaldas to head NZ mosque inquiry, Australian, 14 May 2019.
12. Terror charge for mosque suspect, Australian, 22 May 2019.
13. Australian, op.cit., 7 May 2019.
14. Charges could grow in 'mother of Satan' case, Australian, 7 May 2019.
15. Police escort for Green MP after lynching threat, Australian, 23 May 2019.