A participant in the UPF rally on May 31 in Richmond, wearing a CFMEU cap, clashes with anti-racist demonstrators.

Two months after the most significant far-right mobilization in recent Australian history, the Victorian Trades Hall Council executive has adopted the following motion (emphasis added):

“That the VTHC celebrates the contribution to our community from Victorians of many cultures and faiths. There is no place in Victoria for discrimination or racism and we deplore those who would demonise any group by reason of their faith, race or culture. Affiliates pledge to work alongside groups and organisations representing our many faiths and communities to counter those that oppose multiculturalism and in particular those individuals and groups that are currently fostering anti-Muslim sentiment“.

– Victorian Trades Hall Council Executive minutes for 12 June 2015

Far-right agitator Shermon Burgess has responded to this development by calling upon his supporters to protest to their unions, and by threatening a mass walk out of racists from the trade union movement:

So I urge everyone from Reclaim and UPF, all the tradies and stuff who support us, all the hard workers who are union members – contact your union and let them know not to rally against us. Because we are for our unions, we are not against our unions.

But if we are going to have the unions start attacking us, then, you are going to have a whole lot of Aussies who support Reclaim Australia and UPF tearing up their union membership, and it’s going to cost the unions money.

Burgess and the far-right Reclaim Australia milieu have struggled to work out the best position to take in relation to the union movement.

The United Patriots Front are committed anti-leftists; their Facebook page proclaims that they are “a nation wide movement, opposing the spread of Left Wing treason and … Islamism”. This stance would appear to place them at odds with the values of the modern trade union movement.

Yet at the same time as they rail against “left wing traitors”, Burgess and other elements on the far-right harbor dreams of building a political base amongst ‘blue collar’ segments of the white working class.

The far-right do not know whether they want to attack, or enter, the existing trade union movement, and so they often end up attempting to do both at once.

At the same time as Shermon Burgess published his call for ‘patriots’ to contact their unions and agitate for racism, his fellow UPF agitator Neil Erikson was announcing he would never again have anything to do with the union movement:

When I was younger I used to have a lot of respect for the union. I liked to be protected at work, from the evil bosses that are gonna sack ya for f-cking nothing.

I joined the union many years ago, but guess what – NUW? [crumples his membership card] Not anymore.

It’s a sad day in Australia when I gotta worry about my own union workmates. Youse are there to protect me at work from bosses and fucked up shit, not outside when I want to protest something I believe in.

So that’s it, no more union for me. Ok, the Marxists, Communists have taken over your unions. They’ve got you in so much fucking trouble and you keep doing it.

Me personally, I’m not paying another dollar to any union. Ok. I’ve had it.

I’m not going to be fucking be manhandled and bullied to keep my mouth shut whilst my brothers and sisters die all across Australia all across the world. Christians being murdered for fucking nothing. You gu- [Video ends suddenly]

Erikson’s rant was clearly off message and was quickly removed from the UPF Facebook page, although not quickly enough.

The far-right dream of building a base amongst segments of the labour movement. They share the same offensive assumptions about blue-collar workers held by so many middle class social-democratic snobs; that white male blue-collar workers are naturally racist and are thus susceptible to the appeals of fascism.

The politics of the far right are anti-union, in that they attempt to mobilize one segment of the Australian working class against those workers who happen to be Muslim. The racism, bigotry and Islamophobia of the far-right are an attack on the basis of the union movement, they are an attack on the very idea of working class solidarity.

For these reasons, the far-right must be publicly, forcefully and unequivocally rejected by the entire labour movement.

(more…)

Full Text

In a recent post, Far Right Attempting Regroupment, I noted that fascist agitator Shermon Burgess had changed his tune about Reclaim Australia.

A month after his public and acrimonious split from Reclaim, Burgess is now desperately preaching a message of “patriot unity” in an attempt to build support for planned rallies on July 18 (in Melbourne) and July 19 (elsewhere).

I noted that the “allied groups” Burgess has been name-checking are largely ephemeral, and that in reality he was probably drawing support (for things like his bus trip) from the likes of the Australia First Party:

The people on such a bus will not be coming from some MySpace group, instead they are almost certainly going to be drawn from the milieu around Jim Saleam’s Australia First Party, and their more obviously swastika licking friends in the Hammerskins and Squadron 88.

Burgess’ public position has been moving further toward the extreme edge of the far-right, but even so it is still surprising to see something as brazen as this go up on the United Patriots Front facebook page:

Jim Saleam and Neil Erikson appear together in a video posted on the United Patriots Front's Facebook page today.

Jim Saleam and Neil Erikson appear together in a video posted on the United Patriots Front’s Facebook page today.

Jim Saleam has a forty year career on the far right in Australia dotted with numerous criminal convictions. He started as a swastika wearing “National Socialist”, spent time in prison for arranging shotgun attacks and arson directed at political opponents, and now attempts to propagate an Australian fascism grounded in the history of the White Australia Policy.

Despite his attempts to distance himself from his swastika licking past, Saleam maintains an ongoing connection to the neo-Nazi scene, evidenced in particular by his continued work with longtime neo-Nazi and Squadron 88 mascot, Ross “the Skull” May.

From top left: 1. Jim Saleam (right) and Ross May in their National Socialist Party of Australia days. 2. Media coverage from one of Jim Saleam's many encounters with the law. 3. Ross May, Jim Saleam and others at a war memorial. 4. Jim Saleam's mug shot, taken after his arrest in connection with a shotgun attack on the house of Eddie Funde (ANC representative in Australia). 5. Jim Saleam, Ross May and other boneheads attempting to drum up support at Cronulla beach, approx. a year after the Cronulla riot. 6. Jim Saleam and Golden Dawn's Australia spokesperson Iggy Gavrilidis at a 2014 rally. 7. Ross May and Jim Saleam together at a rally. 8. Jim Saleam and Ross May at an Australia First meeting in 2014.

From top left:
1. Jim Saleam (right) and Ross May in their National Socialist Party of Australia days.
2. Media coverage from one of Jim Saleam’s many encounters with the law.
3. Ross May, Jim Saleam and others at a war memorial.
4. Jim Saleam’s mug shot, taken after his arrest in connection with a shotgun attack on the house of Eddie Funde (ANC representative in Australia).
5. Jim Saleam, Ross May and other boneheads attempting to drum up support at Cronulla beach, a year after the Cronulla riot.
6. Jim Saleam and Golden Dawn’s Australia spokesperson Iggy Gavrilidis at a 2014 rally.
7. Ross May and Jim Saleam together at a rally.
8. Jim Saleam and Ross May at an Australia First meeting in 2014.

In the video, Saleam expounds on a couple of his pet conspiracy theories, in particular his claim that the government funds anarchists in Australia. He is then joined in front of the camera by Neil Erikson to announce that:

On July 18 and July 19 Australia First Party throughout the country will be supporting the Reclaim Australia rallies. We want to see all patriotically minded Australians there to stop the intimidation at street level of the extreme left against patriotic freedom of expression.

For those unfamiliar with the career of Jim Saleam, I recommend checking out The Audacity of Hate by Greg Bearup, a 2009 profile originally published in SMH’s Good Weekend magazine.

Shermon Burgess and the United Patriots Front are now publicly and overtly aligned with a man who:

spent three and a half years in the 1990s in prison, for supplying a gun to two skinheads who shot up the home of an African National Congress representative while his young family was inside. He was jailed for a further two years for insurance fraud. In the 1970s, he was involved with Australia’s Nazi Party – the Nationalist Socialist Party of Australia – and has been photographed on several occasions wearing swastika armbands. He also had links to the Patriotic Youth League at the time of the 2005 Cronulla riots.

So what does this mean?

It is simply inconceivable that Shermon Burgess, Neil Erikson and the others grouped in the so-called United Patriots Front could be unaware of Jim Saleam’s status as Australia’s premier fascist ideologue. Neil Erikson’s appearance in this video with Jim Saleam was not some kind of mistake or misunderstanding.

This video is yet more evidence that Burgess and the UPF do not simply hate Muslims; they are embarked on a deliberate project to build a fascist political formation.

Full Text
Garbage collectors rock, fascists do not.

Garbage collectors rock, fascists do not.

When discussing the far-right on this blog, I have often introduced fascist agitator Shermon Burgess as a “Cooma based garbage collector”.

Burgess works (or worked) as an attendant at the Bredbo Waste Transfer Station in Cooma Shire.

I accept the feedback comrades have offered; mocking or appearing to mock Burgess for his occupation as a “garbage collector” is not good politics, and it comes across as insulting to garbage collectors.

Garbage collectors rock, fascists do not.

In future I will refer to Burgess as a “Cooma based fascist” or similar.

Update!

I also promise not to make fun of Burgess for that video where he’s defensively insisting that he’s not gay. Burgess’ insecurities about his sexuality are his business!

Full Text
Kurdish demonstrators hold flags with portraits of jailed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg February 16, 2012. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

In Syria and Iraq the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and aligned organisations are lauded for their struggle against the brutal insurgent group commonly known as ‘Islamic State’.

Yet, within Australia the PKK is a listed “terrorist organisation”, and support for the PKK carries significant criminal penalties under Division 102 of the Criminal Code Act 1995.

This ban on the PKK is both illogical and unjust, and it should not be renewed when the current listing of the PKK expires in August this year.

The Banning of the PKK

There are presently twenty organisations proscribed under Division 102 of the Criminal Code. When compared to the rest of the list, the PKK certainly appears the odd organisation out.

All 19 other organisations purport to be or are described as “Islamic” in some way. The PKK is keeping some odd company on this list, it appears alongside the likes of “Al-Qa’ida (AQ)”, “Boko Haram”, “Islamic State”, and “Jemaah Islamiyah (JI)”.

It is interesting to compare the listing of the PKK with the three Palestinian organisations listed. The PKK entry is a catch all, which snares all manner of PKK political organisations in a single listing. In contrast, the entries that affect Hamas and Hezbollah are highly selective, they list “Hamas’s Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades” and “Hizballah’s External Security Organisation”, ie. the military wings but not the political wings of both entities.

It is also worth noting how many organisations are not listed.

According to that eminent source Wikipedia, there are some 175 groups that have been designated “terrorist” by one or more governments in the world today. The United States presently lists 60 “designated Foreign Terrorist Organisations”.

The Australian government’s listings are significantly more selective, and with the exception of the PKK they do appear restricted to organisations that could conceivably pose some form of threat to the Australian state or the interests of the Australian state abroad.

The listing on the government’s national security website further highlight’s the absurdity of the PKK ban. Is there a PKK presence in Australia that might cause concern? According to the Australian government:

There are no known PKK links to Australia; however, it is likely elements of Australia’s Kurdish community remain sympathetic to the Kurdish nationalist cause.

Kurds might be sympathetic to the Kurdish nationalist cause. Wow. What about abroad, does the PKK pose any threat to Australian ‘interests’?

There are no known direct threats from the PKK to Australian interests.

The PKK entry on the Australian government’s National Security website is farcical. It includes claims that the PKK controls “up to 80 per cent of the European illicit drug market”, a claim made by Turkish police and believed by few others.

When it comes to establishing the claim that the PKK is a terrorist organisation, the National Security website lists a handful of attacks “by suspected PKK militants” in 2010-2012 in southern Turkey alongside the 2010 Taksim Square bombing – an attack openly claimed by a non-PKK secessionist group.

So why was the PKK proscribed in Australia? Well back in 2006:

The Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, pronounced the Kurdistan Workers Party a terrorist group just a week after the visit of the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Erdogan, to Australia.

And what’s Turkey to Australia? Not so much, but to the United States, Turkey is critical. Just go and look at Turkey on a map, then look over at Iraq, then glance up to Russia.

Effects of the ban

Should it really be a crime to wish your homeland were free? According to the Australian government, apparently the answer is yes.

As I’ve already pointed out, the National Security website states “it is likely elements of Australia’s Kurdish community remain sympathetic to the Kurdish nationalist cause”, as if this were somehow threatening or dangerous.

For as long as the ban on the PKK is in place, association with or support for the PKK would result in significant criminal penalties under Australian law:

The party, which has been running a long campaign for autonomy for Turkey’s Kurdish minority, was listed as a proscribed terrorist group in mid-December, making it a criminal offence to recruit, train, fund or have “other forms of association” with the group. A person found to have links with the party or 16 related entities faces a jail term of up to 25 years.

A particular complication for Australia’s Kurdish community is the issue of money. The government’s website states:

Under Division 102 of the Criminal Code, it is an offence to do things such as direct the activities of, be a member of, recruit for, provide training to, receive training from or participate in training with, provide funds to or receive funds from or provide support to, a terrorist organisation.

This becomes a threatening mess for the Kurdish community in Australia when you realize the potential implications of sending money home to families or charities in areas under PKK influence or control.

Australian Federal Police raided several Kurdish community organisations in 2010 pursuing supposed terrorist financing. It is telling that no links to the PKK were ever found and no one was ever convicted of an offense following these confronting and invasive raids.

The absurdity of banning an entire political movement was pointed out at the time of the initial listing of the PKK under the Criminal Code. Writing in the Age, Labor MP Duncan Kerr stated:

Our minority report asks the Government to reassess the listing. It asks why any ban could not be limited to the PKK’s military arm. This has been the approach taken on other groups such as Hamas, which have both political and armed aspects. The Government’s own statement of reasons for listing the PKK referred to the PKK’s military wing – so such a distinction would have been possible. A limited ban would allow Australians to exercise their democratic rights to express their support for the PKK and its campaign for a Kurdish homeland while at the same time treat membership or support for their military or terrorist wings as an offence.

The Peace Process

The government’s own protocol for deciding on whether to list a “terrorist organisation” states that “engagement in peace or mediation processes” should be considered as a factor. In re-listing the PKK in 2012 the government stated:

The PKK is not known to be engaged in any peace or mediation processes.

This was false in 2012 and if repeated would be doubly false today. The peace process between Turkey and the PKK dates to the 1990s. Between 1999 and 2004 the PKK engaged in a unilateral cease fire, a process which ended due to Turkish government aggression.

In 2012 when the listing was last renewed, the Turkish government publicly admitted they were in talks with the PKK. The actor in that conflict that continually breaks from the peace process and seeks a “military solution” is the Turkish state; for this reason the proscription of the PKK prejudices peace talks.

In 2015 the jailed leader and founder of the PKK openly calls for an end to armed conflict and a turn to peaceful struggle within Turkey:

Above the jubilant cheers of the hundreds of thousands of Kurds celebrating the festival of Newroz, Kurdish new year, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) Abudallah Ocalan yesterday called for a definitive end to the “40-year-long armed struggle” against the Turkish state.

As Mr Ocalan’s statement was read to the huge rally, the sun broke through the clouds and the thudding rain eased: even the weather seemed to recognise a momentous occasion. His emphasis on a democratic solution is seen as a pivotal step in a process that many officials from both sides believe is the single most important issue the country faces.

“I see it as historical and necessary to hold a congress to stop the armed struggle which has been carried on by the PKK against the Turkish Republic for nearly 40 years and to determine political and social strategies and tactics which are suitable for a new period,” he said in a two-page letter read out by deputies of the Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), first in Kurdish and then in Turkish.

Ocalan made these statements despite the impact of support the Turkish state has provided to IS in their fight against PKK inspired Kurdish groups in Syria.

Australian Government support for the PKK

At the start of this article I noted that the PKK and aligned groups are routinely lauded for their ongoing fight against the so-called Islamic state in Syria and Iraq.

In Rojava PKK aligned/inspired groups are showing in that even in the midst of a bloody civil war, another world is possible.

In 2015 nothing highlights the absurdity of Australia’s proscription of the PKK like the Australian state airdropping arms to PKK aligned forces in Syria.

I utterly disagree with Bernard Keane’s characterization of the PKK in this article, but he hits the nail on the head when pointing out the “many absurdities and contradictions in the government’s decision — without debate — to rejoin the war in Iraq” in relation to the PKK:

Under Part 5.3 of the Criminal Code, it is a crime to provide support to groups like PKK. That is what the Abbott government is now doing, albeit under the fig leaf that the weapons supplied will only be used by the Kurdish regional government forces. In fact, the PKK is central to the fight against Islamic State militants that we have now joined. It’s only a matter of days since the US media was lauding the role of the PKK in the battle against IS, with battle-hardened PKK soldiers — or are they more correctly called terrorists? — providing critical support for the Kurdish peshmerga both in operating alongside them and operating as special forces units behind IS lines. The president of the Kurdistan Regional Government actually visited a PKK camp recently to acknowledge their efforts.

The idea that somehow we’re not helping a proscribed terrorist organisation is thus, given the on-the-ground reality, laughable.

Lift the ban on the PKK

The listing of the PKK under division 102 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 is self evidently absurd, and it must not be renewed when it expires in August this year.

There is a public campaign to Lift the Ban on the PKK and further information about the PKK and the absurdity of the ban here. Get on board.

Full Text
Shermon Burgess at the Richmond UPF rally on May 31. Photography by Kenji Wardenclyffe.

The far-right milieu broadly grouped around “Reclaim Australia” intends to rally on July 18 and 19. The 18th will see one rally in Melbourne, with rallies in other cities to follow on the 19th.

The date chosen was doubtless intended to maximize offense, it coincides with this year’s Eid-al-Fitr (the celebrations marking the end of Ramadan).

The two day rally structure was announced by the self-described Great Aussie Patriot and Cooma based garbage collector (Correction/Apology), Shermon Burgess (before his public split with other Reclaim Australia organizers back in May). Burgess intends to buttress the Melbourne rally with support of fascists based in Sydney.

It remains difficult to assess the mobilizing power of a far-right milieu whose organization is largely informal and online, however it is clear that last months far-right split has weakened their appeal to the broader “Reclaim Australia” layer of Islamophobic racists.

When Shermon Burgess and a handful of other far-right activists announced they were departing the Reclaim Australia camp to form the United Patriots Front, they clearly believed that the wider layer of racists would follow them. The events in Richmond on May 31 demonstrated that this was not the case.

Shermon Burgess has now recognized his mistake. In video after video he now proclaims that “all the patriot groups are united” for the rally on July 18.

From a video earlier this evening:

“On July 18th, at Melbourne Parliament House at 1pm, we are having a rally against radical Islam. Australian’s are fed up, terrorism will only spread if we do not get on top of it. All patriot groups have put their differences aside because we all have to fight this.

Now it took me a long time to get groups to put their differences aside but now we are all allied. And I would like to thank the groups I have written down here who have decided to put their differences aside and all ally as one.

The following groups are: Reclaim Australia, United Patriots Front, Full Blooded Skips, Southern Cross Soldiers, Australian Defense League, Australian Republican Army, Aussie Brotherhood, Rise Up Australia and Australian Patriots Defense Movement.”

Burgess’ remarks about ‘unity’ are interesting in several respects.

Most obviously, there is irony is a call for unity coming from a man who has done more than most to prosecute splits on the far right. Burgess has been quick to denounce as “traitors” all manner of right-wing actors who were insufficiently far-right for his tastes, or who had the temerity to criticize his actions in any way whatsoever.

One early target of Burgess’ wrath was Catholic crazy and admin of the Reclaim Australia Rally – Melbourne Facebook page, Monica Evers. It was a decision I suspect Burgess came to regret; when Burgess first announced that the July 18 rally in Melbourne would be at Parliament house Evers responded with appropriately snarky remarks on the Reclaim Australia pages to the effect “We’ll announce our own rally locations THANK YOU VERY MUCH!”.

The posts have since been removed. Some kind of marriage of necessity has now been stitched up between Evers and Burgess, evidenced by the fact that the Facebook pages run by Evers now appear conciliatory towards Burgess and the fascist UPF. The “Reclaim” pages now promote Burgess’ bus trip from Sydney, and Burgess is now promoting a Facebook event registered to the “Reclaim Australia Rally – Melbourne” page.

Two other things stand out about Burgess’ remarks. One, he is no longer making any attempt to hide his association with obviously violent and fascist projects. In the lead up to April 4 Burgess attempted to conceal his past association with the Australian Defense League project, and attempted to remove the more obscene videos he had released as “Eureka Brigade”.

Now that this deception has been thoroughly blown open by left critics, Burgess is openly boasting ADL and is spruiking his Eureka Brigade work.

It is unclear to what extent this open return to the far-right edge has harmed his ability to communicate to the wider layer of casual Islamophobes. His primary Facebook page has stopped growing, it’s likes have plateaued at around 22,000 and his posts no longer receive the same frenetic interaction they did in the lead up to April 4. At least one individual Burgess had previously touted as part of his “United Patriots Front”, the F’N Aussie, has publicly fallen out with Burgess as a result of his increasingly neo-Nazi stance.

The other fact that is particularly interesting about Burgess’ patriot alliance are the number of participating groups that simply no longer exist.

The Southern Cross Soldiers were a MySpace group which has been defunct since at least 2010. The Australian Defense League has never really existed, despite the antics of self-proclaimed ADL President and military imposter Ralph Ceminara. The Australian Republican Army is a youtube channel with 72 subscribers, and the existence of the Full Blooded Skips is even more ephemeral.

Conversely, there are some notable absences from Burgess’ most recent video. Burgess is organizing a supporters bus that is intended to bring additional hard support from the far-right scene in Sydney to the Melbourne rally on July 18.

The people on such a bus will not be coming from some MySpace group, instead they are almost certainly going to be drawn from the milieu around Jim Saleam’s Australia First Party, and their more obviously swastika licking friends in the Hammerskins and Squadron 88. Burgess might be ready to own the ADL clown Ralph Ceminara, he still has the brains to avoid public association with this lot.

The far-right split in early May was certainly good for a laugh, and it gutted the ability of the UPF to mobilize forces for Richmond on May 31. Fascist agitators like Burgess do not yet have strength to issue a call-out on their own authority. The papered unity that Burgess has repeatedly announced is an attempt to undo the damage of the past two months, he is seeking to convince the wider layer of racists that came out on April 4 to return.

It is not yet clear how successful Burgess has been with his regroupment propaganda. I sincerely doubt he can totally reverse the ill-will generated by a public and acrimonious split with a few youtube videos. The far-right gathering that assembles in Melbourne on July 18 will likely be smaller than the April 4 assemblage, but on the flip side the apparent cooperation with other far-right actors could result in a more coherent gathering that is more capable of organized violence.

The Response

The wider Reclaim milieu is fixated on the Muslim community, if they come out on July 18 they will have Australian Muslims squarely in their sites.

The fascist activists gathered around Shermon Burgess in the UPF have a wider plan in which Muslim’s are merely the first target. The UPF and friends are just as fixated on ‘the left':

Why are we focusing on Melbourne in particular for July 18? Because we need to win Melbourne. And why do we need to win Melbourne. For starters it is a strong hold, it is a left wing strong hold. Because the movement has been built up and no one has tried to stop it. No one. … Together we can break them.

Look at the Reclaim Australia rally back on April the 4th. We outnumbered the left wing in Sydney. We outnumbered the left wing in Brisbane. We outnumbered the left wing in Perth. Completely. Totally. They didn’t have a chance in hell.

We owned them. But they still have one small pocket of the country in Melbourne. And we are going to take that pocket of the country. Because we got more numbers than them.

So I’ve talked to my boys in the UPF. And we’ve decided what we’re going to do. Not only are we going to get all the patriot groups in Melbourne to the July 18th rally where all patriot groups will be united. But we’re also organising charter buses to get patriots from Canberra, and Sydney, and other places like that.

If we win Melbourne, we win the country. Because that’s where all the left wing propaganda comes out of.

The streets down there are communist red. Soon they will be patriotic red white and blue.

To the fascists of the UPF the traitorous enemy extends (in no particular order) to include those unions defending the rights of migrant workers, sex and gender diverse communities, the student movement, the environment movement, refugees, and anyone who differs from or disagrees with their vision of a violently “patriotic” misogynist flag waving ANZAC worshiping Australia. A quote from Martin Niemöller springs to mind.

A response to Reclaim, the UPF, and any other fascists dumb enough to show their faces in public is being prepared. I am the first to acknowledge that this response is far from complete, the fact that this response has been limited to a few “usual suspect” (and overwhelmingly white) left groupings is a significant weakness, and “a good shirt-fronting” is only ever a reactive strategy to a particular expression of far-right political organization.

None the less, I challenge anyone to make the case for “leaving this to the police”. If the far-right are able to openly organize, recruit and cohere, we will all reap the results.

Further Reading

Sam Oldham, ‘Reclaiming history from the angry white male’.

Anarchist Affinity, ‘A quick guide to staying safe and being effective: all out against ‘Reclaim Australia!’.

Planned Counter Rallies
Melbourne | Sydney | Canberra | Brisbane | Adelaide | Perth | Newcastle

In Melbourne you can text ‘subscribe’ to 0422 726 843 for updates.

Photo credit for featured image: Wardenclyffe Photography.

Full Text

Far-right agitator Shermon Burgess and his assorted fascist friends have announced their intention to rally at Richmond Town Hall this Sunday. The stated target of this rally is “the left”, in the person of Yarra City Councillor and Socialist Party member Steve Jolly.

The rally in Richmond is intended to build for the far-rights’ planned rally at Flagstaff Gardens on July 18; a rally which is ultimately intended to reverse the failure of the far-right Reclaim Australia rally in Melbourne on April 4. It is a reversal that Burgess and friends blame on the “traitors” known as “the left”.

Richmond Town Hall will be empty on Sunday, council staff have been told to stay home, and Steve Jolly is hosting a public forum on responding to the Reclaim Australia types in Carlton.

Actual promotional material put out by Shermon Burgess and the 'United Patriots Front', describes their intended rally as "Burgess vs Jolly the Commie".

Actual promotional material put out by Shermon Burgess and the ‘United Patriots Front’, describes their intended rally as “Burgess vs Jolly the Commie”.

United Patriots Front?

For those that missed the hilarity on Facebook, the Reclaim Australia grouping recently performed the splits. Shermon Burgess fell out with other Reclaim Australia types in a dispute that seems to have centered on whether “patriots” were doing enough to push Burgess’ ‘Reclaim Australia’ branded clothing. As a result, Burgess and friends are now calling themselves the United Patriots Front.

According to their Facebook page;

The United Patriots Front is a nation wide movement, opposing the spread of Left Wing treason and spread of Islamism.

In practice UPF is a small handful of fascist activists organized online grouped around Shermon Burgess. Slackbastard has a rundown on who these clowns are, but in brief the key players are:

  • Shermon Burgess, reputed Cronulla rioter and former Australian Defense League member, I have previously described Burgess at more length here;
  • Neil Erikson, former Nationalist Alternative, currently calling himself Nationalist Republican Guard online, also described here;
  • Blair Cottrell, neo-Nazi responsible for so-called National Democratic Party of Australia.

How to respond?

The so-called United Patriots Front represents the far-right of the far-right Reclaim Australia milleu; they are the most clearly fascist elements operating in Australia today. It is difficult to know what mobilizing force they retain, but at present point 145 people have clicked “attending” on the UPF Facebook event for the Richmond protest and 3,744 people have ‘liked’ their Facebook page.

When reflecting on April 4 I wrote that “fascism has a public space agenda”:

Public rallies by racists and fascists are attempts to control or change who feels safe and comfortable in public space. At present (thankfully) it is socially unacceptable (mostly) to make overt statements of outright racism publicly; the public expression of racism often results in some form of social sanction. The far right is attempting to reverse this situation. By rallying in public they are seeking to embolden racists, and bring racism directly into public space. The results of this will be reaped in a increased harvest of racist abuse and attacks directed at Muslims.

It is interesting to note how after holding successful rallies in most Australian cities, the far right activists behind Reclaim Australia have obsessed over the fact they were disrupted and opposed in Melbourne. I wonder if history has anything to do with it.

Fascism in Melbourne has been effectively subterranean since the failure of two rallies called by the ADL in 2011. The same far-right elements that were defeated in 2011 are trying to end their subterranean exile and establish a public movement. When they stick their heads up in public, they need to be opposed, disrupted, and sent packing. For this reason I’ll be joining others from the Campaign Against Racism and Fascism at Richmond Town Hall on Sunday.

I intend to participate in this and further counter-demonstrations, however it is important to note that counter-demonstrating is neither a complete nor sufficient strategy. The UK network Anti-Fascist Action wrote in 1995:

the working class is the natural constituency of socialism, not fascism. Racism and socialism are incompatible. One only exists at the expense of the other. The success of the Far-Right is due to the fact that the Left are not seen as a credible option

While the initial aim must be to root out the organised racists/fascists ­the motive force behind the attacks – and throw down a challenge to those that provide them with facilities, the long-term solution must be to create communities of resistance. By creating some space, perhaps in time a real working class alternative to the lying bullshit that now passes for politics in this country can emerge. The entire Left has failed the working class, black and white alike, though many prefer to believe that the working class has failed the Left.

The leaflet is called Filling the Vacuum and I’d heartily recommend it to anyone who is serious about opposing attempts by the far-right to organize in Australia.

With that in mind, it is also important that the public forum that Steve Jolly and others have called is supported.

Some Useful Resources

Know Your Nazi!, a spotters guide. List names and photos of people worth avoiding/looking out for.

A quick guide to staying safe and being effective: All out against Reclaim Australia, a guide prepared by Anarchist Affinity for the last ‘Reclaim Australia’ counter rally.

Activist Rights Handbook, Fitzroy Legal Service, essential reading for anyone engaged in public protest in Victoria.

Melbourne Street Medics Collective, tons of useful information for staying safe at a public protest.

Bonus!

Related:

Full Text

1. “Try before you buy”

Abbott reckons that unemployed workers are there to “try before you buy”.

In the past, the idea that Work for the Dole only occurs in the non-profit sector has been key to maintaining the legitimacy of the scheme. Of course, in practice the scheme has been used to displace paid employment in a whole range of settings.

The business lobby wants its cut of any free labour going around, in February the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) announced that Work for the Dole “needs” to be expanded to the private sector:

Australia’s peak business body wants to expand the work for the dole scheme, allowing the private sector to use young unemployed workers who would be paid for from the public purse as a way of addressing youth unemployment.

At the time I wrote that:

Forced charity work is ultimately just the wedge by which the government gets the infrastructure of forced labour ready for wider application … [but] ACCI probably jumped the gun a bit … their friends in the government are probably smart enough to realize that [W4D in the private sector] is not yet palatable”.

Oh what a difference three months can make.

The federal budget includes $18 million funding for a new initiative that would “allow” unemployed workers to do four weeks unpaid work for a prospective employer whilst receiving the dole. Tony Abbott has touted the scheme as an opportunity for employers to “try before you buy”.

Great. A four week trial shift “for the dole”. On an aside, unpaid trial shifts are meant to be illegal, as the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website explains:

Any period beyond what is reasonably required to demonstrate the skills required for the job must be paid at the appropriate minimum rate of pay. If an employer wants to further assess a candidate’s suitability, they could employ the person as a casual employee and/or for a probationary period and pay them accordingly for all hours worked.

Also, there is this thing called the minimum wage. If unemployed workers in Abbott’s “try before you buy” scheme are doing a standard 38 hour week for their dole payment, they’ll be making a grand $6.74 an hour.

2. Centrelink short staffed… duh.

Centrelink is short staffed, who’d have thunk it. The Age reported earlier this week that:

Centrelink has ordered hundreds of public servants around the country to drop everything for two days and answer phones in a desperate bid to make its performance look better.

This comes after a National Audit Office report that found that last year 26 million calls to Centrelink went unanswered. Again from The Age:

Australians spent 143 years waiting in vain to speak to Centrelink in 2013-2014, before simply hanging up, the auditors calculated.

About 13.7 million calls did not even make it to the point of being put on hold, after they were blocked or received a “busy signal”.

Another 13 million of the calls that did manage to get into the system were “abandoned”, with the callers getting tired of waiting to speak to an operator, the Audit of the Department of Human Service’s “Smart Centre” system found.

Centrelink telling their staff to drop everything and get on the phones will merely shuffle the short staffing problem about.

Elsewhere at Centrelink, the processing of Austudy and Youth Allowance claims has taken months:

Most universities close for the mid-year break next month but many students who applied to Centrelink for financial support at the start of the year are yet to receive a payment.

Student advocates say the government welfare agency refuses to provide a timeline for Austudy, Youth Allowance and Abstudy applications …

“It’s across the board,” said Stuart Martin, chairman of the national Student Financial Advisers Network. “This is significantly worse than previous years. I’ve heard cases of [students waiting] even 12 and 14 weeks.”

3. Also on Centrelink…

Centrelink staff held a one hour stop work on Monday (17 May) in response to an ongoing pay dispute affecting 160,000 public servants. Their EBA expired on June 30 last year and the government seems intent on forcing public servants to take a pay cut:

“Workers are being asked to cop a massive cut to rights and conditions, in return for low annual pay offers of between zero per cent and one per cent a year that leave real wages going backwards.

This is just another part of the government’s cuts agenda, for this reason alone welfare claimants should support industrial action by Centrelink staff resisting the governments attacks. Cut backs and understaffing are making life unbearable for Centrelink workers and welfare claimants alike, perhaps it’s time to raise the demand: “Fair pay for Centrelink workers and fair payments for clients!”

New Matilda has good coverage of the industrial dispute.

4. AUU vs Max Employment

The Australian Unemployment Union launched a petition calling on the Employment Minister to take action against Max Employment:

Despite the discovery of damning allegations against Max Employment, the Abbott Government has failed to take any legal action against the US-owned billion dollar multi-national corporation. In fact, the Government recently rewarded Max Employment with an $800 million 5-year contact.

You can watch the 4 Corners episode AUU is referring to here, it’s damning stuff.

Unfortunately it seems corporate profiteers from human misery are quick to reach for the lawyers when criticized:

Message posted on the AUU Facebook page shortly after the Max Employment petition went up.

Message posted on the AUU Facebook page shortly after the Max Employment petition went up.

If that’s not a good enough reason to sign the AUU petition, I don’t know what is!

5. Yet another crackdown

Who’s the bigger crook, a corporate entity that avoids millions of dollars in tax, or a welfare recipient who under reports their income? Corporate tax avoidance is big business:

A third of ASX200 companies have an effective tax rate of less than 10%. … If the largest Australian listed companies paid taxes at the statutory corporate tax rate of 30%, it would produce an additional A$8.4 billion in annual revenues.

There was rhetoric from the treasurer about corporate tax avoidance in the budget, which rings a bit hollow when you learn that the ATO has shed 4000 staff, is shedding more, and:

There are also questions about whether the Tax Office is pursuing big companies as vigorously as it used to. The number of taxpayers The Tax Office views as high risk has diminished, although the Tax Office refuses to tell Fairfax Media how many large corporates are now in the highest-risk category, claiming the numbers have not been finalised.

The CPSU survey found just under half of those surveyed think budget cuts have affected decisions on whether to litigate. Comments included that “more settlements are occurring”, and “current ATO policy is for staff to look at alternative dispute resolution and settlements rather than litigate”.

Apparently there is no money to chase corporate tax dodgers, but plenty to hound the unemployed, pensioners and students over income reporting:

The Federal Government is set to announce a crackdown on welfare cheats by appointing a senior police officer to lead the attack on welfare fraud.

Human Services Minister Marise Payne said the Government is working with the Australian Federal Police to appoint an officer to lead a special taskforce.

The taskforce will target people who have undeclared income, with pensioners and people who receive the Newstart allowance and disability support to face income audits.

Beating up on the poor, letting rich mates go free. It’s business as usual here in Team Australia.

Bonus!

Full Text