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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.

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Photo from Perth counter rally, stolen from @zebparkes, zebedeeparkes.com.

I can’t be arsed putting together anything intelligent on “Reclaim Australia”, but there are a couple of brief comments I wanted to make.

1. Islam is not a race – and you are still a racist!

A message to the “reclaimers”: you are a pack of utter racists. You might think you’re being really clever with the whole “Islam is not a race” line, well it’s time for a sixty-five year old news flash: there is no such thing as biological ‘race’.

The category of ‘race’ is socially constructed; it is the product of a system of domination. ‘Race’ is constructed in order to define the out group. The creation and maintenance of a social system of domination and oppression that targets this outgroup is racism.

It doesn’t really matter if you are building a system of oppression that defines the outgroup by religion rather than skin colour, the essential element of racism is the construction of a system of oppression that targets an entire segment of the working class for villification and discrimination. Religion or skin colour, the dynamic is the same; “Reclaim Australia” is a racist project.

It is worth noting that without a relationship of power and domination, someone using a racial slur is not being racist, merely rude. The indigenous teenager who calls you a white c-nt is not creating or maintaining a hierachy of which you are the victim, she’s just being coarse (and in view of history, understandably so).

Related: Theodore W. Allen’s “The Invention of the White Race”, a presentation by Jeffrey Perry.

The sad fact is that the vast majority of Australians still think biological race exists. The majority now think it is bad to discriminate on the basis of race, but if race really does exist (in the world of “commonsense”) and “religion is not a race”, then the likes of Pauline Hanson and Shermon Burgess can continue claiming they’ve escaped being racists on a technicality.

Islamophobic racism is hardly the exclusive preserve of working class fascists like Shermon Burgess. The real work in constructing Islam as the “other” has been done by the state. The raft of “anti-terror” legislation, public propaganda, and fear mongering rhetoric that has emmanated from the top of the political hierachy has created the space in which fascists like Shermon Burgess are now operating.

See also: First Dog on the Moon, ‘A racist carrot reclaims Australia’, The Guardian.

2. If you equate abusing racists with racism you are a f-cking muppet

In the aftermath of the “Reclaim Australia” rallies it’s been pretty clear that the “I’m not racist but…” crowd aren’t the only ones who haven’t got the faintest idea of what actually constitutes racism. Take this choice quote is from Brad Chilcott, director of Welcome to Australia, in The Guardian yesterday:

Fighting hatred with hatred at Reclaim Australia rallies is a failure of progressive politics

What’s less obvious is what “progressives” were hoping to achieve this Easter by opposing naked hatred and foul abuse with public expressions of the same hatred and abuse.

If the counter demonstrations in Melbourne were nothing more than “public expressions of the same hatred and abuse”1 as “Reclaim Australia”, then racism is little more than foul language and a bad attitude.

To the likes of Chilcott racism is simply a vulgar attitude held in sections of the working class. His is the kind of analysis that assumes public policy in Australia is so racist because the Australian working class is so racist, our political leaders have not created racism, merely pandered to it and failed to “show leadership”. His role as a liberal anti-racist is to promote “diversity, compassion, generosity”2 amongst those unenlightened working class types. When that is your analysis, of course getting in the streets and shouting at racists is as bad as racism itself.

Chilcott is utterly wrong, he confuses the symptoms of racism with racism itself. “Hatred” and “foul abuse” are not racism itself, they are public expressions of racism. The public expression of racism creates, re-creates and reinforces the system of racism, but the system itself is more than this. Racism is a social structure of domination: one part of the working class is segmented off from the whole and subjected to greater oppression; the remainder of the class are co-opted into the process of racist oppression and are bought off with a position of relative privilege.

If you cannot criticise the structure of racism, and the system that creates and re-creates it, how can you attack racism? Obviously you can’t; if you cannot see the problem you cannot be effective in combatting it (except by pure chance). Chilcott is worse than ineffective, in failing to see what racism is he reacts against forces that actually have the potential to combat racism.

3. “Reclaim Australia” is fascist

Let’s call a spade a spade. “Reclaim Australia” is fascist, and I am not saying that simply because it has drawn the participation of an array of far right and overtly neo-Nazi supporters.

Fascism “is as a particular form of mass movement, possessing a core set of ideas, and in which the ideology and movement interact. … [It is] a specific form of reactionary mass movement” which is “racist, nationalist, and militarist”3. “Reclaim Australia” fits the fascist bill on all counts:

  • racist, in it’s demonisation and attacks on muslims and Islam, and its attempts to construct muslims as an other counterposed to “Australia” and “Australians”;
  • nationalist, with it’s overt flag-draped appeals to “Aussie pride”, continual talk of ‘patriotism’, and the casting of its campaign as ‘Islam vs Australia';
  • militarist, in its continual appeals to the ANZAC myth, valorisation of the ADF, etc. It was telling at Melbourne rally just how many of the assembled bigots claimed they had “fought them” (meaning Muslims) “over there” (meaning in the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afganistan).

The organisers of the “Reclaim Australia” rallies certainly intended them to be the launching point for a far right movement. The anti-Islam conspiracy theories of “Reclaim Australia” are its core set of ideas, and I think we are seeing an interaction between the people gathering around the “Reclaim Australia” banner and these ideas.

Further Reading: Dave Renton, Fascism: Theory and Practice.

4. Racism and fascism have a public space agenda

Public space matters, and a heck of a lot of societal control and power is bound up in who is allowed in public space, how they are legally or societally required to act, dress, and so on. Fascism seeks to dominate public spaces and to drive opponents, targetted groups, and rival politics out of public space.

This is a half developed thought on my part, but a sizeable chunk of the historical experience of racism seems bound up in public space. Segregation for example, whether in Australia or the United States, had a heck of a lot to do with who was allowed where in public, and how they were required to act.

A good deal of a lot of the “Reclaim Australia” rhetoric is also basically about public space. Outlawing “the Burqa or any variant thereof”4 is essentially an attempt to control how people look in public. The conspiratorial rubbish around halal certification boils down to an attempt to determine what can or can’t appear on the packaging of goods sold in public.

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 publically; 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.

More than anything else, the public space agenda of racism and fascism is the reason racism must be fought directly and in public, not behind closed doors on some farm in the hills.

A vocal and determined counter-rally is both a general rejection of racism, and a direct action to disrupt a specific attempt by racists to build an overtly racist movement in the public sphere.

Final thoughts

Bringing all this crap together… The last time the so-called “Australian Defense League” tried to have a rally in Melbourne thirty people attended. Four years later and with four months of preparation (and a significant rebranding), the far right managed to assemble a few hundred in Melbourne and Sydney, and concerningly large numbers in Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Perth. They are seeking to build a far right movement on a base of anti-Muslim racism, and their rallies are clear attempts to embolden racists, intimidate Muslims, and build a milleu in which the far right can recruit and propagandize. The qualms of liberal anti-racists and social democrats should be dismissed, because when fascists rally on the streets they need to be smashed back into the sewers they rose out of.

Earlier Post: #Reclaimwhat and being stalked online, 28 March 2015.

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After months of rumours and false starts, there is now reliable information that Golden Dawn MEP Giorgos Epitideios will be in Australia and holding events in Melbourne and Sydney, 16-20 November.

SEE: The Guardian, Golden Dawn: far right Greek party members pay ‘stealth visit’ to Australia, “Two members plan to raise money and meet local supporters in Sydney and Melbourne this week”.

Golden Dawn is a violent fascist organisation in Greece, that has attempted to build support in the Greek diaspora community in Australia and around the world. This tour of Australia comes at a key time for Golden Dawn, and opposing them now is critical.

As a fascist organisation Golden Dawn has its roots in the military dictatorship of 1967-1974, but until recently they have been at most a marginal political force. In 2012 they capitalised on the the waves of anger and discontent at mainstream Greek politics in 2012 to win 18 seats in the Greek Parliament. Their violent apparatus has close links with the repressive apparatus of the Greek state, and is renowned for it’s violent attacks on immigrants, the workers movement, anarchists, left groups, and the queer community.

The Greek state has subsequently turned on Golden Dawn:

Golden Dawn (GD), as we knew it, is over. Their leader N. Michaloliakos is behind bars, along with other prominent members, while those who survived the first purge are facing added charges that emerged a few days after the first arrests. While this was happening, a number of their offices around Greece have closed down, the state funding they received has been stopped, and reports indicate that many of their members (ex or current) are forming lines outside the High Court to testify against the organization.

For an analysis of the how and why check out When the state turns antifa.

Golden Dawn is on the defensive in Greece, and as such is seeking support abroad. Golden Dawn MEP Giorgos Epitideios, a former general, is in Australia as part of a respectability campaign.

Within Greece, Golden Dawn want to be able to claim that they have support from the Greek diaspora, and that they’re seen as respectable internationally.

Within Australia they want to pitch to the Greek community, in particular to organise funding to offset the losses they have suffered following the attacks on their organisation in Greece.

A solid, public and overwhelming rejection of these fascists in Australia would send a strong message of support to anti-fascists in Greece, would harm fascist propaganda in Greece, and would prevent these violent thugs organising among the fringes of the diaspora community.

A Welcoming Committee

Information is being disseminated through the No to Golden Dawn in Melbourne facebook page and twitter account. The event page Disrupt and Dismantle Welcome Collective will be updated to the address and dates of Golden Dawn events in Australia as information comes to hand.

A statement condemning Golden Dawn has been signed by ten Australian trade unions including the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association, the Communications Workers Unions, the Community and Public Sector Union, the Construction and General Division of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), the Maritime Union of Australia, the National Tertiary Education Union, the National Union of Workers and the Textile, and the Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia.

A call to action will be issued by the No to Golden Dawn in Melbourne group in the coming days.

What Needs to Happen

The Golden Dawn events in Melbourne are already appropriately infiltrated. The time and location of the planned events is expected to be released at very short notice, at some point between 16 and 20 November.

Anyone who cares about opposing fascists in Australia and in Greece should prepare to respond in this time frame. In order to oppose and disrupt Golden Dawn in Australia, we need to muster hundreds of opponents of fascism at a particular location in the Melbourne area at short notice.

Make ready in your organisations, unions, and community groups. Keep an active watch on the No to Golden Dawn events and facebook page. Tell everyone you know about this, spread the word that these dimwits are coming and we are going to drive them away. When Golden Dawn attempt to show their heads in our city, let’s drown them out, break them up, and drive them out.

– Kieran.

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The Indonesian state continues to murder on behalf of Australian companies.

The ABC reports that Arc Exploration had absolutely nothing to do with the shooting of eight protesters by Indonesian police in the Sumbawa town of Sape four days ago.

The ABC reports that Arc Exploration conducts “meetings with local people” and that “extensive consultation process with local community leaders and authorities” and that this “resulted in these parties confirming their support for [the company’s] activities”.

Hidup Biasa reports that after a five day occupation of the Port at Sape Indonesian Police opened fire on protesters killing eight and injuring hundreds.

The Port was occupied by villagers (and student supporters) opposing minging developments in Sumbawa, like this one near the town of Barawera.

Here is a photo of the proposed development. The development would involve digging out the green bit.

Two days after the Police killings, three hundred people gathered on the streets of Makassar to denounce the police brutality.

A police station, banks and advertising billboards were pelted with stones. Two people were arrested, two other arrests were foiled by the mass intervention of demonstrators. According to the awful google translation I am relying on:

Protesters claimed that what happened in Bima and elsewhere caused by the greed of capitalism to exploit the environment which then threaten people’s lives

Word.

A commenter on Indymedia notes that ANZ are a major investor in Arc Exploration, the same happy chaps who are major investors in Gunns and a key source of finance for the proposed Tamar Valley pulp mill in Tasmania.

It’s all one struggle.

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A report I prepared on yesterday’s action in defence of the Engelhardt St Fertility Control Clinic:

Women’s rights are still under attack in Albury. Once again a group of anti-choice religious demonstrators have picketed the Engelhardt St Fertility Control Clinic in Albury, and attempted to intimidate and harass women seeking to access the clinic.

Today, for the second week in a row, the anti-choice group were met by a small and determined gathering, and their harassment was substantially disrupted.

I arrived at the clinic at ten am to find five of anti-choice set up out the front of the clinic. Three were across the road from the clinic loudly praying, whilst two others were on the foot path out the front of the clinic accosting women who were seeking to access the clinic. I was joined by chief executive officer of Women’s Health Goulburn North East, Susie Reid.

Women’s Health Goulburn North East is the overarching body that includes the Engleheart St clinic. Susie Reid is highly supportive of action to defend women’s rights, and to obstruct anti-choice campaigners seeking to harass women at the clinic. They are keen to see this become an ongoing action in defence of women’s rights to access a clinic free from harassment.

Others arrived over the following hour. Susie Reid demonstrated the art of intercepting and non-physically obstructing anti-choice harassers out the front of the clinic, impressive and highly effective!

The anti-choice group sought to engage us verbally on several occasions, but their inability to get any response frustrated them. We had one drive and stop abuser, who left when he realised he was being totally ignored.

The surveillance camera was back. This week the camera was in a car parked on the clinics side of the road, and it was pointed directly at the entrance of the clinic. The claims of the anti-choice group, that their camera is getting a broad picture of the street in case they are assaulted, are clearly bogus. It’s there to intimidate women seeking to access the clinic.

At 11.30am, having been obstructed from accessing the front of the clinic and harassing women, the anti-choice activists packed up and left. They took their camera with them.

We suspected this was a ruse, and it was. They returned in greater numbers. I still consider this a win. They were also forced to leave in order to get more supporters, and most importantly they did not bring the camera back.

There was one more occasion in which an anti-choice campaigner attempted to accost a woman leaving the clinic, but she was obstructed. The anti-choice group made no more attempts to interact with women coming or going from the clinic.

They then concentrated on praying loudly from across the street. At 3pm they packed up and left.

During the day there was some media interest. Prime News interviewed a number of people in the morning, and a journalist from the Border Mail arrived in the afternoon.

I consider the day a clear win for those of us defending women’s rights at the clinic. The anti-choice group clearly did not expect to be resisted for a second week. We received good support from passing drivers, and a number of people stopped to thank activists defending the clinic.

Three weeks ago we lived in a town where a group of religious fundamentalists could picket a fertility control clinic and harass women seeking help and advice with impunity. This is no longer the case.

This report is just one person’s account, and is no way an official position of any group, or the gathering as a whole! Also, ongoing updates are being posted to twitter using the hashtag #albchoice. Please share widely, no rights reserved.

Kieran Bennett.

Update: Here is Prime coverage of Thursday’s action, and here’s Win TV coverage of Thursday 19th of May’s action. The Border Mail has some articles on the issue here, here, here, here and here.

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