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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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