At the end of Ramadan on July 19, between Macquarie and Phillip streets in Martin Place, Sydney will witness the second public gathering of Reclaim Australia. It is the largest far-right mobilization in the country since One Nation. Its fascist qualities, rooted in Islamophobia and Australian (white) nationalism, are unmistakable. We have to shut it down.
The rhetoric of Reclaim Australia Isn’t really all that much more extreme than the shit you get on TV and parliament. The Australian state and its sycophants in the capitalist press have been turning up the dial on anti-Muslim hatred and fear lately in a desperate search for legitimacy, while cutting funding for anything socially useful. This started with the so-called “anti-terror” raids last year, during which hundreds of officers were called in to arrest fifteen people, going on to charge one person with a very tenuous terrorism offense. The raids were used to justify a slate of excessive “national security” laws (which mainly criminalized journalism), token participation in the US-led campaign against the (un)Islamic State, and $450 million committed to “fighting local jihadis”.
So of course, after the raids, a majority of Australians were found to believe that Islam is more prone to violence than other religions. In this atmosphere, protests against the construction of mosques have drawn hundreds. People perceived to be Muslims, especially women in hijab, are increasingly subject to public harassment and attacks. Islamophobia Register Australia has documented incidents of severe beatings, children being stalked, and families receiving death threats.
Reclaim Australia ideologues continue to broadcast the idea that this 2.2% religious minority is going to take over the country, with the help of their multiculturalist radical left-wing accomplices (who secretly control the Murdoch press and the government). The rhetorical parallels with The Protocols of the Elders of Zion might not be a coincidence, given that Reclaim rallies often see large contingents of neo-Nazis, who literally believe Elders of Zion are occupying all of the world’s governments and filling western countries up with Muslim immigrants, in order to somehow orchestrate a Jewish takeover of the world. Reclaim Australia organizers have stated that swastika-bearers will be asked to leave, but Stormfront and the usual Nazi rogues gallery have told their followers to leave their swastikas at home anyway.
The relationship between neo-Nazis and Reclaim has always been an intimate one. Pauline Hanson, the figurehead of populist racism in the 1990s, spoke at the Reclaim Australia rally in Brisbane and is lined up to speak at the July 19th Rally in Rock Hapton. One of RA’s main propagandists, Shermon “The Great Aussie Patriot” Burgess, is known for his band Eureka Brigade. One lyric reads “We’re sick of your Shariah burn your fucking mosques, it’s time to show you muzzrats we’re the fucking boss, you thought you had it easy but you surely lost, Cronulla was Australia’s Muslim holocaust.” Other song titles include ‘ADL Killing Machine’ and ‘Shit On A Mosque’. Burgess’ statements on Aboriginal people are well documented too; “I have met some nice aboriginal people, right, but they are few and far between. Really, so many of them are just dickheads, you see them passed out on metho and bludging cigarettes, and still blaming the modern generation for what happened two hundred years ago”.
RA claims that multiculturalism dominates the government and even the Murdoch press. As such, public assembly is part of what they have to “reclaim”, liberal democracy is part of Australia’s civic religion, and Western civilization is fundamentally opposed to Islamic barbarism. They dress their bullshit up in all the contradictory liberal-enlightenment rhetoric inherited by Australia. By rallying in public, they hope to embolden racists in reclaiming a country which is not theirs, to bring open racism directly to a public space. Some self-identified progressive see Reclaim Australia as just another viewpoint in the arena of democratic debate – an incoherent mess of racists who will sweep themselves into the dustbin of history with their own stupidity. But a debate with them is worthless, because their language and social power isn’t the words in their speeches, it’s structural violence. One RA supporter, Ralph Ceminara, got a few goons together to start a fight with the entire suburb of Lakemba late last year and ended up behind bars; another, Blair Cottrell, burnt down his ex girlfriend’s house and believes the curriculum should include mandatory reading of Mein Kampf. The result of these rallies is increased support for vilifying those who do not belong, with the trappings of a respectable political movement.
We can’t let things go so smoothly for them in Sydney this time. The hatred that they are promoting should never have a public forum. Free speech is one thing, but this is about social power. When you’re up against a group of Christian, beer swigging white mum n’ dads, you don’t get debate on the merits of Abbott’s operation sovereign borders policy or multiculturalism versus ‘we grew here you flew here’. Instead you get the Cronulla riots.
So the Cronulla rioters want to be able to hold public demonstrations and engage in mass politics. Not happening this time. We’ll get there at ten so they can’t get there at ten thirty. With a large enough counter-demonstration we can safely drive them off the streets.