In October the Islamophobic, far-right Dutch MP Geert Wilders will travel to Perth to launch a new group, the Australian Liberty Alliance (ALA).
This is the latest attempt to establish a serious and significant hard right party in Australia. It is being organised by the Q Society which has hosted tours of overseas anti-Islamic activists and organised campaigns to stop the building of new mosques.
The ALA seems to have more serious and savvy backers than the most recent attempt for a new right formation, Reclaim Australia. Reclaim Australia’s growth has been seriously hindered by consistent counter-demonstrations organised the No Room For Racism campaign, initiated by the Socialist Party.
The pressure of intense scrutiny and public confrontation from the anti-racist counter-rallies has forced Reclaim Australia onto the defensive and led to an internal split. Hardened neo-Nazi offshoot, the United Patriots Front (UPF), has now taken the lead with attempts to hold public anti-Muslim demonstrations. The UPF does not have the same popular appeal as Reclaim Australia and have failed to muster a decent demonstration so far.
The same conditions that have allowed space for the potential growth of a far-right street movement have given encouragement to far-right activists with electoral aspirations. These are the forces that are coming in behind the ALA.
The ALA will combine anti-Islamic slogans with right wing populism, but attempt a more respectable image than Reclaim Australia and the UPF. Their preferred model is Britain’s UKIP as opposed to Greece’s Golden Dawn.
Tasmanian Senator Jackie Lambie is also attempting to build a new right wing national formation and is receiving support behind the scenes from ex-Liberal Party organisers.
All these formations will try to opportunistically tap into the fear and anger of working class people and poor farmers suffering the effects of 30 years of neo-liberalism. Privatisation, deregulation and spending cuts have negatively impacted the lives of millions in Australia.
Whole regions of Australia and suburbs of our major cities have been devastated by deindustrialisation and more recently the end of the mining boom.
A recent NSW Council of Social Service report outlined that 181,000 NSW children, or 1 in 7, live in poverty. Sydney’s poverty level stands at 15 percent.
Young people, if they can get a job at all, are often trapped in low paid casual employment that can end at the whim of their boss. Tertiary education comes with long term debt around the necks of students and no promise of a decent job at the end.
The absence of a strong left voice in Australian politics allows the far right to capitalise on this misery. They argue that Muslims (which more often than not is code for ‘immigrants’) as well as the Left, unions and others are “unAustralian” and the cause of the people’s diminishing standards of living.
What the far-right refuse to acknowledge is that it is big business, not Muslims or recent immigrants, who have been enriched at the expense of all working people. It is the neo-liberal policies championed by the Liberals and adopted by Labor that have caused the problems we face.
A simple appeal against racism is not sufficient to cut across the appeal of far-right populism to people trapped in poverty and alienated by society. We need to fight racism by fighting the conditions that breed racism.
Building a strong socialist movement in Australia would give us the capacity to fight job cuts and austerity through united working class action. We could channel people’s anger towards the real cause of their problems – capitalists and their politicians – not ordinary working class Muslims and immigrants.
The Socialist Party will continue to expose the lies of the racists in whatever guise they wear and will continue to organise to stop their growth.
Ultimately we need to provide an alternative explanation for the problems people face and construct a new mass workers’ party in Australia to offer a socialist alternative to the millions of people searching for a way out of the chaos created by capitalism.
By Stephen Jolly