The Coalition: Australia’s neo-fascists

Which political parties in Australia today embrace any or all of the following traits and characteristics?

  • Advocacy of extremist nationalism and related bigotry, including xenophobic scapegoating of migrants.
  • Advocacy of biological determinism, arguing men should work and women should remain in the home to rear children.
  • Opposition to individualism, Marxism, socialism, and progressive political positions.
  • Pursuit of populist neoliberal economic programs.

These are all hallmarks of neo-fascism. Still not clear which Australian political parties these might apply to?

  • Who are the staunchest advocates of offshore concentration camps for asylum seekers?
  • Who talks up migrant crime and their threat to jobs for white Australians?
  • Who opposes reconciliation with first nations most vigorously?
  • Who embraces misogyny in Parliament, sexism in all walks of life by refusing to act on it, and massive gender imbalance in preselection?
  • Who talks loudly about Marxism and socialism as being bad things without any real evidence to back the claim?
  • Who promotes and pursues policies of class warfare, seeking privilege for the rich, and political disenfranchisement for the poor?
  • Who doggedly pursues long discredited, ideologically based neoliberal economic policies that benefit only transnational corporations?
  • Who pursues a policy of avoiding parliamentary scrutiny wherever possible?
  • Who generates xenophobic fear and social division in order to implement police state powers?

It is pretty obvious that the Liberal National Coalition is comprised of significant numbers of MPs who fit these descriptions, including especially the nominal ‘reactionary’ or ‘right wing’ of the Liberal Party, and the Prime Minister himself, along with the former Deputy Prime Minister and his supporters.

These people are not conservatives, as they claim.

Conservatism is about preserving customs, practices, and institutions that work. But it is not about opposing a moderately paced reform program chiefly aimed at improving conditions for the least powerful, most underpriviliged citizens. Conservatism also does not oppose market regulation, especially in clear cases of market failure, such as cartel behaviours, price gouging, or a culture of criminal disregard for the law. Coalition neo-fascists have instead been hard at work to dismantle all the civilising, civilised measures put in place by Parliaments of all persuasions since WWII. Coalition doctrine includes that poverty is a sin that should be punished with measures such as work for the dole slave labour programmes, and progressive reductions in access to benefits for the poor, the sick, indigenous people, and the old. They are obstinately wedded to the notion that market deregulation is a necessary pre-requisite for economic growth against all evidence to the contrary. They opposed the Banking Royal Commission, ridiculing arguments of its necessity, and they have done all they can to prevent prosecution of the individuals responsible for the criminal activities exposed by that inquiry.

Some of them might indeed be described as reactionaries, who respond to changing political and social attitudes, and the changing realities of political economy, by denying these changes exist, and by opposing some of them in a characteristically kneejerk and irrational fashion. Like King Canute commanding the tide to turn back, the reactionaries seek to reverse changes that are already an irreversible reality. But reaction is not inimical to neo-fascism, and just as unrealistic: reality cannot be altered to suit ideology, the way some Coalition MPs have been suggesting in the past few years. For example, the idea of same sex marriage has been socially accepted in Australian society for at least a decade, and overwhelmingly supported in a plebiscite, but some Coalition MPs still want to turn back that irreversible social change in attitudes among people the Coalition MPs notionally represent.

So why does it seem, intuitively, so outrageous or extreme to call Australian politicians neo-fascists?

Because for a long time there has been a consensus that the label ‘fascist’ has been used pejoratively too often and too inaccurately. That’s probably true.

However, neo-fascism isn’t the same as fascism, and relying on a consensus that was based on rejecting inaccuracy shouldn’t survive a reality that is not at all inaccurate, as described above.
Neo-fascism is not an adventurist military movement, the way Franco’s and Mussolini’s fascism were. And it does not rely on the old anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that abounded in the movements of the 1930s and 40s, though distinctly bigoted flavours remain hallmarks. Nor is neo-fascism necessarily paramilitary or associated with street gangs, the way its predecessor movements were with brown and blackshirt thugs.

In these ways, the label ‘neo-fascist’ does not imply the über-extremism of fascism, or even those of contemporary neo-Nazis. But it is a label that separates its targets from the mainstream political views of actual conservatism and real liberalism. And to that extent there should be no grounds for false outrage about the label and to whom it applies in the Coalition. The sole argument should be about the existence of words and actions, as a matter of public record, that qualify MPs as neo-fascists or not.

Contemporary extremists do not deserve to hide their ideological absolutism just because the terminology which accurately describes them also exposes the ugliness of what they stand for.

And yet, Australian news media are so timid that they avoid any real analysis of contemporary political, economic, and social trends, personalities, and events. Instead these news media observe the demands of the rich and the powerful not to call out the corrupt, mean-spirited, and reprehensible sides of business and politics for what they are. Sticking with the example of the Banking inquiry, why are banking executives responsible for unarguable breaches of the law not labelled criminals as they deserve to be by virtue of their own testimony? And why are extremist politiscians, like the neo-fascists in the Coalition, not called out for their extremism, the way their own words and deeds demand?

That timidity in what are called traditional news media (as opposed to the ‘disruptive’ online aggregators and bloggers) is probably the biggest single argument why most of these news media outlets don’t deserve special protections, as they are currently seeking against the influence of internet-based corporations. Perhaps their appalling failure to adhere to fourth estate ideals also means that what some of them do should no longer be described as journalism rather than owner-driven propaganda.

It isn’t even controversial to call many of the Coalition MPs neo-fascists. All it takes is a willingness to adopt the terminology used in the academic study of politics world-wide rather than the euphemisms (principally ‘conservatism’) by which politicians themselves seek to disguise their real motivations and activities. The way it has become normal in the USA, which is now considered a marginal democracy for its ingrained political dishonesty and the journalistic timidity that permitted this descent into the endemic abrogation of democratic principles. A political dishonesty being actively emulated and praised by the Coalition. And a journalistic timidity being advocated as a required standard from the ABC, which might be considered the last bastion of independent journalism. Meaning independent from the interests of big business.

Seen in this light, it seems compelling to conlude that the Coalition neo-fascists are working hard to emulate the USA by turning Australia, too, into a marginal democracy. Perhaps into a state that is not a democracy at all.

Postscript

15 December 2019

As if to provide direct evidence of the Coalition’s preference to avoid the scrutiny of the democratically elected parliament, the Prime Minister has attempted to push through more policy changes in the nine days since Parliament adjourned (on 6 December) than he did while it was sitting.

It is worth noting that these changes come from a man, Scott Morrison, the Australian electorate did not vote for as Prime Minister, pushing policies that have no electoral mandate.

The changes announced have included–

  • A Commonwealth Integrity Commission already condemned by senior jurists as toothless for excluding public hearings into misconduct by politicians or public servants.
  • Extension of the paternalistic welfare cashless card that restricts spending to only a few selected shops, targeting especially indigenous Australians in an unambiguously racist measure.
  • Longer lead times for access to welfare for migrants under the pretext of ‘encouraging’ migrants to get non-existent jobs and ‘integrate’ into the community, whatever that may mean. Racism again, and together with the cashless card, another strand in the Coalition’s class warfare campaign.
  • ‘Religious Freedom’ laws intended to extend the privileges enjoyed by paternalistic, misogynistic, white Christian men, but so badly framed they would permit atheists to sue any religious institution for discrimination based on religious grounds.
  • Australian recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital despite the ill will this causes in Malaysia, Indonesia, and the entire Middle East, undermining Australia’s national interest for the sake of supporting the extreme nationalist US president, and the extreme nationalist Israeli PM. Australia’s Axis of Iron?

In taking this approach, the Prime Minister signals he finds himself obliged to stand by these policy positions, but regards them as too embarrassing to bring before Parliament closer to the coming election in May next year.

He also displays in these actions a contempt for Parliament, the entire democratic process, and the Australian people: why adopt policies that will be electorally unpopular unless these are forced on by an ideologically motivated Coalition gang?  A gang that is not at all concerned to represent the Australian people rather than pursuing their ideological agenda.  An agenda that undermines Australia’s national interests at every turn.

6 December 2019

Today was a shameful day for the Australian Parliament: the ALP surrendered, allowing an encryption Bill to pass that is likely at once to facilitate highly intrusive police state powers to spy on ordinary citizens, and also to create a nightmare of new security loopholes for hackers to exploit. These loopholes will be mostly due to incompetent handling of these new powers by Home Affairs, Commonwealth IT staff, and other bureaucrats with all the IT nous of the Bureau of Statistics when conducting its online census.

In the midst of this embarrassing debacle, the Prime Minister relied on a filibuster by one of the few unapologetic neo-fascists in the Senate, Cory Bernardi, to prevent a humanitarian measure to pass.

It seems like further proof that the present government has few qualms embracing extremism.

What failed to pass was independent Dr Phelps’ Bill to provide for immediate evacuation to Australia of children needing medical attention at the Nauru concentration camp. That failure exposes the Prime Minister’s nominal Christianity as a sham, with no signs of any Christian virtues to the man at all. Certainly not charity or compassion.

 

5 December 2019

The Coalition reinvigorated its attempts to enforce voter ID laws, potentially disenfranchising younger, indigenous, itinerant, and crime victim voters.

The Coalition is also seeking to cripple public activist organisation GetUp, essentially rolling back democracy to preserve an oligopoly on policy for established political parties, similar to Putin’s Russian Federation.

The Coalition’s contempt for the Australian people was further illustrated yesterday when Queensland LNP Senator James McGrath tweeted that protesters, including schoolchildren, demonstrating against the hugely unpopular Adani coal mine in Queensland, were ‘selfish gits’ who should get jobs. Shades of Scott Morrison’s denunciation of a banking royal commission as a ‘populist whinge’.

McGrath was famously forced to resign as Boris Johnson’s deputy chief of staff in 2008 following racist comments about Britons of Caribbean extraction; they should ‘go back’ if they didn’t like Johnson as Mayor of London, McGrath had said. In other words, the LNP senator typifies a bigoted stereotype, and seeks to suppress popular opinions not favourable to his own irrational, ideological position. All this at a time when Coalition distance from the electorate, and from actual national interest concerns rather than ideological infighting, is very much in the spotlight.

And all entirely in keeping with the predictable neo-fascist characteristics of the Coalition.


NOTES

Gregor Aisch, Adam Pearce, and Bryant Rousseau, 23 October 2017.  ‘How Far Is Europe Swinging to the Right?’, The New York Times.

Kimberly Amadeo, 26 April 2018.  ‘Fascism, Its Characteristics, Pros, and Cons with Examples’, The Balance.

Sam Clench, 5 December 2018. ‘Australian politics live: Wednesday December 5’, news.com.au.

Laura Clout, 22 June 2008. ‘Boris Johnson aide resigns over “racist” comment’, The Telegraph.

Jason Cowley, 9 November 2016. ‘In the age of reaction, a neo-fascist has taken the White House’, The New Statesman.

The Editors, last updated, 24 May 2018. ‘Neofascism’, Encyclopedia Britannica.

Éric Fassin, 10 August 2018.  ‘The neo-fascist moment of neoliberalism’, openDemocracy.

John Bellamy Foster, 1 April 2017.  ‘Neofascism in the White House’, Monthly Review.

David Motadel, 17 August 2017. ‘The United States was never immune to fascism. Not then, not now’, The Guardian.

Alexander J. Motyl, 2016. ‘Putin’s Russia as a fascist political system’, Communist and Post-Communist Studies, vol. xxx, pp. 1-12.

David Robertson, 2002.  A dictionary of modern politics, 3rd Edition.  London: Europa Publications, pp 341-342.

Eric Schatzker, 1994. ‘Neo-Nazism and Neo-Fascism: The Rise of the Extreme Right in Western Europe’, Origins, vol 21, no 3, Autumn 1994, pp 17-22.

Adele M Stan, 27 August 2018.  ‘Trump and the Rise of 21st Century Fascism’, The American Prospect.

Doug Stanglin, 23 August 2017.  ‘What is antifa and what does the movement want?’, USA Today.

Tim Stanley, 23 August 2017.  ‘What is fascism and are there any fascists today?’, The Telegraph.

Stuart Winer, 29 November 2018.  ‘Rivlin says Israel wants nothing to do with ‘neo-fascists’ who support it’, The Times of Israel.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *