“You’ll always lose in Melbourne!” This was the triumphant chant of 300 Melburnians who repelled the neo-Nazi United Patriots Front (UPF) in May 2015. We were unionists, socialists, anarchists, feminists, students, LGBTIQ and Aboriginal justice activists who pushed through the police line protecting the fascists and stopped them from taking the steps of Richmond Town Hall. This suburb has been home to generations of workers, many immigrants, and now refugees. The town hall flies the Aboriginal and rainbow flags.
Campaign Against Racism and Fascism (CARF) mobilised the Richmond victory. Less than two months old, CARF had cut its teeth at the first Melbourne rally of Reclaim Australia, a sinister convergence of far-right groups and wannabe führers like those leading the UPF in Richmond. Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) and sister organisation Radical Women (RW) are among the groups of socialists, feminists, anarchists and unionists that founded CARF.
A defining start. Earlier organising against Reclaim Australia was impeded by some Left groups, mainly the Socialist Party (Socialist Alternative in the U.S.), which refuse to name fascism as fundamental to today’s far-right threat. They pander to the liberals, politicians and media who would rather not connect fascism to racism. In No Room for Racism, led by the Socialist Party, there was no room for mobilising around both fascism and racism — fewer might come to the rally, they claimed.
But Richmond’s victory, organised by Campaign against Racism and Fascism, proved this reasoning wrong. And it marks the split between the campaign and No Room for Racism, which urged people not to counteract the fascist patriots in Richmond!
A united front forms. From the outset, Freedom Socialist Party and Radical Women urged the campaign to adopt key points that unite its diverse groups. Its statement of principles defines fascism — a movement driven in the interests of the rich and powerful to divide and crush the working class. It states that emerging fascist and far-right groups must be out-organised to prevent them from recruiting and growing. CARF also stands for the right to self-defence. It is not pacifist. We don’t agree on everything. But we do agree on these.
Campaign Against Racism and Fascism is a united front. Led by working people, it is different from coalitions, collectives or popular fronts, which are controlled by or subservient to pro-capitalist interests. The united front, based on agreed common principles, is preserved by open, democratic debate and nurtured by class solidarity.
This united front puts the lie to those who claim that standing up to fascists “gives them publicity” and “confrontation is violence” — that our organising puts the entire working class at risk. In fact, ignoring today’s Nazis would hand over the majority’s potential power to the fascists. The cops have already proven they will protect the Nazis’ march to power.
Police unleashed. Anti-fascist activists now need to prepare for police overkill — cops in riot gear amassed in the hundreds, charging on horses, corralling demonstrators, pepper spraying, stopping-and-searching, arresting, assaulting legal and medic teams.
In other words, the state has set out to demonise and criminalise us, not the Nazis. It’s afraid of organised opposition — we’re unionists, women, First Nations, Muslims, refugees, young people, LGBTIQ folks and radicals who also resist permanent war and austerity. We blame the profit system that invades countries, destroys jobs, guts our futures, plunders Aboriginal lands and ravages the environment. We bridge these battles. And that threatens the system.
The capitalist state is preparing for working class revolt. Unions are also under fire. National rolling strikes of public sector workers, in combat with a union-busting government, are showing their power, and unionists are core activists in the Campaign. We take the message into the movement that union backing is essential to routing the fascist threat.
Broadening our front. The far-right One Nation party’s success in the recent July federal election sharpens the threat. Its leader, Pauline Hanson, has been a regular speaker at Reclaim Australia rallies. Among One Nation’s backers are UPF and other numerous fascist notables. Hanson’s championing of men’s rights groups is as virulent as her Islamophobia and anti-Asian, anti-Aboriginal racism. This party could galvanise the extreme right and fascists.
The campaign has laid good ground for this battle, such as explaining how Islamophobia and racism are weapons of class war used by government and the far right to pit capitalism’s victims against each other. But it must build beyond the Left. FSP and RW push hard for this. This united front must become as multi-issue as the fascists and racists are.
For well over a year, CARF has held the fascists in check, from Melbourne and its outskirts to Bendigo in rural Victoria. In Richmond we felt the power of disciplined counter-mobilising. People look to CARF whenever and wherever fascists surface. It will become a greater counterforce as more of their targets, especially unions, join in. Then, we can crush the fascists.
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