Last month, a gang of Nazis, dressed in black and masked, stormed Flinders Street Station, distributing white supremacist pamphlets and harassing commuters. Their large banner announced their target: “Expose Jewish Power.”
Nazis are organising in Melbourne, and their most recent activity indicates an alarming growth in confidence. In a transphobic, queer-hating climate whipped by the far right, the Nazi outfit, National Socialist Network (NSN), has taken centre stage. Sieg heiling members paraded in front of Victoria’s Parliament House at a TERF (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists) rally in March. A few fellow fascists, the Proud Boys, threatened a youth pride celebration, Glitter Nova, at Melbourne’s Pride Centre late last year. In October, a knife wielding pack of fascists attacked Café Gummo, an anti-fascist venue in the city’s North. Nazis targeted Senator Lidia Thorpe throughout the Voice to Parliament Referendum, releasing a horrifying video of a masked man burning the Aboriginal flag, performing the Nazi salute, and openly threatening Thorpe. For months, Nazis stalked drag shows and social events for young queers.
The fascist threat is not new, and the recent slew of activity demands that we understand what it represents and how to fight back. We can learn a lot from the experience of last century. In German and Italy, fascism arose from extreme economic privation imposed by the imperialist victors of World War I. Inspired by the Russian Revolution, workers in these countries organised in revolt. We learn from Marxist analysts of the day that fascism is an expression of capitalism in distress. It’s a response of last resort by big capital gripped by the fear of revolution and desperate to beat back the working class. Its social base is the middle class — small businesses and entrepreneurs — which, sandwiched between the great classes of capital and labour, will follow whichever looks more powerful at the moment. Capital uses this class as a bulwark to crush workers’ capacity to organise. It channels middle class fears and disillusionment into scapegoating of minority groups and attacks on the labour movement.
Fascist groups today are emboldened, and we know from the ravages of last century, just how dangerous they can become if allowed to grow. We must wipe out this threat while it’s still in its initial, weak stage. And we cannot look to state authorities to do this. The cops allowed the Nazis to waltz through Flinders Street Station without any resistance. Countless other cases of the police protecting fascists at protests and allowing them to take up public space show us that they are not on our side. Appealing to local councils to cancel events or state governments to ban behaviour, such as the Nazi salute, not only undermines grassroots organising, it accepts these powers of the state, which it will use against us.
What we need is to bring together all of fascism’s targets in a powerful United Front. Whether you’re an immigrant, part of the LGBTQIA+ community, a woman, a worker, a Muslim, a Jew, we all have a common enemy that needs smashing. At the attack on Café Gummo, Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice bravely chased the Nazis off. Lidia Thorpe rallied mob and fellow anti-racists behind her, receiving an outpouring of solidarity from the grass roots. Melbourne showed up in defence of the trans community against the TERFs and Nazis in March and then in its thousands for Trans Day of Visibility. It will again on November 25th for the Trans Day of Resistance.
We have the power to take back public spaces and to root out fascists from our communities. We must act now and show that fascism will never have a place in Melbourne or anywhere.