Build a democratic united front to stop the far-right “freedom” movement

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This is an edited version of a statement distributed by Freedom Socialist Party and Radical Women at a “speakout” called by Campaign Against Racism and Fascism (CARF)  on 17 December in Melbourne. FSP and RW attended to engage and argue for an organised mutual defence of unions, the Left and other groups in the community against increasing far-right assaults as well as a united front to stop their growing movement. But being experienced with CARF’s undemocratic way of excluding others’ voices, we prepared the statement for distribution in case we were not allowed to speak. As it turned out, the “speakout” was a pre-selected platform of speakers with no open mic.

Because we believe that the exchange of ideas is essential, RW and FSP look forward to responses and the chance to work collaboratively with others toward building a movement capable of defeating the far right.

The rapid rise of the far right (alias “freedom movement”) is highly dangerous. With union officialdom sitting on its hands, including Victorian Trades Hall’s mistaken call for a royal commission into far-right violence, the effort by Campaign Against Racism and Fascism (CARF) to hit the streets has been the right response. Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) and Radical Women (RW) have participated in these counter-protests. The question is: How do we forge a movement that will stop the far right? 

The COVID pandemic and governments’ profit-serving measures have made an already brutal economic crisis even more distressing for the working class and small businesses. The über right preys on people’s desperation, disorientation and quest for answers and is feeding off their justified distrust of governments. People have watched their working conditions, jobs and future security disappear into the jaws of corporate profiteers. Secret deals between the Morrison government and big pharma have made many sceptical about the vaccines on offer, providing grist for conspiracy theories. Their anger and fear are further inflamed by governments’ punitive responses to rising infection and protest — from heavy-handed measures for COVID breaches to expanded police powers. This is fertile soil for individualistic appeals to personal liberty and scapegoating, from which far-right movements grow. 

A battle of ideas. Instead of denouncing everyone lured into the anti-vax movement as scabs and fascists, as CARF is doing, we need to engage on this ideological battlefront with genuine, concrete solutions won through organised solidarity — such as job security and equal pay for comparable work so that no type of work is expendable; workers to collectively determine safety in their workplaces; a liveable income for everyone, free from coercive restrictions; remove vaccine patents from the control of pharmaceutical giants; recognise that the pandemic can only be solved through global, internationally coordinated vaccination stripped of profit interests. Demands like these would answer concerns of those drawn to the “freedom” rallies. They would also expose the real agenda of the global far right, which is to stabilise corporate power — and funded by the likes of Clive Palmer and Charles Koch.

This engagement is what’s needed to bring people in. To not do this pushes away people who are looking for answers as well as those ready to be part of a dynamic, militant working class movement.

Equally destructive to movement building are incidents like 20 November, when CARF evicted Kristalo Hrysicos, a longtime activist, from the march and into the hands of the cops — because she criticised CARF’s blanket condemnation of people lured into anti-vaxism. This kills movements. We stand in solidarity with Kristalo and thank her for calling it out. 

Unite all who are targeted by the far right. The kind of movement capable of defeating the far right is one uniting all its targets — unionists, radicals, women, LGBTIQ, people with disability, First Nations, immigrants of colour, people who are homeless and poor. In a united front, diverse organisations and individuals come together to fight around agreed principles, while respecting political differences. Democracy, open debate and mutual accountability are crucial, enabling organisations to collaborate and strike as a disciplined, collective force while maintaining their autonomy. A united front will not build from any single group making the political decisions and then calling on others to come on board with no genuine say. 

With other groups, FSP and RW co-founded CARF in 2015 as a united front, organising around democratically developed points of unity to defeat the newly formed Reclaim Australia, an amalgam of extreme rightwingers and open fascists. Socialist Alternative got involved once CARF was a going concern and, over time through undemocratic measures, dismantled the unity and took control. A new united front needs to be built.

Organise in mutual defence. A place to start could be through a well-organised mutual defence against the escalation of far-right assaults on unions and the Left. The deliberate targeting of the CFMMEU, workers in health, retail and transport, Sydney socialist and unionist Paddy Gibson and the organising centre of FSP and RW are alarms that signal more to come.

Now is the time to defend, build and unify our movements into a powerful counter-offensive. If you share these concerns, we’d love to talk more about how to build what is needed to stop the sinister “freedom movement.” 

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