Friday 15 March was a day of contrast in both Australia and New Zealand – exuberance and militant action by students striking for climate action in both Australia; followed immediately by immense sadness, horror and anger at the mass murder by a fascist at a mosque in Christchurch.
The apparent attacker, an Australian, made it clear in his manifesto that the murders were inspired by white supremacist neo-Nazi ideology. He was on no police or security service list, nor known to socialist or anarchist anti-fascists who monitor the right’s social media and other publicity. Apparently he was active on an anonymous white nationalist social-media group, The Dingoes.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been very impressive for a left-liberal social democrat, with strong language of inclusion for the victims, stressing diversity and tolerance. She called the attack out as terrorism immediately.
That description has become dominant in media coverage, unlike with some other white-supremacist attacks in the past.
NZ gun laws were significantly looser than Australian, so the attacker was able to access military style weapons. Ardern responded by tightening those laws in 72 hours.
Australia’s right-wing PM Scott Morrison is notorious for a brutal policy against asylum-seekers. His response after the attack was better than I would have expected, taking up Ardern’s description of the atrocity as extreme right-wing terrorism.
However, Morrison’s history is haunting him. For example, popular TV personality Waleed Aly – the main public face of a left-liberal Islam in Australia – has revived discussion of a 2008 cabinet meeting where Morrison reportedly advocated using opposition to Muslim immigration to help the right-wing coalition win a federal election.
Maverick ultra-right senator Fraser Anning has provoked a huge backlash with his victim blaming comments: “The real cause of the bloodshed on New Zealand streets today is the immigration programme which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place.”
When Anning spoke to a group of white supremacists in Melbourne on 16 March, anti-fascists protested outside, but 17 year old Will Connolly got in and broke an egg on Anning’s head, becoming a hero to many as “Egg-boy”.
Connolly was then punched twice by Anning and assaulted by right wing thugs. Police arrested Connolly but released him without charge, and are reportedly investigating charges against Anning and the thugs for assault.
What Anning highlights is the way explicit fascist ideology has worked its way into mainstream political debate.
He comes from a long family history of brutal racism by his colonial ancestors toward indigenous Australians.
He was an accidental senator. Third on the One Nation (“soft” far-right) ticket in Queensland, he got only 19 votes in the 2016 election, but gained a Senate seat in November 2017 when the second on the ticket was ruled out for dual citizenship.
He was then quickly dropped by One Nation. Katter’s Australian Party took Anning into membership in June 2018, but had to drop him by October 2018. In 2012 the Queensland Council of Unions had supported KAP (along with Labor and the Greens), because KAP had some left-populist policies within its general right-nationalist drift. The Anning experience should confirm how mistaken that was.
Anning has used his position since expulsion from KAP to become the spokesperson for the far right, blaming Muslim immigration for causing division. The thugs who attacked Connolly are well known neo-Nazis from the United Patriots’ Front and other fascist groups. Those groups have been more active on the streets in Melbourne since about 2016, but have been met by large counter-demonstrations.
An online change.org petition has 1.3 million (and rising) signatures calling for Anning’s removal from parliament. This is by far the largest online petition ever in Australia, and larger than the largest signed petition to the federal parliament.
While now is certainly a time for tears and compassion for the victims of this fascist terror, this mass response provides the basis for attracting many more people into anti-fascist activism, and building on recent increases in support from the union movement.
We can mourn, and we need to organise.