No place here for nationalist thuggery
January 19, 2010
“A festival of primitivism.” This is how a picture caption in today’s Jutarnji List, the best-selling tabloid in Croatia, summed up this year’s instalment of ethnic violence at the Australian Open, where a group of young Croatian-Australians gave the Nazi salute and chanted fascist slogans as they spat on a press photographer.
The mob, who were ejected for disruptive behaviour and smuggling flares into Melbourne Park on the first day of play, seemed to have learned nothing from past years…
In response, a few points.
First, there’ll always be a place for nationalist thuggery: where would the state be without it?
Secondly, there have been much better festivals of primitivism than the Australian Open.
Thirdly, Croatian fascism has a long and proud history in post-WWII Australia, one that has involved close links with mainstream conservative politics, and which extended — in the early 1970s in particular — to the use of terrorism.
Of the mainstream, perhaps the most remarkable convergence of interests has been between local anti-Communist/fascist Croats and the Liberal Party, in particular its NSW branch. The key figure in this story is — or rather was — the former Nazi propagandist Ljenko Urbančič. Urbančič carved out a highly successful career in the NSW Liberal Party, forming and heading the faction within it known as the Uglies, one which continues to play a dominant role. Until recently, the faction was led by The Hon. David John Clarke, MLC (2003–), for whom Urbančič was a mentor and close ally. Clarke has, in turn, performed the same role in relation to Alex Hawke, currently — and with the full endorsement of former Tory PM John HoWARd — the Federal Member for Mitchell (one of the safest Tory seats in the country). Hawke previously served as an adviser to Clarke, as well as former Communications Minister Helen Coonan.
And while Communism collapsed some 20 years ago now, the flirtation with Croatian fascism has not, with Coonan, Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, as well as Clarke, attending a commemoration in 2007 of Croatia’s inglorious independence in 1941: see Dr. Cam on Helen Coonan’s fascist flirtation (May 3, 2007). Note that, in September 2007, the Eastwood RSL played host to Croatian ‘New Right’ intellectual Tomislav Sunic (who appeared as part of the fascist ‘Sydney Forum’). Locally, the Melbourne Croatia Social Club played host to a neo-Nazi gig in October 2007, and a few months later, Festival Hall was the venue for the ‘controversial’ Thompson (aka Marko Perković). A thinker as well as a musician and singer/songwriter, in 2004 Thompson was barred from performing in Amsterdam. In response, Perković stated: “I have nothing against the Jews, but neither did Jesus Christ, yet still they crucified Him.”
Thompson’s reputation as a right-thinking individual on the The Jewish Question was confirmed in November 2009, when he received the blessing of the Pope (a man who himself had a youthful infatuation with Nazism). See : Empörung nach Papst-Audienz für kroatischen Skandal-Sänger, Spiegel, November 21, 2009 | Pope Gives Audience to Croatian Fascist Musician, Kirklees Unity, November 24, 2009 | The role of the Catholic Church in Yugoslavia’s holocaust: 1941-1945, Seán Mac Mathún, libcom.org.
Of late, the Uglies in NSW have gone to splitsville, and war has broken out between two rival factions, one led by Clarke, the other by the former anointed Alex Hawke. See : Holy warriors pitch for Liberal seats, Phillip Coorey, The Sydney Morning Herald, July 28, 2009; Irfan Yusuf, NSW Libs at loggerheads as intra-factional action heats up, Crikey, July 28, 2009; Liberal Party branch meeting turns ugly, ABC, October 1, 2009.
As for Croatian fascism in Australia, the late Denis Freney provides the following account; on Croatian terrorism, see: ‘Firebombs and fascists’, Jeff Sparrow and Jill Sparrow, Radical Melbourne 2, Vulgar Press, 2004, pp.147–151.
The HDP (Croatian Movement for Statehood) never hid its admiration for the Ustasha puppet regime established after Hitler’s troops conquered Croatia and the rest of Yugoslavia in 1941. Like other Ustasha groups in the West, it celebrated April 10, the date the neo-Nazi regime was established. It glorified the Ustasha fuehrer Pavelic and General Luburic who were responsible for the massacres of hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Jews, Gypsies and anti-fascist Croats.
The HDP leader was Nicola Stedul, who left Yugoslavia in 1956 for West Germany to join the movement headed by Pavelic and later a rival one, the HNO (Croatian National Resistance) headed by Lubiric. He was an HNO representative in Australia from 1966 to 1971, a time when the HNO and other radical Ustasha groups carried out a series of bomb attacks. The then Liberal Government and ASIO outrageously covered up for those responsible for these bombings. The SWP at the time condemned these terrorist attacks.
The HNO, which later became the HDP, was also on record as carrying out numerous terrorist attacks in Western Europe. In one attack, HDP hero, Miro Baresic, assassinated the Yugoslav Ambassador in Sweden in 1971. He was released the following year when Ustasha terrorists hijacked a jet. He went to Spain, then Paraguay, where he joined the death squads of the dictator Stroesner. Baresic was arrested in the USA by the FBI and returned to prison in Sweden.
The neo-Nazi credentials of the HDP were as clear as a pike-staff. But they also tried to woo the left. Stedul formed the “Socialist Party of Croatia” in exile precisely for the purpose. In Australia, they approached Left Labor figures …and the SWP. Only the SWP welcomed them.
In 1982, the HDP tried to march on May Day in Melbourne and received a hostile reception. The SWP took up their cause and for the next few years campaigned vigorously on their behalf against every other section of the left and progressive movement who pointed out the HDP’s attitude to the Ustasha and its terrorist and neo-Nazi links. It was pointed out that in the early 1970s, war criminals here such as Srecko Rover tried to woo the Left and that early Ustasha and then the HDP had a well documented record of trying to woo the Soviets ever since the Tito split with Stalin in 1948.
What were the reasons for the SWP’s blind endorsement of these Ustasha? SWP leader David Holmes wrote in August 1983 that “the HDP leaders are revolutionaries…As a result of the collaboration between the HDP and the SWP and also through the development of the class struggle in this country, many more Croatians will come to see the need to build a revolutionary workers’ party here and fight to overthrow capitalism.”
It is easy to see the very special “entrism” involved here. It is into a whole community – there were then over 150 000 Croatian migrants in the Australian workforce. The HDP had some support among them. By “collaborating” with them, the SWP hoped to recruit among that community which would see the need for a “revolutionary workers’ party” (that is, naturally the SWP/DSP). It is a very big raiding party involved; a couple of hundred SWPers taking over the Croatian community… Such is the stuff of dreams!
Enough then to ignore what the HDP actually wrote about the Ustasha regime, enough to even lionise the terrorist neo-Nazi Baresic in the columns of Direct Action (now “Green Left Weekly”).
The SWP did recruit a few HDP members into their ranks, but after all their abject apologising for the HDP, its leaders here soon broke off links with the SWP, precisely because the SWP was trying to recruit its members. Even then, the SWP refused to criticise the HDP or admit its error, speaking of it following a “rightwing drift” in 1984, although its extreme-right credentials were available well before.
See also : Joan Coxsedge, Ken Coldicutt and Gerry Harrant’s Rooted in Secrecy: the clandestine element in Australian politics, esp. ‘One, Two, Three — Ustasha Are We!’, pp.43-59.