Recently, I uploaded a copy of John Huxley’s article ‘Armed, dangerous but shocking organisers’ (Sydney Morning Herald, December 20, 2005). It purported to explore the Australian ‘neo-Nazi underground’. According to Huxley: “For those with the time and the stomach to wade around the internet, neo-Nazis and their near neighbours, the white supremacists, are not difficult to find”. But what else did Huxley discover that allowed him to conclude that contemporary neo-Nazis living in Australia are ‘armed’, ‘dangerous’ but — fortunately — ‘shocking organisers’?
The first few paragraphs of Huxley’s article establishes the framework for his argument that contemporary Australian neo-Nazis are of “limited intelligence” and have quite bizarre “preoccupations”: nothing especially newsworthy in this observation. However, did they really have “little” to do with ‘Cronulla’ and its aftermath?
Prompted by reported sightings of racist flyers, inflammatory text messages, shaven heads, black boots and swastika tattoos, NSW Deputy Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione has promised to investigate neo-Nazi activity.
Fears that extreme right-wing groups may have been involved appear to have been confirmed by the revelation that white supremacists were among those subsequently arrested. Clearly, they were present and armed.
A pity Huxley does not source his claim that Scipione‘s promise to investigate neo-Nazi activity was prompted by such “sightings”. In reality, such ‘sights’ are — rather like the insight that neo-Nazis are stupid — not that uncommon. Well, not to those with the eyes to see.
But how well organised are such groups? How significant are they in the Australian political landscape? And what part did they play in the Cronulla riots and their aftermath?
Ah! After gently taking the hand of the (no doubt, culturally sensitive) liberal reader and, leading them out of their safe urban ghetto and into this bewilderingly ugly and marginal political landscape, Huxley zeroes in on his target.
While ugly and – given their weaponry, highly dangerous – the involvement of such individuals should not be exaggerated, says Associate Professor Andrew Moore, of the University of Western Sydney, a specialist in Australian right-wing politics.
Oh! So one should be alert but not alarmed. Then again, what qualifies Andrew Moore to comment on contemporary neo-Nazi activism in Australia? According to Huxley, Moore’s qualifications rest on the fact that Moore’s “a specialist in Australian right-wing politics”. I’ve searched for online publications which might support Huxley’s claim, and discovered the following:
Moore — along with Dr John Perkins — has just recently edited a special thematic issue of Labour History: ‘Old wine and new bottles: the extreme right in twentieth century Australia’. Moore’s editorial statement in this issue of the journal, like the six essays which it introduces, concentrates on history, especially early- to mid- 20th Century Australian history. The only article which is in any way contemporary is Murray Goot’s essay on ‘Pauline Hanson’s One Nation: Extreme Right, Centre Party or Extreme Left?’. As the title suggests, its focus is on placing One Notion on the political spectrum of Left to Right. Further, Moore’s book on fascism in Australia — published almost 11 years ago now — is also an historical account.
In essence, one might say that Moore is very well-qualified as an historian of the far right in Australia, but his qualifications to comment on contemporary neo-Nazi events, groups, individuals and projects in Australia are far less credible.
(Oh, and what “weaponry” is Huxley referring to?)
“I’m sure they’d like to take responsibility for all of the Cronulla events, but in terms of impact, of shaping the events, they would have been insignificant.
“The reality is that Prime Minister Howard probably had more to do with the riots in terms of generating racial tension than they have over the past few years.”
That does not mean they should not be taken seriously.
The danger is that, fuelled by alcohol, equipped with the latest communications and inspired by right-wing groups in Europe, they can exploit, escalate and inflame community friction. French anarchists had a word for it: situationism.
Oh dear… Moore reckons that contemporary Australian neo-Nazi activists would be more than happy to “take responsibility” for the racist assaults at Cronulla on Sunday, December 11, 2005; while in reality, they do not ‘deserve’ being given ‘credit’ for such an achievement as their involvement was “insignificant”.
Moore offers no evidence to support his contention; he’s obviously speculating. Nevertheless, Huxley is happy to agree with his expert’s speculations. So too, presumably, Moore’s identification of the Howard Government as playing a role in “generating racial tension”.
As for the ‘danger’ Huxley detects in contemporary neo-Nazi activism…
‘Situationism’ is not, in fact, a term used by ‘French anarchists’ to describe the manner in which, “fuelled by alcohol, equipped with the latest communications and inspired by right-wing groups in Europe, [contemporary Australian neo-Nazi activists] can exploit, escalate and inflame community friction”.
In fact, the term ‘Situationism’ is derived from an actual organisation: the Situationist International (1957 — 1972). While generally described as being ‘anarchic’, the group itself was not anarchist. If anything, the ideas and practices of the SI derived from Marx, Hegel, and the European artistic, literary and political avant-gardes of the early- to mid- twentieth century; especially Surrealism. Granted, Huxley’s hardly the first to mis-characterise the SI. Still, one wonders what he means. What exactly is “it” that “the French anarchists” called “situationism”? The danger that “they” — neo-Nazi / extreme right-wing / White supremacist groups such as “Aryan Nations, Skinheads, Volksfront, Redwatch and White-Sydney” — will get pissed and destroy? If so, what on Earth does this have to do with French anarchists? Which French anarchists? Or “situationism” (sic)? French anarchists frequently clash with fascists. And “situationism” doesn’t exist!
The journal Internationale Situationniste defined situationist as “having to do with the theory or practical activity of constructing situations.” The same journal defined situationism as “a meaningless term improperly derived from the above. There is no such thing as situationism, which would mean a doctrine of interpretation of existing facts. The notion of situationism is obviously devised by antisituationists.”
Ahem. To resume:
“Australian fascism may not have produced an antipodean Kristallnacht [Germany’s “night of broken glass” in 1938 when synagogues were destroyed], but neither should its force or appeal be underestimated in the ‘quiet continent’,” says Professor Moore, author of a biography of Frank de Groot. “The Sydney Harbour Bridge incident is invariably remembered as humorous, but to do that diminishes the reality of right-wing extremism in Australia.”
For the Antipodean reader, Kristallnacht is presumably the first thing that springs to mind when thinking ‘Nazi riot’; Moore claims that the incident at The Coathanger — the principal protagonist Frank de Groot being, incidentally, the subject of a biography by Moore — is the closest thing we have to an Australian equivalent. Moore’s final words are cautionary ones: to remember this incident as humorous would “diminish… the reality of right-wing extremism in Australia”.
First, let’s rewind to 1938: ‘Kristallnacht’.
On the nights of November 9 and 10, rampaging mobs throughout Germany and the newly acquired territories of Austria and Sudetenland freely attacked Jews in the street, in their homes and at their places of work and worship. At least 96 Jews were killed and hundreds more injured, more than 1,000 synagogues were burned (and possibly as many as 2,000), almost 7,500 Jewish businesses were destroyed, cemeteries and schools were vandalized, and 30,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps. [Hence, in the opinion of some, more deserving of the name Pogromnacht. Wikipedia again:] Today in official German sources it is mostly called Pogromnacht (“pogrom night”), reflecting the fear that “Kristallnacht” was too euphemistic given the fact that the original dimension of the term has been lost. Many other Germans refuse to call it that way; the perversity, obscenity and uniqueness of the Reichskristallnacht was only described in the proper name “Kristallnacht”, and “Pogromnacht” itself was an euphemism.
Now, to 1932, Frank de Groot, and that incident. First though, it should be noted that no mobs throughout Australia and the newly acquired territory of New Zealand freely attacked Jews in the street, in their homes and at their places of work and worship. Further, no Jews were killed, nor hundreds more injured; no synagogues were burned, no Jewish businesses destroyed. Jewish cemeteries and schools were left unmolested. Finally, no Jews were arrested or sent to non-existent concentration camps. What happened was:
Frank de Groot, [an] antiques dealer and New Guardsmen… slashed the opening ribbon of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in March 1932, depriving Premier Jack Lang of the kudos.
While seemingly trivial(!), according to Moore:
Captain De Groot’s legendary deed – of slashing the opening ribbon of the Sydney Harbour Bridge on 19 March 1932 – was of immense consequence to the continuing stability of responsible government and parliamentary democracy in New South Wales. The New Guard was actively plotting to unseat a democratically elected government. De Groot may have warded off more militant elements within the New Guard from more extreme action, including a possible coup d’etat and kidnapping of the New South Wales premier. Part of the folklore of the city of Sydney, at the very least De Groot’s deed may be seen as a partial circuit breaker of the tensions of a highly volatile political situation.
Well, it may be considered humorous by some, and it may be considered by others as being “of immense consequence to the continuing stability of responsible government and parliamentary democracy in New South Wales”, but it has nothing to do with neo-Nazi / extreme right-wing / White supremacist groups such as Aryan Nations, Skinheads, Volksfront, Redwatch and White-Sydney.
Dr. Jim Saleam, on the other hand, is quite a different proposition.
Although his political views are almost diametrically opposed to those of Professor Moore, Dr Jim Saleam, NSW secretary of the Australia First Party, agrees that the true number of neo-Nazis is small.
OK, so Dr. Jim Saleam — our second ‘expert’ — is the NSW [read: Sydney] secretary of the Australia First Party, and, despite having political views which are “almost diametrically opposed” to those of Moore, agrees with him “that the true number of neo-Nazis [in Australia] is small”.
A few questions occur to me at this stage:
1) What are Moore’s political views?
2) How many neo-Nazis does he think there are in Australia?
1) If Moore has political views, they’re not stated in this article. This makes it a litle difficult to conclude anything at all about Saleam’s “diametrically opposed” views.
2) Presumably, given Moore’s concerns that “the involvement of [neo-Nazis at Cronulla] should not be exaggerated”, they number A student of the so-called “Kangarooreich”, [Saleam] has identified several “criminal-political gangs”, such as White Power, Aryan Guard and the Australian National Socialist Movement.
‘Kangarooreich’ is in fact the term Saleam uses to describe Australian neo-Nazism. His site ‘Inside The Kangaroo Reich: Selected Materials On Australian Neo-Nazis And Other Dirty Tricks Operations Against Freedom Of Expression In Australia’, was established in October 2002, and contains numerous articles by Saleam, mostly concentrating on elaborating his thesis that: “…the real Kangaroo Reich is neither the shouting street neo-nazi, nor the would-be media fuhrer, but the shadowy trained coordinators who call the tune, the intelligence agents and others who are the real gestapo-like thought and political police of our time.” In essence, then, contemporary Australian neo-Nazism / the ‘Kangaroo Reich’, is, according to Saleam the Expert, little more than a government plot.
A pity Huxley failed to include this revelation in his article.
“They absorb some of the Nazi motifs and style themselves that way, but they’re defined more by their criminality than by Nazi ideology,” says Dr Saleam, who received his doctorate at Sydney University for a thesis examining contemporary Australian extreme-right ideology, politics and organisation.
“There are people who believe in the ideology, but in Australia they probably number no more than two dozen.”
Saleam, the expert on contemporary Australian neo-Nazism — or should that be expert contemporary neo-Nazi? — is, unlike Moore, at least able to put a figure on the number of neo-Nazis in Australia: “probably… no more than two dozen”.
This is a lot less than 5,000.
Of course, Saleam is at pains to distinguish between this group — presumably ‘genuine’ neo-Nazis — and those other groups — “such as White Power, Aryan Guard and the Australian National Socialist Movement” — that are inauthentic “criminal-political gangs”. But who are these groups?
While not referrring to the article by name, it appears that Huxley has read Saleam’s article ‘”Racist” Criminal-Political Gangs Are No Friends Of Ours’ (dated November 28, 2005), in which Saleam names the following groups as being particularly disruptive to the activities of non-criminal political gangs such as, presumably, Australia First and the Patriotic Youth League: White Power (Adelaide), the Australian National Socialist Movement (ANSM) (Brisbane), Aryan Guard (Melbourne), The (Gary) Middap group (Melbourne), The ‘men in black’ security group (Melbourne), The White Devils (Perth) and The Snowtown Murderers (Adelaide).
Q. Why does Saleam place the term “racist” in quotation marks?
Moreover, [Saleam] explains, they tend to be more interested in alcohol, and crime, than ideas. They are poor organisers. They splinter into ever smaller groups.
The message? Nothing to see here: move along! (Although it’s interesting to note that Saleam appears to believe that alcohol, crime and neo-Nazi ideology are incompatible. Another revelation that Huxley has failed to highlight?)
Members of the Australia First Party – whose NSW members probably number only in the hundreds – were in Cronulla when the [first] rioting occurred, distributing flyers calling for a crackdown on “refugees, contract labour, overseas students and illegals”.
According to Saleam, presumably. Writing for The Age, Richard Baker (‘Australia First: reclaiming the agenda’, December 14, 2005) claims Australia First “mobilised 120 people to attend Sunday’s violent rally in Cronulla”. Their flyer purportedly distributed at the ‘riot’ is not available; however, Saleam did produce a text in anticipation of the rally cum riot in which he stated: “All members and friends of Australia First, particularly those in the Sutherland Shire, will participate as individuals in this first great mobilisation of Australians against the terror of multiculturalist ideology and practise in this country’s history.”
But who is Dr Jim Saleam? And why is he so agitated by “the terror of multiculturalist ideology”?