In his latest column, tabloid hack and global climate change scientician Andrew Bolt has made another stunning revelation: Michael Duffy once called himself an anarchist! Which prompts the exclamatory remark: who the hell is Michael Duffy? Well, apparently he has a gig at another corporation, the ABC. Further, “The ABC’s token “conservative” turns out not only to be a former anarchist and admiring biographer of crazed Labor leader Mark Latham, but after a couple of years with the ABC has given his first-ever vote to — surprise! not! — the Greens”. Yes, further truthiness regarding the ABC’s role as Communist front.
Whatever. Apparently, as a recent graduate (1978) of Macquarie University, Duffy “joined an anarchist group”; much to the horror of his middle class parents (‘Right every time’, Debra Jopson, Sydney Morning Herald, July 5, 2003). Gerard ‘I’m-not-a-member-of-the-lunar-right, no-really’ Henderson claims elsewhere that “Writing in The Bulletin on July 20, 1999, Catharine Lumby commented that columnist and publisher Michael Duffy “once ran an anarchist bookshop in Sydney”‘ (‘The battle is not to be left behind’, The Age, December 24, 2002). If so, that would mean Duffy was once a member of either the Black Rose or — more likely, given the time-frame — Jura collectives, but I can find no independent verification for that claim. Duffy soon came to his middle class senses, in any case, and pissed off to pursue a career as a government bureaucrat, editor (Independent Monthly 1993–1996 (1989–1996)), failed publisher (Duffy & Snellgrove 1996–2004/5; as reason for its closure, one source cites poor sales, another the impact of the GST(?)), and most recently as an(other) opinionated yuppie.
Oddly, in the last few years, and as part of his ongoing polemic against the environmental movement (and The Greens in particular), Bolt has seized on the work of an anarchist historian, Peter Staudenmaier, in particular the book he co-authored with Janet Biehl (Murray Bookchin‘s partner), Ecofascism: Lessons From the German Experience (AK Press, 1996 and online):
The reappearance of fascism in many western countries threatens all the freedoms the left movements have managed to gain over the last half century. Equally disconcerting is the attempt by fascist ideologists and political groups to use ecology in the service of social reaction. This effort is not without long historical roots in Germany, both in its nineteenth-century romanticism and in the Third Reich in the present century. In order to preserve the liberatory aspects of ecology, the authors, as social ecologists, explore the German experience of fascism and derive from it historical lessons about the political use of ecology. Including two essay[s] — “Fascist Ideology: The Green Wing of the Nazi Party and its Historical Antecedents” and “Ecology and the Modernization of Fascism in the German Ultra-Right” — Ecofascism examines aspects of German fascism, past and present, in order to draw essential lessons from them for ecology movements both in Germany and elsewhere.
That Hitler was a ‘green’ is false (as is the more popular claim that Hitler was a vegetarian). Nevertheless, in a column published on July 17, 2003, Bolt cited Staudenmaier’s work as supporting his argument that the contemporary environmental movement is an expression of fascism; hence the jocular title: ‘Are green activists closet Nazis?’. Later that same year, Tory Senator George Brandis, inspired by Bolt’s genius, also cited Staudenmaier’s work, and, like Bolt:
The book that caught Senator Brandis’s attention is titled Ecofascism: Lessons from the German Experience. Along with my co-author Janet Biehl, I explore there the little-known legacy of right-wing ecology and its appropriation by one faction of the Nazi party in the 1930s. Our book says quite explicitly that there is no inherent connection between classical fascism and contemporary Green politics. What gave rise to the convergence of ecology and fascism seventy years ago was a specific set of historical circumstances and a specific version of ecological thinking, which our book examines in detail.
The excerpts which Senator Brandis presented to his colleagues ignored this crucial context, and thus failed to do justice both to the very grave history that the book recounts, as well as to the current relevance of these issues in today’s world.
Moreover, the concrete parallels that Brandis emphasized -– an ostensible excess of radical zeal on the part of some Australian Greens, as well as their supposedly cynical attitude toward democratic institutions -– are at best tangentially related to the ideological commonalities between environmentalism and fascism that my research reveals.
The Nazis certainly did not come to power because the predecessors of the Greens in Germany were too vocal in their opposition to the militarist and authoritarian tendencies of their day.
It is possible that the Australian Greens are indeed awash in mystical and antihumanist ideas, as Senator Brandis’s portrait would have it; to comment on that question exceeds my competence. If such is the case, however, it scarcely means that fascism is on its way.
Perhaps Brandis’s ill-considered invocation of the rise of Nazism will have a salutary effect after all, if it spurs his intended targets among the Greens to study this background further. For the present, however, it would seem that vociferous disagreement with the status quo -– even if its tenor is too strident for some -– represents a significant bulwark against political demagoguery, not a step toward dictatorship.
That Senator Brandis apparently confused this sort of vigorous dissent with the lack of dissent that allowed fascism to flourish in the first place indicates that we still have a lot to learn from the history of political shortsightedness…
See also : Brandis defends Greens-Nazis comments, Lateline, October 21, 2003