On September 8, 2007, approximately 15—30 individuals, all white, mostly young, and overwhelmingly male, dressed in black clothing and wearing caps, dark glasses and scarves, gathered in a group outside of Sydney Town Hall as part of a public protest against the APEC summit, scheduled to take place elsewhere in Sydney that weekend. The group carried with them three long banners — with slogans reading ‘Australia: Free Nation – Or Sheep Station?’, ‘Globalisation is Genocide’ and ‘Power to the People, Not Political Parties’ – which were joined together to form a three-sided bloc, within which those gathered assembled to form a ‘black bloc’. The group also distributed a leaflet, and claimed to belong to a group known as the ‘New Right’, one which — as other statements on the banners and on the leaflet stated — consists of ‘National Anarchists’ espousing a ‘Traditional-European Revolutionary’ philosophy. This brief essay examines ‘New Right’ philosophy and its origins in Europe, the emergence of this groupsucule in Australia, and argues that it can best be understood as the latest incarnation in a European-based trend in neo-fascist ideology and practice.
Who or what is the New Right? In Australia, the group was established in late 2005, largely via the efforts of one man, a German-born, Sydney-based businessman named Welf Herfurth. Herfurth has a long history of involvement in the far right, having been a member of the Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands (NPD) prior to his arrival as an immigrant in 1987, and following that a member first of the Democrats, and then of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party (ONP), serving as the vice-president of the New South Wales state branch (under David Oldfield) and as President of ONP’s Riverstone branch. More recently, from its inception in 2001, Herfurth has served as MC, and as one of the principal organisers — along with Dr. James Saleam of the Australia First Party (AF) — of the annual Sydney Forum. In this capacity, in 2007, Herfurth helped to arrange the visit to Australia of Croatian fascist Dr. Tomislav Sunic, a key New Right thinker, and in previous years has attempted, unsuccessfully, to arrange for a number of key members of the NPD (Gerd Finkenwirth and Udo Voigt) to tour Australia and to address the Forum.
Subjected to a liberal, middle-class upbringing in post-war Germany, as a young man in the 1980s Herfurth rejected his parent’s liberal values to embrace those of the neo-Nazi movement, establishing a role for himself as a fascist militant. Since then, his politics have developed into a more sophisticated version of the crude neo-Nazism of his youth, one which retains an overriding commitment to race and nation, but shorn of the naked bigotry and crude political analysis which remains one of neo-Nazism’s hallmarks. In particular, Herfurth is part of a generation of far right activists heavily influenced by the philosophies of figures such as Alain de Benoist (1943–), a French intellectual who, beginning in the mid- to late-1970s especially, and together with a small group of others centred around the ‘ethno-nationalist’ think-tank GRECE (1968–), reinvigorated post-war fascist thinking. Part of this project consisted of popularising and critically re-examining the ideas of earlier thinkers such as Carl Schmitt (1888—1985) and Julius Evola (1898—1974), and thereby attempting to craft a philosophy that would somehow transcend the divide between the political left and right; all in the name of establishing a new political order in Europe – a ‘communitarian’ one consisting of nation-states, but under the domination of neither the then-Soviet Union or the United States. It was this posture which also fed into the (re-)development of ‘Third Position’ politics within the far right, one which even attracted the intellectual support of nominally Marxist thinkers such as Paul Piccone (1940—2004), editor of the US journal Telos.
Such is, necessarily, a much-simplified version of the political etymology of the New Right. Of most importance in relation to Herfurth and the New Right in Australia and Aotearoa (New Zealand), however, is their embrace of the idea of the transcendence of the left-right divide, and their commitment to elaborating a contemporary form of fascist politics; one attuned to the history of ideas, and one which recognises the necessity of building an extra-parliamentary social movement which is capable of responding to contemporary political realities, especially in the realm of popular culture. And it’s in the realm of popular culture that the idea of ‘national anarchism’ has greatest relevance.
Briefly then, ‘national anarchism’, at least as it’s understood by the New Right, is the means by which those grouped around Herfurth in particular, and New Right philosophies generally, seek to intervene in political struggle: “National-Anarchism represents the political embodiment of the European New Right — it is the political wing”. Before examining what this means in practice, however, it’s worth also briefly examining the short history of this rather unlikely doctrine.
In the English-speaking world, the figure most commonly associated with ‘national anarchism’ is the English activist, writer and musician Troy Southgate (1965–). A member of the National Front in the mid-80s, Southgate left it in the late ‘80s to join the ‘International Third Position’; left the ITP to form the ‘English Nationalist Movement’ in the early ‘90s; abandoned this not especially successful group in 1998 to form the ‘National Revolutionary Faction’; and following that declared himself to be a ‘national anarchist’. What this actually means in terms of ideology is a difficult question to answer. However, Graham D. Macklin (‘Co-opting the counter culture: Troy Southgate and the National Revolutionary Faction’, Patterns of Prejudice, Vol. 39, No. 3, 2005 [PDF]), for one at least, has tried to do so. He argues that:
When put into its wider context… ‘national-anarchism’ appears as one of many groupuscular responses to globalization, popular antipathy towards which Southgate sought to harness by aligning the NRF with the resurgence of anarchism whose heroes and slogans it arrogated, and whose sophisticated critiques of global capitalist institutions and state power it absorbed… Central to ‘national-anarchism’, however, is a far older paradigm drawn from conservative revolutionary thought, namely, the Anarch, a sovereign individual whose independence allows him to ‘turn in any direction’…
In practice, what this means, at least in part, is demonstrated by the emergence of the so-called ‘black bloc’ at APEC in September (from which the ‘Anarch’ Herfurth was conspicuously absent). Specifically — in addition in adopting the name of anarchism to advance a far right agenda — fascists seek to appropriate anarchist imagery and rhetoric. Like Herfurth himself, this tactic appears to have been born in Germany, where in the last 5—10 years, the neo-Nazi movement has increasingly sought to use the radical chic associated with ‘anarchism’ and ‘autonomism’ to recruit youth. (For example, in addition to appropriating fashions associated with anarchists and leftist youth, “autonomous nationalists” have for some years now formed ‘black blocs’ at public protests.)
In Sydney, the APEC ‘black bloc’ was the first public protest attended by the ‘national anarchists’ of the New Right, but given its success – in his online account of the protest, one pseudonymous member writes that “We were tremendously pleased, afterwards, that no arrests had occurred and that none of us had been physically assaulted. We had avoided identification, too” – it is unlikely to be the group’s last. Further, while the majority of its members appear to have been drawn from Sydney and Newcastle, a few travelled from Melbourne to attend, and it’s possible that others came from other parts of the country as well. It’s therefore possible that there will be other demonstrations in other cities; certainly, the New Right, on the basis of this success (however meagre), has the potential to draw towards it the many competing factions of the extra-parliamentary far right (including remnants of AF and the Patriotic Youth League (PYL), the more straightforwardly neo-Nazi Blood & Honour and the Hammerskins, as well as others) and in turn help stimulate the growth of a reinvigorated, if still tiny, fascist movement in Australia.
Finally, while the New Right’s adoption of ‘national anarchism’ may be considered bizarre, even comical, it nevertheless retains the potential not only to confuse the broader public with regards the nature of contemporary anarchism, its aims and methods, but also to confuse some who may be approaching anarchism as a serious political philosophy for the first time. As to the question of how to respond to the emergence in Australia of a small group of fascists in anarchist drag, it is beyond the scope of this very short introduction to the New Right to address. At a minimum, it would appear necessary to ensure that this confusion is addressed publicly, in both theory and practice, and the sooner, the better.
- Further reading: Kevin Coogan’s Dreamer of the Day: Francis Parker Yockey and the Postwar Fascist International, Autonomedia, New York, 1999, provides an exhaustive account of the far right in Europe and North America following the end of the Second World War, and much of the background to the emergence of the New Right and associated ideologies and movements in the last few decades, and is highly recommended.
* ‘All Hail the New Right’ is a song (1988) by Sydney band The Trilobites. I’m pretty sure that ‘Yes they’ve got a video’, but I can’t find it anywhere on YouTube, unfortunately. Anyway, searching for some further scraps of information, I stumbled upon Wilfully Obscure, a blog dedicated to resurrecting some (other) choice musical cuts. Or, kinda like an online review of all the albums you might find at Dixon’s. As for The Trilobites, “Like The Godfathers and The Jam, whom the Trilobites appear to be heavily deriving their influences from, these Sydney bad boys dispensed taught, no-nonsense rock and roll with all the penetrating hooks and vigorous guitar chops one could ever hope for”. So there. And on a related note, here’s The Rifles: