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Issue #1659      October 8, 2014

Editorial

Answer offensive of the right with unity of the left

A poisonous cloud of intolerance is descending on Australia. Xenophobia and racism, including institutional racism, have long been features of Australian society but these blights are worsening with encouragement coming from the highest levels of government. Progressive Australians need to face some disturbing possibilities in the current political situation and stand firm on the principles of inclusiveness and solidarity.

In Europe the trend is clearer. Thugs from neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn roam the streets of Greece beating immigrants and activists from the political left. The anti-immigrant UK Independence Party (UKIP) has welcomed two defecting Conservative MPs into its bigoted ranks in recent times as its electoral fortunes continue to rise. Jobbik is confident it will govern Hungary in its own right in the near future as the post-socialist political and social crisis deepens. Marine Le Pen’s far right National Front recently won its first senate seats in France as part of its seemingly relentless rise. And, of course, anti-Semitic and openly fascist forces spearheaded a pro-NATO coup in the Ukraine at the beginning of the year with ongoing, devastating consequences.

Ambitious politicians of the familiar opportunist type are sensing that there is a future in promoting ideas and policies that would once have been considered fringe or red-neck. In Australia, the incessant attacks on asylum seekers carried out in the media and the right-wing of Australian politics are bearing their putrid fruit. There is also the airing of intolerant views regarding the wearing of the burqa worn by some Muslim women. So has the anti-terrorist hysteria being whipped up as the Australian military is deployed once more in the Middle East. The results were inevitable – there has been a spate of attacks on Australian Muslims, including women and children, and damage caused to their property.

The current burqa debate regarding spurious “security” concerns at the Federal Parliament has been instructive. Most right-wing parliamentarians line up behind Tony Abbott’s disdain for the head-covering. He finds it “confronting” and wishes it wasn’t worn at all in Australia. The PM has expressed belated reservations about moves to isolate women wearing the burqa inside the chambers of Federal Parliament. At the same time as stirring up antagonism towards wearers of the garb, he doesn’t want to alienate the Coalition’s remaining (but dwindling) numbers of small ‘l’ liberal voters and supporters.

South Australian Senator Cori Bernardi has spent a lot of his political career crusading for his own very conservative brand of “Christian” values. He advocates a zero tolerance approach to the burqa as does PUP senator for Tasmania, Jacquie Lambie. They have been busy feeding the corporate media what it loves the most – fuel for controversy and division.

Outside the Federal Parliament, far-right “Christian” party Rise Up Australia will welcome climate change denier Lord Christopher Mockton and disgraced Victorian MP Geoff Shaw to a campaign meeting as the group prepares to step up its challenge to right-wing status quo. Party head, Catch the Fire Ministries president Danny Nalliah, is pushing hostility to Islam to its limits. “Tony Abbott called the ISIS group in Iraq and Syria a death cult. I go one step further. I call Islam the death cult,” the pastor said.

The potential for various demagogues and other opportunists to come together in a political party or alliance with an even more extreme agenda than the one currently being pursued is deeply disturbing. An Australian UKIP, Jobbik or even Golden Dawn is not unimaginable. One Nation was killed off by the Coalition when it essentially adopted Pauline Hanson’s xenophobic immigration policies. But new forces are busy working out how to capture more political territory for the extreme right. Mr Nalliah says he has been approached by current politicians keen to stitch up preference deals and Rise Up Australia, the Australian Christians and the Democratic Labor Party have agreed to direct preferences to one another.

This growing unity on the right and its potential must be answered by the unity of left and progressive forces, including those within the trade union movement. The attacks being directed at Muslims in Australia must be resisted with action grounded in the principles of solidarity and inclusiveness. This struggle is a crucial part of the fight back against the whole anti-people agenda of the Abbott government.

Next article – Jewish-Israeli academic’s marathon walk for Palestine

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