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Issue #1741      July 27, 2016

Stop the racist right!

The election of Pauline Hanson and other One Nation candidates to the Senate is just one indicator of an alarming trend. Hanson has ridden a wave of racism, nationalism and anti-scientific attitudes into Parliament. These sentiments had already been stirred up by major conservative parties and by hate-mongers in the corporate media. The resuscitated career of the anti-intellectual icon from Queensland and the emergence of a brace of other extreme right political forces are not an exclusively Australian phenomenon.

Similar scenarios are playing out across the capitalist world as economic crisis bites hard, governments make savage cuts to social spending, corporate taxes are cut and working people are expected to foot the bill for massive military budgets. Racism and other scapegoats and distractions are trotted out to divert attention from the real causes of the crises facing the working class.

The left has a mighty challenge on its hands to defeat these enemies of reason and humanity.

Hanson knows how to play the populist, to instil fear in an environment where people are already feeling insecure over their jobs, wages, the future of Medicare, housing and what future their children have.

It should not come as a surprise that One Nation had its best results in working class suburban and rural electorates where discontent with the major parties is the greatest.

Fuelling hatred and division

Hanson and her ilk fuel hatred and division. They know how to tap into people’s fears and ignorance. The corporate media play a key role in keeping people in the dark with a constant stream of non-news and out-right lies about the economy, government policy, Australia’s involvement in US wars, the so-called “illegal” asylum seekers and other important issues.

A massive operation is also underway in the media and elsewhere in the ideological apparatus to trivialise the left and other progressive forces that embrace concepts of equality, collectivity and multi-culturalism. Indulgence is being encouraged for ideas once correctly identified as ignorant and harmful, as fuelling hatred, division and even violence.

Not a day goes by where there is not some beat-up about the threat of terrorism, of Muslims as terrorists, of Halal food being forced on an unwitting public, that Islam is not a religion and so on. All concepts taken up and exploited by Hanson and other ultra-right outfits.

“Australia is a country built on Christian values,” Hanson claims. In the next breath, she says Australia is a secular society, that she supports secularism. “Secularism is asserting the right to be free from religious rule and teachings or, in a state declared to be neutral on matters of belief, from the imposition by government or religion or religious practices upon the people,” Hanson says.

Her election material also played on the fears whipped up by “stop the boats” sloganising and policies on asylum seekers of the Abbott/Turnbull government. The fear of Australia being swamped by Muslim asylum seekers landing on Australia’s shores and posing a threat to Australia’s, read Christian, “values” and way of life.

Scapegoating

Today it is the Muslim community that is scapegoated. When Hanson was elected to the Senate in 2001 she targeted Asians as the threat to “Australian values”.

“I and most Australians want our immigration policy radically reviewed and that of multiculturalism abolished,” she told the Senate in her first speech in 2001.

“I believe we are in danger of being swamped by Asians. Between 1984 and 1995, 40 per cent of all migrants coming into this country were of Asian origin.

“They have their own culture and religion, form ghettos and do not assimilate…

“A truly multicultural country can never be strong or united. The world is full of failed and tragic examples, ranging from Ireland to Bosnia to Africa and, closer to home, Papua New Guinea. America and Great Britain are currently paying the price,” Hanson said.

The latter remark reveals her ignorance regarding the history of colonialisation and foreign occupations.

Yet, Australia is a nation of migrants, a highly successful society built on multiculturalism with people of many races, cultures, and religions living in harmony. Every family, apart from those of the Indigenous Australians, are migrants or refugees or their descendants.

The real threat to this harmony is the ultra-right politics of One Nation, Reclaim Australia and other extremist right-wing groups.

Institutional racism

Hanson’s election also arises from a spike in institutional racism. Right-wing commentators like the Australian’s Jennifer Oriel alleges that the “left” has successfully substituted “minority rights” for the inclusive values of what she refers to as “western civilisation”.

The facts tell a different story. Aboriginal deaths in custody are on the rise again. More Aboriginal children are being removed from their homes today than in 1997 when the Bringing them Home Report was handed down. That document led to former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s apology to the Stolen Generations.

Authorities, including the Australian Human Rights Commission, that highlight the suffering of Aboriginal people, refugees and other minorities are dismissed as “activist organisations” and should be abolished.

Hanson has some strong support within Liberal Party ranks on this question.

Advice from a past master

Former conservative Prime Minister John Howard is full of advice for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in this connection. During the election campaign, Turnbull said he would not welcome Pauline Hanson’s presence in the Parliament. Howard thinks that attitude is ill-advised.

He may feel a debt of gratitude to Hanson for paving the way for the “Tampa” and “children overboard” election of 2001. One Nation was destroyed at the polls when the Coalition essentially stole the upstart party’s immigration and refugee policies.

“I didn’t agree with her when she said we were being flooded by Asians because we weren’t,” Howard said in the media. “And I didn’t agree with her when she said the Aboriginal people weren’t among the most disadvantaged in our community because those things were manifestly wrong.

“But I understand that she was articulating the concerns of people who felt left out and I was very critical of people who branded everybody who supported her as a racist because that is nonsense.

“We are not a racist country and I wish people would stop reaching for the adjective whenever they want to isolate somebody who they don’t agree with.”

Howard’s anti-racist credentials are not strong and his claim that Australia is not a racist country won’t fly. But his encouragement and that of other “conservative” spokespersons to those who want to put their “concerns” out there is definitely cutting through.

Nine TV presenter Sonia Kruger got some criticism but a lot of sympathetic reinforcement when she said on air that she wants a halt to Muslim immigration so she can feel safe. She said, with total disregard for glaring facts, that Japan has no history of terrorism because it has no Muslim population – wrong on both counts.

Ignorant attitudes and anecdotes that until recently were the preserve of Reclaim Australia, the United Patriots Front and social media trolls are moving to centre stage and even being touted on the public broadcaster, the ABC.

Rightward drift

The scene is repeated in country after country. US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has promised to halt the immigration of Muslims and to build an exclusion wall across the US-Mexico border. There is not doubt that, while the Brexit vote was one in the eye of capitalist globalising planners, it also reflected xenophobic feelings fanned by the right wing UKIP party.

Across Europe there is the rise and rise of the National Front in France, the Jobbik in Hungary, Golden Dawn in Greece and so on.

In Australia, analysts note that in the recent federal election, more Australians (roughly 22 percent) voted for extreme right-wing parties like the Australian Liberty Alliance, the anti-immigration Sustainable Australia, the anti-vaccine Health Australia Party and Family First than voted for the Nationals. The left’s results, by comparison, were extremely modest. There is a lot of hand-wringing about the disappointing performance overall of the Greens.

The challenge from the right is racist, xenophobic and religiously intolerant but is also anti-science. Hanson wants zero net immigration, a ban on Muslim migration, the installation of closed circuit TV to monitor mosques and Islamic schools and a Royal Commission into Islam itself.

She also wants to investigate the Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO for involvement in what she believes is a conspiracy to favour the international consensus around climate change. One Nation Senate colleague Malcolm Roberts wants “climate scepticism” taught in schools.

Fighting back

Despite the dramatic swing to the right in the recent period, disaffected Liberal Senator Cori Bernardi is annoyed at the presence of voices for moderation on some issues within his Party. He has been rallying “conservatives” (extreme right-wingers) into various well-resourced organisations to advance his agenda.

Bernadi has a string of these initiatives to his name; the latest being the Australian Conservatives, which he is building with fellow Coalition MP George Christensen. They feel the need to counter the influence of progressive lobbying groups, most notably GetUp!.

The right is networking and building. Years of persistent work, supported by major institutions of the capitalist state, are advancing their reactionary political agenda. The left, i.e. the forces wishing to move Australia to a socialist future with a culture genuinely reflecting the multicultural nature of Australian society, won’t have that sort of backing. But it will have to unite as never before and gather the support of the decisive force for progressive change, for workers and other exploited people. The alternative, anti-human right-wing agenda is becoming clearer. It must not pass!

Next article – Editorial – Olympics as political tool

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