The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

Confusion on the Right and Antifa on the Left

The recent rallies held across the country have been thought-provoking to say the least. Ostensibly, they were about Australia’s attitude to Islam, but in terms of revealing or resolving this attitude they have achieved next to nothing. While I’m certain that both sides had a great deal to say on the issue, all that seems to have filtered through to the media is reports of violence on one day and then reports of its absence the next. What the rallies have done, however, has been to shine a spotlight on some of the more extreme elements of Australian politics.

I spent the last two posts looking at the far right groups that have recently been the loudest. I focussed on these groups because of their relative novelty and, in the case of Reclaim Australia, the intermittent ability to rally significant numbers to their cause, something which has recently been missing from hoary old dinosaurs like Australia First and the Hanson bedevilled One Nation. Of course, the unifying factor amongst all these far right factions and parties has been confusion. The simple fact of the matter is that nobody can really discover what it is they want because they themselves are generally incapable of framing, clarifying or communicating their grievances or their visions for the future. They are nothing more than parties of complaint squawking meaningless protests in the language of victimhood and outrage.

On the extreme left, however, the story couldn’t be more different. Let’s take Antifa as a case in point. For those of us who aren’t aware, Antifa protesters were the ones we saw on Saturday wearing black bandannas and hoodies and doing violent stuff on television.

The first thing one notices about Antifa is coherence. Their various websites are clean and professional looking, with their mission and vision statements outlined in simple, muscular prose that Hemingway would have found unobjectionable. There is neither a cultivated nor an incidental presentation of the ‘Grand Aussie Mess’ that is so fashionable amongst their equivalents on the right. They have no interest in being seen as a regular bunch of blokes fighting with confused frowns the iniquities of the nameless authority. They present themselves as warriors – articulate, purpose-driven and crystal clear as to what they think and what they want. This, of course, breaks down a little on the Facebook pages where individual members launch into long, rambling Marxist rants, but all the official material – the prose that was written by representatives of the organisation – is stark and clear.

It is for this reason that I have absolutely no difficulties in breaking down their position and their mission. Antifa believes that Capitalism is a system that helps to create fascistic and bigoted systems and institutions. Their aim is to detect, disrupt and destroy these as early as possible, lest they gain traction and bleed into mainstream society. This mission could be copied and pasted onto the website of any of their long term enemies in the counter-intelligence world without causing any comment whatsoever. Of course, if we dig deeper, we find the same kind of flailing with reality that is common to much of the extreme left in these progressive modern times: an awkward love affair with the old language of communism and a weird dissonance between efforts to stay relevant and core mission objectives. But the point – the salient point – is that a member of the public’s first and abiding impression is one of unity of purpose and clarity of vision.

So they’re against fascism, racism, homophobia and Islamophobia – so far, so good. What, if anything, makes them extremists? Well, first and foremost is their advocacy of violence. On their various websites and blogs, violence is referred to by various code words, e.g., ‘direct action’, or ‘disruption’, but it is abundantly clear that what they are talking about is physical confrontation and the destruction of property. One blog post recounts a planned right wing rally in Hyde Park. “Our operatives scoured the park but could find no evidence of the cowardly fascists…” says the author. The clear implication is that, hearing about the rally, a posse of Antifa ‘operatives’ mobilised and headed for the park in order to bring the pain. In their social media streams, the far right is characteristically schizophrenic in their treatment of the opposition. They will, in the same breath, dismiss them as “Merlot swilling parlour socialist dickhead keyboard warriors fighting from mummy’s basement”, and then show real fear of their operations on the ground: “God protect our warriors and keep them safe from the Antifa scum”. Which is reminiscent of wartime propaganda concerning the Japanese, if you like.

Are they a threat? In spite of their superior organisation, muster capability, rhetoric and intelligence, I’d have to say no. They are self-consciously reactive, seeing themselves as a sort of quick response force to outbreaks of fascism. They are also deliberately limited in their aims. Antifa, as far as I can tell, isn’t particularly interested in revolution. They are focussed entirely on their aim of smacking down fascist groups wherever they see them. So, no, not a threat unless they decide to go to war against you.

And I guess that comes to the nub of what I find so disturbing about all of these groups. It doesn’t matter what they say they stand for, or what their motives and mission are, you can’t get away from the reality that all of these people, left or right, are willing to view a greater or lesser portion of the Australian population as ‘the enemy’. So whether or not it’s possible to agree with their politics, the absolutist, warring-faction mentality that underpins them is an automatic dealbreaker.

Category: Politics, Violence


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