I mentioned in my last blog entry something about the New Guard. I thought I should write an explanatory note to clarify who they were.
In the 1930s, all countries had their fascist movements. In the UK, there was the British Union of Fascists founded by Sir Oswald Mosley:
The appeal of fascism was that it was a staunchly anti-communist movement in the face of a perceived threat of a communist international revolution. The idea was that communism was such a threat that anything —no matter how brutal or ruthless—was justified to stop it. This is why the German version of fascism is called National Socialism, a nationalist-populist movement to oppose it to international socialism, which was communism—an alleged conspiracy of “international Jewry” to take over the world. National Socialism was thus the supposed true voice of the people (Volk), driven by a militantly patriotic nationalistic fervour and populist bogan hatred of all that was “un-German” (undeutsch). Instead of chanting “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi Oi Oi!” it chanted “Deutschland, Deutschland über alles”.
The fascist movement of Australia was represented by the New Guard. At their height, they counted up to 50 000 card carrying members with more than double that in supporters. Amongst their supporters they included the aviator Sir Charles Kingsford Smith. Here is the leader, Eric Campbell at a New Guard rally doing the fascist salute in 1932 (probably in the Sydney Town Hall):
The most dramatic incident in Australia involving the New Guard was at the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Jack Lang, the Labor Premier of New South Wales had deliberately shunned inviting royalty or even the monarch’s representative, the Governor General, instead choosing to cut the ceremonial ribbons himself. This outraged the reactionary political right. Before Jack Lang could cut the ribbons to declare the bridge open, Colonel Francis de Groot, a member of the New Guard appeared on horseback brandishing a sabre with which he slashed the ceremonial ribbons before Jack Lang:
The interesting thing about Francis de Groot was that, despite his name, he was born in Dublin, Ireland. He was Catholic, just like Tony Abbott. And, like Tony Abbott, he was fanatically monarchist.
As a reader of German, I follow the German media, along with other international media. I find it interesting that the fact that fascists managed to take over the country and lead it to utter ruin means that ex-fascists have all either been hanged, imprisoned, outlawed or gone underground out of fear and shame. Ultra-right parties are banned by law there. The end result is that anything that even remotely smacks of the resurgence of the far-right would be immediately shunned or come under police scrutiny. The slogan “turn back the boats” would be impossible because many boats carrying Jewish refugees did indeed have their boats “turned back” and told to “go back to where you came from”. Likewise, the old nationalistic term “un-German” cannot be used without people being horrified. Not so with Australians, it seems, who have never been afforded a similar opportunity to get fascism out of their systems and where the word “un-Australian” has taken on a frightfully belligerent populist appeal. Today, the descendants of the New Guard look like they might have successfully managed to infiltrate the Liberal Party in pushing it to the extreme right of politics.
Nor would any German political party ever be able to publicly campaign on the basis of a promise to “stop the boats” repeated as a belligerent campaign slogan over and over again without coming under universal condemnation. The fact that Australia has never been ruled by a fascist dictatorship in the past is hardly an excuse for permitting this sort of thing to pass muster here. In fact, the National Socialists were pioneers of the technique used by Tony Abbott and fellow members of the Liberal Party who all unrelentingly repeated the “stop the boats” slogan “a thousand fold”:
Now the purpose of propaganda is not continually to produce interesting changes for the few blasé little masters, but to convince; that is, to convince the masses. The masses, however, with their inertia, always need a certain time before they are ready even to notice a thing, and they will lend their memories only to the thousand fold repetition of the most simple ideas.
Adolf Hitler: Mein Kampf. New York: Reynal and Hitchcock, 1939, p. 239.
Propaganda ist jedoch nicht dazu da, blasierten Herrchen laufend interessante Abwechslung zu verschaffen, sondern zu überzeugen, und zwar die Masse zu überzeugen. Diese aber braucht in ihrer Schwerfälligkeit immer eine bestimmte Zeit, ehe sie auch nur von einer Sache Kenntnis zu nehmen bereit ist, und nur einer tausendfachen Wiederholung einfachster Begriffe wird sie endlich ihr Gedächtnis schenken. Mein Kampf: Die feindliche Kriegspropaganda, p 203. Eher Verlag, Munich, 1943 ed.
Nor does the mere fact that the far-right today dissociate themselves from the catastrophic failure represented by Hitler and National Socialism—understandably refusing to allow themselves to even be called by the now dated and pejorative term “fascist”—change the fact that it is just old wine rebranded into new bottles. Perhaps, we must all just resign ourselves to the fact that Australians simply have to be given a chance to get fascism “out of their systems” just like the Germans.