A call to unionists: Stand together against far-right attacks on workers
Debbie Brennan
issue 25
January 2017

Across the world, the far right and neo-Nazis are not only active in the streets. They are entering parliamentary politics.

In Australia, Pauline Hanson’s extreme-right One Nation Party (ONP) made a comeback after 20 years, winning four Senate seats in the 2016 federal election. ONP is now seriously preparing for state elections in Queensland, Western Australia, New South Wales and Victoria over the next two years. Its Qld slate of 36 “initial” candidates shows a party aiming for power. The Liberal Party is so nervous that some within its ranks are pushing the party to compete for constituents by moving more rightward.

Many who turn out to counter the fascists, including this ETU member, are unionists. We could stop the far right in its tracks if unions collectively mobilised their members. Photo, Freedom Socialist Organiser.

Donald Trump’s election victory is as much a boost to the far right in Australia and across Europe as it is inside the U.S. Hanson exclaimed: “I can see in Donald Trump a lot of me and what I stand for in Australia.” Marine Le Pen, neo-Nazi contender for France’s presidency, glowingly predicted: “Donald Trump has made possible what was presented as completely impossible.” Her fascist and hard-right counterparts in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands are equally optimistic.

These developments in the electoral arena embolden the storm troopers in the streets. Hanson, for example, enjoys the staunch support of the openly fascist United Patriots Front, Party for Freedom and True Blue Crew. She has been a regular speaker at far-right Reclaim Australia rallies. Consistent anti-fascist organising has kept these groups fragmented, small and isolated. But Hanson’s ONP gives their bigoted ideas a parliamentary platform.

This is union business. A collapsing global economy has created the conditions for these groups to sprout and develop. Their audiences are middle and working class folks who are hurting, scared and looking for answers. The profit system is clinging to dear life, forcing workers to labour harder for less and pushing small businesses to the wall. Job security is gone, but politicians and economic “experts” say higher costs for basic needs, like food, energy and housing, are unavoidable. And workers must accept incessant budgetary slashings to indispensable services like education, welfare and healthcare. Trump, Hanson, Le Pen et al play to these insecurities and fears—blaming Muslims, “foreigners,” First Nations, independent women, queers, environmentalists, the Left and unions for the systemic chaos and cruelty. This serves capitalism well: when the working class turns on itself, it can’t unite and resist.

Unions under fire. Bosses want to break the union movement to prevent workers from organising in their class interest—such as defending wages, conditions and jobs, public education, healthcare and housing, and each other. The working class and the oppressed solidarising in well-organised resistance is the capitalists’ great fear.

In her parliamentary speech as a new Senator in September 2016, Pauline Hanson denounced public sector workers as overpaid bludgers living off the taxpayers. She singled them out because of their powerful three-year fight, as a union, against a wage freeze. Their boss is the Australian government, and this is the biggest industrial campaign the Community and Public Sector Union has ever waged.

Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party is rabidly anti-union. Without ONP’s support, the Turnbull government’s union-busting Australian and Building Construction Commission (ABCC) legislation could not have passed. This law and its companion, the Registered Organisations Act, will bring union affairs under State supervision. This strikes at the heart of unionism: workers’ right to independently organise and to run their unions. ONP Senator Malcolm Roberts has since stated that his party wants the ABCC’s powers expanded to use competition laws against unions.

Unite against racism and fascism. Whether in Parliament or the streets, the far right and neo-Nazis have a common aim: to beat the working class into submission by smashing the union movement. The fight for unionism will be led by members and delegates. They are on the front lines of the attacks inside and outside the workplace. They’re the women, queers, First Nations, Muslims, immigrants, socialists and anarchists scapegoated for capitalism’s problems. It’s this collective power that makes unions the prime target of capitalists and their henchmen.

Campaign Against Racism and Fascism (CARF) is a united front of unionists, Left organisations, feminists and Aboriginal justice activists. CARF has been instrumental in holding back the fascists in Melbourne over the past two years. Now is a critical time for more unionists to be actively involved and stop fascists and far-right allies from mobilising a movement in Australia. Start by taking this pledge:

  • oppose racism, white supremacy, reactionary nationalism and the targeting of any people, whether for their religion, colour, sexual or gender identity or participation in organised labour;
  • stand united with other unionists and anti-fascists to stop fascist and far-right movements from organising, recruiting and spreading their violent ideology;
  • oppose attacks on unionists organising by Hanson’s One Nation Party and other far-right groups;
  • raise the threat posed by fascism within my union, organise againts fascist groups seeking to infiltrate my union and to do what I can to push the union movement to educate about and confront the fascist menace.

To get in touch with CARF’s Unionists Against Racism and Fascism and obtain copies of UARF’s pledge leaflet, email: uarf@ozemail.com.au. Want to work with Freedom Socialist Party in this united front? Contact us: freedom.socialist.party@ozemail.com.au. We’d love to hear from you!

Debbie Brennan is a community member of the National Union of Workers.