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According to the ABC, a group of white nationalists joined the NSW Young Liberals back in May. Is it an outlier, or does it represent where we stand as a nation?
A group of 25 white nationalists covertly joined the NSW Young Nationals just before the party’s state conference in May this year. As the meeting transpired, regular members of the Nationals youth division found that motions were being introduced involving immigration control and race.
The ABC’s Background Briefing revealed this week that these alt-rightists were members of a self-professed fascist group known as The New Guard. The far-right group has a vision of infiltrating more mainstream political parties than just the Nationals.
Former Young Nationals communications officer Ethan Gordon told the ABC that suspicions were raised prior to the meeting as a large number of people with city addresses had recently joined the party, whereas the usual membership involves those with rural addresses.
By the end of the conference, Clifford Jennings – a key member of The New Guard – was elected to the NSW Young Nationals executive. Jennings has expressed white supremacist notions online in the past and has also claimed to be a founder of the alt-right movement in Australia.
The ABC’s Alex Mann also cited a manifesto posted on The New Guard’s closed Facebook page from June last year, which states that the group plans to infiltrate various organisations from the inside, with the ultimate goal of having members elected to federal, state and local parliaments.
Not the first infiltration
Online activist Andy Fleming explained the term New Guard is a reference to a 1930s Australian fascist movement.
“Its recent adoption by a small group of so-called alt-rightists under which to organise their activities on Facebook is presumably intended as a token of respect for this earlier generation of political activists,” said Fleming, who documents the activities of the local far-right as blogger “slackbastard”.
Mr Fleming associates those who infiltrated the Young Nationals with a similar cohort that employed this old-school political tactic to gain traction in the NSW Young Liberals. In other words, this isn’t the first time the alt-right have tried to gain sway in the young division of a mainstream party.
“I think it’s a question of degree – not kind – that separates this New Guard from broader reactionary political tendencies among a segment of white middleclass youth,” Fleming told Sydney Criminal Lawyers.
As a result of this information coming to light, one Young National member was asked to resign, and two others have been sent show-cause notices. The ABC investigation also found that Jennings and two other Young Nationals have been attending The Lads Society’s secretive fight club meetings.
The Lads Society is another alt-right group that formed out of the remnants of the United Patriots Front (UPF) in October last year. Notorious right-wing spokesperson Blair Cottrell is a founding member of the group that doesn’t have the on-the-street presence its predecessor did.
Mr Fleming explained that the “mobilising capacity” of the alt-right hasn’t been strong of late, with attendance at rallies slim, and that white nationalist protesting really hit its peak in October 2015, when 1,000 Reclaim Australia and UPF members turned up to protest a mosque in Bendigo.
“This doesn’t mean that the many tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people who expressed support, in one way or another, for the eradication of Muslims from Australia…have gone away,” Fleming stated, adding that instead, they’ve been redirecting their energies.
Stoking the fire
But, while young white nationalists such as The New Guard are busy trying to influence politics, it already seems like the mainstream has shifted further to the right. Indeed, the sentiments of some of those in positions of power are simply inciting these groups to grow bolder.
Just last week, a motion calling for the acknowledgement that it was “ok to be white” – a well-known white supremacist slogan – was raised in the Senate by Pauline Hanson. It was heavily backed by Coalition senators and only narrowly defeated.
Senator Fraser Anning said during his maiden speech in August that “the reasons for ending all further Muslim immigration are both compelling and self-evident,” before referencing the Nazi party’s final solution in recommending it be brought to a halt.
At the international level, the rise of Trump has seen a significant shift to the right. The US president almost acted as an apologist for violent right-wing protesters in Charlottesville last year. And the rise of the far-right in European politics is apparent across the continent.
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One of the most extreme of the far-right groupings to have entered onto the Australian scene is the Antipodean Resistance (AR). This group of self-described Nazis started mobilising in October 2016. Early last year, photos of the group’s wilderness radicalisation camps started to emerge.
While AR aren’t out there openly protesting on the streets, this secretive group of bigots has definitely been keeping its actions at the street level. Chapters of the group throughout Australia have been affixing racist and homophobic posters in public across the country.
Mr Fleming said that over the last six months, AR has been continuing to carry on like it’s the Hitler Youth. He added the group has been producing and distributing its propaganda, studying the far-right text, Siege, and participating in projects like The Lads Society.
In April, it came to light that a member of AR, who’d been photographed distributing far-right propaganda in Melbourne’s Collingwood, was also a member of The Lads Society – the group whose Sydney chapter meets for a secret fight club on Friday nights at an undisclosed location.
On the other hand, AR has “also been infiltrated,” Fleming concluded. “And I expect that more of the group’s participants will be publicly unveiled later in the year.”