Monday, November 12, 2018

Monday Forum: What, exactly, is the hard right in Australia, what does it believe?

I have been reading and writing, but just not on line, as I try to finish stuff. Hopefully this will ease as stuff starts coming out. It will need to since I have just started a three month part time writing gig.

While I have been reading and writing I have not been totally oblivious to the world. Here I want to pose two questions: what, exactly, is the hard right in Australia? What does it believe?

These are real questions for I am genuinely puzzled. I have either been involved in or at least followed Australian politics for a long time. I do understand both our history and political structures. However, as I read the current feeds and the commentary I am left with a sense of confusion. It seems to me that we is called the hard right is no more than an amalgam of inconsistent bedfellows that, in the end, are marked more by what divides them.

In April, the Conversation ran a series of articles on the battle for conservative hearts and minds in Australian politics, You will find the last article here. It includes links to the three earlier articles including one written by Chris Berg. I suppose that one could describe the approach adopted as structural with some focus on relationships between groups.

I actually had a problem with the title. It is not clear to me that those organisations or people included in the hard right are actually battling for conservative hearts and minds but rather, at least in part, for the hearts and minds of those who can be swung to more radical positions. I have another problem in that I struggle to see any real connection between apparently Libertarian Senator David  Leyonhjelm and  the Australian Conservatives such as Lyle Shelton beyond a marriage of convenience over religious freedom.

Later, I will try to do a proper structural and values analysis, for the moment i simply pose the questions.      



2 tanners said...

It seems to me that there really is no hard right, just like the hard left of my youth was filled with Stalinists, Maoists, Trotskyites and others who probably hated each other more than anyone else, but would tribally unite in the face of 'capitalist exploitation of the workers' or a given slogan or cause du jour.

Today's hard right seem to be united only by their tribal hatred of the left, not by an underlying agreement on principals. As an example, those pushing for a state-owned, state-financed coal-fired power generation facility would have been decried as Communists by earlier conservatives who sold identical assets off. It is perhaps ironic that some of them are the same people.

Matthew da Silva said...

The emergence of minor parties got a real boost in 1992 when the Greens were established by Boomers who had experience in the conservation movement. The next major development was when Pauline Hanson got elected to Parliament in 1996 on the Liberal Party ticket. What you are seeing now is a push by people on the right to get traction in the same way the left has got traction in the political process, and it's from a position located outside the conventional spectrum of left and right embodied by the Liberal Party and the Labor Party. It's like what happened in the 1980s when the reaction to the post-war counter-culture manifested itself through the adoption of radical right-wing positions on policies that we now label "neoliberalism". The change always starts on the left and then there's a reaction from the right to counter it. Hanson is emblematic of this change because there are many groups now on the right with xenophobic platforms, but they are not part of the political process per se.

Evan said...

It is a catch-all phrase I think.

There are Nazi's. Watch for the numbers 88 - this stands for HH i.e. heil hitler. There are disagreements. Eg those defending Christendom (soft version = stuff like the Ramsay Centre) vs pagans (oh so you want to defend civilisation based on Jews?) - hence a liking for the Vikings etc. True neo-nazi's are still very small in number in Aus. They have something of an underground culture of gyms.

There are also white supremacist groups like the proud boys. And there is a white supremacist statement of a few words - the 13 (or maybe 33, I forget) words. The Proud Boys are open to any males (whatever their ethnicity) so long as they declare themselves Western Chauvinists (briefly: the West is best). The leader of the Proud Boys openly advocates violence - then say he's just joking.

Then there are exclusions based on nationality. The nation-state was originally somewhat racist in my view. See the disagreements of the imperialists with Wilson at Versailles etc. Sophisticated version is Huntington's Clash of Civilisations. It isn't as crude as race - it is now instead that some cultures are better than others, and persons from different cultures can't live satisfactorily together.

[The neo-liberals want to conflate hostility to multi-national corporates with exclusions based on nationality.]

Then there is hard forms of neo-liberalism (hard right in economics against forms of collective ownership and government intervention in the market). This hasn't had much of a run in Aus until now - mostly we've been happy with a mixed economy. It's probably mostly still a creature of think (sic) tanks.

Kaz Ross, a lecturer at UTas, is up on all this - she has several pseudonyms she uses to be present in discussion fora of the hard right groups. She's on holiday for the next week or so I think. But is very email friendly and would probably be very happy to discuss this with you.

So it's a mix of race/ethnicity and economics and nationalism I think. Something of a mashup - not theoretically tight.

Anonymous said...

In Kaz Ross' own words:

Australia has become a destination for a legion of far-right speakers from North America and the UK in recent months

- from here:

Now Ive always thought of a "legion" as some sort of vast invading horde, but it seems the Ross version is 6 speakers starting with Milo Y's visit last December - or 7, if count the "vast legion of threat" about to descend upon us in the puny form of one Gavin McInness :)

But then, to be fair, you'd have to exclude from her 6 speakers Jordan Peterson who has repeatedly, very clearly, distanced himself from all things "alt-right".

Oh, how will our tiny island nation of 22+M ever survive such a legion (of 6 or 7)?

But of course, the ever-present solution: ban them from speaking, or charge them for damage and extra security caused by their "legion" of opponents :)

I bet there's a new research grant proposal lurking in the bowels of UTas to study this "legion".


Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks all for comments. They were useful.

I'm not really worried by what is now called the alt right. For example, the attempt to infiltrate the Nats via the metropolitan YN branch was never going to work partly because the Party would not allow it, partly because the constitution and branch structure would stop it in the end for what was basically a metro group. And I think that Kaz Ross's piece that kvd listed says more about her views than the alt-right's real power.

I think that 2t is right when he suggests that there is no hard right and makes a comparison with the old left. Matthew may be right when he says that the right is, at least presently, defining itself partly by the things that it objects to from the left. Because the ideological structures that used to define the left have largely atrophied, what now calls itself progressive thinking defines itself more by causes and selected values asserted as moral absolutes than by any coherent structures. This creates targets on the other side. Both lack structure.

As best I can work out, what is called the hard right in the Liberal Party, and I struggle with this group, seems to combine neoliberalism with a partly religious based social conservatism. You can support certain neoliberal principles without buying into the other side. Winton's economic views, for example, would fit with with the first part if with a linked libertarian flavour, but his structured views about human flourishing stand at variance with some of the arguments put forward.

Winton Bates said...

Hi Jim
Sorry it took me so long to read this. I think my views have been fairly characterised. I identify as an economic liberal, but not as a social conservative.
I think I get a reasonably accurate impression of the views of the hard right from many online comments of readers of “The Australian”. I get the impression that a lot of these people want the Liberal Party to adhere to Santafafia principles, even if that means they will spend the next decade in the political wilderness. The Liberal party today reminds me of the Labor party of the 1960s where a hard core of members maintained that it was more important to remain true to socialist principles than to win government.

Anyhow, none of that matters much anymore. Liberal democracy is stuffed all over the world. Instead of trying to attract the median voter the political parties all play identity politics and try to appeal to the worst of the rent seekers. If that continues It will end in economic collapse sooner or later. The good news is that technological advances may enable us to circumvent dysfunctional politics.