Posts Tagged ‘Harper’

Letter from Australia about the Conservatives Down Under: Exactly Like Their Brit Counterparts

March 24, 2014

I received this kind comment from Gathering Swallows on my post ‘Explaining the Coalition’s War on the Poor and Disabled’, remarking on the similarities of the policies pursued by the National Party in Oz and the Conservatives over here:

I had been following UK politics for quite sometime prior to the Aust elections last year. I couldn’t believe what I was reading out of the UK. Then it started being applied here to my absolute horror. The worst thing about the way Abbott has been introducing these similar sorts of policies is that he didn’t announce any of his policy intentions prior or during the election campaign. He counted on people being sick of Labor, many shenanigans he himself incited with the help of his mainstream media buddies. His hit list, as we have come to realise, was buried in a document by the IPA (Institute of Public Affairs, Australia) outlining a 75 point plan to dismantle just about anything progressive in this country. On the matter of the disabled (although this next comment was in relation to racial things but I extrapolate for obvious reasons…), today, our Attorney General stated that it was OK to be a bigot. That’s right – it sends a wonderful message (not) that vilifying the least fortunate will be fair game. Thanks for your blog.

The similarity between Abbott’s approach to politics, and that of David Cameron is obvious. Cameron’s government also disguised its true intentions in order to win power. In the case of the Tories in Britain, they appeared to be more Left-wing than Labour. Philip Blond’s book, Red Tory, even cites Kropotkin, the 19th century anarchist, approvingly.

I’ve remarked on the way Conservatives across the English speaking world, from America, Canada, Britain, and now, it seems, Australia, adopted the same strategies, rhetoric and targets in their campaigns. You can see it in the way the Daily Mail in Britain started attacking public sector workers for supposedly being overpaid a few years ago. This followed a similar campaign of vilification by the Republicans in America. And Amnesiaclinic, one of the other commenters on this blog, has also told me that the same policies are being pursued in Canada after Harper’s regime.

As for Oz’s Attorney-General now telling everyone that it’s okay to be a bigot, there are sections of the British Tory party that would heartily agree with that. The Daily Mail for years has carried a campaign against the ‘race relations’ industry and what it sees as the erosion of free speech by the laws against incitement to racial hatred. They raised a particularly bitter campaign against them when Labour was in power, despite the fact the laws themselves were passed way back in the mid-1960s in order to undermine the rapid growth of the National Front. And the NF back then was truly frightening. It engaged in paramilitary training, and other sections of the racist fringe were openly Nazi, like the National Socialist Movement. One of these groups was involved in attacks on five synagogues, as well as street clashes with Blacks and Jews. I’ve also noticed that the Tories in Canada are also leading a campaign against the same laws there.

Part of the argument against the laws against racist speech is that these laws didn’t work when they were first introduced in Weimar Germany. The argument is that the German government had passed legislation outlawing the vilification of ethnic groups, like Jews, and pursued a vigorous policy of prosecution. This did not, however, prevent the Nazis from entering government and finally seizing power in 1933.

The issues in Weimar Germany, however, isn’t as clear cut as the argument suggests. Firstly, it shows just how difficult combatting an aggressively racist Right was in the political climate of the time. The parliamentary system in Weimar Germany was vulnerable because to many Germans it was the product of their defeat in the First World War. However, despite increasing anti-Semitism, the Nazis’ seizure of power was by no means assured. For much of the 1920s the party received only a trivial number of votes. They made their major electoral breakthrough by exploiting an agricultural crisis in Schleswig-Holstein, and their entry into government was greatly assisted by the Wall Street Crash and consequent global recession. They were also invited into government at the end of the decade in order to provide support for a coalition of Right-wing parties after the party system had more or less broken down with some of the major Weimar parties refusing to work with each other, but having no overall support to govern alone. Hitler also tailored his rhetoric to appeal to certain groups, stressing different elements and playing down others in the particular areas where he was campaigning at the time. And finally, you cannot tell what would have happened if the Weimar government had been more lax about racism and anti-Semitic vilification. Would the Nazis have come to power earlier if such vilification had been far more legally acceptable?

Aside from this particular issue, there is the wider point that the Conservatives across the globe are copying from each other in order to seize power and drive everything back into the worst aspects of the 19th century. The Left also needs to do this – to learn what they’re doing, and challenge them across the globe as well. And together we can defeat them in Britain, Australia, Canada, America or wherever. It’s just a case of ‘thinking globally, and acting locally’.