Protesters plan to mobilise against Dutch fascist
Parliamentary leader of the far-right Dutch Freedom Party, Geert Wilders, is visiting Australia this week. He is speaking at public meetings in Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.
Wilders makes use of a tightly rehearsed script focusing on opposition to Islam which he describes as a "totalitarian ideology" to cover for his racist and fascist outlook.
But a quick look at the make-up of the supporters of his visit reveals his agenda. The tour itself is being organised by the viciously Islamophobic Q Society which makes wild claims such as that Australian schools are subject to "systematic Islamisation" and that companies that make a commercial decision to supply halal products are imposing an "Islamic food tax''. They say "the further Islamisation of our nation must first be stopped, and then reversed''.
Further, his tour has been welcomed by white supremacist and far right groups and even by disgraced Liberal senator Cory Bernadi.
He is also unmasked by his own words and political interventions. He has called for a "rag-head tax'' — that is a tax on wearing the hijab — and compared the Koran to Adolf Hiter's Mein Kampf.
"Islam is not a race'' his supporters say, believing that that absolves them of any charge of racism. "I'm not a racist'' Wilders himself claims.
Of course it is no more charming to be a religious bigot than to be an open racist, especially when that bigotry is directed against an already marginalised religion.
However, it is also accurate to describe Wilders as racist because he knows that his audience will draw racist conclusions from and take violent actions as a result of his comments.
Protests have been organised outside every one of his public appearances in Austalia. Organisers of his tour have tried to frustrate this by promising to reveal venue information to paid ticket holders only 48 hours before his appearances.
They claim this is because they have fears for his safety but the real reason is because they know his views are completely out of step with community attitudes and his supporters would be totally outnumbered by protesters.
It is very important that protests take place and that they involve the largest possible numbers of people. While it may be tempting to think that it would be easier to just ignore Wilders' appearances — and some people are calling for that — this would be a mistake.
The far right builds support by relating to genuine concerns that people have — usually a result of the failings of mainstream capitalist governments who look after the corporate interests in front of ordinary people's needs — and unfairly point the blame at simple scapegoats.
Historically this has included Jews, gays, blacks, Asians, and others. Today Islam is the favoured target.
By diverting attention away from the real source of people's problems — capitalist exploitation — the far right thus stands as a supporter of the mainstream capitalist parties like Labor and Liberal.
In recent years, Labor and Liberal themselves have tried to draw attention away from their own failings by scapegoating refugees. That this approach is mirrored by the far right reveals the complementary relationship the far right has with the establishment parties despite their distancing themselves from one another.
For this reason, it is not enough to rely on establishment institutions to repel the far right. We have to rely on our own capacity to counter-mobilise whenever they rear their ugly heads.
Wilders is a side show now but it is still important to protest in great numbers to make sure that a hard-core fascist movement cannot get off the ground in this country. A more substantial threat would have to be met by the full mobilising power of the entire progressive movement including the trade unions.
This does not mean we should support censorship of the far right. This only gives them a platform to speak about how they've been denied free speech and diverts the issue away from their racist views to the more abstract question of whether or not fascists (who would close down free speech for others) deserve free speech themselves.
The far right threat does need to be defeated but historical experience demonstrates that mobilising in large numbers against them is the most effective way to do this.