Who's Keeping An Eye On Aussie Neo-Nazis?

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In 2012, Vietnamese student Minh Duong was viciously beaten in the streets of Ascot Vale, Victoria. He was assaulted by two men, who called him a "fucking Gook", stabbed him multiple times and hit him with a brick with sufficient force to crack the brick itself. Duong’s mistreatment in Australia made headlines again this year when – while at Melbourne airport on his way to visit family in Vietnam – his student visa was revoked and a three year ban from re-entering Australia imposed by immigration authorities, supposedly as a result of overstaying (though this is contested by Duong).

But in the reporting of Duong’s case, only brief analysis has been provided to help explain the racialised elements of the attack on him. The incident begs a question: how deep does Australia’s neo-Nazi scene run? The men convicted of Minh’s assault were members of a gang, the "Crazy White Boys", and while they adopted some of the trappings associated with being a neo-Nazi skinhead did not, apparently, do so in a sufficiently convincing fashion:

“I am of the view that a lot of your discussions and talk about skinheads and white supremacy, and your Heil Hitler signs, were not really understood by either of you … It is my view that this attack would in all likelihood have occurred irrespective of the nationality of the person walking down the street.”

So declared Justice Betty King as she sentenced Shannon Hudson and Wayne O’Brien to jail for their part in the assault. Be that as it may, there are in fact a very small number of other men, and some women, inspired by neo-Nazi ideology, who organise on that basis and who regularly seek opportunities to promote their neo-Nazism and use their crazy propaganda to recruit. “There has been a persistent but small subculture of racist and nationalist extremists in Australia, forming groups, fragmenting, re-forming and often fighting amongst themselves,” ASIO’s 2010/11 annual report notes.

The two principal neo-Nazi organisations in Australia are Blood & Honour (B&H) and the Southern Cross Hammerskins (SCHS). Based in the skinhead milieu, where they are typically referred to as "boneheads" (so as to distinguish them from non- and anti-racist skins), B&H and SCHS are joined by other groups such as Combat 18 (C18), Nationalist Alternative, Volksfront, Women for Aryan Unity, members of the Creativity Movement (who espouse a white supremacist religious ideology) and a small number of other, even more obscure formations, including the New Right, National Anarchists and elements of the KKK.

These groups participate in a shifting alliance of marginal far-right groupings and operate independently of mainstream political groups, but the views they espouse also occasionally venture into more familiar territory. Such was the case with Peter Watson, whose nomination in early 2012 as the Labor candidate for Warwick Downs proved to be short-lived after comments he posted on the White Law Towers blog were unearthed. "I regard myself as a white nationalist, not a supremacist,” Watson was quoted in The Australian.

B&H and the SCHS were born overseas, in the UK and US, in the early 1990s. The Australian franchises of both groups were the first to be established outside of these countries. They are thus the most successful and longest-lived of the organisations formed in order to promote neo-Nazism among white youth. Apart from distributing neo-Nazi propaganda, their main, semi-public activity is to organise a gathering in Melbourne each year to commemorate the death of B&H founder, Ian Stuart Donaldson, who died in a car accident in 1993.

Since 2010 the group has also begun holding regular gigs on the Gold Coast to celebrate Adolf Hitler’s birthday. Other events are held irregularly in Sydney, Adelaide and other states and territories. An attempt to stage a gig in 2009 in WA proved to be abortive. This was partly a legacy of the violent, racist campaign conducted by Jack Van Tongeren’s Australian Nationalists Movement in the 1980s: laws regarding the propagation of racial hatred are stronger and more strictly enforced in WA. Currently, five men are facing court in Perth accused of distributing racist stickers promoting C18 in that city. In August 2010, several C18 members were convicted of discharging a firearm at a Perth mosque.

B&H and SCHS have a policy of non-engagement with the media but have featured sporadically, typically in relation to some public outcry over the staging of such events. The SCHS also briefly came to the media’s attention in March 2012, when one of its members, Kenneth Stewart, was revealed to be employed by an Australian company as a mercenary in Afghanistan. In April 2009, Nicole Hanley, a B&H organiser, was reported as working for Thales, a French military exporter.

Less well-reported was the fact that Wade Michael Page, the man responsible for shooting dead six Sikhs in Wisconsin in August 2012, was a Hammerskin. Page was also a musician, members of his groups have performed in Australia, and a number of his recordings are available for purchase locally through 9% Productions, the online merchandising arm of B&H/SCHS.

Thankfully, while accounts of less serious forms of harassment typically go unreported, reports of assaults such as that committed against Minh Duong are rare, neo-Nazi violence having peaked in the 1980s and 1990s. Further, collaboration between openly neo-Nazi groups and white nationalist or neo-fascist political parties like Australia First is generally low-key, with neither camp wanting to be associated too closely with the other. Other far-right groups are split on the subject of whether "The Jew" or "The Muslim" poses the greatest threat to White Australia.

Online forums such as Stormfront are populated by hundreds of Australian anti-Semites, fascists, white supremacists and neo-Nazis, as well as members of Australia First; most notably its leader, Dr James Saleam, who has a long history of far-right organising.

Australia First has declared itself in political solidarity with the neo-Nazi Greek organization Golden Dawn. In December 2013 in Sydney, it helped to organise a rally outside the Greek consulate in order to protest criminal charges against the organization. In Melbourne, Golden Dawn has recently opened an office, though its precise location remains a secret. While generally low-key and currently enjoying little support among the local Greek population, the group has had a presence at several Greek rallies. Local Greek antifascists understand it has also been engaged in fundraising, with the money raised being used to help finance Golden Dawn’s violent activities in Greece.

In Melbourne, the neo-Nazi stickers for which men in Perth are being charged have begun appearing in the northern suburbs, including in Ascot Vale: the site of the assault on Minh Duong. As Justice Betty King noted, “there are so many angry and unhappy young people, particularly males” and some number will be attracted to neo-Nazi and white supremacist ideology. Keeping an eye on the milieu would seem to be a sensible and precautionary option.

New Matilda

New Matilda is independent journalism at its finest. The site has been publishing intelligent coverage of Australian and international politics, media and culture since 2004.

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