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Australia’s long history of fascism… and fighting back

2 min read
31 Jan 2023
World War II.
Rows of warplanes lined up in front of hangars on the tarmac at Eagle Farm Airport, Brisbane, during World War II when Australia was part of the Allied force against Germany’s fascist government. Nearly 20 years after this photo, Australian fascists founded the neo-Nazi National Socialists Party of Australia. Photo: State Library of Queensland.

A new book exploring more than a century of fascism and far right politics in Australia is one of the only academic texts to also seriously examine anti-fascism.

University of Southern Queensland senior lecturer Dr Jayne Persian is a co-editor of Histories of Fascism and Anti-Fascism in Australia, released earlier this month.

She said the book was the first academic book for three decades to examine the history of fascism in Australia, and the first academic book ever to take anti-fascism in Australia seriously.

“Whenever fascism and the far right have emerged in Australia in the past century, there have been those to confront it,” she said.

Dr Persian co-edited the book alongside Evan Smith and Vashti-Jane Fox.

She said the recent resurgence of far right movements in Australia was the latest incarnation of a phenomenon that had existed since the 1920s.

“There has been a strong presence in Australia of various iterations of fascism for one hundred years,” she said.

“This includes pro-fascist and pro-Nazi groups in the 1930s, the National Socialist parties of the 1960s, the anti-Semitic Australian League of Rights, the National Action of the ‘80s and ‘90s and the various contemporary groups that have recently come into existence.

“In the past few years, we have seen that the far right has also played a key part in the vocal anti-vax/anti-lockdown movement.”

Dr Persian said the book looked to situate both fascism and anti-fascism within Australian history and raise awareness of the threat that fascism continued to pose.

“But we also wanted to highlight the steps continuously made by activists to counter this threat,” Dr Persian said.

“Anti-fascism has also been a constant in Australian history, bringing together communists, trade unionists, migrant groups, church groups and others.”

Histories of Fascism and Anti-Fascism in Australia is available now through Routledge.