ASIO pours cold water on Dutton’s false equivalency

As expected, in their submission to the parliamentary inquiry into political extremism, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation had almost nothing to say about left-wing violence and plenty to say about right-wing violence.

ASIO’s submission gives two sentences about left-wing extremism simply giving a definition of the term and saying that it isn’t present in Australia.

“16. Left-wing extremism is the support for violence to achieve political outcomes relating to ideologies, including but not limited to, anarchism, for example.

17. Left-wing extremism is not currently prominent in Australia, although there are several overseas groups who attract individuals adhering to an extreme left-wing ideology.”

ASIO. 2021. “ASIO submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security” (Submission No. 2): page 4.

In stark contrast, the intelligence agency has far more to say about right-wing terrorism. Of particular importance, ASIO reports a growing threat and lists examples of their disruptions of such terrorism.

“12. Extreme right-wing groups are more organised, sophisticated and security conscious than before.”

“14. Overall Islamic extremism still comprises most of ASIO’s counter-terrorism workload. However, the threat from the extreme right-wing has grown. In 2020, a right-wing extremist charged under Commonwealth terrorism laws in 2016 was found guilty of terrorism offences,” [etcetera]

Ibid: page 3. Quote slightly modified to fit page better.

To illustrate the rise of the fascist threat in Australia, one could compare this assessment, particularly paragraph 12, with how ASIO characterised the threat in previous years, such as this statement from their annual report in 2010/11:

There has been a persistent but small sub-culture of racist and nationalist extremists in Australia, forming groups, fragmenting, re-forming and often fighting amongst themselves.

ASIO. 2011. “ASIO Report to Parliament”: page 7.

In 2021, right-wing terrorist groups are more sophisticated and organised than ever and there are actual examples of terrorist acts. Ten years ago, they were small, fragmented and fighting amongst themselves. The old adage of “everyone wants to be führer”, often given as the cause for the aforementioned fragmentation, may no longer be a hard truth.

The Liberal’s false equivalency

The inquiry is only happening in the first place after Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton insisted that the terms of reference, originally a Labor proposal to specifically examine right-wing terrorism, be broadened to include any form of extremeism. This was widely interpreted as an attempt to bring left-wing extremism under the scope of the inquiry, fears of which Dutton has been known to stir up.

Dutton’s insistence came despite there having been no terrorist incidents involving the Australian far left in recent times and the Christchurch shooting almost two years ago having been committed by a self-avowed ecofascist.

Mr Dutton once nonsensically surmised that one could “use [the term] leftwing to describe everybody from the left to the right,” and suggested that the Islamism of ISIS is actually a left-wing ideology.

As we all know, the left famously supports the establishment of state religion under a tyrannical monarchy with global imperial ambitions. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Just as Dutton is a terrorism revisionist, so are some of his parliamentary Liberal colleagues.

One of his staffers allegedly told a constituent that Extinction Rebellion is an example of a left-wing terrorist organisation, though Dutton’s media spokesperson later denied this.

Backbench Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells famously scolded ASIO chief Michael Burgess for daring to contend that fascists are right-wing, saying that describing fascists as such is “offensive” to conservatives.

She later expanded on her position in a speech to the Senate: saying that the Nazis were just antisemitic socialists, just as it says on the tin, pointing out that the party’s constitution “read like a communist manifesto but included anti-Semitism”.

Fierravanti-Wells makes the mistake of taking primary sources, in this case the early Nazi party platform, at face value.

According to Bracher, the party’s manifesto was “little more than an effective, persuasive propaganda weapon for mobilizing and manipulating the masses” which was discarded after Hitler came to power and implemented policies, such as privatisation, which blatantly contradicted it.

She ignores that shortly after coming to power, the Nazis would assassinate the anti-capitalists in their ranks, called Strasserists, who were no longer politically useful to Hitler.

So far, the relationship of [the Nazis’] revolution to socialism has been limited to the attempt to destroy the social democratic movement, which for more than two generations has been the bearer of socialist ideas and will remain so. If the gentlemen of the National Socialist Party wanted to perform socialist acts, they would not need [to dismantle democracy].

“[The Social Democratic Party] stand by the principles enshrined in, the principles of a state based on the rule of law, of equal rights, of social justice.”

Otto Wels, Leader of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, Speech against the Enabling Act. 1933. Emphasis added, reference to Enabling Act replaced for context.

She also ignores that the socialists and communists at the time did not at all agree with the National “Socialists”. As evidenced from the quote above, they did not consider them to be socialists, and Hitler was not a socialist before he joined and popularised the NSDAP.

What Hitler stood for and implemented was a form of ethnonationalism organised under his lawless autocratic rule. This is in complete contrast to the rule of law, equal rights, and social justice, that the SPD stood for and, in contrast of a workers’ party-state exercising democratic centralism envisioned by the communists.

Further, communists and socialists were among the first people the Nazis sent to their infamous concentration camps.

One wonders why, if the Nazis were actually left-wing, Australian fascists and neo-Nazis keep trying to infiltrate the Liberal and National parties.

Despite all the evidence that shows that the Nazis did not “have their antecedents in Socialism and Communism”, the Senator has continued to spit out her drink in faux anger at any suggestion otherwise.

Fierravanti-Wells also engaged in Christchurch revisionism by claiming, wrongly, that the Christchurch shooter’s manifesto was actually a “communist, anarchist, libertarian” document while simultaneously being “ecofascist”. The shooter only describes himself as “ecofascist” in the screed. Communism, anarchism, and libertarianism are all definitionally incompatible with fascism.

The Royal Commission report into the Christchurch shooting, particularly Part 2 and Part 4, makes absolutely clear that the shooter’s political views and motive were those of the extreme right.

The inquiry continues, and the Liberal party’s thesis of both sides is likely to continue falling apart as counterterrorism agencies, including ASIO, continue to give evidence and make submissions. The inquiry’s final report is due by April.

Since the start of the Inquiry, a Western Australian man with a swastika painted on his face attacked an Aboriginal woman in Gosnells with a flamethrower. Dutton labelled the assault as “very disturbing” but had virtually nothing to say about the obvious racial motive.