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John Passant

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July 2011



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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

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Is Anders Breivik just John Howard with a gun?

There is little in the political concerns of right-wing terrorist Anders Breivik that would be out of place in Coalition Party meetings or the mainstream media and especially on the shock jock radio shows.

Breivik saw 3 threats to Western society – Islam, multiculturalism and cultural Marxism.  The ‘left’ is seen as the repository of these supposed evils or in the case of Islam as a supporter, facilitator and protector.

This is stock standard right wing discourse. Indeed some of Breivik’s comments could just as easily have been made by Australian Labor Party Parliamentarians and certainly some rank and file members.

Breivik was opposed to Islam and so-called Islamisation.

So too are bourgeois politicians across the world. Some in Europe and the US talk openly of this non-existent  ‘danger’ and owe their current parliamentary positions and power – they hold between 5 and 30 percent of the seats in various European Parliaments – to trumpeting the ‘threat’ of Islam to Western society.

The clash of cultures or civilisations is also a common right wing theme, carried in sometimes disguised sometimes open form in the war on terror, a war that has unleashed horrific western destruction on the peoples of countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.

John Howard was and is more subtle than Breivik in his rhetoric.

Perhaps he did learn a lesson from his 1988 call to racism when he argued that  to support ‘social cohesion’ the rate of Asian immigration must be ‘slowed down a little’.  He lost his job as Opposition leader partly as a consequence of that statement.

Although Howard later ‘recanted’,  in power he used racism and xenophobia as part of his wider demonisation approach to divert working class anger from his neoliberal economic agenda.

This wider attack includes or included at various times Asians, Muslims, aborigines, refugees, ‘terrorists’; basically anyone who didn’t fit within his narrow white anglo-centric view of what it meant to be ‘Australian’.   The Labor Party has mirrored this to varying degrees because it too wants to disguise its neoliberalism and the consequences.

Howard is the man who refused to call the 5000 Cronulla rioters who attacked Muslims the racists they were and denied that his warnings of a home-grown terror threat had contributed to the attacks. 

Instead he blamed alcohol! That is a bit like blaming  killing 76 Norwegians on the actions of  a lone wolf or a madman. It’s an excuse to avoid one’s own complicity.

Howard is also the man who lied about children overboard, who used the Tampa incident to demonise refugees and win an election and who sent Australian troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, contributing to the deaths of over a million civilians at the hands of Western imperialism.

In 2006 Howard’s supposedly more socially liberal deputy Peter Costello attacked  ‘mushy misguided multiculturalism’, saying that ‘Australian values’ were ‘not optional’. He declared that migrants who did not have those Australian values should have their citizenship stripped from them. Howard endorsed him.

A week before Howard had warned that a small part of the Islamic community was ‘utterly antagonistic to our kind of society’. One Liberal Party backbencher at the time warned that Australia could become a Muslim nation in 50 years because we were aborting ourselves out of existence. 

The politics of exclusion, of racism, of scapegoating and warmongering, are part of the mainstream political discourse.

It wasn’t just Islam and multiculturalism that Howard attacked.

He was a major warrior in the culture wars too, an idea that found  expression in his denigration of the ‘black armband view of history’ and his attacks on the failure to celebrate the positive past of Australian (ie capitalist) development.  At one stage he even claimed victory in the culture wars, saying it was the end of the ‘divisive, phony debate about national identity’.

This makes indigenous people special targets for mainstream attacks from both the right and the social democratic left. Couple that with the needs of mining capital for their land and the result is ongoing dispossession, poverty and racism, and policies like the Northern Territory invasion to further those aims and entrench those outcomes

These John Howard themes – the rejection of multiculturalism, the hysteria aimed at Muslims and the fight for a white pro-capitalist vision of culture  and history – are the themes too of Anders Breivik.

Howard used these themes, themes he believed in passionately, as cover for his neoliberal agenda. He built on the tactics of Labor Prime Ministers Hawke and Keating as they searched for distractions to their neoliberal program and its consequences, just as Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard have built on Howard’s legacy.

The most obvious recent example of this under Gillard is the Malaysian refugee ‘solution’.

Of course the more reactionary politicians of the right, those who might be intellectual if not actual accomplices, condemn Breivik’s violence.  They would, wouldn’t they? Their tactic, at least in Europe, is to use the cloak of respectability to win power through the ballot box, much as Hitler did in the late 20s and early 30s.

For other more established right wing and social democratic parties the tactic has been to harness racism and the fear of Muslims that they themselves have generated through in some cases dog whistles and in some cases outright appeals.

Howard for example corralled much of the One Nation support behind his Coalition by dog whistling to them and seemingly understanding their concerns.

But while Breivik was an individual armed with home made bombs and guns, Howard and Gillard had or have control of the Australian military, a killing machine which is part of the most vicious, brutal and efficient killing machine the world has seen, US imperialism.

The violence of the state is a thousand times more horrific than anything individual terrorists can unleash. Just as we condemn the violence of individual terrorists we must condemn too the violence of the terrorists of the capitalist state and organise collectively against both.

The right disagree with Breivik’s actions and tactics, not his political concerns. Their aim is to win control of the state and use its power to impose their anti-working class programme on their populations.

Breivik’s individual right wing terrorism threatens their state led right wing agenda. By exposing the reality of conservative themes Breivik’s terrorism may threaten that project and the the bigger picture of imperialism and capital accumulation and the extraction of surplus from workers.

That of course will depend on a range of other factors, especially the level of class struggle across Europe against the ruling class’s austerity program and its racist and xenophobic attempts at distraction from that program.

There is hope. A few days after the killings around 150,000 people went on a walking rose remembrance procession through Oslo and finished their journey with ‘For Youth’, an anti-Nazi song of the Norwegian resistance.

But much much more will be needed as the racist and brutal agenda of the right becomes clearer and the attacks on workers more and more vicious.

Across the world the working class is beginning to stir. From Egypt to Europe and on to the US workers are starting to fight back. Therein lies the way to beat back reaction and fascism.



Comment from Eithne Mills
Time July 29, 2011 at 1:43 pm

It may be very fitting that John Howard, Peter Costello and George Pell command the admiration of Breivik, but Philip Ruddock and Peter Reith ought not to be deprived of their moment of glory!

Comment from MarianK
Time July 31, 2011 at 7:51 am

‘Breivik saw 3 threats to Western society – Islam, multiculturalism and cultural Marxism. ‘

Four threats actually. Add feminism to that.

Brevik’s sad manifesto was permeated by all the gynophobic dogmas we’ve come to expect from the the Murdoch press, the conservative right-wing, the anti-abortion lobby, mens movement gurus like Warren Farrell, and soft-Left commentators like Christopher Hitchens and Bob Ellis.

Writes Brevik: “The female manipulation of males has been institutionalised during the last decades and is a partial cause of the feminisation of men in Europe …” He rails against the West’s “destructive and suicidal Sex and the City lifestyle (modern feminism, sexual revolution) … In that setting, men are not men anymore, but metro sexual and emotional beings that are there to serve the purpose as a never-criticising soul mate to the new age feminist woman goddess.”

We should all know the formula by now – i.e. female empowerment = men’s emasculation = the downfall of Western civilisation = the rise of [insert your own choice of major existential threat].

Along with Brevik’s fear of the Left, the media has said very little about his fear of women. Not surprising when you think about how much both of these threats have dominated the Murdoch opinion pages to date.

Comment from John
Time July 31, 2011 at 9:05 am

Thanks MarianK.

Comment from Socrates
Time July 31, 2011 at 11:43 pm

Does that therefore make OBL simply Gillard with a plane?

Comment from John
Time August 1, 2011 at 8:20 am


Comment from Reverend Cambeul
Time August 1, 2011 at 2:28 pm

The lines of truth are more blurred than ever. I notice the three Jewish personalities in your blog banner: Trotsky, Marx and Lenin. I also notice that Breivik is a pro-Israel, Christian Zionist. I find it ironic that that the left and the neo right are really two sides of the Jewish coin fighting one another. But I find it disturbing that Breivik’s Jewish influences are being buried by the left and the neo-right in an attempt to scapegoat anyone that either side declares to be “White Supremacist” or “Nazi.” Is the truth too revolutionary? Or is the truth only for “extremists” outside the Jewish Marxist and Zionist world?

Comment from John
Time August 1, 2011 at 4:11 pm

The tendency of some on the extreme right to support Zionism is driven by their Islamophobia and their view that it is fear of Muslims that gives them support among sections of society. They support Zionism as a force which is actually attacking Muslims. This has caused a split among the fascists and fellow travellers, as this post by Reverend Cambeul shows.

Comment from Jolly
Time August 1, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Nationalsim and religion have been the cause of many human sufferings on massive scales. Politicians and people with vested interest have managed to exploit such emotive arena (nationalism/religion) without much responsibility. Most of us Christians don’t even know (or don’t want to acknowledge) that Christ was a Middle-Eastern Jew, a brown man at that! We have (on print) given him blue eyes, white skin with almost blond hair and a halo. So we have people like Breivik (perhaps John Howard, too) lamenting the death of Christianity and ‘white’ western civilisation. Does a person such as Breivik understand that humans originated from Africa?

Are we doomed, as a civilization, because of our ignorance?

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