What Happened When The British National Front Tried To Set Up In Australia Thirty Years Ago?: A Lesson ForThose Who Wish To Import BNP Politics To Australia
In 1977, a group in Melbourne made a decision to establish a branch of the British National Front (NF) in Australia. This group made several approaches to Australian patriotic groups of various sorts to participate in unity discussions. Just as the NF had formed as an amalgamation of nationalist organizations, the script had to be followed. As it transpired, none were interested.
Eventually, in June 1978 at a meeting at a Melbourne hotel, a small coterie of people assembled to set up the National Front of Australia (NFA). A journalist infiltrated the Saturday June 5 meeting and splashed the proceedings all over the front page of Monday's Melbourne Age. I recall Tuesday's Current Affair program and waiting to see the NFA leader speak on television. I had previously met the leader, Rosemary Sisson, just a couple of weeks previously - when I tried to talk her out of the NFA experiment. Imagine the surprise of the group of assembled nationalists who sat in anticipation of seeing Rosemary, when the 'leader' turned out to be Bob Cameron, head of the Nazi party. Imagine the angst of Ms. Sisson, when one week later three members of the Ananda Marga sect were arrested (framed!) for trying to kill Cameron! Cameron became the face of the NFA, despite Sisson's protest he had nothing whatsoever to do with it. Indeed, he didn't. His claim to NFA leadership, as much as the frame up of the Ananda Marga Three, was some sort of political police dirty tricks operation (I have analysed that affair elsewhere).The jig was up for the NFA. However, the attempt to pikky-back a ride to the big time, should never have been tried.
The British National Front's View Of Australia
In 1977, the author was a student at Sydney University. I researched and wrote a short thesis in the history department on the 'right-wing' movements in Britain (1960 - 1975). In fact, my research was ultimately encouraged by two young nationalist leaders, F.K. Salter and E.F. Azzopardi. After a point, they became aware of interest in some circles in setting up a NFA and urged me on to investigate the British NF. Eventually, the completed thesis was used as a text to criticise the NF view of Australia and to oppose the line of the NFA.
It was determined that the NF view of Australia was essentially imperial and colonial. John Tyndall, chairman of the NF, had authored a remarkable booklet, Britain: World Power Or Pauper State? In this booklet, he described Australia's future. Here, the British NF leader, Tyndall, made several major errors in his analysis of Australia. Basically, he planned to revamp the core of the Commonwealth, the Dominions, into a "community of British blood", a Third Force in world affairs. He reasoned that Australia was still essentially a primary-producing state, a perfect partner for British industry. Tyndall reasoned that the Australian ethnix mix was overwhelmingly "British" (which he thought meant a similar national consciousness to his own). Britain would defend Australia.
The objections were obvious.
Firstly, the white Dominions have had new European ethnic groups introduced into their communities since 1945, in so far as a country like Australia was ever as "British" as some thought. And indeed, it wasn't. The Dominions have contained other Europeans, like the Afrikaners in South Africa, and the French in Canada. The old Dominions had experienced physiological and cultural changes not conducive to a new "empire", that as a "community of British blood", the Commonwealth did not exist. Each Dominion had created an identity of its own. Secondly, that to base any economic policy on the hope that a united Commonwealth trading-bloc could be forged by an appeal to "blood-ties", was wishful thinking. Thirdly, that the former Dominions no longer had economies which "complemented" Britainís; that is, that these nations were then industrial powers, not mere agricultural communities. Fourthly, that the former Dominions had defence needs which Britain could not hope to provide for decades, and would of necessity, pursue independent foreign policies.
The most important point of all for the Australian nationalists was that Australia was a nation no less than Britain. It was this point that the NFA did not agree with. Here with had a group of Australians who denigrated their own national identity. The nationalists also made the point that the only people interested in a defence of a "British" Australia were people not attuned at all to a party of action outside of the bourgeois mainstream, but rather conservative individuals, in some places (yes) a sub-culture, but more at home in ginger groups or the 'conservative' parties. Some NFA people even came to agree with that assessment.
The matter was fought out. The main nationalist organization, Australian National Alliance pursued the Australian nativist line, asserted that Australians were "European" generally but "Australian" in character, that our country sought to be an industrial as well as a primary producer, that we would pursue a foreign policy to secure our freedom. We respected Britain and liked the National Front in many ways - but as a fraternal party and not as a master.
As it was sadly, the NF crashed in the General Election of 1979 and the NFA's myth of a permanently rising star - tumbled to earth. This was exactly what Salter and Azzopardi feared might happen and - exactly what I told Rosemary Sisson, could happen. The NFA finally dissolved - some years later. A formal link was a foolish policy.
The Australian National Action Role In Changing NF Policy On Australia
The story didn't end there. In early 1982, from the fragments of some groups and the ANA, Australian National Action (NA) was formed. The founders were in touch with the young editors of Nationalism Today, magazine of the National Front. One of the editors was no less than - Nick Griffin. I recall writing to Griffin at this time. The British comrades asked us what our criticisms of Tyndall's line on Australia were and we were happy to tell them (as above). They basically accepted it. An article on NA appeared in their magazine in mid 1982. The new line on Australia was used in the Front's internal discussions. There was no interference by the Australians in the affairs of a fraternal party - only an exchange of views. In correspondence with many British nationalists since, both sides maintained the appropriate positions.
Once More With Feeling: BNP And Australian Nationalism
Thirty years have passed. The new BNP line (remember: the party developed from the party launched by John Tyndall in 1982 after the left the NF) on Australia is not the same as that of the NF.
The new programme refers to a "British Family" of peoples and countries, and even refers to the need for friendly relations with Eire. It allows for national parliaments in the UK. It has a hint of nostalgia for a degree of contact with Australia and New Zealand. As such, we could hardly condemn them on that, but there is no "blood ties" based third force Commonwealth mythos. The modern BNP also looks to a new Europe..
It is not really a matter of what the BNP says nonetheless, but rather what some Australians might choose to make of it. It is the problem for us of mobilising Australians and having a clear perspective of the road the Australian nationalists must follow. There is no value to us in asserting "Anglo-Saxon" or even "Anglo-Celtic" identity. We respect those peoples and the particular aspects of heritage derived from there which came to be applied in Australia, but we Australians are a nation as much of the mind as of the European building blocks. We are often 'mixed' in our European roots. The main point is our singular historical experience on the Australian earth. Here psychology and biology merge. To quote William Lane, we "are the whole white people of this Continent".
It is our fear that some persons again mistake the path. They look to a BNP 'link' and an overemphasis on that part of our heritage derived of the British Isles.
Again (and we hardly wish it), we cannot put our eggs in a foreign basket as the NFA did. Again, we cannot rely on fading conservative pools to sustain a road with no future; rather we must lead those people on to the Australian future! We cannot organize except as Australian nationalists; even a suggestion of a foreign road or a foreign 'subservience', serves no one at all.
Possibly poor old John Tyndall summed it up worst of all for those of reactionary disposition: "I have never been able to understand this search for an Australian identity; you already have one and have had one for a thousand years, that of a British people who pioneered a land to the best of British standards". No, we Australians inherited all that old-Europe could offer, all of old-Europe, from the Latins, the Germans, the Slavs and the Celts and deep back to Greece and Rome and the dark lands of Eurasian forest and steppe. But we went on to create a new people and a new nation. We pioneered a land to the best of European standards and we will create a stormy history - "a new Britannia in another world' (Wentworth).