Today’s Age reports that “a vigilante-style group is running ‘safety patrols’ in Melbourne’s CBD”. The article reads like it could have been scraped from a Soldiers of Odin (SOO) press release, the video that accompanies the article is worse.
The Age happily compares Soldiers of Odin to New York’s ‘Guardian Angels’; a multi-racial group of who ‘patrolled’ the New York subway system in the 1980s. A more apt comparison for the Soldiers of Odin would be Greece’s Golden Dawn.
The Soldiers of Odin are not simply some confused vigilante group concerned with amorphous ‘crime’ in the CBD. Rather, they are implementing a strategy of intimidation with the aim of building a far-right street gang in the heart of the Melbourne.
Their politics are racist, nationalist, and fascist.
For the Soldiers of Odin, ‘crime’ is a euphemism. Their agenda is to target Muslims, and non-white immigrants from the Middle East and Africa. They talk about crime in terms of the minority groups they seek to target. ‘Crime’ provides the Soldiers of Odin with the cover they are seeking to demonize religious and cultural minorities.
If you have any doubt about the racist agenda of the Soldiers of Odin, check out their repulsive public Facebook presence. The racist material directed at Muslims and other groups of perceived non-white immigrants is there for anyone with eyes to see.
The Soldiers of Odin are implementing a tried and tested racist strategy; and if Chris Vedelago and Cameron Houston of The Age wanted to compare it to anything they should have compared it to the strategy adopted by Golden Dawn in Greece.
The Soldiers of Odin are conducting “street patrols” in the city, and purport to run a soup kitchen. They do both of these things with deliberate political objectives in mind.
Fascist rhetoric centres around the idea that the state has failed the ‘nation’ in some way. The Soldiers of Odin are asserting that the state has failed to provide for “our homeless”, or that the state has failed to provide “safety” from “crime”, and they are purporting to react to this failure. But at a deeper level they are reacting to what they see as the state’s failure to maintain white supremacy. The state has failed to stop “Islamisation”, “left-wing treason”, immigration and so on.
The soup kitchen is about legitimacy and political cover. Our society gives all sorts of leeway to cranks if they purport to undertake charity work. It is politically difficult for anti-racist activists or any other force to go out and bust up a supposed soup kitchen.
The street patrols fit into this rhetoric as well, but their purpose is far more sinister. The Soldiers of Odin are actively hostile towards non-white immigrants, refugees, Muslims and “the left”. Their presence in the CBD is about projecting intimidation.
I have written before about the fact that fascists have a public space agenda. They are making a claim about who can feel safe in public space and who is not allowed to feel safe in public space. They are making the claim that racism is acceptable in public space, and that all people who disagree with them should feel unsafe in public space.
The uniformed march of bone-heads is deliberately calculated to make non-white immigrants, and people who are identifiably Muslim, feel unsafe in our city.
Should they be stopped?
The Soldiers of Odin are presently a tiny far-right grouplet, however, unopposed, the knowledge that even a small group of thugs is roaming the streets can have a disproportionate impact. There is also no guarantee that this group will stay small.
Australia has not yet experienced the scale of economic shocks that facilitated the rise of these kinds of groups in different European contexts, however there are other factors that could support the growth of this model of far-right group.
In Victoria we are in the middle of a racist “law-and-order” scare. The Herald Sun and various tabloid current affairs outfits have been pushing garbage about “Sudanese crime” and the supposed threat of “Islamic” terrorism, and the state opposition is talking up a law-and-order election.
Whilst unemployment is officially down, there is still meaningful economic discontent in the disadvantaged outer suburban communities that far-right groups have been targeting over the past two years (Melton, Bendigo, Narre Warren). There is also simmering resentment, encouraged by racism from the media and various political leaders, at the apparent decline of white supremacy in Australia.
The Soldiers of Odin are unlikely to experience rapid organizational growth; they are not likely to become a major extra-parliamentary political force in the near future. That said, in the current context there is the political opportunity for a group of street thugs to build and organise. A couple of dozen roaming fascists can make a city centre feel decidedly unsafe; a couple of hundred could pose a significant threat.
Fascist street thugs, like the Soldiers of Odin, need to be opposed. Their presence in the CBD has to be rejected, and their activities ejected. Fortunately they are still a small group of political opportunists.
Anti-racists need to get together and debate tactics in their organisations and campaign groups, but I’d suggest one possible tactic that might be worth exploring is a counter presence.
Any anti-racist counter-presence would need to be bigger, have better food, and be prepared to go and dish out the grub and friendship whenever and wherever the Scum of Odin seek to set up shop. It would have to be an ongoing project, and to work it would need to draw in the participation of the people that these fascists seek to target.
The Soldiers of Odin seek to convey a sense of semi-anonymous menace. The images and video included in The Age article merely contribute to this, in particular by using their “from behind” style photos (a style also popular with the fascist groups they descend from).
Well, here are their less than impressive faces (thanks to DYVRS for digging up most of these).
It’s utterly laughable that Age reporters Chris Vedelago and Cameron Houston did not challenge SOO on their neo-Nazi origins. They’ve adopted the name and branding (apparently with endorsement) of a Finnish fascist group. That name and logo draws from the post-WWII neo-Nazi embrace of “Odinist” and other forms of “Norse” symbolism.
And it’s not like fascists in Australia are unaware of the neo-Nazi connotations of the use of norse iconography by far-right groups!
For more on this topic, check out Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism, and the Politics of Identity by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke. Or just browse any gallery of common neo-nazi symbols or tattoos!
Anti-Racist Canada has a ton of info documenting links between the Soldiers of Odin and neo-Nazism (h/t Slackbastard).