Posted on September 29, 2005

Keith Windschuttle: Racist Essay Is From The Left, Not The Right

Keith Windschuttle, Australian (Sydney), September 29, 2005

When Deakin University vice-chancellor Sally Walker ordered the Deakin Law Review to withdraw an article by Andrew Fraser, she said she “had advice” the article breached the Racial Discrimination Act. It is hard to believe that Walker, who in her previous career was Australia’s leading academic on media law, really thought the article should be banned on such grounds.

Fraser’s article, “Rethinking the White Australia Policy” (an extract from which was reprinted in The Australian’s Higher Education Supplement on September 21) is wrong in almost everything it says but hardly counts as racial discrimination, let alone racial vilification.

What Walker has mainly done, like Macquarie University vice-chancellor Di Yerbury, who locked the lecturer out of his classroom, is draw attention to Fraser’s writings, giving them the cachet of a banned book.

The censored article is an extended version of a review of my book The White Australia Policy, which Fraser originally wrote last February for the neo-racist journal American Renaissance. His underlying premise is the now conventional academic interpretation that the White Australia Policy was an expression of British race nationalism. The only major difference between Fraser and the leftist historians who originated this thesis in the 1970s is that whereas they thought racial nationalism a bad thing, Fraser believes it is good.

In contrast, my book argues that Australian nationalism was defined not by race but by loyalty to Australia’s democratic political institutions. It was qualitatively different from the racial nationalism that emerged in the unification of Germany and Italy in the 1870s and which eventually produced fascism and Nazism. White Australia, I contend, was primarily a labour movement policy to end the importation of low-paid Chinese and Melanesian labour that threatened to undermine wages and create an impoverished, racially segregated, social underclass.

Nonetheless, there was one group of genuine racists in Australia before Federation. They could be found among the intellectual elite who subscribed to what were then the latest ideas from Europe: socialism, republicanism and feminism. At the time, their chief intellectual opponents were classical liberal thinkers such as Bruce Smith and Edward Pulsford, the ideological precursors of the politicians in Harold Holt’s cabinet who ended the White Australia Policy in the 1960s.

Fraser’s case is the other side of the coin of the original labour rationale. Instead of an impoverished non-white underclass, his main concern is that an open immigration policy will eventually produce a wealthy non-white ruling class. He sees today’s success of Asian students at high school and university and their subsequent rise in the professions as the early stages of the emergence of such a class.

Fraser regards himself as a “racial realist” and thinks those of us who support Enlightenment and Christian principles of human equality are tender-minded innocents, selling out their country to globalisation and international finance.

His racism derives from recent theories of sociobiology, but with a political twist. He thinks Chinese and Japanese businessmen operate within mafia-like, extended family clans that are bound by shared genes to support one another. Europeans, he argues, evolved in a cold climate to support non-kinship forms of reciprocity and thus to welcome strangers.

Hence, in competition with Asians, white Australians have a fatal genetic flaw. “Western-style ‘old boy’ preference networks,” Fraser writes, “are only weakly ethnic in character, and thus, permeable, making them no match for the institutionally directed, in-group solidarity or ‘ethnic nepotism’ practised by other groups.”

A historical example from my book, he claims, supports his theory. In the early years of the Broome pearling industry the Japanese forced out other nationalities, partly by their industriousness but also through intimidation, which in 1907, 1914 and 1920 produced violent race riots against Timorese divers.

But that was all long ago and far away. The idea that Chinese or Japanese mafia-like extended families could take over and rule the modern capitalist Australian economy is fanciful. It belongs with other left-wing conspiracy theories like that of the “sixty families who rule Australia” once peddled by the Communist Party.

Moreover, Fraser’s version of the sociobiology of race is yet another of the “just so” stories to which that field is notoriously vulnerable, and which allow writers to deduce any conclusion they fancy.

It should be apparent from all this that Fraser is not, as the press has painted him, a right-wing, neo-Nazi theorist. Instead, he is really a very old-fashioned leftist. Indeed, his views about race, international finance and a future Asian ruling class are uncannily similar to those of William Lane, the Queensland socialist intellectual of the 1880s, who I criticise in my book as one of the genuine racists of that era.

Fraser’s academic career confirms his politics. He is a long-time member of the group of Marxists who, until they were isolated in the Department of Public Law, dominated Macquarie University’s law school with their “critical legal theory”.

The title of one of his recent academic articles, “Reinventing Aristocracy”, smacks of reaction but is actually a modern brand of leftism. It advocates the creation of a new corporate elite from the stakeholders in public companies. “Stakeholder” is left-speak for representatives of employees, consumers and environmentalists. In other words, instead of corporate boards solely representing shareholders, he wants them to be dominated by trade unionists, consumer advocates and greens.

Fraser’s brand of racism should be recognised as one of the logical conclusions embedded within multiculturalism. It was only a matter of time before that doctrine’s emphasis on separate ethnic interests prompted someone to define Anglo-Australia as an ethnic group with interests of its own.

However, there is not much here to get steamed up about, let alone censor. Apart from its appeal to a small number of opportunistic politicians, academics and religious leaders, ethnic separatism has won few converts. Wherever they come from, most migrants want to integrate with mainstream Australia, and most Australians of European descent are happy for them to do so.

Fraser’s “racial realism” deserves to be consigned to the dustbin of history, along with the ethnic separatist policies that underpin it.