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Romper Stomper

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Colin Lloyd reviews Romper Stomper

Romper Stpmper is a film about a gang of Nazi skins in Melbourne, Australia. The gang get their kicks, literally, by attacking Vietnamese immigrants.

The film topped the box office charts in Australia, won nine awards, and has generally been judged a vivid but flawed anti-racist film.

Its writer and director, Geoffrey Wright, has set out to make a film that shocks through its uncompromising depiction of violence. According to Wright the film’s message is that “as soon as they allow themselves to be driven by the childish simpleness of race hatred, [the youth] are set upon a road to eventual ruin”.
The film uses the eye view of the fascist youth themselves to put over this message, including hand held video footage of realistically staged fights. With such films there is always a danger that they will become perverse attractions for the fascists themselves, or that impressionable youth will fail to see the anti-fascist message behind the vivid and realistic depiction of youth culture.

That is why anti-fascists need to take the opportunity of Romper Stomper’s release to conduct anti-fascist propaganda at the cinemas where it’s on show. Anti-fascists must organise to disperse and physically crush any fascists who try to use the film as an organising point.

The Anti-Nazi League (ANL), dominated by the Socialist Workers Party, has called for people to boycott the film. This response is stupid, bordering on criminal. When the film opened at London’s Prince Charles Cinema on 26 February filmgoers were greeted by an ANL picket chanting: “Romper Stomper: Nazi Film, Get the Nazis Out!”

An ANL leaflet explained:
“We in the ANL are concerned that this film will give confidence to the Nazis. It does not condemn violence and could be seen to glorify it”.

The leaflet compared Romper Stomper to the 1933 pro-Hitler film Triumph of the Will.

If Romper Stomper really was a “Nazi film” then anti-fascists would not just be mounting a campaign to boycott it. They would be mounting an organised campaign of disruption to stop its distribution and showing.
But Romper Stomper is not a “Nazi film”. It may not be a brilliant film, it may take chances, but do all films about fascism have to be like Brechtian agitprop?

If you don’t trust working class youth to be able to see what every unbiased reviewer has seen, that the film maker hates fascism, then of course you will base the anti-fascist fight on shielding the eyes of working class youth from the atrocities fascism commits.

As for the film failing to condemn violence—hold on a minute! Anti-fascists condemn racist violence. But because we don’t rely on either the police or the board of film censors to crush fascism we have to support and advocate anti-fascist violence. And the lives of working class youth are punctuated by violence—in the home, the school, the pub, the football ground.

The ANL’s whole attitude says to working class youth: “We your socialist elders and betters would prefer that you did not see films about real life because you can’t be trusted not to draw reactionary conclusions from them”. And they peddle a liberal “anti-violence” message. Working class youth will rightly scorn such a patronising and pacifist approach.

Of course there are problems with this film: Australia might have only one cinema full of fascists but Britain has a growing and dangerous bunch. This means that fascists may try to use the film to organise. Anti-Fascists who take the opportunity to make serious propaganda to film queues will need to organise disciplined stewarding against possible fascist attack. The pacifist ANL, of course, rejects these methods, irresponsibly leaving its supporters undefended.

In response serious anti-fascists have to organise regular surveillance and propaganda around this film, and where necessary act to physically prevent fascists organising around it. And it means ignoring the ANL’s pathetic boycott campaign, and going to see the film.