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The Far Right on Campus

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The far right is on the rise across the world—even here at Monash.

The first day of semester 2 saw the re-appearance of Nazi propaganda on campus, threatening the arrest and deportation of Chinese students, and calling for a whites-only Australia.

Last year, Donald Trump won the most powerful election in the world by promising to deport immigrants and ban Muslims, while boasting about his past sexual assaults.

In Austria, the Netherlands, and France, fascist parties have come dangerously close to forming government. In Greece and Hungary, the neo-Nazi thugs of Golden Dawn and Jobbik have attacked migrants, Roma and their political enemies, and have gained a footing in parliament.

And right here in Australia, Pauline Hanson is back in Parliament, denouncing Muslims, migrants, and autistic children. Fascist and fascist-sympathising groups, such as Reclaim Australia and the United Patriots Front, have been organising anti-Muslim street mobilisations since 2015.

Their beliefs are hardly radical. Flag-waving, Muslim-hating, migrant-bashing, homophobia and sexism are promoted everywhere from the Herald Sun to the House of Representatives. The “radical” right just amplify the prejudices already promoted by the mainstream, and take them to their logical conclusions.

The student world is no exception. Universities aren’t the enlightened havens of intellectual progress that some like to imagine. The snobbery and social privilege of many university students translates easily into far-right, and even fascist, worldviews.

Far-right activism is experiencing a mini-revival on some Australian campuses. In some places, it’s the pathetic and resentful antics of “Men’s Rights” clubs. Increasingly, it’s the vilification and intimidation of Muslims. At the University of Western Australia a severed pig’s head was left outside the Muslim prayer room in 2015. A few months later at the University of Sydney, the Muslim room was trashed and threatening racist notes left.

In New South Wales earlier this year, posters were put up around campuses celebrating the forty-year fascist dictatorship of Francisco Franco, where tens of thousands of dissidents were killed, opposition parties banned, and women excluded from public life. For some years now, pro-Nazi leaflets have been distributed annually throughout universities.

At Monash this year, we’ve seen the emergence of the Monash Right, whose posters around campus have celebrated Trump and denounced alleged socialist conspiracies. And at the start of semester 2, “Antipodean Resistance” made a splash with their Chinese-language posters threatening to arrest and deport international students, alongside other, even more disgusting posters calling for all non-whites to be banned from Australia.

These aren’t all the same. There’s a difference between hyped-up conservatives and outright Nazis. But the right as a whole are increasingly promoting anti-migrant, anti-women, and anti-left sentiments on university campuses.

What to do?

Some argue that people who oppose fascism and the far right should ignore them and they’ll remain small and irrelevant. But we can’t wait for fascists to build up their forces before we take them on. If we do, it means those who stand up for egalitarianism and democracy are passive, while those who stand for oppression and discrimination promote their worldviews and organisations. The left, Muslims, women, LGBTI people and anyone else who oppose the Right have a reason to be concerned and take the threat of a growing right seriously now, not later once passivity has allowed them to grow to the extent they have in other parts of the world.

Others hope that we can bully the right into submission, or hide from them.

“Safe spaces”—including literal rooms devoted exclusively for the use of oppressed groups like women, LGBTI people, and people of colour—may be comforting to small groups of students, but they do nothing to stop the spread of right wing ideas in the world outside those tiny rooms. By retreating into our own inner lives, and ignoring the world outside, we give the other side free reign. We have to resist—not retreat.

And we can’t just try to turn the whole university into a “safe space” by demanding security guards and the university shut down our opponents. By calling on authorities to ban controversial speakers, leaflets, and meetings, we allow those who support oppression to act like martyrs of civil liberties.

And neither of these strategies increases the confidence and organisation of our side. Those of us who oppose discrimination and oppression have to collaborate to promote our ideas and activities with more boldness, confidence, and strength in numbers.

Ultimately, no matter how many speakers are banned and how many safe spaces are declared, the only way to defeat the right is by out-doing them on the field of organisation, argument, and activity.

That means we need to defend free speech and the right to organise politically on campus, because we need to use it. The ideas of the Right are promoted by the President of the USA and the columnists of the daily newspapers.

We have to use our resources to promote pro-migrant, pro-women, pro-LGBTI, and pro-equality messages that can win over students: our student papers, our student unions, our campus clubs, and our university spaces.

A battle of ideas is inevitable. The only way the broadly progressive forces can win is by taking a stand with confidence, organisation, and resources. That’s why it’s important to have our collective resources pooled to defend the rights and dignity of students and staff. It’s why taking a stance on controversial questions is important.

Clubs, societies, and student unions can’t afford to be be “apolitical” when Nazis are promoting their beliefs. And anti-fascist students can’t afford to be passive and leave it to others to sort out.

Luckily at Monash we are well equipped with a well-established student union; a number of broadly progressive political clubs; clubs and societies that represent LGBTI students, Muslims, and international students, and others; plus our student journalism and radio organisations, and many other resources.

All these groups, and many more—plus any interested student reading this—can, and should take a public stand against racism and the far right. If you don’t fight, you lose every time.

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Society

Elon Musk: Hero or Villain?

Elon Musk (Angharad Neal-Williams)

 

Since the passing of technological juggernaut Steve Jobs in 2011, Silicon Valley has been desperate for a new genius to uphold its innovative and creative reputation. In the past few years, an heir apparent has emerged – SpaceX and Tesla CEO, Elon Musk.

The South African-born, Canadian-American entrepreneur rose to fame for co-founding PayPal, prior to his more publicised ventures of Tesla and SpaceX, which propelled him towards worldwide fame and notoriety. But questions still remain about Musk’s character; his effect on our society and the motivations behind his unrelenting pursuit of innovation.

Most recently, concerns over Musk’s moral compass has dampened his golden image. Only recently he was an advisor to President Trump, part of the Strategic and Policy Forum and Manufacturing Jobs Initiative. Musk has since resigned, following Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement.

His initial appointment and acceptance of the advisory role drew criticism. However Musk, a centrist, stated he would prefer to have a voice in the machinery of Washington than none whatsoever. It was his resignation, though, that sparks serious questioning.

If Musk was so swayed by morals and social issues, his resignation begs the question as to why he even joined the administration. Trump’s consistent racism, misogyny and his rejection of science provided Musk with good reason to refuse to join the boards. Similarly, Trump’s defunding of Planned Parenthood and quasi-immigration ban have shocked the globe by their insensitivity. The question remains: was this withdrawal simply the last straw in Musk’s attempt to justify his position as an advisor? Or was his resignation to do with Tesla’s stance on environmentalism and therefore, a stance aligned with his company and its stakeholders.

Ultimately, Musk’s public decisions do beg the question of whether he is acting as an individual swayed by personal ideals, or rather as a company CEO eager to capitalise on a financial opportunity.

It is rather convenient that the face of sustainable automotive endeavours would so publicly announce his resignation over an issue of sustainability. However, in the face of countless other social issues, he ignored the actions of the administration in order to retain his influence in the politics of the country. Ought Musk, for the sake of moral conviction, not have continued to advise Trump to restart work on sustainability in the environment? Thus, one might infer that Musk’s resignation was motivated by a desire to maintain Tesla’s progressive reputation, rather than as an individual passionate about social justice.

Moreover, Musk has been in the spotlight over workplace safety concerns at Tesla manufacturing plants. On May 24, Worksafe published findings that Tesla had a rate of injuries 34% higher than the industry average. Following this, Musk made an emotional statement declaring he would personally oversee all future workplace injuries. Further, he would take the time to work in each role of Tesla’s manufacturing so that he could understand the difficulties of his employees. This statement was made on May 31 and was met with widespread approval. The problem, though, is that the report was shown to Tesla as early as January. There were only brief and emotionless statements about workplace issues appearing prior to the publication of the report.

Musk’s emotional response was not driven by the fact that his staff were more vulnerable to injury than the industry standard, but rather by the prospect of a negative public reaction to the findings. Why else was his statement not issued within a week of this data being shown to him in January? The answer is simple. Musk recognised that an emotional response would be most popular, as it appeared that he had no prior knowledge of the stats and was devastated to learn of the misfortune of his staff. That way he could control the issue in one powerful presentation.

This also calls his moral stance into question anew. How can we believe he is emotionally aware of issues facing pockets of society, when he is apparently more driven by profits than the wellbeing of his employees? Is his response to both his position with Trump and the Worksafe findings no more than damage control?

Despite his entrepreneurial genius, questions remain for Elon Musk. Is he a worthy face of global innovation? Or is he simply a commercially driven, profit-hungry public figure willing to sell his morals for a few more orders of his latest Tesla pursuits?

 

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Society

Words

Words-(Joanne-Fong)
  There are some legitimate crusades to be fought in ensuring that our language is not exclusionary or malicious, and
Society

The Dutch General Election of 2017

Netherlands Election (Angharad Neal-Williams)

On 15 March 2017 general elections were held in The Netherlands to elect the 150 members of the House of Representatives. These elections have been interesting in many ways. The turnout was around 82%, which is the highest turnout since 1986, and a record number of 28 parties have participated. Also, the now outgoing government has served a full term, which has not occurred since 2002. Furthermore, many people feared that, after the unexpected results of the Brexit referendum and the US presidential elections, The Netherlands would follow in the wake of the widespread right-wing populism in Europe. For a long time, the right-wing populist, anti-Islam Party for Freedom (PVV) was leading in the pre-election polls.

Election results

However, PVV did not win the elections. Its huge lead in the pre-election polls gradually crumbled and eventually, the conservative-liberal People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) won the elections with 33 seats. VVD has held the most seats since the general elections of 2010. PVV holds the second most seats (20), followed by the centre-right Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) and the social-liberal, progressive centrists Democrats 66 (D66), both with 19 seats; the Socialist Party (SP) and the green liberal, centre-left progressive GreenLeft (GroenLinks) with 14 seats. GreenLeft has achieved its largest victory in history.

Then comes the Labour Party (PvdA), which suffered its biggest defeat in history. They ended up with not more than 9 seats, which is 29 seats less than in 2012. A popular reason for this defeat is that PvdA were punished for the outgoing government’s severe austerity policy, which it was a part of. The policy, characterised by huge cuts to health care, public service, the arts and culture sector, defence and immigration policy, was a result of the protracted economic recession in The Netherlands. It has been viewed by left-wing voters as counter to working-class values.

After the elections, The Netherlands was flooded with euphoric coverage by Western media. Right-wing populism had supposedly been defeated in The Netherlands. However, the media was wrong. Right-wing populism has not been defeated at all. In fact, it is one of the winners of these elections. Compared to the previous elections, PVV has gained 5 seats. Although they most likely will not become part of the coalition government, it still is the second largest party. Furthermore, PVV could become the largest opposition party. In other words, they could significantly influence the political decision-making process.

Formation of the government

VVD’s victory means that they have the right to form a new government. The formation is usually a complex and time-consuming process. During the elections, VVD  showed interest in collaborating with CDA and D66. After all, these parties share a common vision on important matters like economic affairs. Also, CDA and D66 have often voted in favour of VVD’s severe austerity measures during the previous government’s term. Furthermore, the three parties would need only one more party in order to obtain an absolute majority in both House of Representatives and Senate. Particularly in this respect, the formation is rather interesting.

In my view, there are two parties most likely to join a coalition with the three aforementioned parties. The first is GreenLeft. Although not all three parties are equally content with the possibility of GreenLeft as a coalition partner, there are ongoing negotiations with them right now. D66 would be more than happy to have GreenLeft joining the coalition, because they support progressive policy in the area of sustainable energy, climate change and the EU. VVD and CDA however, would not be so pleased to collaborate with them, because of the significant differences on major issues like climate change.

The second party, one I have not mentioned yet, is the Christian democratic, social-conservative Christian Union. They would be warmly welcomed by VVD and CDA, because it would benefit their pursuit of centre-right policy. To D66 however, it would be an eyesore. D66’s progressive view on issues like drug policy, prostitution, gay marriage, abortion and euthanasia is diametrically opposed to Christian Union’s conservative view on those issues. Furthermore, Christian Union does not have enough seats to put pressure on VVD and CDA in order to support D66.

Ultimately, it seems likely that Christian Union will become part of the coalition government. After all, they would benefit VVD and CDA more than GreenLeft would. However, in my opinion, VVD finds itself in quite a dilemma. Although VVD and GreenLeft have many major differences that need to be bridged in order to form a government, it could be worth for VVD to accept GreenLeft.

First of all, VVD would satisfy both D66 and many young voters that want to see things change. Furthermore, if VVD can make compromises with GreenLeft on a few major issues like climate change and sustainable energy, they can still implement a predominantly centre-right policy and satisfy their own constituency as well. This might reduce the risk of an unstable government and the risk of losing votes next elections.

On the other hand, VVD leader Mark Rutte will have to deal with CDA and an influential conservative constituency within his own party. Both will not tolerate a coalition in which the influence of the centre-right parties could be impaired. Both GreenLeft and D66 may hamper VVD’s and CDA’s intended centre-right policy.

VVD, CDA and D66 will likely form the next government. They are expected to be joined by either GreenLeft or Christian Union. At the present day, there are ongoing negotiations with GreenLeft, but it is far from certain whether those negotiations will result in a coalition agreement. The promptness of the formation depends largely on VVD’s readiness to make the decision. Will they accept Christian Union, so that they can implement a centre-right policy? Or will they face the challenge by accepting GreenLeft, which might impair the pursuit of a centre-right policy, but also benefit the government’s stability and VVD’s position in light of the next elections? As long as VVD does not make that choice, we will be kept in suspense.

 

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