The Death of Centrism
WORDS BY CONNOR PARISSIS
On campus there’s a saying that the political climate at university is a precursor for the political climate on a federal level. I sometimes wonder whether Tony Abbott, the 1979 SRC President, thought he’d be the future Prime Minister of Australia.
In the most recent SRC elections, students were shocked to see the once powerful Labor bloc come last place to those on the left and right side of centrist politics. Despite a win for left-wing candidate Imogen Grant, the Liberals and Vision, who comprised of Liberals and ‘independents,’ performed surprisingly well. Vanguard, a controversial ticket for including a renowned holocaust denier, also managed to secure a place on council.
The question is, do these results reflect the broader political climate in Australia, or even globally? Are we witnessing what Australian federal parliament will look like in twenty years? We’re beginning to see a huge polarisation on campus. People no longer affiliating with centrist politics, but flocking to the left and right sides of the political spectrum. The left has seen a huge increase in energy, but so too has the right – with right-wingers feeling comfortable to emerge from their caves, telling us to just “take the red pill” or allow them to spread homophobic views in the wake of the marriage equality survey – all in the name of “freedom of speech.”
It begs the question as to why people are flocking vehemently to political extremism.
Global politics is likely the answer. Left wing politicians have seen some limelight this decade, with Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn emerging as left-wing beacons of hope for their respective nations. So too have many become disillusioned by capitalism. The Grenfell Tower fire this year exposed the attitudes and dangers of capitalist endeavours, and seems to have woken people up to the horrors of capitalism in general, be it slave labour, starvation, death etc. Police brutality has also become a recent development in global politics, with the establishment of Black Lives Matter in opposition to police brutality against people of colour in the United States. Only this week did we see police abuse their powers in Catalan to disrupt a democratic process and assault innocent citizens attempting to cast their vote. Brewing tensions seem to be growing the left in unprecedented ways, with groups like ANTIFA resurfacing, and socialist and communist ideologies becoming popular again. Unfortunately however, these tensions are also growing the right.
The election of Trump seemed to act as a gateway for right-wingers to emerge from the caves they were hiding in. The likes of Milo Yiannopoulos and David Duke have gained worrying traction and more prominent platforms. Since then, people from all nations have been seen rocking ‘Make America Great Again’ hats, and waving Nazi memorabilia at rallies. We’re witnessing a huge influx of racism, islamaphobia and anti-refugee rhetoric, with a huge upsurge in nationalism. Right-wing groups have begun to gain traction all over the world. The Charlottesville attacks and mass shootings all over the globe have begun to become common news stories.
Even back at home, we’re seeing right-wing sentiment growing stronger. People have been seen wearing MAGA hats in Australia, and rallies organised by right-wing groups have seen Nazi imagery as a prominent theme. The murder of indigenous boy Elijah Doughty sparked outrage for both left wing and right wing groups, and attacks against Muslim people have increased at worrying rates. Right wing groups have grown in prominence, leafleting and posturing in the Inner West and West of Sydney. The Marriage Equality Survey seems to have also brought out groups from both sides of the political spectrum. The dichotomy of a Yes/No vote has very suddenly turned into a fight of Left vs. Right, with the left arguing for equality and compassion with a Yes vote, and the right arguing for conservatism, homophobia and ‘freedom of speech’ with a No vote. Even at the Sydney Marriage Equality Rally that brought 50,000 supporters together, right wing people managed to walk around with their MAGA hats to intimidate the Yes crowd. (He was very quickly attacked.)
The ‘Straight Lives Matter’ Rally, organized by right wing, nationalist group, Party for Freedom, saw quick retaliation from Sydney ANTIFA members. These events are merely examples that speak to the massive polarisation that has occurred globally, and is beginning to occur in our very own backyards… and that includes our very own campus, with right of centre campaigns surfacing under the guise of Upstream with Salmon, Vanguard, Vision, and the Conservative Club that vehemently find joy in provoking the campus left with their controversial screenings and events.
If the University of Sydney truly is a precursor for the political climate of Australia’s future, does this predict a federal parliament that appeases right-wing rhetoric, or gives platform to ludicrously nationalistic politicians? We already have a few, be it Pauline Hanson, Tony Abbot, Corey Bernadi… but what do we do when these people begin to make more than half of our parliament? What do we do when the public elect a prime minister like Donald Trump? How are we to combat this?
In the wake of such a polarising society, and a tense world on the edge of global war, we mustn’t remain complacent. The right seem to have forgotten the horrors of fascism and Nazism in World War Two; but the left haven’t forgotten and will continue to fight against those on the wrong side of history, with the same passion and determination leftists have done in the past century. If you find yourself being torn away from the centre of politics in this heated political climate – that is okay. It’s happening to the best of us; but remember that fascism is something that always needs to be destroyed. Right-wing ideologies aren’t an opinion, but a cancer. Join the correct side of history, and fight for what is right, just and equal. Fight with us.