"A debate over whether the commemoration of war veterans should be broadened to include all victims of war was distorted and sensationalised by the tabloid press"LOUIS ASHWORTH

Following the targeted abuse of students named in previous coverage of these events, we have anonymised the identity of this article's author for the sake of their safety.

Three months ago, dozens of ‘Free Tommy’ fascists took to the streets of Cambridge to demand the release of the then-jailed founder of the far-right English Defence League (EDL). With their chants of “Whose streets? Our streets”, the demonstrators brought their extremist views out from the fringes of society and directly into the public view - which is where they have been ever since.

On numerous occasions following the march, far-right symbols and slogans, including flyers and stickers from the militant white supremacist group Generation Identity, have been sighted on walls and lamp posts across the city. It is now clear that the burst of nationwide mobilisation in support of Robinson was not an isolated turn of events: the racist right is here to stay in Cambridge.

“CUCA’s steadfast refusal to accept even the smallest morsel of responsibility or remorse suggests a detachment from any sense of a duty of care to their fellow students”

We now also know that the next cause célèbre they are likely to be organising around is the controversy over events that took place at CUSU Council on 8th October. A debate over whether the commemoration of war veterans should be broadened to include all victims of war both in Britain and overseas – in recognition of the University of Cambridge’s status as a global institution – was distorted and sensationalised by the tabloid press into the absurd accusation that CUSU had voted to “scrap” (The Sun) and “REJECT” (The Mirror) Remembrance Day altogether.

The ensuing media firestorm set off a campaign of vicious online abuse and hatred against the student around whom the news story was centred, and has become a mobilising force for fascists. At their most recent rally in London, speakers from the far-right Democratic Football Lads Alliance (DFLA) announced to a crowd of sieg-heiling white supremacists that they would soon be marching in Cambridge to protest the “banning” of Remembrance Day here.

The far right and its programme of violent white supremacy are an established problem both nationwide and in Cambridge. Their sudden interest in the minutiae of student politics belies the wider significance of the recent media frenzy: it is part of a broader ‘culture war’ that has been concocted by fascists to “develop a racist street movement and give it a political form”. Only now, it is Remembrance Day rather than Tommy Robinson at the centre of the mobilisation.

This is a problem that must be tackled with great urgency, but the task of doing so will be impossible without a forceful confrontation of the complicity of students themselves in bringing us to this moment. The Chairman of the Conservative Association recently went on Good Morning Britain and declared to viewers nationwide that they were “completely against” students being targeted with death threats and that, moreover, they had no clue that their motion could have resulted in this happening. This is a position they have since repeated when pressed by Varsity about the DFLA’s recent call to action. The Chairman insisted that “it’s not a CUCA matter”, and that this has “nothing to do with CUCA”.

They are professing a level of naivety and ignorance that strains credulity. After the meeting of Council they posted an incendiary statement falsely accusing CUSU of “literally want[ing] to erase our memory” of the war dead alongside copies of the original and amended motions without censoring the names of students. Their provocative conduct at CUSU council followed by a misrepresentation of their fellow students in order to manufacture controversy signalled a willingness to court whatever attention they could without care for the consequences of their actions.


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Mountain View

Student activists condemn national press over targeted Remembrance Day coverage

In the wake of the disturbing news that card-carrying neo-nazis may be coming to Cambridge over the Remembrance Day controversy and endangering the physical and emotional safety of students, CUCA’s steadfast refusal to accept even the smallest morsel of responsibility or remorse – either by apologising or by issuing corrections – suggests a detachment from any sense of a duty of care to their fellow students. It is beneath contempt.

Varsity have recently published an editorial acknowledging that they have a duty of care to the students they report on, a duty we believe they breached with their initial coverage of the events that unfolded at Council. They have committed themselves to active reflection on how they can better place this ethic of social responsibility at the forefront of their reporting. CUCA, meanwhile, continue to add fuel to the fire for the mere sake of scoring cheap points in a fake ‘culture war’. This is at the expense of the student they singled out for mass abuse, as well as anyone who will find themselves caught up in the planned mobilisation of the far right. When will they be held to account?

  • This article was updated on October 22nd to remove a claim made about members of the Cambridge University Conservative Association (CUCA). 

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