“Marxism consists of thousands of truths, but they all boil down to one sentence, ‘it is right to rebel!’ For thousands of years, it has been said that it was right to oppress, it was right to exploit, and it was wrong to rebel. This old verdict was only reversed with the appearance of Marxism…. And from this truth there follows resistance, struggle, the fight for socialism.”
This quote is from self-styled Marxist and successful warlord and dictator Mao Tse Tung. I am taking it from page one of my copy of the 1972 book, It Is Right To Rebel, which was a contemporaneous account of the student radical protests at Monash University of that era of the late 1960s and 1970s.
It was a very different time. I was a toddler, we still had military conscription and were committed to a questionable war in Vietnam, and the McMahon government was in the last months of a 23 year Coalition reign over Australia.
And at my future university, Monash, there were regular student protests.
There were still occupations of the admin building when I was an undergrad, by anti-fees demonstrators. Much as I am a very conservative person, I am also a romantic, and I do like the idea of students questioning the status quo and protesting. It is one of the things which is very healthy about our democracy and civil society, even if I do not always (or often) agree with the protestors.
By the mid 1990s, the last sad echo of the dissent of the early 1970s on campus was when Dr Jim Cairns, former Deputy Labor Leader and acting Prime Minister, would set up a card table outside the union building on an occasional afternoon and try to sell some of his old books. Passing by en route to a meeting with some fellow postgrads (in the one semester I took my part time MA seriously enough in comparison to full time work to actually still visit the campus), I would stop and engage in polite small talk with Dr Cairns. After all, just over two decades earlier, he would have spoken not too many steps from where he sat chatting with me, enthralling the better part of ten thousand students with his words.
That time would so quickly sweep away the memory of his place in the history of that era was something I found profoundly tragic.
What is going on at the University of Queensland at the moment is far more tragic. They are seeking to expel a student radical, who has done nothing more than express dissent with the University of Queensland’s Finlandizing policies towards Communist China.
I only became aware of the case of Drew Pavlou in the past week, and I think that the below article from the Guardian serves as a good narrative of what is going on:
Protests on university campuses are part of what makes them interesting places, and particularly what make them a healthy contributor to our democracy. Student occupations of admin buildings, which happened, in my time, on many campus around Australia, were a healthy, albeit rather Quixotic, sign of dissent.
University administrations tolerated them. And perhaps they saw them the way that I do, as a healthy thing. But that is a different time again, when universities were less interested in the bottom line, and more interested in intellectual freedom and academic enquiry.
Nowadays, the mutterings about the decay in the academic standards and moral position of universities in Australia has started to go from a whisper to a scream. A blind eye is frequently turned to plagiarism, and every attempt is made to pass the paying customers, including through group rather than individual assessments.
Is it any wonder that a university which is firmly committed to encouraging as many customers from Communist China to attend would wish to ingratiate itself to its paymasters by seeking to suppress dissent where it can.
Last year, during his participation in a Hong Kong pro-democracy protest on campus, Mr Pavlou was assaulted. The Chinese Consul General in Queensland, Xu Jie, who is an adjunct professor of the University of Queensland, praised the spontaneous patriotic behaviour of the people who participated in this violent counter protest. Having read Silent Invasion, I strongly suspect that Professor Xu may have ordered the counter protest.
Of course, Professor Xu and the violent anti-democracy protesters are not subject to sanction from the University of Queensland. A 20 year old undergraduate and assault victim is the one accused of bringing the University into disrepute.
I think that the University of Queensland’s administration has brought itself into disrepute. And their heavy handed attack on one of their students will have ongoing consequences for their reputation. The Free World is watching.