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Why we need to start taking CUCA seriously

Too far to the right.

What do you think of when I mention CUCA? You probably smirked. Cambridge University Conservative Association, otherwise known as ‘CUCA’ are the butt of many jokes on University campus. A group of toffs who spend most of their time eating port and cheese while laugh reacting to left wing articles. While most of these accusations would be correct it is a fundamental error to equate CUCA politics with a joke.

It is one thing to disagree on legitimate political issues; regressive vs. progressive taxation, national ownership vs the market; but CUCA crosses the line in openly endorsing and legitimising the type of politics that belongs in early twentieth century Europe. The re-emergence of the Far-Right shows that fascism is anything but a redundant force, as recent events at our University have shown the Far-Right presents a very real and detrimental threat.

The role that the Conservative Association have played in aiding and abetting the views of the far right need to be taken seriously. The controversy surrounding the Remembrance Day motion submitted by CUCA members at CUSU Council in Michaelmas highlight their willingness to incite violent against students through encouraging false media portrayals. Despite denying any role in the exaggeration of a student amendment extending the motion to all victims of war, CUCA were happy to engage with and allow members of the far right DFLA to accuse students of disrespecting war veterans. The Far-Right group even threatened to organise a counter demonstration in Cambridge itself, inviting yet more violence into the Cambridge community.

The growing threat presented by the Far-Right on our campus must be taken seriously. Members of the Justice for Men and Boys (J4MB) group were recently able to hold an event on University property, bringing the type of violent misogyny endorsed by the Far-Right inside the very walls of the University itself. The failure of University management to prevent this talk and protect student activists from violent attacks by J4MB members demonstrates the dangers of passivity in dealing with the threat of fascist politics.

It may be fun to laugh at the online antics of the resident ‘Tory’ in college, but to do so risks legitimising and normalising the views held by the individuals that CUCA have hosted on campus. An empty commitment to ‘free speech’ has been used to justify platforming propagators of racist, misogynistic and anti-Semitic hate speech that present a violent threaten to the student body. The termly ‘Chairman’s Dinner’ has hosted a variety of these unsavoury figures, with James Delingpole making flippant remarks about consent and criticising restrictions on intercourse with underage girls. Despite claiming to be one of the most moderate Chairmen of the society, their current leader has invited the notoriously racist and misogynistic chauvinist Godfrey Bloom to attend this terms dinner. It seems that to be a guest of honour at a CUCA dinner all you need is to call female activists “sluts”, refer to nations receiving foreign aid as “Bongo Bongo Land” and label Goldman Sachs an “international Jewish Bank”. So much for CUCA’s self -avowed condemnation of sexism and racism.

Platforming these speakers are not isolated events but represent a more fundamental far right agenda that has become embedded within the CUCA committee. A Varsity report from 2016 details the sexism felt by the first CUCA Women’s Officer, describing the ridicule and “aggressive sexism” that she faced in her time on the Committee. It is almost impossible to separate the heavily male committee and membership of this group from their treatment of female members and platforming of speakers endorsing fascist ideas of a woman’s place. Their active denigration of women’s experiences of sexual assault and gendered violence at recent hearings over reforming the disciplinary procedure are the symptoms of a deeper patriarchal culture that must be challenged.

Still interested in joining this group of far-right apologists? Prepare yourself for a term card full of racism, damaging college property, and burning £20 notes in front of the Cambridge homeless. No CUCA social engagement is complete without a good helping of reprehensible conduct. At the self-titled ‘Rhodesian Reception’ last year CUCA invited infamously racist bigot Denis Walker to take part in a discussion about African politics. The naming of the event can hardly be considered an unintentional mishap as one CUCA member posted a picture with Walker entitled ‘Rhodesian Reclamation Force’. This student group isn’t shy of publishing their extreme racial views, with a blog post on their website condemning the University’s recent withdrawal of a fellowship from the notoriously racist climate change denier Jordan Peterson. When not engaging in racist pseudo-science CUCA members can otherwise be found laugh reacting to Varsity opinion pieces about trans-rights and asexuality. Inclusive fun for all the family and obviously NOT a threat to a diverse student community.

Ironically, their status as the political joke on campus is the most lethal weapon in the CUCA arsenal. By laughing at their online antics and engaging in meaningless comment wars over Facebook students are complicit in naturalising the deplorable racism and violent tendencies of CUCA politics. Our failure to take CUCA seriously risks normalising the views of a right-wing fringe group that do not represent and actively threaten the security of the student body. Taking the real threat that fascisms poses to our University and to our society seriously requires us to stop laughing and to start challenging a politics of hate.