Politics Opinion

Pro-vax, pro-union, anti-fascist: Three things to be proud of

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The anti-vax freedumbs have been fuelled by disinformation and are prolonging the pandemic (Screenshot via YouTube)

Dr Martin Hirst explains why he's been tweeting the hashtags #ProVax, #ProUnion, and #AntiFascist a lot recently.

WHY DO I THINK these three slogans are so important today? Well, it’s a simple story, really, but let me start with a bit of background.

Have you heard that the Clive and Craig Clown Show has some new recruits?

I’m not going to link to the article posted on the Reignite Democracy Australia (RDA) website because I don’t want to give them traffic, but this far-right rabble have joined forces with the “horse paste guy” and the “corpulent controller” in the United Australia Party (UAP).

RDA leader Monica Smit has made a name for herself by becoming a self-crucified martyr to the anti-vax cause and she also made a lot of money on the grift. (There has been some excellent coverage of this by Tom Tanuki in Independent Australia.)

By linking the RDA with the UAP, Smit has been able to leverage her recent infamy into boosting far-right gangsterism and giving it a cloak of semi-legitimate political cover. Smit has also been linked with right-wing Liberals in Victoria.

This is an interesting and potentially ominous development in Australian politics.

Far-right grouplets and outright Nazi pond scum are actively trying to recruit from the disenfranchised layer of the anti-vax freedumbs. This milieu is the gateway into full-blown fascist politics. This is where the likes of RDA and the Proud Boys can find angry and impressionable fresh meat.

As I’ve previously explained, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is reliant on the anti-vax, anti-mask, anti-public health measures crowd for re-election. The COALition also needs the preferences of voters that might gravitate towards Palmer’s United Australia Party.

I also wrote about the #freedumbs who brawled their way across inner-Melbourne a couple of weeks ago. This largely rudderless and ignorant group is prone to disinformation campaigns and do-it-yourself COVID-19 cures; it has also been won over to QAnon-type conspiracy theories.

Why I call myself “pro-vax”

Speaking of conspiracy theories, the latest arguments coughed up by the anti-vaxxers are a mishmash of conspiracies and misinformation. For example, the completely false proposition that somehow medical doctors are breaching something called the Nuremberg Code by advocating for vaccines. This has been completely debunked but that doesn’t stop the freedumbs from ranting about it when they are prevented from getting on a bus or going into a café because they refuse to get the jab.

The same rules of logic apply to the other fake arguments about human rights and being a “sovereign citizen” being legitimate reasons to oppose vaccines. “Something, something, you can’t make me, deep state, blah blah blah,” they drone on.

The ideas behind this waffle generate an intellectual wormhole that opens up right into the far-right lunaverse of lies, gibberish, mindless violence and mindful racism.

No, the COVID-19 vaccines do not make you magnetic or inject 5G particles into your bloodstream; they don’t alter your DNA; and they doesn’t turn you into a gay frog.

On the other hand, refusing to be vaccinated on spurious legal, ethical, or ideological grounds does make you completely selfish.

Refusing to be vaccinated is the ultimate libertarian wet dream of unencumbered individual freedom, but it is irresponsible because it puts people around you in danger, too. There are legitimate medical reasons why some people can’t have a COVID-19 vaccine, but being a “self-taught, do your own research” arsebiscuit isn’t one of them.

Having a jab is the right thing to do because public health is a social responsibility and to put a final nail in the anti-vaxxers’ “all about me” coffin: public health is also about my rights, your rights and our collective right to live safely in a community that acts in the best interests of all of us. It’s the “common good” and it’s an act of social solidarity, particularly with the immuno-compromised people who are more vulnerable to the virus and cannot safely be vaccinated.

There’s only one right side in this fight and it is with the pro-vaccination majority.

Why I call myself “pro-union”

If you are in the workforce, your vaccine status is a health and safety issue. That’s it, really.

This is a non-negotiable, universal rule that applies in workplaces or occupations where a vaccine has been mandated by legislation or by employers and those where it is voluntary.

This is a union issue because historically, workers must always fight with the bosses to keep workplaces safe. The legal situation is also clear.

Don’t take my word for it: if you’re not sure, please consult a lawyer. However, in general, any vaccine mandate that is applied is legal under current federal and state employment laws and if your boss says you must be vaccinated to work, then that’s also fine.

Federal human rights law is less certain, but challenges to vaccine mandates that rely on arguments about discrimination are likely to fail the threshold tests contained in the legislation.

Of course, everybody has the right not to get vaccinated (subject to my pro-vaccination caveats) but nobody is obliged to let you into their factory, university lecture, school, office, pub, café, bus or home if they don’t want to oblige your ignorant selfish protest.

I support the argument that refusing to be vaccinated is like scabbing on your workmates – “get the jab, don’t scab” – because it is putting your own muddle-headed resistance ahead of a collective responsibility not to infect your colleagues with a potentially fatal virus.

There’s another and more political reason why I think vaccinations are a union issue. In public-facing jobs – baristas, bar staff, public transport, retail, hospitality and health (for example) – who is going to protect workers abused for upholding a “no jab, no service” policy? Even if you work in the back office, do you really want to be sitting near some infected colleague who breathes their plague germs on everything?

We’ve already seen examples of anti-vaxxers attacking health workers and store workers in fits of impotent rage. All workers need the strength of their unions to insist that employers keep their workplaces safe from these futile idiots.

The wider trade union and workers’ movement also has a responsibility to our frontline comrades to defend their rights at work and to fight for things like appropriate PPE, training, security, a safe workplace and a decent wage.

If you’re not in a union already, join one today.

We must not lose sight of these issues even though the last two years have been incredibly difficult and demoralising. The neoliberal offensive on workers’ rights and conditions has not been paused during the pandemic; it will continue when we get to whatever the post-COVID “normal” future looks like.

However, we do know that the future will look dark if we don’t confront the anti-human far-right virus that is spreading among the anti-vax, anti-mask, anti-public health political fringes. When I started out in politics over 40 years ago, I did not imagine I would ever have to face a potential fascist threat in Australia in my lifetime; yet in 2021, here we go.

Why I call myself “anti-fascist”

If you’re not a fascist, why wouldn’t you be against fascism? Being an anti-fascist should be your default position.

The question I have for you is simply: “What are you prepared to do about it?”

History shows us that ignoring the real physical threat posed by Nazi gangs creates the conditions under which they grow. As the 1930s experience of Germany and Italy shows, when it has the strength, a fascist-corporatist state deploys its street thugs to smash any political opposition to its anti-human policies.

Leading elements of the RDA are inclined to welcome the Nazis and may well hold real fascist positions themselves when meeting behind closed doors. They disguise their racism and anti-worker ideas behind a false flag of “freedom” but what they want is rampant neoliberal libertarianism coupled with ethno-purity, which starts with White supremacy and ends with the Holocaust.

It’s clear from their so-called “encrypted” messages on Telegram and so on that the more political people in these circles, attempting to exert leadership over the #freedumbs, are openly fascist. For them, the anti-vax crowd provides a cover for their anti-Semitism and other foul ideologies.

A royal commission isn’t going to make the far-Right go away. I am not opposed to shining a bright light on the Nazis in our midst, but it does not replace the union movement’s responsibility to stand up to the fascists by educating and workers mobilising to stop Nazis from recruiting.

RDA’s alignment with the UAP may not last — the Australian far-Right is littered with failure. But under the current conditions – COVID-19 combined with a crisis of capitalist legitimacy – this formation may be more stable and able to grow.

The prospect of this happening should be alarming to any decent human being. The real agenda of the far-Right is not “freedom” — it is White supremacy, anti-Semitism, anti-Islam, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQI rights, anti-union and anti-worker thugging.

Don’t sleepwalk into a fascist Australia

We need to be vigilant, active and politically switched-on if we are to avoid scenes like those in Rome recently where fascist mobs ransacked a union headquarters and terrorised working-class and diverse communities.

We had a taste in Melbourne with the attack on the CMFEU headquarters and violent rampages around the city. Now the mobs are planning another street rally in late November. We have to fight back, or they will overrun our city.

Dr Martin Hirst is an Independent Australia columnist, journalist, author and academic. You can follow him on Twitter @ethicalmartini.

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