Comments on The Latest Prussian Censorship Instruction 
Written: between January 15 and February 10, 1842;
First published: in Anekdota zur neuesten deutschen Philosophie und Publicistik, Bd. I, 1843;
Transcribed: in 1998 for marx.org by Sally Ryan; what appears below is an extract. The complete article is here. We publish this extract in the hope of educating some young radicals, especially in the student movement, who seem to think it is the role of the “left” to support censorship and that freedom of speech is a right-wing concept.
“According to this law,” namely, Article II, “the censorship should not prevent serious and modest investigation of truth, nor impose undue constraint on writers, or hinder the book trade from operating freely.”
The investigation of truth which should not be prevented by the censorship is more particularly defined as one which is serious and modest. Both these definitions concern not the content of the investigation, but rather something which lies outside its content. From the outset they draw the investigation away from truth and make it pay attention to an unknown third thing. An investigation which continually has its eyes fixed on this third element, to which the law gives a legitimate capriciousness, will it not lose sight of the truth? Is it not the first duty of the seeker after truth to aim directly at the truth, without looking to the right or left? Will I not forget the essence of the matter, if I am obliged not to forget to state it in the prescribed form?
Truth is as little modest as light, and towards whom should it be so? Towards itself? Verum index sui et falsi. Therefore, towards falsehood?.
If modesty is the characteristic feature of the investigation, then it is a sign that truth is feared rather than falsehood. It is a means of discouragement at every step forward I take. It is the imposition on the investigation of a fear of reaching a result, a means of guarding against the truth.
Further, truth is general, it does not belong to me alone, it belongs to all, it owns me, I do not own it. My property is the form, which is my spiritual individuality. Le style c’est l’homme. Yes, indeed! The law permits me to write, only I must write in a style that is not mine! I may show my spiritual countenance, but I must first set it in the prescribed folds! What man of honour will not blush at this presumption and not prefer to hide his head under the toga? Under the toga at least one has an inkling of a Jupiter’s head. The prescribed folds mean nothing but bonne mine a mauvais jeu.
You admire the delightful variety, the inexhaustible riches of nature. You do not demand that the rose should smell like the violet, but must the greatest riches of all, the spirit, exist in only one variety? I am humorous, but the law bids me write seriously. I am audacious, but the law commands that my style be modest. Grey, all grey, is the sole, the rightful colour of freedom. Every drop of dew on which the sun shines glistens with an inexhaustible play of colours, but the spiritual sun, however many the persons and whatever the objects in which it is refracted, must produce only the official colour! The most essential form of the spirit is cheerfulness, light, but you make shadow the sole manifestation of the spirit; it must be clothed only in black, yet among flowers there are no black ones. The essence of the spirit is always truth itself but what do you make its essence? Modesty. Only the mean wretch is modest, says Goethe, and you want to turn the spirit into such a mean wretch? Or if modesty is to be the modesty of genius of which Schiller speaks, then first of all turn all your citizens and above all your censors into geniuses. But then the modesty of genius does not consist in what educated speech consists in, the absence of accent and dialect, but rather in speaking with the accent of the matter and in the dialect of its essence. It consists in forgetting modesty and immodesty and getting to the heart of the matter. The universal modesty of the mind is reason, that universal liberality of thought which reacts to each thing according to the latter’s essential nature.
Further, if seriousness is not to come under Tristram Shandy’s definition according to which it is a hypocritical behaviour of the body in order to conceal defects of the soul, but signifies seriousness in substance, then the entire prescription falls to the ground. For I treat the ludicrous seriously when I treat it ludicrously, and the most serious immodesty of the mind is to be modest in the face of immodesty.
Serious and modest! What fluctuating, relative concepts! Where does seriousness cease and jocularity begin? Where does modesty cease and immodesty begin? We are dependent on the temperament of the censor. It would be as wrong to prescribe temperament for the censor as to prescribe style for the writer. If you want to be consistent in your aesthetic criticism, then forbid also a too serious and too modest investigation of the truth, for too great seriousness is the most ludicrous thing of all, and too great modesty is the bitterest irony. Read the rest of this entry »
I have been asked, by a regular reader, to carry more material explaining our position on antisemitism – and, in particular our allegation that a lot of contemporary antisemitism comes from the “left” and takes the form of Palestinian solidarity (a cause that, in principle, Shiraz supports). I intend to write at some length on this subject soon, but as a starting point I’d refer readers to Galloway’s recent refusal to support Palestinian statehood (and his explanation, here) and the following account of a meeting at Oxford University. Note that one of the main speakers is an Oxford academic who frequently writes for the liberal-left Guardian. In other words, these people are not fringe elements within the pro-Palestinian movement in the UK. Support for the total destruction of Israel (ie the Hamas position) and casual comparisons between Israelis and Nazis, are now commonplace in the pro-Palestine movement. Even placards stating “Hitler was Right” are allowed on pro-Palestine demos, apparently unchallenged by the organisers or other marchers. As usual, when we re-publish material, it should go without saying that we don’t necessarily agree with all the article’s contents or endorse all the politics of the author.:
15 October 2014:
Tonight I had the misfortune to attend the inaugural Palestine Society event here in Oxford. I went with Sapan and Jonathan out of a mixture of open mindedness and intellectual curiosity.
What I heard and saw genuinely shocked me. I’ve heard a lot in my time but this was by far the worst event I have ever attended. I can only describe it as a two hour hate fest of the variety described in George Orwell’s ‘1984.’ It went from the downright idiotic to the explicitly anti-Semitic – and often both. I heard a girl complain about the evils of ‘Zionist’ control in her native America – she even attacked ‘Zionists’ for controlling the make up she wore! No one challenged this girl’s delusions: they only reassured her that fighting Zionism must remain paramount. I heard numerous people glorify the ‘right of the resistance’ and reject non-violent tactics, even including an Oxford academic on the panel (Karma Nabulsi).
I had a question of my own. I read to the panel a quotation from John Molyneux, a theorist from the Socialist Workers’ Party;
“To put the matter as starkly as possible: from the standpoint of Marxism and international socialism an illiterate, conservative, superstitious Muslim Palestinian peasant who supports Hamas is more progressive than an educated liberal atheist Israeli who supports Zionism (even critically).”
I then added – “I’d be interested to know what the members of the panel think about this mode of analysis. Do they support what I consider to be a totally irrational – and dangerous – position?”
Not only did the panelists evade my question – Avi Shlaim, Karma Nabulsi and Barnaby Raine – to my horror, they actually agreed with its sentiment. Mr Raine, a student at Wadham College and a student activist, mocked me by saying that “anyone would stand up for the oppressed against an oppressor.” It should also be noted that Mr Raine noticeably hesitated when I put up my hand – he looked everywhere around the room before reluctantly taking my question. This person excuses the most morally reprehensible actions. He practically fetishises totalitarianism.
It got worse. Near the end of the talk, a local PSC activist defended Molyneux’s remarks by arguing that he’d rather be a Medieval, backward Chassidic Jew in the Warsaw Ghetto than a cultured German in a Nazi uniform. A sizable proportion of the room – hundreds of people – applauded this awful anti-Semitic distortion of history and trivialization of the Holocaust.
I am aware this status is long and most students couldn’t care less about student politics. However, I think it’s important that all students know that here, in 21st Century Britain, at one of the best universities in the world, political extremism is flourishing. Whereas far right fascists are, rightly, tarred and made into social pariahs, their equivalents on the far left get away with it time and time again. These are the totalitarians in our midst.
I have done what I can. I tried exposing rampant anti-Semitism in the Palestine Society at the start of this year and I was treated with ridicule. It’s time to take this stuff seriously. I saw many freshers at this event – freshers whose minds have been poisoned and given a wholly false narrative which demonises one people at the expense of the other, one that demonises the forces of peace and rewards the actions of hate and terrorism. I saw a room of intelligent, perhaps highly naive students, express the most hideous and morally warped trash. I saw no effort to condemn outright anti-Semitic prejudice when it was expressed. I saw pure intellectual fascism – people attending a talk to confirm their prejudices, and actively ostracising those that disagree with them.
I cannot think of a worse introduction to Oxford for incoming students to this University. Anyone who genuinely cares about Palestinians – whether in the West Bank or Gaza, or elsewhere in the Middle East or the diaspora – should stay the hell away from Oxford University’s Palestine Society. And remember that all it takes for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.
Two motions debated at NUS NEC
The meeting then turned to motions submitted by NEC members. Unfortunately this part of the meeting was no feast of reason. There are two motions I want to focus on: Iraqi solidarity and Israel/Palestine. I urge you to read the motions before continuing.
The “Iraqi solidarity” motion had been worked on with Roza Salih, a Strathclyde university student of Kurdish descent (she submitted an almost identical motion to the Scottish equivalent of the executive, the Scottish Executive Council, which I will post later, which, incidentally, did pass! One must ask Scottish executive members why vote for a motion in Scotland, but not in England?!).
The motion was opposed by Malia Bouattia, the NUS Black Students’ Officer, for astonishing and bewildering reasons. Bouattia argued that the motion was “Islamophobic” and “pro USA intervention” – (see Aaron Kiely, a fellow NUS NEC member’s, tweet during the meeting as reflective of the position). The motion then fell as large numbers of NEC members either abstained or voted against (including the bulk of the political Left on NEC). I think this says a lot about the current state of the student movement.
(I must also put on record that after only a single round of speeches, Toni Pearce moved the debate on. This was wrong: there was no opportunity to respond to Bouattia’s allegations. I had my hand up to speak in response, but was not called.)
Let us look at Bouattia’s arguments: is the motion anti-Muslim or pro US intervention?
The motion was partly written by a Kurdish student activist, and presented by the International students’ officer, Shreya Paudel. I have looked again and again at the contents of the motion, yet I cannot track any Islamophobia or racism.
The US occupation, and its aftermath, has been an utter disaster for the people of Iraq. Resulting governments, led by Nouri Al-Maliki, have been authoritarian and carried out virulent Shia sectarianism. A civil war in the mid 2000s killed 34,000 civilians. Today there are 1.6 million refugees.
The dynamics in 2014 are complex. ISIS, who have grown out of Al-Qaeda, have seized huge swathes of the country; there is a new, shaky, shia-sectarian government; and a Kurdish regional government, whose self determination I believe we should support.
The ultra-Islamist group ISIS is a threat to all the people of Iraq. It is repressing and persecuting minorities, including Christians, Yazidis, Kurds, and Sunni Muslim Arabs. On the 29th June it declared a “caliphate” (a religious dictatorship). It has carried out rape and other forms of sexual violence are being used as weapons against women in IS-occupied areas.
These developments have been exacerbated and driven by US policy deliberately fostering sectarianism.
The situation is desperate.
In this situation, it is fundamental that the political Left, trade union and student organisations, like NUS, show our solidarity with the Iraqi people, in particular the hard-pressed student, workers and women’s organisations, and those fighting for democracy and equality.
It is unclear whether Western forces (which congregated in Paris the day before the NEC meeting, on the 15th of September, to announce a “game plan” to defeat ISIS) will send boots onto the ground in Iraq. We know already that French aircrafts have begun reconnaissance flights over Iraq; and that US aid has assisted the Kurds and Yazidis. However it is unlikely they will want a re-run of a war that even they believe to have been a colossal failure. It may be more likely that the USA assists established forces from afar to defeat ISIS.
However, the motion cannot be clearer in saying that such forces cannot be relied upon to deliver democratic change in Iraq: “no confidence or trust in the US military intervention.” If one were to believe it is not sufficiently clear or that the motion is not worded strongly enough, fine: make an amendment to the motion; or seek to take parts to remove or strengthen a particular aspect. Instead, the whole motion – which calls for solidarity with oppressed forces in Iraq – was argued as wrong. This is a grave shame!
It is also true – and Left-wingers should think this over – that the Kurds and Yazidi’s thus far would not have been able to survive if it had not been for aid from the Americans. Calling simply for an end to this intervention is the same as calling for the defeat of the Peshmerga forces by ISIS. The policy is based on a negative criteria – opposing the US and UK – instead of positive critera – solidarity with the oppressed.
Perhaps this is what Bouattia meant when saying that the motion is pro-intervention? Such a suggestion is arrived at only when one’s “analysis” becomes an issue of principle: that even within limited parameters, that to suggest that imperialism is not the only problem is somehow to “support” imperialism. This is the basis of “Stalinist” politics on international questions: that one considers forces that oppose the US as either progressive or, at worst, not the real issue -no matter how barbaric and reactionary and fascistic that force is. This is not a useful or effective way of looking at the world.
Two interrelated issues struck me about this debate.
Firstly, there is a stranglehold of “identity politics” on the student movement. This is an issue which needs to be discussed in more depth, but essentially the idea is widespread that if a Liberation Officer opposes something, it must be bad. Of course this idea is not applied consistently (and could not possibly be) – eg the majority of the NEC has not accepted current and former Black Students’ Officers’ defence of Julian Assange or the SWP. But I think it was a factor here, perhaps because people see or claim to see debate on the Middle East as something that the BSO should somehow have veto power over, regardless of the issues and the arguments made.
Combined with this, there seems to be a low level of political education and even engagement and interest in the NEC. Some appear not to research issues, work out what they think, engage and take ideas forward. Instead, some are not very interested and vote on basis of who they want to ally with on NEC. In other words, many people who voted against didn’t seem to care about is happening in Iraq.
Another motion I believe deserves some discussion was on solidarity with an organisation, Workers’ Advice Centre/WAC-Ma’an, that organises Jewish and Arab workers in both Israel and the Palestinian territories. This was voted down by both the Left and Right on NEC, for different reasons.
At the last NEC policy was passed favouring Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions policy (BDS) – which I voted against. Policy was also passed favouring a two states settlement for the region, which I proposed.
For the Right on NEC (the “Right” on NEC are not Conservative party members but are certainly on the “Right” of debates on the NEC), the possibility of giving a tiny sum of our national union’s money to anyone – whether that is a student attacked by the police on a demonstration, or striking college workers, is unthinkable. We must challenge this! According to NUS estimates at national conference, there is a cumulative £4 million expenditure for 2014/15. Offering our resources to those that share our morals is important and potentially highly useful.
Unfortunately, this argument was also pursued by the Left-winger opposing the motion. Left-wingers: this is not something we should be in the business of doing. If left-wingers disagree with a motion, they should argue it on those grounds, not on the basis the right-wing argument that NUS “doesn’t have enough money”.
WAC Maan was established in the 1990s. It is one of the rays of hope in a bleak situation in Israel/Palestine. It’s an independent, grassroots trade union centre which organises in sectors and industries often neglected by the mainstream trade unions.
It shows that organisation and politics that unite Jewish and Arab workers on the basis of internationalism, anti-racism, opposition to the occupation, and basic class solidarity, are possible.
Currently WAC Maan are set to enforce the first collective agreement against bosses in the West Bank, in the industrial zone of Mishor Adumim, at the Zafarty Garage. This is precedent setting. It is also important as it is forcing the courts to look at how Israeli employers manipulate entry permits as a way of getting rid of militants.
If workers across the occupied territories were organised, they would be able to exert considerable influence over the Israeli government, and over the future of the occupied territories.
To conclude: there are clearly disagreements amongst the NEC, and political Left, about international politics. I hope we can continue to have those discussions openly and frankly. I would certainly encourage those on the NEC to write down their opinions on the subject, particularly if they disagree.
I will continue to write reports of NUS NEC activities, and can be contacted on: firstname.lastname@example.org
How has it come to this? And how is that some who regard themselves as on the “left” not only tolerate religious bigotry and censorship of this sort, but actively promote it?
Statement from the British Humanist Association
LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society incident at freshers’ fair
October 4th, 2013
In a statement, the students have explained:
‘When the LSE security arrived, we were asked to cover our t-shirts or leave LSE premises. When we asked for the rules and regulations we were in breach of, we were told that the LSE was being consulted about how to proceed. After a period of consultation, Kevin Haynes (LSE Legal and Compliance Team) and Paul Thornbury (LSE Head of Security) explained to us that we were not behaving in an “orderly and responsible manner”, and that the wearing of the t-shirt could be considered “harassment”, as it could “offend others” by creating an “offensive environment”. We asked what exactly was “offensive” about the t-shirts, and how the display of a non-violent and non-racist comic strip could be considered “harassment” of other students.
‘At the end of this conversation, five security guards started to position themselves around our stall. We felt this was a tactic to intimidate us. We were giving an ultimatum that should we not comply immediately, we would be physically removed from LSE property. We made it clear that we disagreed strongly with this interpretation of the rules, but that we would comply by covering the t-shirts… After that, the head of LSE security told us that as he believed that we might open the jackets again when was going to leave, two security guards were going to stay in the room to monitor our behaviour. These two security guards were following us closely when we went in and out of the room.’
Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association (BHA), commented, ‘The LSESU is acting in a totally disproportionate manner in their dealings with our affiliate society. That a satirical webcomic can be deemed to be so offensive as to constitute harassment is a sad indictment of the state of free speech at Britain’s Universities today. This hysteria on the part of the SU and University is totally unwarranted; intelligent young adults of whatever beliefs are not so sensitive that they need to be protected from this sort of material in an academic institution. Our lawyers are advising our affiliated society at LSE and we will be working with them, the students, and the AHS to resolve this issue.’
The National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies strongly condemns the actions of the LSESU. President Rory Fenton said, ‘Our member societies deserve and rightly demand the same freedom of speech and expression afforded to their religious counterparts on campus. Universities should be open to and tolerant of different beliefs, without exception. That a students’ union would use security guards to follow and intimidate their own members is deeply concerning and displays an inconsistent approach to free speech; if it is for some, it must be for all. The AHS will work with our partners at the British Humanist Association and National Secular Society to assist our affiliated society and seek engagement with both the LSESU and LSE itself. It is the duty of universities countrywide to respect their students’ rights, not their sensitivities.’
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.
… as a racist and antisemite
It’ll be interesting to see whether anyone who is not an avowed or obvious antisemite is prepared to defend Galloway over this:
From Cherwell.org (Oxford students’ online magazine) Wednesday 20th February 2013:
George Galloway has been accused of ‘pure racism’ by his debate opponent after ‘storming out’ of Christ Church.
George Galloway, the Respect MP for Bradford West, has been accused by Oxford students of anti-semitism.
Mr Galloway “stormed out” of a debate at Christ Church on Wednesday evening, upon finding out that his opponent, Eylon Aslan-Levy, a third-year PPEist at Brasenose, was an Israeli citizen.
Mr Galloway had spoken for ten minutes in favour of the motion ‘Israel should withdraw immediately from the West Bank’, before giving way to Aslan-Levy.
Less than three minutes into Aslan-Levy’s speech against the motion, Galloway was made aware that his opponent was an Israeli citizen.
“I have been misled,” Mr Galloway then commented, interrupting Aslan-Levy’s speech. “I don’t debate with Israelis”. He then left the room with his wife, Putri Gayatri Pertiwi, and was escorted out of Christ Church by a college porter. When prompted to explain why Aslan-Levy’s nationality prompted him to abandon the debate, Galloway stated that “I don’t recognize Israel.”
In a statement late on Wednesday evening Galloway explained that “I refused this evening to debate with an Israeli, a supporter of the Apartheid state of Israel.
“The reason is simple; No recognition, No normalisation. Just Boycott, divestment and sanctions, until the Apartheid state is defeated.” Mr Galloway is a leading political proponent of the campaign to ‘boycott’ Israeli goods, services and – it emerged tonight – people.
Above: the Messiah Julian and his rape-denying disciples, including Benn and Galloway
The expression “hoist with one’s own petard” springs to mind:
(from the ‘Counterfire‘ website):
Leading anti-war campaigner and socialist Tony Benn will be ‘no platformed’ like Tommy Robinson of the racist EDL and Nick Griffin of the fascist BNP if a motion to the National Union of Students gets passed this week. If local student unions follow the national union then Tony Benn may be refused a platform in any student union in the country.
Refusing to allow fascists a platform has long been the policy of the left and the student movement. But in a remarkably ill-thought out move the National Executive of NUS is about to apply the same policy to Tony Benn and Respect MP George Galloway.
The reasons given for this unusual step are comments they made about the charge that Wikileaks whistleblower Julian Assange raped two women in Sweden. The motion states that Galloway ‘referred to a man inserting his penis into a sleeping woman as, “bad sexual etiquette’ and that Tony Benn said of the Assange case, “the charges are that it was a non-consensual relationship. Well that’s very different from rape”.’
Tony Benn has since, at the request of Goldsmith Students Union, of which he is the honoury president, retracted his remarks, apologised and restated his life-long commitment to women’s liberation. But still the NUS is persisting with its resolution.
The comments in both Galloway’s and Benn’s cases are of course wrong. It is wrong to state that non-consensual sex is not rape, and it was wrong to try to defend Assange from extradition by dismissing the claims of the women involved.
But beyond this, there is a fundamental problem by responding to these comments by trying to no platform Benn and Galloway. ‘No platform’ is an exceptional position that the Left has typically campaigned for Unions and other organisations to adopt in the fight against Fascism.
It is an unprecedented departure from the left’s defence of freedom of speech on the grounds that there can be no free speech for those who would deny such freedoms to others. There can be no democracy for those who would use genocide and extermination to end democracy.
These conditions clearly do not apply in this case. It is the exceptional danger posed by Fascism that prompted the tactic of no platform to be applied exclusively to fascists. To apply it indiscriminately to other political views we oppose means fascists cannot be isolated by the no platform policy as an exceptional threat.
Backward ideas about rape are profoundly upsetting and damaging to the fight against women’s oppression. However, the prevalence of these ideas (which the motion acknowledges) points to the fact that they stem from the sexist society in which we live. Therefore it is within society that we have to fight these ideas.
Surely it is much better to have Tony Benn, a figure that many people look up to as an inspiration, apologise and restate his commitment to women’s liberation as he has done, than to let damaging remarks remain unretracted where they can continue to damage and distract our movement. This is a fight we can win – we can change people’s minds, we can challenge sexism in our movement.
Astoundingly, if the writers of the motion genuinely believe these remarks have put Benn and Galloway beyond the pale, then there are a lot of people missing who should be named in this motion.
While the motion makes brief reference to Roger Helmer (UKIP MEP) and Andrew Brons (an MEP for the fascist BNP and a former leader of the fascist National Front), why are the members of the Coalition government who are overseeing massive cuts to rape crisis and domestic violence services not in this motion?
Why not the whole of the Cambridge Union Society who invited Dominique Strauss-Kahn to speak there earlier this year? Why not those government ministers whose refusal to demand that Assange will not be extradited from Sweden to the US is effectively prolonging the injustice to the women involved? All these people have gone far further than to make an offensive remark.
What’s more, the NUS would not dream of no platforming war criminal Tony Blair. And the NUS quite regularly opens its platforms to Zionists. In this context the attempt to no platform Tony Benn and Galloway looks absurd.
And why is the NUS, which has let its members down so badly over the fight against fees and cuts, not organising against the closure of rape crisis centres? Where are the leaflets, the posters, the protests, the pickets and the demos?
Tony Benn was a wholehearted supporter of the student movement of 2010. Which is more than the NUS executive can claim. It would be better if the NUS spent less time either censuring or no platforming Tony Benn and George Galloway and more time actually defending its members.
A response from AWL students, here.
This is a short commentary on the development of the London Met/UKBA situation written by Workers’ Liberty Student, Vice-President of the Liverpool Guild of Students 2011-12 and NCAFC National Committee member Bob Sutton. It has been produced in order to provoke discussion about how to best resist the deportations that seem likely to result from what has happened at London Metropolitan University. It is not a finished blueprint for a campaign, but an attempt to raise important questions, suggestions and contribute to the debate.
This has been produced ahead of this weekend’s National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts activist training event at the School of Oriental and African Studies where student anti-cuts activists from across the country will be discussing issues across Higher Education. Due to the emergency situation at London Met a good chunk of the agenda – at 11.00 today and 10.30 tomorrow, has been given over to talk about it.
It has also been circulated widely amongst other activists in order to share ideas. If people in London are in a position to get to SOAS this weekend (nearest tube Russell Square) to contribute, they would be welcome.
Some preliminary thoughts on London Met
Myself and ULU President Daniel Cooper, along with other activists from the NCAFC, were at the silent protest outside Downing Street on Thursday morning.
While it is clearly important that there was a quick and visible response to the news from the night before, and the placards which sought to expose the hypocrisy of the government’s trumpeting of the Olympics, as an example of how Britain was a place which welcomed the world, were good, there was also cause for concern.
The demo had been called after a night in which the Executive of the London Met Students’ Union had been up half the night responding to individual students’ worried calls an emails, at a meeting at ten that morning between LMSU and the National Union of Students.
LMSU were reportedly warned against any action which might risk ‘external’ activists ‘hijacking’ the campaign – echoing the line the NUS leadership had taken since LM’s status had been suspended and permanent termination was looming.
It is probably worth saying at this point, that Workers’ Liberty, and many others across the student and workers’ movements are almost certainly amongst the kind of people the national leadership are referring to: Socialists, anti-racists, anti-deportation campaigners and class-struggle activists who would see the attack on London Metropolitan’s international students as part of the governments wider attack on black and migrant people, and any idea of public education.
If the NUS are worried about people not wanting to limit the campaign to lobbying and appealing to the idea that international students are ‘good immigrants’ who work hard and make shedloads of money for the British economy – they are right. We are for the right of everyone to come and stay here; to work, to study, to seek a better life or escape persecution. Those who come here to learn should not have to face being subject to surveillance or charged exorbitant fees.
From speaking to the LM students, it transpired that the University had sent out no formal correspondence to them. However, when they had tried to contact, University administration had told them they could not register. All they offered was help in finding alternatives studying at other universities – in effect washing their hands of them.
As it stands, students will be left isolated as individuals seeking to find themselves an alternative university [albeit with some help from whatever the provided assistance ends up looking like]. I had thought that there would be many who would simply not find places elsewhere, although I may be wrong about this – other Unis may well be prepared to sign up more cash-cows!
Even if the London Met ‘refugees’ do find places elsewhere, that will still mean a university has had to expel its entire non-EU student body and faces near or total collapse: students lives massively disrupted and those staff and students left behind almost certainly facing further course cuts, closures and job losses.
There is the further issue that, for many international students, their funding from their home countries is dependant on their studies not being interrupted or falling below a consistent level of high grades. Again this is something it would be good to get a better picture of, but it may well be the case that sponsors will not pay for tuition fees at a different university – let alone any increased living costs.
How to build a campaign?
There was a demonstration yesterday morning. I don’t have a clear picture of how it went. What is certainly the case is that after the demonstration on Thursday, NUS international Officer —– held a meeting with the LMSU President and one of the Vice-Presidents which NUS International Committee member Arianna Tassinari and, for that matter, anyone else who’d been at the demonstration, was excluded.
The single most important factor that will determine whether we win or not, will be that the students affected, the some 2,600 International students at London Met, are able to discuss openly and frankly amongst each other and their supporters about how the campaign is run. I don’t know yet how LMSU plan to get these people, or at least as many as possible, in one room at one time to have that discussion, but it needs to happen quickly. It needs to be run by the students themselves rather than decided in small meetings of the sabbatical team and the NUS officers and staff.
Something which I also think is massively important is that as many students as possible are on campus when term starts. Universities often make cuts, redundancies and other unpopular decisions during the summer in the hope that no-one will a) notice or b) be able to do anything about it. One of the reasons they will have done this now is that students are on their own spread across the world and separated from the ‘home’ students, students from other universities, staff and all the people who might be able to stop this from happening if they stood together. Everyone has the legal right to remain in the UK until the end of October when the 60-day period after the removal of trusted status (29/9). As many people as possible should be in and around the campus as much as possible, building links and building the campaign to stop the deportations before that point.
What do we want?
Again, the demands of the campaign will need to be something that develops by those who are fighting. But there are a few things which I think are important or worth thinking about:
Obviously, the central thing we want is for the UKBA reverse its decision to terminate trusted status and grant all London Met students the right to be here. One thing which I think might be worth bearing in mind, is whether to call such a thing an ‘Amnesty’. Amnesty suggests a one-off, an exception. I don’t think everyone who has used the term has meant it in this way, but I think we need to talk about in a way which does not cut against the fact that we think everyone should be allowed to stay here.
London Metropolitan University
The fact that London Met management has so easily abrogated any responsibility towards its students is disgusting. They should still be treated as London Met students. It is the University that has taken the decision to deny students access to their lectures, the library etc. Obviously they have said that they have no choice and that they will not be legally allowed to register these ‘illegal’ students officially. But it is their choice to police these things, to fail to do anything to try and get around it, and to tell people there is no point coming back to London. Any self-respecting educator would see it as their job to defend their students rather than accept without a fight. The idea that it was by being ‘too lax’ on foreign students which got them into this mess, and that the way to get out of it is by being even more draconian is absolutely perverse. Immigration laws in Britain have been getting more and more repressive for over 20 years. The way to stop them is not to bend over backwards for them!
The UCU – the lecturers Trade Union, has long-standing policy that academics should refuse to comply with the registering of attendance which. In recent years many Universities, including London Met, have installed hi-tech electronic scanners which take control of monitoring out of the hands of ordinary staff and therefore much more difficult to oppose. Despite this, we should have a serious discussion about how lecturers can best help get students back into lecture theatres – to talk to their classmates as much as to continue their studies.
I have already talked about how crap a solution getting students into other universities is. However I don’t think that means we should not necessarily demand other unis, or Universities UK, the organisation of all University heads, commit unconditionally to taking on all London Met students. The reason this could be important is that it gives people around the country a focus in campaigning at their own institutions. How we do this without accepting the pulling of the plug on London Met is something to be thrashed out.
A demonstration that is widely publicised and encourages the local community, staff, students from other campuses and other activists is essential to maintain the momentum and the widespread outrage this has caused. If people do not here about a campaign they can get involved in they will assume it is dead.
This should be used to get people into a meeting to build the campaign.
Dan Cooper is keen to build a meeting at ULU around resisting immigration controls – this has been an issue at London Universities for some time. At SOAS, where we are meeting this weekend, in 2009 the UKBA in collaboration with the University management and the cleaning agency ISS stormed the building with riot police and deported several cleaning workers. There was an occupation of the Vice-Chancellors office. At points in London there have been powerful anti-deportation campaigns which have had some success at stopping removals and we need to discuss those lessons. There isn’t a date pinned down yet but we should have one soon.
Bob Sutton 1/9/12