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As long time readers of Adloyada will know, this blog was started back in 2005 largely to campaign against the then proposed merger of AUT, the union representing the prestigious universities, and NATFHE, the much larger union representing the community colleges and the second rank universities.
I'd been a member of both unions in my time, and could recall with horror the malign and deadend way in which NATFHE was dominated and manipulated by an inbuilt caucus of Trotskyist, Communist and other hard left hacks, whose rule ensured that it was also hopelessly ineffective in its core role of negotiating the pay of its members. A sample of the typical ravings of its former General Secretary, Paul Mackney, the architect of the merger, can be enjoyed in the clip above.
To this day, the pay of community college lecturers remains the lowest of the full time state teaching unions, below that of primary school teachers.
It had a time honoured tradition of passing motions supporting Cuba, China and whatever far left dictatorship its committee apparatchiks wanted to cosy up to (to say nothing of "fraternal visits".
So I knew that if a merger went through, not only would the new union be signed up to supporting the Stop the War Campaign (which NATFHE housed, provided financial support for, and allowed its General Secretary to campaign for), but similar hard left positions-- including a boycott of Israeli academics, which an array of fringe radical academics from some prestigious universities had failed to get approved within AUT in 2005. I played a part in that one; I was a member of the special delegates' conference that threw out the motion.
However, I never managed to get a broader campaign going; the organized Jewish community outsourced its efforts to getting the Engage group leading a campaign which centred round opposing the AUT boycott while leaving the merger to go ahead. Engage, being itself a soft Trotskyist controlled group, in fact supported the merger, even though the most simple arithmetic and a cursory reading of the constitution of the merged union made it clear that NATFHE majorities and NATFHE style caucusing and manipulation were inevitably going to ensure that a boycott type motion would be agreed.
And now, UCU has passed a motion which is widely being called a boycott by the Israeli press, the Jewish Chronicle and blogs like Harry's Place.
I don’t think the motion is in fact a boycott, and i think it’s a political mistake to call it one.
Neither is it McCarthyism--calling it that is part of the mindset of reluctance to ascribe its true origins to the history of the totalitarian left.
What it represents is something much worse–mandatory thought policing and requirements for ritual denunciations and chantings of required political mantras on pain of exclusion.
This is of course the method used by left totalitarian regimes from which UCU, dominated as it is by apparatchiks of the SWP, draws its methods.
It is also seriously misleading to label it simply anti-semitic. There are plenty of loyal Israelis who are not Jews, but who would be outraged by the requirement to denounce their government and agree with UCU’s ritual mantras. There are also some British non-Jewish members of UCU who are made to feel profoundly alienated and threatened by this and other displays of UCU’s intimidationism.
Apart from possible legal action– which may or may not come to pass– one of the most interesting political answers may be to campaign for the adoption of legislation to force unions to ballot members on political actions like these, including a requirement that a majority of the registered membership (not just a majority of those who actually vote in a ballot) must have voted for it.It would stop union gesture politics like this (including UCU’s financial and logistical support of the Stop the War campaign) in their tracks.
Of course, a requirement like that could only be seen to be legitimate if there were also a requirement on all of us to vote in national and local elections. I’ve been thinking about that as an issue for some time. This denouement with UCU (which was absolutely inevitable once AUT and NATFHE merged) has made me feel that the requirement to vote should be seen as one of the requirements of our democracy. After all, the overwhelming majority of people in this country accept that there may be times when we are required to enlist and fight for our country when it is under attack. A requirement to vote is of the same order, and of course it still offers the possibility of spoiling your ballot paper if you don’t like any of the choices on offer.
But opting out of either taking part in choosing the government and policies of your local area and your country, or your union, if you choose to belong to one, shouldn’t be an option.
Another view, which involves abandoning UCU to the Trotskyists of SWP, and then contemplating even abandoning UK academia altogether, is taken by Shalom Lappin in a beautifully argued post here.
My view, though, goes back to the very first post I put up on the subject. It's all about democracy.
Posted on May 30, 2008 | Permalink
actually, the position of the "ultra-left" and "soft-left" in the UK today seems to me very much like the position of the UK govt and the EU. The UK & EU supply great sums of money to the palestinian authority and all sorts of political action/propaganda outfits that work within the framework of the PA. Thereby the EU and UK help fund anti-Israel terrorism. Clearly, the SWP and other "leftist" outfits want Israel destroyed. But how does that differ from the EU and UK positions. Bat Ye'or, I assume that you're familiar with her Eurabia, says that destruction of Israel is a EU purpose. So the "left" works for the same purpose as the imperialists. It may be that "ultra-left", anti-Israel groups get political direction from UK govt psywar experts.
Now the "Left" shows little concern for workers or the "working class," which they used to claim was their main concern. They don't care that Arab terrorists murder Jewish workers in Israel or that foreign workers in Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf princedoms are badly treated, indeed economically exploited. But the "Left" doesn't seem to care about exploitation and slavery perpetrated by Arabs.
Further, Lenin defined imperialism as the the highest stage of capitalism and as essentially finance capital. By this definition, the many super-rich Arabs and the kings and sheiks and emirs, etc. are imperialists. They hold huge amounts of finance capital or capital tout court.
July 16, 2008 at 11:05 AM
Dear Mr Weiss, and interesting and very sad sign of just how slow prgsreos really is. It is telling that the unrepentant supporters of Israel consider that boycott is wrong, and yet it is their first tool when dealing with anybody who is not 100% with them. Personally, I no longer consider Israel to be a legitimate' state. I was sadly convinced of this, not directly by the Palestinian arguments, but by the speech and actions of Mr Desh, particularly during his vile attack on Norman and everybody else who doesn't follow the line. He convinced me beyond doubt that he and his client state had no moral basis.I have been trying to think of a parallel case where an empire was so blindly set on some particular course that it would deliberately attack and undermine loyal allies and its own interests over simple disagreement. A stupid quest. Of course, as everybody here already knew, there are so many examples that it is impossible to keep count. Here, in my adoptive country downunder, we are committing crimes in Afghanistan for no better reason than that, as I now read from wikileaks, we would be seen as disloyal. I don't remember ever being offered the choice or any opportunity to vote on this, but doubtless our leaders' are at least partly correct. The example of the destruction of Rhodes was doubtless foremost in their minds.What I have not been able find is an example of unconditional support for over two thirds of century for an ally that violates international agreements and repeatedly murders our citizens without apology or redress. Any suggestions or examples, dear Colleagues?
November 04, 2012 at 09:11 AM
I have just heard that UCU has been forced to call off its legal acoitn against IfL. Not sure if it is to do with the financial position UCU is in or if the court threw the case out, but whatever I understand they have been forced to abandon the case.Anyone know more. FE Week, this seems to be more than a suspension of the current legal proceedings.
April 03, 2013 at 08:04 PM
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