- Category: SWP Crisis
- Published on Thursday, 27 November 2014
- Written by Edd B, Kelly R, Tim N, Toni M, Mark B
Image: @Hayrr on Twitter
Occasional disclaimer: Sometimes people get the wrong idea about us, so just to be clear this is an article written by some members of the IS Network. The IS Network is a diverse group and obviously not all members will agree with everything that is said. That applies to all of the articles we produce as our members all have minds of their own and we do not practise democratic centralism.
Feminists on campus are facing new challenges on campus, and are stepping up to meet the challenge. New tactics need to be developed in an attempt to simultaneously contain our opponents and build activist feminist groups.
In very different scenarios, feminists have been forced to consider the role that bans might play in turning back patriarchal power.
The International Socialist Network has been among the most prominent and vocal opponents of the rump-SWP since the rape cover-up. Many of our members were some of the earliest oppositionists inside the party and some of the first to be "pulled by the outside world" and speak openly about what was going on. However, we did not initiate the campaigns for the proposed bans on the SWP. This is an experience without parallel in the last generation of Britain's student, socialist and feminist movements. We are learning from the initiatives taken by feminists on campus. And while we are not convinced that unions banning the SWP can effectively shield students from it, we have some experiences to share and a dedication to standing behind other feminist organisations confronting organised misogyny and rape apologism.
We will not stand with the SWP against feminist campaigns. Socialist feminists must stake out our own turf and avoid collusion with the SWP. Where ban campaigns have momentum, it is important that everyone goes through the experience of understanding the depth of the anger, and explore the options for dealing with what remains of the party. Some SWP members are new recruits who think they are fighting for socialism; they are not hardened cadres. A ban on an entire Socialist Worker Student Society (SWSS) may not, in most circumstances, be the best option. There are other ways to deal with the SWP - ways that we think are more effective.
Some oppose the bans and no-platform policies proposed against the SWP: they say bans are anti-democratic and they want to protect socialist groups. We think such opposition that relies solely on a moral panic over free speech is mistaken. The SWP is bad for feminism and socialism. Relying on bans and no-platform policies in an institution like a student union is also bad for feminism and socialism. These tactics leave the union leadership as the leading and active element in the struggle against the SWP and its sexism.
After unions make such bans only the bureaucracy will enforce the policy. The risk is that this will kill public political debate on the issue. Grassroots opposition including but not limited to protests at SWP meetings, interventions in SWP meetings, arguing with its remaining activists and providing evidence of their behaviour are more effective. Not only will this be more effective at hastening the eventual demise of the party, but it will be better for feminism. These active grassroots tactics place feminist activists as the active agent in the struggle, not careerist bureaucrats nor the ‘radical bureaucracy’ developing in some parts of the student movement. In public political confrontation with the SWP, feminists will be best placed to recruit and build activist grassroots movements.
Right wing elements in the bureaucracy may attempt to abuse the politics behind the ban and no-platform policies. Here is an example. The NUS brought a safe space concern to the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts as an excuse for dropping out of the 2014 demonstration: the NUS was concerned that the protest would not be a safe space because the SWP would be on the march. The NUS manipulated the policy. That does not mean we oppose safe space politics. However, we should remember that lots of progressive ideas are abused by right wing bureaucrats. They want to wriggle out of events they oppose and shut activists down. The NUS would have dropped out of the demo on another spurious pretext if it couldn't abuse those safe space arguments. The key issue with safer spaces politics is not in the ideology behind safer spaces: it’s the ideology behind those who enforce them. We must keep that in mind, being aware as we struggle for safer spaces. We think safer spaces policies are best enforced by the grassroots, not the bureaucracy. We must be wary of handing weapons to those who may later use them to attack us.
We oppose a moral panic over free speech in student unions: they are member organisations not the state. However, we think we need the highest and most rigorous standards around free speech. Free speech cannot be absolute; it has to be negotiated by our community. We have a duty to provide a secure environment for all. We must have consistent positions on where the limits are, and be very clear and open in the reasons for these limits. We don't think the no-platform policy against the SWP is being applied consistently. A consistent approach could ban most mainstream political parties and the Catholic Church from student unions on the same grounds used for the SWP's ban. A better approach to the SWP and SWSS in student unions is not to shut down the society, nor to ban them. We should support and fight for unions to have decent membership disciplinary policies for misogynistic behaviour. If any SWP or SWSS member in a student union is behaving in a misogynistic way then they should be told to change their behaviour by the union. Failing that, they must be disciplined as a member of the student union, as any normal member would be for misogynistic behaviour.
Alongside challenging individuals, it is also necessary to challenge the SWP as an organisation. We celebrate the wide range of creative and non-violent tactics that have been used to challenge the SWP, to educate people about the rape cover-up and the party’s continued apologism for this tragedy, and to challenge its claims to be a progressive ally of feminism. In learning from these tactics, our experience has been that macho and violent confrontations with the SWP push the party into a dangerously comfortable space that reflects its own culture. Destroying SWP publicity does nothing to educate the key audience for a feminist challenge to the SWP: the people outside the SWP. We have to warn people about the SWP, and to ensure that what happened is never forgotten.
These are the ways we can fight the SWP’s misogyny and help create safer spaces without alienating those who understandably rally to the banner of free speech.
We think many SWSS and SWP activists, especially their new student members, are not aware of, or engaged with, the SWP’s rape apologism; they think they are fighting for socialism, or perhaps have been spun a yarn by the party’s apparatus about destructive sectarians like the IS Network, who tell lies about the party and the awful events of the last few years. Bans could alienate people who are new to the SWP, and bind them more closely together instead of getting them out of the SWP’s orbit. Dealing with individuals, and asking for action against individuals, is a more politically consistent and effective practice in student unions.
There must be spaces where the SWP is not allowed. We would almost certainly not allow the SWP to make interventions into IS Network meetings. However, we think it is a mistake to ban the SWP in student unions and other public institutions.
Many comrades in what remains of SWP can still be debated with. However, the moments of internal opposition have passed. Opposition activists have left; many into rs21 and the IS Network. Bans and no-platform policies will probably further stifle honest discussion in the SWP, and may ultimately be counter-productive as the SWP would use the attempts to ban it to try to regain legitimacy by rallying people around it in a fight for free speech.
- Category: Students
- Published on Wednesday, 26 November 2014
- Written by Defend Education Birmingham
We are occupying a large part of the Aston Webb Building, which includes the Vice-Chancellor’s and Senior Management’s offices, Telecommunications and the Senate Chamber in order to demand the right to free education, to protest and to housing. We are here in defiance of management’s tactics to try to suppress student protest through the use of disciplinaries, suspensions and injunctions. The areas we are occupying also play a key role in the corporatisation of our university which sees power concentrated in the hands of the few, education treated as a commodity and our institution become more like a business.
We condemn the university management for the actions they have taken against the right to protest and the suspension of Kelly Rogers and Simon Furse. All people should be able to freely express their discontent and students are no exception. The university is supposed to be a stronghold for free-speech and dissent. However, is it clear that the University of Birmingham does not recognise this human right and actively seeks to curtail it.
Yesterday, Kelly and Simon were supposed to have their appeal. Despite its postponement, we wanted to make it clear that we have not forgotten this injustice. Their case is an example of the extreme victimisation that this university will deploy in order to crush its student body. They were both singled out against a backdrop of nationwide occupations and are the only students in the country to have been suspended for 9 months since before 2010. Only Kelly and Simon were suspended despite a hundred or so other students also being involved. A third student, Hattie Craig, is not allowed to break any university regulation under threat of suspension for 6 months. The university is trying to make an example of them to intimidate other students by punishing them. This behaviour is a draconian response to an otherwise peaceful protest. This affront to democracy puts the University of Birmingham to shame and we will not let them succeed in preventing students from protesting for a better, fairer education for all.
We advocate for an education system which is free, democratic and accessible. As it stands, even basic rights like that to education, housing and protest are not being met. As such, we demand:
1. That David Eastwood and the University of Birmingham should publicly take back their position that fees should be increased and that bursaries should be cut. Instead, they should lobby the government for education to be free, and for the implementation of living grants
2. That a body should be set up made up of elected students, academic staff, and support staff. This should have ultimate oversight over the restructuring of departments, the University’s investment decisions, and its lobbying positions
3. That every student is offered accommodation which does not exceed the amount they receive in loans and grants
4. That the university does not make a profit (or “surplus”) from the fees it charges for accommodation
5. The reinstatement of Simon Furse and Kelly Rogers
6. The lifting of the onerous and inhibitive restrictions on Hattie Craig
7. That the University recognises occupations as a legitimate form of protest, with a long and illustrious history
8. That the University reforms its disciplinary procedures to include sentencing guidelines, a right for students to receive legal representation and a requirement that allegations be proved beyond reasonable doubt, instead of on the balance of probabilities
- Category: Fighting Oppression
- Published on Tuesday, 25 November 2014
- Written by ISN
Protest: Weds 26th November, 7pm, outside the US Embassy London, 24 Grosvenor Square W1A 1LQ
We are not here to condemn the rioters. We are not here to ask for police forces to be beefed up. We are here to expose the biggest gang that is roaming on the streets of London and that is the Metropolitan Police. The Police…who have given a message loud and clear. And that message is the following; we can blow brains out and we can lie and there is nothing you can do about it. - Turkish Community in Dalston statement on the London Riots of 2011
Last night a grand jury decided that Darren Wilson, white police officer, would not be charged for the coldblooded killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black man. This has inflamed the civil unrest, demonstrations and political turmoil that have gripped Ferguson St Louis since the summer.
Aside from Obama’s federal soft touch, the town has been under on-and-off periods of Martial Law designed to quell the growing and anger and confidence of the African American community and its allies there. This anger has taken many forms, from random to well-organised looting, the formation of citizens militias and police patrol units, huge acts of peaceful civil disobedience, as well as antifascist confrontations with members of the Ku Klux Klan threatening to intervene on the side of law and order; however much their intervention might be unnecessary to American imperialism as it lumbers up to crush its own people.
This lumbering has so far taken the form of armoured vehicles, police and guardsmen equipped with, amongst other things, automatic machine guns and tear gas. Again we see, in situations of acute social crisis, the most dystopian predictions and utopian demands of the historic communist movement crystallise into brutal reality.
It would be easy for us, as International Socialists in Britain to valorise and romanticise these events, especially in the light of the ability of the British Police to shoot dead black and brown men without any hint of culpability or, indeed, shame. The fact of the matter is that the American revolutionary left, like ours, is in no position to be coherently supporting let alone leading these events. Like its white counterpart, the African Nationalist and Socialist movement in America has, in the main, degenerated into sectarianism and campism, beginning with their response to Mugabe’s repression, and hardening up over the question of Syria.
Recent events should, whilst showing us the historical and political limits of American imperialism, bring into sharp focus the same limits of our politics and motivate our efforts for regrouping, rethinking and rebuilding our shared revolutionary traditions.
London Black Revolutionaries have called a solidarity vigil outside the US Embassy against the violent repression and oppression black protests and black people. International Socialist Network asks its members and supporters to participate in this and stand with the family of Michael Brown and the self-defence of the African American people of Ferguson in their fight against racist oppression, police repression and state murder.
*Support the Self Defence and Self Organisation of the African American community of Ferguson
*Disband the Police
*For International Solidarity and International Socialism
International Socialist Network
Support the Ferguson Defence Fund:
Despite overwhelming evidence that Mike Brown, an unarmed teenager, was murdered by Officer Darren Wilson, Officer Wilson has yet to be indicted. Despite the fact that six witnesses have said that Mike Brown had his hands up when he was fatally shot six times and then left dead in the middle of the street for four hours while Ferguson and St Louis Police got their lies together, Officer Darren Wilson has yet to be indicted. There are protestors in Ferguson who will stay there protesting until an indictment is handed down. And indictment is hardly justice, but it is the fairest procedure. These are young men and women who have put their lives on hold to stand up for all of our freedoms. The overly militarized police force in Ferguson has attempted to criminalize them by harassing and throwing them in jail for exercising their right to peaceful protest. They need our help. They need money for legal funds and they need money to live. The Ferguson Legal Defense Fund will help. We have partnered with Tef Poe and Tory Russell from Ferguson October to make sure the funds received go exactly where they are needed.
A solidarity protest has also been called in Liverpool this Friday 28th November, 6pm, meeting at The Rialto at the top of Upper Parliament St, Toxteth, L8. Info here