The bickering, backstabbing and pseudo-intellectual debate of student socialism.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

BNP outnumbered and depressed

The UAF counterdemo in Leeds was a huge success. Despite worries that exams would reduce the student turn out (it did) the trade Union delegations more then made up the numbers. More satisfying was the fact that our side was lively bouncing and loud while the master race were a depressed looking bunch of middle aged white men. Reasonable student delegations attended from Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield and leeds despite the cold and wet so the demonstration was still much much younger then the Nazi effort. The PCS came out of it particularly well having organised transport from some cities and bring a lot of its members for a working day.

The whole day seemed to highlight the fact that things don't seem to be looking good for Britains Nazis despite over a decade of "building" and some success in local elections. The fact that they can only mobalise 15o people to defend their leader is nothing short of laughable. The fact that their membership (despite claims from various "youth leader") is overwhelmingly old is also selfevident. With Griffen looking like he is going down an effective UAF campaign in the May elections really could force them back quite a way. Worth a day in the cold and wet by any accounts.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Pav declares for President

Pav (current NUS Black Students Officer and Student Broad Left Ally) has announced that he is standing for NUS president. The background he stands against is one of years of Labour Party domination broken by the left group Campaign for Free Education’s candidate Kat Fletcher only 2 years ago who has proudly carried the flame for the err Labour Party ever since. After leaving CfE Kat has steadily taken NUS in a steadily a-political direction under the banner of “reform” cutting democracy and blunting the education campaign. As a result the NUS is less connected with its members then ever and its campaigns have largely disappeared from view (with the exception of a pointless and very expensive “launch.”) The NUS has infact degenerated so much it is trialling a two tier membership, one paid for with perks and one for democracy only, in the North West.

The question is what would Pav do to NUS and how should the left treat his candidacy? Would he take the Union in a progressive direction reconnecting the membership through mass campaigns and standing up to the government or give us more of the same. As an activist Pav has a very good record in terms of supporting progressive campaigns and has quietly stood up against the reform agenda. But when it comes to the crunch about what politics he will stand on it all becomes a bit hazy. To the outside observer Pav seems to move between Labour Students Proper and the politically much better Student Broad Left with out ever coming down clearly with one or the other. If Mel Ward (National Organisation of Labour Students) stands it will become more clear cut but if a deal is struck with NOLS it could throw everything up into the air. Personally I’m a fan of Pav’s but the personal isn’t always the political.

I write to let you know that I will be standing to be the next NationalPresident of NUS at Annual Conference in March. I hope you will support me. NUS must be a powerful voice defending students' interests nationally, supporting students' unions to represent their members locally, and shapingthe world in which students live, work and study.

As NUS President, I will give a lead on strengthening student representation in FE colleges, universities and to the government. Only by increasing theinvolvement of all sections of our membership will we create successful NUS campaigns and build a relevant movement that will help to secure NUS'long-term stability.

I want to see an influential NUS. Whether campaigning to prevent further fee increases and for free education; for more resources for local students'unions or joining demands for trade justice, peace and equality that many students support, we are most effective when we are an active, inclusive and visible movement. The breadth of my experiences as NUS Black Student's Officer, and previously as students' union president of Cambridge University and Runshaw FE College, ensure that I will act on the diverse needs students' unions have from NUS.

I have shown that improving student's experiences of NUS is possible. In the past two years, I have led a transformation in the NUS BlackStudents' Campaign, creating a highly successful movement by dramaticallyincreasing participation, building powerful links within the student movement and with external organisations, and raising tens of thousands of pounds through initiatives like the NUS Black Students' handbook. I believe that I am best placed to deliver the kind of NUS that students need.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Big Brother - Oh dear me

It seems that its true.

Big Brother really will be hosting our very own GG.

I'm lost for words what does Galloway think he can gain from this? Won't it hammer Respects credibility further or is it a cunning plan to profile us for the May council elections.

MCB and Gay Rights

A debate has opened up on ednet around the comments of Sir Iqbal Sacranie head of the MCB about gay marriage (sorry civil partnership) in the UK. I’ll try and reproduce one thread of the argument bellow.

If Islam condemns homosexuality -like other 'Abrahamic' religions- then surely what you would actually mean is 'Should we nominate Islam for a Homophobia award?'

CNS: Or, alternatively, you can do what I do for Christianity, Judaism, and pretty much every religion in the world, and try to take it into context. All major religious works were written over a thousand years ago, when all sort of prejudices went unchallenged. So if you follow one of these religions, you can either accept that what was relevant to a society then isn't necessarily applicable to society today, or rigidly stick to all the prejudices under the excuse that your religions says so. Seeing as most Christians in the UK seem to have had little trouble shaking off the bigotry that used to be stuck with the religions (unlike the Bible Belt lot in the US), I don't see what trouble Muslims should have.
Sorry, but I do not accept what Mr. Galloway wants us to believe that anyone who does not turn a blind eye to homophobia in the name of Islam is an Islamophobe.”

Rob: “That’s skating over a key difference between British Christianity and mainstream religion. British Christianity is more and more disconnected from the formal institutions of the church, fewer people go and in a dominantly liberal Christian country most Christians interpret their religion as a belief in "god" tied to whatever views they generally hold. The picture is different if you look at either the Church as an institution or church going Christians as a group. I do accept however that the CofE has stretched its image and utterings more and more to reach out to the majority of non-church going Christians.
You also seem to forget that there is an incredible amount of non-religious homophobia in British society generally. Main stream Islam like mainstream Christianity, Hinduism etc in the main reproduces the homophobia of society generally.
The final point (not at CNS) is that despite Tatchell's suggestion there is no automatic "unity of the oppressed." In fact the general reaction to oppression is one of powerlessness lending itself to kicking out at those worse off and trying to relate to those above in society. It is a much more typical for someone to think "I have a rough time because I'm black but at least I'm not Muslim/ I have a rough time as a Muslim but at least I'm not gay/ I have a rough time because I'm gay but at least I'm not Muslim" then for people to think "we're all oppressed lets smash up news international
It is therefore not surprising that there is homophobia within the Muslim community and that it is voiced by "community leaders" any more then it is surprising that the same is true of LGBT community in relation to Islam. It would be disappointing to see activists fall into the trap of highlighting homophobia/Islamophobia within minority communities and be distracted from the root cause of mainstream homophobia/Islamophobia.”

A:So it seems that you're suggesting that we can't protest homophobia if it’s done in the name of Islam, as it’s not homophobia because of Islam, but because of general homophobia expressed by Islamic "leaders".
It’s a nice idea theoretically but I'm sorry, it doesn't wash, you can't have it both ways - when Islamic clerics say they oppose terrorism you're the first to use this as evidence that Muslims in general denounce terrorism. And also I don't think your analysis of the psychology of oppressed groups is quite correct,
"I have a rough time because I'm black but at least I'm not Muslim/ I have a rough time as a Muslim but at least I'm not gay/ I have a rough time because I'm gay but at least I'm not Muslim"
Oppressed groups lash out at those they see oppressing them surely? I accept your point about conflict between different ethnic minority groups, but not between ethnic minority groups and the gay community, not when the homophobia is being preached from above as accepted wisdom and teaching by the people a lot of Muslims see as the only ones who are capable of giving them a voice in society, when was the last time a Muslim cleric said that being black was a disease?!?”

Rob:I wasn't saying there is no Homophobia within the Muslim community - quite the opposite. I was explaining why Muslims as an oppressed group living in a homophobic society were likely to accept homophobic ideas. The fact that this is replicated at the top of the "Muslim community" is also unsurprising.
"Oppressed groups lash out at those they see oppressing them surely? I accept your point about conflict between different ethnic minority groups, but not between ethnic minority groups and the gay community..."
You miss the point that oppression doesn't effect people as a group it effects them individually as part of society. Which is one of the key reasons that oppression tends to produce (note tends not results in) a feeling of powerlessness in the face of it. So members of the oppressed group are likely to buy into other oppressive ideas within society as a way of asserting the fact that there are people worse off.
People (even religious people) aren't empty vessels that clerics or newspapers can simply pour prejudice into. Social experience can make people susceptible to certain ideas, oppression makes elements of the Muslim community susceptible to homophobia with a religious tint just as poverty and social neglect make some w/c communities susceptible to racism etc. It doesn't make homophobia acceptable when put forwards by a cleric but it does identify the root problem as the homophobia endemic in society not as a product of one particular religion over another. “

SP: “"It doesn't make homophobia acceptable when put forwards by a cleric but it does identify the root problem as the homophobia endemic in society not as a product of one particular religion over another."
So it’s ok to protest over this kind of homophobia (as outrage! and others do) or not?
Also, is it ok to protest against Islamophobia from LGBT people or do we just recognise the root problem being the Islamophobia in society?”

Rob: “Surely the problem is the disproportionate focus on homophobia within the Muslim community something I'm not alone in thinking Outrage! has been guilty of. The fact that it is not particularly surprising (automatic unity of the oppressed etc) doesn't make it defensible. Just as the head of MCB's comments aren't defensible but do gain disproportionate amount of attention because of the depth of Islamophobia in society post 9/11.”

B: “How is it a disproportionate amount of attention when the head of the major Muslim body in this country makes comments like that. If the MCB does, as it suggests, represent most comments then I’d argue that these comments haven't received enough attention (probably due to fear of fanning the flames of Islamaphobia in society). How is the head of the MCB decided? Is it elected, nominated, appointed?
Outrage! focus on homophobia within religious communities because there it seems to be more acceptable to society then from the far right, whereas Judaism, Islam, Christianity and the rest should not be free from criticism when they promote views modern society finds unacceptable. I don't think that Outrage! focus on all Muslims but those who do hold similar views expressed by the head of the MCB (a major rep) or worse nor do they focus on all Jews but those who hold views they find unacceptable on LGBT issues or all Christians but again those groups within Christianity who oppose gay rights. That's not racism.”

Rob :
“Needless to say I haven't called Tatchell racist and have qualified every statement I have made about Outrage! public statements. I think there is a difference between personally being Islamophobic and unconsciously accepting the framework of British societies Islamophobia. Much the same as the difference between racism and racial prejudice. Look at how much of Peter Tatchell's website is directed against Islam in the middle east. Isn't it disproportionate? And to qualify again I don't think the Iranian regime is defensible (and the same with many others.) But is this not a left echo of Bush/Blair’s "clash of civilisations" gibberish? After all there are just as many other worthy targets without so much as a mention. Tatchell has bought into some of the "humanitarian war" justifications of intervention in the middle east even while rejecting the legitimacy of the Iraq war itself. The focus on Muslim communities at home follows on from this. Again not denying the reality of homophobia within the Muslim community or justifying it through religious exceptionalism as you seem to imply. However the fact remains that the majority of homophobic attacks/incidents are by white men etc etc.”

A Marxist analysis of oppression can be found here by a Mr T. Cliff