Who invited you?
York University is going through exciting times at the moment with the establishment of “Disarm”, a group focused on getting arms companies and the military off campus, and now a Palestine Solidarity Society. With Disarm its been heartening to see so many students come to meetings, upto 60 in fact, from so many backgrounds: Socialists, Anarchists, People and Planet and Amnesty members, Labour Students and more. Unfortunately, last weeks meeting was somewhat interrupted by someone trying to fiddle the agenda.The agenda, put simply, is to get the University to divest itself of shares in the arms trade, through implementation of the Ethical Investment Policy that has been lying on a senior administrators desk for some 2 years gathering dust. There is a chance to implement this very shortly, and a week on Friday, there will be a large demonstration on campus. The aim is singular, and the group determined, and I do believe that, if we keep focusing on the goal of getting an ethical investment policy passed, we will succeed.
So what was frankly bloody annoying was to have a student, now in his 4th year of a part-time course, suddenly appear at the meeting, despite almost never showing his face at campus events in the all his time at the University so far. Curious how a member of the SWP only shows up when there’s something to react to, isn’t it? Anyhow, I guess its just reminded me of how much I despise that one particular group and their presence within the British political scene.
Anyhow, it was very interesting how said SWP member (I should point out, a former employee of the party) decided he needed to ask for “some simple demand to be inserted, like getting the DEC appeal for Gaza advertised on the University Website” mid way through a meeting where Gaza/Palestine had barely been mentioned, and in a way that took the entire energy out of the meeting. Admittedly, the meetings are a bit badly organised, though this hasn’t been a problem so far, but to cut into the energy with a personal agenda was a real problem.
But the thing that really struck me wasn’t the bad timing, it was the way many in the room responded to the intervention. It shut down the energy, because it stopped people discussing things they could agree on, and work together on, and brought in something that not everyone was comfortable with. The idea of voting was raised, bringing in a confrontational, majoritarian attitude (and spellchecker thinks majoritarian should be authoritarian. Poignant huh?).
I was reminded by so much of what came to repulse me about this “party”: its obsession with movement building instead of goal-achievement, its total lack of respect for humanity, treating everyone merely as “movement fodder”. The reactionary mindset does nothing to uphold the dignity of the Palestinians. Their inability to listen, or to take on board new ideas for action really pisses people off and devalues the intelligence of people who try and get involved. There can never be a full analysis of how a protest went, because weakness cannot be admitted. In a sense, they are so very anti-human.
The problem is knowing how to handle this without making the whole thing sound like some kind of witchhunt or conspiracy theory. How do we ensure that concensus is respected? Maybe I need to swat up on the reasons for using concensus and not voting. Its how to address the difference between radical negativity and radical positivity. I just don’t want to see another campus movement cut short and forced to march behind the banner of the SWP.
Its interesting to learn that the more SWP-related elements of Stop the War held a students meeting last weekend to try and co-opt the movement of university occupations. I think that the 27 occupations so far might well be the last we here of it. The defence: it only takes 50 students to get an occupation started. I’m sorry, if you can only get 50 students, you have no moral force behind you and you need to do more outreach before initiating such an action. Its also far too few students, as you need to rotate people around. These issues are just too important, and the people we serve to desperate, to allow them to be messed up.