Clare Solomon – A political obituary

“All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure” – Enoch Powell

I have probably written as much about Clare Solomon as I have about anyone else over the last couple of years. She was just another leftie student talking rubbish when I first noticed her. Within a few months she had been elected President of the University of London Union, a role which, when student discontent with the proposals of the Browne Review boiled over into violence, saw her emerge as some sort of spokesperson for the loonier fringe of the movement.

This was when hubris met nemesis; a spokesperson has to be articulate and Ms Solomon could barely string a sentence together. She put in an embarrassingly weird performance on Newsnight the evening of the Millbank riot and was at it again when interviewed by the Guardian this weekend

“I …” she says, thinking hard, “I want a world where… people have a say in the everyday running of their lives. To do that, we need to fundamentally change the way the world is organised, so that things are produced according to what we need, not the needs of the market. The world…we know how so many wasteful, disgraceful and unnecessary…products…. products” – she whispers to herself, testing the word out, knowing she’s going awry “…that’s not quite the right way of putting it. There are so many things that are so unnecessary! I can’t explain it, but you know… everything’…done…for profit, regardless of who it hurts and who’s affected by it”

Her cack handedness made her enemies. When she stated on her Facebook page that “The view that Jews have been persecuted all throughout history is one that has been fabricated in the last 100 or so years to justify the persecution of Palestinians. To paint the picture that all Jews have always had to flee persecution is just plainly inaccurate” Jewish students across campus gasped. Ms Solomon was forced to mumble some half apology, saying the “badly worded comment was something that I wrote in haste on Facebook”. Perhaps Ms Solomon is not an anti Semite, but the incident was just another example of the fact that her brain and her mouth were only passing acquaintances.

It was fun while it lasted but the students have spoken and last week Ms Solomon was voted out of office, defeated by a guy who’s manifesto promised “I will be the voice for all students, not just the already vocal minority”, a clear rebuke for Ms Solomon’s antics. Elected with just 750 votes from an electorate of 120,000 last year she received 1,004 this time but her opponent got 1,182. Ms Solomon was indeed, as her supporters said, inspirational. She inspired a massive swing against herself.

This came as a shock to her supporters and to Ms Solomon herself who blamed her defeat on “a right-wing alliance against her”. This alliance seemed to involve people who disagreed with her voting for another candidate. That this isn’t some underhand conspiracy but exactly how elections are supposed to work seems to have gone right over her head.

But Clare Solomon was emblematic, just not in the way that her supporters thought. In that brief period of exhilarating notoriety last year Ms Solomon was the subject of profiles from national newspapers like the Telegraph and Daily Mail as well as more sympathetic outlets such as Counterfire. From these it emerged that Ms Solomon, in the course of a colourful life, had been involved with an organization called the Kings Cross Community Development Trust, a tax payer funded body which went bust owing thousands; I know, I worked at one of the companies it owed. She took another slice of taxpayers cash to open a café which also went bust. She receives a large amount of taxpayer support every month in the form of a council flat in the OXO Tower on London’s south bank, one of the most desirable locations in London with its view over the Thames. And her opposition to any cut in public spending whatsoever shows that she wants this taxpayer largesse to continue indefinitely.

So yes, Ms Solomon is an icon. She is an icon for people who believe that they should get everything they want whenever they want, that others should be forced to pay for it and that there should be no limit whatsoever to the amount of other people’s money they should be entitled to under the cover of ‘social justice’.

Thinking like this has to change now that the country is broke. Ms Solomon and her kind have yet to realize that there will be no more visits from the money fairy depositing wedges of taxpayers cash under their pillows. The students of ULU have woken up to this reality which is why they voted her out. “This is not the end” she has said since her defeat. Indeed, she will remain relevant. I will write no more about her but as long as she continues to subsist on taxpayers money and to loudly defend her right to your wallet she will remain an iconic symbol of entitlement Britain.

The slum your taxes pay for Ms Solomon to live in, the very taxes she wants to raise

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We need an anti communism officer

Not useful, just idiots

When my uncle was a young boy in Hungary in the late 1940’s his dad went to work one day and came home two years later. He had been scooped off the street and sent to a Soviet labour camp. He was just one of the millions to have their lives blighted by communism.

This miserable ideology has slaughtered millions and immiserated millions more. It is an ideology of conflict as laid out in the first line of the first chapter of its founding manifesto. It strips people of their individuality and brands them as members of a class. From this it views people as incapable of individual human action but only of acting as their class nature dictates, any that don’t are summarily diagnosed with “false consciousness”. This allows communism to build a supposedly scientific theory of history which usefully predicts, with “historical inevitability”, communism’s eventual victory. When this is shown to be the rubbish it clearly is communism becomes an ideology of violence. It aims to build a ‘new man’ free from the egoism engendered by capitalism. When it becomes apparent that egoism is inherent in human nature rather than being a peculiar property of capitalism, communism tries to force it out of them in the gulag or the killing field.

This perverse communist thinking led to the deaths, at one estimate, of 94 million human beings in the twentieth century. And yet, while student representatives claim to be alive to fascism on campus, they do nothing to combat campus communism.

And we ought to be combating it. Mark Bergfeld, a decent shout to be next NUS president, is a member of the Marxist Socialist Workers Party, a small group which even in coalition with other parties managed just 12,275 votes at the last general election. Clare Solomon, gaffe prone ULU president, was a member of the SWP but was expelled for ‘factionalism’, the sort of obscurity that could only be a crime on the far left.

But we need to be wary of our administrators too. The grand old man of communist history and president of Birkbeck College, Eric Hobsbawm, recently released a book on the history of Marxism. He writes that “the most difficult part of Marx’s legacy for his successors [is that] all actual attempts to realise socialism along Marxian lines so far have found themselves strengthening an independent state apparatus”. “Strengthening an independent state apparatus” might seem a weirdly anodyne way of describing a system which killed over 90 million people but then, when it was once put to Hobsbawm that “What that comes down to is saying that had the radiant tomorrow actually been created, the loss of fifteen, twenty million people might have been justified?”, Hobsbawm unhesitatingly replied “Yes”

The standard riposte is that ‘Marx is no more responsible for the crimes committed in his name than Jesus was responsible for the crimes committed in his’, indeed, Ms Solomon said something similar on her blog until recently. This is dishonest. The division, conflict and pseudo scientific history come from Marx, the violence comes from Lenin and the murderous New Man theory comes from Trotsky, all heroes to communists and the SWP.

One of the posts currently up for election at Professor Hobsbawm’s college is Anti Racism and Anti fascism. Rightly, we wouldn’t let apologists and supporters of fascism to go unchallenged on campus and we must challenge the apologists and supporters of communism also. Surely it’s time for an Anti communism officer on campus?

London Student, 14/03/2011

Apathy is perpetuated by those who prey on it

Nobody is listening

When Clare Solomon was elected ULU President in March 2010 the website counterfire.org proclaimed it a “Mandate for resistance” and told us that Ms Solomon planned “to use her victory as a springboard for a mass anti-cuts campaign”

However the figures told a different story to one of ‘mandates’ and ‘mass’. The University of London Union represents over 120,000 students and fewer than 750 of them voted for Ms Solomon. That’s less than 0.6% of those eligible to vote.

This pitiful result wasn’t a one off. In its celebratory missive counterfire identified four other recently elected members of a left wing “awkward squad”; Michael Chessum at UCL (540 votes out of about 20,000 UCLU members, or 3% of eligible voters), Louis Hartnoll at UAL (396 votes out of about 28,000 students, or 1%), Ashok Kumar at LSE (805 votes out of 9,900, or a relatively respectable 8% of eligible voters) and James Haywood at Goldsmiths (figures not available despite requests). These are the people who have the gall to question the democratic mandate of the coalition government (17.5 million votes from an electorate of 46 million, or 38%).

The consequence of student apathy towards these elections is that their representatives, elected by a bare handful of them, do not actually represent their views. A London Student poll, for example, found that two thirds of students opposed violent protest but the ‘awkward squad’ simply ignored this view. Chessum and Kumar signed a declaration supporting the Millbank rioters. Solomon refused to condemn them. Haywood, arrested at the scene, said “The occupation of Tory HQ was completely justified” Should we be surprised that people elected by a minority of students reflect a minority opinion?

But why is it that only left wing extremists seek to skip into the void left by apathy? They devote a disproportionate amount of time and effort to these campaigns as they are the only elections they have any chance of ever winning. At the last general election parties to the left of Labour got less than 70,000 votes, not enough to fill Wembley Stadium. The British electorate is not interested in anything as left wing as what the ‘awkward squad’ and their like have to offer. Neither are students.

Sadly the presence of the ‘awkward squad’ encourages student apathy. Lots of students get motivated about an issue like tuition fees that directly effects them but they start to turn off when the ‘awkward squad’ types start prattling on about overthrowing capitalism. As the left wing journalist Nick Cohen wrote recently, “The pattern of British protest is set. Good causes draw hundreds of thousands of people into left-wing politics. After a brief period of exhilaration, they find themselves harangued by pinched-faced, spit-flecked demagogues who insist they must embrace violence and hate. They realise that the far-left is not interested in the issue at hand but only wants to entice new blood into its various cults so it can exploit their energies and empty their bank accounts. Disgusted and demoralised, they drift away”

So we end up in a downward spiral; minority interest, ‘awkward squad’ leaders furthering their own agendas put people off participating which makes it easier for them to get elected and push their agendas. It’s a disappointing prospect, but most students wont care.

London Student, 28/02/2011

ULU President an embarrassment on Newsnight

On the far right

On November 10th over 50,000 students protested against the proposals of the Browne Review. Sadly it was hijacked and overshadowed by the actions of a few thousand hardcore trouble makers and over excited gawpers who broke into the building that houses Conservative party HQ and trashed just about every other office in the building. One rioter dropped a fire extinguisher from the roof narrowly missing Police on the ground.

Students turning into Newsnight that night to see ULU president Clare Solomon condemn this disgraceful and utterly counterproductive behaviour will have been disappointed. In a performance which was, by turns, embarrassing for her and dismaying for students seeking serious representation, she came across as a cross between La Pasionara and Michael Howard.

Jeremy Paxman asked Solomon five times “How does breaking into the building advance the cause of free education?” and didn’t get an answer, the final time, indeed, she chided him for “asking the wrong questions”. By the fifth time Solomon had begun asking her own questions, replying to Paxman’s question with “Why did I feel it necessary to be on the demonstration in the first place?”

The third time of asking prompted the following exchange

Solomon – “Well I didn’t break into the building and I don’t think anybody broke into the building, that is not…”

Paxman – “You were in the building weren’t you?”

Solomon – “I was in the building”

Solomon further claimed that the students had “voted unanimously against fees and against cuts”. When? Which vote is she referring to? I certainly haven’t been asked to vote on it.

She declared herself for “Free education all the way”. Bearing in mind that 37 year old Clare Solomon claimed on Newsnight to have been a student for four years but also claims on her ULU website to have “7 years experience in various union positions” it would seem there is no limit to the amount of taxpayers cash she feels entitled to.

As if this amateurish bumbling and naked self interest was not bad enough Solomon dismissed the violence which saw 14 people injured as “a few smashed windows”. She warned “This is just the beginning” and finished by saying “If the government go through with these cuts we are going to see what we’ve seen in Greece…and I fully support it.”

In May the protests, which Clare Solomon claims to “fully support”, claimed the lives of Paraskeui Zoulia, Aggeliki Papathanasopoulou, and Epameinondas Tsakalis, three bank workers burned to death when protestors set fire to their bank.

Nobel peace prize winning democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi, imprisoned for 15 of the last 21 years, recently called for peaceful protest in opposition to the brutal Burmese dictatorship. Ms Solomon, professional activist elected to ULU presidency with just 748 votes, defends violence against a democratic government.

(Printed in London Student, 22/11/10)

This is why the Left is not right

A couple of weeks ago the front page of London Student carried a quote from a SOAS student, Clare Solomon, saying “We’re going to be having a fancy-dress, all night ‘Dance on the grave of Capitalism’ protest outside Lehman Brothers on October 31st”.

Sadly the party spirit demonstrated by Ms Solomon and her comrades in the Socialist Worker Student Society is unlikely to be shared by the 164,000 people who lost their jobs in the three months to October. I was made redundant in August as a result of the credit crunch so I hope Ms Solomon will forgive me for missing the party.

The sound of champagne corks popping on the political left as people lose their jobs and homes should come as no surprise. We are, after all, finally in the midst of the ‘final crisis of capitalism’ which Marxists the world over have been waiting for since 1848.

In that time Capitalism has had plenty of final crises and survived them all. The depression of the 1870’s was followed by the Great Depression of the 1930’s and the economic turmoil of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.

Communism, on the other hand, when faced with its crisis, utterly collapsed in the late 1980s. The USSR and its empire evaporated. The Chinese, who once sacrificed more than 30 million on the altar of communism, ditched it as an economic system and their economy has boomed. Outside of SOAS it is now taken seriously only in Cuba and North Korea, respectively a police state and the world’s largest concentration camp. It is communism, not capitalism, that rests with Tsarist Russia in Trotsky’s famous dustbin.

The ‘Workers Paradises’ so bloodily created by the likes of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Guevara, Pol Pot and Mengistu, oppressed and murdered millions. In Berlin a wall had to be built around the Workers Paradise to keep them from scarpering en masse to the capitalist west.

Quaint views like Ms Solomon’s are getting a more mainstream airing in these chaotic times. On Radio Four’s Today Program on October 20th, Professor Eric Hobsbawm, historian, Marxist and President of Birkbeck College, expressed his “schadenfreude” at having his Cassandra like warnings about the evils of capitalism proved right after all these years.

But should we take it seriously? Its worth bearing in mind that Professor Hobsbawm spent most of his adult life as a leading apologist for communism, an ideology which left millions dead from Cambodia to the Czech Republic in the course of its decades long, failed experiment.

The Marxists who are currently crowing about capitalisms woes can be forgiven. Like a cult of UFO enthusiasts, this has been a long time coming for them and to quote ‘Withnail & I’, “a stopped clock is right twice a day”. But given its history of resilience and reinvention compared to socialisms miserable failure, capitalism could respond as Mark Twain did; “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated”

(Printed in London Student, vol 29 issue 5 , 17/11/08)