Is it because I isn’t black? Yes, actually

To the utter ambivalence of most University of London students there are some election going on for their usless union at the moment. But hold on, what’s this?

Black - CopyApparently only black students (or those who ‘self define’ as black) are allowed to vote for one of the positions. Isn’t that a bit, well, racist?

Oh well, as you’ll see, I voted. Not that anyone will care, ULU is about to be put out of our apathy.

Good riddance.

Protesting is soooooooooooooo last year

Put an X in any of the many empty spaces where you think a protestor was and send your coupon to…

Late last year some students, many of whom turned out to be rather plummy middle class kids, decided it would be larks to smash up bits of London to register their annoyance at having to pay for a service they were using.

Today saw students take to London’s streets again. But, perhaps because the news that universities are cutting tuition fees to compete on costs suggests the coalition’s policy is working as they said, only 2,500 are estimated to have turned out. Rather embarrassingly for the revolutionaries this dismally small gathering, nearly 2,000 fewer than saw Yeovil vs Walsall in the Third Division a couple of weeks ago, was outnumbered by the Police.

That’s the thing about fashions, whether for leg warmers or protests. They’re fickle.

Reality Bites

Gimme Gimme Gimme

With Birkbeck, my college, sharing a campus with SOAS I came across quite a few left wingers in my time there. I often wondered how they’d react when uni ended and the dead kipper of reality smacked them round the chops.

One of the noisiest lefties on campus is now finding out. Quite frankly, her Facebook page has been bloody hilarious lately. Last Wednesday saw this outburst

“seriously WTF guardian jobs? why are the only ‘graduate jobs’ all based in the City and if I want a job for the fucking public sector there is shit all?”

When asked what sort of job she was looking for she replied

“anything that I could do without selling my soul. All my experience is in the SU, NUS Women’s Committee, etc, so trade union or other public sector stuff is looking most promising atm. I’d love to work part-time too really so I can spend the other half of the week doing stuff for Counterfire’s website..”

Counterfire, I ought to explain in case you are not one of the half a dozen people who is aware of its existence, is a wacky Marxist website run by people who left the SWP after a falling out.

All very revealing. This girl, I’ll call her Rosa, wants a job in the public sector which will give her time to pursue her political interestes. Who can blame her? But we’ve had far too many jobs like that for far too long. The gravy train has hit the buffers. There really is “shit all” out there in terms of stupid, overpaid, underworked, public sector non jobs. And a good thing too.

The real world just won’t cease its cold shower of piss on Rosa’s dreams of being a taxpayer funded revolutionary. Yesterday saw this

“what the hell?! just looking at jobseekers allowance and the most you can get if you’re under 25 is £53.45!!! so if you live in zone 3 which is probably the closest to central you could afford on housing benefit then after £30 a week for a travelcard and £10-15 for food shopping that leaves under £10 to actually have a life with! this government actually makes me sick”

Notice the throaway reference to Housing Benefit, another handout from the taxpayer this poor, oppressed girl has to get by on?

When it was pointed out to Rosa that the point of benefits was to keep you going until you found another job and not to keep you in the manner to which you’ve become accustomed for as long as you like, she exploded

“Eoghain, that’s probably the most sanctimonious thing I’ve ever heard to be fair. Are you seriously saying it’s fair that people looking for jobs that, uh, DON’T EXIST in a recession should be punished by essentially having to be locked in their house because they can’t even afford to go to the fucking cinema or take their kids out for a milkshake on the money they have left over, let alone buy a pint? I haven’t even started applying for it, I’m just shocked that that’s the amount available”

Well, I’d agree with Eoghain, the point of the JSA is not to make sure you can keep paying for cinema tickets, milkshakes and pints and the fact that she is “shocked” by all this and finds it “sanctimonius” suggests that her university education has left her woefully unprepared for the real world.

Rosa wasn’t finished

“Okay, Eoghain I’m not presuming to know everything about your situation. But when I was waiting tables I found it stressful, physically exhausting, and massively time-consuming as on an average salary of £5.65 an hour it was difficult just to pay the rent without working til 2 in the morning sometimes. I wonder how much time that would leave me to search extensively for decent jobs, let alone go to the fucking interviews for them. I’m really sick of the idea that poor people aren’t allowed to have fun – it smacks of the argument over EMA, where people justified its removal by saying ‘shock horror! sometimes kids spend some of the money on booze or fags!’ never mind the fact that their richer clasmates are spending £40 a week on ketamine…I don’t think it’s selfish to say that the state shouldn’t punish people for not having a job that literally doesn’t exist. And I don’t think it’s wrong to want to claim JSA whilst looking for work that is suitable to my level of education funnily enough.”

Its difficult to know where to start here. I got EMA when I was doing my A levels. Except I had to go to a Pizza Hut and work for it and they called it wages. Its hard work but thats life. You have to do something for your money, Rosa, it is clear, doesn’t fancy this and would rather it was handed to her.

As for the idea that “poor people aren’t allowed to have fun” I don’t know anyone who has suggested that. What has been suggested, quite rightly, is that the taxpayer shouldnt foot the bill for it. What does rich kids taking Ketamine have to do with it? Are poor kids that cant afford K being discriminated against?

Finally Rosa says “I don’t think it’s wrong to want to claim JSA whilst looking for work that is suitable to my level of education funnily enough”. Given that one of her exams was on ‘Gender, Sex and Identity in Africa 1800-2000’, she might be in for a long wait.

Likely bedfellows?

Nick Cohen wrote long ago about the weird relationship between the elements of the left and Muslims so extreme they could be called fascist (I even had a crack myself). For the perennially unpopular left the potential muscle offered by extremist Islam offered a tiger they could ride, if not all the way to power, certainly towards a bit of sought after relevance. This left were less Atlee, more Von Papen.

Of course, there were huge hurdles to overcome; issues of women’s rights, gay rights or even animal rights. The left avoided them by going quiet on these issues. The card of Anti-Americanism trumped all others. As Churchill said, “If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons”. Well I’ve yet to see a production of Faustus where Mephistopheles doesn’t come to collect.

Well now the ‘left-right’ axis or ‘ideology horseshoe’ has been bent into a pretzel. Next Tuesday the University of Westminster will be playing host to an event called ‘Zionism, Jewishness and Israel’ which is billed as “A panel discussion examining Israeli Criminality in the wake of the Goldstone Retract”. Speakers include John Rose, a leading figure in the Socialist Workers Party, Alan Hart who, according to the post which brought this whole thing to my attention, has made up stories about Israel, notably that Israelis were behind 9/11, and Dr Ghada Karmi, an academic at Exeter University.

Also on the roster is Gilad Aztmon, a shameless anti Semite who was expelled from the SWP for calling the holocaust “a complete falsification invented by Zionists and Americans”. No wonder Stormfront, a leading neo Nazi website, are advertising the event. So are members of the Stop the War Coalition. The left are now making common cause, not just with Islamofascists, but with common or garden fascists.

However, it now appears that John Rose and Ghanda Karmi have pulled out of the event. That leaves just Alan Hart and the University of Westminster which is still, apparently, playing host to Aztmon’s noxious fantasies.

I tried to contact the University to find out who had booked the event and how I could get in touch with them. After a bit of passing around I spoke to a guy called Jordan who told me that though the event was indeed booked for next Tuesday, he knew nothing about it and neither did anyone he had been able to speak to. He did say, however, that the event could have been arranged via the Student Union. This would be the same student union which recently saw three activists from Hizb ut Tahrir elected.

Anyway, Jordan has told me that his director will be in touch with me. I’ll keep you posted.

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

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 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

The end of the affair, but it was a fool’s love from the start

Breaking up is hard to do

On January 5th the Independent reported that the Liberal Democrats had hit an all time low in the polls of just 11%. Part of this is down to students falling out of love with the Lib Dems, just 15% continue to support them according to YouGov in November. As recently as last May this figure was 45% and ‘I agree with Nick’ was a slogan popular on campuses nationwide. Where did the love go?

Students fell in love with the Liberal Democrats over Iraq and stayed in love over the unaffordable promise that taxpayers continue to pay 60% of the cost of 50% of all British kids studying for three years. It was never a relationship with stable foundations.

For all the sound and fury at the time Iraq receded as an issue. This left the unaffordable promise.

The promise had been made in more carefree days when no one had to worry about how it would be paid for, the Liberal Democrats were never going to get elected so who cared? Not since Sonny serenaded Cher had lovers been so blasé about the bills.

Then the unthinkable happened. The Lib Dems actually did end up in government. Curiously, many of those who voted Lib Dem were upset at this outcome; it seemed they had voted Lib Dem to bring about a Labour government.

Faced with actual power the Lib Dems were forced to dump the unaffordable promise on fees and as the old folk song went the hottest love was the soonest cold. The sweet nothings of May had been replaced by angry chants of “Nick Clegg, shame on you, shame on you for turning blue”

But like any break up the blame isn’t all on one side. Students who voted for the Lib Dems on the strength of their pledge on tuition fees need to ask themselves a question; why was it that the only party willing to sign it was the party that had no expectation of actually being asked to deliver on it?

Both Labour and the Conservatives went into the last election with the possibility of forming a government. Both made some pretty wild pledges but even they ran a mile from the tuition fee pledge. The Lib Dems probably knew they couldn’t keep it but didn’t think they’d have to so persisted in the fantasy that the taxpayers pockets were bottomless. It’s often asked whether students would have voted Lib Dem if they hadn’t made their tuition fee promise. An equally pertinent question is would the Lib Dems had made the promise in the first place if they’d thought they’d have to honour it?

But surely that fact that no party with a realistic proposition of power was willing to make this promise should have set a few alarm bells ringing among the student leadership? Surely they should have asked why this was? They are clever people, that is why they believe the taxpayer should to continue fund their education. But they fell for a fantasy. If they chose Lib Dem fantasyland over the real world then shouldn’t they take a look at themselves and take some responsibility?

The death of the Liberal Democrats may well be the consequence of this most acrimonious break up since The Smiths. But so what? The Lib Dems have always offered an alternative, but not an alternative to the policies of Labour and the Conservative,s but an alternative to grim, real world politics where money doesn’t grow on trees. What’s left of the Lib Dems is moving on. The student leadership should too.

Printed in London Student, 17/01/11

The battle of London

They want you to keep paying for their education

“We want the MPs to hear our voices” said one student. When they listened what did they hear? “Fuck fees”, “Tory scum” and “My toilets’ Clegged”. It was difficult to discern anything worth listening to.

Efforts to get across whatever message we were supposed to be hearing went beyond a few moronic chants. Government buildings were attacked. Shops were looted. Students sought out TV cameras to pull faces in front of. The statue of Churchill was vandalized. Protestors swung from the flags on the Cenotaph. Price Charles and his wife were attacked on their way to a charity gala.

Much of the violent overspill around Oxford Circus was carried out by rioters released from the Police ‘kettle’ at Westminster. The Police should have kept them there. The trouble was not kettling but a lack of it. Indeed, attempts, yet again, to paint the student violence as a response to Police tactics were rather undermined by the students use of snooker balls and flares as weapons, neither readily available in Parliament Square.

This was simply an attempt by a violent mob to intimidate a democratically elected government into doing what it wanted. It was an assault on democracy.

The left is continually tying itself in knots. Presently we have the spectacle of so-called Anarchists fighting for greater government involvement in education. We have the same people who decry the toppling of the Allende government in Chile in 1973 as an attack on democracy supporting the same behaviour in the UK.

Indeed, one of the striking features of the history of mass civil disorder in the UK is just what a left wing phenomena it is. In the 1970’s the National Union of Mineworkers set out to reverse the decision of the British electorate and, successfully, topple the Conservative government of Edward Heath. In 1984 the NUM tried once again to reverse an election result it didn’t like. That attempt met with failure.

It has passed into left wing folklore that smashing up shops round Trafalgar Square in 1990 brought down Margaret Thatcher. It didn’t. The riots happened in March and Thatcher departed in November with some surprisingly good local election results for the Conservatives in between. It was Howe and Lawson who brought down Thatcher and they did it over Europe, not the Poll Tax.

But even if we accept this interpretation of history think what it means. That if you don’t like the actions of a democratic government violence is an acceptable resort. If that is what you think then congratulations, pull up a stool next to General Pinochet and the 7/7 bombers in the Anti Democracy Arms for that is exactly what they thought.

It is because they are such bad losers that elements of the left are so anti democratic. For democracy to work participants must be committed to it even when it produces outcomes we might not like. This is what stops elections in the UK being merely triggers for civil disorder as they have been recently in Guinea. Everyone is a democrat when they win, it’s what you do when you lose that matters.

The likes of Ed Miliband will reply that the Lib Dems have subverted democracy by ditching their pre election pledge. But in a representative democracy such as ours the Lib Dem MPs are well within their rights to do this. If anything this ought to lend strength to the argument that markets (where exchanges are mutually beneficial or they don’t take place at all) are a superior method of resource allocation than politics (where exchanges are zero sum). This leads to the obvious conclusion that a smaller role for government in this allocative process would be optimal. Sadly we are still waiting for the left to join these two rather proximate dots.