Saturday 6 June 2009

A sad day for union democracy and academic freedom

Back in February I urged UCU members to vote for candidates for election to the union's National Executive Committee who would stand up to the pro-boycott far left. Last week, Jon Pike, chair of Engage and elected NEC member, described attempts by the SWP/UCU Left to block calls for a ballot of members before any boycott is introduced. Now, sadly, Jon has resigned from the committee, in response to its resolution in support of an academic boycott of Israel, in defiance of the majority of the union's members. In his letter of resignation, Jon writes:

Whether or not such resolutions can be implemented, or have been declared void, their adoption is a violation of the democratic principle that the union ought to represent its membership.

It will be said that the UCU, on behalf of its membership, and on behalf of the academic community in Britain, would wish to push for an academic boycott of Israel, but is prevented from doing so by legal means.

This claim is entirely false. The members have not supported such a proposal, and they have not been asked their views.

In their reaction to Jon's resignation, Norman Geras and Eve Gerrard speak for many:

Jon's presence on the executive council meant that there was a courageous voice trying to bring the union to an understanding of what it was doing, and how ruinous for union values, and for the membership, its trajectory was and is. That voice is now gone from the NEC, which is even more than before given over to the pernicious ideology of the SWP and its sympathizers, who are utterly unrepresentative of the Union membership and of academics more broadly.

Honour to Jon, who has fought with great resilience and intelligence for the preservation of democracy, academic freedom and anti-racism in the union; dismay and a sense of chill for academics - Jewish and others - who share those values; yet deeper discredit for the union itself, whose overwhelming and febrile obsessions about Israel and 'Zionists' may now be irremediable.

1 comment:

Eve Garrard said...

Thanks, Martin. It's been a bad week for any academic who cares about having a functional union which respects academic freedom, not to mention democracy and anti-racism.