Posts Tagged ‘ fascism ’

NUS LGBT Conference Report

I was lucky enough to be sent to the NUS LGBT conference this year. The NUS LGBT conference is the decision making body of the NUS LGBT campaign, and has policy making, workshops, parties and whole lot of bitching, factional in-fighting, backstabbing and more. Just what you expect when you put 300 political gays in the same room as each-other, really.

The first zone of discussion we got to was policy on Welfare and Student Rights, in which I had a few motions. We first reaffirmed our position as an anti-fascist campaign, and re-affiliated to Unite Against Fascism. Some misinformed person spoke against affiliation, saying that UAF are too confrontational and violent, whereas in reality they are not confrontational enough; often organising counter-protests far away from fascist mobilisations and discouraging antifascists from actively breaking up fascist demos.

We then supported a motion to fight public spending cuts and affiliate to the Right to Work campaign. Next came a motion that resolved to fight anti-religious sentiments within the LGBT community. I spontaneously decided the speak against this motion. I feel that any progressive campaign must take a stance on materialism, and that a political criticism of religion is necessary within the movement. Unfortunately I didn’t really have time to get my thoughts in order before making the speech and it came across as anti-religious.

We then voted on campaigning against cuts to sexual health services, to support LGBT workers, and for more work on trans issues with Further Education colleges.

Next was the Liberate Prisons Now! motion which argued to support LGBT prisoners and to adopt a position of wanting prison reform. I submitted an amendment to support the work of the Bent Bars project, which was successful. I then took parts on some of the main motion which were poorly written and could be taken as something entirely different to what the main submitter had intended. We voted on the parts, and they remained, with one vote in it. There were other parts discussed, but I think the whole motion made it into policy, if I’m not mistaken. For more info on LGBT prisoners,  see my previous note.

The next motion to be discussed on the order paper was my motion to affiliate to Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), of which I am the Education Officer, to run education sessions on drug use in the LGBT community and to write to the Home Office calling for an evidence based drug policy and an impact assessment that the current drug policy has on LGBT people. The main submitter of the Prisons motion put in a procedural motion to have this motion moved to the bottom of the agenda (where it may not be discussed) which I took to be a petty retaliation to my taking parts on her motion, and perhaps a cynical attempt to make people vote against the motion. Fortunately, the Daf Adley, one of the NUS LGBT officers, spoke against the procedural motion and it was not adopted. Lev gave a good speech in favour of the motion, and Wes Streeting, the president of the NUS gave a speech against, in which he made it clear to the entire of conference that he had no idea what SSDP was. I took the final speech on the motion and it passed with a good majority. If you want to find out more about SSDP, please contact education[at]ssdp.org.uk

We then passed fabulous policy on supporting Queer Homeless Youth, policy against service restrictions to students who owe their Universities money, to support LGBT carers, and tackling homophobia in schools.

The next zone we discussed was Education where the most controversial motion was on Free Education. The NUS President Elect, Aaron Porter, spoke against the motion, demonstrating the NUS leaderships usual tendency to capitulate to government in return for a career in parliament. Fortunately, we passed the Free Education motion with a good majority. We also passed motions defending EMA, condemning education cuts, and pushing for better equality and diversity in the FE curriculum.

We then discussed was the Society and Citizenship section. Here were reaffirmed our stance against the commercialisation of Pride and that pride should be political, as well as showing solidarity with Pride’s in the Baltic countries which are often banned, broken up or attacked by fascists. We supported a motion to continue to support LGBT asylum seekers and the Love Without Borders campaign. We then discussed a fantastic No Borders motion to campaign for an end to the border regime and to affiliate to the no borders network. It passed… making me very happy.

Next came up two amendments, which I think should be discussed here together. One was to support LGBT liberation in Palestine and condemn the illegal occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, the other was to support LGBT liberation in Iran and to condemn any future occupation or invasion by anglo-american powers. The Palestine one came first, and people argued that we should not take a stance on the occupation because it is an “international issue” or irrelevant to LGBT issues, and the all the parts referring to condemning the occupation or campaigning for an end to the arms trade to Israel were removed. The Iran motion, which was equally international, and possibly less relevant than the Palestine amendment (it was condemning a future occupation that may not happen, whilst the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank is very real) was passed without any parts being taken on it. This is ridiculous and can only represent racism against the Palestinian people on conference floor by those who voted to remove those parts.

We then discussed a motion to campaign against military presence on our campuses, against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to scrap Trident and to instead funnel that huge pot of money to LGBT healthcare. Someone made the speech against saying that the military does useful stuff on campuses. It is my personal views that the members of the military are complicit in murder, and they should get the fuck off our campuses. There were a lot of parts taken on the motion, I’m not sure what happened to them.

We then passed policy on continuing the Donation not Discrimination campaign, supporting Votes for Students (I spoke against), and campaigning for Votes at 16. Next came motions to campaign for the government to recognise non-binary gender identities, a rather amusingly titled motion – “Buggery: we wont take this lying down” from our delegation, and motion calling for the media to be more trans-aware and to condemn the pope on his recent homophobia.

We then discussed the reform section, which dealt with changes to the structure of the campaign. The only thing that I think was dodgy was the decision to create a gay men’s caucus. I was somewhat conflicted on this issue. I’m not a gay man, and felt slightly uncomfortable having a say in whether they should be allowed an official caucus. However, as any groups are allowed to self organise in fringe meetings, and in the 3 years I have been going to these conferences, I have never seen a gay mans meeting, it seemed to me that they didn’t really need one. Also, caucuses are there to let minority voices within the campaign self organise, and gay men are a majority in the campaign. The fact they have a caucus makes it seem they experience a similar level of oppression as black or disabled lgbt students (who are oppressed once because they are LGBT, and again because they are black/disabled), whereas gay men are simply oppressed because they are gay, they are not oppressed because they are men.

We then moved onto the Strong and Active Unions zone, where we voted to condemn the recent changes to the way which delegates are chosen to NUS annual conference, which arguably makes it harder for minority groups to get involved. We confirmed our commitment to being a feminist campaign, and then passed a few motions about activist training and ensuring that committee members can be held to account. We then passed policy on supporting FE colleges with LGBT work, telling unions to organise queer-friendly clubnights, and one to improve the website.

The next motion discussed was one on polyamory that I had written. Ive been supporting poly motions for the last 3 years, so I was very happy that this one finally got discussed. I had a rough night the night before so decided to give my speeches to Sky Yarlett, who did amazingly. The motion was to put out education materials on polyamory, and to change our current material so nothing assumes that people are in monogamous relationships. Some misinformed people spoke against the motion, equating polyamory with promiscuity, which is exactly why we need to educate people on the matter. Someone also said that producing material on polyamory might give homophobes some ammunition to use against us, which is just plain absurd. We shouldn’t not do something to appease a reactionary group! I was very happy when the motion passed with a good majority.

There was then a discussion on a motion to hold committee meetings in the devolved nations, Scotland and Wales, and an amendment to hold one in Northern Ireland. The argument for was that the committee neglect the devolved nations, and it was a step in the right direction in making reparations. A delegate from Northern Ireland made the compelling point that this was simple tokenism, and that if we were going to spend money on shipping committee around the UK, they should be going to meet grassroots activists and not for a meeting that could essentially happen anywhere.

We then passed policy on getting trans involvement in unions and (fantastically) opposing trustee boards of unions that have the power to make political decisions. Its great that we chose to keep our unions student lead! That same motion pushed to encourage a block election system like they have at Liverpool Guild of Students, where everyone runs for president, and the people who come second, third, etc. become vice-presidents with certain portfolios. The motion argued that such a system was more accessible to candidates from the liberation groups, but thankfully people on conference floor pointed out that such as system made it impossible to have a Womens Officer and often made it harder for liberation groups to get elected. Parts were taken, and they were removed. The last few motions of that zone were sent to committee to decide on as we had run out of time.

Next came the Emergency Motions, which most of them weren’t contentious. There was a big debate over the motion to support the Black Students Officer, Bellavia Ribeiro-Addy, who was recently censured at National Conference. Both Bell and Daf, one of the LGBT Officers, sent a letter to Durham University Union condemning them for inviting the fascist BNP MEP Andrew Brons to speak on campus, and promising a demo against the event. They also said that should any students be harmed by the invitation to have a fascist speak on campus (as stats show that violence on campus increases when fascists are let on), that the blame would firmly be on Durham unions shoulders. Durham Union was a bit pissed off and threatened to disaffiliate from the NUS. Wes Streeting, the NUS President was quoted as saying that he would sack Daf and Bell if he could and voted to censure them at national conference. At NUS national conference, two similar motions were put forward to censure Daf and Bell, the one against Bell passed, the one against Daf fell. It shows that a degree of racism was present on conference floor. At NUS LGBT, we voted to censure Wes Streeting as he had interfered in the autonomy of the LGBT and Black Students’ campaign as our officers were acting as mandate to do so by their autonomous conferences. This I enjoyed immensely.

The conference as a whole was a success. Most of the discussion went the way I wanted it to, and we elected a good, left wing committee and officers. My only hope is that the more radical elements to committee stay that way and don’t become beaurocrats, as is usually the case with this sort of thing.

Add me on twitter @charliethescarf

Subscribe to my blog by clicking the button to the right… 🙂

Opposing the EDL march in Bolton

The fascist group the ‘English Defence League’ are planning on marching through the working class and multi-cultural town of Bolton in March. Although the EDL don’t claim to be racist or fascist, they are mainly composed of BNP supporters, ultra-nationalists and football hooligans spoiling for fights.

Its seems they plan to use the same tactics that were used by the NF in Bradford a few years back, their presence igniting racial tension that they can then blame on ‘the muslims’. This is the latest in a series of displays put on by the EDL across the country, intent on stirring up tensions and scapegoating ethnic minorities.

Its important to be careful about our rhetoric here. Whilst the government can ban the ‘Islam4UK’ group for calling for a march through Wootton Bassett, but not ban the equally idiotic and equally dangerous EDL for doing the same, shows exactly where the establishment’s sympathies really lie. However, its important to note that banning any political organisation, no matter how ‘radical’ or dangerous it may be, only serves to disenfranchise them even further. Any curtailing of the far right’s freedom of speech will doubtless be used against the far left in greater amount. Any bureaucratic, government lead “solution”, is essentially dis-empowering to the left and will only result in the EDL making gains through people sympathising with the political underdog.

After a largely disappointing turn out by the left at the EDL’s last march in Stoke it becomes clear that we really need to build for Bolton. I know there are only so many places radical lefties can afford to go, and I know that we all have fuckloads of other commitments, but it seems building for this event is going to be of vast importance, especially since we know that the far right will be building for it too.

We cannot rely on politically wet groups like UAF to do the organising for us. Its time the radical left really show that fascism is not welcome on our communities. Come to the counter demo in Bolton on the 6th of March. Bring your friends and bring your anger.

Add me on twitter @charliethescarf

reflections on holocaust denial

So, after Wes Streeting’s and the NUS’s condemnation of our government still attending the Durban II UN anti-racism conference, after some countries walked out after some apparently ‘anti-semitic’ remarks… it got me thinking.

First of all, what was actually said?
The president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, according to Wes, denied the Holocaust. So.. what did he actually say? Well, according to his official speech (and the English translation thereof…) he said: “Following world war two, [powerful states] resorted to military aggression to make an entire nation homeless, on the pretext of Jewish suffering and the ambiguous and dubious question of the Holocaust” – now, this is pretty much holocaust denial. But, according to the French translation, he deviated from his original speech and said “the abuse of the question of the Holocaust” instead of “ambiguous and dubious question of the holocaust”. These obviously give the two sentances entirely different meanings. It is telling that the conventional press has reported the first, more antisemitic, quotation rather than the second. To actually understand completely the finer nuances of what he said we would have to speak Farsi, failing that, i would go with the French translation.

Now, we all know that ahmadjinehad has blatently denied the holocaust before, so perhaps the finer nuances of what he did or didn’t say isn’t important. What is important to me is the monopoly on knowledge that we have here. Let me explain.

We all know that history has a bias towards white, middleclass, heterosexual, judeo-christian men. If it wasn’t, there would be no need for LGBT or black history month… the fact that most historians are white, middleclass, etc.. means that they choose not to record or not to find interesting the bits of history, the sequence of events that include issues that doesn’t directly effect them. What we learn from this is that history and the way we view it is socially constructed, people choose what is interesting to them, their own political perspective, and write it down. History as such is also complete pot luck. Some perspectives on events will be ignored, or not last, or indeed be destroyed at a later date because it does not match someone else’s view on that history.
Now, its pretty obvious that the actual events described as the holocaust happened, and it was tragic and awful. So many Jews, gays, intellectuals, travellers, eastern Europeans, and other minorities died needlessly. Now, how we deal with this knowledge, what perspectives we as a society find most important is interesting.

As some helpful poster on ednet pointed out, the actual questioning of how the knowledge of the holocaust is used today is hardly a new thing. Norman Finkelstein, the Jewish historian whose parents survived concentration camps, is quoted as saying that the state of israel is “one of the world’s most formidable military powers, with a horrendous human rights record, (and has) cast itself as a victim state”( in order to garner)”immunity to criticism” (by using the knowledge of the Holocaust).
Is it OK for people to use the memory of the holocaust to ease israel out of being accountable for its oppression of Palestine and its recent war crimes in Gaza? Finkelstein himself has been described anti-semitic. Just like any other pro-palestinian critic of the state of israel is constantly fielding the suggestions and accusations of anti-semitism, i guess.

And, so, with Holocaust denial being a crime in some countries in Western Europe, it seems to have far more reaching consequences than just being called racist, but actually having to do time for having a certain view on a historical event? How is this crime defined? Would a Holocaust denier be someone who, like Finkelstein, questions how the holocaust is used? or would it be someone who has to outright say that the holocaust categorically didnt happen? What is the use of such a crime? Why is it important to have it on the law books? do governments have a right to legislate about history? is it a form of thought-control?
i dont know the answers to those questions, obviously, but there are interesting to think about nonthe less.

It seems to be an interesting result of the ‘Holocaust Industry’ (Finkelsteins phrase) that some far-left German political groups have taken on defending Israel. They seem to see themselves as anti-fascist, and see fascism as anti-jew, and so align themselves with Jews and the state of israel, and defend it till the end of the earth, even when faced with with Israel’s oppression of Palestine.

What is real fascism? Well, i would say that to be anti-fascist is to be anti-oppression. that is, anti racism against jews, and iranians, and everyone else. Its anti all oppression, whereever you find it.
So, remember the holocaust… it was tragic, and is the true face of fascism, but dont let you feel unable to not criticise the oppression that is happening, right now, against the palestinians. Or anyone else for that matter.

Words over…

x