The British establishment has gone into overdrive in its efforts to clamp down on any protest by pro-Palestine supporters. And the communists – the most determined class fighters – are coming under particularly heavy fire.
Home secretary Suella Braverman has ordered police to take a heavy-handed approach on Palestine solidarity demonstrations. And education minister Gillian Keegan has written to university vice-chancellors, demanding that they silence dissent on UK campuses.
The BBC and the rest of the capitalist media have all aided and abetted this campaign of repression, with a torrent of imperialist propaganda that smears activists as racists and terrorist sympathisers.
Despite all of this, across Britain, hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets to denounce the murderous crimes of Israeli and British imperialism.
In universities, Socialist Appeal comrades have boldly defied the diktats of the authorities, mobilising students and staff in solidarity with Palestine.
Along the way, however, the communists on campus have faced hostile and hysterical opposition from university bosses, student union (SU) bureaucracies, and Zionist student groups.
On 12 October, for example, the UCL Marxist society was suspended after student comrades refused to take down advertisements for a meeting containing the slogan ‘intifada until victory’ – a call for a mass uprising against imperialist occupation.
Similar demands have been made of comrades at Lancaster University, Sussex University in Brighton, and elsewhere.
In all these cases, the communists have refused to comply with these outrageous orders, and have gone ahead and organised solidarity events.
Intimidation in Cambridge
In other cases, student comrades have had to battle against belligerent forces on campus in their efforts to pass solidarity motions in SU meetings.
The communists at UEA in Norwich, for example, stood firm against right-wingers who were looking to wreck a motion that our comrades were proposing in support of Palestine.
Earlier this week in Cambridge, meanwhile, the SU President and Jewish society banded together in an attempt to tear up our model motion, which Socialist Appeal activists were proposing at a meeting of the student council.
Our comrades valiantly defended the original wording of the motion, which called for “a mass uprising on both sides of the Green Line and across the Middle East” in order to “free the Palestinian people, end the occupation, and ensure equal rights for all peoples”.
Furthermore, they argued against the removal of the demand for “mass direct action against companies, banks, and institutions that aid the manufacture and delivery of arms to Israel”, which the motion’s critics were intent on gutting from the resolution.
In the end, the perniciously-amended motion was not passed, as the SU meeting was not quorate. Comrades will therefore be returning to present the same text at the next council debate. And in the meantime, they will be campaigning across the city to gather support amongst students and workers, in order to send a clear message to the university.
The right wing have subsequently stepped up their aggression since Monday’s council debate, launching a cacophonous outcry in the press.
A slanderous report of this meeting in Varsity, the main Cambridge University student newspaper, was followed up by a hit piece in the Daily Mail yesterday, which targeted and named our comrade who proposed the motion in question.
Furthermore, the SU President has also threatened to call in Blairite John Mann, the government’s official ‘independent’ advisor on antisemitism, to investigate the matter. And the head of the national Union of Jewish Students has demanded that the university take action against our comrade.
All of them – right-wing rags and Zionist students alike – rely on slander, distortion, and lies, with ludicrous claims that our call for a ‘mass uprising’ is an endorsement of terrorism; a case of “directly inciting violence and murder” against Jewish Israeli citizens. But this is completely false.
In response, Cambridge comrades have written an open letter to our enemies (see below), politically replying to these smears, and explaining the real revolutionary meaning behind the slogan ‘intifada until victory’.
Importantly, our comrades call on workers and students – and their mass organisations, the UCU and the NUS – to mobilise in defence of freedom of speech, and in solidarity with Palestine.
The unions must organise and fight back against this intimidation and bullying behaviour by the right wing. We cannot allow ourselves to be browbeaten into submission.
Threats in Oxford
Perhaps the most egregious attack, however, is that against our comrades in Oxford.
Socialist Appeal activists in the UCU, which represents academic staff, also attempted to move our model motion at an emergency general meeting (EGM) of the local union branch, scheduled to take place yesterday (26 October). But news of this was picked by the right-wing press, who quickly helped to whip up a frenzy over this debate.
The university’s HR department was soon called in, issuing threats of disciplinary action against the motion’s proposers, citing spurious legal advice about the resolution being in contradiction to the institution’s harassment policy, the UK Equalities Act, the government’s Prevent strategy, and other anti-terrorism legislation.
The Oxford Israel Society set the tone for this attack on local UCU members, slinging yet more mud by publicly stating:
“In all our time in this university, we have never seen academics call for the violent destruction of the sole Jewish state, or for mass intifada, meaning a wave of murderous terror, in all of Israel and the Middle East. This effectively calls for the violent deaths, ethnic cleansing, and genocide of seven million Jews.” (Our emphasis)
Of course, whilst falsely and outrageously accusing our comrades of supporting “violent destruction”, “murderous terror”, and “genocide”, the Oxford Zionists conveniently ignore the very real destruction, terror, and genocide that the Netanayhu regime is meting out against the people of Gaza as we speak.
Under pressure, the Oxford UCU branch committee cancelled the EGM, and the motion was dropped.
But our comrades are determined to make their voices heard, and are looking to pass another motion at the earliest opportunity: denouncing this blatant attack on union democracy and freedom of speech, and calling on the UCU and NUS to launch a national campaign over these issues.
The labour and student movement must take up this call, and mobilise nationally to defend activists’ basic democratic rights on campuses and beyond.
As the Oxford comrades have stated in response (see below) to this intimidation by university bosses and the capitalist press:
“This is a direct assault on union democracy, and on our basic democratic right to freedom of speech – values that the university hypocritically proclaims to defend and uphold…
“If university bosses are allowed to decide what we can discuss, and what position we can take on political issues, then next they will be trying to tell us what industrial action and protest we can or can’t take.”
Taken together, all of this is a clear attempt to intimidate and silence our comrades.
But we can tell these bullies now: your tactics will not work on us. You can scream and shout as much as you like. You are all bark and no bite.
We will not be silenced. The communists will not be cowed.
Oxford emergency motion: Defend freedom of speech! Defend union democracy! We will not be silenced!
Our union branch, Oxford UCU, is under attack from university management.
Members attempting to show solidarity with the Palestinian people and raise criticisms of Israeli and British imperialism have been threatened with disciplinary action by university officials.
This is a direct assault on union democracy, and on our basic democratic right to freedom of speech – values that the university hypocritically proclaims to defend and uphold.
This follows recent attempts by UCU members to propose and discuss a Palestine solidarity motion at the local union branch.
The university, supported by the right-wing press, has smeared the motion and its proposers. Citing spurious legal advice, they have scandalously insinuated that condemnation of the Israeli state and calls for an ‘intifada’ – a mass uprising against occupation – amount to antisemitic racism and support for terrorism.
We entirely reject these slanderous accusations, and will redouble our efforts to support the struggle for Palestinian liberation. We will not be silenced.
Furthermore, we denounce the university’s blatant double standards. Oxford University has consistently protected reactionary figures who have been invited to speak at the institution and its associated forums (particularly the Oxford Union), and has actively provided them with a platform. By contrast, university authorities repress those seeking to fight oppression.
It is clear that the university is not a cherished centre of learning and democratic debate, but a mouthpiece for the British establishment.
Not only is this a brazen attack on freedom of speech, but it is an attempt to interfere with union democracy and suppress our autonomy. If university bosses are allowed to decide what we can discuss, and what position we can take on political issues, then next they will be trying to tell us what industrial action and protest we can or can’t take.
This branch therefore resolves to:
- Defend union democracy and freedom of speech, by defying the university’s attempts to suppress discussion and debate, and refusing to comply with their diktats.
- Defend any union members, or other staff and students, who are threatened with disciplinary action for showing solidarity with the Palestinian people or raising criticisms of Israeli and British imperialism.
- Release a public statement responding to and condemning the university and media’s attacks on our union and our members, highlighting the political points outlined above.
- Call on the UCU nationally to launch a campaign in defence of freedom of speech and academic freedoms, in association with the NUS and other campus unions, particularly over the question of Palestine solidarity.
Cambridge reply: Defend free speech! Against the intimidation of pro-Palestine activists!
We write in response to an article published in the Daily Mail, entitled “Cambridge University debate descends into farce after motion calling for solidarity with Palestine was stopped amid concerns it risked ‘inciting violence’”. This has been combined with an article on ‘cancel culture’, which – in no uncertain terms – uses slanders and lies to censor and silence Palestinian solidarity.
Attacks from right-wing rags, such as the Mail and the Telegraph, aim to tar those that place the blame for the war with Netanyahu, the Zionist ruling class, and the western imperialists as ‘terrorist sympathisers’. We wholly condemn this libellous attack.
The article deals with a motion which the president of the Cambridge Marxist Society proposed to the students’ council on 23 October. This noted the recent murder of thousands of Palestinians by the Israeli state, and called for mass uprisings to end decades of imperialist occupation.
Several Zionist students tried to shut down the debate by labelling the motion ‘antisemitic’. The Daily Mail, following the lead of the student newspaper Varsity, reproduced these slanders. Varsity, shamefully, chopped up the comment that the proposer of the motion provided in order to further distort their position.
Fergus Kirman, the SU president, has now written to the government asking for an exemption to ‘free speech’ legislation so that he can suppress the motion. This is absolutely scandalous.
Just to set the record straight: All of these slanders rely on lies, because history is not on their side.
They suggest that the motion’s call for “mass uprisings” is an advocation of violence like the Hamas terrorist attacks. This is clearly untrue. The proposer referred to the First Intifada as an example. Anyone with the slightest knowledge of Palestinian history knows that the First Intifada in the 1980s was a mass movement based on class struggle methods, such as strikes, protests, local committees, civil disobedience, and tax revolts.
By way of journalistic acrobatics, the Mail has described it as “a series of terror attacks in Israel which primarily targeted civilians and led to the murder of hundreds of Israelis”, in order to paint the motion as calling for terrorism. We reject this attempt to rewrite history.
The proposer of the motion was named in full by the Mail. We consider this to be a clear case of intimidation, singling out activists in order to scare them and shut down debate.
- We demand that the Daily Mail apologise for publishing the name of the proposer of the motion and inciting harassment against them.
- We also demand retraction from the Mail, Varsity, and any other media outlet which should print such lies.
- These right-wing rags will not tell the truth voluntarily. The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) must lead the way, campaigning against these media slanders. Journalists should refuse to write such biassed pieces, or printers to publish them.
Furthermore, we reject attempts to bully and intimidate pro-Palestinian activists across the board.
- We condemn the suspension of UCL Marxist Society and the actions of Brunel University in placing the Palestinian Society under investigation.
- We condemn the actions of the University of Oxford in threatening the proposers of a pro-Palestinian motion in the UCU branch with the loss of their jobs.
- We demand that pro-Palestinian speakers and societies be allowed to meet to put forward their views on university campuses.
- We demand that the original motion proposed at Cambridge University Student Union be debated and voted on.
- We consider the suppression of these views to be a brazen attack on free speech, deliberately applied in order to cover up for the crimes against humanity being carried out by the Israeli state, supported by our own imperialist government.
This must be resisted by collective action here in Britain. We call on the University and College Union (UCU) and the National Union of Students (NUS) to:
- Defend any union members, staff, and students who are threatened with disciplinary action for showing solidarity with the Palestinian people or raising criticisms of Israeli and British imperialism.
- Release a public statement responding to and condemning the university and media’s attacks.
- Launch a campaign in defence of freedom of speech and academic freedoms, in association with other campus unions, particularly over the question of Palestine solidarity.
We will not be intimidated!