Friday, 17 October 2014

On Students, Genocides, Holocausts and Kurds.

Photo: Sussex friends of Israel

Most rational people were absolutely horrified by the decision  of the National Union of Students Executive to reject a motion condemning ISIS and supporting the Kurds. There has also been consternation over Goldsmiths Students Union describing the Holocaust as "eurocentric" and "colonialist".

The motion they objected to was this:

The Student Union recognises the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust, of the other genocides, of totalitarianism and racial hatred. It further recognises that commemorating the victims of genocide, racial hatred and totalitarianism, and promoting public awareness of these crimes against humanity, is essential to sustaining and defending democratic culture and civil society, especially in the face of a resurgence of neo-fascism, racial hatred and neo-Stalinism across Europe.

The Student Union shall organise commemorative events for students and members of the public on Holocaust Memorial Day (27th of January), on the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism (23rd of August annually), on the Holodomor Genocide Memorial Day Act (4th Saturday in November, Annually) and on Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day (24th April annually).

Hardly a contentious motion one would have thought? Yet it was reported:

..those attending are encouraged to live-tweet the event using the hashtag “GSUAssembly”.
One student named T. Walpole, present at the Assembly, objected: “Our union is anti-Zionist.”
They added: “This is a colonialist motion. Vote it down.

“White people should not be proposing motions to condemn genocides without a lot of thought. This does not have that thought.”

What on earth is going on in the student movement?

Alan Johnson addresses the problem in his Telegraph Blog:

Part of the explanation is this: a ‘new paradigm of progressive thought’ is dominant on the left, and the left is dominant on campus, whether behind the lectern or in front of it.

The phrase is Joshua Muravchik’s, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. Josh explained the tectonic shift to me recently when we sat for an in-depth interview for Fathom.
After a century or so, the paradigm which came from Marx – of a class struggle – had lost a good deal of its allure and was pushed aside by the new paradigm of racial, national and ethnic struggle. That paradigm grew out of the anti-colonial movements which reverberated in Europe, and was overlaid by the Civil Rights Movement in the US. Both were seen to be part of one struggle of the people of colour against the white man, or as it is sometimes put, the ‘Rest against the West.’ I remember for example Jesse Jackson , at the height of his considerable popularity in the US, made a visit to Cuba and launched into a litany of slogans, the theme of which was ‘our time has come’ and where the first person plural of ‘our time’ meant blacks in America, Latinos and other third-world people fighting against the West. It was seen somehow as all part of one omnibus struggle and this paradigm really was more exciting to my generation and subsequent ones – generations post World War Two – than the older class struggle paradigm.
The new paradigm determines the way the world appears to its partisans.

Meanwhile the NUS Scottish Executive has passed the resolution that the NUS rejected which can be found on this AWL leaflet. Some common sense at last.

And while the future academics play ideological games about the nature of imperialism the Kurds continue to fight for their lives. 

But what do I know. I'm white and Jewish so they wouldn't listen to me.


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