As all activists will know, the journey through a political campaign is a difficult one: failures, frustrations and the delight of unexpected successes – if not always in equal measure. This article follows a six month campaign of sit ins and occupations at the Library of Birmingham from the shortening of the opening hours in April of 2015 through to the most recent occupation, at the time of writing, in mid-October. A student led, unaffiliated, and ostensibly single issue campaign; the Library of Birmingham became a beacon of intersecting interests that brought together a rich diversity of people, many of whom were new to protest of any kind, and in so doing shone a light on the impact of left organisation and solidarity in the face of generational cuts and privatisations. It has laid out the humanity and potential of collective action, but also the difficulties of organising the shared identity, wider ideology, and sense of urgency that might bring such potential to revolutionary realisation.
The past few weeks have seen the Facebook-Twitter-verse abuzz with claim after claim, statement and counter statement, from the various forces currently aligned in pitched battle over the question of anti-Semitism. Rumblings, coming out of Oxford University’s Labour Students as their co-chair resigned saying that their club seemed ‘generally to have some kind of problem with Jews’, were widely dismissed as right wing manoeuvrings. Then there was the media explosion that threatened to overshadow the huge and unprecedented achievement of Malia Bouattia in becoming the first black Muslim woman to become president of the NUS , not to mention her track record as a genuine and committed campaigner for liberation and for Palestinian rights. And now we have the suspensions of Naz Shah, Ken Livingstone, and three Labour Councillors this week. Surely more examples of baseless right wing opportunism?
The total pay packet for controversial Vice Chancellor David Eastwood has been increased from £426,000 last year to £439,000 for 2017 Socialist Students can confirm, driven, in part, by an increase in his personal bonus award from £45,000 to £50,000. Earlier this week the Birmingham branch of UCU (BUCU) held protests on campus against the extortionate pay of the VC, which followed Unison’s protest (who represent support staff) the previous week calling for the University to pay the living wage.
Today the University of Birmingham’s academic trade union BUCU, representing over 1,000 members, has released its indicative ballot asking members whether they would be prepared to strike. The dispute covers two key issues – aggressive performance management and disciplinary processes, targeted at staff the University wishes to “manage out”; and workload allocations. The electronic ballot is open for three weeks from Tuesday 28th March.
The article below was written by Lola Ogunsanya last year and was published in Megaphone magazine, the publication by Socialist Students.
TW: Mentions of rape.
Unfortunately, due to recent discussions in the left-wing sphere, it has become necessary to reiterate something that should go without saying. Rape apology is unacceptable in every form it comes in; be it covering up sexual assault cases, defending those who sexually assault others, asking the victim what they were wearing, asking how much they drank, or any other kind of behaviour that allows rape culture to develop, it is entirely unacceptable.