Posted by: Jack | February 14, 2011

Haters Gonna Hate

The views expressed below are not meant to represent anyone except me. You are of course free to agree with me.

There’s been yet another paucity of posts on here since the start of the month. This time I have a decent excuse though – I’ve been taking part in the unbelievably awesome occupation at Glasgow University that has given rise to the Free Hetherington Research Club.

Down the bottom I’ve put a little piece I wrote earlier in the occupation about my feelings about this unique liberated space we’ve collectively created here. It remains something I’m incredibly proud to be part of. This post however is not about that.

This post is how I am disgusted by the actions of a minority of students. A vocal but unrepresentative group who claim to speak on behalf of others, and in doing so harm the interests of their fellow students. I’m talking about these haters.

On Saturday, a group of students in Glasgow were the latest to express their disgust at the conduct of National Union of Students President Aaron Porter. Porter is an odious Labour careerist of the highest order. His only interest is in using his position as a springboard for a future sinecure as a Labour MP, following in the footsteps as other such NUS luminaries as the noted racists Phil Woolas and Jack Straw.

This is what a real kettle looks like Aaron

The fact of the matter is that nobody would have every heard of Aaron Porter if it weren’t for the fact that students took direct action against the headquarters of the Tories last November. His name was made by his own unforgivable betrayal of those students, when he called for them to be “prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” This of course was badly out of step with the reaction of working class people and ordinary students around the UK, who were delighted to see someone finally taking some radical action after the initial months of the ConDem assault on the welfare state.

In a Guardian piece the day after Millbank, Porter claimed that he would “make no apology for condeming the mindless violence of a few that tried to undermine the cause of a great many.” Except that, soon enough, he would. As November wore on he began to realise just how badly out of step he was with the mood among students. In another interview with the Guardian, he apologised for his own “spineless dithering”, and pledged to give material support to student occupations. A promise which, of course, he reneged on.

Following the initial demonstration that led to Millbank, the NUS under Porter’s leadership completely failed to organise any kind of coherent opposition to the raising of tuition fees for English students. While bodies like the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts were regularly putting tens of thousands of people on to the street, and here in Glasgow we were outrunning police in our hundreds to show our opposition, the NUS was organising a “candlelit vigil” against the government, and refusing to endorse the mass collective action of anti-cuts students.

More importantly, while these same students were being beaten in the streets by the cops, while children were being illegally held in the freezing cold for hours in kettles, the so-called leader of the student movement was not only silent, but was boasting of how proud he was to have “worked closely with the police.” Lest we forget, these are the same cops that hit Alfie Meadows over the head, requiring emergency brain surgery, and hauled Jody McIntyre, who has cerebral palsy, from his wheelchair and dragged him across the road. To remain silent in the face of such state sanctioned abuse goes beyond “spineless dithering” and becomes a knife in the back of students from our supposed leader. This man has forfeited any claim to speak on our behalf. And yet he continues to do so, shamelessly appearing in the media frequently as if he represented our views. He does not, he is an out of touch sell out.

Having shot to notoriety through such ridiculous behaviour, Porter now finds himself to be a not entirely popular figure among student activists. In Manchester he was chased through the streets by hundreds of angry students, and was escorted away by his good pals, the cops. This was the same incident were he and his people disgracefully tried to falsely accuse protesters of racism. When greeted with the chant “Aaron Porter, shame on you, you’re a fucking Tory too,” he tried to claim that in fact the last line had been “Tory Jew”. This claim was dutifully picked up and reported by the right wing press, principally the Telegraph.

"We've got your back just like you've got ours."

At the time he announced over Twitter that he would “not bow to racist abuse.” Another claim that he would later row back on, recently claiming that he had never said he’d heard anti-Semitic chants (a flat out lie.) The greatest problem with this incident wasn’t the appalling smear that he made against fellow students (although this was of course reprehensible), but the fact that it devalues the ability of real anti-racists to call out anti-Semitism when it really happens. It was a cynical exploitation of the very real problem of racism and anti-Semitism for personal political gain. Not unlike the Queen Margaret Union magazine’s ridiculous comparison of our occupation to Vichy France, it is frankly offensive to anyone who takes these issues seriously.

(Incidentally, Aaron Porter is not Jewish, but as part of his campaign of lies he was happy to let people think he is.)

Porter now finds himself in the position that, as a result of his disgusting scab sell-out behaviour, he faces oppostion and protest wherever he appears in public. Last Saturday he was at Glasgow University for a young Labour conference. Of course, he wasn’t here to express support for the Free Hetherington, one of the most astonishing and inspirational of all the current wave of student occupations. He made no public statements about the devastating cuts to a swathe of Glasgow’s most successful courses, which are going to impact Scottish culture and society as a whole. No, he was here to act, yet again, as a careerist politician. Fortunately, not without opposition.

A group of us waited outside the lecture theatre where he was to greet him. After lots of dithering by the flummoxed party hacks on the door, they took the decision to offer him up as a sacrificial lamb to avoid any of the other conference goers having to cope with the awful sight of real student activists expressing their opinion.

As he came out of the door, our minds went blank with the shock that we were confronting the sell out himself in the flesh. He made his intentions clear by moving away from us as rapidly as possible – he had no real intention of engaging with us, but intended instead to run away from any kind of debate. As he got outside we caught up with him, and started a piece of symbolic non violent direct action. We joined hands and surrounded him in a circle (not making any physical contact with him), and chanted “Aaron Porter, shame on you, now you’re in a kettle too,” whilst others let him know exactly how we felt about his behaviour over recent months.

The only person that carried out anything that could remotely be compared to an assault during this incident was Porter, who pushed us (as stated, we weren’t touching him), and tried to slap one person’s camera out of their hand, breaking the strap. He eventually ducked under our arms and did a comedy bolt, in a shite Benny Hill style escape up the steps by the QM and away. Any attempts to pursue were made impossible by all protesters being doubled over with laughter at his bizarre antics.

This small action has led to an outburst of faux outrage by the right at Glasgow University that is truly beyond satire. Apparently the two undergraduate unions intend to release a statement condemning those who took part, and allegedly some figures from their boards have in fact called for our immediate removal from the HRC and disciplinary action to be taken. They have also engaged in a personal campaign of abuse and hate mail via Facebook private messages.

Let’s be clear right now about one of the key issues here – the action was not decided on collectively by the whole occupation, but was an autonomous one by some of the folk who are here. The deliberate attempt to conflate the protest with the Free Hetherington occupation belies an agenda, an agenda by those who have been waiting for an excuse to attack the occupation.

I absolutely respect people’s right to disagree with the action that some students took. Indeed, we have offered people the right to come and voice their concerns in person at the occupation, rather than abusing us over the internet. Of course, they haven’t had the courage of their convictions to express themselves to our faces, but instead jumped straight into issuing ignorant statements and setting up Facebook groups.

But using it as a pretext to try and deprive others of their degree is disgusting. When QMunicate has published disgusting misogynist columns that do real harm to women, we haven’t called for the authors to be kicked out of uni. When GUU members smashed up the QM a couple of years back I didn’t go crying to the Principal.

The fact of the matter is that these people, having completely ignored the occupation in the first couple of weeks, have now seized this incident in an attempt to manufacture a moral panic false controversy in order to attack the occupation. As one commenter on Facebook succinctly and accurately put it, “The aspiring political class don’t like it when you attack one of their own.”

The people behind this right wing attack on the protesters are people who aspire to be our future political leaders. They, like Aaron Porter, must play the game. That means keeping the terms of political debate strictly within defined limits, and squashing any dissent outside of these self imposed boundaries. The extent to which they are threatened by the initiative being seized by the Free Hetherington is revealing.

Some of the haters have questioned the use of the chant “You’re a fucking Tory too” at a Labour Party member. But the confinement of political debate within the narrow neoliberal consensus in the UK doesn’t end with student politics. The Labour Party have completely failed to put up any serious opposition to the government, because if they were now in power they would be cutting just as hard. Ed Miliband won’t even march against cuts, let alone support strikes and direct action. Labour is in power at a local level throughout Scotland, where they refuse to defy Tory cuts and use their position to implement them. To be truly anti-cuts, you have to oppose all who implement them, whichever of the four main political parties implement them.

That’s not to mention the much more immediate question of Aaron Porter conducting secret negotiations with the Tories, with the publication of emails in which he encouraged them to cut bursaries and grants as an alternative to raising fees, a new low even for this sell out merchant.

Then there’s the criticism that we are hypocrites for condemning kettling and then using the tactic ourselves. This comment could only be made by people who have no idea what they’re talking about, either with regards to the action at the weekend, or simply from the point of view that they have never themselves been in a kettle. Those of us who have know the reality of being held for hours in the freezing cold with no food or water or toilet access, and what it’s like to be assaulted by police when we try to leave. Aaron Porter doesn’t know anything about this, because he’s failed to take part in the mass protests of the last few months that have been kettled. Our symbolic, theatrical action aimed to make him try and get a glimpse of what it’s like, but it was very far from the reality. We never touched Porter when he tried to push free, as opposed to what the police would have done – battered fuck out of him. He was held for less than 5 minutes while we made our point.

Others have asked what we hoped to achieve by this action, claiming some kind of open debate with Porter would have been more effective. Leaving aside the issue of how much we’d like to debate with someone who wants us “prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law”, Porter isn’t interested in any kind of real debate, ignoring the messages he’s been sent, and running away from anyone who opposes him.

What we hoped to achieve was to conduct a stunt that would help the world to know that Aaron Porter is completely unrepresentative of the views of ordinary students. Some who condemned us said:

“It is a particularly black day for democracy when people are attacked, harassed and hounded simply for being on our campus and attending political meetings. This behaviour is a direct assault on political freedom and is indefensible. I believe one of the proudest boasts of Glasgow Uni is that it has stood resolutely as a centre of tolerance and debate in a world where these things are all too frequently disdained.”

This is a completely false claim. Aaron Porter of course has the right to express his views. So do those who are truly against the marketisation of education. The difference is that he has the full force of the mass media to express his out of touch opinions, pontificating as if he represented anything. We don’t, which is why we’re forced to take to the streets to get our views expressed in non violent direct action. Aaron Porter wasn’t no platformed at the weekend – we didn’t disrupt the Labour conference. We spent 5 minutes of Porter’s time letting him know we feel. To characterise this as anti-democratic or an assault is a travesty.

The real question for these people is what are their priorities and when are they going to get a grip. Their actions speak volumes about their lack of political understanding. At a time when Glasgow University are destroying the future of arts and humanities education at our university, this is their priority. Where were they when students were being assaulted by cops up and down the UK? Where are their statments of condemnation of the police for undertaking political attacks on their fellow students?

At the mass meeting in the QM last week to discuss the cuts, the QM President, when asked a direct question about whether he would support staff taking strike action, fobbed off the audience with a non-answer that he “didn’t know”, and that he “wasn’t familiar with the issues.” This led to his justifiable heckling by lecturers from Slavonics and Anthropology who’s jobs are on the line, the most pointed shout being “These are student representatives?!”

I would suggest the time spent falsely accusing protesters of assault would have been better spent looking into the issues and wising up. In other words Mr. President, do your job. Having been silent and inactive on the real issues facing students, the Glasgow Uni bureaucrats choose now to make an intervention, over something that is trivial and irrelevant compared to the unconscionable cuts we are facing. They are the ones creating division within the student movement, and their actions will threaten their very own positions as the uni begins cutting the funding of student services.

The one positive thing from the unions’ joint statements is that it calls on people to protest uni management’s actions on Weds 16th. This is a semblance of having some kind of correct political instincts, unfortunately overshadowed by their ridiculous claims and grassing in of fellow students. It’s time they got a grip.

For more background on the Free Hetherington, read more after the jump.

The Free Hetherington Research Club is in my opinion possibly the most important action that has happened in the current wave of student occupations across the UK.

The majority of student occupations at other universities take place in lecture theatres or court buildings. The logic behind these targets is clear – to win demands of university management it’s necessary to be somewhere that’s majorly disruptive and will force them to concede in order to get them out.

Our occupation, however, is a different kind of operation. The space we’ve occupied, a former student union closed down by the cuts, means we aren’t causing much disruption to the day to day operations of the university. (Although, if the reports we’ve received are true, management were about to begin a major programme of construction to transform the building into office space, which would forever have killed off the prospect of the much loved Hetherington re-opening. In that case, we couldn’t have picked a better target – no disruption to students, lots for management.)

But if we’re honest, what we’re trying to do here is different to many other occupations. The Free Hetherington Club isn’t a protest; it’s a living demonstration of how people can come together and build a space that is democratically run, autonomous and non commercial. So far it has been an incredible success beyond what many of us could possibly have hoped for.

Our occupation has demands of the uni management and the world at large (no cuts or redundancies; the Principal Anton Muscatelli to condemn cuts and take the average wage of a university worker or resign; and an end to all public sector cuts.) However, our single most important demand is something that nobody can give to us – it’s something we walked in and took for ourselves. The Free Hetherington Club.

It’s hard to communicate to people who haven’t been involved the sense of euphoria involved in this place. Something really exciting and unique is happening here. Every day the place is busy with students and members of the community coming in for (free) coffee and a bit to eat, a chance to meet people and get stimulating conversation, and to take in some of the hugely varied programme of events (film showings, guest lectures, skill sharing) that we’ve started to put together. Crucially, the building is being booked and used by ordinary student groups and societies, like the Hispanic Society Language Exchange and GU Applied Visual Arts Society. The more it becomes normalised that this building is open for use in the wider community, the harder it’s going to be for the uni to kick us out day by day. So far they know how well entrenched we are, and haven’t even started.

Something that in my opinion is absolutely crucial to the success of what we’ve done so far is the non-commercial nature of the operation. When you come in the door of the Free Hetherington you realise straight away that this is different from the other student unions and surrounding West End pubs. When you come here, no one is making a profit out of you. One of the clearest illustrations I’ve ever seen of the alienating effects of introducing money into human relationships is what happens when you remove it. Being a non commercial space fosters relationships based on respect and solidarity; people wash up their own plates, ask how they can contribute and offer to organise events. People don’t come here as consumers, but as participants.

Last year I visited the Basque Country, where, like many parts of Europe, there is a strong tradition of self organised young people taking a space and running it as a collective space for non commercial socialising, as well as collective organsing. To see that youth houses, as they call them, are everywhere, even small villages, was incredibly inspirational. When I asked them how they managed to build such a culture of autonomous spaces. Their answer: “We just do it.” Their advice to me was that if we wanted spaces of our own, then we just had to start taking them. That’s what I feel like we’ve started doing in the Free Hetherington Club. However our occupation here ends, my hope is that there’ll be a generation of Glasgow Uni students who will have gained vital experience in taking over a building and turning it into a little microcosm of what it might be like to live in a better world; a world of real human freedom. We all must remember to take that experience out and make many oases of freedom like this. If we do that I believe that in 10 or 20 years towns all over Scotland, just like in the Basque Country, can have a place where young people organise themselves in non hierarchical free spaces to do what they want in a way where no one tells them what to do and they don’t have to spend money. This is the beginning.

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Responses

  1. brilliant Jack. what youse are doing in the hetherington is so insiprational

  2. I was very interested to read this blog, after following the occupation with confusion mingled with interest and especially reactions to it. A few points I feel compelled to make however are:

    1) The HRC was categorically NOT closed down as a result of cuts. That is entirely incorrect. It closed because of mismanagement by staff and a stagnant committee of management who failed to hold management accountable, and a membership that didn’t hold this Committee accountable. The result was a pile of debt which made the club no longer viable. This was an utter and unbelievable shame, not doubt about it but cuts had nothing to do with it.

    2) It is the very height of ignorance to class those who disagree with the occupation as right wing. How dare you say that about the 500 people who have joined that page, when you are so sensitive to any slight of the occupation?

    3) It is also ignorant to condemn the Unions’ responses at the meeting. They don’t claim to represent all students, the SRC does.

  3. Quality piece of writing this Jack

  4. First of all, please understand that I am in full support of the Free Hetherington, the overall goals you mention in the latter part of your article, and occupation of university grounds in general. If it weren’t for the fact that I’m not in Glasgow, I would be dropping by there in some of my free time.

    We joined hands and surrounded him in a circle (not making any physical contact with him), and chanted “Aaron Porter, shame on you, now you’re in a kettle too,” whilst others let him know exactly how we felt about his behaviour over recent months

    Why are you trying to justify this eye-for-an-eye, tit-for-tat fighting? You hit me, so now I’ll hit you. You stole from me, so I’ll steal from you. You killed two of my gang members, now I’ll kill two of yours. You dropped a nuke on my country, so I’ll drop one on yours. It’s called escalation, and crap like this is just the sort of thing the Tories are wanting us to do, so they have an excuse to ratchet up the pressure. It’s a lot easier to justify using water cannons on a riot, than on a peaceful march, and peaceful marches escalating into riots is exactly what Theresa May wants. How far are you willing to take a vendetta? This is only a small incident you say? It’s still an incident, and it sets a precedent, as well as looses support for the students issues in the eyes of the general public.

    To many, Arron Porter is a respectable academic who has been elected by the majority of his peers to high office. In their eyes, this guy shits sunshine and fairy dust. In the eyes of those same people, the average student is a worthless layabout scrounging off the state for four years before going on to become a drug addict. These are the people who put the Tories into power and it’s these people who are going to remove them from it, but not if they can’t be convinced to support their opponents, and taking direct action against the people they like will not will the hearts and minds of the voting public.

    Also, the Metropolitan Police do not take their orders from Arraon Porter. He wasn’t responsible for anyone being kettled.

    Like you say in your article, the right have been waiting for an excuse to move against the occupation, and you may have just handed it to them.

    I also have a few nits to pick.

    The only person that carried out anything that could remotely be compared to an assault during this incident was Porter

    Actually assault, under Scottish law, does not have to be a physical act. Simply acting in such as way as to cause someone to fear for their safety is considered assault. There’s also a provision that allows it to be carried out within the law, such as in acts of self-defence, which Arron could certainly make a strong argument for. I myself am not a legal expert, but you guys certainly don’t hold the moral high ground here. A judge may even be willing to listen to an argument for false imprisonment.

    This small action has led to an outburst of faux outrage by the right at Glasgow University that is truly beyond satire.

    First of all, it’s not small. Like I said above, it’s possible, maybe even probable, that you committed a crime, for which you can get expelled for bringing the name of the University into disrepute.

    What makes you sure they’re on the right? Have you verified the political affiliations of every single person speaking out against your actions? If not, then please stop making assumptions about the thoughts and opinions of people you’ve never spoken to, just because they’re your opponents.

    Here’s a question for you. Where you publicly outraged a month or two ago when one of the Tory ministers accused every BBC employee of being biased to the left?

    The people behind this right wing attack on the protesters are people who aspire to be our future political leaders.

    I am raging tambourine-bashing tofu-munching liberal hippy who would sooner embed fishing hooks in my gums than set foot inside the political arena.

    This man has forfeited any claim to speak on our behalf.

    He doesn’t speak on our behalf. Glasgow University is not a part of the NUS.

    Of course, they haven’t had the courage of their convictions to express themselves to our faces, but instead jumped straight into issuing ignorant statements and setting up Facebook groups.

    I haven’t joined the Facebook group, nor have I issued any statements, and as I mentioned at the start, I’m not in Glasgow.

    Let’s be clear right now about one of the key issues here – the action was not decided on collectively by the whole occupation, but was an autonomous one by some of the folk who are here. The deliberate attempt to conflate the protest with the Free Hetherington occupation belies an agenda, an agenda by those who have been waiting for an excuse to attack the occupation

    If you really want people to believe that the occupation itself had nothing to with the incident, then why don’t you do something to tell them that, instead of trying to justify an action which too many people view as douchebaggery?

    Then there’s the criticism that we are hypocrites for condemning kettling and then using the tactic ourselves. This comment could only be made by people who have no idea what they’re talking about, either with regards to the action at the weekend, or simply from the point of view that they have never themselves been in a kettle

    You use the word ‘socialist’ to describe yourself, so I feel that it wouldn’t be inappropriate of my to assume that you’ve attended an anti-war demo, as I have in the past, but please correct me if I’m wrong. Neither of us have first-hand experience of war, so would you say that there is justification for serving soldiers to condemn our participation in those marches on those grounds?

  5. @Caoimhe

    1) I’m aware of the problems there were at the club, what I put was of course the simplified version because that’s not what this post is about. However, I would point out that many people who were involved in the club, while recognising the very serious problems that existed, knew that the uni intended to close it down. (I presume because their plan to use it as office space/music labs would be considerably cheaper than continuing to fund the club.) They knew well in advance there were problems (e.g. audit a year before the closure) and chose to do nothing. On top of that they deliberately procrastinated and mucked about the new committee that was formed after the closure, which came up with a business plan to keep the club open. I think this betrays their intentions – to use the problems that existed as a pretext to see it closed down completely.

    A full version of what happened with the HRC would of course be a long and complex story, one which I have neither the time nor inclination to act as an investigative journalist in writing. The point of my short version is that the uni deliberately fobbed off the people who worked hard to keep the place open because they never had any intention of saving it or providing it with funding once it closed last year. To me, that means they must bear responsibility for the situation we find ourselves in.

    2) I think this is a point I’ll have to respond to in my next comment as well, but I don’t think everyone who has condemned the action is necessarily right wing. However, this is a campaign that is clearly being orchestrated by the relatively more right wing elements in campus politics. There are those who are out and out political hacks and supporters of the mainstream political parties, but there are also those who are right wing in the sense of the right in the trade unions. That is, they favour inaction, passivity and ineffective action in the face of attacks, in this case from the uni management and the government. I repeat the question – where were these people when students were being beaten in the streets? Why do they care so much about a couple of minutes of one prominent individual’s time rather than say, the injured brain of Alfie Meadows?

    My message to these people: To make your priority attacking fellow students based on misinformation at a time when the whole future of education at Glasgow Uni is at stake exposes either a stunning lack of political judgement or a clear right wing agenda.

    3) I’d say it’s more ignorant to give a non-answer to the simple question: Will you as a student in an elected position at the university support staff and stand united against the cuts? How on earth anyone thinks that we can defeat Muscatelli’s assault on our education without supporting staff in taking strike action is beyond me. After an hour of sitting listening to the issues (cuts, job losses, courses being axed), to then say “I don’t know” is frankly pathetic. We absolutely need staff/student unity, and anyone who isn’t working for that, whatever their position, should be criticised.

  6. @notgary

    “Why are you trying to justify this eye-for-an-eye, tit-for-tat fighting? You hit me, so now I’ll hit you. You stole from me, so I’ll steal from you. You killed two of my gang members, now I’ll kill two of yours. You dropped a nuke on my country, so I’ll drop one on yours. It’s called escalation, and crap like this is just the sort of thing the Tories are wanting us to do, so they have an excuse to ratchet up the pressure. It’s a lot easier to justify using water cannons on a riot, than on a peaceful march, and peaceful marches escalating into riots is exactly what Theresa May wants. How far are you willing to take a vendetta? This is only a small incident you say? It’s still an incident, and it sets a precedent, as well as looses support for the students issues in the eyes of the general public.”

    So Aaron Porter is automatically above criticism? At what point does it become legitimate for me to take action against his scabbing on students? I hardly think that our actions could be called for tit for tat, to say there’s equivalency between the litany of bastardry which has made Porter famous over the last few months and us speaking to him for about 2 mins shows a pretty huge lack of proportion.

    Do you think that if we conduct our marches nice and peacefully the police will react similarly? Take a look at the recent history of peaceful protest. Kettling has become the norm, the police are unashamed about deploying violence in the streets, and using infiltrators on completely peaceful groups, up to and including state sanctioned sexual abuse. That’s the reality on the street, and no amount of playing nicey nicey is going to change it. Their going to get nasty with us if we show any kind of opposition. The austerity programme is hugely unpopular because it destroys people’s living standards, and the state is perfectly aware it’s going to have to get violent to force it through.

    What will change the reality is being prepared to look after each other in the face of state attacks and take radical direct action. The people I have attacked in this article however, are actively calling for the state and uni authorities to intervene against us.

    “To many, Arron Porter is a respectable academic who has been elected by the majority of his peers to high office. In their eyes, this guy shits sunshine and fairy dust. In the eyes of those same people, the average student is a worthless layabout scrounging off the state for four years before going on to become a drug addict. These are the people who put the Tories into power and it’s these people who are going to remove them from it, but not if they can’t be convinced to support their opponents, and taking direct action against the people they like will not will the hearts and minds of the voting public.”

    that sounds to me like Tony Blair’s strategy – completely tailor your politics to please Daily Mail reading middle england. I think your understanding of what the problem is here and mine are pretty radically different. You seem to think that if we can get the Tories out of power then everything will be fine and dandy. I however remember what it was like to live under a New Labour government – shite. If I’m only going to do things that keep the people that put the Tories in power happy then I’ve got a newsflash – the government’s attack on us will succeed, the uni authorities will be able to cut arts and humanities education etc. etc. I’m interested in beating the austerity programme, by whatever means necessary.

    The problem we have isn’t the Tories. It’s the fact that capitalism is in its most serious crisis since the 30s, and whichever of the main parties we can elect to the UK government is committed to the only choice available within our current socioeconomic framework – trying to revive the economy by making the majority of society pay. There is no party capable of taking power at Westminster that represents mainstream public views such as making the banks pay; renationalising public services; ending the war in Afghanistan or scrapping Trident. In the face of this total abrogation of democracy we’re forced to consider alternative strategies.

    Besides which, the whole point of this action is to disrupt the idea that Aaron Porter is a great guy. The point is that some people might start to wonder why it is that people protest him wherever he goes, and start to wonder if he’s as representative of student’s views as the mass media likes to paint him as.

    Also, let’s not forget that NO ONE in society at large had heard of Aaron Porter last September. The only reason he’s famous is because he’s so hated by students. His public profile came about because he was foisted on us by the state and the mass media as a spokesperson for a state assault on our movement. If people therefore love him, it’s because they appreciate his role in politically justifying kettling, beating etc. I’d say I have a bigger problem with these people than their attitude to Aaron Porter.

    “Also, the Metropolitan Police do not take their orders from Arraon Porter. He wasn’t responsible for anyone being kettled.”

    Yes but he actively called for them to “prosecute to the fullest extent of the law” and backed the police, making their abusive tactics easier to politically justify because they had their patsy mouthpiece in the media purporting to be a leader of students. so he bears part of the responsibility. If he wanted to do something about it, he’s had ample opportunity to take part in protests and condemn political policing, but he’d rather use his position to call for students to be jailed.

    “Like you say in your article, the right have been waiting for an excuse to move against the occupation, and you may have just handed it to them.”

    I think you’ve missed the point here. The moment we take any kind of radical action they were going to try and use it against us. This is a manufactured moral panic, and it’s necessary for us to change the terms of the debate. Again, if I’m going to confine what action I take within the limits of what’s deemed acceptable by the right then the right will win. The state, the right, these people understand power dynamics, and they don’t play nice. Hand wringing and letter writing isn’t going to cut in the face of their attacks.

    “Actually assault, under Scottish law, does not have to be a physical act. Simply acting in such as way as to cause someone to fear for their safety is considered assault. There’s also a provision that allows it to be carried out within the law, such as in acts of self-defence, which Arron could certainly make a strong argument for. I myself am not a legal expert, but you guys certainly don’t hold the moral high ground here. A judge may even be willing to listen to an argument for false imprisonment.”

    Let’s take a look at the definition offered here: http://www.police-information.co.uk/legislation/legislationindexsco.html#assault

    “There must be criminal intent, an accidental injury does not amount to assault. It is not however necessary that the attack should take effect. An assault can be direct or indirect, e.g. setting a dog at another person. It is also assault to be violently menacing. Threatening gestures inducing a state of bodily fear are an example. An assault may be aggravated by intent; mode of perpetration (e.g. use of a weapon), extent of injury, place of assault, or the character of the person assaulted (e.g. a pregnant woman). Indecent assault is an assault accompanied by indecent intent. In certain cases an assault may be justified by showing that it was done under the authority of the law; in defence of others or in self-defence.”

    Now the point here is that there must be intent. We never assaulted Aaron Porter, and never had any intent to do so. The law isn’t based on the completely subjective opinions of anyone, otherwise I could say anyone any time had made me feel threatened and it would constitute assault. We never laid our hands on Aaron Porter and were never going to, there is no reasonable grounds for him to think he was going to be subject to an assault, there was no intent. There was no crime committed. The reason he ran away is because he’s afraid of being challenged politically, not because he can reasonably claim to be afraid of being assaulted.

    “What makes you sure they’re on the right? Have you verified the political affiliations of every single person speaking out against your actions? If not, then please stop making assumptions about the thoughts and opinions of people you’ve never spoken to, just because they’re your opponents.

    Here’s a question for you. Where you publicly outraged a month or two ago when one of the Tory ministers accused every BBC employee of being biased to the left?”

    There’s a difference between people daftly clicking ‘Like’ on FB, who may think of themselves as not right wing, and the people that are orchestrating this campaign, who are against direct action, against any kind of real opposition to the cuts, and don’t like to see the hegemony of the relative right over Glasgow uni student politics being challenged. If, in this week of all weeks, that’s where you’re dedicating your political activity, then there’s nothing else to say but that you’re a right wing dafty.

    On the BBC thing, no I didn’t really give a toss. Tories say crazy stuff all the time, what I care about are their actions.

    “I am raging tambourine-bashing tofu-munching liberal hippy who would sooner embed fishing hooks in my gums than set foot inside the political arena.”

    Good for you, but I wasn’t talking about you. I was talking about the people that have orchestrated this, the bureaucrats and political hacks who are elected on tiny turnouts to positions at Glasgow uni. I’m not saying every single one is a bastard, good people do take these positions, but it’s impossible to deny that there is an identifiable right wing current of future politicians among them.

    “He doesn’t speak on our behalf. Glasgow University is not a part of the NUS.”

    This is surely being deliberately obtuse. The point is that Aaron Porter is given a position by the mass media as a spokesperson for all students, something which AS A STUDENT I find unacceptable. When he’s on Sky News calling for us to be jailed it doesn’t flash along the bottom ‘But Glasgow Uni isn’t affiliated to the NUS so Aaron’s views shouldn’t be considered representative of their opinion.’

    “If you really want people to believe that the occupation itself had nothing to with the incident, then why don’t you do something to tell them that, instead of trying to justify an action which too many people view as douchebaggery?”

    Directly above this you quote the section of my post where I clearly say that the occupation as a whole didn’t decide to take action against Porter, that it was a self organised autonomous group. So really, I have said that. However, that was an incidental point to my main aim with this post, which was to explain why I took part in action against Porter and am unapologetic about it.

    If people think what I did was douchebaggery that’s their right, but I’m not going to hide from it because I’m not ashamed. I’ve set out my views here and it’s up to people to read it and make up their own minds. Personally I think issuing a statement full of bollocks and calling for students to be expelled because I disagree with them is douchebaggery of the highest order, but hey we’re all entitled to our opinion.

    “You use the word ‘socialist’ to describe yourself, so I feel that it wouldn’t be inappropriate of my to assume that you’ve attended an anti-war demo, as I have in the past, but please correct me if I’m wrong. Neither of us have first-hand experience of war, so would you say that there is justification for serving soldiers to condemn our participation in those marches on those grounds?”

    This is a metaphor that makes no sense. The point of what I wrote was to try and show the ridiculousness of claiming there was equivalency between what we did (standing in a ring around one person for about 2 mins) and the actions of the police in illegally holding thousands of people in the freezing cold with no food, water or toilet facilities for hours.

    Let’s continue your metaphor and try and make it more appropriate to what’s actually going on here. A more accurate comparison is if a serving soldier told me I was wrong for being against the war and I said what had happened to me was as bad as the war in Iraq. That would be just as ridiculous as the people claiming we’re no better than the Metropolitan Police.

  7. Hey. Great article Jack. Just one small thing. At the end you bring it back round to “young people organising themselves”. Several of us involved are over 30.
    Cheers.

  8. @fleabite

    Yes it’s a fair point, as I will be myself before too long. However, in context I was talking about the experience of having seen the youth houses in the Basque Country, which are open to all but are organised and run by self defining youth. Hope I didn’t cause any offence 🙂

  9. Jack is interviewed about the Hetherington on this podcast http://sspcampsie.podbean.com/2011/02/04/occupation-and-revolution/

  10. the people arguing against youse or throwing thier hands up in faux outrage are making themsleves look ridiculous – keep up the good work Jack / fleabite / everyone else

  11. If an “assault” occurred why is Porter not complaining to the Police? Or for that matter the uni security guards – who can be seen in the photos alongside Porter and the students. In fact two of the guards were laughing at the event, and one of them actually asked one of the protesters if they knew were Porter was – not characteristic behaviour of security staff to people who commit assault.

    Frank McAveety tried to pull the same shit a while ago – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/3813485.stm

  12. As I usually tell you…you get this shit!

    I laughed particularly hard at those who condemned people for using “illegal” tactics and then tried to organise (another) illegal demonstration today. Or did they apply to both the police and the council and get a permit for an agreed route (unlike ANYONE else) since it was called on Sunday afternoon?

    There is no such thing as legitimate action because three people singing is a crime, swearing is a crime, any march without express written consent from both the cops and the council is a crime…if the polis decide it is. Were the SRC, GUU & QMU presidents there today? If they were they are now all CRIMINALS! We unlike them (or Aaron Porter) have no desire to see people thrown in jail.

    Those who neither need nor want to fight to win..go home and stop getting in the way.

  13. I dont think that demanding no cuts to universities is fair. Im guessing that the unions are funded by tax payers money, or at least some ‘cheese and wine evenings’ are…which means some of the university budget is being spent on funding alcohol. If an institution has enough money to subsidise alcohol, it must be overflowing with money and cuts must be made. My dad has been a chelsea scaffolder all his life, hes always paid his taxes and he’s never been to university…when i told him that id been invited to a free cheese and wine night he was angered that he had worked hard to chip in for rich kids to have a free glass of wine

  14. Bob, a few issues with your comment:

    Universities do have plenty of money, but to look at “cheese and wine evenings” as the main area where they waste money is kind of ridiculous. Anton Muscatelli, the Principal here, is paid £283,000 in his combined salary package, and that’s just one member of senior management. At Glasgow University (similar to pretty much all universities) we have an unelected regime appropriating vast quantities of the university’s resources for their personal renumeration. Here’s where cuts can be made if they need to be. Really, the cost of a cheap bottle of wine in comparison is pennies.

    I’m sorry but your comment comes across as pretty petty at a time when here at GU we’re fighting to save modern languages, anthropology, nursing and crucially adult education, a key way that working class people who have worked for years have of being able to access higher education in the first place.

    Unions are funded by their revenues, and by the block grant they receive from the university, which in turn is derived from some public funds, plus research grants etc. Student services are a vital part of having a functioning university, or do you think that students should have nowhere they are provided to come together socially to advance their human development? Or only if they never buy a bottle of wine (God forbid!)

    As a student living in extreme poverty, I really, really object to being called a rich kid. 45% of all young people go to university, rising to 51% for women – are all these people rich? If so then there’s been some pretty radical redistribution of wealth in this country that I must have missed. You are playing into a reactionary narrative that university is something that is only accessed by the privileged which hasn’t really been accurate in the UK for decades. But it is an idea deployed by the right to try and divide students and the young from the rest of the working class. If we follow your logic that some cuts must be made to university we’ll see university’s return to the outdated picture you have in your head. The Tories want to see them on the model they existed on before the war – elite training grounds. The cuts that are being made, and in England the fee rises, mean that working class people WILL be prevented from going to university, which is why no cuts, free education is a key demand of the entire working class movement.

    Students are workers, doing work that benefits society and preparing themselves to be skilled workers in the future. They deserve to be properly supported while doing this work. Free education was the norm in the UK until Thatcherism. Now those you call “rich kids” are pushed into poverty and debt in order to get an education.

  15. Hi Jack. First of all, thanks very much for you reply. Second, I do wanna say that I do respect you for campaigning so hard for what you believe in.

    But the point I am trying to make is that you suggest that all existing forms of university education benefit my dad, who is a chelsea scaffolder. Now I can understand how certain university education has directly benefitted him e.g. medicine. But I dont see what he gets from chipping in for someone to get an anthropology degree. Please accept that the idea of my dad paying for someone to learn about a tribe in papau new guinea, is unfair. But that isnt the worst of it. You talk about ivory towers. Well the anthropologists at this university are sitting in one too! they ask for others to fund there holidays abroad to study these people. They ask for money so that they can publish journals, discussing with each other in langauge inaccessable to normal people about issues that normal people dont care about and have no reason to do so. And they justifty asking for this funding because they claim that educating people anthropology is an objectively good thing for everyone in Britain.

    What gives Dr anthropology the right to tell my dad that anthropology is a good way to spend tax payers money? My dad says to him…what about our nations football culture, which is greater than our anthropology culture…but nobody listens.

    NO to being dictated to by posh people that posh things like the history of art and anthropology are more important than football.

    What if we turned the situation around…dr anthropology gets a normal job and his tax money funds my dad’s chelsea season ticket (research), programmes (journals) and pub (academic community).


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