Free speech

Do not "defend David Miller"

Alex Callinicos’s defence in Socialist Worker of David Miller, the academic recently sacked from his job at the University of Bristol, poses the matter as one of “academic freedom”, in which not only academic freedom, but Miller himself, must be “defended”. Callinicos is right that there are questions of academic freedom involved. There have long been demands that Miller should be sacked for his views on Israel and Zionism — and, from some, that he should be sacked for his views on Syria, as he is a prominent apologist for Assad regime and has promoted denialist conspiracy theories about that...

David Miller and Bristol University

David Miller was sacked on 1 October from his academic job at Bristol University. The tight-lipped university statement explicitly refused to give details, but said that in light of the University’s “duty of care to all students”, “Professor Miller did not meet the standards of behaviour we expect from our staff”. Miller is appealing, but has given no details either, claiming only that “Israel’s assets in the UK have been emboldened by the university collaborating with them to shut down teaching about Islamophobia. The University of Bristol is no longer safe for Muslim, Arab or Palestinian...

Police Bill back, more protest needed!

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill passed its third reading by a majority of 100, in the House of Commons on 5 July, with Labour voting against. Outside Parliament as the Bill was being discussed was a modest but lively and militant protest. The protest, organised by activists under the umbrella of "Kill the Bill", was nowhere near as strong as it needs to be. Apart from a banner from the RMT there was no union presence. Though it is clear that the Bill is specifically targeting XR and BLM in its limiting of protests and demonstrations, unions will be affected by this legislation...

An easy excuse for anti-leftist clampdown in Russia

“This whole story feels as if suddenly, a truck drove into you on the street,” said Svetlana Gordienko, a resident of Russia’s far-eastern Khabarovsk. “Except imagine if it turned out that having a truck driven into you was something totally normal, and legal.” The situation Svetlana is now in began in May 2021, when a squad of 11 officials swarmed her apartment, where she lives with her partner Maksim Smolnikov, and her two children. “They had already started to break down the door, but I managed to open it,” Svetlana recalled. “The riot policemen burst into the house and pushed Max up...

Batley, blasphemy and the religious right

After the Batley Grammar School row, which led to protests outside the school, teachers being suspended, and one going into hiding for his own safety, the teachers have been reinstated. On 27 May an independent investigation commissioned by Batley Multi Academy Trust found that teaching staff at Batley Grammar School who had shown one of the Charlie Hebdo images of Mohammed “genuinely believed that using the image had an educational purpose and benefit, and that it was not used with the intention of causing offence. The image was included to initiate a discussion about the meaning of...

For real free speech on campuses!

In October 2020, Gavin Williamson wrote to all university vice-chancellors “requesting” they adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism, and insisting on action before Christmas… or else. In February the government announced plans to appoint a “free speech champion” whose job will be to ensure freedom of speech and expression is not stifled at UK universities. The role is embedded in the Office for Students (OFS), which would have the power to impose fines on institutions if the OFS find they have suppressed free speech. New legislation...

Uphold free speech, fight antisemitism

David Miller The government’s new attempt to police freedom of speech and academic freedom on University campuses — e.g. to withhold registration if a University is deemed not be complying — should be opposed. Universities already have a statutory duty to uphold free speech (in the 1986 Education Act). The new push is a demagogic attempt to push back against “wokeness”, linked to reactionary attempts to promote historical pride in such things as colonialism and slavery. However, there are real pressures against free speech and the right to organise on campuses. There have been many free-speech...

Cancel culture and trans rights

Much is said in the right-wing press about 'cancel culture'; the phenomenon of people facing a public backlash for things that they have said or done in the past. Cancel culture, what it is and how it operates, is laid out capably and convincingly by left-wing YouTuber Natalie Wynn, known as ContraPoints, in her video “Canceling”. In this she lays out the way in which cancel culture operates. A particular viewpoint or action (confirmed or alleged) by an individual or group is abstracted and essentialised into an often vague assertion about the character or nature of that individual or group...

Stand and be counted

This article by the Algerian socialist-feminist Marieme Helie Lucas, responding to the beheading of French teacher Samuel Paty by an Islamist assailant on 16 October, was first published on the Feminist Dissent website. We republish it, with the author's permission, to promote discussion. Assassinations by decapitation or by the sword – which are highly symbolic of all Muslim extreme-right organisations (Al Qaeda, the Taliban, GIA, al-Shabab, Daesh, Boko Haram, etc.) – are not a new phenomenon in France. Several cases have already happened in recent years. It points at the will of the...

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