On 5 March, a 300-plus strong general meeting of UCL Union passed a motion proposed by socialist activist Sham Rajyaguru, president of UCL’s Stop the War Society, to ban the Officer Training Corps, University Royal Navy Units, University of London Air Squadron and all other military organisations from freshers’ events and other union-sponsored events, union premises, and student-run media. Now the right of the union has responded by suspending left-wing General Secretary Sam Godwin.
Military recruiters currently have access to nearly all freshers’ fairs, and about half of British military officers are recruited through university-based military organisations.
As the motion passed put it: “...because the British military under the Labour Government is currently engaged in an aggressive war overseas, for the Union to use its resources to encourage students to join the military or participate in military recruitment activities at this time would give political and material support to the war.”
The same meeting also passed a motion to twin UCL Union with the secular student unions of Al-Quds (West Bank) and Al-Azhar (Gaza) Universities.
The right-wing press, including the Sun and the Daily Mail, have responded furiously to the vote to ban military recruiters (as, of course, has the Government). They have tried to present the vote as stemming from hostility to British soldiers rather than the military as an organisation, ignoring — naturally — the fact that the proposers of the motion are socialists who support soldiers’ right to organise for their rights against their commanders.
Meanwhile, the right wing in UCL Union has began mobilising to undermine democracy. An unnamed UCL Union spokesperson gave both the Sun and the Mail a quote describing those who had voted for the ban as “hard core” (whatever that means) and the decision as “silly”.
Now the right wing have gone one step further by organising the suspension, on supposedly disciplinary grounds but without charge, of union General Secretary Sam Godwin, a left-winger active in the campaign to defend NUS democracy who prominently supported the anti-military motion. Sam has been replaced on the key constitutional committees of the union by a former chair of Conservative Future.
For an online petition to defend Sam (which includes a space for messages of support), see ipetitions.com/petition/defendsamgodwin