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A UCU Member Writes…

Here is  a recent posting, from the UCU Activists List, by Mike Holmes. Mike Holmes tells me that he has “made libertarian waves on usenet and the web since 1987 and regularly posts under “A Friend of Fernando Poo” and “FoFP””

Let Mike give the context:

This was posted after a disagreement on a trade union mailing-list. The number of emails generated by the spat had engendered the suggestion that the mailing-list itself should be regarded as a workplace and should therefore be free from “discrimination and harrasment”.  It was further commented that it was a healthy sign if there was “outrage at bigoted remarks not consonant with union principles”.  The latter being almost certainly directed at Mike’s statement that he’d once run a counter-demonstration to the “Sixteen Days” campaign

Mike responds: 

I was pondering much the same idea myself.  It’s an irony that I recently filled in an UCU bullying and harrassment survey.  I confirmed that colleagues don’t threaten me, shout at me, or call me names.  To be honest I couldn’t even imagine anyone doing so.  Little did I think that all I really had to do to experience it in its full glory was to join an UCU mailing-list.

I’m asked to become an UCU activist. I happily do so. I join a list of activists to see what others do and discuss. Sure enough, there’s some sensible discussion. It’s not long however until I discover that a group of Jews, or people who support Jews have stated they are leaving UCU as a result of a policy they regard as discrimination and

Worse, it’s not long before a member is (if you’ll pardon the expression) dancing on their graves and gleefully claiming what amounts to “Go. Good riddance. We’ll replace you with people more in alignment with our thinking, and more of them too!”
This confused me, and I began to ask why we had a policy on something as irrelevant to work as the Palestine/Israel question. It wasn’t long before the name-calling started. Then I discovered that there are folks working towards a law to enable every union (not just our own, that presumably wouldn’t be enough for them) to expel a minority for their
political beliefs. That would be BNP members for anyone who missed it.  I’d always known that the anti-fascist left had become ever more fascist themselves in their zeal, but it was my first up-close viewing of it.  The BNP have odious views but in a free society people are entitled to hold their own views without persecution.  It’s true that they’d most likely persecute minorities themselves, but copying them with the BNP as the persecuted
minority doubles the problem rather than reduces it.  Someone isn’t any less a fascist just because everyone shares their dislike of the folks they’re persecuting.

I’m a Libertarian.  I believe fervently in freedom of speech and of association. For everyone: Left, Right, Indifferent and for the BNP. Liberty isn’t divisible.  If one group can be freely persecuted then so easily can another when someone different is in charge.  The only real protection against persecution of minorities is liberty for all.

I then discovered we had an abortion policy, alienating yet another minority (or possibly a majority?) by forcing one set of people’s views on them by our union holding the opposite view in their name.  I questioned that, to more name calling, though I’d acknowledge some occasional rational discussion on that topic.

Then the list was spammed by an advocate of the Sixteen Days folks. Having fought them before, though not being particularly exercised about them at the moment, I posted to that effect.  Instantly I was called a “bigot” pretty much apropos of nothing except apparently not sharing someone’s politics.  Further explanation of my position regarding our counter-attack on would-be censors amongst the Sixteen Days people brought forth an accusation that I was “promoting child pornography”.There’s probably no single accusation right now in our society more likely to deprive someone of their job or indeed their liberty than that one and we all know it.  Yet someone, despite again us all knowing full well the untruth of it, felt free to hurl it into what is supposed to be a mailing-list of professional people, merely as a kind of throwaway debate tactic. The claim above is that this list is like a workplace.

OK, take a minute yourself and consider how you might feel if someone at work levelled that particular accusation at you. What would you do? How would you react were someone to thus accuse a colleague? Would you consider it harassment? Bullying? Something even worse? I note that nobody felt exercised enough to wonder if that might not be going too far.  Rather the opposite in fact: people wondered if I wasn’t “nit-picking at words” in my reply and began to mutter darkly of using their friends in high places to see if they could shut up those who don’t go along with the prevailing political opinion.  Many here say they don’t believe in censorship *BUT* (those who believe in censorship always have a “but”) apparently they really absolutely have to draw the line at people who disagree with them.

I came here to see what activists do and say.  I concede that I received the education I sought.  I’m sure I’ve only experienced a tiny part of that harrassment felt by the Jews and supporters who felt forced out of UCU, but I’m no longer at all confused about their reasons.  I have no doubt at all they were quite simply bullied out.  Just another minority to get rid of like the BNP supporters, no doubt by people who congratulate themselves regularly on their unwavering support of “minorities”.

I have scant doubt that if some seriously mean to do the same to libertarians (another minority, a small one, and possibly one limited to me) then they’ll drum up some way at NEC or whatever to do it.  It must be truly awful and terrible to contemplate that someone, somewhere, disagrees with one and yet remains on the list, or perhaps even in UCU.

Meanwhile I’ll fill in the form again and let UCU know that if they want to see bullying, they need to look rather closer to home. I’ve met some good people on this list (or perhaps more accurately off it) but there are certain of you, well, in the last couple of days I’ve discovered that I feel soiled even exchanging email with you. The kind of disgust that makes me want to wash my hands afterwards. That such people have reached the top of UCU makes me seriously wonder about its future and its worth.

Those are certainly not sentiments I ever had before entering this list. I thought we were in a union to help and support people in their problems at work.  Some seem instead to have turned it into a vehicle for their sundry political interests and vendettas by passing up motions until they’re effectively policy. Once they’re policy they’re apparently used to browbeat those who demur.

Don’t agree with them on abortion/Palestine/censorship? I think you’ll find comrade that the Party has ruled and you should now think in the way of the majority.  Though by “majority” here we mean a few activists who care enough to get their sundry agendas and pogroms passed up the line enough to have them made policy. And this irrespective of a tenous if that connection to the interests of the dues-paying members.

I had for the past 25 years naively believed I was a member of a trade union which welcomed all minorities and all political persuasions and gave them all respect. Instead I found a vipers nest of, yes, bigotry and childish name-calling. No, wait, not childish, but very serious name-calling and most likely libelous besides.

Thanks for the education folks. I’ll teach myself how to deal with the disillusionment.