UCU Far Left Comes Out Fighting For Racism

This is a guest post by UCU Insider

Well, it took a few days for the UCU far Left to decide how to react to the news that Bongani Masuku, invited by their union to advise on promoting the illegal boycott of Israeli academics, had been censured by the South African Human Rights Commission for engaging in hate speech against Jews, with the “intention of inciting violence and hatred”.

But the UCU Far Left has come out fighting: in defence of Masuku.

First up, let’s hear it from – who else – Mike Cushman of the London School of Economics:

I think it would be helpful for list members to see COSATU’s press release in response to the SAHRC statemetn and thier submisison on behalf of Bongani Masuku, in which they effective refuste the allegations made. I do not need to, and will not comment more.


Cushman reprints a COSATU press release. It contains a whole heap of grandstanding about ‘freedom of expression’. Cushman also circulates the defence that the SAHRC heard, and rejected.

You’ll have heard this sort of argument before. All this crap about “context” and “freedom of expression”. This is precisely what BNP activists say, when they get prosecuted for incitement to racial hatred. But this isn’t a prosecution – it is a finding of a Human Rights Commission that a public figure has incited violence and hatred against Jews.

Cushman then has a second go:

It seems a little more context is necessary as [the anti boycott poster] has only partially reported the exchanges (and none of those he does quote support an allegation of anti-semitism, at all times Bongani distinguishes between those – jews and non-jews – who support Israel, and those who do not. He expresses strong anti-Israel and anti-Zionist sentiments for the abuses of human rights systemic in Israel). [The anti boycott poster] does not report the hail of racist abuse that Bongani suffered.

He cites a racist comment posted on a blog, which was condemned and removed by the blog owner as soon as it was noticed.

The conversation shifts to the unfairness of reprinting evidence that UCU Activists are defending racism on this, and other blogs.

First out of the trap is Andrew Collingwood:

Just because you disagree with others on the list it does not give you the right to post emails from this list onto Harry’s Place –

UCU activists on Masuku

Any disagreements should be kept within the union.


Andrew Collingwood, you’ll remember, got into trouble earlier this year for posting (and then removing) a racist cartoon on Facebook. So can understand his interest in keeping his political views secret.

Collingwood continues:

And now on Engage as well –
Gavin Reid, Leeds UCU Vice President defends hate speaker.

It is not acceptable to post emails which were clearly intended for this list only. At the very least it is breaking the data protection act, as I presume these individuals have not given permission for their names and emails to be published.


But Andrew – you’re having an argument on an email list which is circulated to hundreds of people, and which can be accessed by thousands and thousands of UCU Members! If you don’t want to argue in public, don’t argue in public!

Rebecca Gumbrell-McCormick, a lecturer in “management” at Birkbeck and Vice President, Birkbeck University and College Union, joins in:

Thanks to Mike for having sent the list the complete reply from Bongani Musuku to the South African Human Rights Commission. While I still find many of the original comments that formed the basis for the charge of anti-semiitism crude, strongly worded and open to misinterpretation, I have to agree with Mike that on every occasion quoted Musuku does distinguish between supporters of the policies of the current Israeli government (whatever their own nationality or religious beliefs) and Jews (who may or may not be supporters of those policies). On the one occasion where he uses the word ‘Jews’, it is in a private response to a message from someone accusing him of anti-semitism, and he states here that his opposition is to the current Israeli government policy, and to those who support it, whether they are Jews or non-Jews.

Musuku’s reply to the Commission is reasoned and factual and, to me, convincing. I find his choice of words sometimes offensive and suggestive of violence, but his reply – that these are figures of speech, the sort sometimes used by trade unionists when rallying their own members in a dispute – ‘let’s wipe out the employers’, etc. etc. – again seems to me reasoned and believable. I would have thought the international secretary of a major national confederation would be more careful in his choice of words (they are usually too diplomatic!) , but I accept that these were indeed figures of speech.

His union has also found his reply convincing, and have backed him because they do accept that his comments were anti-semitic, that is, that he is not guilty of the charge. If they believed that his remarks were anti-semitic ‘hate speech’, then instead they should be disciplining him. COSATU, like any union, is not always in the right, but it is as Robert says a ‘great union congress’ that has played a major role in overcoming apartheid and in defending workers’ rights.

Let me just say how appalling it is that, once again, our internal union communications are finding their way onto Harry’s List. I have just looked and some of the comments there are very strongly worded, and I would say hateful. The person who has quoted from UCU activists, as another correspondent has noted, has not had the decency to identify his or herself, but has identified others. I hope our officials will look into this promptly.



She finds a racist’s self-defence convincing? Why, of course she does!

She is appalled to find herself quoted in public as a defender of racism? I bet she does!

Then up pipes Gavin Reid – a pro-boycott campaigner and UCU activist who chaired the BRICUP event in Leeds:

Note the keyword assigned to my quote – ‘Antisemitism’. The recent dispatches documentary on Channel 4 highlighted this tactic in some detail and I’m sorry to say that I expected nothing less.

I am pretty sure that this comment too will be twisted into being
somehow antisemitic.

This behaviour, the tossing around of extremely serious accusations like confetti, is one of the reasons I support BDS, I’ve witnessed it ever since I was a student.

I remember an old fable my Mum taught me about the boy who cried wolf!

Yeah, go for it Gavin. You defend a man who has been found by the South African Human Rights Commission to have incited violence against Jews. You’re found out. And your reaction is to blame Jews for pointing it out.

What a great anti racist!

There’s loads more. You can all look forward to reading further extracts on Harry’s Place in the coming days.