Image: Warwick Media Library

Vote no to NUS: Reclaiming progressive politics

My Facebook feed has been clogged up with white student activists perpetually peddling the claim that my ‘liberation’ depends on voting to remain within the NUS. As an ethnic minority and former BAME officer of Warwick Labour, not only do I find this awfully colonial but also simply untrue.

Historically, student activism has been at the forefront of the civil rights struggle, opposition to the Vietnam war and the anti-apartheid movement. However, today’s NUS spits on that legacy. In the preface to Animal Farm, George Orwell lamented about how large sections of the left romanticised Stalin and the Soviet Union: “The endless executions in the purges of 1936-8 were applauded by life-long opponents of capital punishment.” I explain why the NUS represents the moral and intellectual decay of today’s left and why we must vote to leave.

Historically, student activism has been at the forefront of the civil rights struggle

On Hitler’s birthday, 20 April 2016, there was a motion at a conference to no longer commemorate the holocaust. Was this a BNP or National Front rally? No – it was the NUS. Proposer of the motion, Darta Kaleja of Chester University explained that “I am against the NUS ignoring and forgetting other mass genocides and prioritising others.”

So the essence of her argument is that the holocaust – the killing of six million Jews alongside slavs, romanis,trade unionists, communists, homosexuals, Johavah’s Witnesses and the mentally and physically disabled was not diverse enough? Even though this motion was thankfully voted down, students need to reflect on how on earth their delegates became so disconnected from reality in the first place.

So the essence of her argument is that the holocaust … was not diverse enough?

The sad truth is that anti-Semitism has polluted much of today’s left. At best, it is ignored or dismissed as a Zionist conspiracy and at worst it is actively indulged. Following the expulsion of numerous Labour Party councillors and activists on this charge, you would have to be blind not to see this creeping into the NUS.

In February, the NUS NEC ended the practice of giving an automatic leadership place on its Anti-racism Anti-fascism (ARAF) campaign to a Jewish student. Just let that sink in for a moment. The anti-fascist movement was created to protect Jews in East London from Oswald Mosley’s Black Shirts.

The sad truth is that anti-Semitism has polluted much of today’s left

A motion condemning ISIS had to be fine-tuned and re-worded in order to not be perceived as ‘Islamaphobic’, but unequivocally condemning Israel comes as naturally as breathing. Today’s NUS has thrown Jewish students to the back of the bus.

The oppression-obsessed, perpetually offended professional victims are guilty of the ultimate sin – cultural appropriation. The National Union of Students Black Students Campaign which claims to represent students of “African, Asian, Arab and Caribbean dissent” identifies those who fall into any of these categories as ‘black.’ Charmaine Jacobs, president of East Kent College SU wrote a brilliant piece explaining why the term ‘politically black’ is extremely problematic.

Today’s NUS has thrown Jewish students to the back of the bus

De-rooting blackness from any African or Caribbean heritage and reducing it to a flexible political affiliation ignores the differences of radically diverse peoples, packaging together by virtue of their non-whiteness. The idea that all ethnic minorities are the same is actually colonial in nature, homogenising the ethnic identities of students. Indeed, this is the reason the anti-racist movement stopped using the word ‘coloured’.

For non-black ethnic minorities to identify as black enables anti-black racism to thrive in non-black ethnic minority communities. The response would simply be “you can’t be racist towards yourself.”

For non-black ethnic minorities to identify as black enables anti-black racism to thrive

Somebody cannot just identify with a particular historical oppression and therefore become a part of it. For me as somebody of Indian heritage, or for a Chinese person, or an Arab to suddenly identify as black is an insult to those who have suffered from anti-black racism.

None of us can say we have seen the ‘n’ word graffitied onto our bananas or been compared to a monkey. Minorities identifying as ‘black’ amounts to an invasion of the collective experience and identity of those who are actually black. While the Arab NUS president elect has appropriated black oppression so to coin the title “first black woman” to hold the position, she has stolen a title that does not belong to her.

For a Chinese person or an Arab to suddenly identify as black is an insult to those who have suffered from anti-black racism

NUS supporters will entice us with claims of cheaper pints of purple and convince us that there are benevolent reasons to stay. Of course there are those with good intentions who do want to use the NUS to fight for a better world, but the institution is simply beyond repair and lacking the credibility to achieve such aims. It comes across as racist in its anti-racism and fascistic in its anti-fascism.

The NUS has traditionally been a platform to launch one’s political career. Jack Straw, Trevor Phillips and David Aaronovitch are just some of the former presidents who’ve become leading lights in British society as thinkers and politicians. It is painful to think that some of those active in the NUS today will become future leaders.

The institution is simply beyond repair and lacking the credibility to achieve such aims

If we let them go down this rabbit hole of the oppression olympics anymore, they will transform this country into one giant ‘safe space’. It would look something like North Korea, devoid of dissent, moribund and mopey. The far- left are increasingly sounding like the far-right. It is more imperative than ever that we disaffiliate so that we can reclaim what it means to fight for progressive politics.

Tal Tyagi

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