Jon Pike, Chair of Engage and elected UCU National Executive Member blogs from UCU Congress at Bournmouth
The UCU Congress starts today at Bournemouth. The boycott debate takes place this afternoon. As usual, a lot of the shenanigans go on behind the scenes, and this year is no exception. On the plus side, the SWP/UCULeft have staged a partial climb down from their pro-boycott resolution. They’ve watered down the motion so that instead of endorsing the ‘Palestinian call for a boycott’, the boycott should simply be discussed in the branches. Again. There’s a recognition that an academic boycott is illegal.
This is of course the familiar annual strategic climb down by the SWP.
But at the same time, the SWP can’t resist its anti-democratic instincts. Through UCULeft, they have a majority on the Conference Business Committee – the committee that determines what gets on to the order paper. And at yesterday’s meeting CBC ruled out an amendment from the Open University. It is, apparently, a ‘wrecking amendment’.
What did this dodgy amendment say? How was it improper? Was it late, or discriminatory, or illegal, or in conflict with the UCU’s constitution? No, motions like that sail through on to the agenda.
No. It called for a ballot of the members before any boycott is introduced.
Direct democracy is anathema to the SWP. Even discussing a ballot is so dangerous, that it needs to be ruled out by bureaucratic means.
Individual UCULeft supporters should be ashamed of themselves. Some are. What price now their claims to favour a ‘democratic, member-led’ union?
There is a chance that conference will overturn the report of CBC this morning. It will certainly be challenged by the president of the Open University branch. But it’s unlikely, since the SWP more or less control Congress.
This leaves them free to indulge in – let’s be blunt – a disgusting display of their contempt for the views of the membership of the union.
The SWP/UCULeft is a profoundly anti-democratic force in the labour movement. Large numbers of UCU members have contempt for them. Which is, somehow, kind of appropriate.
Jon Pike, elected member UCU NEC