Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Luk√°cs

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The strange case of Leeds University and the racist lecturer

Leeds University employs in its Russian Department a lecturer called Norman Ellis - also known as Frank Ellis, who happens to be a racist scumbag.
Edited to add: The pressure on Ellis seems to be mounting, and mounting and mounting..Edited to add: Ellis has now taken 'early retirement'. He was 53.



At 1:38 am, Blogger maps said...

I dunno...you're appealing here to the boss, effectively, to sack a worker? That's almost as bad as asking the state to do it. There must be a better way of dealing with the situation than that. Students could boycott his lectures. The lecturers' union could kick him out of its ranks.

The danger is that if the v/c is allowed to sack people who have questionable views then this power may be abused. For instance, a lot of right-wingers might consider campaigning, as Horowitz is doing in the US, to remove Marxists from academic posts, on the grounds that Stalin or Mao or Pol Pot did this or that. Those who speak in support of Iraqi resistance to occupation could be demonised similarly as supporters of terrorism. It's a slippery slope, comrade...

At 10:12 am, Blogger Daphne Watermelon said...

it's not about appealing to a boss to sack someone - rather its about buidling up such a high pressure campaign that they're forced to.

i agree, lecture boycotts, pickets etc should also be used as tactics, but so should every other channel available.

consider this fact - slavery was abolished as an act of parliament. however, this was a response to mass slave uprisings. not on the same level i know, but we want ellis sacked as a result of mass pickets, but also mass complaints.

and there is nothing wrong with wanting the state to do certain things outside of a revolutionary period. it's a good thing the killers of anthony walker got prosecuted. it's a good thing nazi sympathiser david irving is in jail. is this a substitute for genuine revolutionary activity? no. but to ignore legal ways to boost your campaign is to fail to use those means that themselves result from mass struggle.

as an aside, you'd probably do well to re-read left-wing communism - it is a dangerous road to go down when you opt out of all 'common sense' activities.

At 4:30 am, Blogger maps said...

Of course I support progressive reforms enacted by parliament under pressure, but what does this have to do with moves by the state to limit free speech? How is the imprisonment of David Irving a victory? All it does is a) sets a precedent for the repression of the left and b) allows the political establishment of Austria to look piously anti-fascist, when it is anything but, as its willingness to deal with Jorg Haider et al shows. And what is the difference between someone like Irving and Niall Ferguson or countless other celebrated academics and pundits in the West? The only real difference is that Irving denies a Holocaust which the bourgeoisie finds expedient to wrings its hands about:

At 12:04 pm, Blogger Snowball said...

Er, Niall Ferguson - unlike Ellis and Irving - doesn't get a kick out of stirring up racism and hanging out with neo-Nazis...

At 2:02 pm, Blogger Daphne Watermelon said...

The only reason someone like Irving denies the holocaust is because he wishes to repeat it. Allowing him a platform to make these claims gives confidence to other racists and fascists, and as such is a tool to incite hatred. Laws against this, and more importantly in this country the race relations act which (in theory at least) prosecutes incitement to racial hatred, came about as a response to pressure built up through massive campaigns by the left.

This is why we wanted the religious hatred bill to be passed - it would have extended the protection given to other minority groups to muslims.

That's not to say these laws won't be used against us - of course they will, that's the nature of a state that feels threatened. However, they already have enough laws to attack us. If we can use these measures to defend the opressed, then they have merit.

At 1:22 am, Blogger maps said...

Niall Ferguson does get a kick out of stirring up racism and hanging round with racists, it's just that his racism is more fashionable than the sort Irving embraces. He defends the genocidal aspects of British and American imperialism, not the genocidal aspects of German imperialism.

The logical extension of locking up Irving is banning groups like the BNP. But what is the difference between doing this and Blair's attempts to ban extremist Islamist groups? You can't oppose what Blair is doing and then support locking up Irving. Historically socialists have rejected calling on the capitalist state to limit free speech for very good reasons. The laws used against the far right can easily be turned against the far left. During World War Two, for instance, the British government banned Oswald Mosley's organisation and suppressed its paper, on the grounds Mosley was giving aid and comfort to German fascism. But then they did the same thing to the Communist Party and the Daily Worker, using the same reasons. The way to stop fascism is through direct action at the grassroots.

At 10:03 am, Blogger Snowball said...

Maps - I think you have to make a very clear distinction between Fascists (and fascist sympathisers like Irving and Ellis) - and right wing idiots (whether 'cultural racists' like Ferguson or the bizarre reactionary Islamist sects that the Blair regime is trying to ban).

Fascism was not just 'genocidal German imperialism' on a par with say genocidal British imperialism - on the domestic front it meant totalitarian control by the state and advanced industrial methods deployed to carry out genocide in order to establish a 'master race'.
This was not just right wing military style dictatorship - it was a 'razor at the throat of the working class' as Trotsky put it.

Now, of course Fascism can't be fought through capitalist state bans - which is why UAF is against banning the BNP. It needs a vibrant grass roots mass movement against it as you suggest. But if Irving purposefully goes to Austria where he knows there is a warrant for his arrest for Holocaust denial to make speeches then he deserves everything he gets.


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