This discussion document – ‘for Socialist Society members only’ – dates from April 1970.
The liberal myths of the ‘academic community’ and ‘academic freedom’ must now be dead.
The discipline (and the manner in which it was meted out) have exposed the nature of hierarchy within Liverpool University. The V-C informed his staff of the decision to discipline after it had been taken. It is local lunacy to discipline to this extent,as any good careerist can see (he is a good one). The Vice-Chancellors’ Committee, of which he is a member,met 5 weeks ago. The Warwick letters, etc, demonstrated that tho V-Cs are coordinated and do act as a corporate body. The discipline is a national change of policy. This makes one point clear: we must have no illusions. WE CANNOT REDUCE THE SENTENCES.
The myth of free investigation has never had much credibility but at Liverpool we have at least one concrete example of this ‘tolerance’ – Martin Yarnitt was removed from teaching first year Politics students because, among other faults, he worked students ‘too hard’. He suggested they read articles from New Left Review.
The first aim must be to avoid the waves of liberal indignation. The Bishop of Whitby has already stated,”the key to this problem is communications”. Sounds just like the V-C’s idea of a staff-student newspaper. It is not just a lack of communication or merely a temporary breakdown; it is a definite conflict of interests. The administration see the university functioning to one end,we see another. It is a political confrontation.
It must be clearly pointed out that not only do tho academic community and academic freedom not exist here (or elsewhere) BUT THAT THEY ARE UNATTAINABLE IN THIS SOCIETY. The sources of finance (remember CBW), the social relations of the top hierarchy,and the (subject) perceptions of academic excellence all delineate the direction of research. This applies to both students and staff in science and arts.
But above all we must remember that the university is not afraid of 10 individuals. For the first time at Liverpool, a supposedly conservative university,1,500 students have challenged their politics. The university reacted in tho only way it was capable, ignoring petitions and attempting to smash those who took part. It must not be forgotten that discipline is a diversion; we must not be diverted from the original campaign: RACISM.
We must not reduce our activity to mere propaganda – the dreary circus of mass meetings in the Mountford. Posters, leaflets, slogans, but also interrogating reactionary lecturers during their lectures (and even in Bedford House), mini mass meetings in ‘backward’ departments,mass seminars and teach-ins.
But at a second level, at a vindictive level,the authorities must be made to pay for their crimes. Individual terrorism – in the States they even blow up buildings – and mass action are two tactics available. A second occupation would also serve the purpose of collecting comrades together. In the Senate our efficiency reached a zenith – even without touching ‘their’ paper or duplicators.
Have no illusions, we cannot bring about the return of the 10,and we must not let their disciplining divert us from the original campaign.
A cautionary note
We must not let the initiative be taken from us by either the Guild bureaucrats or NUS. The role of Macmillan – he sat on the advisory board of discipline – is already infamous. Jack Straw, the V-Cs’ student wonder will probably arrive on the scene soon. Remember how he cooled down Leeds? He must not do it here.