Free speech

Selina Todd and the Twitter storm

A social media storm broke out after a feminist conference in Oxford on 29 February asked Oxford University historian Selina Todd to hand over her two-minute opening address to a colleague, following threats by some speakers to boycott the event. Todd is associated with Women’s Place UK, which was set up to oppose progressive reform of laws on transgender rights. In a strange twist, WPUK types demanded the AWL immediately denounce the "disinvite". But none of us even knew about the event, let alone had involvement in it! And our position on such things is clear: we support trans rights, but...

The world of online hate

In 2013, the Australian journalist Ginger Gorman became the subject of an online hate campaign. In 2010, she had interviewed two gay men, seemingly an ordinary couple, about their adoption of a young boy. Three years later the men were convicted of child sexual exploitation; they had been involved in an international paedophile network. Naturally Gorman was mortified that she had, however inadvertently, given these men a platform. But a few days after the conviction Gorman began to be inundated by tweets from ″conservatives″ saying she was a paedophile collaborator, and, equally horrifying to...

Defining "Islamophobia"

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims has proposed a definition of "Islamophobia", and the Government has rejected it. The definition is here Against the definition Chris Sloggett, a spokesperson for the National Secular Society, told us: "Anti-Muslim hatred is a growing problem which must be taken seriously. But we also need a robust discussion on the influence which religion, including Islam, has on British society. "Those who raise concerns about religious privileges which undermine women's rights, animal welfare, LGBT rights and the principle of one law for all are routinely...

The Satanic Verses thirty years on

It is thirty years since the publication of Salman Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses, partly based on the life of the founder of Islam, Muhammad, sparked protests across the Muslim world, with riots in India and Pakistan in which dozens of Rushdie's fellow Muslims were shot dead, book burnings on the streets of Britain, and ultimately an Iranian death sentence which sent its author into hiding under armed police guard. In BBC Two's The Satanic Verses: 30 Years On, radio presenter and journalist Mobeen Azhar travels around the country, speaking to protagonists in what became known as the...

Students vote “no confidence”

The National Union of Student (NUS) Trans Students’ Conference, on 30-31 January in Manchester, unanimously passed the Student Left Network motion of no confidence in NUS President Shakira Martin. Earlier in January, an NUS UK board meeting had voted to scrap the trans students’ campaign, budget, officer and committee. The motion condemned the NUS leadership’s “deeply undemocratic” handling of NUS’s financial deficit. It called for NUS to open the books and to call an extraordinary conference of delegates elected on cross-campus ballots from affiliated student unions to give members, not an...

Free speech is a left-wing issue

Above: the Catholic Church's Index of Banned Books, 1640 In the past few years the press has had a number of semi-sensationalist stories about student unions banning or wanting to ban something deemed offensive. And in some cases the issue has been real. Now an essay by the late Marxist academic Norman Geras on the ethics of revolution has been flagged up by the University of Reading as potentially subversive, so that students reading it must sign a form and pledge not to leave the text around where others might scan it. The university did that under the government’s Prevent agenda, supposed...

Satanic Verses, thirty years on

Last month saw the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. Rushdie’s sprawling novel defies summary: interlinking stories meld scurrilous fantasies, dark humour and cutting political satire directed not only at Islam, but British racism and Indian immigrants’ attempts to adapt. It is an honest attempt to deal with the warping pressures of racism, religion and cultural dislocation. When it was published in September 1988 there was no spontaneous grassroots opposition. According to Kenan Malik in From Fatwa to Jihad, one early move against the book was in...

Solidarity with Bookmarks - from three AWL comrades hassled at 'Marxism 2018'

Dear SWP, We are Workers' Liberty supporters who ran a stall at 'Marxism 2018' last month. We read about and watched the video of the far-right invasion of your bookshop Bookmarks on Saturday, and are writing to express our solidarity. When the far right attacks anyone in the labour movement or left, we must all rally round. And the attack on Bookmarks shows the need for us all to get better prepared for self defence, as well as organising to defeat and marginalise the far right. None of that is changed at all by our note of concern: namely, the fact that only at few weeks ago at 'Marxism 2018...

Far right targets socialist bookshop

The socialist bookshop Bookmarks was invaded by far-right activists on Saturday 4 August. The activists threw books, tore up placards and posters, and threatened staff and customers. Fortunately no-one was injured. The bookshop, which is run by the Socialist Workers Party, is located in Bloomsbury, central London. The attack appears to be an opportunistic action carried out by protesters returning from a protest against alleged “censorship” of Alex Jones’s far-right conspiracy-theory platform “InfoWars”. One of those involved was wearing a Donald Tump mask. A video taken by the assailants...

Statement: No to violence in the labour movement!

This statement appeared in Solidarity 245, out on 18 July, referring to events at 'Marxism 2018', on 7/8 July. For our initial report, see here. For witness statements describing what happened in more detail, see below. To add your name to the statement please email awl@workersliberty.org "According to the following report – bit.ly/2LexXt3 – at the Socialist Workers’ Party’s “Marxism 2018” event, SWP members turned over and broke Workers’ Liberty’s stall; threw on the floor, tore up and stole some of the AWL literature and materials; and engaged in harassment of AWLers, including challenging...

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