Robert Fine and the critique of antisemitism

Submitted by AWL on 3 July, 2019 - 11:16 Author: Dan Davison
Robert Fine

Robert Fine, who died on 9 June 2018, was a socialist writer unafraid to stand up to much of the left’s received wisdom on the questions of Israel, Palestine, and antisemitism.

He opposed the “absolute anti-Zionist” standpoint that one should unreservedly object to (a) Israel’s very existence, rather than the oppressive practices of the Israeli state, and (b) any feelings of Jewish communal or national identification with Israel, even when such feelings are accompanied with harsh condemnation of the Israeli government or genuine horror at the Palestinians’ suffering.

Fine opposed the blanket boycotts of Israel commonly pursued by analogy with the international boycott of South Africa during apartheid, as well as the common suggestion that allegations of antisemitism directed at left-wing individuals or organisations are merely “Zionist” smears to suppress criticism of Israel.

Fine’s most extensive treatment of these themes are in his 2017 book Antisemitism and the Left: On the Return of the Jewish Question, jointly authored with Philip Spencer.

A well-regarded sociologist at the University of Warwick for many years, Fine was – by the standards of a university professor – uncharacteristically open about his activist years.

On his own biography page on the Warwick University website, he proudly stated that he “was active in Socialist Organiser, Workers’ Liberty, anti-apartheid and other radical and antiracist organisations”, and that he had spent his years of postgraduate study at Columbia University in the late 1960s “more active in the anti-war movement than in [his] PhD”.

Although he largely stepped back from on-the-ground activism from the 1990s onwards, Fine never lapsed into the stereotype of the “academic Marxist”. He remained committed to working-class struggle and to the role of ideas within it. His written scholarship ranged from concrete case studies of labour history to grander meditations on the relationship between the universal and the particular within social and political theory.

Across this diverse output of writing, Fine showed the strengths of the kind of critical, “Third Camp” Marxist perspective upheld by Workers’ Liberty and its predecessors.

This political tradition is rooted in the heterodox Trotskyism that emerged during and after the Second World War because of disagreements within the American Trotskyist movement over how to respond to the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact and the Soviet invasions of Poland and Finland. It rejects the notions that only the capitalist world powers are “imperialist”, that anyone who happens to oppose these powers should be supported as “anti-imperialist”, and that the Stalinist regimes and their progeny represent a “progressive” step vis-à-vis capitalism.

Instead, the Third Camp tradition supports the primacy of independent working-class organising against both capitalism and the form of exploitative class society represented by the USSR, Cuba, and other ostensibly socialist states; hence its Cold War slogan, “Neither Washington nor Moscow, but international socialism!” [1] Even with his stepping back from frontline activism, Fine never stopped combatting the poisonous legacy of “campist’ thinking on the left, including its manifestations on the anti-Stalinist left. In his words:

“Today it is a common political decision of inheritors of the orthodox Trotskyist mantle to support any movement or regime they place in the camp of ‘anti-imperialism’, notwithstanding their democratic deficiencies, racist and antisemitic proclivities, and oppressive practices toward the very people they purport to represent”. (Fine 2016)

Fine was lucid and upfront in his analysis of how, through a “misplaced determination to avoid common ground with the anticommunism of the bourgeois establishment”, Marxists have tended to criticise Stalinism for being “insufficiently anti-capitalist” instead of recognising the inherent antagonism between Marxism and Stalinism despite both being anti-capitalist (Fine 1990: 14).

Whereas Marxism “represents the extension of bourgeois particularity and universality beyond the limits imposed by bourgeois society”, Stalinism “represents the abrogation both of the particularity of bourgeois society (individuality, free will, civil liberties) in the name of the battle against egoism, and of the universality of bourgeois society (equal right, political democracy, universal suffrage) in the name of the class struggle” (Fine 1990: 14).

As I shall demonstrate below, Fine’s long experience as an anti-apartheid activist with a Third Camp perspective meant he could recognise that (i) the “apartheid’ description of Israel is dangerously misleading because it ignores significant differences between Israel and apartheid South Africa, including differences in class structure, and (ii) the dominant approach of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa often held back independent working-class politics.

In other words, the alleged equivalence between Israel and South Africa is inaccurate and, even if it were accurate, it would be unwise for the international left to emulate the historical anti-apartheid movement without qualification or criticism.

Moreover, because he could situate “the Jewish question” in relation to fundamental tensions that have existed between different conceptual components of universalism since the Enlightenment, Fine understood why the left has a long and deeply troubled relationship with antisemitism despite its commitment to fighting prejudice and oppression.

Given how starkly the controversy surrounding the UK Labour Party’s internal handling of antisemitism allegations illustrates the failure of many socialists to understand the antisemitic implications of several ideas that have become “left common sense’, now is a good time to bring Fine’s perspective to the table.

Fine and Spencer begin their analysis of the Jewish question by identifying two faces to the principle of universalism: “an emancipatory face that looks to the other on the assumption that the other is a human being like ourselves, but also a repressive face that sees in the other a failure to pass some fundamental test of what is required for membership of humanity” (Fine and Spencer 2017, 1). The Jewish experience of universalism has long been marked by this duality.

On the one hand, universalism has proved emancipatory, acting as a stimulus “for civil, political and social inclusion”; on the other hand, it has been “a source (though by no means the only source) of anti-Jewish prejudice” because of “the representation of Jews as harmful to humanity as whole” (Fine and Spencer 2017: 2).

The latter is what is meant by “the Jewish question”. Since the Jews have tended to be regarded “as the personification either of a particularism opposed to the universal, or of a false universalism concealing Jewish self-interest”, “[t]he struggle between Jewish emancipation and the Jewish question has been a struggle waged over the spirit of universalism itself” (Fine and Spencer 2017: 2). The historical struggle between Jewish emancipation and the Jewish question poses a recurring problem for left-wingers because the modern left tradition “has played a role both in repressing ‘the Jews’ as the enemy of humanity and in combating the prejudices of those who see Jews through this lens” (Fine and Spencer 2017: 5).

Fine and Spencer illustrate this duality by tracing the recurrence and reformulation of the Jewish question along the course of political radicalism since the Enlightenment. At the time of the French Revolution, there was a drive towards removing “civil and political disabilities restricting Jewish minorities”, and affording “Jews equal civil and political rights”, but at the same time the “countervailing tendency... was to breed a mood of resentment within French society that focussed on the injustice of treating “inferiors” as equals, the dangers of treating “aliens” as citizens, and the harm that came of rendering Jews less distinct and less visible” (Fine and Spencer 2017: 24).

One sees this deep tension in the Enlightenment writer Christian von Dohm’s 1781 pamphlet On the Civic Improvement of Jews. Although von Dohm was in favour of Jewish emancipation, he still believed that “[i]t would be better if the Jews, along with their prejudices, did not exist — but since they do exist, do we really still have a choice from among the following: wipe them off the face of the earth; let them remain in perpetuity the same unwholesome members of society they have been thus far; or make them better citizens of the world?”

The same tension appears in the early 19th century debate between G.W.F. Hegel and the radical populist Jacob Fries. Although Hegel was ostensibly the more conservative of the two, it was Fries who “maintained that the harm caused by Jews was such that they should be prohibited from establishing their own educational institutions, marrying Gentiles, employing Christians as servants or entering Germany, that they should be forced to wear a distinctive mark on their clothing and that they should be encouraged to emigrate” (Fine and Spencer 2017: 31). This was because he excluded Jews from the category of “the people” from which all political life must derive.

Contrastingly, Hegel stressed the “infinite importance” that “a human being counts as such because he is a human being, not because he is a Jew, Catholic, Protestant, German, Italian, etc.” (Hegel 1821: §209). In doing so, Hegel “repudiated those who sought to deny civil and political rights to Jews on the pretext that the Jews were a foreign nation and not an integral part of the people” (Fine and Spencer 2017: 31).

Perhaps the most famous debate on “the Jewish question” in this period was that between Bruno Bauer and Karl Marx in the 1840s.

Bauer saw the Jews as incapable of the progressive development necessary to actualise the “cause of humanity” and so believed that the Jew “must cease to be a Jew if he will not allow himself to be hindered by law from fulfilling his duties to the State and his fellow-citizens” (Bauer 1843).

Although Marx’s essays in reply to Bauer are controversial because of his choices of language and argument, Fine and Spencer convincingly make the case that Marx’s approach to the debate is extraordinarily valuable because he not only supported Jewish emancipation without qualification, but also advanced a critique of “the Jewish question” itself. In their words:

“‘Real humanism’ is predicated on recognising the humanity of Jews in their individuality, that is, in their empirical life, work and relationships. In defending Jewish emancipation against the restoration of the Jewish question, Marx re-affirmed the subjective right of Jews to be citizens, to be Jews, and to deal creatively with their Jewish origins. Real humanism is a revolt against the tyranny of provenance.” (Fine and Spencer 2017: 40)

Despite this landmark critique in Marx’s own writings, much of Marxism and the broader radical left since Marx’s time has knowingly or unknowingly remained trapped within the intellectual framework of the Jewish question. This is despite the left’s universalistic commitment to international working class solidarity. The left’s historically troubled relationship with antisemitism is perhaps best known from what August Bebel termed the “socialism of fools”, which associated capital with powerful Jewish influence behind the scenes of world affairs.

Across the late 19th to mid 20th centuries, one finds other manifestations of this troubled relationship. During the rise of Nazism in Germany, “neither wing of the Marxist movement appeared to think that antisemitism was central to the Nazi agenda” (Fine and Spencer 2017: 48).

In its underground years, the Social Democrats took the line that prioritising the fight against antisemitism would “make the work of the resistance more difficult”, whilst the Communists “flirted on several occasions with antisemitic discourse”, including Ruth Fischer’s infamous remarks in 1923 encouraging Nazi students to hang “the Jewish capitalists” from lamp posts (Fine and Spencer 2017: 48-49).

Further troubles arose with the left’s concessions to nationalism in this period, especially with the ascent of Stalinism. By reifying Lenin’s situated theory of the distinction between the “nationalism of the oppressor” and the “nationalism of the oppressed” into a general doctrine, Stalin contrived “a set of ‘mathematical formulae’ to determine who constituted a nation and what kind of nation they constituted”, which rapidly facilitated “the old refrain that the Jews were not a nation and could not form one” (Fine and Spencer 2017: 47).

There were certainly key figures in Orthodox Marxism who ran counter to this trend. Rosa Luxemburg, for instance, stressed the dangers of nationalism in the context of the creation of new nation states in Central and Eastern Europe after the First World War, which manifested the “drive to homogenise populations and do what was necessary to achieve it, including the exclusion of minorities deemed to belong to other nations or, as in the case of the Jews, to no nation at all” (Fine and Spencer 2017: 47).

Nonetheless, the Stalinist turn kept much of the left within the Jewish question’s intellectual confines, often with lethal consequences. The Stalinist authorities charged leaders of the Jewish Anti-fascist Committee, which the Soviet regime established in 1942 to publicise what the Nazis were doing to Jews, with both “Zionism” and “cosmopolitanism”. Such accusations quickly became a common means of liquidating opponents within the official Communist Parties, as seen from such as examples as the 1952 trial of Rudolf Slánský and other lead figures in the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia.

Despite the apparent contradiction between the charges of “Zionism” and “cosmopolitanism”, in their shared connotations of foreignness and disloyalty, the Stalinists treated the terms as “synonymous with the betrayal of the motherland” (Fine 2007: 21). As Fine and Spencer put it:

“The charge of ‘Zionism’ rested on a selective nationalism that claimed to distinguish between its ‘progressive’ and ‘reactionary’ forms and was premised on the disloyalty of Jews conspiring with other Jews to cling to a national identity they should have long foresworn. The phrase ‘rootless cosmopolitan Jew’ revealed an antipathy to cosmopolitanism, as well as to Jews, that Marx himself did not share.” (Fine and Spencer 2017: 51)

After the Second World War and the Holocaust, various critical theorists attempted to reassess the nature of antisemitism in relation to fundamental questions about human civilisation and its prospects. Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer found that liberalism “could not provide a coherent response” to Nazi antisemitism because “the assimilationist tendencies in liberalism were based on the assumption that the society into which Jews were supposed to assimilate possessed a unity and harmony that could only be disrupted by the persistence of a distinct and harmful Jewish identity” (Fine and Spencer 2017: 58). Moreover, by dissecting different elements of antisemitism, Adorno and Horkheimer suggested “it was possible for [these elements] to be added to and recombined in new ways as long as there was a Jewish question to consider” (Fine and Spencer 2017: 61).

In her writings on the topic, Hannah Arendt drew attention to how “[w]ithin the terms of the Jewish question ‘the Jew’ was defined as the other of the universal, whether the universal was equated with nations, states, the race, the international or indeed humanity” (Fine and Spencer 2017: 74). Although she was “critical of Jewish assimilationism for looking away from antisemitism altogether and of Zionism for confronting antisemitism exclusively from a national point of view”, she still sought to “recognise the inner strength of the three moments in the development of modern Jewish consciousness: the ‘assimilated’ moment of living one’s life as a Jew in the diaspora, the ‘Zionist’ moment of living one’s life as a citizen of Israel, and the ‘cosmopolitan’ moment of putting ourselves in the place of others, not least those for whose suffering we bear some responsibility.” (Fine and Spencer 2017: 77, 87)

Jürgen Habermas attempted to overcome ethnic nationalism through his concepts of “constitutional patriotism” and the “postnational” political community. Even though Habermas intended this perspective to supercede the Jewish question and replace it with “a vista of Jewish emancipation appropriate to its time, the cracks in the postnational edifice allowed a different agenda to enter” by turning “the Jewish nation into the ‘other’ of the postnational” (Fine and Spencer 2017: 100).

One sees this in the allegations of Jewish particularism made in relation to Holocaust remembrance.

For instance, “[t]he apparently universalistic demand advanced by critics of Holocaust Memorial Day, that it be replaced by a Genocide Memorial Day, demonstrates its own resentment of any focus on Jewish suffering in the claim that “the Jews” overstate what was done to them” (Fine and Spencer 2017: 103).

All this sets the stage for present version of left-antisemitism, which most often manifests in the absolute stigmatisation of Israel and Zionism. Israel is commonly charged with genocide, apartheid, and presenting a major threat to world peace. Between these charges, that of genocide is most shocking since “Israel is accused of the very crime whose commission against Jews made the necessity for such a state so compelling” (Fine and Spencer 2017: 113). In other words, “the Jewish nation [has come] to be accused of committing the same crimes against the Palestinians as the Nazis had committed against the Jews” (Fine and Spencer 2017: 63).

None of these charges hold up to proper scrutiny. For Israel to be committing genocide, one would have to show, for instance, “that the Palestinian people have been destroyed as a group in part or whole and that the state of Israel has shown intent to commit genocide through measures designed to expel Palestinians, prevent Palestinian births, transfer Palestinian children to Israeli families, destroy Palestinian culture, etc.” (Fine and Spencer 2017: 113)

Despite the proliferation of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories, the ethnonationalist right’s consolidation of power in Israel itself, and the present government’s plans to bring the West Bank even further under Israeli control, the horrors in the Palestinian Territories more closely resemble other cases of colonial expansion into a neighbouring country via occupation and annexation than they do a systematic attempt to wipe out the Palestinian people. The Israeli state ought to be condemned and opposed for its actions, but one should do this by using “appropriate standards of judgment to distinguish between crimes of a different order and magnitude” (Fine and Spencer 2017: 114-15).

As for the “attempt to portray an equivalence between Israel and apartheid”, whilst such developments as the passing of the Nation State Law and the further demolition of Palestinian homes might make the comparison attractive, the analogy “has been pursued through a synecdoche in which the part – say the shooting of Palestinian demonstrators by Israeli soldiers or attacks on ordinary Palestinian civilians by Israeli settlers – is taken for the whole and then analogised to apartheid” (Fine and Spencer 2017: 116).

Simply declaring that Israel is or is like apartheid is no adequate substitute for studying the similarities and differences between the examples in question, and identifying which similarities and differences are most relevant.

In this case, the problem with the “apartheid” description of Israel is that it ignores how the division of what used to be Palestine created “a new national state ... in which there is a fully fledged class structure, including poor, exploited and dispossessed Jews as well as Arabs” (Bradley 1987). Unlike in South Africa, where a narrow ruling caste of whites depended entirely upon the exploited labour of the black majority, in Israel and Palestine, the Israelis and the Palestinians exist as distinct national groups, and the labour of working class Israelis produces most of Israel’s wealth. In short, the white South African population would not have been able to exist as an intact capitalist society had it severed itself from the black South African population, whereas Israel would quite easily exist as an intact capitalist society if it were to sever itself from the Palestinian Territories.

Fine and Spencer spell out the problem as follows:
“In place of comparison, a method of choice is to contrast the existing state of Israel to an abstract idea of what the state ought to be and then decree that it falls short. According to this rhetoric, the state ought to be cosmopolitan, universalistic, emptied of identitarian content, but the ‘Jewish democratic state’ of Israel violates this idea; or nationalism ought to be civic without any ethnic content but Zionism obstructs the realisation of this contemporary ideal. A more comparative method would be to compare how the ‘Jewish democratic state’ of Israel deals with the contradictory demands of state and nation with how other states deal with their contradictory demands”. (Fine and Spencer 2017: 117)

In this respect, it is worth underlining how Fine’s approach to Israel, Palestine, and antisemitism shares a vital logic with his critique of Stalinism.

As explained above, Fine believed that the problem with many left-wing forms of anti-Stalinism is that they point to examples of Stalinist class collaborationism, such as the “popular fronts” of the 1930s, and then argue that the fundamental problem with Stalinism is that it is insufficiently anti-capitalist. As well as overlooking how Stalinism is also entirely capable of ruthless anti-capitalism, such arguments proceed by counterposing Stalinism “either to the idea of socialism, the definition of which is given prior to the critique of Stalinism, or to the ideal realisation of socialism, which is usually located in the Russian revolution” (Fine 1990b: 15).

In Fine’s view, this makes the error of setting “socialism up as a dogmatic standard against which to measure Stalinism”: instead, we should “reconstruct our ideal of socialism” through “the critique of Stalinism” (Fine 1990b: 15). All this is in the spirit of Marx’s observations to Arnold Ruge that, rather than “hoisting a dogmatic banner”, “[w]e must try to help the dogmatists to clarify their ideas”, particularly the “dogmatic abstraction” of communism (Marx 1843).

In other words, in a deeply similar manner to how he thought his Marxist commitments required him to develop a critical perspective of Stalinism that did not simply judge Stalinism against some “dogmatic abstraction” of socialism, Fine recognised that criticising Israel calls for more than simply judging the present Israeli state against some “dogmatic abstraction” of the ideal state, hence why he believed that one should instead compare how Israel and other nation-states deal with the contradictory demands of nation and state in concrete reality.

The charge of apartheid brings us to the issue in which the analogy with South Africa has become most central: the campaigns to boycott Israel, usually as part of the international Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

In his time as a member of the Association of University Teachers (AUT) and its successor organisation the University and College Union (UCU), Fine spoke against the call to boycott Israeli universities. [2] He pointed out that “[b]oycotts of universities always undermine academic freedom”, that ongoing scholarship in Israeli institutions could help combat “many of the reactionary ideas which are used to justify the occupation, settlements and the wall” (Fine 2005).

In addition to opposing it in principle, Fine drew attention to the inconsistency in adopting an academic boycott tactic in respect of Israel alone, noting how “we don’t call for a boycott of British Universities for not denouncing the war in Iraq or not denouncing internment in Northern Ireland” (Fine 2005). Accordingly, Fine advocated building “positive links” with fellow workers in Israel “to help create conditions that will end the occupation” instead of “playing directly into the hands of the right wing in Israel” with a “negative boycott” (Fine 2005).

Crucially, Fine argued that the academic boycott movement “exemplifies the slippage from political criticism of a state to condemnation of a people”. (Fine and Spencer 2017: 120) As he wrote in a pointed and personal account of the 2008 UCU Congress, where a de facto academic boycott motion was passed:

“I was born and brought up as an English Jew. The younger son of first and second generation immigrants. In my youth I thought of myself as Jewish rather than English and this self-consciousness has never gone away. For many years I have been involved in socialist organisations, academic research and teaching, and a personal life in which Jewishness has only played a bit part.

“I used to visit Israel, where I have relatives and friends, but I haven’t been back for some years now – in part because I disapprove of the occupation and the militarism that has accompanied it. I think it has damaged Israeli society from within as well as adding to the suffering many Palestinian men and women have had to endure throughout the Middle East.

“Over the last few years, however, we have had to listen to the grotesque vilification of Israel and exaggeration of its crimes. We have had to resist relentless calls to exclude Israeli academics from our campuses, editorial boards and research networks. With an increasing sense of adversity we have honed our arguments.

“Now for the third time our own union has chosen to go down the road of considering ‘the appropriateness of continued educational links with Israeli academic institutions’. The tones are mellow but they give me a shiver and make me feel my Jewishness in a new way”. (Fine 2008)

As a critical Marxist who resisted crude “campist” thinking, Fine understood all too well the hazards of prioritising conflicts between nations over conflicts between classes and of blurring the distinction between state and civil society. He appreciated how most Trotskyists in the late 1930s believed that “the task of anti-imperialists [in Palestine] was not to support one or other national chauvinism — Zionism against Arabs or Arab nationalism against Jews — but to support one or other kind of reconciliation between Arabs and Jews” (Fine 1990b: 22).

Although he considered the apartheid analogy highly misleading, Fine’s detailed historical research on the liberation struggle in South Africa left him keenly aware of how the alliance between the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the African National Congress (ANC) spent decades actively sabotaging working-class militancy and subordinating socialism to nationalism.

Leaders of the national liberation movement in South Africa explicitly “enjoined workers not to conceive of themselves as a class with its own distinct interests cutting across racial lines, but rather to develop a ‘national’ consciousness of themselves” as Indians, Africans, and so forth (Fine with Davis 1990: 158).

Moreover, the blanket boycott often inhibited links with independent black trade unions in South Africa, as seen from how the Anti-Apartheid Movement advised local trade unions not to meet or greet Moses Mayekiso, General Secretary of the Metal and Allied Workers Union (MAWU), when he was due to visit the UK in 1986.

In the end, the most significant factor in bringing down the apartheid regime was not the decades-long international boycott, but the growth of black working-class organisation and combativeness in South Africa from the 1970s onwards. Fine thus saw plainly how, even if the apartheid description of Israel were accurate, the international left seems to have learned all the wrong lessons from the South African experience.

Within these prevalent far-left attitudes towards Israel and Palestine, we see a present-day version of the Jewish question. It is a perspective that conceals connections between antisemitism and other kinds of racism, treats antisemitism as a purely or largely historical phenomenon, allows such dualities as imperialist/anti-imperialist and oppressor/oppressed to override all other democratic principles and ethical considerations, and singles out Jewish nationalism as the bearer of all the failings of nationalism in general.

Fine was an exceptional scholar and activist committed to salvaging an authentically Marxist critique from the destruction Stalinism wrought in its name. He did not fear challenging the broader left’s common sense.

As the arguments over antisemitism and Israel/Palestine rage on around us in the UK Labour Party and other left-wing organisations, it is clear we need his intellectual insight and political courage more than ever.

Sources and notes

Bruno Bauer, “On the Jewish Question" (1844)
Clive Bradley, Israel and comparisons with apartheid (1987)
Robert Fine, How Trotskyists debated Palestine before the Holocaust, Workers’ Liberty vol 1, no. 14, 1990a, pp. 22-25
Robert Fine, The poverty of anti-Stalinism, Workers’ Liberty vol 1, no. 14, 1990b, pp. 14-15
Robert Fine with Dennis Davis, Beyond Apartheid: Labour and Liberation in South Africa (Pluto Press 1990)
Robert Fine, We need positive links, Workers’ Liberty, 11 May 2005
Robert Fine, Cosmopolitanism (Routledge 2007)
Robert Fine, Esprit d’escalier: reminiscences of a silent observer of the UCU conference, Engage, 30 May 2008
Robert Fine, To understand, there is no better place to start than here, Workers’ Liberty, 14 February 2016
Robert Fine and Philip Spencer, Antisemitism and the Left: On the Return of the Jewish Question (Manchester University Press 2017)
Karl Marx, Letter from Marx to Arnold Ruge (1843)

[1] “Third Camp’ socialists typically view the political-economic system of the USSR and states modelled after it as either (i) a novel form of exploitative class society distinct from capitalism and socialism or (ii) a new variation of capitalism. These theories are commonly labelled as “bureaucratic collectivism” and “state capitalism” respectively, but the relevant terminology is often applied inconsistently, such that common use of one label does not necessarily imply a common theoretical or practical-political position. For the sake of brevity, I shall not pursue the “class nature of the USSR” debate here.

[2] UCU was founded in 2006 from a merger of two trade unions for education workers: the AUT and the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE).

•This essay appears in the latest issue of Fathom Journal. Slightly sub-edited here.

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