Friday, November 25, 2005

BIRKBECK STOPPERS START STOPPING THE WAR

All in all it was about as well organised an event as I'd always imagined grass-roots SWP-style politics to be - i.e. not very. There was lots of last minute putting up of posters and leafletting (by the barman funnily enough - is the union paying his wages to hand out propaganda or serve pints? Hmmmm) but amidst the chaos I must admit I particularly liked the red lightbulb which had been switched on to give Birkbeck bar a more socialist feel, as if it doesn't look like the back room of a squat anyway.

Corbyn turned up 45 minutes late (and the meeting had to finish 15 minutes later) during which time the debate consisted of several calls for more meetings (presumably for the purpose of calling for more meetings) and someone suggesting making a banner with the Birkbeck crest on it to take out on marches. A few ironic "Not in our name" remarks popped out from one corner of the bar. Someone suggested getting in touch with ex-Birkbeck Iraqis - their assumption that they would all share the same virulently anti-war stance was to be brutally shattered later.

By the time Corbyn had brought up white phosphorus and Bush and Blair chatting about bombing Al Jazeera, his ten minutes were up and we hit the questions. Question number one was from an Iraqi who asked the panel what exactly they thought would happen if the troops left and pointed out that although he couldn't speak for all Iraqis, he for one was bloody grateful for Tony Blair and George Bush and that he felt although Corbyn's heart was in the right place he was somewhat deluded in believing the violence would all go away if our troops bowled backed to Blighty. This was met with various cheers and claps from around the room and looks of bafflement and astonishment from the Stoppers. Instead of answering his question, the chair got more people to ask questions and let Corbyn answer them all in one go at the end, allowing him to completely dodge the Iraqi chap's points. Nice work.

As time had run out, I had to ask Corbyn in a one-to-one whether or not he'd signed the 2nd Cairo Declaration or not. He couldn't remember if he had, but agreed that the bit about a Zionist plan to establish an Israel from the Nile to the Euphrates was ludicrous and he would never knowingly have signed a declaration containing such nonsense.

I grilled him about the IFTU as well and he said that as a union man he supported them fully and couldn't understand why the SWP and the Stoppers had been so harsh on Abdullah Muhsin. He claimed it wasn't an issue any more and that the Stoppers now fully recognised the legitimacy of the IFTU. I'll need to do some more checking to see if he was bullsh1tting on that front.

To be fair to Corbyn, he seemed a decent but somewhat gullible (does he really believe that Bush was planning to bomb Al Jazeera?!?) Old Labourer. But he had the gall to state that "today's terrorists are tomorrow's freedom fighters" which was appalling, and snuck in one completely irrelevant reference to Israel/Palestine as a reason for the violent insurgency in Iraq. So not as cuddly as he could have been.

Overall, apart from the sausage rolls and popcorn, it was a bit of a poor show from the Stoppers. I'll bet good money that half the people were there to get pre-lecture drinks at the bar rather than start the revolution. But there we are.

The night then took a turn for the surreal when a pervy member of the Psychology Society found out that I had a background in genetics and computers and joined our table with the opening gambit of "Genetics and computers? SOOO, what do you think about CYBERSEX then?" but that's a tale for another blog methinks.

Right, time to bowl off to see if UCLs Islamic Society really does have Taji Mustafa, Hizb ut-Tahrir's UK media representative speaking. More later.


UPDATE

Looks like freedom of speech trumped University (and, I believe NUS) regulations and Taji Mustafa was allowed to speak in the Chemistry Department (?!?) as part UCLs Islamic Society week. I could only stay for 30 minutes and up to that point little had happened other than some chaps dressed in luminous vests offering me a piece of paper to write a question down on for our learned guest to answer. I'm told that the talk went ahead anyway with all the usual guff about restoring the Caliphate etc., but thankfully the lecture theatre was as empty by the end as it had been for the first half hour.

I must admit I found it rather odd that male and female students would voluntarily sit as far apart as was possible at a university event, but that'll be my cultural intolerance seeping through. The idea that one day the UK as a whole could be like that (e.g. with separate sections on buses for men and women) strikes me as so backward I just can't see it catching on. Despite the shrillest efforts of Melanie Phillips, I'm not convinced that Eurabia is on the cards for us just yet.

And as for the Hizb guy being given a platform at UCL - well I'm in two minds. I certainly wouldn't want my Department associated with fascists, but then who would? Perhaps next time a more concerted effort to provide information on HuT to those attending would be a good move. As the Harry's Post thread I linked to points out, not everyone will be willing to believe it, but at least those who are curious about HuT will be able to go away and come to their own (and hopefully our) conclusions.

##Hat-tip to Bevan##

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