Thursday, 4 October 2007

Leaders, followers and peace envoys

The proposed boycott of Israeli academics has put the leadership of UCU under strain and has also tested the premise of the existence of the same union. Born as a dissent from the base, the boycott has involved all corners of the union but has altogether ignored all the voices and shut all the doors, with an exit strategy that can only be decorous for those who engineered it.
On the UCU web-site the follwing news has been released:

Members of the union's strategy and finance committee unanimously accepted a recommendation from UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, that the union should immediately inform branches and members that:

• A boycott call would be unlawful and cannot be implemented

• UCU members' opinions cannot be tested at local meetings

• The proposed regional tour cannot go ahead under current arrangements and is therefore suspended

Surely for the first point, nobody could stop anybody boycotting Israeli academics. They could decide not to invite Israeli key-note speakers at the conferences or reject papers from Israeli academics from illustrious journals. That would not have been anyway a UCU boycott but only from part of it. This would have opened a big fracture amongst members and could have been perhaps the beginning of a new political season. Considering the current lack of ideas on what the union must be in UK, Hunt has decided well for everybody.

The second is laudable for it's ingenuity. Either members do not have ideas, or perhaps they are not interested in such things. With the animosity demonstrated by the reps at the latest conference it may seem more probable that there is such interest in the base afterall.

The third point is that apparently, funds from the union cannot be used for debating on the boycott. The Internet, blogs, phones are a finger away. But as you may well understand, leadership is highly contested in such environments. Such spaces are open to noisy disturbances that would prove even the toughest leader in an open confrontation with the followers. UCU has suddenly become so austere in their decisions.

It has been a good exercise of leaderhip after-all which has left all the members wondering if they are suddenly anti-semitic or else, and has raised doubts on who are the anti-semitics in the union. With the new mission of Tony Blair as peace envoy in the Middle East, Sally has thought well that it would be in the best interests of British university workers to have peace in the Middle East and in the union too. A real political disaster in it's entirety from one side. On the other, the stupid mistake by leaders of being caught with fingers in the anti-semitic jam without openly condemning such a plague.

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