Category Archives: Oxford

Funding cuts in Oxford next year: The Breakdown

This post is written by Sean Ambler of Workers Power and is taken from the Anti-Cuts Oxford blog, which can be found here: http://oxford.anticuts.com/

Oxford and Oxford Brookes universities face devastating funding cuts to their budgets for the next academic year. Teaching at Oxford will face a 12.16% cut in real terms (9.1% in cash terms), while Brookes will face 3.74% cut in real terms (0.37% in cash terms). This means that there is a shortfall of £8,333,000 for Oxford University teaching funding in real terms which to maintain current standards will have to be found by the university from elsewhere. Brookes’s equivalent figure is £1,141,000. If the universities are unable to find funding for cover this gap the student experience will decrease massively, meaning large class and tutorial sizes, less lectures, and less academic staff time for assisting students individually. For staff this will mean redundancies, pay cuts or freezes (real terms pay cuts) and high workload. For those wanting to enter academia it will mean the possibility of a total or near total hiring freeze by the Universities, meaning many will either join the dole queues or have to switch trades.

The Higher Education Funding Council of England (HEFCE, http://www.hefce.ac.uk) have today released the figures for education funding for academic year 2010-11. Overall the budget has gone up in cash figures slightly by 0.4%, but with inflation running much higher this is actually a severe cut (Consumer Price Index at 3.5% and Retail Price Index at 3.7%, also these are government figures which are known to often underestimate real inflation).

Oxford and Oxford Brookes have both had a slightly higher total funding increase in cash terms than the national average, but this is still a severe cut overall.I will discuss the implications of this later, but first here are the figures and the percentage changes (some worked out by myself using figures from this year compared with the upcoming one).

Oxford University:

Teaching 2010-11: £60,195,000

Teaching 2009-10: £66,211,000

Teaching percent CUT: 9.1% in cash terms (12.16% when you include inflation at 3.5%)

Research 2010-11: £126,036,000

Research 2009-10: £119,434,000

Research percent rise:  5.53% in cash terms (a less impressive 1.96% increase when including inflation at 3.5%)

Total 2010-11: £188,131,000

Total 2009-10: £187,450,000

Total change: 0.36% in cash terms increase, 3% in real terms decrease with inflation at 3.5%

Oxford Brookes University:

Teaching 2010-11: £36,384,000

Teaching 2009-10: £36,520,00

Teaching percent CUT: 0.37% in cash terms (3.74% when you include inflation at 3.5%)

Research 2010-11: £4,273,000

Research 2009-10: £4,290,000

Research percent cut:  0.4% in cash terms (3.76% cut when including inflation at 3.5%)

Total 2010-11: £42,556,000

Total 2009-10: £42,516,000

Total change: 0.1% increase in cash terms however this is a  3.29% in real terms cut with inflation at 3.5%

The totals include research and teaching funding, but also other types therefore do not match up. See HEFCE website for more complete figures, although calculations will be required to figure out changes between years.

Conclusions

While surprisingly there has been research increases at Oxford University, the overwhelming trend here is negative and especially on the core teaching which is what students get from universities. The move towards research shows the government see universities as having the role of providing research for business rather than teaching for students.

Students and staff at both universities need to organise to resist these cuts. At both universities it will be possible even without the government altering these figures (which we should also demand) for cuts to be stopped. This also doesn’t require the cap of fees to be lifted as the Oxford Uni administration is pushing for as the money is already there, just misspent. The number of senior managers at both institutions with wages above £100,000 is ridiculous – we’re writing a post on this which will appear soon. If all management that earns these ridiculous sums had a pay cut to £100,000 or better yet £50,000 then it is clear these funding cuts would not be necessary.

These figures mask something however – other sources of funding. Oxford has millionaire and billionaire alumni who donate vast sums to the university, and it’s investments provide large dividends. It can weather the storm if it chooses to. Our job is to make sure it does! But for Brookes the situation is different and while cuts are by no means necessary or inevitable it is less able to weather the storm using other sources of income. We therefore demand that as a matter of emergency the government increase funding to Brookes to prevent the social catastrophe that cuts might cause to the staff and students at the university.

Both universities are likely to attempt to use these funding cuts to reduce staff pay, and Brookes is likely to make cuts (Oxford uni clearly prefers arguing for higher fees while attempting to maintain staffing levels – although may well cut too). The reason for the governments cuts is ultimately the debt they gained by bailing out the bankers. The question therefore is: Who will pay for the crisis? Our answer has to be: Those who caused it, not us! Profitable banks should be nationalised without compensation to pay for those that were bailed out. There should be ban on bonuses to bankers and a strict pay limit including mass reductions for those earning six-figure and higher salaries. Higher tax bands should be increased. This will provide the necessary funds to reduce state debt while still paying for all our current public services including education, without having to raise the cap on tutition fees (which could also be abolished).

Our task is to ensure this happens. Our fight is first with the university management but also with the government – victories on a local level can force the government to raise funding nationally. When cuts are announced we will argue for UCU and UNISON to ballot for strike action and for students to support them. If the universities cut we will raise the question – who decided this? Where is the democracy when unelected management has control over our education? We will take all necessary action, inspired by campaigns at other universities such as Sussex, to prevent cuts and fees and to democratize our universities. In Oxford this means demanding mass congregations open to all staff and students.

We can win! Leeds UCU strike has won the concession of no compulsary redundancies already before the HEFCE figures were even announced! Join the campaign: OCCUPY! STRIKE! RESIST!

All views expressed in this post are by the author and not necessarily the position of the campaign.

Communist Students oppose reactionary men’s societies on BBC

Men’s societies in universities and colleges have nothing to do with promoting equality

Macho revanchism hides an ugly face, argues Chris Strafford

Over the last few years there has been a growing trend of reactionary moves against women’s representation and the women’s movement, and this has been reflected in universities and colleges.

A common argument now being put forward by everyone from the far right to a gaggle of peculiar libertarians is: ‘Women have their own groups and student societies, so men should have them too’. This has resulted in the abolition, merging or downgrading of women’s officers posts in student unions, to the extent that only eight universities now have a full-time women’s officer in student unions that are largely dominated by men. Over the last few weeks ‘Man Collective’ (Oxford) and ‘The Men’s Society’ (Manchester) have been accepted as recognised student societies, resulting in national media coverage. Rightwing commentators have dubbed this ‘men’s liberation’, a supposed reaction to ‘positive discrimination’.

These developments must be seen within the wider context of a growing macho revanchism and the recent attacks on women, such as through the Welfare Reform Bill, which essentially seeks to impoverish single mothers, new measures against sex workers, the continuing inequality in pay and life opportunities, not to mention the increasing trend to blame women for provoking sexual violence and rape, resulting in a low rate of convictions.

What some are saying is that it is men who are now oppressed – not because of class, ethnicity, sexuality or disability, but because the women’s movement has ‘gone too far’ and now it is not misogyny, but misandry (discrimination against men), that is the problem. To back up this assertion a variety of different ‘facts’ are employed – male underachievement in education, higher rates of suicide, poor investment in male-only cancers …

But these phenomena are produced by class oppression, not misandry. Schooling for the working class is still centred on creating a significant number of semi-skilled or unskilled workers. Most of my school friends never went to university and ended up working in shops, as labourers, on apprenticeships or spent months at a time on the dole. Suicides are undoubtedly higher amongst the working class – unemployment, poverty, alienation and the constant stresses of capitalist society drive individuals to despair. It is also obvious that workers with cancer or other life-threatening illnesses are less likely to survive than the rich. The NHS ‘postcode lottery’ is not actually random – life expectancy for men in working class areas of Glasgow is 28 years lower than those living in the lush suburbs.

Another common argument used by supporters of the ‘male backlash’ is that men need to discuss masculinity and to build a ‘positive male identity’. even supposed communists like George Waterhouse of the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain has been defending these groups, writing on Facebook: “The main aim of the men’s society is to counteract what we refer to as ‘the fall of man’. Too long have we listened to that serpent and munched upon his proverbial apples.”1

In the abstract there is little problem with men discussing masculinity. Indeed there have been men’s caucuses doing that in order to aid the movement for women’s liberation in parallel with ‘women’s only’ meetings. In other words, male debate may be useful and play a positive role in strengthening the women’s movement. However, the new groups have been formed on a rather different basis.

To understand what they are about and where they are going we need to know who is behind them. In Manchester we have been very successful in exposing them. For example, the founder of the new society is Ben Wild, a rightwing evangelical Christian. Whilst well spoken and polite, Ben thinks that ‘straight pride’ might be a good slogan for a men’s society. Two of the Manchester committee belong to Conservative Future, the Tory Party’s student organisation. Unsurprisingly it is Conservative students who have been at the forefront of attacks on women’s officers posts.

But the Manchester committee also boasts a couple of individuals with links to the Orange Order, who have been quite happy to show their support for Ulster unionist extremists. After pointing this out we were threatened with libel action and violence, and the membership of such Facebook groups seems to have ended. The committee also includes a UK Independence Party supporter, who is notorious for choosing Goebbels as a favourite historical character!

All this may look like name-calling and silly student politics, but it is obvious that this group represents a coalescing of rightwing forces determined to undermine gains women have made over the last few decades. Their opponents have been labelled “feminist Nazi dykes”, “lesbians” and that age-old favourite of rightwing idiots everywhere: “men-hating feminists”.

In response to these moves students across the country have begun mobilising to counter the influence of men’s groups. At Goldsmiths University a move to accept the ‘Gentleman’s Club’ was defeated by a meeting of students. In Manchester supporters of Communist Students, the Socialist Worker Student Society, the Commune and the Anarchist Federation have met to discuss a plan of action for the new term. We are intent on winning the argument on campus. Those of us based in Manchester are looking to link up with other groups in order to present a united response to these attacks.

Notes

  1. th-th.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=75303762887&topic=8079

Report of SWSS meeting at Wadham College with Alex Callinicos

Alex Callinicos (Photo: Farfahinne)

Alex Callinicos (Photo: Farfahinne)

In the squash court beneath Wadham College bar about 40 students gathered on October 15 for an Oxford Socialist Worker Student Society meeting with Alex Callinicos, a leading member of the Socialist Workers Party central committee and noted academic, who was billed under the title, ‘Is capitalism still in crisis?’

Before comrade Callinicos spoke, we heard a few words from the Communication Workers Union local branch secretary, Paul Garraway, on the upcoming strike action. He described the militancy of his members and bitterly complained of persistent management bullying.

On to comrade Callinicos. Within a few syllables he, somewhat predictably, made clear that capitalism was still in crisis. He then outlined some of the factors underlying the current recession, and twinned this with some telling criticisms of mainstream economics.

His discussion of Marx’s concept of the state was relatively good too. And his most interesting points were made here, as he explored the contradiction between, on the one hand, the idea of the state as, in the words of the Communist manifesto, a “committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie” and, on the other, competition between capitalists.

Comrade Callinicos described the United States as international capitalism’s “key organiser”, and went on to explore the possibility of another state assuming this position. In line with the thoughts of those such as Hillel Ticktin, he argued that at present it was hard to see China becoming a new hegemonic state. It is just too tied up with American capital. The great threat, Callinicos argued, was due to climate change.

The comrade moved on to the nature of the workers’ fightback. No mention of democracy, perhaps unsurprisingly. But also no mention of other key necessities, like an organised party of the Marxists. The nearest thing to a programme or strategy that Callinicos came up with was the call for “more and more workers to do what Lindsey and Vestas have done”. Let us leave aside for now the tincture of hypocrisy here – the SWP, after all, opposed the first Lindsey strike.

Most of the initial contributions from the floor consisted of fairly simple questions – some interesting and pertinent, some less so. There was a bit of ‘But my brother is a banker, and I don’t think he is a nasty person’.

Then my turn came. I emphasised that we need independent working class politics. I therefore criticised the SWP’s conduct in the Stop the War Coalition and its role in the preventing the affiliation of Hands Off the People of Iran and the “We are all Hezbollah now” slogans repeatedly chanted by SWPers on demos.

I also picked up on comments made by the SWSS chair of the meeting that the BNP “didn’t deserve a platform” and the no-platform dogma. Does Ukip “deserve a platform”? Do the Tories? And then there is the question of Unite Against Fascism’s popular frontist strategy. I reminded comrades of some history, of how the left’s calls for a ban on the British Union of Fascists backfired with the 1936 Public Order Act, which lost its legislative virginity by being wielded not against Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts, but against the left. It has likewise been heavily employed by the state against Irish republicans and striking miners.

Finally I argued that it was a fatal mistake to rely on the state and call for the BNP to banned. Once again it was a question of working class political independence.

My remarks on the far right dominated the remaining discussion. Chosen SWSS comrades were quick to wheel out the usual arguments for tactical inflexibility. Apparently, the BNP are just really nasty – Nazis in fact (and, as posters on the wall informed any in doubt, this was a “Nazi-free zone”).

A few seemingly new people quite rightly suggested that the blanket no-platforming policy – aside from not having worked, considering the growth in influence of the BNP – might not always be the best approach. We end up no-platforming ourselves. Quite reasonably they, perhaps representing the majority of those at the meeting, thought that there must be occasions when we could use the power of our ideas to defeat the simplistic and in many cases easily disprovable arguments of the BNP. There were plenty of nods.

The chair announced there was time for one more speaker. No hands were raised, so I stuck mine up. Callinicos gave some of the most emphatic head-shaking I have ever seen, and hissed something to the chair. “Um, we would prefer someone who hasn’t spoken yet,” the poor comrade then announced. So someone else, who had also spoken already, was chosen instead! Don’t you just love the SWP? Things did not go fully according to plan, however. The ‘anyone except him’ substitute likewise argued against auto-no-platformism.

In his summing up comrade Callinicos ignored the unfortunate fact that I exist and had dared to open my mouth. He managed to make the bad arguments of the young SWSSers even worse. “The BBC is publicly funded,” he informed us, descending into liberalistic mode. As if this somehow made this cog of the capitalist ideological apparatus a friend of the working class.

Any talk of debating with fascists rendered one a fool, he then emphatically declared. Presumably this must include his own comrade, John Molyneux. A loyal oppositionist in the SWP who has recently had the good sense to question the no platform mantra as being self-defeating. Interestingly, this viewpoint has gained some considerable support within the SWP, including on its national committee.

Obviously Callinicos is rattled and feels under attack even within. That is how I explain his response anyway. For him the only correct strategy when Nick Griffin appears on Question time is to get into the BBC and “punch Griffin on the nose or a more sensitive part of his anatomy”. But what then to do about the million who voted for the BNP in June’s Euro election and those who elected their dozens of councillors? Should they be forcibly silenced too? Should their vote be discounted?

As the meeting was about to close, a comrade (I am not sure if he belongs to any organisation) indignantly criticised the way the chair had refused to allow me to speak again. Surely a basic norm in a debate where one side has taken a lot of flak? Callinicos launched into a tirade. Apparently I had simply said nothing important – “something about the Stop the War Coalition that I didn’t understand,” he blustered. So I shouted: “I want to discuss Iran and the role of the SWP in the Stop the War Coalition.” Callinicos defensively retorted: “I am here from the SWP, not the STWC” and tried to change the topic. “Yes, the role of the SWP in the STWC,” I repeated. The chair quickly closed the meeting, and Callinicos scurried off into the night.

As SWP-provided bottles of cider were opened following the meeting most of the comrades were in fact friendly and more than willing to discuss. Myself and other Communist Student comrades were able to have some good exchanges. Clearly many in SWSS are genuine revolutionaries and have no liking for the way the SWP leadership refuses to debate with others on the left.

Huw Sheridan

Oxford public meeting, October 27 – capitalism’s crisis and the communist alternative

going-out-of-businessOxford Communists are hosting our first public meeting on Tuesday October 27, in the Judges room at Oxford Town Hall. The meeting will start at 7.30pm and will be addressed by Mike Macnair – a leading member of the Communist Party of Great Britain and author of the recent book Revolutionary strategy: Marxism and the challenge of left unity. Mike will be speaking on the important topic of the capitalist crisis – how it happened, why, what it means for the world – and the communist alternative to this system.

Come and join the discussion. There will be time for contributions, questions and debate from the floor. All welcome.

Topic: Capitalism’s crisis and the communist alternative

Speaker: Mike Macnair

Time: 7.30pm – 9.30pm

Date: Tuesday October 27th

Venue: Judges room, Oxford Town Hall, Aldate Street, Oxford.

There is a Facebook event page for this meeting which you can join here: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/event.php?eid=317894845159&index=1

Freshers report

Many students are completely inexperienced politically, but are beginning to question the system, write Ted North and Dave Isaacson

Communist Students stall

Communist Students stall

Members of Communist Students held a stall outside Oxford University freshers fairs on October 7 and 8.

It was easy to predict the reactions of some of the scions of the traditional upper classes. Yet a few sniggers and bemused looks aside, there were no particularly sharp arguments coming from those that see communism as their worst nightmare. One piped up with “What crisis?” as he scurried on by, not waiting for an answer. But most people were not so stupid as that.

We gave out a large number of Communist Student and material from Hands Off the People of Iran. In all, just over 50 signed our contact sheet. There were perhaps, relative to other universities, somewhat fewer students with some background or prior knowledge of far-left politics. If anyone did display an acquaintance with the left groups, it came in the form of questions like “You’re not anything to do with the SWP, are you?”

Comrades from the Socialist Workers Party were present on the first day, along with Workers Fight and a comrade from the Enverist Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist), who was leafleting for a meeting on “democratic renewal”. On the second day, the Socialist Party and the Spartacists were also in town. The point we often repeat – that if the ostensibly Marxist left was joined in a single organisation its strength would be far greater than the sum of its parts – was well demonstrated. Students who are sympathetic to the aims of socialism would have been less confused and more likely to commit themselves if there had been a single Marxist organisation present. And we would be taken a lot more seriously by our enemies too.

The standard economistic ‘Fight for jobs’ type leaflets were being handed out by the SP, one of whom became a touch aggressive when a CS comrade insisted that a workers’ militia is a basic democratic demand and not lunatic posturing. Most of the SPers were friendly enough, though – unlike the comrades of the SWP, who refused even to make eye contact.

Many who spoke to us are completely inexperienced politically, but are beginning to question the system (as are young people in general). We expect a good turnout to our upcoming introductory meeting at Judges room, Oxford Town Hall on Thursday October 27 starting at 7.30pm. We have Mike Macnair, leading CPGB member and author of Revolutionary strategy, speaking on the capitalist crisis and the communist alternative. There will, of course, be plenty of time for discussion. Indeed, as we have repeatedly stressed, open debate and democracy are not just good ideas: they are in fact crucial in building both the Communist Party and the wider working class movement. And for us this is about now, not at some hypothetical date in the future.

Unfortunately the first left meeting our Oxford comrades planned to attend – a Stop the War Coalition rally featuring Jeremy Corbyn MP and Tariq Ali on October 12 – was cancelled at the last minute. But we will continue trying to engage with the left as it is currently constituted, as well as building our own organisation and carrying out educational and agitational activities. We will be launching a study group reading David Harvey’s book on Marxist economics – Limits to capital – to begin on Saturday October 31. And before that we are encouraging as many people as possible to attend the Stop the War Coalition demonstration in London on October 24. We are also planning, alongside other comrades, to get a Hopi branch established in Oxford.

csbanner-300x225Many would not consider what is, on the one hand, a traditional bastion in ensuring the continuity of British capitalism, as fertile ground for communist growth. But on the other hand, Oxford University also attracts many sincere and bright young people who, looking at global poverty, ecological crisis and capitalist greed, want to radically transform things. Our challenge is to equip them with politics, theory and organisation.

Oxford Communists to launch study group

book - Limits to capitalFollowing on from our successful Communist Students stalls at Oxford University freshers fair members of Communist Students and the Communist Party of Great Britain are planning to get together with contacts and sympathisers to launch a communist study group. We plan to kick off with the collective study of the book Limits to Capital by David Harvey. We hope that a study of this text will aid us in developing comrades’ understanding of Marx’s critique of political economy. The book also attempts to cite Marx’s theory in a more contemporary context which should be useful in seeking to get to grips with the current capitalist crisis. If you are interested in learning more about Marxist economics – whatever your present level of understanding – then please consider attending our study group.

We are going to meet up every Saturday afternoon to discuss sections of the text and explore the issues and questions that arise from each weeks reading. Each week a different member of the group will give a short opening presentation on the chapter before we open the session up to group discussion. Time-permitting we will also discuss some contemporary political issues each week. Our first meeting will take place at 2pm on Saturday October 31. For details of the venue, and if you have any other questions, please email us at oxfordcommunists@googlemail.com