Saturday, October 15, 2005

Trespass on the Corporate Campus

The picture is a card designed by Leon Kuhn for Artists Against the War.

If you haven't yet met Leon selling his cards at various events, you can find out more at
or e-mail
If you fancy using the picture please ask Leon. And buy some cards!

I have wanted an excuse to spread it for some time, and this time I thought it might illustrate the topic.

The card depicts "Islamic Fundamentalism" and "Free Market Fundamentalism".

The government, media and a right-wing think tank want to outlaw "extremism" on campus. But the government and academic authorities are keen to welcome another set of violent characters.

"Trespass" on the Corporate Campus

SIX students at Lancaster University have been fined £300 each and bound over to keep the peace, for the crime of "aggravated trespass". What they did, a year ago, was to gatecrash and leaflet a 'Corporate Venture' confernce at the university's George Fox conference centre, aimed at bringing together big business corporations and academics to "spin ideas" at one another.
It's ironic really. The hall is named after George Fox, the 17th century Quaker, who was jailed at Lancaster in 1660 for speaking his mind on peace and refusing to swear allegiance to the monarchy. The "George Fox Six" distributed leaflets objecting to the presence of companies like Shell and British Aerospace, with their warlike connections, and to growing commercialisation of university research.

Nowadays you can say almost what you like about the monarchy, but show disrespect for big business and you are asking for trouble.

The National Union of Students backed the students, and the Association of University Teachers branch at Lancaster urged the university to drop the charges, but the vice-chancellor insisted on prosecuting., at the same time assuring complainers that as a "criminal matter" it was "up to the courts". Notwithstanding all those notices which warned "trespassers will be prosecuted", trespass used to be a civil matter. But the students were charged under Section 68 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. (Introduced with all that fuss about all-night raves by good old Michael Howard, but strengthened by New Labour). This makes it clear that the offence stands only if the landowner considers that trespass has take place.

Behind Lancaster University's determination to come down hard on protestors lies more than its own policies. Education Minister Ruth Kelly has called for university vice-chancellors to crack down on "extremists", having previously called on the seats of learning to work more closely with business.

As the Lancaster students union says: "It’s part of what the government call the ‘third mission’, a project which enables universities to provide support to businesses at little or no cost, paving way for corporate sponsorship of research projects. The spin on the university website puts a ‘local community’ gloss on this, but in fact the biggest investors in Lancaster University and vice versa are huge multinationals such as arms manufacturers BAE Systems, who were at the Corporate Venturing conference with a host of others including GM companies Unilever and DuPont, Shell (guilty of shooting environmental protesters in the Niger Delta), and the Carlyle Group, who bring rich oil interests together such as the Bush and Bin Laden families. Hardly a leg-up for the ‘local community’ or even local businesses. Rather than supporting communities, it’s trans-national corporations such as these which are fuelling the flames of war, environmental destruction and privatisation which are destroying and impoverishing communities worldwide. . If students really want to make poverty history, we could start by looking at how our degrees are paid for". (Cara Simpson in SCAN, Lancaster students union news)

We might note that while the Lancaster students were facing trial it was being admitted that British Aerospace spent billions on backhanders and other inducements (such as providing prostitutes) to secure arms contracts from the Saudis. This ranged from bombers down to riot control batons. It is a fair guess that some of their hardware also reached the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. But the government which backs British Aerospace is protecting us and our "democratic way of life" from extremism and terror!

Incidentally, I've noticed a strange transformation in British entrepeneurs, if the police and judiciary are to be believed. Those hard-faced pugnacious tough guys in suits we saw in the Thatcher era ("No such thing as society!"), selling hardware to Saddam Hussein, have apparently become meek and timid souls who flutter in panic if some kid enters their midst proffering a leaflet. At least, that's what we gather from the judgments in the Windrush Communications (business conferences on Iraq) and Lancaster cases, where no evidence was given of damage,threats or violence, and yet protestors were accused of "intimidating" conference guests by leafletting. It's all part of the Orwellian doublespeak by which peace protestors are dealt with as "terrorists" and the arms trade is linked with "peacekeeping". Room for an academic thesis or two there, I think.

Academic Detachment

When I was at Lancaster as a mature student in the early 1970's, Vice-Chancellor Charles F.Carter, an economist, was said to admire the Masachusetts Institute of Technology and was already keen on developing the university's reputation in the field of business. There was a Business School with departments of Financial Control, Operational Research(OR) and Marketing, attracting postgraduate students from industry.. I remember a Maths student friend taking OR as his second subject referring to the uni as "Galgate Poly". (Galgate was a nearby mill village, now sans mill). Very witty, if somewhat snobbish and outdated now that all our polytechics have been reclassified as unis.

I don't know whether Lancaster University's dispute with women cleaners over union recognition, or battle the following year over victimisation of "Marxist" academics (the "Craig Affair") enhanced or hindered its claims to offer management expertise. But both these rows may have hidden another tussle quietly going on in the background.

In my first year on campus I became one of the student representatives on the Board of Senate. This newfangled participation was bitterly resented by some entrenched academics, and regarded with some distrust, or at least a lack of enthusiasm, by many students. But anyway, I thought I'd give it a go if only to see how things run. Among the perks was an all-expence paid weekend conference at a grand old country hotel near Keswick in the Lake District.
On the night we sat down to a good three-course meal, with wines. I was treated to a large post-prandial brandy by my prof, and relaxed into a big soft armchair in suitably soporific mood to enjoy the donnish wit and repartee of the academics debating whether the university needed a committee to oversee outside-funded research projects for ethical and academic standards. When someone mentioned utility someone else said "I rather thought the definition of 'academic' was 'of no possible use to anybody'". It was all good fun, a privilege to be in such company, and sinking further into my armchair I would not have dreamed of spoiling it.

"Did you realise what it was all about?", asked Bob our student union leader as we broke for coffee. I murmured something guiltily, realising I might not have grasped everything. Bob told me that the Politics Department wanted to set up a "strategic studies centre" which could independently pursue research funding. "Why do you think Charlie Carter said 'General Reynolds, what do you think?'"?
I'd missed it. Whatever his admiration for American univerisities, which had been up to their neck in the Vietnam war, Vice Chancellor Carter was a Quaker and unlike co-religionist Richard Nixon, he evidently still oberved some of their limits. Professor Philip Reynolds, head of the Politics Department, had come from the University of Wales at Aberystwyth, where they held NATO seminars. Some Lancaster politics students who did well were invited there for a treat,(computer) wargaming.

In 1974, amid rumours of coup plots and generals talking about counter-insurgency there was an out-of-term seminar at Lancaster about how the military and police could cope with civil unrest and disorder. By then I was working on a major construction site and most students would have been on holiday, but we managed to get someone into the conference, and the full story, (including how one "expert" regarded dissident Labour councillors at Clay Cross, Derbyshire as "terrorists"), on to the front-page of Workers Press. Leaving work that evening I was very proud to see my comrades at the site gate selling the paper with its headline about the "civil war" plans at Lancaster!

"General" Reynolds eventually succeeded Charles F.Carter, and in 1990 the University got its Centre for Defence and International Strategic Studies, based in Cartmel College. Professor Martin Edmonds became its director. His particulour interests are weapons systems and the Far East. As an example, a report on South Korea's first arms exporting deal, supplying electronic and other componets for Turkish artillery, says "The arms providers, Samsung Techwin, were congratulated by Martin Edmonds, director at Lancaster University's Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies, who said South Korea's 'extravagant efforts obviously have borne fruit'.

In January 2004, the CDISS decamped from Lancaster to Henley on Thames, which is handier for London and probably more congenial for Home Counties brasshats. It's new address is Centre for Defence & International Security Studies, The Court House, Northfield End, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire RG9 2JNTel: +44 (0) 1491 843134Fax: +44 (0) 1491 412082
Email: info@cdiss.orgInternet:
The publications director is a former political researcher from Lancaster University, Pauline Elliott.

Edmonds has now been replaced by Major-General(retd) Jonathan Bailey, former durector general of the Army's Development and Doctrine, particularly concerned with weapons procuremnt. CDiSS says its mission is "to be a catalyst for innovative focus on a range of defence and security issues and to foster harmony between academia, government and industry in order to promote unity of effort".

Apart from the international arms trade another interesting part of the CDISS is a programme on "revolutionary warfare and counter-insurgency". In my day blimps and "Daily Telegraph " readers would have had a fit if someone told them Lancaster had fostered a department teaching "revolutionary warfare"'! But times change, and this programme aims " to identify the successes and failures of strategies and tactics deployed against revolutionaries and terrorists by democratic states and to make recommendations for both the present and the future".

The programme is headed by Colonel Richard Cousens, former Director of Defence Studies for the British Army, described as "a Counter Revolutionary Warfare specialist with practical experience as an infantry officer. He completed seven operational tours in Northern Ireland with the Light Infantry and served in Hong Kong and Brunei with the Gurkhas. He led the Counter Insurgency instructional team at the British Army Staff College and has studied the relationship between Peacekeeping and Counter Revolutionary Warfare theory. He has had command experience in the counter insurgency environment as a platoon, company and battalion commander."

All of this must make him just the man to impress one of the Centre's associates, Joan Hoey, of the Economist Intelligence Unit.. As "Joan Philips" she was a leading member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, "Living Marxism"s Balkan expert (who ridiculed the idea that Serb nationalists had massacred thousands of people), and secretary of the RCP's front Campaign Against Militarism. Unfortunately the list of members and associates seems to have disappeared from the CDSS website, but when I last saw it, most of her fellow associates appeared to be former NATO and allied military personnel. Hoey and her comrades used to sneer at "laptop bombardiers". Now she can rub shoulders happily with real brigadiers.

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