Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Ladsheviks and North Koreans

Once the horrors of finals are over, I will be able to face the horrors of the awful Victorian-Friedmanite Tory-Liberal govt that now reigns supreme over us. Until then, here's a couple of joke items. One inspired by a funny news story, the other by the fact that we all must prepare for disappointment by choosing one non-English team to support at the World Cup.*

New Reality TV Proposal

Following the news of RMT General Secratary Bob Crow's recent behaviour at a football match, an idea for a new TV show has been pitched to the networks. Crow apparently shouted and even swore, behaviour that is totally alien and unacceptable to the vast majority of fans of the People's Game.

The new TV show (working titles include "ComLAD", "LADshevik" and "Bob Crow beats up EVERYBODY") will consist of the militant union leader beating up a new public figure every week, before discussing questions of politics within trade unions, and trade unions within wider politics.

Series One will consist of the following episodes:

1. Wille Walsh
2. Nick Clegg
3. Boris Johnson
4. Sir Alan Sugar
5. Lee Clark

Fourth International (Fifaist) Statement on the Forthcoming World Cup

The Fourth International (Fifaist) announces that in the upcoming 2010 World Cup in South Africa we will be giving footballing, but not political, support to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. It is essential for all socialists to support the degenerated workers' football team inasmuch as they represent a progressive alternative to the market-driven and patriotic "football" which has duped the working class for too long.

While drawn in the so-called "group of death", the DPRK is confedent that the only teams to meet their "death" will be the imperialists of Portugal and their running dogs in Brazil and the Ivory Coast. A victory for the DPRK in the group stages can weaken the strangehold of the bureaucracy and hasten a political revolution in the North.

For every Drogba, Kaka, and Ronaldo there are a million proletarians willing to give their life for the resistance!

* Mine is really the Netherlands, not North Korea.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Some Election Predictions

I feel like it's close enough to the time now to put my non-existent reputation on the line and utter some predicitons for the election. A mixed bag of the positive and negative.

* More people will vote Tory than the polls are saying right now. Final percentages wil be something like Con 36, Lab 29, LibDems 26.

* Labour will beat the LibDems into third in the popular vote.
No-one really likes Clegg, it's all a media shitstorm. Besides, we've been here before in '83. There will be a slight rally back to Labour in the heartlands, might not help them much in terms of seats, but it will ensure a bigger share of the vote than the Liberals.

* Until recently I thought the Tories would get a slim majority. I still think they could, but a more likely outcome might be they fall just short and govern as a minority (perhaps with Democratic Unionist help). Then we have to repeat this whole circus with a second election in a few months time. Cleggy won't get his PR, unfortunately. Not just yet.

* Salma Yaqoob will win Birmingham Hall Green for Respect.
Seems like the campaign is going well, Labour look increasingly desperate. An added bonus that I get £85 if she does. I don't know much about Respect's chances in the East End, but I'm inclined to say they won't win either of their targets there.

* Caroline Lucas will narrowly win for the Greens in Brighton Pavillion, but they won't get any other seats.

* Griffin won't win a seat for the BNP. If they had a shot at winning in more than one constituency, they might sneak in somewhere. But enough anti-fascist resources will be concentrated in Barking to deny him a victory.

* The far left vote will remain in the 1-2% bracket, with some exceptions like Dave Nellist and David Henry who will save deposits and possibly do even better.

* I will get very drunk on election night provided I finish this fucking essay before then, and probably have to spend it surrounded by insufferable Tories and insufferable Liberal Democrats (this is Cambridge).

So what do you think?

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Scrap the National Student Survey

We've been getting emails through from our colleges and faculties, trying to get us to fill out the National Student Survey (NSS). According to the emails, yesterday was the last chance to fill it out, so maybe this post is a bit late. The price of finals revision I suppose.

Our student union (CUSU) was one of the last to agree to promote the NSS, as recently as 2008-9. Until then it had rightly regarded the NSS as a pointless waste of everyone's time. Unfortunately, CUSU have thrown out this along with most other good policies they ever had. This year, the student union at Sussex (USSU) have asked members to boycott the survey in protest at management's plans to axe 115 jobs.

The NSS asks 22 “questions” about the student experience, in the form of statements which the respondent can “definitely agree” with, “definitely disagree” with, and so on. The more banal the statement, the more likely a student is to shrug their shoulders and agree with it. (3. Staff are enthusiastic about what they are teaching. I guess so.) It's easy to beef up the numbers of satisfied students when you don't ask any serious questions. It is worded in such a way as to produce pointless answers. Can you imagine an exam being set up in this way? Henry VIII was a bad man. Mostly agree. World War One was caused by mischievous ferrets. Definitely disagree.

We can only ever criticise the staff, never the management. In this paradigm, anything that's wrong with our degree must be a failure of teachers. We are not asked about the content of courses or, crucially, about the nature of the university itself. Here are some examples of questions that are not in the NSS:

Has your university announced any course cuts?
Has your university announced any job losses?
What is your university's attitude to political activity on campus?
Do you agree with your university's investments in the arms trade?

The NSS is primarily a PR exercise to attract potential applicants to particular universities. It has nothing to do with students “having their say.” If universities were really bothered about that, they would democratise and “give us a say” in the running of the place. In Cambridge, there are three student representatives on a University Council of twenty-four members. They are not elected as members of the student union, but rather in separate elections that the University fails to publicise, even fails to institute an online ballot, and turnout is ridiculously low. The student members of University Council are therefore not bound by union policy and represent no-one but themselves.

A self-selecting survey is no substitute for any form of democracy. It is yet another encroachment of managerialism into the education system. It assumes that everything is basically OK apart from some tweaks that could be made here and there, and therefore leaves no room for dissent or new ideas. The final “questions” are blatantly trying to find out how well prepared we are to be funnelled into the job market. 19. The course has helped me present myself with confidence. 20. My communication skills have improved. 21. As a result of the course, I feel confident in tackling unfamiliar problems. We might expect them next year to start crapping on about “transferable skills.”

The NSS is an unrepresentative tool used by universities to foster an unquestioning, “everything is fine” attitude among students. They only want to hear our opinion as long as it mostly overlaps with theirs. They want to teach us to be managers, or workers who are sympathetic with managerial views. Scrap the NSS, democratise the university.

May Day Greetings

Just a quick post wishing a happy International Workers' Day to all readers, wherever you may be and whatever struggles you may be involved in.