Shooting themselves in the foot

FreeSoc’s brand of anarchism might make a lot of racket, but it won’t change the world, or our insatiable appetite for killing

FreeSoc break into Heslington Hall during a recruitment presentation hosted by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, a Government agency responsible for military technology. They make a racket and throw cake around: an unmitigated triumph for ethical and human-rights conscious students.

A self-styled “anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist, activist society”, FreeSoc, stand, in my view, as the quintessence of everything wrong with student politicisation. Their hackneyed anti-Bush-Blair-Oil-Iraq-Conspiracyism has become such common pub-chat currency that it has lost all political resonance. Their garbled anti-everything stance means that the act of protest itself has become more important to them than the cause being protested. The Heslington Hall demonstration is a perfect example: what was it about? One would be tempted to suggest that they object to the University Careers Service’s association with DTSL. The literature they handed out at the protest focuses on Britain’s arms export policy, the Iraq war, and even the training of Osama bin Laden by the CIA, all testament to the woolliness promoted by their brand of anarchism.

One gets the feeling that FreeSoc may in part have been protesting against the mere existence of ‘war’ and ‘weapons’, debates that are both incredibly anachronistic (it’s not the 60s any more) and ultimately pointless. Even the most beautifully baked chocolate cake will fail to satisfy man’s insatiable appetite for conflict and killing. FreeSoc, either unclear about its position, or else simply unable to express it, refused an offer from Career Services to present its case to the assembly. Clearly, the great coup, provoking a visit from the police, was enough to render the protest a success, despite leaving students none the wiser about the debate.

I see a subtle yet important difference between Careers Services’ association with DTSL and the issue that arose last year surrounding the University’s investment in BAE systems. The latter was an issue that concerned all students and forced them to decide, as members of the University of York, whether they wanted to be associated with an ethically dubious company. DTSL’s presence in Heslington Hall was not such an issue.

The Careers Service has a duty to provide as much help as possible in finding jobs for graduates. Students must have the power to challenge the ethical policy of the University, but equally the University must refrain from asserting any type of moral agenda onto its students.
The presence of arms manufacturers on campus is a highly charged issue. Clearly most of us would like as little association as possible with such companies, but the debate is complex and multi-faceted. Groups such as FreeSoc simply hijack such issues to feed their narcissistic desire for publicity, and have succeeded in obscuring the debate behind improvised balaclavas and badly drawn banners.

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