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Daily Archives: November 6th, 2010

The Island


If you tolerate this… Lord Browne and the Privatisation of the Humanities

By Martin McQuillan

The pithily entitled ‘Independent Review of Higher Education Funding and Student Finance’ was published on Tuesday. In short, for those not parochial enough to be concerned by this, it was a committee set up by the previous Labour government, chaired by ex-BP boss John Browne (as one of the many sinecures offered to him, including Chair of the Tate Trustees, in compensation for the homophobia that chased him out of the oil industry, otherwise it would have been him and not Tony Hayward taking the rap for the Deepwater Horizon disaster) charged with considering future funding arrangements for universities and their students in England.

The headlines from the report are that 1. The current cap of £3,290 on student tuition fees should be scrapped in favour of potentially unlimited fees set by universities themselves, 2. The current teaching grant distributed to English universities should be cut by £3.2billion with a 100% reduction for the arts, humanities and social sciences. In effect Browne’s committee (which included the Chief Executive of Standard Chartered PLC, the Head of McKinsey, and two Vice-Chancellors) has at a stroke privatised the arts and humanities in England. The committee recommends that the state should no longer have any investment in these areas and that private individuals who wish to pursue such things at their own cost should pay for them.

It is hard to know where to begin with this. There are no workarounds, no accommodations to be made, no temporary crisis to be endured; this is the nuclear option, total and irreversible wipeout. Now, there is a difference between the publication of a so-called ‘Independent’ Review (Browne has now moved on to his next job advising the coalition government on Whitehall job cuts, and his review has clearly been hijacked to feed the ideological attack on the state currently being pursued by an administration that no one voted for) and how it translates into legislation through the torturous process of what Washington would call ‘the pork barrel politics’ of buying off a Lib Dem back bench revolt. However, there would seem to be little to be hoped for in this regard. What is striking here is not that higher education (and the arts, humanities and social sciences in particular) have been targeted but that they have been the first thing to be attacked and in such a spectacularly ruthless manner. The calculation must be that the news agenda will have moved on next week when everyone is more concerned by the fate of ‘useful things’ like hospitals and fire stations in the Comprehensive Spending Review. And of course, if the ConDems cannot be bothered to fund humanities teaching any more there is very little prospect that they will continue to fund humanities research. ‘The future has been cancelled’, as Graham Allen, writing in the context of Irish cuts, put it recently.

Most people will blame the Conservatives; the Conservatives will hope that most people will blame the LibDems. I do not blame either; I expect nothing else from the guardians of class privilege and their unscrupulous carpet-bagging associates. The people who are to blame for this are the Vice-Chancellors of UK universities (with one honourable exception) who have consistently pressed for an increase in tuition fees in order to maximise the return to their institutions. Tuition Fees used to be called ‘top-up fess’ because they were additional to state funding which had fallen behind the real costs of running universities. However, the short-termism of Vice-Chancellors failed to understand that as soon as fees were introduced the university sector would not only lose its place in the queue for, but its claim entirely on, the public purse. The Browne Report hits Vice-Chancellors with a sucker punch: you can have unlimited fees but you can no longer have public funding.

While science and ‘priority’ subjects will continue to receive a teaching grant the rest of us must fend for ourselves. The people who will be most affected by this is not so-called ‘teaching-focussed universities’ but those so-called ‘elite’, so-called ‘research-intensive’, so-called ‘universities’. Dear reader, I spent 10 years directing research in a Russell Group university, I know how much mediocrity there is out there, wrapped in snobbery and shrouded in utterly bogus ‘missions groups’ which allow ministers to divide and rule the sector through its own vanity. If there is no public funding and no funding council to distribute it then there will be no cap on student numbers for institutions. Humanities departments in ‘elite universities’ will only survive by piling students high and servicing them at low costs. The Browne Report does not set them free to compete with the world’s best universities, it impoverishes them and turns all of the arts, humanities and social sciences in England into teaching-focussed universities. Lets not even get started on what it means for the Art Schools and monotechnics; all advances made in funding of the humanities over the last thirteen years have been put into sharp and irrecoverable reverse.

I could make a defence of the worth of the humanities but if legislators cannot recognize their value from the outset then no words here will persuade them. Nor will I make the obvious case for the social mobility afforded by a university education—as if a Conservative-lead administration gave two figs for the education of the lower orders. However, the fundamental reason to oppose tuition fees of any kind is that those who benefited from a free higher education as a democratic right should not when in government (as a result of that free higher education) tell future generations that they must now take on mortgage-sized debts to pay for the same privilege. How this is ‘progressive and fair’, as our politicians like to say, is a mystery. One should not just resist this situation; it has to be refused utterly.

Distracted by the chimera of RAE results and QAA inspections, academics in the United Kingdom have not had the best track record in saying no to government in the last twenty years, but if this does not rouse us nothing ever will. And if it can happen in England it will without doubt be rolled out across Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Europe, and Australia. This is a culture war in which critical thought is threatened with extinction. It is time to stop writing the monograph on the footnotes of Henry James, drop the myth of ‘research’ and ‘teaching’ institutions, and do something quickly to save everything any academic worthy of the name holds dear.

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Presentation by Michael Lebowitz, Professor Emeritus, Economics Department, Simon Fraser University.

“Workers Control, Workers Councils and the Social Economy” presented 10 August 2009 at ALCASA in Ciudad Guayana in the state of Bolivar (on the occasion of the anniversary of the Workers School for Political Formation, ‘Negro Primero’), translated by Federico Fuentes. ALCASA is the state aluminum company, currently functioning under workers control and a key part of the ‘Socialist Plan for Guayana.’ Among those present was Elio Sayago, elected president of ALCASA by the workers this year.

Watch the video:



Friday, November 5
7 p.m.
OISE, 252 Bloor St. West, Room 2-212
St. George Subway Station

South of the Border (2010, 78 min.), is a film directed by Oliver Stone. Writer for the project Tariq Ali calls the documentary “a political road movie”. The film has Stone and his crew travel from the Caribbean down the spine of the Andes in an attempt to explain the “phenomenon” of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, and account for the continent’s recent leftward tilt. Cuba Consul General Jorge Soberon and Venezuela Deputy Consul General Aura Samira will comment on the film, followed by an open discussion.

The film will be preceded by a brief introduction, and will be followed by a commentary and an open floor discussion period. Everyone welcome. $4 donation requested.
Please visit: or call 416–535-8779.



Tuesday, November 2
12 pm-1:30 pm (ET)

About C2D2: C2D2 is a community of individuals and organizations dedicated to the creation and sustainability of vibrant communities, businesses, governments, not for profits and learning institutions through the good practice of dialogue, deliberation, collaborative action and decision-making processes. We believe that thoughtful and participatory planning and collaborative sense making must involve multiple and diverse interests (citizen, expert, civic, business and community voices).

About The Evaluation Project: The C2D2 community is hosting a national conversation about evaluating dialogue and deliberation. The goal of this effort is to strengthen practice through more work on evaluation.

The dial-in number and code are:

Local dial-in: 613-960-7516
Toll Free Dial-In : 1-877-413-4792
Conference ID – 3933472
Documents like the agenda will be added to this link before the teleconference:



Monday November 8
6 to 9 pm
CUPE 4400: 1482 Bathurst St, Suite 200, Toronto
**On-Site Childcare and Food Provided

Join us for the Raise the Rates & Special Diet Campaign Educational

Join CUPE members for an educational on the Raise the Rates and Special Diet Campaign to get the word out in our workplaces about why raising social assistance rates is a workers issue and what can be done to take this issue on.

For more information, contact: 416-596-7927 /

CUPE Ontario: Save the Special Diet and Raise the Rates:

CUPE Ontario Statement on the Special Diet Allowance:




By Duncan Cameron,

The focus needs to be on building a new economy, not shoring up capitalism through fiscal policy. De-legitimizing capital as the source of all wisdom about how to run the world is the first task.

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The “mancession” narrative is based on a divisive argument which skews the facts.

Read more:



by Eric Mang,

The phrase most often used to describe the ascension of Ford is “voter anger.” This rage against the machine may have blinded many Ford supporters as to the character and measure of this man.

Read more:



In Immigration: For Young Citizens, author Tom Kent argues that immigration to Canada is in chaos. The federal government’s response to the problems has been to shuffle much of its responsibility to provincial governments and to employers recruiting for ostensibly temporary work. In the resulting confusion, the national purpose for immigration is lost. Some easements, such as better settlement services and language upgrading, are widely urged but little done. At best, they are only band-aids. Fundamental changes are needed. Kent offers 12 suggestions.

Download the report:



Each fall, Canadian community foundations from the Atlantic to the Pacific prepare local report cards for, and about, their communities. Like an annual check-up, each Vital Signs report looks at how one community is doing across many aspects of quality of life. What makes for ‘good’ quality of life varies from one community to another. Each Vital Signs report reflects this diversity, tracking the measures that are important to each community.

On October 5, 2010, Vital Signs reports were issued in 15 communities:

Calgary, Hamilton, Kingston, London, Lunenburg County, Medicine Hat, Montreal, Ottawa, Red Deer, Saint John, Sudbury, Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, and Waterloo Region.

About Vital Signs: Vital Signs is an annual community check-up conducted by community foundations across Canada that measures the vitality of our cities, identifies significant trends, and assigns grades in at least ten areas critical to quality of life. Vital Signs is based on a project of the Toronto Community Foundation and is coordinated nationally by Community Foundations of Canada.

For more detail, see our local reports here:



Head: Peter Sawchuk
Co-ordinator: D’Arcy Martin

The Centre for the Study of Education and Work (CSEW) brings together educators from university, union, and community settings to understand and enrich the often-undervalued informal and formal learning of working people. We develop research and teaching programs at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (UofT) that strengthen feminist, anti-racist, labour movement, and working-class perspectives on learning and work.

Our major project is APCOL: Anti-Poverty Community Organizing and Learning. This five-year project (2009-2013), funded by SSHRC-CURA, brings academics and activists together in a collaborative effort to evaluate how organizations approach issues and campaigns and use popular education.

For more information about CSEW, visit:


‘I believe in the afterlife.

It starts tomorrow,

When I go to work’

Cold Hands & Quarter Moon, ‘Human Herbs’ at: (recording) and (live)

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

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Economic Crisis


Dear colleagues

Please find below information on the 14th Berlin Roundtables on Transnationality on the topic “Financialization and Everyday Life.” We kindly ask you to circulate this information among potential candidates (students, PhD candidates and post-docs to a maximum of five years after the PhD).

Thank you!!

Essay Competition – Conference – Research Grant

14th Berlin Roundtables on Transnationality, 25 – 29 June 2011
“Financialization and Everyday Life”

Based on an international essay competition, up to 30 applicants will be invited to discuss their research with prominent scholars at one of Europe’s leading research institutions. Cost for travel and accommodation in Berlin will be covered by the Irmgard Coninx Foundation.

The conference will be divided into two workshops:

Workshop I ‘Deconstructing Credit and Money in Neoliberalism: Power, Culture, and History’ chaired by Jane Guyer (Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University) and Susanne Soederberg (Global Development & Political Studies, Queen’s University, Canada) and

Workshop II ‘Financialization and Corporate Social Responsibility: Consumers and Investors as the New Policymakers?’ chaired by Boris Holzer (Sociology, University of Bielefeld) and Bryane Michael (Economics, Stockholm School of Economics)

For further information please visit our homepage and the background paper at:

Deadline for essay submission: 27 March 2011

Among the conference participants, an international jury will award up to two three-month fellowship to be used for research in Berlin. The grant includes a monthly stipend of 1,000 € plus appropriate accommodation.

For inquiries please contact us:  

Irmgard Coninx Stiftung
c/o Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin
für Sozialforschung
Reichpietschufer 50
D-10785 Berlin
Phone: +49 30 25491-411
Fax: +49 30 25491-684

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IV Seminar Cemarx – UNEB

Civilization Crisis or Crisis of Capital?
Date – 09 to 12 November 2010

Venue – Auditorium Aduneb
Campus of the University of Bahia-UNEB, Brazil:

Day 09:11:10
Opening conference – 14:30
The Marxist Reflection About the Current Impasses
Prof. Virginia Fontes (UFF / Fiocruz)

Day 10:11:10
Table 01 – 14:00
State, Power and Social Conflicts

Milton Pinheiro (UNEB / PUC-SP)
Jairo Pinheiro (UNESP)

Day 11:11:10
Table 02 – 14:00
Imperialism, Globalisation and Crisis

Sofia Manzano (USJT / UNICAMP)
Marcelo Fernandes (UFRRJ)
Muniz Ferreira (UFBA)

Day 12:11:10
Table 03 – 14:00
Civilization or Barbarism

Mauro Iasi (UFRJ / ICP)
Lúcio Flávio R. de Almeida (PUC-SP)
Osmar Moreira (UNEB)

Promotion: Cemarx / Uneb

Sponsor: Institute Caio Prado Jr. (ICP) and CMMG


Milton Pinheiro (Uneb)
Muniz Ferreira (UFBA)
Ricardo Moreno (Uneb)

Release of books and magazines:

Brasil e o capital-imperialismo
Virginia Fontes
Ed EPSJV / UFRJ Editora Fiocruz and

Outubro e as experiências socialistas do século XX
Milton Pinheiro (Org.)
Ed Quarteto

Revista Novos Temas (ICP)
Number 02

Revista Lutas Sociais (NEILS)
Number 24

For more details:

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A film by Patrick Keiller

With Vanessa Redgrave as the Narrator

In cinemas from 19th November 2010

(UK 2010 | 101 mins | Cert U)

Robinson in Ruins is the eagerly awaited sequel to Patrick Keiller’s earlier two films London and Robinson in Space. Narrated by Vanessa Redgrave, this cinematic essay intriguingly blends fiction and documentary, taking us on a tour of the English landscape against the backdrop of our current economic predicament and looming environmental catastrophe…

References to the Captain Swing riots of 1830, Shelley, Marx, the opium poppy fields of Oxfordshire and the war in Afghanistan all serve to make this a timely, provocative film, studded with surreal humour.

Intellectually stimulating, mysterious and beautiful, Robinson in Ruins makes us consider the world around us afresh.

For more information and to watch the trailer, visit:

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Socialism and Hope


Fighting Back: Rebuilding Our Movements, Renewing the Left
2010 Solidarity Northeast Educational Conference
Friday, Nov. 19 – Saturday, Nov. 20, New York University

Sponsored by Solidarity: A Revolutionary Socialist, Feminist and  Anti-Racist Organization and the Radical Film and Lecture Series (NYU)

Conference website (Schedule, Logistics, Speakers and Registration):

Pre-registration is strongly encouraged so we can anticipate childcare, housing and catering needs. If you have any questions, send an email to

Download a promo leaflet for the conference here:

Confirmed speakers include:

David McNally (New Socialist Group, Canada)
Gilbert Achcar (Fourth International; Author of Arabs and the Holocaust)
Paul Street (Author of Empire’s New Clothes)
Cinzia Arruzza (Solidarity, New School)
Adriana Mulero (Comité de Estudiantes en Defensa de la Educación Pública, CEDEP; Unión de Juventudes Socialistas-Movimiento Socialista de Trabajadores, Puerto Rico)
Blanca Misse (Student Worker Action Team, University of California-Berkeley)
Bill Zoda (Philadelphia Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals)
Steve Downs (Transport Workers Union Local 100)
Wes Strong (Defend Public Education)
Adaner Usmani (Labour Party Pakistan)

*Organizational affiliations listed for identification purposes only

Solidarity and the Radical Film and Lecture Series bring you a weekend of discussion regarding the key issues that radical activists face today, as capitalism enters the third year of a profound crisis that has presented stark challenges to social movements and left organization.

Both the left and the ruling class struggle to find strategies that will see their side through the crisis, while workers and the oppressed continue to pay for the economic crisis and the endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But even as the crisis has exacted enormous cost from the working class and its organizations, popular struggles have emerged that we can not only celebrate but also learn from—that’s what this weekend is about. Drawing lessons and inspiration from the strikes and struggles that have marked this period and charting our course in a difficult political terrain.

Join us for a weekend of debate and discussion about where movements have gone in the wake of the biggest crisis in seventy years, the role of the anti-capitalist left in rebuilding mass movements that can win—and the political renewal that is necessary for left politics to become relevant in a world marked by the resurgence of the right.

Conference Program

Main Sessions:

Two Years In: Socialist Activists and the Crisis
Obama’s America: Resistance at Home and Abroad
Rebuilding the Movements, Renewing the Left

The conference will also feature workshops on The Labor Movement • Defending Higher Education • Public Sector Fightback • The Rise of the Right and more

Lunch and coffee breaks will be provided by the conference organizers and are included in registration costs.

Free housing, childcare and meals provided.

Travel subsidies available for Solidarity members and friends in the Northeast region

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