This weekend, the Congress of the University and College Union (UCU), the main trade union for UK academics, passed a motion which called on the UK government to stop arming Ukraine and noted that Zelensky aimed to make Ukraine ‘an armed, illiberal outpost of US imperialism’.
I very much understand the dilemma you face, and it’s one I have faced with regard to several organisations I have been a long-time member of lately. On the one hand, you watch an institution you used to trust and admire become regressive (all the while congratulating itself for being so progressive). Frankly it feels like the institution has been hollowed out from within, to be a shell of its former self. On the other hand, if you leave - and everyone else like you leaves - then this leaves the organisation in the hands of sharply polarised and polarising people. I am lucky with the NTEU - while it has issues like every academic union seems to these days - it has in the past defended academic members who hold views in opposition to the union’s general approach (I’m thinking of Ridd v JCU, which went to the High Court). So, for the moment, I am staying, for the reasons you identify. I think that solidarity to improve working conditions is very important: I was brought up with a old-style Labor approach. I also think there is something *really* wrong with the way in which academic hiring and incentives operate (as you may guess). But I can’t take a more active role than I already do, like you, because of my family, but also because my health is not good (i.e. hospitalised at least once a year, every year, for operations or pneumonia or asthma over the last 15 years, constant medical treatment required to keep me off walking stick/crutches). It’s all I can do to keep doing my normal duties without falling ill. And the core of what I am is a teacher: that is what matters most.
Thomas, you are not going to win from within. You would be shouted down in an instant. This particular brand of Lefyness is a cult. They have built a religion. Nobody will carefully consider an alternative opinion. It is not like Substack. Heterodoxy in such arenas as you find yourself is proscribed.
There is another angle; in the 1980's I refused to join the NUJ even though I was offered membership by a senior member. I refused because of the criminality with which the union conducted itself and the absurd working practices. They were in cahoots with the print unions. It was a closed shop then which to my mind was an anathema. I may as well signed up to National Socialism. There were a few of us. Bill Bryson, the author, was one and his reasons were pretty much what mine were. You say you have family commitments. That is very important and you can do far more to get good Karma than you ever would by attracting a lot of haters. And besides you must be careful. An American academic, a senior nurse and contributor to some very helpful research lost her career for simply saying 'all lives matter' at the wrong point in history in the wrong place. https://titusarrius.substack.com/p/the-real-neo-mccarthyism.
And if there is the slightest smell of antisemitism, I would be out the door.
There is nothing you can say or do that will influence these people. Why subject yourself?
"This position may have aged poorly" - you're not kidding! If you still think the reactionary shambles that we have had to put up with since 2019 has been preferable to a Labour government under Corbyn, nowadays that is a position that not even the most passionately anti-Corbyn columnists of the Guardian are prepared to take publicly. I have appreciated your writing on academic freedom and the prevalence of low liberalism in public debate, but in this article you are unequivocal in your hostility to socialists in the Labour Party and the trade unions - and as someone a fairly traditional Bennite approach to British politics, that includes me! Before I tip-toe towards the exit door then, I will just leave you with one point to think about: are the right wing in the Labour movement really as 'moderate' and liberal as you think they are? Keir Starmer is not running a pluralist party in any shape or form, and the low liberal current that you have identified is very vocal in its support for the current authoritarian, technocratic Labour leadership. Paradoxical. no?