A lecturer at Sandwell College in the West Midlands has been sacked for writing the words “racist” and “should be illegal” on a poster promoting the government’s so-called counter-terrorism programme, Prevent.
The system is absurdly defined as “a community safeguarding programme”. In reality, the decision by the college to remove David Muritu acts as the final nail in the coffin for any illusions of community and safeguarding that Prevent still clung on to.
Muritu has since stated that “It was a rash act […] but I think the reaction is completely disproportionate.” The way in which the college dealt with the situation is an adequate measure of the true functionality of the government’s strategy.
Not only does Prevent openly operate in a manner that victimises Muslims while defining “extremism” in as broad terms as possible, but it is now being used to draw out and punish the more radical layers of educational staff.
It is no coincidence that David Muritu is the branch secretary for UCU at Sandwell College. In fact, the University and College Union has a history of opposing Prevent, with previous president Liz Lawrence directly condemning the “hatred and xenophobia” that surrounds the programme. As well as this, explicit movements have been made by UCU in attempts to boycott the ineffective system in the past.
Furthermore, UCU’s antagonism comes from the way in which the strategy aims to distort relationships between teachers and their students, fostering an atmosphere of surveillance and scrutiny. The overall intention is to encourage teachers to spy on their students on behalf of the state.
This is evidenced in the experience of a fellow comrade who, by setting up a Marxist reading group in their school, was apparently reported by a student and put on a course to make them more ‘open-minded’. This was in fact a lie and it had been a teacher who had reported this apparent radicalisation all along!
The main objective of such a system is to provide the ruling class with the means to route out dissent in the layers of youth while simultaneously sewing distrust between pupils and teachers. The programme simply perpetuates the same divide-and-rule tactic used by the establishment against the rest of society.
Additionally, the renewed calls to scrap Prevent in light of Sandwell College’s unsolicited actions against David Muritu are warranted as the inefficacy of the programme is displayed time and time again. The core motivation of the system relies on the idea that propaganda is the soul motivator in turning some young people over to Islamic extremism. In actuality this is wishful thinking on behalf of the ruling class, and a fact only accepted if one were to utterly suspend disbelief.
This rogue tactic serves as a way for the ruling class to deflect the blame. Far from putting the crippling effects of austerity and the mass alienation felt by youth under scrutiny, the establishment will continue to play coy, hiding behind abstract notions of propaganda as the greatest threat to young people.
This is not to mention the leading role British imperialism has played in the creation of extremism via cataclysmic intervention in the Middle East. The truth is that Prevent will make no gains in the fight against genuine extremism as it is simply another limb of the vicious state that preceded it.
Furthermore, in defence of their decision a spokesperson from the college has said “Sandwell college takes its government statutory safeguarding and prevent duties very seriously and has the same high expectation of its staff.” All this mealy-mouthed statement reveals is the extent at which the continued marketisation of higher education has left colleges and universities as agents of the state, expecting teachers to simply fall in line with these draconic tactics.
So far, the public support for David Muritu’s reinstatement as well as UCU’s threatening of balloting for strike action is a positive retaliation. Over 5000 people have signed a petition in support of the lecturer meanwhile UCU have stood firm with the threat of strike action if Muritu is not reinstated immediately.
However, this will be the first of many cases. Continued marketisation of education as well as this increasing militancy of both teachers and students will only usher in more attacks from the ruling class. In the face of this we must work together to overthrow the system as the only way to bring an end to the demonic legislation of Prevent.
What is ultimately required is co-ordinated strike action that is aimed at overturning this government. In 2018, when students and workers’ united during the UCU pension dispute – the power of collective action was shown (until stitched up the UCU leadership).
What we need, is the election of a socialist Labour government, that immediately scrap’s prevent and the hostility that it creates while overseeing the socialist transformation of society to destroy the basis from which extremist ideas gain traction.
Kieran Lee, Kent Marxist Society