Anti-terror row over top academic’s essay on socialism
An essay by a prominent leftwing academic that examines the ethics of socialist revolution has been targeted by a leading university using the government’s counter-terrorism strategy.
Students at the University of Reading have been told to take care when reading an essay by the late Professor Norman Geras, in order to avoid falling foul of Prevent.
Third-year politics undergraduates have been warned not to access it on personal devices, to read it only in a secure setting, and not to leave it lying around where it might be spotted “by those who are not prepared to view it”. The alert came after the text was flagged by the university as “sensitive” under the Prevent programme.
The essay, listed as “essential” reading for the university’s Justice and Injustice politics module last year, is titled Our Morals: The Ethics of Revolution. Geras was professor emeritus of government at the University of Manchester until his death in 2013. He rejected terrorism but argued that violence could be justified in the case of grave social injustices.
Waqas Tufail, a senior lecturer in criminology at Leeds Beckett University, described the case at Reading as “hugely concerning”. Another Prevent expert, Fahid Qurashi of Staffordshire University, said the move showed how anti-terrorism
legislation is “being applied far beyond its purview”.
Ilyas Nagdee, black students’ officer for the National Union of Students, said the case again highlighted “misunderstanding of the [counter-terrorism guidance].”
The University if Reading said: "As laid out in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, the university has put policies in place to take steps to prevent students being drawn into terrorism.” One aspect of this is to safeguard staff and students who access security-sensitive materials legitimately.”
Norman Geras rejected terrorism but said violence could be justified.