Anti-ter­ror row over top aca­demic’s essay on so­cial­ism

The Observer - - News - Eleni Courea

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.

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