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Free Speech

Freedom of speech under fire at the London School of Economics

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Freedom of speech is once again a hot topic at UK universities. LSE Class War, a radically left wing new organization and “movement” within the London School of Economics (LSE), has initiated a list of demands from the university. On the face of it, LSE Class War is an old-fashioned leftist outfit, demanding the return of the LSE to its working class roots.

It wants LSE to become “private school free”; institute a lecture series for LSE’s late professor David Graeber, known for his left-wing activism; see a racial quota for the hiring of academics under the pretext of “decolonization”; and a general push against zero-hour contracts, “marketization”, and supposedly regressive conceptions of social mobility.

But these demands have extended to outright aggression towards other societies, in particular HayekSoc, named after liberal economist and philosopher Friedrich Hayek, who taught at LSE for 19 years and won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1974.

The far left see capitalism as irredeemable

In a statement on their social media page, LSE Class War called for “the dissolution of HayekSoc and all other societies that call for the oppression of working class people from the LSESU [LSE Student’s Union].”

“We believe in a no platform policy for those who discuss ideas which promote harmful ideologies that are harmful to marginalized students. LSESU HayekSoc promotes free market fundamentalist views which outwardly call for the oppression of working class people. These kind (sic) of ideas have no place on campus. We also want other societies that promote these views,(sic) to also be dissolved from the LSESU.”

Of course, no platforming has its place in political discussions. The National Union of Students (NUS) introduced a no platform policy in 1974 to stop fascist or racist speakers normalizing hateful and extremist content.

But in the current culture, no platforming no longer applies just to those who call for violence, but has extended to people who simply don’t follow what vocal and aggressive mobs feel is the ideological collective moral crusade.

Even Home Secretary Amber Rudd was cancelled last-minute, and one-time UKIP candidate Carl Benjamin was forced out in a talk with chairman of the board at the Ayn Rand Institute Yaron Brook.

There is no scope for dissenting perspectives or opinions; their interpretation of society should be the only acceptable one. This becomes even more ridiculous when you realize this isn’t government policy, this is a university where teenagers and young adults discuss ideas in an academic context.

Taken to its logical conclusion, we should simply sit in a circle and read Marxist literature until we are morally pure and well learned in the ultimate truth of society, something that I’d wager most people would find rather a bit silly.

Charges against free-market liberals are often hypocritical

In addition to a formal press release by HayekSoc, Maxwell Marlow, president of HayekSoc for two terms and now vice-president, released a statement against the movement for The Spectator:

“This group is, of course, made up of hypocrites. They may be hiding behind amateurish Instagram graphics but if their Marxist and Labour sister societies have anything to show, it’s that a private school education is the perfect credential for being left-wing at universities. 

If they want to make LSE private school free, their self-purging would make Stalin proud. In comparison, three out of four of Hayek Society’s leadership are working-class, state-educated students! For the many, not the fees. We are always happy to discuss our ideas with anyone. 

We know that we don’t need to shut down other people or ideas by force because our arguments are built on rationalism, empiricism, and are victorious simply because we show that freedom is the best antidote to tyranny and malaise. But if you can’t beat ‘em, apparently you should shut ‘em up.”

LSE Class War sees no room for diversity of thought on campus

One might assume the call for abolition was a troll or a tongue in cheek marketing ploy, but it appears LSE Class War took it very seriously. In response to The Spectator articles, the group doubled down, stating they “agree 100%” with the charge that HayekSoc should be abolished, citing that “HayekSoc has no place in our university. The society repeatedly argues for an economy where the working class are oppressed, under hyper capitalist free markets.”

It is clear that many student organizations still have a toxic culture that prevents students from entertaining a wide variety of ideas to further their understanding of the world, and that certain people’s worldviews make them feel entitled to rationalize other ideologies as inherently violent and to force them out.

Ironically enough, there is currently a bill being debated in the UK House of Commons known as the “Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill” in an effort to make freedom of speech enshrined in the University system, and one of the members of the bill committee, Richard Holden MP, is an LSE graduate…

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This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions. If you’re a student interested in presenting your perspective on this blog, send your piece to [email protected], and mention SFL Blog in the email subject line for your chance to be published and be seen!

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