Sam Gaus, The Inanimate Carbon Rod, and the gender politics of NUS.
I’m disgusted with the witch-hunt that has taken place against NUS Presidential Candidate Sam Gaus, or, as he’s more commonly known, the ‘Inanimate Carbon Rod’. There have been a number of accusations thrown at ICR, most of which I don’t think hold water.
1- It’s a phallic symbol. Yes, yes it is, I guess. Is this really the level of analysis that we’re involved in, though? Oh, it’s called a ‘rod’ so it’s about willy-waving. Except, no. It just reminds me of the fact that my flatmate’s mother wouldn’t let them have Christmas trees when they were younger because such objects are apparently phallic symbols. It’s ridiculous.
2- He’s intentionally running against two strong women. No, he’s not. Back in November, after the pathetic national demo where Liam Burns valiantly took us to South London for the glorious revolution, I had a conversation with Sam. That day had been the straw that broke the camel’s back in terms of our politics. We could no longer tolerate The NUS. We felt it could not be saved, and must be delegitimised as much as possible. We decided a troll slate would be a great idea. At the time, I thought (and I think Sam did too), that Michael Chessum was going to run. Michael is a close friend and political ally to both of us, but that was irrelevant. This has got nothing to do with the candidates, and everything to do with NUS’s structures and political usefulness.
Also, there’s another man running in this election- why are we not talking about that? I feel quite safe in the assumption that it is because his presence does not challenge the orthodoxy of thought in The NUS.
Personally, I want Sam to win. I believe that student unions should disaffiliate from NUS en-masse and establish an alternative, more radical, more democratic union. I want NCAFC to be the basis of this radical new union. I do not think Sam will win, and I think his running serves to seriously delegitimise NUS, which is our primary aim. I guess, then, that if I had a vote, I would second-preference for Vicki Baars, who, over the years, has proven herself as a competent and principled activist. Running against women does not equate to sexism, and I find that accusation particularly sour considering the person running against myself and Rachel Wenstone is an SWP member, Central Committee loyalist and rape apologist. Perhaps we’re not strong women. Perhaps because we’re not running for President we are less important. Perhaps it is not in the right-wing tendency of NUS’s interests to slam Tomas as it is Sam. I’m inclined to say it is the latter two that are the issue.
3- Lots of women have put time, energy and resources into NUS. To mud-sling at it so much disrespects the hard work of those women. I just can not agree with this. Many women before me have shaped the world in which I live. There are many liberties that I take for granted that are the result of their hard work. But, I think, we can never move toward our liberation unless we poke holes in the movements they were part of. Without first and second wave feminism, it’s pretty certain I wouldn’t be writing this blog-post right now. I wouldn’t be standing in this election. I wouldn’t be at University to do so. Without third-wave feminism, my understanding of feminism would probably be white-supremacist and transphobic. I probably would not hold the anarchist politics that I do hold.
Yet, as amazing as these movements were, they had serious issues. The mainstream of the suffrage movement was dominated by wealthy white women (even more so than it is today). Second-wave feminism was lifestylist, sexually repressive and gender essentialist. Third-wave feminism has been known to engage in ableism, and, as is often the case with DIY communities, is again riddled with lifestylism. Contemporary mainstream feminism is not intersectional. We have to criticise even the most liberatory of movements in order to seek any useful insight.
This is why I, despite being a disabled, working-class woman, and so, I think, having a fairly serious understanding of liberation (but by no means without my privilege), think it is important to destroy NUS. I think that NUS structures breed kyriarchy in fact- I think they rely on it. I wish to see a genuinely democratic student movement, where decisions are made on a local basis, where mandates are concrete, where ordinary members are directly involved. I want the student movement to be a revolutionary force, not a step in people’s career-ladder. Getting to this place is of paramount importance to me- even if white men like Sam are helping to get us there.
Joke candidacy undermines the serious women running. I guess we need to redefine what we mean by ‘joke’. Sam’s campaign is tongue in cheek, but it is not a joke. The ideas he holds, and advocates in his candidacy are concrete political ideas. Sam is an anarchist. Sam, like I do, wants the NUS to cease to exist. He wants a revolutionary student movement. He feels, like I do, that whilst NUS is inert, but undeniably powerful, this is difficult to attain.
I sincerely hope that people on all parts of the spectrum take this post seriously. I think the most important thing for us to do right now is explicitly say that we do not support the SWP candidates in this election. We have to make it extremely clear that those who oppress women absolutely are not welcome in the NUS. I don’t think it is legitimate to accuse Sam of this.
Secondly, I hope we can work towards abolishing the NUS. I hope that it is evident that my candidacy is not serious. I do not want to win- I do not want to assimilate into NUS’s bureaucracy. I want us, together, to fight for a genuinely revolutionary student force- the likes of which we see in Chile and Quebec.
I believe, as Tomas (insincerely) says, that education is important to liberation. We all have the right to information. We all deserve an education. We all deserve to develop our ideas, fulfill our inquisitive side and contribute to society, not as capital dictates, but as the needs of our community dictate. I believe that the only way that we can make this happen is by achieving free education. I believe that the only way we can achieve free education is by establishing a new, radical, syndicalist union.
I urge you to vote Sam Gaus #1, Vicki Baars #2 and RON #3.