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19th November 2018

Late University of Manchester professor’s essay flagged by counter-terrorism scheme

The essay, which dealt with the ethics of socialist revolution, was flagged by Prevent at the University of Reading.
Late University of Manchester professor’s essay flagged by counter-terrorism scheme
The University of Manchester Photo: Johsua Poh @Flickr

An academic essay by a former University of Manchester professor has been flagged as “sensitive” under the government’s ‘Prevent’ counter-terrorism programme at the University of Reading.

The essay by the late Professor Norman Geras, titled Our Morals: The Ethics of Revolution, examined the ethics of socialist revolution. It was listed as “essential” reading for a third-year politics module at the University. It rejected terrorism but suggested that violence could be necessary in some cases of social injustice.

Students were advised to only read the content in a secure setting, and to not leave it where it might be found “inadvertently or otherwise, by those who are not prepared to view it.”

Prevent is the government’s anti-radicalisation scheme that aims to flag and divert individuals from terrorism before they are radicalised. The scheme has previously been described as “ineffective and counterproductive” in a report led by Dr Waqas Tufail of Leeds Beckett University.

Dr. Tufail called the case at the University of Reading “hugely concerning”, tweeting that “Prevent is promoting self-censorship and harming academic freedom”.

Second-year History and Politics student Sam Honey asked: “Censorship of articles that clearly do not endorse or provoke terrorist activity shows that the government’s anti-terrorism strategy is becoming increasingly intrusive – would this approach not mean Marxist texts also being plastered with warnings; For giving a narrative of violent uprising against the state?”

A Politics and Modern History student who chose to stay anonymous told us: “Whilst I disagree with Geras’s politics, university should be an environment where you can air a variety of different viewpoints regardless of where you land on the political spectrum.

“Targeting people because of their non-traditional views is dangerous and highlights some of the already known issues of Prevent. However, it is important to stress the importance and need of a counter-terrorism strategy and the government is doing the best it can.”

Professor Geras was a political theorist and Professor Emeritus of Politics at the University of Manchester from 1967 until his retirement in 2003. He wrote prominently on Marxist political thought and was on the editorial board of the Socialist Register from 1995 to 2003. He died of cancer in 2013.

Nicole Wootton-Cane

Nicole Wootton-Cane

Deputy Editor of The Mancunion

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