No Niche for Nietzsche at University College London

Last week the Universtiy College London student government, UCL Union (UCLU), issued a statement upholding a March 2014 ban on the “Nietzsche Club,” formerly “Tradition UCL.” The ban was implemented on the grounds of the Club being a “far-right” organization.

The Union believes “that there is no meaningful distinction to be made between a far-right and a fascist ideology.”

If we follow the Union’s example and categorize isms into left and right, fascism, socialism, nazism (National Socialist German Workers’ Party) and Marxism are properly movements of the left. Why? They all have one fundamental thing in common at their core: collectivism.

Of the many things you can call Nietzsche, a collectivist is not one of them. Fascist is also a stretch. As The Telegraph reported,

Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche, who went on to become a prominent supporter of Adolf Hitler, systematically falsified her brother’s works and letters, according to the Nietzsche Encyclopedia.

 

Christian Niemeyer, the publisher, said he wanted to clear the revered thinker’s reputation by showing the “criminally scandalous” forgeries by his sister had tainted his reputation ever since.

 

“Förster-Nietzsche did everything she could – such as telling stories about Nietzsche, writing false letters in the name of her brother, and so on – to make it seem that Nietzsche had been a right-wing thinker like herself,” he told The Daily Telegraph.

 

“It was she who created the most destructive myth of all: Nietzsche as the godfather of fascism.”

When reading, listening to and debating with people of the Left, I’ve noticed (unoriginally) that they tend to think in images and slogans. Fascism is not any set of ideas, but merely the image of boots – that are not on their feet – marching down the street. The image of a man from the opposing gang at a podium saying mean things. It’s the image of the image of it. The motion to the Union council states that the philosophers the group was organized to study “are on the extreme-right, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, homophobic, anti-Marxist, anti-worker and have had connections, direct or indirect, with Italian fascism and German Nazism.”

Direct or indirect connections? Well, that’s that then. It’s amazing they can with straight faces be as specific as accusing them of being anti-Marxist (which they probably are, but so what?) and anti-worker (I’ll believe they work when I see it). The seconder of the motion, Timur Dautov, is president of the University College London Marxist Society. They have essentially admitted they can’t intellectually defend themselves and will use force to silence opposition. Consider the Union’s resolutions,

1. To ban and otherwise prevent the installation of any further publicity of this group around UCLU buildings, and to urge UCL to adopt the same policy in the university buildings.

 

2. To prevent any attempts by this group to hold meetings and organise events on campus.

 

3. To reject any attempts by this group to seek affiliation and official recognition from UCLU as an official club or society.

 

4. To commit to a struggle against fascism and the far-right, in a united front of students, workers, trade unions and the wider labour movement, with the perspective of fighting the root cause of fascism – capitalism. Thus, the struggle is to be united under the programme of a socialist transformation of society.

Among the crimes of the Nietzsche Club were to put up posters around campus that read “Too much political correctness?” and “Equality is a false God.” Yet the UCLU sees no issues with the UCL Marxist Society where “we aim to intervene in the political life of the campus and of the wider student movement” and “our aim is to educate ourselves in Marxist theory, campaign to build the forces of Marxism, and, ultimately, to struggle for socialism. We host weekly discussion meetings, lectures and debates on history, politics, economics and philosophy from a Marxist perspective, as well as reading groups, where we study classic works of Marxism, and film screenings.”

Hey, I heard of another interesting group where…oh wait, nevermind.

The Union also believes “that this group may have connections to the wider fascist movement and other organised groups, specifically those groups using the name ‘Radical Traditionalism’ to describe their ideology, such as the ‘Traditionalist Youth Network’, and the ‘Traditional Britain Group.'”

Meanwhile at the UCLU’s Marxist Society page you’ll see that they openly say “we are officially affiliated to the Marxist Student Federation, which unites and co-ordinates the Marxist societies on a national level. If you seek learn more or join the MSF, contact a representative of the UCLU Marxists or visit the Federation website: http://marxiststudent.com

As the website Legal Insurrection noted,

The fact that bad people have read, appropriated, or misappropriated Nietzsche is an incredibly weak reason to ban people from organizing to study his work.

 

Nietzsche is even taught — in a course! — at UCL. Michael Ezra points out:

 

It seems to me a small political step from UCLU wishing to ban the Nietzsche Club to wishing to march into UCL’s libraries, pulling books written by Nietzsche from the shelves, and burning them. At any rate, one wonders what UCLU wish[es] to do with UCL’s own academic departments that teach Nietzsche on accredited courses for students. Does the Student Union wish to close down the courses and hound the lecturers from the College?

As of this writing, the UCLU policy page on fascism and racism – the crimes for which the Nietzsche Club is accused of – is “under maintenance.”

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