TCDSU is the most democratic it has ever been, via grassroots participation

By László Molnárfi 

Sunday 21 April 2024

It is with bewilderment that students read the Trinity News editorial dated 21st of March 2024 accusing the Students’ Union of authoritarian tendencies. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, this year has seen student participation in the union skyrocket and power decentralized, due to the grassroots structures that we created. 

Throughout the year, the union held consistent meetings of the Campaigns Committee, on topics including but not limited to the housing crisis, masters’ fees and period products. This committee has been transformed into a powerful structure within the union. It runs like a town hall, with all students being invited to attend and contribute. As well as this, it has been bestowed with mobilizing capacity via a dedicated group chat, which has over 150 members. Therefore, everything from the issue at hand, our demands as well as the escalation plan of the campaign are discussed. Afterwards, the plan is collectively carried out. In this way, students truly have a say in what our union does, from start to finish. This modus operandi is extremely efficient, with detachments of students, supported by the union, able to carry out collective action. Furthermore, it establishes a bottom-up relationship in which students have a direct lever on the use of the union’s resources. 

This structure broadly mirrors the rest of the union’s successful democratization. We decentralized the union’s power when it comes to advocating for renters on-campus and in Trinity Hall. The establishment of the TCD Renters’ Solidarity Network has allowed the political activity of tenants to mushroom. Over 130 students have unionized. Taking action on rents, the overnight guests policy as well as the exploitative Circuit Laundry, apathy has been replaced by faith in collective action. Also, the National Student Action Group (NSAG) has 110 members and is designed to take national action with decisions being taken in a horizontal way by students from across the country. It is endorsed by 8 student unions, highlighting the grassroots style of leadership as an inspiration throughout the island. This is not to mention the TCD BDS sub-group of the union, which has over 230 members and has been operating autonomously to take direct action forcing our university to cut ties with Israel, resulting in significant engagement from the student body. 

These are avenues of deep participation that are open to the student body, as opposed to the shallow workings of Council. The issue with Council, which is the union’s supreme decision-making body, is that it is confined to passing motions. These motions are broad, symbolic and uncontroversial in nature. Their implementation, which is where real questions of organizing arise, is wholly left to the upper echelons of the union. This cuts off participatory democracy at policy-making, a premature move which leaves students without a say where it matters the most. 

As a consequence of this democratization of the union, it has rapidly shifted to the left, and began practicing the principles of solidarity, radicalism and political action. Arising from this, inevitably as a result of 80% students intending to vote against government parties, is our resistance to the Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil-Greens coalition. This met the institutional barrier of the TCDSU Constitution, which forces apoliticism. The shackles of officialdom have thus come into conflict with the living, breathing and mass student movement that is awakening from its decade-long slumber. A student union should be able to explicitly call out forces who promote policy that is harmful to students and staff. The scripture of the constitution cannot be held per se to show these actions to be undemocratic. 

The support for this direction of the union has been palpable. The collection of over 520 signatures in just 6 days for abolishing the apolitical clause in the constitution has demonstrated support for politicizing the union, alongside a similar motion passing near-unanimously at Council. A poll showed that 77% of students believed that direct action taken by the union this year was effective. Only 27% of students disagree with the statement that the student union represents them. Conversely, right-wing conservatives voices on campus have made feeble attempts but ultimately failed to garner student support for their reactionary agenda. 

Throughout the editorial, a sense of mistaking the form for the content pervades. This is most apparent when it comes to the magical, liberal and apolitical unity in the student movement that the writers profess in the final paragraph. There is, alas, no such thing. Schism, the fracturing of the student movement along ideological tendencies is both an inevitable consequence of its radicalisation and a desideratum as it embodies the rise of political consciousness.  

The walk-out from Council is thus unrelated to vindicating our position in the direction of the union. The belief that the motion of censure will fail was never in question. That much has been demonstrated by mass student support for the union throughout the year. It is, rather, a democratic act in itself. It symbolizes a break with the idea that it is possible for a union to be apolitical. As well as this, it seeks to crush the bureaucratic handbrake that has been imposed on the student movement. Overall, it is the self-organization of the student body into a politically-conscious unit, which has now thrown itself into outright rebellion against the apolitical section of the student movement, as well as senior management and the state. 

Having been elected on a platform of bringing the union back to the grassroots with 56% of the vote in March 2023 following a three-way race, students this year were directly handed the levers of power to the union. We used it to unapologetically advance our interests in solidarity with the workers’ movement. Through showing that fightback is possible, we have begun building a radical student movement, and have seen rising student participation in our campaigns. We are nowhere near the mass movements of the past that saw tens of thousands of students on the streets, clamoring for a better world. The die has, however, undoubtedly been cast, and the re-birth of the radical tendency will be our legacy. In the end, paradoxically, we hope that the same reason we will be remembered is also the same reason that we will be forgotten, becoming a mere footnote in history books; because what we have achieved this year will pale in comparison to what is yet to come.


Why We Call Him “Butcher” Biden

By Nikola B. Karin

Friday 10 November 2023

There is a new name for the 46th president of the United States, Joe Biden. Ironically it harkens to the exact same name Biden tossed at Vladimir Putin right after his invasion of Ukraine1. Throughout Belfast, right after American envoy Joe Kennedy III visited the city, the shouts, “Butcher Biden” filled the air2. At this point, over 7500 civilians had been massacred in Gaza by Israeli forces with American-funded weaponry. The same cries have been heard all throughout Ireland, from major cities to tiny towns to busy streets, it has been whispered in workplaces and shouted out across college campuses. What is especially important to note is that this, however, is not the first sin of “Butcher” Biden, and it is far from his last.

Joe Biden’s Track Record

Joe Biden was elected to the senate in 1972 on an anti-war, progressive platform. But his opposition to the Vietnam war was not based on any sort of loyalty to the working class, or moral outrage, it was a purely calculated position. To Biden, the war was nothing more than “lousy policy.”3

Biden’s lack of moral fibre would become evident quite soon with his hawkishness on the drug war. Joe Biden could in fact be described as nothing less than an architect of the American drug war. Biden constantly criticised president Carter for not taking business as usual in the war on drugs4, and during the 90s authored a major crime bill that would accelerate the war on drugs. Largely as a result of the drug war in America, roughly 2 million Americans are in prison – as a proportion of the population this is the highest in the world. In spite of this, the amount of drug-related deaths in America since the beginning of the war has only increased. It is arguably clear then, that Biden neither has the heart to be in opposition to draconian measures or the brain to be talking about, “lousy policy.”

In 2002, Joe Biden was one of 77 senators to vote in favour of the Iraq war. Over 280,000 have been killed in Iraq ever since the war5. During the war itself, over 150,000 were killed, and the escalation in violence in the region can be placed on the war as well.

While Joe Biden was vice president, the POTUS, Obama escalated the usage of drone strikes by tenfold. In 2016 alone, Obama’s drone strikes in Afghanistan for example, killed over 1000, in Somalia, which America never even declared war on, over 200 were killed6. Over 100 were killed by American drone strikes in Yemen.

Under Obama, weapons sales were agreed upon with Saudi Arabia during its invasion of Yemen. After almost two years in office, despite his thorough lambasting of prince Mohammed bin Salman and his promise he would not cut arms deals with Saudi Arabia7, more arms sales were approved. Over 150,000 have been murdered since the start of the war. 

Biden’s Relationship With Zionism

Joe Biden’s support for Israel is nothing more than a cold and calculated position. In 1986, after praising America’s aid to Israel as one of the best investments ever made, Joe Biden infamously said, “Were there not an Israel, the United States of America would have to invent an Israel.”8 Of course, Israel was also a largely British and European invention of settler colonialism. Regardless, for Biden, all that matters in a deal is that more profits flood in for the war industry, no matter how much blood is needed to oil the wheels. This is clear from the approval of an over 14 billion dollar aid bill to Israel during its terrorist invasion of the statelet of Gaza.

The Plans For Gaza Must Be Opposed

Despite Israel’s increasingly wanton acts of violence in Gaza, the mass bombing of hospitals, of United Nations shelters, of schools, and of even graves (Perhaps the IDF has concluded that using the miraculous technology at their disposal Palestinian fighters have begun recruiting zombies), Biden’s support of Israel has not changed. 

Where Biden has differed on Netanyahu is very important to highlight, as Israel is the junior partner in their bloody alliance. Joe Biden has made comments recently in support of putting the Palestinian Authority in charge of Gaza after the war, saying “There needs to be a Palestinian authority. There needs to be a path to a Palestinian state.”9 Only a day ago, the Palestinian Authority said that they would be interested in playing a role in Gaza if the US properly backs a 2 state solution10

Biden is attempting to paint this as a necessary change to keep “extremists”, such as Hamas out of Palestine. But, we should be absolutely clear, Hamas has become synonymous with the entire opposition force of Palestine. Every single political party, group, etc which is not part of the increasingly isolated Fatah camp has been either branded a terrorist or lumped together with Hamas to paint Palestinians as bloodthirsty Islamists similar to ISIS fighters. Such comparisons are absolutely shameless, we should note that extremists such as ISIS do not even support Palestinian liberation because they do not recognise the moral authority of any modern Arab nations. 

The Palestinian Authority has become an unchecked dictatorship that regularly murders and silences any opposition. Edward Said rang the alarm bells even in the 1990s, describing Arafat as increasingly becoming a dictator11. Fatah has not even won an election for decades, they have roughly the same level of support as Hamas – by no measure of democracy is the Palestinian Authority the body that should be ruling Gaza or anywhere. There has already been an assassination attempt on Abbas since the start of this war and a mutiny by P.A. security forces12. The rank-and-file of Fatah itself is unhappy with Abbas’ and the leadership’s compromising attitude towards Israel, even at this time.

If the P.A. is put into power in Gaza, it will be put into power, once again, as a junior partner of the Zionist regime, it will be put into power upon the mass graves of the entirety of Palestinian political society, ranging from opposition groups within the PLO itself, within Fatah itself, and as well as those outside the PLO. The expansion of settlements will not end, and as the war floats once again into the background, much of the world will forget. Palestinians will suffer as the slow genocide rolls on. There is only one solution: A secular, democratic Palestine, from the river to the sea, and we must vigorously push against Netanyahu or Biden’s plans for Palestine.

  1. Daniel Boffey, Shaun Walker, Philip Oltermann. “Biden: ‘butcher’ Putin cannot be allowed to stay in power,” The Guardian, 27 March 2022. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/mar/26/biden-butcher-putin-cannot-be-allowed-to-stay-in-power
  2. Christopher Woodhouse & Press Association. “There should be ‘no red carpet’ for US Special Envoy in Belfast, Palestine rally told,” Belfast Telegraph, 28 Oct 2023. https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/sunday-life/news/there-should-be-no-red-carpet-for-us-special-envoy-in-belfast-palestine-rally-told/a972496916.html
  3. Jeremy Scahill. “1970S: Vietnam War”, The Intercept 27 Apr 2023. https://theintercept.com/2021/04/27/joe-biden-vietnam-war/
  4. David Stein. “The Untold Story Joe Biden Pushed Ronald Reagan to Ramp up Incarceration Not The Other Way Around,” The Intercept, Sep 17 2019. https://theintercept.com/2019/09/17/the-untold-story-joe-biden-pushed-ronald-reagan-to-ramp-up-incarceration-not-the-other-way-around/
  5. Neta C. Crawford. “Blood and Treasure: United States Budgetary Costs and Human Costs of 20 Years of War in Iraq and Syria, 2003-2023”  Costs of War, Mar 15, 2023. https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/papers/2023/IraqSyria20
  6. Jessica Purkiss, Jack Serle. “Obama’s Cover War In Numbers: Ten Times More Strikes Than Bush,” Jan 17 2017. https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/stories/2017-01-17/obamas-covert-drone-war-in-numbers-ten-times-more-strikes-than-bush#:~:text=Obama%20embraced%20the%20US%20drone,to%2057%20strikes%20under%20Bush.
  7. Jeff Abramson. “Biden Urged to Halt Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia,” November 2022. https://www.armscontrol.org/act/2022-11/news/biden-urged-halt-arms-sales-saudi-arabia#:~:text=At%20the%20start%20of%20his,months%20of%20the%20Trump%20administration.
  8. Middle East Eye. “Joe Biden’s long history of pro-Israel statements.” YouTube, uploaded by Middle East Eye, 21 May 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86Nrv5izaTs
  9. Peter Baker. “Biden Warns Israel Not to Occupy Gaza,” New York Times Oct 15 2023. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/10/15/us/politics/biden-israel-gaza.html
  10. Mark Landler. “Palestinian Authority Open to Gaza Role if U.S. Backs 2-State Solution” New York Times Nov 9, 2023. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/09/world/middleeast/palestinian-authority-gaza.html
  11. Edward Said. “Edward Said interview (1994).” YouTube, uploaded by Manufacturing Intellect, 6 June 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAu-52feMS8
  12. Palestine Chronicle Staff. “24 Hours Ultimatum to Mahmoud Abbas – Who are ‘Sons of Abu Jandal’?” Palestine Chronicle Nov 6, 2023. https://www.palestinechronicle.com/24-hours-ultimatum-to-mahmoud-abbas-who-are-sons-of-abu-jandal/

In a world which really is topsy-turvy, the true is a moment of the false

According to Guy Debord, organiser of the Situationist International (SI) anti-capitalist movement, “in a world which really is topsy-turvy, the true is a moment of the false”. What appears as true is false; what is false is true. We, students, see this everywhere, including in our universities and student unions.

The Far Right and Migrants

The lockdown and pandemic marked a turndown for the working class. After years of stagnation following the water charges, which was briefly interrupted by a militant student movement, the left suddenly found it’s meagre gains completely halted. The far right seemed ascendant – isolation, failures by anti-racist groups and mass proliferation of disinformation on social media resulted in large scale protests by disenfranchised communities against the government’s covid policies. For a short period after the lockdown, the far right seemed to have retreated, but with economic downturn, endless government corruption and mass migration following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the far right made an explosive reveal at Sandwith Street.

Far from an “opportunity”, the Premiership of Liz Truss spells jeopardy for Ireland

By Jack Nolan. On Sunday, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Defence, Fine Gael’s Simon Coveney, remarked on the recent election of Liz Truss as Leader of the Conservative Party and British Prime Minister as “an opportunity to try and reset relationships” between Britain, Ireland and the European Union in the wake of the fallout from the posturing over the Northern Protocol.

Student Unions Must Become Radical or They’ll Become Redundant

The TCDSU is demanding rather than asking; 6 student unions have co-signed an open letter denouncing the government; the USI is calling for a walkout. As this year’s elected student representatives take power, it seems that we are entering a phase of renewed student radicalism. However, it is important to remember what led us trapped in the clutches of moderate, apolitical and weak leadership. Reflecting on his experiences in the student movement in the TCDSU, László Molnárfi wrote this piece a couple of months ago, on the structural factors that lead to the co-optation of student unions.

Addressing the Cost of Living Crisis, and Inequalities in Third-Level Education are a Joint Struggle Facing Young Activists Today

By Jack Nolan. In the midst of the pandemic, and the ensuing global economic crisis in its aftermath, the
latent social and economic inequalities that have plagued Ireland, and indeed the wider
world, have been heavily accentuated by the onset of a grave cost of living crisis.