Solidarity is the comrade’s slogan. As a budding, if somewhat over-energetic, postgraduate student, he was always engaged in university politics for left-leaning groups. Socialists, greenies, queers, refugees, women … all were worthwhile causes in which to be immersed to one’s eyeballs, and beyond. It was all about the brotherhood, the sisterhood, the queerhood, the greenhood.
As a young lecturer, he was the most faithful at union meetings, even taking up a post every now and then, arguing with management, leading strikes – all for his comrades. He kept up his energetic engagement with politics outside the weird world of academia. Sleep is, after all, a luxury for the ruling class.
Not much time passed before our comrade found himself moving up the ranks, gaining ever more senior positions with significant gravitas. From management’s perspective he was an efficient operator; he was a tough negotiator whose skills might come in handy; he seemed to be able to land grants on trendy topics like one-legged queer cowboys. After all, innovation is the name of the game.
From the comrade’s perspective, this was the chance for which he had been longing. At last, he could exercise power to help other comrades. He would secure funds to appoint more comrades; he would influence selection panels at other institutions in favour of yet more comrades; he would gather a team of comrades to undertake ground-breaking, trail-blazing, cutting-edge research that would change the very terms of debate (on a topic yet to be determined); he would transform the institution from within for a better world – all for the comrades of course.
Until that moment. A job is advertised at another institution, a rather attractive position from anyone’s perspective. One or two comrades there encourage, urge, beg him to apply. Our comrade decides to apply … only to find that another comrade is also applying. What to do? This other scholar is younger, brighter, more promising. Above all, she doesn’t have a position at all, for in the current climate such younger scholars have to scrabble together the bits and pieces of an intellectual life.
So what to do? The comradely act would be to withdraw the application. Does not our comrade already have a position? Well … yes … but … there’s the houses to maintain, the sports-car, the antique clocks, the jet-set lifestyle. And in case you object, no one ever said a lefty couldn’t be rich.
But isn’t she a comrade? Get lost! She’s no comrade, just a competitor. In fact, that upstart, that whipper-snapper hasn’t really shown him the respect due to a leading world authority.
No wonder she hasn’t got a position!
So the ‘comrade’ accepts the position. He still talks the talk, but the walk has gone in a different direction. And for some strange reason he cannot comprehend, all the lesser people, especially the younger ones, have stopped listening.