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Demilitarise Cambridge renews calls for abandoning arms industry ties

Amongst the sea of witty slogans painted on cardboard at their recent protest, Demilitarise Cambridge have a serious message

The Tab went along to Demilitarise Cambridge’s most recent protest (7/3/23) to hear exactly what this serious message is and what their demands are for the University about the relationship between research, funding, and the arms industry. Demilitarise Cambridge have been busy in the last few weeks, penning an open letter to the University, holding a protest on King’s Parade, and publishing a 54-page report called “The Cambridge ‘Academic-Military Complex'”.

The open letter starts with a condemnation of Cambridge’s alleged involvement in the global arms trade. It goes on to describe the movement’s six demands for the university, demands that are also included at the end of their subsequently published report.

Firstly, the organisation demands that the university “stop accepting donations and research grants from military and arms companies.” In addition, they want the university to “cut all arms-related research conducted by the university” and “end formal consultancy and training of arms companies.”

In absence of the research funding for arms-related projects, Demilitarise Cambridge calls on the university to “establish a programme to find alternative modes of funding for researchers” into causes such as climate solutions and renewables.

The group also takes issue with, it claims, the way the university “allows arms companies to target students for recruitment and research, often without full transparency as to what students’ labour and research is intended for.” They coin this the “revolving door of the military-academic complex.”

What exactly is a ‘military-academic complex’ though? Demilitarise Cambridge’s open letter describes it as a relationship that “benefits arms trading companies by giving them access to Cambridge students, academic research, the reputation and legitimacy of Cambridge university, in return for financial benefit to the university.”

The organisation plans to release the number of signatories to their open letter when they formally present the letter to the university. Currently there is no date set for this.

Demilitarise Cambridge’s Alicia Cash addressing protestors (Image Credits: Logan Green)

At their protest on Tuesday afternoon in preparation of releasing their report, they were joined by a number of other related student activist groups. These included the Palestine Solidarity Society, and Freedom From Torture, among others.

Speaking to The Tab at the protest, organiser Alicia Cash claimed Cambridge University “is happy to take billions” from “arms companies with ridiculous human rights violations.” She went on to allege that part of the reason arms companies provide funding to various university departments is to “get access to career fairs” and more generally benefit from Cambridge’s students, academics, and reputation.

When asked about plans for future protests by Demilitarise Cambridge, Cash said “there are a lot of plans, but I can’t give specific details.” What seems certain is that this group of students are determined to make an impact on the intersection of academia and the arms industry.

Immediately after the protest, the group released its 54-page report on the topic, including a foreword from Andrew Feinstein, a former South African politician. Mr Feinstein is a “proud” alumnus of King’s College, ex-MP for the African National Congress, and author of “The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade”.

In his foreword, Mr Feinstein does not mince his words. He claims Cambridge University “has besmirched its reputation and endorsed values of corruption, socio-economic wastage, climate despoilation [sic], and the undermining of democracy and the rule of domestic and international law.”

The University of Cambridge was approached for comment.