More than a hundred students and NCAFC members gathered in Sheffield this weekend for NCAFC’s 2015 winter conference. The focus of the conference was on co-ordinating the student movement’s response to the government’s attacks on student support and its renewed attempts to privatise higher education, with a new Higher Education Green Paper being published in November.
The conference happened in the middle of a busy autumn, with numerous days of action – and just over a month after NCAFC’s big national free education demo, which brought 10,000 people to London. The student movement is now gearing up for another term of struggle, with a national student strike ballot being prepared.
The formal resolutions that NCAFC conference made (listed in full below) came out of the motions debate on Sunday. In addition to these debates and discussions, NCAFC conference also hosted meetings of the Liberation sections (LGBTQ, Women, Black and Disabled), academic sections (FE, postgrad and international) and the regions.
These democratic sessions were complemented with a large number of workshops, plenary discussions and informal meetings throughout the conference. You can view the full list of workshops here, and a full report of them all will be published in due course.
A new national committee was elected at conference:
‘Block of 14’ general positions:
- Alex Rossetti
- Amanda Shaylor
- Andy Warren
- Ben Towse
- David Mcnerlin
- Deborah Hermanns
- Hattie Craig
- Hope Worsdale
- Jack Chadwick
- Jamie Sims
- Luke Elliott
- Sam Pickering
- Shula Kombe
- Tom Robinson
- Masie Sanders and Zoe Salanitro
- Raquel Palmeira and Callum Townsend
- Rida Vaquas
- Tanju Cakar and Fi Halfacre
- Ana Oppenheim
- Sahaya James
- Callum Cant and Jess Paterson
- Monty Shield
South West rep
- Zac Muddle
South East rep
- Jakob Tyson and Yesha
- Jenny Killin
West Midlands rep
- Luke Dukinfield
North and Yorkshire rep
- Josh Berlyne
Acting on policy passed at last year’s conference, we also directly elected a Safer Spaces Committee for the first time. This consists of four directly elected members and one member appointed by each Liberation caucus. The four directly elected members are Deborah Hermanns, Helena Dunnett-Orridge, Andy Warren and Katie Lewis. Details of the full committee will be posted when we’ve confirmed the Liberation reps.
POLICY AND RESOLUTIONS
The following is the policy approved by NCAFC Annual Conference 2015. The motions below have been amended to reflect successful amendments at conference.
Section 1 | Constitutional Amendments
Motion 1 | Abolishing Group Seats on the National Committee
- That at NCAFC Conference in 2014, a proposal to abolish local group seats on the National Committee won majority support, but narrowly failed to achieve the two-thirds support needed to amend the constitution
- The ability for local groups, not just individuals, to take seats on the National Committee (NC) has failed as a system since it was introduced in 2013.
- These group delegate seats raise problems for democracy and accountability.
- They make the elections less democratic and more apolitical. NCAFC members at conference can vote for individuals on the basis of their different political ideas of the NCAFC, ensuring that different political tendencies are fairly represented within the NC via an STV voting system – but you cannot vote for a local group on a clear political basis unless you pretend that local groups are basically politically homogeneous and relatively unchanging. In reality the basis of the elections then tends to become more apolitical or clique-based.
- This raises the question – to whom is the NC accountable? These delegates are supposed to be accountable to their local groups – so they cannot be properly accountable to the wider membership of NCAFC, unlike individual members who can be held accountable to the politics on which they ran for election.
- These delegate seats mean that rather than the whole membership (via conference) being represented by the NC, instead a small number of local groups are given disproportionate power. Those members who happen to be in local groups that for whatever reason don’t get delegate seats elected, or isolated outside sustained groups, are less well-represented.
- The system of group delegates has been little used since being introduced, and where it has been used has rarely worked well in terms of being able to involve the whole group deeply and consistently in decision-making. This is not an easy system to make work unless a group is, and consistently remains, large, well-established and sustained in activity.
- The best way for the NC to be democratic, fairly representative and accountable to the whole membership of the NCAFC is for our elections to be as political and direct as possible. Individuals should stand and be elected on the basis of their ideas, their proposals and their activist work.
- There are better, more consistently democratic ways for activists and groups on the ground to participate in decision-making continuously between conferences. We should make more use of the new web forum to discuss issues, and we should develop our regional sections which could allow different activists and groups to meet more regularly and feed up and down.
- When it becomes necessary to bring new individuals into the private discussions of the NC between conferences (e.g. the central organisers of last month’s demo) the more consistent and democratic way to let that happen is for the NC to vote to let them be non-voting observers.
- To amend Section 4.B.2. of the NCAFC constitution as follows so that the block of 14 seats on the NC must be taken by individuals:
“The National Committee consists of:
- 14 members, or affiliated groups elected by single transferable vote (with 40% of the places reserved for women)
- 1 voting representative for each Liberation Campaign (which can be shared)
- 1 voting representative for each Region or Nation (which can be shared)
- 1 voting representative for each Section (which can be shared)
- Affiliated groups can offer themselves as candidates for election to the National Committee, as either an ‘open place delegate’ or as a ‘women-only delegate’. They will then stand in the election along with the other individual members, in either the ‘open’ section or the ‘women-only’ section.
For the election count the group shall be considered as a normal candidate. If the candidate is a ‘women-only delegate’ it shall be counted towards the reserved places for women. If it is an ‘open place delegate’ it shall not.
If the delegate place is elected the group will be able to fill that seat with a recallable delegate as it sees fit. If the delegate place is ‘women-only’ then the delegate must be a self-defining woman.
Where a vote is shared, the representatives present must come to a majority view of how to vote; if not, they must abstain.
Sections and Regions are self-organising groups, and exist once they are recognised by the NC.
Any NCAFC member may attend NC meetings, and the NC can invite others if it wishes to. The NC can establish working groups of whoever it wants to take on various projects.”
Motion 3 | Opening up NCAFC to all its members: Better campaigns, less burnout
Due to an amendment, this motion does not amend the constitution.
- We currently have a major problem with individuals doing too much work and burning out.
- We are all volunteers and the NC is often overstretched.
- We have always had a problem with the gap between the membership and the NC.
- We have lots of members who are not “in cliques” and friends with people on the NC.
NCAFC further believes:
- Attempts have been made to bridge the gap and get members more involved through the membership Loomio. While this has been an improvement, it isn’t enough on its own.
- NCAFC would be a much stronger organisation if hundreds of people would be working on stuff.
- We need to find ways for members to get more involved not just in discussions but in actual organising.
- Individual members cannot be held accountable in the same way as NC members.
- We should not attempt to dissolve the NC: we need a body of democratically accountable people who have the power to react effectively to events in between conferences.
- The constitution allows the NC to create working groups that include non-NC members to handle various projects but this power could be used more. Most of our outward-facing projects could be carried out by such working groups.
- Each task is different and we should not be too rigid or formalistic about how working groups form, function or are used, as long as the NCAFC’s political work remains democratically accountable through being overseen by the NC, who retain ultimate responsibility between conferences.
- To instruct the NC to make more extensive use of working groups, assigning them to carry out as many of our projects is appropriate and practical. These working groups must be accountable to the NC, which will be able to decide their size, scope and membership, and retain the power to create, alter and dissolve them.
- To thoroughly advertise the possibility of volunteering to join these working groups to active members.
- Each working group needs to include at least one NC member, accountable for bottom-lining its work, who should report to the NC and the membership as appropriate.
Section 2 | The Green Paper and the Student Strike
Motion 4 | Fight the Green Paper
- That the Secretary of state for Business, Innovation and Skills presented a green paper to Parliament for consultation entitled Fulfilling Our Potential: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice. Also known as the “HE Green Paper”.
- That the Green Paper is a statement of intent of the Government’s reforms to higher education and is likely to result in a Government bill that will be presented to Parliament and voted on.
- The Green Paper sets out the following reforms/changes :
- Tuition fees will increase in line with inflation from 2017.
- The introduction of a Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF)
- The possibility of variable tuition fees across institutions that can rise above inflation if universities meet certain criteria in the Teaching Excellence Framework.
- The rising of tuition fees will no longer require a vote in Parliament but can instead be approved by the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.
- Increased private sector involvement by making it easier for private providers to enter the ‘market’, award degrees, and compete with existing universities.
- Creating a structure to allow universities to ‘exit’ the sector by closing. The HE Green Paper states that the proposed changes would bring an increased likelihood that a provider may need to “exit” . The abolition of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) and creation of a new single regulator, the Office for Students.
- The exemption of Universities from the Freedom of Information Act
- Students’ Unions are mentioned directly in the context of the Government’s reforms to Trade Unions that have weakened the ability of Trade Unions to campaign and take industrial action
- The Green Paper seeks the public’s’ views “on the role of students’ unions and what further steps could be taken to increase transparency and accountability to individual members.” 
- The government consultation period is still ongoing. We printed 10,000 big postcards directed at Jo Johnson which activists across the country have started filling out.
- A working group has already been set up to write a proper policy response to the Green Paper
- The student strike is set to take place on the 22nd and 23rd of February
- Because of various timing issues, we are behind schedule with SUs triggering the ballot.
- Whenever we have organised national demos, individuals in NCAFC have had to make it their full-time job to organise them
- A motion was passed at summer conference to have a paid NCAFC organiser, but that this hasn’t happened so far because of a lack of funds and organisation
- That the proposals will radically change the structure of HE.
- That the HE Green Paper will be disastrous for higher education in the UK.
- That the HE Green Paper is irremediable.
- The Freedom of Information act is an essential tool for holding universities to account by students and student media.
- That the Green Paper attempts to depoliticise the rising of fees and removes the accountability for fee rises from Parliament.
- The Government is proposing a structure which expects some universities to close. The HE Green Paper sets Universities up to fail by making them compete in a market and will allow institutions to fail, to the detriment of the students and staff, and the reputation of the sector.
- That the HE Green Paper, in combination with the removal of maintenance grants and the wider government higher education policy, is catastrophic for higher education.
- That we have seen a barrage of attacks to education since 2010, but that this is the worst yet.
- The Green Paper presents policies in a convoluted and confusing way. It is important that every student understands them.
- Engaging in the government consultation is worthwhile to the extent that it teaches people what is going on, and practices arguments.
- NCAFC should develop a long term strategy to beat the HE reforms which includes but is not limited to the student strike, and also includes mass national actions which could be coordinated should the strike ballot fall.
- The student strike is the best form of action to oppose the government’s agenda, but it also requires a lot of time and organising
- A balloting period for the strike needs to start in the first days of February in order to give enough time to build for the strike
- It would be best to ballot student unions for the strike through NUS
- The Green Paper should be a priority of our campaigning, but so should Grants Not Debt. However, we must also acknowledge that we are an organisation run by volunteers on a shoestring budget and therefore we do not have the capacity to run several large scale campaigns at once.
- To oppose the HE Green Paper
- To build towards student strike action against the Green Paper.
- To make fighting the Green Paper a priority of our campaigning up until the vote in Parliament.
- To lobby the NUS to call and organise a national demo in March against the Green/White paper and along the resolves of the student strike
- Over the next month, we should prioritise getting the postcards filled out and getting the policy document written
- To organise an action in the last week of the consultation where we “present” our responses.
- To organise a speaker tour on the Green paper and the student strike in January
- To immediately make it a priority to:
- Find the funds to pay a strike organiser for 6 weeks (according to the conditions the motion set out at summer conference)
- Find someone to take the lead on the strike organising who will work on it full time between the 11th of January and the 23rd of February. The strike organiser should be found over the Christmas holidays and should be instructed and their job details, which should be clarified at the NC meeting in January.
- If it becomes clear that we will not be able to get NUS to call for a ballot to start in early February, the NC should make a decision as early as possible choosing from the following options:
- To have the strike without the NUS and run ballots locally
- To just make the 22nd and 23rd days of action
- To call the whole strike off
- In order to plan for this contingency, the model motion should be adapted so that it says that in case an NUS ballot doesn’t happen a local ballot will be called.
- We should continue to raise the slogan Grants Not Debt on social media and include it as part of our wider campaign against the Green paper
- We should lobby NUS to make their campaign around maintenance grant cuts more diverse and inclusive of direct action and make interventions of this kind in any NUS-called days of action around the issue.
- To call a congress of a coalition of striking union keen to act on their mandates
- To put forward a boycott of the National Student Survey, as a way of removing one metric from the TEF and as a tactic to defeat the HE paper in general. This would include a recommendation for everyone to fill in zeros, or to boycott outright. We will raise this as a tactic for NUS to take up in an NEC motion.
- To approach UCU branches to potentially develop a joint strategy against the HE paper.
- To assign a member of the NC to investigate methods of stalling the HE paper through parliament.
- The NC should gather in January 2016 to call local groups and campaign for a speaker tour
- We should seek celebrity endorsements and performance to promote campaign slogans we agree at conference.
- We call on Jeremy Corbyn to make the higher education paper a major issue at a series of PMQs in advance of the balloting period.
- The NC will write proper guidance for staff on what to do on strike day.
- To open a discussion on a rent strike in 3rd term.
Motion 5 | A clear line on the HE Paper
- It is necessary to present the government’s package of attacks contained within the HE Green Paper as just that: a specific project, taking place within a specific time-frame, rather than as a continuation of a previous set of trends or policies.
- We are not helped in this by the fact that the government’s project for higher education will change its name from the Green Paper, to the White Paper, before finally becoming a Bill.
- We should resolve this problem by calling the government’s slipperily-named legal package “The Higher Education Paper” and using that label consistently, through the Green and White stages of its life.
- As a result of an emergency National Committee (NC) meeting and follow-up discussions on the NC, it was decided to use the slogan: Save education before it’s murdered by the market.
- The NC was not able to decide on a hashtag. Suggestions included: #EducationInCrisis, #SaveEducation, and #EducationNotForSale
- The NC agreed that the strike demands would be:
- That tuition fees are not increased, and that the power to raise them undemocratically is not handed over to the Secretary of State.
- That the Teaching Excellence Framework, which will only further harm education, pressuring and overburdening academics and workers in an already intense climate of uncertainty, is scrapped.
- That increases in the cost of education for the poorest and most vulnerable students are halted: that cuts to Disabled Students’ Allowance and cuts to maintenance grants are reversed, and that student loan repayment conditions are not worsened.
- That all cuts to further and adult education since 2015 are halted and reversed.
- Having a catchy and political slogan and hashtag (such as #grantsnotdebt) is very important
- We should decide on the framing of the campaign (i.e. slogan, hashtag) now and use this for everything and the strike should fit in with all of this
- To put the demands of the strike on all our propaganda and make them the demands of the campaign against the Green Paper as whole rather than just the strike
- To reserve the input for the NC to decide upon a specific hashtag to campaign under at a later stage.
Motion 6 | Facing challenges in the strike against the HE paper
- We welcome the NUS NEC’s call for a yes vote in a strike against government attacks. This call, made by the elected leadership of the union, is a major step forward.
- The NUS bureaucracy – unelected staff, unelected SU managers, and rightwing cliques within the NUS structures at different levels – can be expected to try to sabotage the fight for a yes vote.
- The poor state of SU organisation is a consequence of, and contributing factor in, the lack of a fighting political strategy from successive NUS leaderships. It is the fruit of the long period of Blairite domination of NUS (and of the Labour Party).
- Obstruction from the right, and poor local organisation, are serious problems. We need to fight hard for a good turn-out and a yes vote: the fate of the strike will be determined by the outcome of the vote, and it is fantasy to pretend otherwise.
- NCAFC advocates that in every campus and college where we get a good vote, regardless of the overall national picture, we organise the maximum possible action against the HE paper in February
Section 3 | Policy motions
Motion 8 | Education should be secular
- Many public educational institutions in the UK are officially religious and under religious governance. This includes state faith schools, academy schools and free schools run by religious organisations, as well as some higher education institutions (ranging from general universities that operate under “Christian values” where the Church of England participates in their governance, to specific religiously-run institutions, generally with a focus on theological studies).
- All state schools are required by law to hold a daily “act of collective worship”, even those that aren’t faith schools. Until they reach sixth-form, students cannot even be exempted from these acts of worship without their parents’ permission.
- This summer, the Religious Studies course at Stirling Uni – the only such course in Scotland with a secular approach rather than being based specifically in Christianity – came under threat of closure.
- Part of the attack on Lambeth College over the past year included the selling off of part of its Brixton site, to be replaced by a Catholic free school headed up by a right-wing racist who has written publicly praising the historical role of British religious missionaries “civilising” “the natives” in Africa and Asia.
- Religious academy schools have been found implementing Section 28-style homophobic regulations long after their abolition in mainstream schools, as well as imposing other oppressive reactionary values.
- In some religious free and academy schools religious dogma has been allowed to distort the curriculum (for instance teaching creationism).
- In 2010 faith schools were exempted from the requirement to cover contraceptives and LGBT+ equality in sex education.
- Research has shown that not only do faith schools’ selection criteria discriminate against the children of parents with other or no religion, it is also easier for middle-class parents to “game” their selection criteria, helping to pass on unfair advantage to their kids.
- Public education should be secular – public education institutions and their teaching should be neutral on questions of religious belief and religious institutions should have no power in their governance – while individuals’ freedom of religion and of expression should be protected. This means schools should not run official acts of worship but all students to practice religion or not as they wish, and faith-based institutions should be brought under democratic public control and run in a secular manner.
- It is wrong for state funds to be used to promote any particular religious belief, and it is wrong for religious institutions to get state approval and resources. This is incompatible with a diverse and free society.
- Education should allow and positively encourage critical thinking and freedom of thought and exploration. This includes in the field of religion – religion and belief are important subjects to study and research, and public institutions should be secular and therefore neutral, in order to facilitate genuinely critical examination and understanding of all institutions and perspectives.
- In situations of religious-sectarian strife and bigotry, divided faith-based schooling works to entrench and maintain those divides. In Northern Ireland, the separation of children from Catholic and Protestant families into different schools played a very bad role in perpetuating bigotry and sectarian conflict.
- When the state grants permission and funds to religious groups to run public institutions, this inevitably reinforces and bolsters the dominance of existing hierarchies and conservative elements. For instance, it is not in general grassroots groups of pro-LGBT+, feminist Catholics who get to run schools, but the reactionary Church hierarchy.
- Faith schools are often defended on the basis of “choice”. This is a flawed and basically right-wing argument:
- The Tory/New Labour narrative of choice in schooling favours those families where parents are able to e.g. devote time out of work to fulfilling criteria that reward voluntary service to local churches.
- People should not have to travel further afield and undergo inconvenience to access public services without being subjected to promotion of a religion they don’t believe in.
- Within schools, the “choice” to e.g. ask to not attend prayers, or to attend a school where the dominant faith is not yours, is not neutral. Even where the school does not place pressure, students are marked out by their difference. This is discriminatory and not liberating.
- Instead of the right-wing narrative of choice for those privileged enough to exercise it, we say all public services should be fit for everyone.
- To support campaigning for secular education – abolishing the compulsory act of worship in state schools, and ensuring all public education institutions are run in a secular manner under fully democratic control, without discriminatory faith-based selection criteria.
- To support education encouraging critical thought about all belief systems and institutions.
- To support action by students who don’t want to participate in acts of worship and other religious practices in education institutions.
Motion 9 | Supporting lefty sabbs
- That former or current left-wing sabbatical officers make up a significant proportion of our active membership.
- That left wing sabbs should, and often do, play a key role in participating in and supporting free education/anti-cuts activism on campuses.
- That sabbs should not be seen as ‘better’ or ‘more important’ than any other grassroots activist.
- That in many Unions, those who come up against the most bureaucracy with the least support are part-time officers.
- The work of being a sabb is not like a standard job; it should be governed politically and democratically.
NCAFC further believes:
- That throughout the years we have seen left-wing sabbs struggle significantly against right-wing unions, staff and bureaucracy.
- That these obstacles not only pose threats to the wellbeing of these individuals but also to the running of activism on campuses.
- That NCAFC should strive to support both grassroots activists and left-wing sabbs in what they do.
- That sabbs who need support/advice have come to us for help before, but often in cases of crisis, and that we should be aiming to avoid such situations in the first place.
- The same goes for part-time officer and activists
- To set up a small section on the NCAFC website with resources relevant to lefties who are involved in or want to become involved in their SUs at any level
- To provide on this section an email address which people can contact in semi-confidence for help and support
- To include an explanation of what we are offering and can help with, which should include but be not limited to the following (the wording can be amended here by whoever writes this up finally):
- We are providing purely political support and advice, and cannot support people through intensely personal issues
- The email address will be monitored by a small group of people, who may discuss issues amongst themselves before replying
- We have a lot of experience of things SUs try to do to left-wing officers – but we’re not qualified legal experts!
- To encourage all paid SU Officers to join a trade union, so as to give them access to advice and defence in cases such as office bullying and harassment, or unjust bureaucratic dismissal.
- To aim to stay in regular contact with left-wing SU Officers throughout their time in office and beyond, and be proactive in seeking to support those officers facing tough challenges.
Section 4 | Emergency Motions
Motion 10 | Fighting the Area Reviews
- The Government has made huge cuts to further education and sixth form colleges resulting in course and campus closures, mergers and job losses.
- In 2010 the Coalition government abolished the Education Maintenance Allowance, which many FE students relied on.
- In 2015 the Government withdraw all funding for Esol (English for speakers of other languages) courses, which is having immediate impact on the thousands that relied on these essential courses.
- The Government is conducting ‘Area Reviews’ of post-16 education and training in England.
- Analysis suggests that up to 4 in 10 colleges could close if the further planned cuts go ahead.
- Area Reviews are already taking place in 7 regions of England.
- That the Area Reviews stated aim of “larger, more efficient, more resilient providers” of further education will lead to college mergers.
- The recent regionalisation of colleges in Scotland and Wales.
- That Sixth Form Colleges are at particular risk of closure or merger during area reviews.
- The Sixth Form Colleges Association’s (SFCA) warn that a third of sixth-forms may become financially unviable.
- A National Union of Teachers (NUT) survey in early 2015 showed that since 2010-11, 78% of colleges had cut the number of A-level courses available and 77% had increased A-level group sizes.
- Further NUT research has shown that, this September, 81% of sixth-form colleges have reduced the curriculum even more and 68% have increased class sizes further.
- Further and adult education is a vital though often undervalued public good, providing for a rich diversity of students with high numbers from disadvantaged and marginalised backgrounds as well as for parents, careers, refugees and those changing career or returning to work.
- Further and adult education is being brutally and systematically dismantled.
- Further and adult education are disproportionately targeted in the government’s onslaught of attacks and cuts to education.
- Further and adult education is in crisis and that the Area Reviews will only escalate the sectors destruction.
- The Area Reviews will result in further cuts, courses closures and job losses through mergers and massively narrowed curriculums.
- Area Reviews are focused on satisfying employers and not on education and student’s needs.
- That large, specialist regionalised colleges and sixth forms will reduce opportunities and increase the cost of learning, further damaging access to education.
- Colleges have already been regionalised in Scotland and Wales where there has been no evidence that mergers save money through the cuts to courses, teaching and provision have continued.
- That in the same way maintenance grants are being turned into loans putting the million poorest students in the most debt, the Area Reviews are part of the Government’s attack on the poorest and most vulnerable students.
- The Area Reviews are part of the Government’s wider assault on education and agenda to turn education into a competitive market place designed to produce the most employable graduates.
- To oppose and actively campaign against the area reviews.
- To link the Area Reviews to the wider attacks on education and the Government’s agenda to marketise education whenever applicable.
- To create educational and campaigning materials that simply communicate the Area Reviews
Motion 11 | Syria, Daesh and the war
- We oppose the decision of the UK Parliament this week to join the USA and France in bombing Syria. We don’t believe that this the right way to combat Daesh. It will compound the suffering of innocent Syrians, and if it does set back Daesh significantly – it is far from clear that it will – the space will only be filled by the murderous totalitarian regime of Assad. We should campaign for the military operations to halt as soon as possible, and certainly against any escalation such as the introduction of ground troops that the USA is discussing.
- We should make solidarity with those democratic local forces on the ground who are fighting to defend and liberate themselves from tyranny – foremost among them the Kurdish forces. We should campaign for them to receive the military and humanitarian aid they need. We should also campaign against their obstruction by other governments – from our government locking up volunteers who try to go and join them and classing the PKK as a terrorist organisation, to Turkey blockading them and bombing them. We stand for the Kurds’ right to democratic self-determination.
- We should join and support appropriate protest and direct action against the military action and in support of those democratic local forces. This includes actions organised by the Stop the War Coalition (StWC); however, we should at the same time make criticisms of StWC clear. We oppose their crass, one-sided version of “anti-imperialism”, which fails to show solidarity to people facing violence at the hands of any force other than NATO militaries, and veers into support for local tyrants like Assad and rival imperialists like the Russian government. And we oppose their patronising, racist view of Islamism and “blowback”, which ignores the reality that Islamism is a reactionary ideology whose adherents have their own ideas and agency, and instead poses Muslims as unsophisticated automatons who mechanically respond to Western racism and imperialism with right-wing religious violence.
- Where possible we should support any efforts to build a new anti-war movement in the UK. This movement should function democratically, and be committed to genuine liberatory, class-struggle internationalism, and consistent anti-imperialism against all imperialist forces, not just some.
Motion 12 | The Syria Situation
- The war in Syria has been going on since 2011
- Over 250,000 people have been killed
- Millions are displaced
- David Cameron has promised to take in 20,000 refugees
- Parliament has voted to Bomb Syria
- The PKK are currently on a terror list
- There are several groups operating in Syria including the Daesh and Assad Regime.
- The vast majority of people living in Syria are the biggest victims of this conflict, they are innocent and deserve safety
- Aerial bombing only causes geographical profiling resulting in dispersed targets being surrounded by innocent civilians and results in their murder
- Western intervention has been a failure and the government has not learned its lessons from Iraq
NCAFC further believes:
- The West is untrustworthy, unreliable and does not recognise the sanctity of life with regards to people of colour
- The notion of attacking an area of people for defence from a group does not have consistent logic
- Aerial bombing does not make anyone safer
- The UK must now take even greater responsibility for the Syrian people and a case can be made to take in more refugees from Syria and ensure the safety of displaced people which means allowing people leaving Syria through unsafe routes, in.
- Student Unions have begun lobbying around getting University Scholarships for refugees and this should be expanded
- The PKK should be removed from the terror list and they should be recognised and worked with
- Develop a working group with the proposers and others interested as well as NCAFC Black, NCAFC International and other members
- To reach out to the Black Students’ Campaign and International Students’ Campaign and other involved parties to do the following:
- The Bombing Campaign
- Condemn the government action (actions = against the bombing and MPs the voted yes/abstained and companies with an economic interest in war and those that help develop weapons/military support etc)
- Reach out to organising student groups for supporting actions
- The Bombing Campaign
- Help any groups get in touch with local organising groups to support actions
- Participate and promote with high priority, actions taking place across the country
- Promote protests/petitions/demos/lobbies.
- Make the case to take in more refugees
- Get in touch with local groups to check out, support and help develop lobbies/actions to councils to further the case for more intake
- Support national campaigns to open borders
- Support Officers campaigning for scholarships for refugees
- Encourage unions to campaign for refugees (pass motions and pressure officers and the university) and develop a spreadsheet of unions who are doing this
- Support Campus activist groups to develop campaign against companies that have a financial interest or are involved in developing weapons/military support
- To campaign to remove the PKK from the terror list
Motion 13 | Defend Maryam Namazie and the right to criticise religion
- On Monday 30 November, a talk by Maryam Namazie on the topic “Apostasy, blasphemy and free expression in the age of ISIS”, hosted by Goldsmiths Atheist, Secularists and Humanists Society, was aggressively disrupted by some men from Goldsmiths Islamic Society. They made disruptive noise to disrupt the talk, harassed Namazie, and switched off Namazie’s PowerPoint presentation. Another Council of Ex-Muslims activist, Reza Moradi, said that one of those causing disruption issued a death threat at him. Other members of the ISoc opposed the disruption and attempted to apologise for it.
- Maryam Namazie is a socialist feminist activist with the Worker-Communist Party of Iran, who campaigns for secularism and against repression, particularly of women, that is associated with religious conservatism and the authoritarian theocracy in Iran, which she was forced to flee.
- We might have political criticisms to make against Namazie but the disruption of her talk was wrong. “No platform” should not be applied to people like this. This type of political disagreement should be handled through democratic discussion.
- Secularism is an essential principle for left-wing political movements – we should defend all individuals’ freedoms to practice religions, while campaigning for a politics that is not founded in or in any way based on one particular religion, and so against the imposition of religiously-based rules or laws on people against their will.
- Namazie is a socialist feminist campaigning against misogynistic oppression that she has faced. Shutting down such criticisms, especially by a group of men using harassment and intimidation, is thoroughly reactionary.
- The right to criticise religious beliefs and practices should be defended. We recognise that there are many different sources and perpetrators of oppression – we need to oppose oppression and discrimination against groups based on their religion, while also opposing oppression and discrimination that can be carried out by rightwing and conservative religious forces.
- To issue a statement of support for Maryam Namazie and the Goldsmiths Atheism, Secularism and Humanism Society’s right to speak and discuss, condemning the aggressive disruption of their event.
- To oppose attempts to “no platform” left-wing, anti-racist, feminist secularist campaigners like Namazie.
Motion 14 | Campaign to defend the NHS nursing bursary
- In the latest spending review the government announced that it would be scrapping NHS bursaries and replacing them with loans.
- Allied health professionals will be affected by the removal of the loans (this includes, but is not limited to – nurses, midwives, physiotherapists, dietetics)
- NHS funded students work 4600 hours during training, half of which is on placement.
- NHS funded students are a vital part of the NHS workforce.
- NHS funded students are largely mature students, students with caring responsibilities, students from lower income background and students from widening participation background.
- Many NHS funded students could not have even contemplated the course without the bursary.
- That the bursary is essential for NHS students in order to fund their cost of living whilst studying, and scrapping it will close off NHS careers for more potential students
- No student should be subjected to vast amounts of debt for their studies. The NHS bursary is a recognition of the fact that student healthcare professionals frequently perform the tasks of workers in the NHS.
- The scrapping of the bursary effectively means NHS funded students will have to go into debt to work in the NHS.
- The NHS bursary is vital for a fully funded and well-staffed NHS.
- This is not only an attack on NHS funded students but a blatant political move to ‘make savings’ on the NHS, which has already seen staff shortages, increasing workload on nurses and student nurses and allied health professionals.
- Education should be free for all. Living grants should be provided to all students.
- To lobby to government to keep NHS bursaries.
- To support campaigning/ actions by NHS funded students in a bid to get the government to u-turn on its decision by:
- publicising them on social media and through all our channels
- attending meetings and demonstrations where possible
- help to connect them to free education activists groups across the UK
- This should form a part of a wider #GrantsNotDebt strategy.