Motions for Summer Conference 2017 – amendments submission now open

17904344_1408909535835622_7626500089657334934_nIn the run-up to our 2017 Summer Conference, 17-18 June at University of the Arts London, members and affiliated groups have submitted the following motions about what NCAFC should be campaigning on and how the National Campaign should be run.

All members of NCAFC can submit amendments to these motions – just email them to [email protected] by midnight Thursday 15 June.

If you haven’t registered for conference yet, make sure you do (fill out the registration form) and book your transport today! You can find more info about what to expect via the Facebook event.



Motion 1: The outcome of the General Election

Proposer: NCAFC National Committee

This is a placeholder motion. The General Election falls after the motion deadline and before the amendments deadline, so you can submit motions – in standard motions format – responding to the election result as amendments to this.

Motion 2: Stop cuts and growing divisions in schools

Proposers: Alex Stuart, Ana Oppenheim, Maisie Sanders, Hansika Jethnani, Justine Canady, Alex Booth, Sahaya James

NCAFC Notes:

  1. Schools in England and Wales face cuts of up to £3bn by 2019-20.
  2. The cuts are taking place at the same time that a new generation of grammar schools, free schools, faith schools and academies are being funded.
  3. This underfunding will very probably lead to more teachers leaving the profession, placing an extra burden on an already stretched service.
  4. Particularly, we agreed to support campaigners at Forest Hill School, who are taking industrial action to fight cuts of over £1m.

NCAFC Believes:

  1. We should work with the trade unions and other campaigners to protect public services from cuts and privatisation.
  2. We should reaffirm our commitment to campaigning for a fully funded, publicly provided, democratically controlled, national education service.

NCAFC Resolves:

  1. To campaign against cuts to school budgets and seek to build links with the trade unions and other campaigners in achieving this aim.
  2. To encourage local young activists to participate in the campaign and engage with school students.
  3. To oppose new grammar schools, free schools, faith schools and academies and campaign for well resourced, adequately funded, non-academically selected, locally managed schools.

Motion 3: Organising young workers

Proposer: Workers’ Liberty Students

NCAFC Notes:

  1. British capitalists have driven down workers’ wages further and longer than at any time since the 19th Century.
  2. Almost a million workers – mostly young workers – are on zero hours contracts. Nearly as many are subject to spurious self-employment, of the kind common among “gig economy” workers such as Uber drivers or Deliveroo workers.
  3. The 2017 Labour Party manifesto has put the abolition of zero hours contracts (already a reality in France and New Zealand to name but two countries); and the demand of a £10/hour minimum wage, on the agenda for millions of workers in a new way. It has proved that these things are a possibility.

NCAFC Believes:

  1. That the pressures for a revolt over pay and working conditions, especially among young workers, are immense.
  2. That NCAFC should encourage and shape this revolt as far as we can.
  3. That ‘worker solidarity’, for student activists, should not only mean bringing solidarity from students to groups of workers in struggle: but it should also mean the understanding that millions of students are workers themselves and that it is our vocation, as activists, to organise them as workers and speed their revolt.

NCAFC Resolves:

  1. To build up an information hub on our website about struggles waged by young workers, or workers in the kinds of jobs that students commonly take.
  2. To build up as part of that hub a resource for activists wanting to know their rights at work and how to organise on the job.
  3. To encourage grassroots activists in FE institutions, but also HE institutions, to organise events around the demands for no more zero hours; £10/hour minimum wage and/or the themes of low-waged, insecure work and bullying bosses, and inspire and train themselves and others to organise on the job.
  4. To make it a given that the theme of workplace organising by and of student workers should occupy a space on the agenda of most of our national educational, political, and training events.

Motion 4: Rebuild the grassroots, fight university cuts across the country

Proposers: Alex Booth, Shula Kombe, Workers Liberty Students, Connor Woodman, Jasmine Simms, Tyrone Falls, Rida Vaquas, Chris Townsend, Hope Worsdale, Lily Mactaggart, Nathan Rogers, Stuart McMillan, Dan Smitherman, Ana Oppenheim, Demaine Boocock, Josh Berlyne, Hansika Jethnani, Sahaya James

NCAFC Notes:

  1. NCAFC was founded in 2009-2010 as a fighting coalition of grassroots education activist groups, with names like [Institution] Free Education, [Institution] Defend Education, [Institution] Occupation, or [Institution] Against the Cuts.
  2. In recent NCAFC conferences we have noted a decline in the number of campus-based Free Education activist groups, and we made reasonable adaptations in our methods and orientation to fit that context
  3. The Higher Education Reforms, heightened class struggle in campuses such as LSE, and sweeping job cuts at universities across the country have created the basis for a likely revival in campus activism
  4. Since the beginning of 2017 at least 10 UK universities have announced budget cuts which will lead to around 600 job losses, possibly more.
  5. At the University of Manchester, management explicitly cited the higher education reforms as a reason for cutting 171 jobs.
  6. The Free Education pledge in the Labour manifesto (in part a product of years of agitation on this point by the student left, led by NCAFC) has put arguments around free education and education as a public good back on the agenda in a big way.

NCAFC Believes:

  1. In response to a decline in campus activism, the previous national committee chose to re-orient NCAFC as a special interest group which would agitate for free education at a national level, in NUS, Labour, and the press, rather than organising serious mass actions ourselves.
  2. That there is no less need for direct action now than before: student debt is rising, cuts are still being made, privatisation continues to proliferate across various spheres of education.
  3. That there is definitely a basis in the new term for a revitalisation of campus grassroots activism in the NCAFC mould
  4. That NCAFC should take a conscious turn to rebuilding itself as a coalition of fighting grassroots groups.
  5. This means using our national reach to amplify the local struggles against job cuts and other education disputes such as the LSE Cleaners’ strike and rent strikes; and also intervene in those struggles to promote the development of grassroots activist groups
  6. That we should share NCAFC’s accumulated experience of grassroots organising to help local activists build up activist groups
  7. That we should combine the work of setting up local groups with a drive to convince already-existing grassroots activist groups of the NCAFC project –of the need to bring local education struggles together at the national level, to give the radical grassroots a political voice.
  8. That we shouldn’t be prescriptive about the precise forms that this local organising might take: namely, that some of these struggles will be led by activists in Labour Clubs, others in groups affiliated with the Greens, and others again with different names, backgrounds and political outlooks. We want to propose a united front to any and all groups involved in these struggles.

NCAFC Further Believes:

  1. There are three main factors driving these cuts: the removal of a cap on student numbers, the uncertainty caused by TEF, and the uncertainty caused by Brexit. In other words, these are at the razor’s edge of the marketisation agenda.
  2. NCAFC’s legitimacy comes from being a democratic grassroots organisation. These two things–a strong democracy and a strong grassroots–are inseparable.
  3. NCAFC’s strategy over the past year has had some success, particularly by pushing the NUS to organise a somewhat successful NSS boycott.
  4. However, it is also profoundly limited: the thorough trouncing of the Left at NUS National Conference this year demonstrated this, and the politics of the incoming leadership suggest that free education and confrontational action will not be at the top of the agenda.
  5. NCAFC needs to return to its roots and return to the grassroots. This will involve the hard work of building up local activist groups.

NCAFC Resolves:

  1. To make fighting these job cuts a strategic priority of the organisation over the coming months.
  2. To undertake all our preparatory work in the summer, and campaigning work in the new term, with the objective of discovering, meeting, training, building up and promoting democratic, regularly-functioning grassroots education activist groups, including in FE.
  3. To republish and replenish NCAFC’s literature on best practice in organising a local education activist group and consult widely about what kinds of support local groups need and want.
  4. To send NC members to travel to visit new or newly-contacted groups proactively, reimbursing travel and worrying about overall transport costs later.
  5. To have the NC do regular audits of where local education activist groups, or sympathetic Labour Clubs or other suitable bodies exist and what relations we have with them.
  6. To seek affiliations, and participation in our national events, of as many grassroots groups as possible
  7. To organise regional events where appropriate for fostering links with grassroots activists in a given area. And to mandate regional representatives to contact activists, students’ unions and trade unions on campuses affected by cuts, offering our support.

Motion 5: Making motions debates more accessible

Proposers: Hope Worsdale, Shula Kombe, Uma Kotwal, Clementine Boucher, Marie Dams, Connor Woodman, Josh Berlyne.

NCAFC believes:

  1. Currently, debates on motions at NCAFC conference take the format: speech for, speech against, and summation.
  2. This format does not encourage nuanced debates–even if extra rounds of speeches are granted–and encourages a confrontational, rather than comradely, style of debating.
  3. The speed with which motions are debated means that to engage properly, a lot of background knowledge is usually necessary.
  4. At last Winter Conference, a very small range of people got up to speak on motions, and those who did were overwhelmingly cis men.

NCAFC further believes:

  1. As an organisation we pride ourselves on being open, democratic, and encouraging a culture of free and healthy debate.
  2. Debate should be rigorous and incisive, but not needlessly confrontational.
  3. Debate should also be inclusive–it is important that everyone feels able to contribute to discussions and debates. That is a sign of a healthy democratic culture.
  4. There may be a number of reasons for lack of participation in debates on motions:
    1. People generally not feeling confident to speak publicly
    2. The confrontational style of debate being off-putting or anxiety-inducing
    3. Too much background knowledge being assumed, and not enough time to ask questions or make points around the topic which do not directly address the motion
  5. Changing the style of debate, by adding a section for questions and for “speeches around”–that is, speeches which are related to the motion but which are not clearly for or against–could alleviate some of the problems outlined above. Something similar to this format was used at Women & Non-Binary Conference last year, and was well-received.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To change the format of debates to include questions and speeches around. As such, the format would be:
    1. Speech for
    2. Speech against
    3. Questions
    4. Possible extra round of speeches – at the chair’s discretion
    5. Speeches around – number of speeches taken is at the chair’s discretion
    6. Summation speeches

Motion 6: Stop the Labour Purge

Proposer: Surrey Labour Students

  1. We note that, at the 27 May Labour Students conference, the organisation’s Blairite leadership kept control of the organisation by expelling and excluding numerous left-wing Labour Clubs and activists from the event. This included suspending and excluding Surrey Labour Students explicitly on the grounds of its affiliation to NCAFC. They described NCAFC, absurdly but worryingly, as a “rival” organisation to Labour.
  2. This is an attack on the right and ability of Labour Clubs and Labour-supporting students to campaign for free education and other left-wing policies. It is also, clearly, part of the broader drive of the Labour Party machine to purge left-wing activists to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and repress and disperse its left-wing membership. This has included members of socialist groups such as Workers’ Liberty and Socialist Appeal being expelled, as well as people who have left other left-wing parties including the Greens and Left Unity to join Labour. In the run-up to the previous Labour Students Council, the meeting was gerrymandered on a smaller scale by expelling individual left-wing delegates.
  3. Unfortunately, shamefully, some on the left, e.g. at the top of Momentum, have not only failed to fight these purges but even in some cases endorsed them. The day after the 27 May conference, after Momentum-affiliated left candidates lost elections by margins smaller than the number of excluded left delegates, Momentum Youth & Students committee embarked on an unconstitutional purge of its own membership through a snap vote, excluding those who have been purged from Labour and members of “democratic centralist” organisations.
  4. Many NCAFC members are Labour Party members; many are not; some are members of other parties. But given what has happened to Surrey Labour Students NCAFC has a direct self-interest in opposing and speaking up against the Labour purge; as well as a more general interest, as part of the grassroots anti-capitalist left, in fighting for rank-and-file democracy in the labour movement.
  5. Moreover, we recognise that the escalation of the purge, targeting NCAFC and attacking entire local groups, follows from and cannot be separated from earlier rounds of more limited purges against individual left-wingers. The bureaucracy felt able to escalate because it had been largely permitted to get away with earlier rounds. And if they get away with their latest moves, they may go further.
  6. We will do everything we can to oppose the persecution of the socialist left in the Labour Party and support our comrades who are active in the struggle against the purge and for Labour democracy.

Motion 7: A strategy for action to defend higher and further education

Proposers: Ana Oppenheim, Sahaya James, Ben Towse, Monty Shield, Maisie Sanders, Justine Canady, Zack Murrell-Dowson, Tyrone Falls, Omar Raii, Andrew Peak, Chris Townsend, Rida Vaquas, Alex Booth, Nathan Rogers, Alex Stuart, Savannah Sevenzo, Dan Smitherman

NCAFC Notes:

  1. This motion might need to be amended depending on the General Election results!
  2. The HE reforms passed through Parliament, though our campaign, including the NSS boycott, did extract some concessions, in particular tightening regulations on private universities and delaying the link between TEF and fee increases. We also raised the profile of these reforms and the harm they will cause.
  3. The major wave of local cuts announced on HE campuses across the country this year, driven by the pressures of the market forced on universities in successive rounds of marketisation – in particular the removal of controls on student numbers and the new TEF, as well as financial instability as universities are left exposed to wider economic turmoil.
  4. The ongoing myriad local battles over cuts in FE colleges, driven by the government’s brutal regime of budget reductions.
  5. Ideas of and support for free, public and funded education have gained prominence through the General Election campaign and NES.

NCAFC Believes:

  1. It’s NCAFC’s job to help local grassroots campaigns develop and take action against these cuts at the campus level, and to link them to the fight against the cuts and government reforms at a national level that are the root cause of the local problems – which means linking up the local campaigns and acting as a platform for national-level action.
  2. There are striking similarities between current events and the situation in 2009-10 when NCAFC formed to give a national voice to local campaigns against campus cuts driven by government policy – but this time we have the benefit of 7 years of experience, and it’s up to us to apply that experience to make today’s fightback even more powerful.
  3. We have a responsibility to raise the political level – to show people the root causes of the local issues they are facing, and to offer a convincing and inspiring alternative way to organise education.
  4. What Parliament does, the streets can undo! The passage of the HE reforms is not the end of that fight. We can make the reforms impossible to implement and force their reversal. Such a reversal would be necessary as a first step in attaining our goal of a free, democratic education system – and any call for reversing the reforms should be made in the context of also raising that more positive, radical goal.
  5. We need a strategy that combines reaching out to local groups and nurturing them, with coordinated protest, direct action and industrial action at the national level. This strategy will include:
    1. Outreach and assistance to the grassroots
    2. A national demonstration followed by a coordinated day of action
    3. Continuing the NSS boycott
    4. Further action as the situation develops
  6. We are an organisation with limited funds that cannot do everything. So it’s important that our plans take this into account, avoid overreach, and the components complement each other to minimise work. This strategy does that.
    1. The work of reaching out to local groups to help them build, raising the sights of local groups to tackle the national root causes of their local disputes, and engaging local groups in building national actions like a demo and the NSS boycott, fits together well – in the same visit or call to a campus group, an NCAFC representative could touch on all of these.
    2. Moreover, offering the chance to get involved in a coherent strategy at the local and national levels will strengthen the bonds between NCAFC and local groups, and between local groups.

NCAFC Resolves:

  1. To link opposition to all campus cuts with specific demands to reverse the successive rounds of marketisation in HE and reverse the cuts in FE and fund it decently, and a broader demand for a free, public, democratically-coordinated education system to replace the current one governed by fees, cuts and market chaos.
  2. To adopt the following multi-pronged strategy and make it the major priority of our activity over the coming period:

Outreach and assistance to the grassroots

  1. NCAFC has to work to reaching out to local campaigns on HE and FE campuses, help them to develop and organise protest and direct action, and link up with each other.
  2. We are aware of more specific motions being drafted on this, which we don’t wish to duplicate.

National demo

  1.  Political narrative / demands /slogans: (N.B. the proposers expect this may be amended depending on the election outcome.) The political narrative of the demo should be to unite the various local anti-cuts campaigns at a national level, to protest against both all the campus cuts in solidarity with each other, and the national-level government policies driving them. The NC should write a title and set of politically clear slogans/demands that:
    1. cover opposition to all the campus cuts,
    2. cover a call to reverse the successive rounds of marketization (including the current reforms) in higher education and funding cuts in further education,
    3. and which contrast the current governing of education by fees, cuts and market chaos, to our positive demand for a free, democratically-coordinated public education system.
  2. Details: The demonstration should be in London, on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday in the first half of November
  3. Follow-up: Before the demo, NCAFC should announce a national day of action 1.5 to 2 weeks after the demo, and promote this at the demo.
  4. What purposes does a demo serve?
    1. A national demo is a key way for local activists and anti-cuts groups to build a network of activists and sympathetic students on their campuses at the beginning of term which will later help them in taking more radical actions such as occupations
    2. The student movement is unique in that there is such a high turnover of people which a new wave of potential activists joining colleges and universities every year. A national demo is a key way to introduce these students to radical politics.
    3. Often campus organising is hard and demoralising, especially when you have a small number of activists and an unsympathetic student union. A national demonstration can be an invigorating event for these activists; showing them that they are part of a national movement and that there are students similar to them organising elsewhere.
    4. Most big campus actions we see, especially where there isn’t an established anti-cuts groups, come after a national demo.
    5. Not all demonstrations – even A to B marches – are the same. With NCAFC organising, the politics can be clearer, the dynamic can be different, creative actions on the day can be welcomed, and most importantly the demo can be run not as an isolated event but as part of an escalating strategy.
    6. The HE Reforms are the most serious attacks on universities since the introduction of £9K fees, and we are currently seeing a wave of campus cuts at universities across the country which are the result of this marketization of HE through the TEF, as well as the earlier removal of student number controls.
    7. NCAFC’s role is to link up local campaigns against campus cuts and to link the local to the national, and a national demo is a very effective way of doing this, making clear that these course closures, campus cuts and job losses are not isolated events, but are part of a national trend and the result of marketisation.
    8. A national demo is an excellent way to spread our demands to as many students as possible outside of our normal sphere of influence
    9. A large demonstration early in the academic year will help set the tone of students politics for 2017/18 and especially with a right wing turn in the NUS there is a need for combative, anti-bureaucratic, left-wing politics to be front and centre

Further action as the situation develops

  1. As the situation develops, we should add other actions and activities to the plan, judging what is appropriate as we go. These could include attempting to coordinate waves/days of local direct action, calling or backing national demonstrations on particular campuses to support key disputes that have the ability to set national precedents, and many other possible ideas.
  2. NCAFC Winter Conference should offer a chance to regroup those engaged by the action up to that point, and review and revise our strategy going forward.

—-

(The remaining bit of the motion – relating to the NSS Boycott 2018 strategy – will be debated alongside the alternative strategy proposed below in the next motion, and alongside any other strategy proposals on this topic submitted as amendments.)

—-

Continuing the NSS boycott

  1. On campuses where SUs or activist groups took up the NSS boycott, it had substantial success, making a serious dent in participation rates. Multiple institutions and many departments around the country were dragged below the 50% data publication threshold.
  2. Through this campaign, we not only began to exert direct pressure, we reached huge numbers of students with basic information about the negatives of the HE reforms, and engaged them in taking collective action.
  3. The NSS boycott was set-up as an ultimatum unless and until the government dropped the HE reforms – with the aim of getting us material leverage over the government. Its demands must continue until the reforms are reversed.
  4. We need to work to make the 2018 round of the boycott bigger and better. We should press NUS to organise for this, and do what we can if and where NUS falls short.
  5. The NC should draft and raise proposed activities for NUS to help build next year’s boycott, and pressure NUS to carry them out (and against any attempt by NUS to scab on its policy and abandon the boycott).
  6. NCAFC can also act as a platform to share the most successful boycott campaigns around the country and help spread their lessons.>
  7. NCAFC will help local activist groups to pressure their SUs to support the boycott and not scab, and to campaign for the boycott with or without their SUs.

Motion 8: Our role in an NSS boycott next year

Proposers: Hope Worsdale, Shula Kombe, Stuart McMillan, Chris Townsend, Josh Berlyne, Connor Woodman, Sahaya James.>

NCAFC believes:

  1. The higher education reforms are already leading to budget cuts and job losses.
  2. One of the main metrics to be used in the Teaching Excellence Framework–the government’s flagship university reform–is “student satisfaction” scores, measured by the National Student Survey (NSS).
  3. This year 26 students’ unions organised NSS boycotts as part of a nationwide campaign initiated by NCAFC and run by the NUS.
  4. On at least nine campuses, NSS fill-in rates dropped below the 50% publication threshold thanks to NSS boycott campaigns.
  5. The demands of the NSS boycott have not been met: rather than being withdrawn, the HE reforms have been approved by Parliament and are ready to be implemented.

NCAFC further believes:

  1. In order to win demands and roll back the HE reforms, the NSS boycott must continue over a number of years and must involve more campuses. This was the intention, right from the start.
  2. To push fill-in rates below 50%, the NSS boycott should be organised by students’ unions. SUs have the networks, “legitimacy,” and money to engage a broad enough layer of students. Money is especially an issue: Sheffield SU spent well over £2,000 on the boycott campaign, and was successful. Warwick SU, similar in many ways, spent much less but the response rate was not brought below 50%.
  3. Some sort of national body is needed to coordinate the boycott and negotiate with government. Ideally, this would be the NUS.>
  4. The incoming right-wing leadership of the NUS, including the incoming Vice-President Higher Education, cannot be relied upon to organise an effective boycott.
  5. NCAFC alone does not have the capacity to organise an effective boycott next year.
  6. A provisional committee should be set up, with representatives from each campus prepared to organise NSS boycotts next year. It should be responsible for coordinating the boycotts, expanding the national campaign, and representing the boycott nationally in negotiations with government and in the media.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To contact activists and SU representatives involved in the boycott this year, inviting them to a meeting in July or August where the provisional committee will be set up and planning for the boycott will begin.

Motion 9: How we engage with the NUS

Proposers: Hope Worsdale, Connor Woodman, Shula Kombe, Josh Berlyne, Ana Oppenheim, Chris Townsend, Demaine Boocock.

NCAFC Believes:

  1. Since its foundation, NCAFC has intervened in the NUS, arguing for free education and universal living grants, and standing candidates on left-wing platforms.
  2. These interventions have been successful in shifting NUS to the left. For example, NUS now supports free education and universal living grants.
  3. Until recently, NCAFC’s candidates for Full-Time Officer (FTO) positions ran fairly low-budget campaigns.
  4. In the past two years, NCAFC has run more slick, professional and expensive FTO campaigns, with little reward.

NCAFC Further Believes:

  1. Our interventions into the NUS should have a clear purpose: to make the NUS more democratic, more grassroots-oriented, and to make it fight to win free education and living grants for all.
  2. This means that FTO campaigns are not just about winning by any means necessary. They are about winning without compromising on our core politics, and using the platform we are given to convince people of our ideas.
  3. However, this of course does not mean that strategy is irrelevant to our NUS interventions. It is sensible and healthy for NCAFC to make decisions which are to the strategic benefit of our campaigns/candidates, so long as these decisions do not contradict our political positions.
  4. Our interventions should not drain NCAFC of all or even the majority of our resources, especially where money is being spent on non-political items or gimmicks.

NCAFC Resolves:

  1. To carry out our future NUS interventions along the lines set out above.

Motion 10: Organising with the broader student left

Proposers: Josh Berlyne, Shula Kombe, Lina Nass, Hope Worsdale, Connor Woodman, Stuart McMillan, Demaine Boocock.

NCAFC Believes:

  1. NCAFC is a pluralist, non-partisan organisation which accepts anyone who agrees with our aims and principles as a member.
  2. NCAFC has a history of working with the broader student Left on campaigns, national demonstrations, and within NUS.

NCAFC Further Believes:

  1. NCAFC should continue to work with those who share its aims and principles.
  2. NCAFC should not unnecessarily isolate itself from the rest of the student Left by being excessively hardline and refusing to work with others except on our own terms–the whole Left, including NCAFC, is weaker for it.
  3. Open and honest criticism is vital for the Left; NCAFC should not avoid criticising other left-wing groupings or organisations in the student movement. Where disagreements do arise, however, criticism should be done in an open, honest, and comradely way, and dealings with the rest of the Left should be done in good faith.

NCAFC Resolves:

  1. To deal with the rest of the Left as outlined above.

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