Motions for Conference January 2017

Graphic reading "NCAFC Winter Conference 2017 // University of Warwick // 14th-15th January"

UPDATE: The deadline for amendments has now passed. You can see the full document with motions and amendments here.

In the run up to our 2017 Winter conference 14-15 January in Warwick, 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 23:30 Wednesday 11 January. For more info on motions, amendments and how our conference democracy works, check out this guide.

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 and the guide/agenda.


Political motions:

Organisational motions:

Appendix


Political motions

No to the “good vs. bad migrants” rhetoric!

Submitted by Warwick for Free Education

NCAFC notes:

  1. Home Secretary Amber Rudd has recently announced plans to restrict international students visas.
  2. These plans include linking universities’ ability to accept international students to “teaching quality,” most likely measured byTEF scores.
  3. In recent years, the government has already scrapped the post-study work visa, introduced NHS charges for non-EU students and deported tens of thousands of international students.
  4. Often the response to attacks on international students is to insist that they are not migrants and should be treated differently. This is the approach taken not only by Vice-Chancellors but also by sections of the student movement.
  5. The arguments often rely on how much international students contribute to the British economy by “funding our universities” (justifying sky-high fees) or by emphasising the differences between students and migrant workers instead of challenging prejudice against both.

NCAFC believes:

  1. That freedom of movement is a right and we need to resist any attempts to distinguish between “good” and “bad” migrants.
  2. That the left needs to defend all migrants on principle, not on the basis of how much they contribute to the economy.
  3. That attacks on international students and other migrant groups are based on the same racist and xenophobic ideology, and can only be defeated through active solidarity, not creating further divisions.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To campaign for freedom of movement and the right to a free, accessible education for everyone, regardless of nationality.
  2. To fight against any further attacks on international students, including through direct action if necessary.
  3. To challenge the “students are not migrants” approach within the student movement and more broadly on the left.

Hold the line: defend free movement

Submitted by Workers Liberty

NCAFC notes:

  1. The recent slide into anti-immigration, anti-free- movement politics by even some people on the left of the Labour Party.

NCAFC believes:

  1. We have to continue to defend free movement without shame, compromise or capitulation.
  2. It is a lie that free movement is against the interests of working class people. First, because migrant workers are part of the working class too – our politics of fighting for workers’ rights does not respect the borders imposed by our rulers. Second, because the often-repeated claim that immigration substantially depresses pay and conditions is not actually supported by the evidence.
  3. Restricting immigration will therefore not help either UK-born or migrant working-class people. Instead, this politics serve to divide workers, damaging our ability to organise and fight against the common enemy that is actually responsible for low wages, shortages of housing and jobs, and overstretched public services – the rich and powerful, and the parties and politicians who serve their class interests.
  4. The left needs to politically combat anti-migrant ideas, and advocate real solutions in their place, not concede the debate to right-wing lies.
  5. The result of the EU referendum does not oblige us to stop working to change minds and change policies.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To continue fighting to defend and extend free movement, and to place the blame for the problems facing working class people where it belongs – not on migrants, but the rich and powerful, the ruling class.
  2. To fight uncompromisingly against capitulation by the left on this issue, especially by parts of the Labour left, Labour Students left, and the trade union movement.
  3. To argue and campaign for a programme of immediate real solutions to the problems facing working class people, including: uniting migrant and British-born workers in trade unions to fight for improved pay and conditions for all; reversing the anti-union laws; raising and enforcing the minimum wage; decent housing accessible to all; secure, decently-paid jobs, training and education for everyone; serious taxes on the rich and their businesses in order to redistribute wealth and reverse cuts, fund decent public services and rebuild the NHS.

The campaign to #stoptheHEreforms

Submitted by Workers Liberty

NCAFC notes

  1. The higher education reforms are still progressing through Parliament, with changes so far securing only very minor improvements (e.g. the addition of token student representation at the proposed Office for Students).
  2. We successfully passed proposals through NUS conference 2016 to organise a national demonstration in November, and to boycott the NSS unless and until the reforms are withdrawn, starting now in 2017.

NCAFC believes

  1. Fighting the reforms should remain a priority campaign for NCAFC.
  2. We have secured real improvements in NUS’s approach, compared to previous campaigns. However, it has still been lacking.
  3. We must be honest that the national demonstration was not the success it should have been. There were “managerial” failures by the NUS leadership and student unions, but fundamentally the problem was political:
    1. The leadership made the demo about everything in general, instead of foregrounding the clear and specific demands, which could inspire and explain, that we set out in policy (on the HE reforms as well as grants and FE cuts). We need to continue arguing that actions must be linked to uncompromising and straightforwardly understandable demands and slogans.
    2. The leadership organised the demonstration as a march in London. But for activists, the day of a demo is only the tip of an iceberg. The process of organising a demo should be used to build local groups, educate, argue, organise and persuade in many local areas. Local issues and demands should be linked to the programme of the demo. The march itself should be followed by a vigorous and well-planned campaign of subsequent action.
  4. The NSS boycott has value as an industrial-style tactic: complementing purely protest action by materially disrupting the running of the education system to gain leverage for concessions. To win, we may have to maintain the boycott beyond this year.
  5. As well as contending with right-wingers who have attempted to undermine and disrupt the action, we need to address a number of failings by the NUS leadership:
    1. They have bypassed democratic policy to set a different negotiating position – not to drop the reforms, but just to break the link between TEF scores and fee levels. We need a clear, straightforward political message and negotiating position, not a technocratic and watered-down one.
    2. At times, they have been timid and apologetic about the action.
    3. They have not built the boycott with as much vigour as they could, and don’t seem to have accepted the scale of the operation needed, beyond working with sabbs, to speak directly to students nationally and equip campus activists with resources.
    4. Sabbatical officers have been treated as gatekeepers to their unions’ members, and as if they have the right to determine whether and how NUS may implement decisions already made. Local officers should be called on to support the strategy’s implementation as a basic point of collective union solidarity, and NUS should promote the action to all students, not limit outreach to only the campuses where officers endorse the action.
  6. There is already a right-wing backlash against the actions organised so far. We should not be bounced into uncritically defending the current leadership. We need to defend the value of protest and direct action on the basis of our own understanding of how it can best be carried out, and keep constructively criticising, arguing and contesting in NUS to improve the organisation of the campaign.

NCAFC resolves

  1. To keep the fight to stop the HE reforms as a major priority for the coming period. If they pass into law, the campaign will call for their reversal.
  2. To support this, we call for further protest and direct action, and we will be clear about our political criticisms of the NUS leadership, and our alternative proposals, in order to press for change.
  3. Politically, we maintain the campaign needs to foreground clear, specific slogans and demands, while adding context with a wider political response: a publicly-owned education system, run democratically for social good.

Developing a vision for a National Education Service

Submitted by Workers Liberty

NCAFC notes

  1. Jeremy Corbyn has floated the proposal of a cradle-to- grave, free National Education Service. He has specifically raised: reversing adult education cuts to build lifelong learning by raising corporation tax; universal free childcare; abolishing tuition fees; equalising the minimum wage for apprentices and providing good apprenticeships.

NCAFC believes

  1. These proposals are good but much of what an NES would mean is still unspecified. That means we have a big opportunity to influence its development through political debate and agitation.
  2. NCAFCers have devoted a lot of thought to what our vision of a revolutionised education system might look like. A policy like this, potentially to be taken up by the Labour Party, is a concrete vehicle through which that vision could be thrust into high-profile public debate and hopefully translated into reality.
  3. Transforming the education system cannot be successfully imposed from above –there has to be some grassroots ownership of the programme, and mobilisation from below to support, and hold to account, its implementation.
  4. This weekend includes a lot of discussion of the NES, so this motion should not pre-empt that with a finished policy. However, based on NCAFC’s existing principles and previous discussions, we can say that an NES should:
    1. Be universally accessible free of charge, with financial support through living grants/stipends for all.
    2. Replace the chaos of market competition between institutions with an integrated service that is rationally and democratically organised to serve social good, rather the interests of the capitalist class.
    3. Build on existing ideas about the “Comprehensive University” to break down arbitrary barriers within the curriculum and between streams of education, including between further and higher education, and “vocational” and “academic” study.
    4. Be publicly owned and secular, and democratically governed by its students, workers and the communities it serves.
    5. Through democratic control of the curriculum, allow us to overturn the sometimes overwhelming dominance of ruling ideologies in what is taught, opening space for radical, subversive, liberatory and marginalised ideas and perspectives.
    6. Provide its workers with secure, decently-paid jobs and good conditions.
    7. Include universal free childcare.
    8. Be well resourced, by taxing the rich and their businesses and expropriating the banks.

NCAFC resolves

  1. Based on these points, this conference’s workshops, and previous and ongoing discussions, the NC will lead development of a set of proposals setting out our vision for an NES.
  2. To discuss with organised education workers in particular, as we develop these proposals.
  3. To agitate and campaign for the adoption of these proposals, particularly in the student and trade union movements and by Labour.

The battle in the Labour Party

Submitted by Workers Liberty

NCAFC believes:

  1. NCAFC is, and should remain, independent from political parties and open to activists who are members of different parties and of none.
  2. Nevertheless, we have previously voted to recognise involvement in the Labour Party as one useful course of action left-wing education activists can take, due to the pivotal role that its student wing has played in NUS, its powerful position in UK politics, and its links to the organised workers’ movement. We have voted to offer support to Labour leftists campaigning to re-orient Labour and Labour Students towards free education, encouraged activists to get involved, and supported Jeremy Corbyn’s successful bid to lead the party.
  3. Now the situation in Labour – a battle to win the party for socialism – is an historic opportunity to advance the left, including the causes and ideas for which NCAFC stands.

NCAFC further believes:

  1. There is worthwhile work to be done – in terms of both local activism and advancing left-wing politics – in campus Labour Clubs and local Labour parties. NCAFC should support and encourage this work.
  2. To be successful in the Labour Party, as elsewhere, the left needs genuinely grassroots-democratic organising, through which we can debate and develop our ideas, policies and proposals for the party, and campaign to change minds and shift the wider party. This is similar to the basis on which NCAFC has organised in the student union movement. The establishment of Momentum is welcome. It has the potential to be that organisation, and so the present debates about its form, purpose and politics are crucial.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To remain a united front of education activists from different organisations and none.
  2. To encourage and support the struggle in the Labour Party as one useful avenue, and therefore to offer support and encouragement to student activists getting involved, particularly in campus Labour Clubs.
  3. As some of us get involved in Labour, the Labour left and Momentum, to bring with not only our politics around education specifically, but also NCAFC’s broader ideas and attitudes on the importance of participatory democracy, open debate and political clarity, for developing and advancing left-wing politics.

Organisational motions

Submitting motions (Constitutional amendment)

Submitted by Warwick for Free Education

NCAFC believes:

  1. Currently, only groups affiliated to NCAFC can submit motions to NCAFC Conferences.
  2. The nature of student activism has changed. Whereas in the past NCAFC membership mostly consisted of activists in local anti-cuts groups, there are now fewer active groups, and many NCAFC members come from campuses where there isn’t one.
  3. While we should still encourage building local groups, we need to acknowledge the changes in the student movement and make sure all NCAFC members have the ability to propose policy.
  4. Summer Conference is equally important as Winter Conference, and should have the power to amend the constitution.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To amend the constitution as follows:

Delete 4.A.4.2 and replace with

Motions can be proposed by: local anti-cuts groups and other groups affiliated to NCAFC, the National Committee, or a group of at least seven NCAFC members.

Delete 4.A.7.1 and replace with

To debate motions and constitutional amendments

Abolishing the Secretariat (Constitutional amendment)

Submitted by the National Committee

NCAFC notes:

  1. The Secretariat is currently appointed by the National Committee (NC). It has the task of overseeing democratic procedure at NCAFC events, including conference and in practice, at times, meetings of the National Committee.
  2. A proposal to make the Secretariat elected was rejected at the last winter conference.
  3. It has often been difficult to find appropriate and willing candidates for the post.
  4. At various times during the post’s existence it has been unfilled, or its occupant(s) have been unable to perform the role, and the National Committee has had to perform these roles itself. This has not been a problem. NC members have been assigned to make arrangements for meetings, and have formed working groups to oversee the running of conferences.
  5. Despite the good work of members of the Secretariat over the time the post has existed, this is arguably preferable as NC members, being elected, are more democratically accountable.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To amend the constitution to abolish the Secretariat, and transfer oversight of its responsibilities to the NC.
    1. Amend 4.A.3.1. – “The NC and the Secretariat has ultimate responsibility for setting the agenda of conferences and other events, and ensuring their smooth and democratic running
    2. Amend 4.A.4.1. – “A motions and proposals deadline must be set by the Secretariat the NC, or its delegated conference working group, ahead of conference”
    3. Amend 4.B. – NCAFC has two one standing committees: the National Committee (NC) and the Secretariat
    4. Delete all of 4.B.3. and 4.B.4.

A New Behaviour Policy and Complaints Procedure

Submitted by the National Committee

NCAFC notes:

  1. Our Summer Conference 2016 instructed the National Committee to propose a replacement for our existing Safer Spaces Policy.

NCAFC resolves

  1. To adopt the Behaviour Policy and Complaints Procedure contained in the appendix to this motions document.

NCAFC & direct action

Submitted by Warwick for Free Education

NCAFC notes:

  1. That since the inception of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, the belief that grassroots direct action is an integral part of achieving political and social change has been a core principle of the organisation.
  2. That this vocal belief has set NCAFC apart from many other groups and organisations on the student left.
  3. That over the last couple of years, levels of grassroots activity happening on campuses has decreased somewhat.
  4. That, nonetheless, NCAFC continues to be contacted by activists asking for support and advice when it comes to planning and carrying out direct action.

NCAFC believes:

  1. That direct action will never not be relevant, useful and important in the fight for free, democratic and accessible education.
  2. That recent successes such as the occupation at Warwick have shown that commitment to direct action still exists in the movement and that it can be very effective.
  3. That in the fight against this government’s plans to marketise higher education, direct action on both local and national levels is essential, and thus we need activists and SU officers across the country to be equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary to plan and carry out direct action.
  4. That as well as practical knowledge, it’s important that activists have access to strong political and historical arguments as to why direct action is powerful and necessary.
  5. That NUS has started to do more work in this area, but that a lot is still lacking.
  6. That it’s important that within the active membership, and especially the National Committee, of NCAFC, we have a significant number of activists with first-hand experience and knowledge when it comes to direct action, who can be called upon to share that expertise with fellow members and/or with activist groups if requested.
  7. That whilst it’s important to recognise the ways in which the student movement is shifting and changing, and to adapt our political strategies accordingly, we must ensure that we do not lose all connection with direct action and that it remains a core aspect of our broad strategy in pushing for change.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. That as part of the updated version of the NCAFC website, there will be a “direct action hub” which will contain: key political arguments on why direct action is effective and necessary, a brief history of direct action in the student movement, links to useful practical resources on direct action, as well as a clear indication that activists are welcome to get in touch with us if they want any help/support/advice relating to direct action (including the offer for NCAFC to facilitate/co-facilitate direct action workshops on campuses).
  2. That we will continue to argue within NUS for a national union which not only coordinates direct action on a national level, but also actively supports grassroots direct action happening on campuses.
  3. That there should always be at least one workshop on direct action at our annual summer training event, incorporating both political and practical knowledge.
  4. That, where politically useful and appropriate, NCAFC will actively seek to collaborate with other grassroots organisations to coordinate direct action around educational issues.

Integrating newly-elected NC members into the National Committee

Submitted by Warwick for Free Education

NCAFC notes that:

  1. Often new NC members are expected to pick up their tasks and roles with little guidance, and can feel isolated unless they are already close to experienced NC members.
  2. Often a small number of NC members take on most of the work of maintaining the organisation, and that often some new NC members are never fully integrated into the NC.

NCAFC believes that:

  1. There is an expectation that all NC members should, barring situations where personal circumstances are having an impact on capacity and ability to organise, make an effort to engage in collective discussions, decision making and regular tasks. All NC members should be active in one permanent working group.
  2. Sometimes NC members have to take time off from organising and step back from active involvement.
  3. Sometimes NC members don’t feel supported or knowledgeable enough to fulfil their role adequately.

NCAFC resolves to:

  1. Implement an initial training brief for all new NC members. This will constitute a face-to-face or Skype session introducing the new NC member to decision making processes, communication platforms, working groups, expected tasks for NC members, NCAFC events and so on.
  2. Implement a ‘buddy system’ for new NC members. This will involve assigning each new NC member to a current NC member who will act as a point of contact for the new member for the first 2-3 months in the position. The older NC member will answer questions, check in with the new NC member, encourage them to take up tasks and help them complete them.

Appendix

NCAFC Behaviour Policy and Complaints Procedure

Proposed in motion “A new behaviour Policy and Complaints Procedure”

NCAFC is committed to fighting for an education system that is public, democratic, open and accessible to all, and oriented towards free enquiry, the needs and interests of society, and liberation from existing hierarchies and oppressions. We seek to dismantle, rather than perpetuate, existing oppressions and hierarchies within our communities and campaigns. We are a democratic political organisation, so discussion, debate and democratic processes are how we work through our disagreements and collective decisions.

If we are to achieve these aims, we must expect certain standards of behaviour of ourselves and those involved in our organisation, both at our events and in wider society.

We must not:

  1. discriminate against anyone on the basis of ethnicity, sex, gender, religion, age, sexuality, language, disability, asylum status or any other structurally oppressive criteria
  2. perpetrate verbal, physical or sexual abuse, bullying or violence

In addition, we expect ourselves and each other, as members and participants at our events, to:

  1. behave in a comradely and co-operative way towards one another
  2. avoid causing those around us unnecessary offence or anxiety
  3. respect the facilitatory methods of the Chair and only challenge them through the appropriate structures
  4. listen to others when they are speaking, not interrupt and wait for our turn to speak
  5. treat one another with respect, debating political ideas where we disagree without resorting to personal attacks or disrespectful language
  6. respect the aims and democratic processes of NCAFC and behave with honesty and integrity

We all have a responsibility to each other and NCAFC to uphold these standards of behaviour and challenge others around us if they fail to meet these standards. If you feel that anyone’s behaviour is not meeting these standards, in general, the first recourse should be to speak to this person privately and informally about their behaviour, or ask another member or NC member to do so. However, in cases where someone’s behaviour fails to meet these standards in a serious way, especially with regards to points 1. and 2., or repeatedly fails to meet these standards, a formal complaint may be submitted.

Complaints Procedure

  1. To make a formal complaint about a member or attendee at an event, the complainant should write to the National Committee, or if they prefer an NC member (or members) of their choice, who can discuss the complaint with the rest of the NC while preserving the complainant’s anonymity.
  2. Upon receiving the complaint, the NC will decide whether or not to investigate the complaint. All complaints should be treated seriously and assumed to be submitted in good faith unless there is compelling evidence to the contrary. If the complaint is against a NC member, they are not to take part in any discussions or decisions relating to the complaint and the rest of the NC may also decide to suspend them from the NC pending the outcome of the complaint.
  3. If the complaint is deemed serious enough, a group of NC members should be convened to investigate the complaint. Factors such as the diversity of the group and members’ relationships to the accused/complainant (unless submitted anonymously) should be considered to ensure as representative and fair a group as possible.
  4. The group will ask for any statement from the complainant in addition to their complaint. The accused will be informed of the details of the complaint made against them, with the complainant’s wishes regarding anonymity respected, and will also be asked for a statement. The group may also ask questions of the complainant and accused, and any other people as it deems necessary. The group should proceed with sensitivity and unintrusiveness if asking questions of a complainant whose complaint is on the basis of abuse or violence.
  5. While the procedure is ongoing, the NC may take the decision to suspend the member or ban them from attending events, including asking them to leave an event if a complaint is made during an event, pending the outcome of the investigation.
  6. When the group has considered the statements of the complainant and accused and any other information they have gathered, they will decide whether the accused’s behaviour:
    1. is a threat to the functioning of the organisation
    2. runs contrary to the aims of the organisation
    3. discriminates against members of oppressed groups
    4. poses a danger or harm to members of the organisation
  7. If the accused’s behaviour meets any of these criteria, the group will suggest a course of action the NC should take, which could include but is not limited to: giving the perpetrator a warning about their behaviour, banning the perpetrator from events and/or expelling them from the organisation.
  8. The NC will have the final decision as to the course of action to take, according to any conditions or procedures set out in the constitution, with the delegated group’s recommendations considered.
  9. The process up to this point should take no more than either 30 days from the original complaint or 5 days after the soonest NC meeting after the complaint was made, whichever is longer.The NC members are to treat all statements received and answers to questions as confidential and are not to talk about the details of the investigation to anyone outside the NC.
  10. If the complainant and/or accused disagrees with the decision, they can appeal the decision by writing to the NC within 30 days of the outcome. The NC can decide to uphold the decision, review the course of action or reopen the investigation, convening a different delegated group but following the same procedures as listed above. No further appeals can be made after this point.
  11. If the accused is expelled, they may apply for membership again in the future and the NC will make the decision to accept or reject their membership at the time their application is received.
  12. In cases where the complaint is related to verbal, physical or sexual abuse, bullying or violence, NC members will work with the complainant, if the complainant so wishes, to ensure that they have a support group around them and access to relevant services.

Return to motion “A new behaviour Policy and Complaints Procedure”

UCL students protest the Teaching Excellence Framework

ucl-demo-1

By Justine Canady, UCL

On 13 December, UCL we held a demonstration against the HE reforms at UCL. This protest was a part of a larger campaign started by our group of student activists, many of us from UCLU Labour Society, to defend higher education. Our campaign is focused on urging UCL’s Provost, Michael Arthur, to opt out of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). We are supported by numerous UCL Union officers and other UCLU societies.

UCLU Labour Society sent a petition in the form of an open letter (with 429 signatures) to the provost 16 December. The petition called TEF’s metrics “not relevant to actually improving teaching”, claiming that such an “arbitrary” framework would raise tuition fees, open the door for big business, create unfair requirements for staff, compromise academic freedom, and make UCL inaccessible to even more students. The letter goes on to say that Arthur called TEF “unnecessary” nearly a year ago.

There have been numerous closed-door meetings to discuss TEF, but Arthur has yet to publicly denounce the scheme. Our campaign promises to keep agitating until students’ needs are met and we hope to see other campaigns like this across the country soon. Next term, with the support of our student union, we’ll be building the drive to boycott the NSS unless and until the government drops the reforms.

ucl-demo-2

Union officers: 11 ways you can promote the NSS boycott now!

boycott-the-nssThe NSS boycott is a national campaign – to be successful, we need as many students as possible to know about it and participate, and Students’ Unions have a crucial role to play in that. Here are some ideas of how you can spread the message – use as many of them as you can, and more!

Set up an SU webpage dedicated to the campaign

You need an online space where any students can find out more information about the campaign and, crucially, what they can do to take part. Where possible this should include a mechanism by which students can pledge to boycott and request to opt out of communications from Ipsos Mori. This process is *normally* done via the University and so you may need to have conversations with the relevant university staff member(s) about how to facilitate this. Some institutions might be more awkward about it than others – make sure you stand your ground and insist that this process is a key part of the SU campaign. You want to be able to keep track of how many students have pledged, and from which departments/faculties, so that you can focus your campaign in specific areas if necessary.

Send an all-student email

The easiest and most obvious way of reaching out to students. Make sure they hear about the NSS from you before they do from the university! Include a link to your campaign webpage as well as a clear and concise explanation of why the campaign is so important.

Do lecture shout-outs

It’s easy to ignore emails but most people will remember things they heard in person – especially when they’re in a lecture and (in theory) ready to pay attention! You need to figure out where the key lectures are for you to hit – remember that only a certain demographic of students are eligible to fill out the NSS and so you need to target the right people. Draw up a timetable of relevant lectures, chat to lecturers in advance to ask if you can have 5 minutes at the start to talk about the campaign and leave flyers/stickers for students to pick up at the end. Get to as many of these as you can!

Put up posters

Design your own posters or run a competition for students to make their own – think as creatively as possible! You can also encourage students to take down or deface university posters promoting the survey and share a photo!

Run stalls

You need to make sure the campaign is as visible as possible, and that there are people out there on the ground who can chat to students, answer any questions and, of course, win the key arguments! If possible, have a laptop/tablet at the stall so that students can pledge to boycott right there and then.

Work with your UCU branch

Remember that UCU National Congress passed a motion supporting the NSS boycott! If you haven’t done so already, get in touch with your campus branch to talk to them about how you can work together to promote the campaign. See if staff members would be willing to put up a slide about the NSS boycott at the beginning of their lectures to spread awareness – students generally really respect what academics have to say, and so as much visible support from staff as possible would make a huge difference to the campaign.

Make a video

Simple really – a brief video breaking down what the NSS boycott is and why it’s necessary that can be shared around social media would be really useful!

Do creative actions

Alongside all the regular comms and publicity strategies, you need stunts/actions which will create a proper buzz on campus about the NSS boycott. This could be a banner drop, a sit-in, a rally, a march and more! Collaborate with grassroots activists to ensure maximum impact.

Reach out to societies

If you have any activist groups on campus, political societies (Labour? People & Planet? A strong Fem Soc?) or even less obvious communities (like sports teams?!), speak to them and try to get key people on board e.g society execs – they could send out member emails/general communications about the NSS boycott which will really help with engagement.

Contact course reps

Following on from the previous point, you don’t just want students to hear about the campaign from the SU, but from their flatmates, their fellow society/club members and their coursemates. Hence course representatives are a key group to try and get on board; they will generally be used to chatting to fellow students and spreading awareness/information and so if you can work with them to do this with the NSS boycott it would make a huge difference. You should encourage them to bring the issue up in departmental meetings and ensure you’re supporting them in terms of winning the arguments.

Run workshops

Most importantly, don’t assume that students aren’t interested. The Higher Education reforms – from fee increases, enforced competition, universities shutting down and being replaced with private companies – will affect everyone. It’s your job to break down these issues and make the campaign as accessible as possible, so ensure you’re facilitating spaces where students can access necessary knowledge and information!

Fighting the commodification and casualisation of higher education

Mark Campbell, London Met UCU (Vice-chair), London Region UCU (Higher Education Chair)

Re-posted with permission from London Met UCU’s blog

londonmetmay2016

This Monday, London Met UCU published the damning conclusions of a workload survey we recently conducted. It’s main findings were the shocking, health damaging, increase in workload – following continuing mass redundancies, now affecting London Met’s permanent substantive staff. Essentially, contractual workload protections have been subverted through the convenient mechanism of line-managers not recognising ANY work other than face-to-face lecturer-student teaching as needing to be measured (but still expected under threat of discipline to be conducted). The documented survey comments highlighting those appalling lived-experiences are shocking.

However, what our survey also highlighted was the other, even more discriminating, and health-risking, side of the modern commodified dystopian university: a permanently exploited, zero-houred, reserve army of labour. These staff have zero job-security, zero-reward for years of service, zero-protection from redundancy (their zero-hour contract is constructed to allow them to be permanently-redundant between crumbs of work). The appalling conditions of casualised lecturing staff are not unique to London Met, and are shockingly highlighted in today’s Guardian front-page and accompanying articles.

London Met management may be ahead of the pack in their future-imperfect full on rush to a privatised market dystopia, but the rest of the university sector are now snapping at its heals and about to be let off the leash by the Higher Education Bill 2016.

All university staff, permanent substantive or casualised, have a vested interest in fighting to end the commodification of education, and its equally evil twin, the casualisation of university labour. We need permanent secure contracts for all staff, that truly reflect and reward ALL the work that we do, and we need enough staff that allow us to deliver the sort of quality service that our students deserve. The neo-liberal model has failed. Time to remove it from education.

In these circumstances, and particularly at this critical time, its an absolute disgrace that the current UCU leadership have acted to disarm our members in that fight by dropping our national industrial action and pay campaign that was explicitly aimed at taking on all our employers over their collective guilt and complicity over both increasing casualisation and the equally shocking increasing gender pay-gap.

FInally, with regards to the Higher Education Bill 2016, we don’t need fatally flawed measures of ‘teaching excellence’ or ‘student satisfaction surveys’ – indeed, we should be supporting the NUS decision to boycott the NSS. Instead, what we really need is proper investment in the essential public good that a university education is. That starts with recognising the critical role that university staff play in forming and delivering that public good. It means recognising, as the NUS does, that ‘staff working conditions are students learning conditions’. It means recognising that society as a whole inextricably benefits from an educated workforce and critically engaged citizenry, therefore society should pay for it through student grants and direct university block grants via increased business taxation. We need to break the rod of mass student indebtedness and free from their shackles our indentured university employees.

This is why I, and thousands of others, will be marching this Saturday in London, United for Education.

 

Why we’re marching: Grants not Debt, Stop the College Cuts & Stop the HE Reforms

This Saturday 19 November we will be marching with students, education workers and supporters from around the country. This demo is one part of the movement we need to defeat the government’s brutal attacks on education. To build that movement and win, we need to be crystal clear about our demands – to reverse the cuts to maintenance funding, stop the cuts to colleges, and stop the higher education reforms. And about how we demand a free, universally accessible, democratic education system should be built – by taxing the rich and taking the banks under democratic control. Read on to find out more – and please share! On Saturday, you can help NCAFC spread the word by finding our stall at the assembly point to get involved in distributing bulletins and placards.


Grants Not Debt!

grants-not-debt-matt-kirby-810x539The government has now replaced maintenance grants with additional loans. This divisive, toxic policy saddles the poorest students with immense amounts of debt. The Tories have gone through with their destructive, anti-working class politics despite evidence that maintenance grants improve access and that debt deters students from higher education. But we won’t let them win!

Maintenance grants have been scrapped (1998) and won back (2004) in the past, and we can do this again. We will have to employ a range of tactics, from lobbying to direct action, with examples including the #GrantsNotDebt Westminster Bridge blockade in January and the NUS National Demo on November 19th. If students and workers come together on the streets and beyond, we can put enough pressure on the government that we will win the reintroduction of maintenance grants.

This victory is the first step in a wider aim though. Winning back maintenance grants will be a huge victory and will improve access for millions of students, but it is still not enough to guarantee a truly accessible education system. We must push on further. Our aim should be this: living grants for all students, with everyone getting enough to have a decent standard of life, as a part of a free, liberated and democratic education system.

To move forward we need to redouble our efforts – building the movement by convincing more and more people of our positive alternative to the Tories’ attack. The idea of a workable free education system is being developed by individual campaigners on the ground, by free education activists groups such as NCAFC, and now by the largest political party in the UK, the Labour Party. Collectively, we have the strength knowledge and potential for action to win back maintenance grants through the #grantsnotdebt campaign and build the type of education system we want. To do this, we must fight together.


Stop the college cuts!

esol-cutsSince 2010 we’ve seen massive cuts in further and adult education spending and, according to trade unions and a leading King’s College London report, we’re now on a rapid road to the systematic obliteration of further education.

In 2010, the Coalition government scrapped Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA), the only support on offer for the poorest further education (FE) students. Since then, a stream of assaults on FE college funding have resulted in devastating cuts to jobs, courses and provision. Last year, the adult education budget was cut by a catastrophic 24%, and English for Speakers of Another Language (ESOL) classes by £45 million. With yet more funding set to be withdrawn, as many as 40% of colleges could close.

The services being cut are disproportionately relied upon by working class people, those returning for a second chance at education, and migrants – especially migrant women – seeking to learn the language. And education workers are suffering too, with swathes of redundancies, and those left behind pressed to work ever harder for less money.

The government had been seeking to organise the implementation of these cuts through the “Area Reviews”, pushing a series of closures and big mergers in England, and narrowing curricula down to serve the diktats of business leaders rather than the ambitions and interests of students. A similar process was already implemented in Scotland in 2011 and nearly halved the number of colleges there.

Now the government has suspended the reviews, but the cuts are still coming, making the future even murkier as the cuts will be implemented even more haphazardly.

We remain firm that there is no “good” way to organise these cuts. Our demand is to reverse all the funding cuts, and then go further, boosting funding in order to expand provision instead of cutting it. We will keep campaigning for properly-funded colleges, freely accessible to all, working together as a coherent public service instead of competing in a market, with decent financial support for students and well-paid, secure jobs for workers. And with a newly radical official opposition party in Corbyn’s Labour offering us the opportunity to think big, we aim to develop and fight for the vision of an integrated, democratic, cradle-to-grave National Education Service. To stand a chance, we urgently need to organise and build democratic, grassroots, militant unionisation of students and staff in colleges.


Stop the HE reforms!

Education Not MarketisationEnglish universities are currently facing the most far-reaching and potentially disastrous set of higher education (HE) reforms in decades. If the reforms go through, student debt will rise, our teachers will be put under even more pressure, and private companies will be given a free pass to take over from and profit from public universities driven to collapse.

The flagship proposal is the “Teaching Excellence Framework” (TEF). Government claims that this is about putting teaching on a par with research in universities. However, this hides the fact that none of the TEF metrics (student satisfaction, graduate employment and dropout rates) directly measure teaching quality. They also tell us little about how teaching could be improved.

It also hides the fact that the imbalance between research and teaching has been driven by the aggressively-implemented Research Excellence Framework (REF), which has placed extreme levels of stress on academics. Both REF and TEF should be abandoned.

TEF is really about fees. Universities that perform well on TEF will be given the power to raise fees in line with (and in the near future, above) inflation. Universities that rank low on TEF will see their budgets continue to stagnate, as they are forced to keep their fees at £9,000 while inflation and costs rise. Without extra funding from government, university bosses will cut corners, slash wages, and close courses.

The Home Office have also made veiled threats towards international students. “Poorly performing” universities may have their international student numbers capped. These reforms will put universities like London Met on the brink of collapse.

Private companies will be given a free pass to capitalise on the closure of public universities like London Met. This is a continuation of reforms since 2012, when private providers were given access to the same, tax-payer subsidised, funding as public universities. These private providers offered courses with unacceptably high drop-out rates; thousands of young people, exploited for profit, had their dreams dashed. Millions of pounds of public money was wasted. Now the government want to relax regulations on these profiteers.

The HE reforms are deeply undemocratic. They will continue to shut students out of major decisions about higher education, instead favouring the input of businesses. Government have proposed a new “Office for Students”, which will have significant power in overseeing funding and university accreditation. With breath-taking hubris they have announced there will be no student representation.

We oppose these reforms outright. As government is taking a sledgehammer to public higher education, so we must take a sledgehammer to their reforms.

We want an education system free from fees and debt, accessible to everyone, and democratically controlled by students and education workers. In short, we want education for human flourishing.


Money doesn’t grow on trees: tax the rich and nationalise the banks!

People in the crowd hold up posters 'Free Education - Tax the Rich' at the National Campaign Against Fees & Cuts rally in Trafalgar Square.

Free, decently-funded education, grants, and paying education workers good wages, won’t come cheap. And as right-wingers like to remind us, money doesn’t grow on trees! We don’t want to increase the burden on ordinary people already struggling to pay the rent. So how are we going to pay for all this?

We’re told our society is short on cash. But this is a lie. Our society is extremely rich, but grossly unequal. The average FTSE 100 CEO’s income is 160 times that of the average worker. Half the world’s wealth lies in the hands of 1% of the population. And it was the rest of us, working for them every day, who generated that wealth.

Let’s put some of it to better use. We can fund free education by imposing serious redistributive taxes on the incomes, assets and businesses of the rich.

But this will only scratch the surface. If we’re serious about building a cradle-to-grave National Education Service – and creating an accountable economy, serving people not profit, with decent jobs, homes and healthcare for everyone – then we need to put the banks under democratic control.

The basic purpose of a banking system is to hold money while its owners aren’t using it and put it to work in the economy through investment and lending. So it has immense power to shape the economy through investment decisions – and, through short-termist profit-driven decisions, to plunge the rest of us into financial crises – while also providing personal services like savings accounts and mortgages.

Just like railways, healthcare or education, there’s no good reason why something so essential and powerful should be run according to what maximises private owners’ profits, instead of for social good. Especially after we funded a £850 billion bail-out! By taking these immense reserves of wealth and economic power into the hands of the many, we can choose democratically to invest in developing public services like Corbyn’s National Education Service, and in creating jobs and homes. We can orchestrate converting a climate-destroying fossil fuel economy into a sustainable infrastructure for the future. In short, we’ll have the tools needed to fundamentally transform society for the better.

NCAFC responds to the attempt to undermine the NSS boycott

PRESS RELEASE: NUS TO BALLOT MEMBERS ON RISK ASSESSING BOYCOTT

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: 07895405312, 07584092431, 07901844980

EDUCATION NOT MARKETISATIONThe National Union of Students (NUS) announced on Friday that it will ballot all members on whether to publish a risk assessment and an equality impact assessment of the proposed boycott of the National Student Survey (NSS).

All members will be asked, “Should NUS conduct and publish a risk assessment and equality impact assessment before finalising the NSS boycott / sabotage action?” The ballot was demanded by officers at 35 students’ unions.

In April, student delegates to NUS National Conference voted to boycott the National Student Survey until government scrap the proposed higher education (HE) reforms. By refusing to fill in the survey, students will disrupt government’s flagship proposal, the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), along with other key market mechanisms. The motion passed at NUS National Conference stated that, “The HE reforms currently being considered by the government represent a fundamental attack on the idea of education as a public service. It is a blueprint for the marketisation of the sector, introducing private providers and variable fees, and orientating the whole sector towards the needs of employers.”

The HE reforms include plans to raise tuition fees and encourage private companies to set up universities. The White Paper on Higher Education also claimed that government has no duty to prevent the closure of public universities. Josh Berlyne, a Sheffield University student, said, “Calling a national ballot to risk assess a boycott? It’s ludicrous. Public education is in crisis right now, and these people are worried about students not filling in a survey. Students and academics are crying out to stop the HE reforms—2,300 at Sheffield University signed an open letter saying so. And while all this is going on, there are students’ union officers who want to slow down the only serious proposal to stop these reforms.”

Sahaya James, student at University of the Arts and NUS National Executive Council member, said, “On one level, calling for a risk assessment of the boycott is laughable. But it’s also insulting. Risk assessments exist to prevent deaths and serious injuries at work. They’re not meant to be used as an underhand tactic to prevent unions from taking effective action. It’s a joke and a disgrace.”

More information on the ballot can be found here: http://www.nusconnect.org.uk/groups/shape-our-work/articles/chief-returning-officer-opens-national-ballot

Read all about it! Campus bulletins for the new term

paper-boy2With Autumn Term kicking off, or about to kick off, on college and university campuses across the country, NCAFC activists have written and designed these bulletins with news and explanations about the government’s attacks on education, reports from campus campaigns, and how new and returning students can get involved in the fight for free, funded and democratic education. Why not use them to spread the word at your freshers’ fair, at events over the next couple of months, set up a regular stall on campus, or use them to make links at other institutions near you (for instance, if you’re an activist group at a university, you could reach out to your local FE college by flyering at the gates and seeing who you meet).

There’s one general edition and one specifically for Scotland, and they’re designed to be printed on A3 and folded in half to make a 4-page booklet. NCAFC has very limited funds, so please try to fund printing run locally: consider doing a whip-round of your activist group, soliciting some donations, and/or sneakily getting some free printing from a sympathetic academic’s office(!) However, if you’ve tried these and still need help, we might be able to offer limited assistance – please use the form below to get in touch and we’ll do our best to help.

We hope you find these useful!

Download the general edition

 

Download the Scotland edition

Defend the right to organise and free expression on our campuses

“Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently.”

Rosa Luxemburg, Polish revolutionary socialist

Students march in the Berkeley Free Speech movement, 1964

Students march in the Berkeley Free Speech movement, 1964

As a left-wing movement, our goal is to transform the world – to take power from the few to the many and use it to create a better society. One of the key struggles for us is on the battlefield of ideas. It is, in part, through ensuring the dominance of certain ideas that the status quo is maintained. Therefore, to confront the rich and powerful, we need to counter their ideas with ours, and change hearts and minds.

That’s one reason why the fight for education is so important. Democratising access to, and the development of, ideas and knowledge, isn’t just about equalising job opportunities: it’s also about empowering more and more people politically.

It’s also why freedom of expression and freedom of discussion are as vital as oxygen to any progressive, liberatory movement. If we can’t even discuss and spread radical ideas, any attempt to change the world is suffocated before it can even begin. And beyond expression and discussion of ideas, we also need the ability to organise together around those ideas, and act on them. Historically, these freedoms have been most denied to the left, the oppressed and the exploited – precisely in order to stop us challenging the powers that be.

This is why the current threats – which come from many different sides – to these basic political freedoms on campuses should be so concerning to education activists. NCAFC is committed to opposing all these threats in a joined-up, consistent way, to defend and extend political freedoms.

Here are some of the issues we want to address:

Anti-Prevent Poster from the UCU trade union

Anti-Prevent Poster from the UCU trade union

1. The government’s Prevent policy

Under the Prevent policy, schools, colleges and universities are now legally required to monitor students considered “at risk” of being drawn into “extremist ideas” and protect them from being “radicalised”. In practice, this policy leads to the targeting, surveillance, harassment and stigmatisation of Muslim students disproportionately, as well as radical left-wing activists, with a potential chilling effect on the expression of radical ideas. In addition, the government wants universities to ban speakers that would be quite legal elsewhere.

2. Education bosses clamping down

The senior managers of schools, colleges and universities are going above and beyond their legal duties to restrict free expression. Many are uncomfortable with speakers and events that might draw controversy, and still more are preventing or discouraging political postering, leafleting and campaigning in order to maintain a sterile, squeaky-clean corporate image – and the smooth running of for-profit businesses on our increasingly commercialised campuses. In other cases, student voices have been suppressed from countering particular speakers – for example, in the intimidation of students at King Edward’s Camp Hill School for Girls who wanted the opportunity to express critical questions and dissenting views when the Israeli ambassador was invited to speak at their school.

Protesting the suspensions of University of Birmingham activists

Protesting the suspensions of University of Birmingham activists

In recent years, senior managers’ responses to protest and organised dissent on campuses have become particularly draconian. They have mobilised antidemocratic laws against us and victimised individual students and workers who are activists, protesters and organisers. From the suspension of student occupiers to the use of legal injunctions and police violence to control campus space, and from the blocking of workers’ strikes on antidemocratic technicalities to having troublesome trade unionists deported or made redundant, these attacks require robust responses, including full solidarity with those victimised.

3. Cops off campus
#CopsOffCampus demonstration, London 2013

#CopsOffCampus demonstration, London 2013

Not only do the police pose a threat to individuals – in particular harassing and assaulting black people and other those of other marginalised groups – they also play a repressive role against left-wing political activity. Protests have been violently attacked, and students and workers taking action have faced surveillance and harassment. In many countries, the police cannot enter campuses without special permission. This has made campuses beacons of free thought and political expression in those countries. We aspire towards achieving the same thing in the UK!

4. Academic freedom and the marketisation of education and research

Successive governments have sought to turn students into consumers, and academics into producers of market-oriented teaching and research. The range of courses available, especially to students with less financial means, is narrowing, with politically and socially critical teaching – from trade union studies and heterodox economics, to feminist and black liberation studies – being squeezed out. The higher education reforms currently in progress will only make this worse. In research, narrow-minded metrics combined with competition for limited funding and jobs are more and more tightly restricting academic enquiry, to suit the needs and interests of the government and the owners of industry.

UCL students petitioned against their union's ban on Macer Gifford speaking at its Kurdish Society

UCL students petitioned against their union’s ban on Macer Gifford speaking at its Kurdish Society

5. Bureaucratised student unions

Many student unions are run like businesses, with positions taken by people who want to boost their CVs. Their culture is politically opposed to student organising and debate – particularly if left-wing politics are in the mix. Many unions go along with rules or pressure from their institution, or go above and beyond the call of duty in their attempts to avoid argument and controversy. For example, Teesside Student Union shutting down discussion on free education and quashing independently-organised political debates, and UCL Union sabbatical officers trying to bar Macer Gifford, who had fought with Kurdish forces against ISIS, from speaking on campus. Organising societies, meetings, events and public activity is generally getting harder.

6. Restrictions on our unions
Trade union reps Mark Campbell and David Hardman, who have lost their jobs at London Met Uni

Trade union reps Mark Campbell and David Hardman, who have lost their jobs at London Met Uni

The strictures of the new Trade Union Act add to the constraints imposed by decades of anti-union laws against workers trying to organise and defend their rights. The UK’s trade unionists face some of the most draconian laws of any democratic capitalist country. Our student unions, too, are subject to restrictions on their actions and the political scope of their activity that have been been imposed by successive governments keen to head off organised opposition to their policies. What’s worse, many of our student unions’ bureaucracies have internalised the anti-political, service-provider model of student unions pushed on them from above. They often implement over-zealously implement excessively conservative interpretations of these laws – for instance, UCL Union’s trustees (including unelected non-students) recently ruled that the union was not allowed to vote to do something as modest as raise awareness of the repression of Palestinians.

7. No platform and the left

On top of these external threats, within the student left and the wider student movement there is a political current that advocates bans to shut out speakers with bigoted, right-wing and disagreeable views. We want to fight those reactionary politics, but in general, we think that instead of no-platforming the people who hold them, we need to actively engage, counter and defeat their ideas through argument and protest. You can read more about this here.

8. International solidarity
Students at India's Jawaharlal Nehru University protesting the arrest of student union leader Kanhaiya Kumar on charges of sedition

Students at India’s Jawaharlal Nehru University protesting the arrest of student union leader Kanhaiya Kumar on charges of sedition

Around the world, education activists are facing repression – in many cases much worse than that in the UK. For instance, Indian students protesting the far-right Modi government have been arrested for “sedition”, US students were pepper-sprayed while sat still in a non-violent protest, and Turkish academics were rounded up for signing a petition against their government’s massacre of Kurdish people. While campaigning for political freedom on our own campuses, we stand in solidarity with those around the world fighting for the same.

Take action!

NCAFC wants to spark debate about political freedoms and a culture of open discussion on campuses, and to push back against these encroachments in order to create an environment in which students’ and workers’ organisation and campaigning can blossom. Join the debate and join the campaign on your campus!

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The student movement, the left, and no platform

We believe that open discussion and free expression are the lifeblood of left-wing and liberation struggles. We want to change the world for the better, and that means confronting, tackling and defeating a host of bigoted, right-wing and regressive ideas. Parts of the student movement think that one way to do this is through the use of “no platform” policies on our campuses and in our unions, to shut out the people who believe those ideas. We think that instead, we need to beat those ideas through argument and protest, and change hearts and minds to change the world.

What is “no platform”?

No platform protestNo-platforming is a tactic adopted originally by activists against fascist organisations. It means refusing, as a general blanket rule, to permit a specified group any platform to organise, promote their ideas, or act on them. This could mean everything from turning over a street stall, to disrupting a meeting, to denying them an invitation to speak in a student society event. It also includes refusing, again as a blanket rule, to ever have representatives of your organisation or movement share a platform with that group.

The left and liberation struggles need to fight a battle of ideas

Our movements exist precisely because reactionary ideas and bigotry are not marginal but dominant and widespread across our society. So changing minds – billions of minds! – is therefore completely vital to what we want to achieve. There is no shortcut and we can’t proceed by hoping to gain control of various little pockets of society (like student unions) and make them ideologically pure through imposing regulations from the top down. No regulation or speaker policy can change hearts and minds. The left has to confront the world as it is, and debate and discuss with people to win them over.

At worst, attempting to apply no-platform policies to widely-held ideas means denying ourselves a platform. When we refuse to share a platform with people who hold bigoted or right-wing views, very often our opponents get a free ride. It is our job as a movement to go out and compete against them to spread our ideas.

It can be exhausting and distressing to go out into a hostile world and confront dominant ideas that attack our freedom and our very right to exist. But that’s why we build a collective movement. No individual can or should be expected to fight every battle, but organised together with everyone contributing as much as they are able, as a collective we can meet those challenges.

Open discussion within the left and liberation movements is also vital – it’s the only way to ensure that our movements are democratic, and that we constantly challenge ourselves to re-examine, refine and improve the ideas that drive them.

Attacks from the authorities

More broadly, progressives and the left always face attempts to silence us. Political freedoms on our campuses are already under attack from the government, from education bosses, and from the marketisation of education.

We need to stop these attacks, and an argument about defending free enquiry, free debate and free speech is essential to winning that fight. There are differences between restrictions imposed by the state and those by student unions, but we can’t win the argument for the value of open discussion if we are inconsistent, if we are simultaneously imposing our own regulations of which ideas can and cannot be expressed. Our best defence depends on building, and embedded as widely and firmly as possible, a consensus in favour of defending open discussion and free speech.

What’s different about fascists?

Mural depicting the Battle of Cable Street: anti-fascist Londoners faced down the police to physically block a march by Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts

Mural depicting the Battle of Cable Street: anti-fascist Londoners faced down the police to physically block a march by Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts

We don’t think that fascist ideas cross some arbitrary line of being too distressing or offensive to be heard: we don’t want to ban fascist texts from libraries. Nor do we think that policies attempting to silence fascists would be sufficient to beat fascist ideas anyway – we will never beat ideas with anything other than different, better ideas.

Instead, we are committed to no platform as a physical self-defence tactic – part of a militant anti-fascist strategy. Fascist groups are an organised movement of physical violence in the streets, fighting to terrorise, crush, and ultimately murder oppressed groups, the workers’ movement and the left. Antifascists are forced to respond by doing whatever we can to disrupt fascists and their efforts.

Importantly, this is a tactic that the left and student and workers’ movements can use to fight fascists from the grassroots up. We don’t, for instance, call for the state to step in and ban fascist organisations and demonstrations for us. We know we can’t trust the state in the fight against fascism, and experience also shows that state-imposed restrictions on the far-right are easily turned against the left too.

In certain circumstances, we may apply similar tactics to other physically threatening and violent groups and individuals which confront us. Again, this is about physical self-defence.

Reclaiming the banner of political freedoms from right-wing hypocrites

Recently, right-wingers and bigots – from Conservative student campaigns to press outlets like Spiked! – have draped themselves with the banner of free speech against the left of the student movement. This has been possible, in part, because of the abandonment of that banner by parts of the left. But the right’s defence of political freedom has, in most cases, been deeply hypocritical and inconsistent. These commentators rail at student union no platform policies – too often because they actually support the bigoted and reactionary ideas that are usually the targets of these policies – but have little or nothing to say about Prevent, university and college managers cleansing campus spaces of visible politics, or the victimisation of student protesters and trade union organisers.

NCAFC is setting out to show up these hypocrites, and build a consistent, left-wing campaign to defend and extend freedom of speech, debate, organisation and action on campuses, in order to facilitate a flowering of student and workers’ organisation and struggle. Join us!

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Agenda for Summer Training 2016

13432338_1121513227908589_8940385680719613273_nNCAFC’s Summer Training for activists will be on 27-28 August at SUARTS, Holborn, London. We’ve planned a mixture of practical skill-sharing sessions (motion writing, public speaking, press), workshops and plenaries about the challenges facing our movement and how we should respond: from reforms taking place in Higher and Further Education, to the aftermath of the EU Referendum, and more. We’ll also be talking about organising on campus and giving you the tools to run effective campaigns. If you’re interested in making the NSS sabotage happen, working with campus trade unions, improving your Labour club, or want key advice on being a good leftwing union officer – this is the place to be. Whether you’re an experienced activist or just beginning to get involved, we’re sure you’ll have a chance to learn something new, and meet other inspiring activists and officers from around the country. Please register online here to attend (free) Attend the Facebook event and invite your friends!

Agenda

Social – Friday 26 August

  • 18:00 – Film & discussion: “If A Tree Falls”

Day 1 – Saturday 27 August

  • 10:15 – Registration
  • 11:00 – Plenary 1: How should the student movement respond to Brexit?
  • 12:00 – Break
  • 12:15 – Workshop slot 1:
    1. How to be a good lefty sabb
    2. Practical migrant solidarity
    3. Campus organising 101
  • 13:30 – Liberation caucus (LGBTQ)
  • 14:00 – Lunch
  • 14:30 – Plenary 2: The fight to save FE
  • 15:30 – Liberation caucus (Women & Non-binary)
  • 16:00 – Break
  • 16:15 – Workshop slot 2:
    1. Student-staff solidarity on campus
    2. FE and HE – linking up!
    3. What would a radical, democratic SU movement look like?
  • 17:30 – Break
  • 17:45 – Liberation caucus (Trans)
  • 18:15 – Plenary 3: Tackling the HE reforms
  • 19:15 – Close & social

Day 2 – Sunday 28 August

  • 10:00 – Breakfast
  • 10:30 – Plenary 4: Building the NSS sabotage on your campus!
  • 11:30 – Liberation caucus (Disabled)
  • 12:00 – Break
  • 12:15 – Workshop slot 3:
    1. Practical skills
    2. Dealing with burnout: welfare in activism
    3. Organising in Labour clubs
  • 13:30 – Lunch
  • 14:00 – Workshop slot 4:
    1. Prevent and beyond
    2. Public speaking
    3. What should lefty students do when they graduate?
  • 15:15 – Liberation caucus (Black)
  • 15:45 – Break
  • 16:00 – Plenary 5: Being part of a global movement
  • 17:00 – Close