Students Threaten to become “Ungovernable” if fees raised.

PRESS RELEASE: Students Threaten to Become “Ungovernable” at Prospect of Fee Raise

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Universities UK, the representative body for vice-chancellors in the UK, has today called or the nine thousand pound fee cap to be lifted in line with inflation so that the UK “can continue to provide high quality education that meets the needs of students.”

Janet Beer, vice-president of UUK, also stated that support for students’ living costs must also increase, and that maintaining the real terms value of the headline fee was essential to maintain the delivery of high quality learning experience for students.

In Parliament too, Universities Minister Jo Johnson refused to rule out a fee increase while answering questions in the House of Commons yesterday. In response to a question from Blairite former NUS President turned MP for Ilford North, Wes Streeting, on whether he could rule out changes in fees and repayments for existing students and graduates, he simply stated that the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development had praised the English fee system as sustainable.

Kelly Rogers, National Campaign Against Fees & Cuts Women’s Officer, said: “A raise in fees would be not just an attack on current students and those who are traditionally expected to go to university, it is an ideological attack to limit the ability of the working classes and those already marginalised to access education. We have seen unrest since the election of the Conservative government; I have no doubt that the student movement will become ungovernable if a fee raise is on the agenda.”

Hope Worsdale, NCAFC National Committee, said: “We have rebuilt the student movement over the past year. The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts has already called a mass demonstration on November 4 for Free Education and the student movement is now more than ever capable of defeating governmental attacks.”

James Elliott, NUS Disabled Students’ Committee, said: “The thought that the government could prepare for a fee raise is despicable. In 2010, the government saw mass revolt at the prospect of a fee raise and we will be mobilising in our hundreds of thousands to ensure that this does not happen again and further the fight for free education. ”

Advice for new student union officers!

We’re re-publishing this series of articles written by an NCAFC activist and student union officer, about some of the issues new student union officers (especially full-time officers) will face as they enter their posts. These are just some of the wide range of issues in the student movement that will be discussed at NCAFC’s Summer Training & Gathering: an annual gathering for campus activists and student union officers alike, consisting of workshops, discussions and debates for the student movement to equip itself for the battles of the coming year. It held on 5-6 September and will be free to attend. More information here.


 

Be prepared to fight university & college managers

You represent students, not bosses. One thing it’s vital to understand is that the various people with power over the things you want to change – from the director of your student well-being department, to a Vice-Chancellor, to a local councillor – are mostly working to fulfil different goals than the interests and desires of students (or education workers). That’s not to say they are consistently opposed – in some cases, our interests and goals more or less align with theirs. In these cases, you may be able to secure wins just by talking to the right people and saying the right things – or lining up the institutional powers that do agree with you against those that don’t. But if those things were the only things we wanted to win, we wouldn’t need unions.

We can’t win by sending a silver-tongued union officer into back-room chats with managers. It is naïve to think – as some of the student union movement seems to – that authority figures are so incredibly impressionable and incompetent that a few clever words from a student officer will make them act contrary to their goals and material interests. In these situations, the main power we can bring to bear is coercive, not persuasive. We have to force their hands, against their will, by making it more difficult to continue to oppose us than to do what we want. Tactics like occupations, disruptive protests on open days, strikes and other industrial action, and creating PR crises and negative media attention – most of which are based in collective action – are the key weapons in your arsenal. And you can’t just conjure these out of nothing when they’re needed, nor can you take them out of the box when you deem it tactically appropriate and then just put them back again – you need to nurture and maintain grassroots political organising among students constantly, and put them in control of action as much as you can (see below: “Continue to fight for your ideas and organise on campus”).

You don’t work for the college or university. Senior managers often seem to think that they can treat a student union as some sort of “student experience department” that works for them – you exist to provide entertainment and maybe some individualised welfare support, and to tick a box saying they listen to the “student voice” (just so long as it didn’t disagree with them). Unfortunately, that’s what university and college bosses often mean when they talk approvingly of “partnership” with student unions.

There’s nothing wrong with cooperating with management when their interests align with students’. But the student union doesn’t work for the institution. You may rely on the university or college for resources and possibly space. But in a democratic education system, all those resources would be under the control of students, staff, and the community. Senior management’s control is illegitimate, so the fact that they give some of it back to students in the form of a union block grant doesn’t mean the union legitimately owes them anything. Your work to maintain and increase that grant might include a presentation exercise of playing up those aspects of the union’s work that align with the interests of the people holding the purse-strings, but managers cannot be allowed to set the agenda.


 

Don’t let bureaucracy get in the way of democracy

It helps to think of there actually being two student unions. There’s the political union, which is a platform for students’ collective expression and action; and there’s the bureaucratic entity that’s legally recognised as the union, which may employ staff, hold bank accounts, maintain physical premises and so on. In most cases this is a charity, under the oversight of various laws and the Charities Commission.

The latter can be thought of as a shell for the former. The real union, and the political agenda set more-or-less democratically by its members, is what matters. The bureaucratic entity is a tool we can use to help pursue that agenda, because it allows us to wield important and powerful resources.

The legal structures aren’t suited to democratic, effective student unionism – in fact some of them were imposed to hold back our work. There’s an agenda and a set of values that you’re supposed to adhere to, that comes with the charity model, and none of it is very compatible with democracy. And in your induction as a union officer, someone may try to convince you that this model and its agenda are a good thing that you should embrace and buy into! Your job here becomes a balancing act.

Many officers succumb completely to this agenda, and happily take on their new role as a “responsible” trustee of an “apolitical” charity. The leadership of our movement, in the form of the NUS, does little to oppose this, and at worst it often actively embraces the constraints imposed on us by our institutions and a state both eager to hold back any political threat from organised students.

There is also a subtler problem, where officers don’t see themselves as buying into the agenda, but in practice become overly concerned with maintaining the shell and conforming to the model that’s expected of them, at the expense of democratic, activist student unionism. Recently, we’ve seen student union Trustee Boards quash democratic decisions, and officers who see themselves as radical leftists haven’t been immune to this either.

Some activists would rather sacrifice the resources to which these shells give us access rather than give an inch. Or they may respond to the bureaucratic nature of it all by trying to completely avoid the (sometimes mundane yet still necessary) tasks of maintaining and administrating the union. There’s an appealing spirit to this, but this would be a very serious loss that would ultimately make us weaker and worse off. Yes, the student movement desperately needs to put together a coherent challenge to the agenda that’s been imposed on us and fight to expand democratic rights for unions. But until we start – and win – that fight, we’re better off maintaining our shells and the resources that come with them, as long as we push the legal and bureaucratic envelope as far as possible to uphold democracy – and resist buying ideologically into the anti-political agenda.


 

Continue to fight for your ideas and organise on campus

Over and over again, in student unions and elsewhere, leftists have made the mistake of thinking that the key is simply to win leadership positions, and then once in post they can simply dictate a leftwing agenda. The reality is that your power is limited and even sabbatical officers on their own are not very important. It is not enough to have a sabbatical officer with the right political positions. It’s the membership of a union taking collective action that can force the hands of those in power. The right leadership helps, but is not enough.

Even when you’re in office, you need to keep putting the left agenda up for discussion in your union’s democratic structures (and then fighting to win those discussions and votes). We need to keep sparking debates and forcing people to think. A union with a left-wing leadership cannot achieve much without a politically conscious and active body of students. Discussion within the union is one essential way to build that.

Some left-wing union officers refrain from putting potentially controversial issues to (for instance) a General Assembly, in case they lose the debate and the vote. This kind of conservatism is bureaucratic and self-defeating.

Within the left, maintaining a strong degree of organisation is vital. Good campus activist groups are not just vehicles for getting left-wingers elected to union posts, though they should try to do that. They are the core body of activists who will make action happen on campus (with or without the union’s official backing), who will maintain a collective political memory and pass it on to the next cohort – and who can keep left-wingers grounded and accountable once they’re in the sabbatical office. Left-wingers who win full-time union positions should maintain and nurture these groups – and organise collectively with them.


 

Genuine democracy is participatory, not passive!

As a union officer, you will find yourself under pressure from those with a right-wing agenda dressed as “apolitical”, pushing for a “services” model of student unionism. In the debate over democracy, they will often sing the praises of “neutral” surveys as the ultimate arbiters of what the union should be doing.

It’s easy to see the appeal, when membership surveys can get high response rates. The logic seems to make sense: Surely anything that can get the input of more members is more democratic? But this kind of passive polling process is democratically deficient in important ways.

Democracy isn’t just a process of surveying the views of each member from the top down. Those views are not static or straightforward, nor do they fit neatly into the questions we ask. Real democracy is a participatory, collective process, in which the members of a community raise questions, discuss them and develop views in the course of interacting with each other. So we need to be concerned with who gets to set the questions and who gets to contribute to debate, not just to who ultimately gets to answer the question.

If they’re set up well, General Meetings and elected, accountable Union Councils have more potential for collective, participatory democracy than surveys or referenda (or even worse, “juries” of unelected, unaccountable students).

Surveys have some limited value as pieces of evidence, but resist arguments that the manifesto pledges and politics you won on, or decisions made after discussion by a Union Council or a General Assembly, are less legitimate than the results of a survey. And if participatory democratic structures don’t exist or are weak in your union, then fight to build them.


 

Take advice from staff, but be aware of your role as an elected officer

Most student unions employ at least some staff. So as a lead union officer, and possibly as a trustee of your union, you’re probably now to at least some degree a boss – which can be quite an awkward position.

You need to take this responsibility seriously. Unions (like anywhere else) should be decent places to work, with good pay and conditions. And you have to be respectful – for instance, expecting a staff member to stay late at work is not the same as asking an activist to give up their evening to work on a campaign.

However, there are some student unions where the agenda is set more by senior staff than students and student officers, and where senior managers have actively worked to clamp down on the agendas of left-wing officers.

More subtly, staff may be resistant to the directions that students want to take their unions. Union officers should take staff seriously, and consider their suggestions when making decisions. But you need to be able to put your foot down and insist that students’ unions are run by students – and elected accountable officers, not staff, should be making the final decisions.

Sabbatical officers are often told that this is “your year”, as if it’s all about us. This sometimes acts as a drive to keep horizons constrained and focus on goals and projects that are achievable in the short-term. The long-term direction of the union is hived off as a separate question, often framed as more “operational” than political, and so there is often a lot less democratic control or accountability. And especially in those unions controlled more by managers (or trustees who may not be students and may not be elected) than by elected officers, officers can be isolated from their predecessors and successors and organisational memory is concentrated in staff.

It’s better to think of yourself as one in a succession of temporary leaders of something that’s much bigger than you. In some ways this cuts you down to size, but in others it’s actually empowering. Embrace the fact that some things worth changing will take longer than a year – and satisfy yourself that if you can begin to make a good dent during your time in office and then hand over to someone who will keep up the work, that could be more valuable than attacking and resolving a simpler problem within a year. In order to ensure your good work has a chance of continuing, you will need to work with student activists outside the union office and to generate political discussion (see above: “Genuine democracy is participatory, not passive!”).

If you find yourself inheriting a project or cause you disagree with politically, don’t hesitate to end it – perhaps by pushing for a change in policy through the democratic structures.

This makes it even more important to hand over properly and to build the organisational memory of the union. At the end of your time in office, it’s not enough just to hand over operational details and contact lists – you need to give your successors an honest and full political appraisal of the situation on your campus, including recent issues and events and the progress and prospects of live campaigns and projects.

Reflections on the People’s Assembly #EndAusterityNow demo

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By Luke Dukinfield, University of Warwick

Just hours after Saturday’s End Austerity Now march finished, it was announced that the Tories had confirmed plans to cut £12 billion from the welfare bill.  Now I’m not suggesting that even the most incendiary protest could have swayed this decision, or the Tory’s ruthless and ideological quest to devastate any and all forms of social provision, but I think it emphasised a principle which was clarified in the Iraq War protests, which saw over a million people sweeping through the streets of London at its peak: the Government does not listen to us.  It does not care for our democratic, collective voice.  I overheard many people on Saturday’s march suggesting they were glad it remained peaceful because it meant their message was clearly conveyed to the Government and uncompromised by the ‘militant minority’.  This was one of the biggest, loudest, and most vibrant expressions of collective democratic will in the past few years, and the People’s Assembly would not have that thwarted by clandestine adventurists.  In fact, many of their leadership tweeted in support of the rooting out of these militants during the infiltration of a far-left gathering by Mail on Sunday journalists, who proceeded to publish an piece exposing ‘facemask anarchist plans to hijack peaceful demonstration’.  The People’s Assembly commented saying ‘no small unrepresentative group will be allowed to distract from this mass demonstration’, as if those who practice militant tactics cannot be conceptualized as legitimate protesters or even legitimate members of the community, that such tactics have no place within a mass movement. 

Not only is their implicit collaboration with the Daily Mail, a media outlet notorious for its racism, Islamophobia and oppressive propensities, and the betrayal of their own comrades for the preservation of positive media attention reprehensible, the narratives they are assimilating into are even more insidious.  Their reproduction of the reactionary ‘bad protestor vs good protestor’ dichotomy, propagated to moderate struggle, fragment movements and delegitimize effective disruptive action, is not only damaging, but reflects broader and deep-rooted flaws in the People’s Assembly as an organization.  It reflects their general conviction that resistance can only be legitimate if it is lawful, peaceful and respectable, and in doing so assimilates into the parameters of legitimacy established by the state to placate dissent.  As such protest is confined to genteel supplication and ritualized performances of discontent, sacrificing material force for the maintenance of mass appeal. 

We must challenge and deconstruct this: ‘mass appeal’, public consciousness, is moulded by the very material conditions we wish to contest; our conception of the potentialities of resistance are circumscribed by the power relations in which we are bound.  This not only means a systematically violent state generates discourses of moral legitimacy preoccupied with non-violence that are intended to limit struggle, but also that numerous structural barriers relative to accessibility, work, childcare, immigration status etc will have hampered people’s capacity to march on Saturday.  We must not struggle only within modalities dictated to us by the very power structures we are opposing.  We must not resist only in formats we are permitted.  Indeed, to suggest those willing to participate in militant action are an ‘unrepresentative minority’ disregards the very fact that it is the most oppressed who often feel their only option is to resort to these tactics to force change, the very people most impacted by austerity, the houseless squatting buildings, DPAC blockading the DWP and blocking roads, those rioting in Tottenham in 2011.  The majority of social movements in history, those that dismantled apartheid and racial segregation and resisted colonial expansion, would be deemed ‘unrepresentative’ and illegitimate by the People’s Assembly’s logic.  Is the desperation, the indignation, of the most oppressed a mere ‘distraction’? 

The People’s Assembly statement also reflects a fundamental misdirection in structuring our organizing around appeals to the state.  If there was ever an illusion that it was fashioned around our needs and not as a protective apparatus for capital, then with the institution of the Tories that must be dispelled.  Although we witnessed some scattered but inspiring resistance over the past five years, particularly the student movement of 2010, the riots of 2011, and the recent array of housing struggles (led by women and groups such as E15 Mothers), and we could argue that this resistance was not sufficiently robust to force concessions from the government – I also believe that with a Tory administration we cannot viably force such concessions.  They have mercilessly pursued their austerity agenda over the past five years, systematically driving people to starvation and suicide through sanctions, displacing and evicting tens of thousands of families from London through gentrification and speculative property development, incurring a 55% rise in homelessness as rents continue to soar, forcing hundreds of thousands to reliance on foodbanks, dismantling community centres and social services, routinely persecuting and withdrawing provision for disabled people, and presiding over an income stagnation and decline in living conditions more severe than any in recent history.  This violent neo-liberal programme will be implemented even more rigorously over the next 5 years, with the (for the most part willing accomplices) Liberal Democrats no longer in a coalition to restrain the worst excesses of the Tory regime, as the now majority Conservative government readies themselves to impose the Snooper’s Charter, anti-strike laws and to dismantle the European Bill of Human Rights. 

They have evidenced their commitment to austerity in five years of mass, systematic suffering, and have demonstrated no plans for clemency over the next five.  The only option that remains to us is dismantling this government.  We cannot do so through conciliatory supplications, spectacle-fixated marches, and symbolic expressions of anger, stultifying struggle in the same cycles of celebrity speeches, nebulous appeals to general strikes from union bureaucracies and permitted protest pageantries.  This government will not heed appeals to conscience, to clarity of message, but, as with all structures of power which necessarily function for their own self-aggrandizement, will respond only to intervention, only to force, only by our capacity to disrupt the processes which enrich its elites at our expense.  Ultimately, the only way we can truly effect change is by consolidating our movement as a mass, collective and material force capable of obstructing the circulation of capital, of sabotaging the mechanisms and structures of power, by militant, grassroots and autonomous struggle whose terms are not dictated by government and which is not contained within its boundaries and channels. 

We must imagine the possibilities of what we could have achieved if the 250,000 people there on Saturday expressed the same militancy and anger as the few thousand on the #FuckTheTories demo organized by London Black Revs, which saw riot police withdraw and their lines broken as they were pelted with missiles and their advances resisted, people de-arresting one another, and disrupting traffic.  The turnout was incredible and inspiring, but that groundswell is infused with a potential that must be harnessed rather than exhibited, that must be channelled and orientated towards confrontation, and not compromise, with external power structures.  We cannot rely upon the state, especially one so ruthlessly ideological, to end austerity for us.  We can only depend upon one another, our collective agency, our communal care and power.  A fetishization of the A-B march, and the principles of the People’s Assembly, are bound up in performative action to persuade and sway the government, and this is fundamentally misguided and self-defeating for a regime which is structured to systematically assault the conditions of the working class. 

That is not to say that grand A to B marches do not have their uses, that they do not draw people together, politicise them and disseminate subversive, powerful messages to the broader public, but they cannot be our only tactic nor conceptualized as a pinnacle of escalation.  Our movements must advocate for and facilitate direct action, not actively seek to thwart it.  That is not to say our only alternative is effusions of unfocussed anger, or the practicing of violent tactics to counteract hegemonic constructions of legitimacy.  It is not to say we should forsake mass demonstrations altogether.  It does mean we must diversify not only our tactics but our organizational forms.   We must capture and draw on the spontaneity, initiative and militancy demonstrated most aptly in the recent resistance to an immigration raid at East Street Market1 as much as we must recognise the broad-ranging appeal the People’s Assembly as an organization has, kindling support in even the most politically listless towns and villages.  We must balance a focus on concerted community organizing and direct action (rent strikes, work place organizing against casualization, the picketing of job centres and the blockading of institutions that employ workfare, squatting, self-organized domestic violence support services, physical resistance against deportation, evictions, immigration raids and fascists, consistent outreach to establish diverse, pluralist and powerful bases of solidarity) with a will to engage in broad national and international alliances and coalitions.   We must integrate the incendiary spirit of autonomous resistance with the organizational capacity to establish robust infrastructure which provides agency and support to the increasing population of the most vulnerable dispossessed by capital, constructing enduring institutions which retain broad direct democratic participation unalienated and unstultified by bureaucratized modes of organizing and dissent.

We must organize to nurture, synthesize and stoke the groundswell of discontentment which emerged on Saturday.  But above all we must innovate methods of organizing and struggle which address and intervene in material conditions, which connect with the most marginalized, and collectively seek to counteract the effects of austerity and surmount barriers which hinder our participation in activism.  Above all we must conceptualize modes of resistance which emphasise care as a primary landscape of struggle, which fashion bonds and connections of compassion as the reproductive foundation of any action and as essential in defending one another from the onslaught of the Tory regime.  Above all we must create communities and movements which are capable of collective empowerment, of asserting and claiming a future – and not just appealing for one.

1http://rabble.org.uk/immigration-raid-meets-fierce-resistance-on-east-street/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Why we’re marching for Trans Healthcare and the NHS this Pride.

transgender-health-careOn Saturday 27 June, we’ll be marching on Pride in London with the trade unions and Lesbians & Gay Men Support the Miners – join us! All supporters are welcome regardless of sexuality or gender identity. Details here.

Healthcare provision for trans people in the UK lies far beyond breaking point. For the 91% of trans people[1] who have made or would like to make gender-related physical changes to their bodies, services often do not exist, as is the case for any Welsh resident who would like to access a Gender Identity Clinic in their own country, or are impossible to use in a timely fashion, with 32% of patients waiting between one and three years to reach a Gender Identity Clinic and 9% waiting longer. Where services can be accessed, prejudices about how trans people should relate to stereotypical masculinity and femininity can hamper referrals for hormonal and surgical treatment, and where approval can be obtained, insufficient NHS surgical staffing can contribute to further delays and uncertainty[2]. Outside of the specific gender reassignment sector, medical abuse of trans patients by clinicians who cannot or will not meet their specific needs in a more general healthcare setting is rampant: the hashtag #TransDocFail collated thousands of examples of mistreatment, including refusal to allow trans people care for physical or mental health conditions, resulting in over 100 complaints to the General Medical Council.

This inability to access necessary medical treatment can greatly harm trans people. 58% of trans people felt that their mental health or emotional wellbeing worsened in the time they were waiting to access a Gender Identity Clinic, while just under 20% had wanted to self-harm because of or in relation to involvement with a Gender Identity Clinic or health service. Meanwhile, 41% of initial #TransDocFail complainants to the General Medical Council reported that they had ‘lost faith in medics’[3]. This situation undoubtedly contributes to poor mental health among trans people, with 55% currently or previously diagnosed with depression and 35% having attempted suicide at some point in their lives, as well as worsening wider physical health and furthering difficulties in finding employment and housing.

Yet Pride in London remains apolitical, preferring to celebrate our past achievements, and ignoring escalating present-day attacks on working-class people, disabled people, women, people of colour, migrants, and those reliant on the NHS. These target in no small part the most vulnerable in LGBTQ communities, and must not be ignored in favour of a narrative of ‘success’ which is palatable to the corporations and institutions financing Pride in London precisely because it poses no threat to the status quo.

Trans people need a Gender Identity Clinic system that has both the will and the funding to take our medical needs seriously and ensure they are met in a timely manner. In a political climate where the ‘austerity’ agenda means that the public sector is being systematically dismantled, it is more important than ever that we fight to oppose cuts to NHS services on a local and national level, and further that we push for radical expansion of transitional healthcare and the protection of the NHS as a free, funded and public service, opposing attempts to limit or charge for its use by non-residents or under any other circumstances.

NCAFC LGBTQ is marching to demand proper funding for transitional healthcare and the NHS as a whole – come and join us!

[1] All figures cited in this article can be found in McNeil, J., Bailey, L., Ellis, S., Morton, J. and Regan, M. (2012). Trans Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing Study 2012. 1st ed. [PDF] Available at: http://www.scottishtrans.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/trans_mh_study.pdf [Accessed 24 Jun. 2015]. This is the largest study of its kind ever conducted in Europe.

[2] Duffy, N. (2014). UK: Former NHS gender reassignment surgeon says backlogs ‘spiralling out of control’. Pink News. [online] Available at: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2014/06/14/uk-nhs-trust-appoints-new-gender-reassignment-surgeon-amid-backlog-fears/ [Accessed 24 Jun. 2015].

[3] Belcher, H. (2014). TransDocFail – The Findings. 1st ed. [PDF] p.5. Available at: https://challengingjourneys.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/transdocfail-findings.pdf [Accessed 24 Jun. 2015].

University bosses publish a report and… miss the point entirely

by Luke Nealbradford, Manchester

A delayed report into the state of undergraduate student funding was released this week. Its authors – a panel of vice-chancellors and representatives of bourgeois think tanks – endorsed the current fees and loans based system as “broadly fit for purpose”, and considered measures for its “financial sustainability”, i.e. tweaks to maintain market logic in higher education. Their findings come soon after the announcement of £450m in cuts to the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) over the next year alone. A likely result of this will be the abolition of maintenance grants and their replacement with another loans system.

To this grim backdrop, the report’s press release places emphasis on the prospects for improving financial support for student living costs in the fanciful scenario where “there is additional funding available”, citing a small scale survey in which students highlighted this as a greater concern than long term debt from tuition fee loans. However, students’ more immediate concerns with living costs than fee debts is not a justification of the fees system, but an indictment of the poverty of student life as a whole. There is a similar misleading fait accompli in the report’s claim that a third of students “would accept a small annual increase in tuition fees if their university was faced with a reduction in available resources to sustain its activities”. This presentation of increasing scarcity as inevitable is entirely consistent with the government’s austerity programme – but that is a policy choice driven by class interests rather than a necessity as they would have us believe.

The report considers changes to the terms of loans such as a freeze on the threshold for repayment. In theory this could reduce the portion of loans that will never be repaid by graduates, known as the Resource Accounting and Budgeting charge (RAB), which has been a major source of concern for those in BIS attempting to cut public finances. As Andrew McGettigan has argued, there is

a disavowal of what the [report’s] panel knows full well: that recent changes to the departmental budgeting specifically target reducing the RAB charge from the current official figure of 45-46% to 36%.  BIS must find ways to reach that target or see year-on-year reductions to other spending, over and above the new £450million cuts announced for this year.

The implications of a spiralling RAB charge for the administration of austerity are significant, with £4.4bn allocated to cover it for 2015/16. But it is besides the point, and we should not echo our opponents in fetishising figures, and reproducing the idea that the state spends too much on education. After all, we do not share the view that austerity is necessary. Likewise we should be wary of the “critique” of the Coalition’s 2010 reforms, popular amongst some self-proclaimed leftists, which says that the reforms failed because the non-repayments on student debts is actually costing the state more. This view only serves to reinforce neoliberal assumptions about “efficiency” (i.e. cuts), and of education as an individual investment.

In the eyes of policymakers and university vice-chancellors, lifelong debts for thousands of people is a problem insofar as it costs the state. For them, the problem is not the fact that so many will never earn over the £21,000 threshold, and that access to a public good is privatised and entails decades of debt. At best their proposed solutions will merely postpone the most imminent problems, while the extension of market discipline in the university sector continues to casualise the labour force and promote a “value for money” ideology amongst students. As ever, the only answer to these dangers is a wholesale reimagining of education based on democracy and collective ownership, funded by taxing wealth.

David Willetts? Get out, we know what you’re all about…

by Andy Warren, a student at KCL

David Willetts, the architect of the bilDWl that tripled tuitions fees and led to the occupation of Tory HQ in 2010, has announced that he’s not satisfied yet and wants fees to rise again. That’s the thing about tuition fees; once you’ve tripled them, it’s difficult to resist pushing it that little bit further, and I’m sure the Tories are gleefully planning to scratch that itch.

In a pamphlet published by the Policy Institute at Kings College London, where Willetts has a visiting professorship, he says that fees “cannot be frozen indefinitely” and argues that they should rise in line with inflation for the rest of this parliament. He doesn’t think the same about the £21,000 wage at which point we start paying back our debt; this should be frozen.

It’s worth emphasising what things the Tories are happy to rise with inflation: fees yes, repayment schedules and public sector pay no. This means that as fees rise, the level at which students begin to pay back them back would get lower and lower and students get squeezed in the middle. The graduate and public sector jobs that many students would take have been subjected to pay cuts in real terms for years now, making the de facto lowering of the repayment threshold all the more worrying. When combined with the planned cuts to the Disabled Student Allowance and selloff of the student loan book, which would very likely be accompanied by retroactive rises in interest rates for everyone who has taken a loan out since 1998, it’s clear that now the Tories are shot of the Lib Dems they intend to implement any regressive policies they can.

Fundamentally, implementing Willett’s proposal would be an escalation of the class warfare that the government has been fighting against students, alongside workers and many others, for the past five years. It is ideologically driven and seeks to expand the role of the market in higher education and deepen the attitudes that fees imply: that education is a commercial industry, that students are consumers and teachers are service providers, that universities should be motivated by profit, not a sense of education as a public good that benefits all. It would help further accelerate the stranglehold free market ideology has over our institutions, with all the bureaucratised managerial classes with CEO salaries, outsourcing of workers, casualization of academic staff and repression of campus organisation and free speech that is part and parcel of the neo-liberal agenda.

Willetts is also trying to plug the financial holes in the original bill. To the surprise of few, the current system saves essentially no public money as compared to the old one. The amount of debt the government expected to be written off rose from 28% to around 45%, close to the threshold at which the system loses the government money. Willetts is attempting to mitigate the crisis the government’s stored up for itself in 30 years’ time.

This is not yet Tory policy; this is just something their resident guru cooked up while taking a spin on the ideas carousel. But university funding was conspicuously absent from the Tory manifesto and students are already in the firing line over DSA and the student loan book; it’s very possible that they’ll try to force a policy like Willetts’ through parliament as well.

But that’s only if we let them. The student movement has grown stronger, more confident and more militant over the past year and we’ve seen a range of successful campaigns from Edinburgh’s divestment occupation to Warwick’s abandonment of TeachHigher. If we can build on this momentum leading up to the free education demo on 4th November and put forward a positive vision of an emancipatory, liberatory, free (in every sense of the word) education system that acknowledges that knowledge has intrinsic good not just financial potential, we could defeat policy like Willetts’. Not only that, but it would be another step towards creating such an education system.

Reflections upon 65 hours in occupation

Reflections on the women and non-binary only occupation of Senate House on International Women’s Day 2015, by Marie Dams. 

 

It is Tuesday night on one of the first sunny days of spring in England, I am in my room thinking about the events of the past days. About 37 hours earlier, I have left the occupation of the Senate House of the University of London. Occupiers and organisers were exclusively women and non-binary people putting emphasis on the gendered demands within the struggle for free education and reclaiming International Women’s Day on Sunday, an event that had its roots in radical women striking for their rights and is now celebrated by feminists, liberals and conservatives alike. We went into occupation, because demands such as “more women in leadership” do not ultimately challenge oppression, they just change the face of it.

tumblr_no47jpbOyc1tsi5r4o8_1280Before leaving the occupation on Monday, we have reflected upon the three days we spent locked up in these rooms and some of the criticisms included that we could have released more press statements, could have had more discussions and workshops, could have worked harder to achieve open access. But in my view, this occupation of Senate House, WANBODA1 has been a success. We created a safer space for us without even formally establishing it, inside the occupation we treated each other with respect, we learned each other’s preferred pronouns along with their names, our toilets were gender-neutral and we had enough vegan food and shared things, we held political discussions of high quality, we learned from each other, we disagreed without falling out with each other and we looked out for each other.

We talked about the benefits and pitfalls of identity politics, it has taught me what my place is in political activism, what my fight is and what someone else’s is and how I can get involved with struggles that are not my own (by supporting the people fighting it and taking a back seat rather than shouting out loud in the front row), but its dangers are that we are tempted to take someone of a certain identity as a moral authority for all issues concerning these identities. Just because I am a queer female white person does not mean I can speak for all queer female white people. Homosexuals can be homophobic, women against feminism… We need to divorce ourselves from the idea that just because someone is oppressed due to their identity (or identities), that their political opinion is necessarily a progressive one. It is okay to disagree.
We talked about the police and how we as left-wing activists should deal with the police, the police as members of the working class and the police as defenders of a dysfunct system. Are all cops bastards? Is it widespread individual racism in the police or the enforcement of racist laws by the police, institutional racism? And what role does economics play in this debate? Or the fact that some cities fund themselves through court procedures and fining people ridiculously high fines for relatively small breaches of the law (as seen in the DOJ report on Ferguson), which disproportionately affects people of colour and poor people? And how do our prisons work? How much emphasis is put on punishing the perpetrator, changing their behaviour and protecting society? And thus, can people change? That is, do we believe in the good in people, when we say we want to teach perpetrators a more appropriate behaviour? How would we organise a system without prisons?
While I personally very much and genuinely want to believe that all human beings have the capacity to be good, I also somewhat believe that there is no universal fixed human nature. Everyone is different and ultimately I guess that means that some people might be resistant to change and continue to do harm, if left to their own devices and the best we can do is protect the larger society from them through maybe an institution similar to a prison.

We also talked about safer spaces and the importance of them as well as their dangers. This was when I realised that we had never formally established the occupation as a safer space. It was just common sense. And I think this is how I want society to work, through empathy and compassion. In “the outside world” though, we have to concern ourselves with the rules we want to have for our safer spaces and the mechanisms in place should someone breach safer space policy. While we generally agreed that small breaches can be talked over and do not usually require more drastic measures, major breaches of safer space policy were a point of debate. When do we expel someone from our spaces? Do we make such proceedings public to prevent them breaching safer spaces in other groups? And do we re-allow them into our spaces when they have understood their mistake and changed for good? This debate linked in with the discussion about prisons and we noted, that there cannot be a universal policy for this and that the safety of the victim or survivor must always come first.
One of my fellow occupiers also pointed out that whilst safer spaces are always a good place to recover, socialise and realise oneself, ultimately they should be spaces around which we organise our activism. What use is a safer space free from discrimination if we do not fight discrimination ingrained in the structures outside our safer space as well? What use are non-hierarchical structures within our organisations if we do not challenge hierarchies in the larger society as well?

This occupation has taught me much about how I envision society. While I have had theoretical opinions and ideas for a long time now, these three days have showed me, that living together like this, in a safer space, non-hierarchically, sharing things, can actually work. The occupation has also been incredibly empowering to me, it was great to be amongst so many strong fellow women and non-binary people, it showed me that we, women and non-binary people, we can organise, we can be politically active, we do have distinct political opinions and we do not need men to talk over us, to “help us” or to protect us. This occupation has put women and non-binary people at the centre of events and made men take supportive roles of supplying us with food and hygiene products, of organising solidarity demos and of showing moral support.

And finally, this occupation has showed me that not all of it is utopian wishful thinking. Being in a constant struggle between pursuing ultimate goals of ending oppression, destroying capitalism and establishing a new societal order and fighting the liberal fight for better representation, such as (indeed) more women in leadership positions, and equal rights such as same-sex marriage and the right for same-sex couples to adopt children, I sometimes lose sight of my way. Fighting a liberal fight creates tangible results, it keeps me alive and gives me hope. But I do not want to take up a leadership position to then oppress other women and I do not want to be able to marry my partner and then be as bourgeois and stuck-up as some heterosexual couples are. I want all different kinds of models of living and loving together to be normalised and accepted in our society and I do not want any kind of leadership. I want a non-hierarchical society.
This occupation has showed me, that it is worth to pursue the radical. It has reminded me of my true goals and it has given me new energy to continue the struggle.

National demonstration called – free education, tax the rich!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

07821731481, 07989235178, 07901844980

The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts is initiating a national education demonstration, to be held on November 4th, following a large national conference in Sheffield this weekend.

The facebook event for the demonstration can be viewed here.

The demonstration will be a rallying point for resistance to the government’s programme of cuts, fees and marketisation in the higher and further education sectors, and will fight for a positive vision of what education should look like – free, liberated and democratised. Slogans around the defence of migrants will also be raised.

Participants at the conference voted to support disruptive direct action, both during the day of the demo and around it. NCAFC will also be calling for waves of campus occupations and for regular days local marches for free education, bringing in the workers and the wider community, the first of which will take place on October 24th.

NCAFC will seek the support of a variety of education unions, including the UCU and NUT, who have already voted to support the idea of a demonstration, and NUS, which has thus far refused to call the demonstration but is expected to endorse NCAFC’s demo at its July NEC meeting.

A similar demonstration under the banner of ‘Free education: no fees, no cuts, no debt’ last year saw around 10,000 in attendance and made national headlines; this year’s is anticipated to be significantly larger. NCAFC has been organising large national demonstrations and direct action since 2010.

bethdemo

Hope Worsdale, from Warwick For Free Education and NCAFC National Committee, said: “This demonstration will provide a springboard for a new level of resistance. The Tory government has already tried to abolish higher education as we know it, and now they will come back, unrestrained. We have had successes in the past – such as on the student loan book sell off and the HE Bill, which was dropped in 2012 – and we intend to fight for every inch of the education system and the wider welfare state.”

Rida Vaquas, a representative from NCAFC’s Further Education caucus on the National Committee, said: “We are building a movement which is for something, not just against something – and part of what we are doing is putting a radically different idea of education onto the political map: one which is free for all, with living grants, and democratically run by students and workers for the benefit of society. The money exists for all of this and more: we demand that it comes from the pockets of the rich and big business.”

Sarah Dagha, a representative from NCAFC Black on the National Committee, said: “We are calling waves of direct action throughout the next few months – including a national demonstration – to link the student movement up with a wider fight against the Tory government. We want to see an escalation of resistance, strike action and direct action across society, and we will stand in solidarity with workers and communities.”

 

Campaigners pledge to “fight back” against potential cuts to vital support grants

B244XwzIIAAIclAGrants given to the poorest university students could be cut as part of savings the Department for Business. Proposals to start phasing out grants, worth up to £3,387 a year, for students from less affluent households, were first drawn up in 2013 but were blocked by the Liberal Democrats. Currently, more than half a million students in England receive a maintenance grants worth in total £1.57bn a year.

The government is saying removing the grant completely could save around £2bn over three years, while converting a portion of individual grants to loans, or restricting eligibility would save less. According to the media, government sources refused to comment on the proposal, but have not denied the suggestion, and one source is quoted as saying: “officials are looking at everything”.

Higher education experts are sceptical whether the changes would really save the taxpayer any money at all. Reducing the amount of money paid out in grants would help the public finances in the short term, with the reductions helping to cut the deficit. But transferring more students onto loans would actually increase the national debt, so could end up costing the taxpayer more in the long term.

Mark Leach, policy expert from the education blog Wonkhe.com, said: “I think it’s increasingly likely to happen but in the long run it can’t be good for universities or graduates because it adds to the cost of the overall system, the loan book, and future chancellors of the exchequer could come back to the universities and come back to graduates and say, ‘we’re going to need to take more money back to pay for the system’.”

The National Union of Students has also condemned the proposals. National Union of Students vice president Megan Dunn said cutting maintenance grants would be “detrimental” to poorer students and could deter people from applying for university. She has called the proposals “unreasonable barrier to accessing higher education”.

James Elliot, NCAFC Disabled Rep to the National Committee said: “These cuts are likely to hit the poorest students hardest, showing that for all the talk about getting more working-class people into university, the government is still more interested in shrinking the state.

This is also going to have a hugely negative affect on disabled students, for whom the cost of living at university is already much higher. Students and NUS need to mobilise to force the government to change its mind.”

Fred Craig, NCAFC National Committee Member said: “These proposals from the government are truly devastating. The fact that the Tory government doesn’t recognise this and doesn’t seem to care about the implications of these cuts only makes a stronger case for the need to fight back against their brutal austerity. We need to keep up and go beyond the levels of protest and direct action that we’ve already been seeing this summer. We have to show David Cameron that he can’t just keep stepping on people and get away with it. We have to keep on fighting back.

NCAFC is one the many organisations leading the fight back against Tory austerity, we are organising a national demonstration against cuts and for the creation of free, fair, accessible education on November 18th as well as other actions.”

Summer Conference: Motions and Amendments

bathNCAFC Summer Conference 2015: Motions Document with Amendments

At this year’s conference, there will be two separate motions debates. The first, Motions Debate A, will centre around the strategy of the free education movement. The second, Motions Debate B, will cover everything else. The motions submitted are below; some proposals which were submitted as motions have been moved into the strategy session and will only be released later, along with the rest of Motions Debate A. Amendments must be submitted by the following deadlines:

  • Motions Debate A (free education strategy)
    • 19:30 on June 13th – for one-line, action-only amendments

Amendments to these motions can be submitted by any member of the NCAFC.  Please send them to [email protected]

Please be aware that in order to avoid having the same debate twice, the Secretariat may choose to put the text of similar amendments together.

Contents

Motions Debate A – free education strategy

Introductory Paper

Amendments in Motions Debate A which are submitted in advance will be displayed from 10th June, and those submitted at conference will be available on the day.

Motions Debate B – general

Motions concerning the internal functions of NCAFC:

Motion 1: Appointing a paid organiser from September to December

Motion 2: Fight for Free Speech and Organisation

Motion 3: NCAFC needs to become more about its members and activists groups, less about the NC

Motion 4: NCAFC and NUS

Education and access to education:

Motion 5: National Student Survey

Motion 6: Childcare

International Issues:

Motion 7: Europe and the referendum

Motion 8: BDS

Domestic Campaigns & Issues:

Motion 9: Oppose the Counter-terrorism and Security Act

Motion 10: National Gallery

Motion 11: Protest Privacy

Motion 12: The Fight in Labour Students

Motion 13: Free public transport

Motion 14: Decriminalisation of sex work

Motion 15: Social Housing not Social Cleansing

Motion 16: Demonstrations and their uses

MOTIONS DEBATE A – FREE EDUCATION STRATEGY

Free Education Movement Strategy – Introduction

Proposed by: Secretariat

This is an introductory paper for the free education strategy debate at NCAFC summer conference 2015. Please see above for the amendments deadlines.

1. We know that we will not win free, democratised, liberated education with the same one national demonstration every year, or by thinking only a few months ahead. At the same time, we need to understand that we need to persevere, and be willing to march, occupy and do the groundwork again and again even if at times this feels repetitive to those of us who have been involved a while. It is our task to convince society of the need for free education. Across the world, free education campaigns have only ever been successful after a long period of continual struggle following a long term strategy. This is why we need a strategy that is at once long-term and continuously reviewed and renewed.

2. This is obviously not the first time that the student movement has sat down to think about a strategy. NCAFC has existed since early 2010 in order to do precisely this, and last year we pursued the beginnings of a new strategy: with a 10,000-strong national demo for free education; a series of local marches; and the calling of a broad free education movement conference, targeted at bringing trade unions and community groups into the campaign, on 17th October 2015. We also put forward a long-term call for a ‘student strike’ at some point in the calendar year of 2016.

3. In reaction to NUS’s refusal to call a free education demonstration in autumn, we have now put out a call for one ourselves. This is the place to debate the finer points of that demonstration – its aims, route, date, slogan, organising model etc.We need a strategy built from the bottom up – owned, devised and enacted collectively and democratically by activists and students all over the country. Activists, students and workers in struggle are the people who run and own NCAFC, and we are the people with the know-how and legitimacy to build a serious free education movement – not celebrities or big bureaucracies.

What we do next is up to you. We invite calls for actions, strategies and proposals. These should be actions, things that NCAFC and wider layers of activists should do in the upcoming academic year as part of our free education strategy – not long statements of principles.

 

Motion A1: A Big Demo!

Proposer: Hannah Sketchley

 

NCAFC Notes

1.       The NUS NEC did not vote to hold a National Demo this Autumn

2.       The NCAFC NC did

3.       That the National Demo currently has no slogan, and that should be decided at this conference

NCAFC Believes

1.       That as a democratic organisation, we should be discussing actions and strategies with as many people as possible, and debating as many

2.       That we will need an absolutely ginormous fight to win free education from the current government

3.       That actions, especially national calls for action, should be called by democratic groups and grassroots activists

4.       That we will need to use a wide variety of actions and tactics to win free education

5.       That it would be good if NCAFC Conference called the demo properly

NCAFC Resolves

  1. That this conference calls a national demonstration

 

Motion A2: Date of “the” National Demo

Proposer: Deborah Hermanns, Hattie Craig

 

NCAFC notes:

  1.   That the 11th of November is Remembrance Day.
  2.   Last year there was only a very short time frame between the national demo and the Christmas holidays and for many campuses there was not enough time to get together and get organised.
  3.   Last year very few actions happened before the national demo.

 

NCAFC believes:

  1.  That a national demonstration should take place in the autumn (see the rest of the discussion and other amendments) but that this demonstration should only happen as part of a wider strategy of escalation.
  2. That it is very important to give the movement enough time to properly develop and escalate before students go home for Christmas.

 

NCAFC further believes:

  1.   That with the experience of last year it will be possible to organise the demo with two weeks’ less time, but that this will require people to start organising almost immediately.

 

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To call this autumn’s national demonstration for Wednesday 4th November.

 

Amendment 1, Motion A2

Proposer: Hannah Sketchley

DELETE Resolves 1, REPLACE with:

  1. To call the National Demo on November 18

 

Amendment 2, Motion A2

Proposer: Shelly Asquith

DELETE Resolves 1, REPLACE with:

  1. To call the National Demo on a weekend, the date to be specified by whoever ends up organising it

 

Section A3: Should we organise the demonstration with other groups?

 

Motion A3: NCAFC & The Demo

Proposer: Hannah Sketchley

NCAFC Believes

 

  1. That the majority of the main co-ordinating and logistics work of organising and building the upcoming demonstration will fall on NCAFC activists
  2. That local activists join the NCAFC because it is a democratic organisation
  3. That organising groups and committees made up of people from different and probably anti-democratic organisations are not accountable to activist bases on campuses

 

NCAFC Resolves

  1. To organise the upcoming demonstration proudly and independently as the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts
  2. Primarily, this will mean the National Committee members responding to decisions that need to be made quickly and doing the large amount of “legwork” a national demonstration involves
  3. We would welcome support and resources from other organisations, however the primary organising must be done within the NCAFC

 

Amendment 1, Motion A3: A united free education demo – students and workers unite and fight!

DELETE ALL AND REPLACE

Proposed by: Sahaya James; Elaha Walizadeh; William Pinkney Baird

NCAFC believes:
1. The election of the Tory government will mean a renewed attack on education and students. Within the first month of being in office, George Osborne has already announced a fresh round of cuts to higher and further education to the tune of £900 million and is plotting to sell off the student loan book to private companies. Alongside this a huge swathe of ‘academisation’ of our schools i.e. privatization is also planned.

2. A huge, united, broad fight back is vital to defend education and all our public services – and an autumn demo, led by students and education workers, for free education and against student poverty is crucial.

3. Both the UCU and NUT National Conferences voted by overwhelming majorities to organise a national demonstration in defence of education this year. These education unions can mobilise greater numbers of workers if the demonstration a held on a weekend.

4. That a demonstration on the theme of defending free, public education from the cradle to the grave, involving the NCAFC, Young Greens, the Student Assembly Against Austerity with the support of the NUS, NUT, UCU, could mobilise the biggest number of people, potentially getting tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people on the streets.

NCAFC resolves:
1. To seek to establish the broadest possible coalition to organise the autumn demo, including ourselves (NCAFC), NUS Officers that support a demo, the education unions (UCU, NUT), Young Greens and the Student Assembly Against Austerity.

2. To convene a meeting to discuss plans for an autumn demonstration and invite to the meeting NUS Officers that support a demo, the education unions (UCU, NUT), Young Greens, the Student Assembly Against Austerity

Amendment 2, Motion A3

Proposer: Shelly Asquith and Michael Chessum (composite)

ADD

NCAFC believes

1. We should make a national demo happen regardless of whatever excuses the NUS bureaucracy comes up with for refusing to call one.

2. We want this demonstration to be big, and, just as importantly, to bring in support from across society – in particular organised workers.

3. Trade union bureaucracies as they exist are not perfect, and many have internal politics, on which we should explicitly support the left and activist currents and factions in pushing their unions to fight more effectively and for more radical demands.

4. Major trade unions, regardless of their internal politics, represent large numbers of organised workers, and should be natural allies of the fight for free education, just as we should be natural and active allies of workers’ struggles. They are also a source of (sometimes limited, sometimes large) resources, which we lack.

NCAFC further believes

1. The NECs of the UCU and NUT have voted in principle to support the idea of a national education sector demo this autumn.

NCAFC resolves

1. To write to the UCU and NUT asking them to support and co-organise the demo, and open discussions with them.

2. To publish this correspondence in a positive, comradely spirit on our website.

3. To approach the education sector unions (NUT, UCU) for support nationally and reach out to local branches to submit support to their conference (where possible)

 

 

Section A4: Political message and slogan of the national demo in the Autumn

 

This section of the debate will be about the politics of the demonstration: our slogans and demands. The suggestions so far are below.

Any NCAFC member can submit their own and should tell us whether they are headline slogans or more general slogans.  We can adopt at most one headline slogan, and multiple more general slogans.

 

Proposal 1

Proposer: Deborah Hermanns, Hattie Craig

 

NCAFC notes

  1. That last year’s demonstration was under the slogan “Free Education now – no fees/no cuts/no debt”.

 

NCAFC believes:

  1.  That in the light of the Tory re-election, the re-emergence of the Anti-Austerity movement and the general attack on young people way beyond University mean that it will be important to have a more over-arching theme to the demonstration.
  2.   At the same time it is a very good that we have got a growing and positive movement for Free Education. It is important to remember that we have not won this yet at all, it will still require years and years of putting this issue on the top of our agenda in order to win it and it is important to continue to keep this as our central demand.

 

NCAFC further believes:

  1.  That Free Education is about more than tuition fees and that it will be important to highlight that in our demands.
  2.  That it is especially important that we are louder on the rights of immigrants and specifically international students and should make this one of our key demands.

 

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To make the headline slogan of the national demo in the Autumn “We demand a future. Free Education for all”.
  2.  To mandate the NC or another appropriate body to decide on 3-5 main demands for the demonstration and to publish them with an explanation as soon as possible. These should preferably cover the following areas: Living grants, institutions free from surveillance and harassment by police and immigration officials, No sale of the student loan book and the abolition of student debt, free education through democratically controlled institutions and a liberated curriculum, an end to the market in all levels of education

 

Proposal 2

Proposer: Hannah Sketchley; Helena Dunnett-Orridge

 

ADD

NCAFC Resolves

  1. That a national demonstration should raise these as its key, headline slogans:
  1. Free Education

– living grants for all

– tax the rich

– expropriate the banks

  1.  Education not for Profit

– Democratic universities

– cops off campus

– living wage now

  1. Defend migrants

– education for everyone

– end deportations

– shutdown detention centres

 

Motion A5: The Demonstration and the NUS

Proposer: Shelly Asquith, plus Sahaya James; Elaha Walizadeh; William Pinkney Baird (composite)

NCAFC Believes:

1. Had NUS National Conference reached the national free education/end student poverty motion it would have passed with a massive majority. Whilst the vote for a national demo was lost by one vote at the NUS National Executive last week, the majority of the new incoming leadership of NUS supports a national demo and it will be having its first NUS National Executive meeting on 20 July where the issue can be discussed again.

NCAFC Resolves:

  1. Call on NUS to support this demo on the basis it’s inevitably going to happen and is supported by activist groups across the country

Amendment 1, Motion 5

Delete and replace Resolves 1

Proposer: Michael Chessum

NCAFC believes

1. NUS has for the moment refused to call a national free education demonstration by a very narrow margin

2. The NUS NEC for next year is left wing and would probably pass a demo, but only meets on July 20th – too late to begin mobilising properly. As a result, the NCAFC national committee put out a provisional call for a free education demo to be put into action (or rescinded) by this conference.

NCAFC further believes

1. There will be a temptation to either call the demo entirely on our own or hand the demo entirely over to NUS. Either option would be wrong: having NUS mobilise properly is a big bonus in terms of resources and legitimacy that we should use. On the other hand, we shouldn’t hand the demo over to NUS – we should retain as much control as possible, get the best route possible and make sure that a radical message is at the heart of the demo; the best way of doing this is not through the NUS’s structures, but by having the grassroots free education movement directly part of calling the demo.

2. Organising a demonstration jointly with NUS may put is in a position in which we are asked to compromise our basic principles. We should always flat out refuse to do this.

NCAFC resolves

1. To publicly write to the NUS NEC inviting it to co-host the national free education demonstration with NCAFC and/or a coalition of groups (depending on what we vote for in Motion A3), and to instruct NCAFC’s representatives on the NUS NEC to put forward a motion to this effect (or ensure that one is put forward).

2. To publish this correspondence on our website.

 

Amendment 2, Motion A5

Proposer: Ben Towse

DELETE all (including amendment 1) and REPLACE:

 

NCAFC Notes

 

  • The newly-elected NUS National Executive Council will take their posts and meet in July.

 

NCAFC Believes

  1. If the NUS NEC voted to organise a national demonstration, NCAFC’s activists and resources will be freed up to build a radical presence on that demonstration, and to press for and organise other action which we would otherwise be unable to do.

NCAFC Resolves:

  1. To call on the new NEC to vote for NUS to take on the logistics and funding of the demo that we have already called, with specific slogans and demands we propose.
  2. If the vote falls, we will continue organising the demo according to whatever other plan may be decided during this strategy debate.

 

Section A6: Other actions, before and after the national demonstration

 


Motion A6a: More local education marches

Proposer: Deborah Hermanns

 

NCAFC believes:

  1. To completely change our education system we need to build an alliance across society and not just on university campuses.
  2. Last academic year we made the start for this when we organised the first two rounds of local marches. These were very successful in some places and brought students, workers and the community together under the banner of “Free Education”.
  3. However, this was not enough and we need to continue this strategy on a long-term and very regular basis.

 

NCAFC further believes:

  1. Students in Leeds have already called a local march on the 24th of October.

 

NCAFC resolves

  1. To call a day of local marches across the country to take place on the 24th October.
  2. To instruct the NC to call local marches on a monthly basis following the 24th October if it seems feasible and fruitful.

 

Motion A6b: A Radical Movement

Proposer: Fran Cowling

NCAFC Believes:

  1. That a National Demonstration will take place.

 

NCAFC Further Believes:

  1. That in our fight for Free Education we need more than a National Demonstration through London.
  2. A number of political organisations have used different forms of to get media attention and deliver their message:
  3. a) Green Peace climbed the London Shard in 2013 to hang a banner and protest drilling in the Artic for gas and oil.
  4. b) The Palestinian Solidarity Campaign projected the Palestinian flag onto the Houses of Parliament with the slogan “Free Palestine, Sanctions Now, End the Massacre” in August 2014,
  5. c) The Occupy Wall Street movement 2011 occupied the financial district in NYC and disrupted banks, board meetings, universities and colleges.

 

NCAFC Resolves:

  1. To organise a number of creative and radical stunts to create media attention and deliver our message.
  2. To organise an occupation an important political location that symbolises our fight for Free Education.

 

Amendment 1, Motion A6b: Occupy!

Proposer: Shelly Asquith

ADD:

NCAFC Resolves:

  1. To put a focus on campuses occupying straight after the demo

 

Motion A6c: After the general election – our outlook and priorities going forward

Proposer: UCL Defend Education

 

NCAFC believes:

  1. The Tories’ election victory reflects low working-class confidence, shaped by years of defeats and missed opportunities by the labour movement (most recently the failure to fight austerity, particularly following the demobilisation of the 2011-12 pensions dispute).
  2. In this context , by being bold, the Tories, UKIP, etc have been able to push politics to the right.
  3. The Labour Party and trade union leaderships bear a large share of the responsibility, both in terms of demobilising struggles and endorsing many Tory policies.
  4. While the situation is daunting, we need to remind ourselves that the Tories and the rich and powerful are not invincible. After the surprise 1992 Conservative election victory, they were quickly hit by mass protests over pit closures and the “Black Wednesday” currency crisis, and could not add much to the Thatcherite offensive. What was in a way more damaging was the demoralisation of the left, leading to the rise of Blairism, etc.
  5. With a degree of economic recovery we are already starting to see more workers’ struggles over pay and conditions, and there is a chance of this growing. And in response to the election result there has been a surge of protest action.
  6. Like in 2010-11 and many times before, student struggles can play an important role both in pushing back the government and in catalysing workers’ action.
  7. The defeat of TeachHigher at Warwick, and of the forced academisation of schools in Lewisham, show that battles can be won. We can play a role in increasing the number of victories in order to hasten a wider turning of the tide.
  8. Even though the Tories’ ability to form a majority government with 37% of the vote is undemocratic, and Parliamentary politics overall are very limiting, we have to be honest: between them, right-wing parties won a majority of votes cast. The left and centre-left both failed to win the argument with enough people. Our movement needs to win these people over – that means presenting clear demands, a positive and convincing vision for society, and being willing to argue and discuss with ordinary people who hold reactionary views.
  9. We should use clear slogans that raise demands and goals, show that our actions have direction and purpose, and educate and radicalise people around us (e.g. “Stop austerity – tax the rich and seize the banks”, not just purely negative ones like “Fuck the Tories”).
  10. NCAFC has finite (though hopefully growing!) capacity. We can’t do everything, so we should set ourselves some priority areas of work, in order to give ourselves some strategic focus and make sure in particular that our National Committee is accountable. This doesn’t mean we can’t campaign on other things too, or offer material support to like-minded organisations that are leading other campaigns, but these should define our *core* work and the NC’s priorities for the next period.

 

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To set ourselves the following priority areas of work (we hope others will submit amendments to add detail to these priority campaigns with particular demands, slogans, strategies and actions):
    1. Building the national push for free, funded education – including in the context of a likely attempt to raise undergrad fees again and impose further marketization, and the ongoing brutal cuts to further education. (We understand there will be a separate debate to set our free education strategy).
    2. Coordinating mobilisation around individual education struggles on campuses (course cuts, department closures, privatisations etc.)
    3. Building struggles around rents and housing – first among student tenants but also in solidarity, and coordinating, with wider housing campaigns.
    4. Supporting local and national workers’ struggles – first in education but also beyond – including demanding the repeal of anti-union laws in response to the proposals to tighten them, and supporting the possible upcoming pay dispute across higher education. We should find our allies among the more militant left trade unionists attempting to put pressure on their unions to fight harder, and support them in that.
    5. Standing up for migrant rights and campaigning for open borders against a reactionary tide of xenophobia and tightening restrictions.

 

Amendment 1, Motion A6c: Action on Homes & Welfare Cuts

Proposer: Shelly Asquith

ADD

NCAFC Resolves:

  1. To:
  2. Link up with the organisers of March for Homes and propose another for early 2016.
  3. Organise direct action on letting agents whom we know to be particularly exploiting student & migrant tenants
  4. To consider an action in response to the £12bn cuts to the welfare budget, approaching NUS disabled students campaign, DPAC and other relevant campaign orgs on collaboration.

 

Motion A6e: The Return of Armchair Activism

Proposer: Fran Cowling

 

NCAFC Notes:

  1. On Saturday the 9th of May thousands of protesters descended upon Parliament, Tory HQ, Whitehall, and Downing Street to protest the newly elected Tory Government.

NCAFC Believes:

1. A number of people cannot take part in or attend demonstrations, marches or direct actions due to various reasons such as (but not limited to) – lack of accessibility, illness and / or racial profiling.

NCAFC Further Believes:

1. Attending demonstrations or marches or being part of direct actions is often considered a ‘badge of honour’ by many and directly and/or indirectly used as a method of hierarchy to decide who is more ‘dedicated’ to the cause. Or as a means to make others feel guilty, less dedicated and their contributions less valued.

2. Cis, white, male, middle class, and university and college students experience a large amount of privilege during  demonstrations, marches and / or direct actions at the hands of the police, security, and the UK law when it comes to being arrested, treatment in custody, and conviction rates.

3. Black, international and migrant students are more likely to experience racial profiling, be arrested and convicted of a crime, and die in police custody than their white, British, and middle class peers.

4. Disabled people will see some of the worst attacks upon their support services in the next five years but are often silenced in their fight to stop the cuts to the welfare state. Lack of accessibility and precautions at demonstrations, marches and/or direct action (whilst not always easy to ensure for impromptu actions) can make these forms of protest unsafe and dangerous for disabled people to take part and thus further silencing them and compounding society’s structural and institutionalised ableism. This was highlighted during the demonstration on the 9th of May via the #WeCantMarch hashtag.

NCAFC Resolves:

1. That demonstrations, marches and direct action are not the only form of legitimate protest, sit-ins, letter writing campaigns, social media campaigns, and hacktivism are legitimate forms of protest with high success rates.

2. That in the fight for Free Education we should be utilising as many tactics as possible in order to have the greatest impact and make sure our message is heard.

3. To work with disabled activists’ groups to ensure that the National Demonstration is as accessible as possible and that other forms of direct action are available before, on the day and after the demonstration to keep momentum going.

4. That in addition to the National Demonstration in November NCAFC will also plan alternative forms of protest so that all members of NCAFC can take part and play their part in the fight for Free Education.

5. That everyone does their bit to fight for Free Education and no matter how big or small that may be it is still a legitimate form of protest and contribution to the cause. No one should ever be made to feel like their contribution is not valued or that they are not dedicated to the cause.

6. That the UK Police Force and UK Law is institutionally racist and xenophobic.

7. To work with Black, international, and migrant organisations in order to support those who attend NCAFC demonstrations, marches and direct action and protect them from racial profiling and police brutality.

 

Section A7: Who should we work with?

 

Motion A7a

 

Proposer: Hattie Craig, Deborah Hermanns

NCAFC Believes
1. While we should not make a fetish of “unity”, it is generally good to push for less organisational division and more cooperation (and more debate) on the student left.
2. That with this in mind, we should propose publicly to the Student Assembly Against Austerity that we discuss formally with them about the possibility of uniting to form a broader student left/anti-austerity organisation.
3. There are a number of possible barriers to or difficulties in the way of unity with the SAAA:
a) The question of genuinely democratic structures – like those of the NCAFC, and not the fake democracy of tightly controlled fronts which always characterised the SWP’s student fronts and seems at least in the past to have characterised the SAAA.
b) The need for genuine, honest cooperation between different forces – despite open differences, disagreements and even dislike – not disruptive sectarian control by a single small political group or clique.
c) Differences over political orientation, with regards to grassroots organising vs reliance on the left of the NUS bureaucracy.
4. That despite these problems, in the interests of the movement and the struggle, is it well worth us trying to get greater unity. At the very least, discussions could produce more extensive and fruitful collaboration.
5. That the majority of SAAA supporters genuinely want greater unity and honest, comradely relations – even if the political group that has dominated it up till now (Socialist Action/Student Broad Left) do not.

NCAFC Resolves
1. To approach the SAAA on the basis set out above, publishing the letter on our website.
2. To issue a broader call to student left, anti-cuts, feminist, etc, groups to discuss with us about creating a more united, effective student left.

 

Motion A7b: The SWP, the Socialist Party & the Free Education Demo

Content Note: Rape apologism, SWP (Socialist Workers Party) and SP (Socialist Party)

Proposer: Fran Cowling

NCAFC Notes:

1. NACFC 2013 policy states:

– To not organise events with the Socialist Party or Socialist Students until the Socialist Party retracts their statement online that they ‘will continue to work with Steve’.

– To continue to not organise with the miserable remains of the SWP or the SWSS groups (excluding the SWP opposition).

2. NCAFC released the following statement regarding the involvement of (or lack of!) the SWP and the SP in the organisation of the National Demonstration in 2014 - http://anticuts.com/2014/10/30/the-swp-the-socialist-party-the-free-education-demo/

NCAFC Believes:

1. That NCAFC and the Young Greens agreed to not work with the SWP and the SP during the organisation of the Free Education demonstration or offer them or their speakers a platform at the rally, thus prioritising women’s and survivors’ safety.

2. The Student Broad Left / The Student Assembly against Austerity (same thing) however refused to do the same stating: “They would only not work with racists and/or fascists” and thus prioritising fighting racism and fascism over women’s liberation and survivors’ safety.

NCAFC Further Believes:

1. The presence and involvement of the SWP, the SP (and their affiliated groups or branches) at any form of protest or event make women and survivors feel unsafe, un-welcome and silenced.

2. That in the fight for Free Education we should not sacrifice our principles or solidarity with women and survivors in order to achieve Free Education by working with the SWP, the SP.

3. Women, NB people and survivors are disproportionately affected by the cuts, austerity measures and the lack of Free Education and thus NCAFC must put women’s, NB people’s and survivors’ interests at the hearts of our anti austerity and Free Education movement and stand with them in solidarity.

NCAFC Resolves:

1. That whilst it is impossible to stop the SWP or the SP turning up to National Demonstrations or any form of protest or event in the public realm, NCAFC will do the best to implement the following rules:

a. That the SWP, the SP must have no involvement in the organisation of the National Demonstration, any NCAFC event, protest or direct action or any aspect of NCAFC.

b. That the SWP, the SP will not be given a platform to speak at the rally for the National Demonstration or any other NCAFC event.

c. That SWP and/or SP members should not attend NCAFC events and/or planning meetings.

d. That NO SWP and/or SP materials (placards, newspapers, flyers) and any other SWP and/or SP branded materials are brought to NCAFC events.

e. That no SWP or SP party recruitment is conducted at NCAFC events.

MOTIONS DEBATE B – GENERAL

Motions concerning the internal functions of NCAFC

 

Motion B1: Appointing a paid organiser from September to December

Proposed by: Warwick for Free Education

 

NCAFC believes:

  1. NCAFC is a volunteer-run organisation, and this fact plays a vital part in our ability to articulate grassroots activism on a national level.  However, there are some projects (such as national demos), and (now that we’ve grown a bit) large chunks of our day-to-day operation which requires an in-depth dedication of people’s time and mental energy.
  2. Sabbs who are in NCAFC have historically played a key role in giving their work time over to national organising, and should continue to do so.
  3. Since we were founded, we have at most points informally had full time organisers who are not sabbs – this is partly because the right people aren’t always sabbs (obviously), and because it is necessary to have people who are centrally involved who do not have constant commitments on their own campus and union. Sometimes, these organisers have been paid a few hundred quid for the year, though mostly they have been paid nothing – and they have lived in poverty working 50-hour weeks.

NCAFC further believes:

  1. An organisation with the membership and scope that NCAFC currently has would ordinarily have a number of full time organisers. At conference in December, we voted in general for having paid organisers, and we should get one if we can.
  2. Any paid organiser must not become anyone’s boss – they should be appointed by NCAFC to do the work democratically agreed by its members. The position should come without bureaucratic power, and it should rotate relatively regularly.
  3. We need to appoint an organiser who is ready and willing to go – and not one that would need to be trained in how to run NCAFC.
  4. This is the first time that we are having a proper paid organiser and there is a limit to how much money we can expect to raise for now. This is why we should try it out for a four months period for now and then assess later on whether it is feasible to have a paid organiser all year round and how often that organiser should be selected.
  5. September to December is the busiest time of the year for NCAFC and the student movement, and having a paid organiser during this time will be most beneficial.
  6. Our organiser should be able to eat and have a roof over their head.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To mandate the finance committee to make it a priority to find the necessary funds for this position until September through a variety of methods (i.e. applying for grants, online crowd-sourcing, organising fundraisers, membership fees) and publish a full finance plan for the four months period.
  2. If the NC (Finance committee) see it feasible by the beginning of September, the NC will appoint a paid organiser for the period between mid-September and mid-December. The organiser’s job description is as follows: see end of motion
  3. The paid organiser will be paid a stipend of at least £ 778 per month inside London and £ 667 per month outside London. However, if possible this should be significantly higher.
  4. The finance committee will administer a pot of travel money available to the organiser of a maximum of 150 Pounds a month in addition to the stipend.
  5. The paid organiser will be selected by the NC at a physical meeting around Summer training (August/September).
  6. The position will be advertised well in advance on the NCAFC members’ loomio and the member’s mail out, and not to non-members.
  7. The organiser must be: an activist experienced in both local and national student organising; an active and dedicated member of NCAFC. They do not have to be a current or past member of the NC.
  8. Once appointed, if they are not an NC member, the organiser will be included in all NC communications, but will not be given additional voting rights.
  9. The organiser will report fortnightly to both the membership and the NC.
  10. Both the paid organiser and the NC will report to winter conference on the success of the project. It will be decided there whether NCAFC is able to and whether it should appoint a paid organiser on a more long-term basis

Job description:

  1. a) Assisting with and ensuring the execution of NCAFC’s major projects, in particular:
  2. any national demo
  3. national days of action
  4. major direct action
  5. co-ordinations with other groups
  6. b) Assisting with and ensuring the day-to-day operation of the NCAFC, in particular:
  7. its communications (email, social media, website, press)
  8. the coordination of the NC and its sub-committees (though not attempting to be anyone’s boss)
  9. traveling across the UK in order to meet activists, help build activist groups and support their actions
  10. the convening of regular regional NCAFC meet-ups
  11. c) The organiser will not be responsible for:
  12. The organisation of winter conference (this is because of work load and issues experienced by the previous organiser)
  13. Being the only major public face of the campaign (this should not become centralised to one person)
  14. Taking on pet projects and constant random tasks from members of the NC

 

Amendment 1, Motion B1

Proposer: Sarah Dagha

 

DELETE Resolves 3 and REPLACE with:

 

  1. That the organiser should be paid minimum wage on the assumption of a 40 hour working week, and that we should strive to pay the living wage.

 

Motion 2: Fight for free speech and free organisation!

Proposed by: Workers’ Liberty

NCAFC notes:

  1. That students’ and workers’ freedom of speech and organisation on campuses face ongoing erosion from numerous directions – from the government’s “counter-terrorism and security” agenda, from the police, from immigration authorities, from university managements, from the increasing corporatisation of university/college facilities and spaces, from student union bureaucracies and even from some on the student left.

NCAFC believes:

  1. That while “freedom of speech” and “freedom of organisation” are not self-sufficient answers to any and every problem we face, they are of vital importance to any movement which seeks to challenge oppression and transform society. The oppressed and exploited have the most to lose from attacks on such democratic rights.
  2. That it is vital that we take up this struggle and do not allow right-wing organisations such as Spiked to exploit it to promote their anti-equality, pro-corporate “free speech” agenda.
  3. That while it is legitimate and right for student unions to have equal opportunities policies, codes of conduct, etc, they should also set themselves the goal of preserving and expanding student freedom of expression and freedom of organisation. “No platform” type policies should generally be limited to fascist groups such as the BNP and the EDL, not because their views are upsetting, but because of the threats they pose to the left, the labour movement and oppressed groups.
  4. In general, reactionary views should be fought politically, not through bans.

NCAFC further believes:

  1. That we must also promote a culture of free speech and debate in the NCAFC.
  2. That it should be normal “custom and practice” for differing views in the campaign to be expressed freely, published on the website, etc. – even or rather particularly if they represent minority dissent from an agreed majority position. The publication of several two-sided debate pieces in this year’s conference bulletin was a good step.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To campaign to defend and extend freedom of speech and organisation on campuses and in the student movement on the lines set out above.

 

Amendment 1, Motion B2

Proposer: Sarah Dagha

 

DELETE ALL and REPLACE with:

 

NCAFC Believes:

  1. That the right to the freedoms of organisation, speech and expression face ongoing attacks from the state and its agents – from the government’s ‘counter terrorism’ agenda, to police repression, to the brutality of immigration policy, and from the increasing corporatisation of university/college facilities and spaces to stifling bureaucracy.
  2. That these freedoms and civil liberties ensure the right to speak truth to power – to challenge the state, its institutions, and those whom it vests power in.
  3. It is vital to defend this right to enable common people to organise against oppression.
  4. Within the context of interpersonal or intergroup relations in society, free speech can take on a different character – power relations and dynamics of oppression and privilege are entrenched and reproduced in expression.
  5. Freedom of speech is still expression that is embedded within structures of an oppressive society, and comes with responsibility.
  6. Therefore ‘free speech’ can become a construct of the powerful instead of the powerless in this context, and used to incite or manipulate against oppressed people

 

NCAFC further believes:

  1. It is entirely legitimate for oppressed groups to organise amongst one another on their own terms within safe spaces.
    This may extend to them deciding which individuals or groups they permit access to these spaces to, and which speakers they choose to platform within such spaces.
  2. NCAFC currently operates a Safer Spaces Policy which seeks to create broader organising spaces which are, as far as is reasonable and possible, free of oppressive dynamics that can manifest in such spaces.
  3. NCAFC should encourage healthy debates and for ideas to be challenged politically, but should also acknowledge that freedom of speech is not an unlimited concept, and should not come at the expense of marginalised groups.

 

NCAFC Resolves

  1. To campaign to defend and extend freedom of speech and organisation on campuses and in the student movement along the lines set out above.
  2. To campaign against moves by the state and its institutions to curtail our right to free expression and organisation – including the Counter Terrorism and Security Act and ‘anti-extremism’ measures, dispersal orders and raising the threshold of strike ballots for Trade Unions.
  3. To encourage all members to respect and reaffirm our existing Safer Spaces Policy.

 

Motion B3: NCAFC needs to become more about its members and activists groups, less about the NC

Proposed by: Warwick For Free Education

 

NCAFC believes:

  1. We pride ourselves on being a democratic membership organisation, and one of our main reasons for existing is as a network of activists and activist groups. However, very often it is only really the NC that has decision-making power.

NCAFC further believes:

  1. You should not have to be on the national committee in order to organise NCAFC stuff.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To mandate the NC to have its discussions in the open members’ loomio where possible and to actively get non-NC members involved in projects.
  2. To mandate the membership committee to make sure that more members are actually in the members’ loomio. This will require moving beyond the MailChimp updates and Loomio invites, and towards other methods, such as emailing members manually.
  3. To make the establishment of regional structures across the country and the holding of regular regional meet-ups a priority of NCAFC over the coming months.
  4. To encourage members, and especially NC members, to focus their work on establishing a functioning activist group in their local areas, where there is not one already.
  5. To encourage more non-NC members to attend meetings of the NC, and to publicise NC webchats more widely.

Motion B4: NCAFC and NUS

Proposed by: Workers’ Liberty

NCAFC notes:

  1. The victories won by the left at this year’s NUS conference.

NCAFC believes:

  1. That these victories are both very positive – the result of five years of important student struggles and determined organising by grassroots activists – and limited – in terms of the positions won, the program they were won on, NUS policy, and the record of many left-wingers in NUS so far (e.g. on last year’s national demo).
  2. That it is important that we respond positively but soberly and critically.
  3. That we should continue to organise both outside/independently of and inside NUS, not relying on the newly elected left-wing NUS officers but working with them while seeking to put them under pressure.
  4. That we need to fight any tendencies on the left towards careerism and, perhaps more importantly, a culture of avoiding important political issues and arguments in order to court popularity or stay in with a clique. We need to fight to build up a culture of using NUS to promote student struggles and politically educate and develop the movement, whether it offends some people or not.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To publish regular updates and commentary on developments in NUS.
  2. That our activists on NUS NEC and other committees should
  3. Constitute a well-functioning and well-communicating caucus;
  4. Consistently discuss with the NC and/or other relevant bodies about what to submit to NUS NEC, about issues coming up, etc.
  5. Write reports of NUS NEC (etc) meetings and other developments in NUS. We should normally publish reports within a week of the meeting
  6. To seek to recruit other left wing activists in NUS to the campaign, but on the basis set out above. We need to discuss with NUS officials who are already NCAFC members but less centrally involved as soon as possible.
  7. To urge all our activists operating in NUS to do so on the basis / in the spirit set out above.

Amendment 1, Motion B4

Proposed by: Hannah Sketchley, Ben Towse

ADD:

NCAFC further believes:

  1. That NUS is preparing a governance review over the next year. The right-wing of the NUS leadership will attempt to use this to attack democracy and grassroots control of the union, while pretending that they are making NUS more accessible.
  2. This is part of a long-term eroding of NUS democracy begun by Blairites in the 1990s in an effort to stifle opposition to tuition fees.
  3. That we should oppose this by campaigning for a positive and concrete alternative vision of democracy in our union, championing participative active democracy against passive consultation within a club of sabbatical officers.
  4. That we should be clear what we mean when we talk about democratic events in our national union: we want participatory democracy which serves its members, not flimsy “Voice” events, which can cover anything from a small focus group to a non-democratic event such as a zones conferences and are not democratic at all.

 

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To ask the National Committee to develop a programme for democratising NUS, including the following points:
  2. To campaign for this programme to be adopted by the NUS in its governance review, and if this is unsuccessful to propose it as an alternative to the leadership’s reforms.
  3. To ask NCAFC members who hold elected posts in NUS to support and campaign for our programme for NUS democracy.
    1. More, not less, time to discuss and decide NUS’s priorities and plans – two annual national conferences, both of a decent length, against proposals to cut conference down even further or even shift to passive online voting which prevents proper discussion.
    2. Accessible conferences. Currently, national conference days are inaccessibly long because there are so few days.
    3. Rebalance power in the Executive from full-time to part-time officers, by reinstating the stipend part-time NEC members used to receive to support them in being active organisers and campaigners.
    4. Create a full-time Trans Students’ Officer, as repeatedly proposed from NUS LGBT+’s Trans caucus.
    5. Abolish the undemocratic, unrepresentative zone conferences.
    6. Remove unelected non-students from voting positions on the Trustee Board, and if possible abolish the Trustee Board entirely – oversight of our union should not be separated from political democratic bodies.
    7. Remove the ability of the leadership to put their proposals at the top of the agenda at NUS conferences.
    8. Defend the role that procedural motions play in allowing delegates to stop the Chair and President controlling conferences.
    9. Work to abolish registration fees for all NUS democratic events, if necessary by funding them through affiliation fees (which should be set according to a union’s ability to pay). There should be no cost incentive or bar against participating in all parts of the union’s democracy.
    10. Restore and empower organisation at the regional level across the UK – the “Area” system, where there was an NUS organisation in each region, with full democracy and full-time officers, coordinating unions across higher and further education and capable of campaigning on local political issues.
    11. Retain the autonomy and resources of liberation campaigns.
    12. Properly resource and empower the “sections” (International, Postgrad, and Mature & Part-time) to carry out active organising and campaigning work under the democratic control of their members.

 

Education and access to education

 

Motion B5: Strategy to Smash the National Student Survey

Proposed by: Defend Education Birmingham

NCAFC Believes:

  1. The National Student Survey (NSS) does not measure student satisfaction in any meaningful way.
  2. The NSS is used by management in institutions to (and this list is by no means conclusive) bully staff, fire staff, change their contracts and cut courses. [1]
  3. As a tool for marketization, the NSS is used to standardise HE, pitching incomparable teaching practices against each other and ranking universities to fuel a notion of ‘value for money’.
  4. The focus on an academic style learning disproportionately affects art institutions and other specialist HE institutions which do not fit this narrow framework.
  5. The questions that the NSS asks do not address institutional problems within universities.
  6. The NSS is counterproductive to creating liberated, autonomous universities.

NCAFC Further Believes:

  1. The only effective way to boycott the NSS is nationally and the only body with enough resources and influence to do this is the NUS.
  2. Individual boycotts and boycotts by individual institutions will be ineffective and just mean bad results for staff at those institutions and not tackle the problems caused by the survey.
  3. Our overall aim should be the end of the NSS through campaigning for a national boycott.
  4. Until that is achieved (or if that is not achieved at the next NUS conference) we should educate people about the problems of the NSS and encourage them and our student unions (to encourage their members) to mark highly on all questions regarding staff so that they score highly.

NCAFC Resolves:

  1. To campaign to get rid of the NSS.
  2. To campaign for a national boycott by the NUS.
  3. To campaign for the NUS to disaffiliate itself from the NSS.
  4. To encourage institutions to create their own forms of democratic, participatory feedback processes to improve courses and departments alongside staff not at the expense of them.
  5. Educate people about the problems with the NSS.
  6. In the interim to encourage individuals and institutions to mark “definitely agree” in all the sections that affect staff and/or their course.

[1] http://tab.co.uk/2015/04/02/finalists-do-not-complete-the-national-student-survey/

 

Amendment 1 to Motion B5

Proposed by: Ben Towse

 

DELETE Further Believes 2 and REPLACE with:

 

  1. Boycotts by isolated individuals will not help the campaign and serve no purpose.
  2. Collective boycotts within individual universities will not be effective to defeat the NSS. However, the threat of a collective boycott (or a collective move to answer all questions the same, rendering the results useless) at an individual institution may still be a useful coercive tactic to force university managers to give concessions in some other area (e.g. to stop a fee rise), so should not be ruled out.

 

ADD

 

NCAFC Resolves

  1. To campaign against the extension of the NSS to further education or postgraduate education
  2. Until NUS implements an outright boycott, to call on individual student unions to refuse to promote, assist, or actively cooperate with NSS.

 

Motion B6: Childcare

Proposed by: Defend Education Birmingham & Labour Campaign for Free Education

NCAFC Notes:

  1. The Childcare Grant for student parents is only available for full-time undergraduate students or those in teacher training
  2. The Childcare Grant is only up to £150.23 for one child and up to £257.55 a week for two children or more
  3. This amount is frequently well below the weekly costs of university-provided nursery services
  4. Student parents are also entitled to a Parents’ Learning Allowance, this is also only available for full-time undergraduate students.
  5. This is means-tested and can be between £50-£1523, which can be inadequate to meet the costs of living and studying with dependants.
  6. Currently neither grants take into account periods in which a higher rate of support is needed, e.g. during dissertation periods
  7. Further Education student parents under 20 are entitled to ‘Care To Learn’, however they, their learning provider, and their childcare provider must all meet certain eligibility criteria, which makes it highly difficult to access
  8. The primary carers of children in society continue to be women, as displayed by the fact that 94% of child benefit is paid to women, therefore difficulties in support disproportionately affect women
  9. The last significant report to provide information about student parents was in 2009

NCAFC Believes:

  1. That the lack of support for student parents excludes marginalised groups, especially women, from the education system.
  2. A free education system must always be a feminist education system, a system in which women are not barred by a proportionately higher cost of education.
  3. That support for student parents should be universal, not dependent on being full-time or part-time, in higher education or further education etc.
  4. That education cannot truly be free unless all can have equal access to it, which is inhibited by the barriers that student parents face.

NCAFC Resolves:

  1. To support activist groups in campaigning for on-campus childcare provision to be free of charge for all students and education workers, including demonstrations and direct action
  2. To launch a campaign for the universalisation of all financial support for student parents
  3. To campaign for a higher rate of childcare grants and student allowances, that takes into account times during education where there will be a need for greater support.
  4. To campaign for greater research into the difficulties student parents face
  5. To incorporate free childcare and parent support at all levels for students and education workers into our campaigns for free education

 

International Issues

 

Motion B7: Europe and the Referendum

Proposed by: UCL Defend Education

NCAFC notes:

  1. The Conservatives have promised a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU
  2. This referendum is promised to be held within two years

NCAFC believes:

  1. The guarantee of freedom of movement for its citizens (including students travelling to study) is a very good thing that we should fight to defend – and fight to extend to those currently locked out of “Fortress Europe”. So is the erosion of national divisions.
  2. Despite this and some other progressive policies, the EU as currently constructed is a project designed at heart to secure the interests of the rich and powerful. Its governance is relatively undemocratic and bureaucratic.
  3. However, we can’t go back – a retreat into our respective nation-states and re-raising of borders can only be reactionary. Our national governments are ALSO constructed to serve the interests of the rich and powerful, and don’t have any more progressive potential. This is doubly true given the circumstances of this referendum, which would see the UK leave the EU in a debate dominated by nationalistic, conservative rhetoric against migrants and human rights.
  4. Instead, we should attempt to build and connect the left and the student and workers’ movements across Europe, and fight for open borders and a genuinely democratic and socially just Europe – and beyond. This will involve a major shift of power and fundamentally remaking the EU project.
  5. The NUS Executive’s vote in support of remaining in the EU is welcome, but its policy failed to criticise the EU as it currently exists or to push for a better Europe.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To campaign against UK exit from the EU – including calling for a vote against exit in the referendum – while calling for a fight to make Europe genuinely democratic and socially just.
  2. To link up with other parts of the left, the workers’ movement and the student movement in the UK that will campaign on this basis.
  3. To link up as well as we can with the students’ and workers’ movements and the left across Europe.
  4. To push for NUS to combine its existing stance against leaving the EU with a campaign for a more democratic and socially just Europe.
  5. To push individual student unions to adopt and campaign for this stance in the run up to the referendum and beyond.

Amendment 1, Motion B7

Proposed by: Ben Towse

 

ADD

 

NCAFC Notes:

  1. There will be major ‘yes’ and ‘no’ campaigns representing the interests of competing sections of the capitalist class.
  2. The leading faction of the Tories is likely to oppose exit from the EU but is trying to renegotiate the terms, potentially undermining important rights and attacking migrants.

 

NCAFC Believes:

  1. Transforming Europe in the way we want will require a massive fight by a left based in the workers’ movement and presenting its own vision. It will need to be clearly independent from pro-EU capitalists and the political campaigns representing their interests.
  2. This should not be compromised during the referendum campaign, and we have to build the campaign to transform Europe at the same time as stopping exit. Being opportunistic in the short term will harm our ability in the longer-term to transform Europe so we should have no association with arguments to stay in the EU because it is “good for business owners” or to “maintain Britain’s influence in the world”.

 

NCAFC Resolves:

  1. That our campaigning must remain clearly independent from, and appropriately critical of, campaigns against EU exit that stand for the interests of capitalists and for maintaining the EU as it currently exists. And we should encourage other parts of the students’ and workers’ movements and the left campaigning against exit to join us in making the same distinction.
  2. At the same time as campaigning against exit from the EU, to also fight against any attempt by the government to placate right-wing eurosceptics by renegotiating the terms of union to attack freedom of movement, workers’ rights, civil liberties, or migrants’ access to benefits or public services.

 

Motion B8: Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS)

Proposed by: Defend Education Birmingham

NCAFC believes:

  1. The state of Israel has maintained a decades-long occupation of Palestine
  2. Israel’s founding in 1948 was predicated on the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population in the Nakba and its continued status depends on the colonial theft of Palestinian land, a militarised occupying presence, racist and ethno-supremacist propaganda, a litany of international law abuses and unapologetic massacres of the Palestinian people every few years.
  3. Between 8 July and 27 August 2014 through Operation ‘Protective Edge’, the Israeli army killed over 2,300 Palestinians.[1]
  4. The Israeli army stands accused of using illegal weapons including white phosphorus bombs and DIME (Dense Inert Metal Explosive) weapons on one of the most densely-populated regions of the world, and with targets consisting mainly of civilians.[2]
  5. This disregard for human rights and international law stands consist with Israel’s conduct during previous assaults on Gaza, including 2008/09’s ‘Cast Lead’ and 2012’s ‘Pillar of Defence’.
  6. That extensive funding and military aid to Israel from Western countries helps perpetuate Israel’s abuses and relieves the financial pressure of warfare; the UK government also facilitates heavy arms trading and co-operation with Israel, marking their complicity in this and previous massacres.[3],[4]
  7. That the current Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement was called upon in 2005 by a broad range of Palestinians encompassing unions, women’s groups, NGOs, academic groups, diaspora organisations and political parties.
  8. The BDS movement demands three things:
    1. An end to the 1967 illegal occupation and dismantling the separation wall
    2. Full equality for all Palestinians living within Israel and the occupied territories.
    3. The right of return of Palestinian refugees to their homes as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

NCAFC further believes:

  1. That even after the massacres of Protective Edge, Israel remains unrepentant.
  2. A survey indicated that 92% of the Jewish population of Israel considered the attack ‘justified’, including 2/3rds of self-identified ‘Left-wing’ respondents.[5]
  3. In the latest Knesset elections this year, the Israeli population re-elected PM Netanyahu,who has gone on to form the most rightwing government in Israeli history.
  4. That with leading Israeli politicians now within Netanyahu’s cabinet calling for effective genocide, ethnic cleansing of, and war crimes against Palestinians, appealing to their political establishment on a purely moral basis would be beyond naïve.[6],[7],[8]
  5. That with the British government unwilling to even condemn Israel for this assault, it is now incumbent upon the public and civil institutions to exert economic and political pressure to convince Israel to abide by international law.
  6. UK unions that support BDS include NUS, NUT, TUC, Unite the Union and UCU
  7. That over the course of Operation ‘Protective Edge’ other countries, bodies and organisations have taken substantive action, such as Chile having suspended trade talks with Israel.[9]
  8. The Israeli government consider BDS a serious threat to them, and to this end have employed staff and ministers with the express goal of countering boycott
  9. Dialogue’ and ‘negotiations’ have failed;
  10. the oppressor and the oppressed can never be expected to meet as equals at the negotiating table without the power balance having been equalised.
  11. BDS helps equalise that balance.
  12. Solidarity and support for the Palestinians, as a colonised people, should be on the terms set by the Palestinian people – as per BDS.
  13. No colonised people in history have achieved liberation by relying on the graces of their coloniser.
  14. That BDS is an effective tactic, which both educates society about these issues, economically pressures companies/institutions to change their practices and politically pressures the global community.
  15. That BDS does not, in any way, discriminate against individuals. BDS is merely targeted at the institutions, and not particular individuals, that are complicit in the occupation of Palestine and of violating international law.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To affiliate with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement
  2. To call on the British government to condemn Israel’s occupation of Palestine, cease aid and funding to Israel, and impose an arms embargo against Israel.
  3. To issue a call to our membership to boycott companies and corporations complicit in financing and aiding Israel’s military, including G4S and Hewlett Packard.
  4. To support such campaigns by our members both at a university and societal level, where appropriate
  5. To issue a call to our membership to support actions on campus calling for solidarity with Palestine through divestment campaigns against companies complicit in the occupation of Palestine.
  6. To support direct action against arms companies trading with Israel
  7. Likewise, to issue a call to our membership to act in solidarity with campus actions in calling for a comprehensive economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel as called for by the Palestinian Civil Society.[11]
  8. To mobilise for the Block the Factory! day of action against arms trade with Israel at Shenstone on July 6th [12]

[1] http://www.maannews.com/Content.aspx?id=751290

[2] https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12939-israel-uses-illegal-weapons-in-gaza

[3] http://mondoweiss.net/2014/07/activists-demanding-israel.html

[4] http://www.bdsmovement.net/2014/nobel-celebrities-call-for-military-embargo-12316

[5] http://en.idi.org.il/about-idi/news-and-updates/august-2014-peace-index/

[6] http://www.stopwar.org.uk/news/gaza-bombarded-as-israel-s-leaders-demand-blood-after-students-bodies-found#.U880LLGTHtI

[7] http://www.dailysabah.com/mideast/2014/07/14/mothers-of-all-palestinians-should-also-be-killed-says-israeli-politician

[8] http://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2015/5/11/israeli-politician-who-advocated-genocide-appointed-justice-minister

[9] http://www.worldbulletin.net/world/140840/chile-to-suspend-trade-talks-with-israel-over-gaza-bombing

[10] http://www.bdsmovement.net/activecamps/academic-boycott

[11] http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1108

[12] https://www.facebook.com/events/1852279304996380/?fref=ts

 

Amendment 1, Motion B8

Proposed by: Omar Raii

 

If this amendment passes, then Amendments 2 and 3 to Motion B8 will not be discussed.

 

DELETE and REPLACE ALL:

 

NCAFC Believes:

  1. We deplore the Israeli occupation and oppression of Palestine and the Palestinians
  2. We recognise that since the Palestinians are oppressed by Israel, our solidarity must first and foremost be with the Palestinians, in support of their right to national self-determination and in their struggle for freedom from Israeli occupation and oppression.
  3. We support the fight for an end to the occupation of Palestine; equal rights for all in Israel; freedom of movement for Palestinians to live where they please, and an end to the occupation wall.
  4. We draw a distinction between the Israeli ruling class and its right-wing government, and the Israeli people (including Jews, Arabs and other minorities). We stand in solidarity with Israelis on the left that are fighting against the occupation, and with Israeli working-class, anti-racist, feminist, and LGBT organisations in their fights against oppression.
  5. There is a diversity of views within NCAFC on tactics in the movement of solidarity with the Palestinian struggle. We welcome activists with different views on this issue and will continue to facilitate debate on disagreements and unity in action.
  6. We encourage our members to become active and educated on this issue – starting with supporting the Block the Factory action in July.

 

NCAFC Resolves

  1. To call on the British government to condemn Israel’s occupation of Palestine, cease aid and funding to Israel, and impose an arms embargo against Israel.
  2. To support direct action against arms companies trading with Israel

 

Amendment 2, Motion B8

Proposed by: Helena Dunnett-Orridge

 

This amendment will not be discussed if Amendment 1 to Motion B8 is passed.

 

DELETE Believes 1 and REPLACE with:

 

  1. Whilst we strongly criticise the actions of the Israeli government and state, we do draw a distinction between the Israeli ruling class and its rightwing government, and the Israeli people. We stand in solidarity with the Israeli left that is fighting against the occupation, and with Israeli working-class, anti-racist, feminist, and LGBT (including the bisexual activist Shiri Eisner) organisations in their fights against oppression.The original information is largely biased (in favour of the Israeli state), polled only 600 Israeli citizens and does not necessarily represent the views of the left in Israel. The statement is misleading; we should be criticising the Israeli government, which is expressed well in the rest of the motion, and not simply attacking all Israeli citizens.

 

Amendment 3, Motion B8

Proposed by: Michael Chessum

 

This amendment will not be discussed if Amendment 1 to Motion B8 is passed.

 

ADD

NCAFC Believes:

  1. BDS is a tactic, not a principle – our views on it should be based on its effectiveness.
  2. Not supporting BDS is (assuming that this motion passes at NCAFC conference) the minority view inside NCAFC. It is not the same as supporting the Israeli government’s actions, or being opposed to the liberation of the Palestinians.
  3. Boycotts, divestment and sanctions are not tactics rooted in the idea of workers’ political agency.  This does not mean that socialists should not support them or utilise them.
  4. To a great extent, there is no such thing as a single ‘BDS movement’ – there are many different people and groups across the world pursuing these tactics. We should not associate ourselves with all of these people just because they pursue the tactic – and those who support BDS should fight for a distinctive version of BDS and its role in the struggle.
  5. BDS is too often counterposed to working with left wing Israelis and Israeli groups. While Israeli workers cannot lead the emancipation of the Palestinians, and large swathes of the organised working class harbour awful politics on Palestine, there are leftwing Israelis working against the occupation. In order for BDS to work, the Israeli working class and the wider Israeli left must become agents of fundamental change; this will have to be done through persuasion as well as by external pressure. It is possible to be a genuine left wing anti-racist in Israel and still not support BDS – and support for BDS should not be the automatic key requirement for pro-Palestine activists acting in solidarity with Israeli activists. On the other hand, we should not refuse to support BDS because it might offend the Histadrut.
  6. There are supporters of BDS whose political outlook is anti-Semitic. This does not make “the logic of BDS” anti-Semitic, but it goes deeper than there just being a few bad apples. Any attempt to undermine the legitimacy of Israel, which BDS does, will attract anti-Semites. Those active on BDS have a particular duty to fight racism in all its forms within our movement.
  7. While we should not be afraid of taking a position, it is silly to suggest that the debate on BDS and its role is over. At present, large numbers of people in the student movement are supporting BDS who, a few years ago, would never have done so – not necessarily because they are wholly convinced or have done lots of Palestine activism, but because it is becoming the done thing. In order to turn this passive support into active support, debates about BDS and its role need to continue, and people need to be pushed in the direction of taking action.

 

NCAFC Resolves:

  1. To support the right of those who hold a minority to view to express this openly to give them space to do so; and to commit to creating a political climate in which people are won over because they are convinced of ideas, not because one idea becomes a shibboleth or because people are too frightened to raise disagreements.
  2. To continue debating BDS and its role in the struggle for Palestinian liberation at NCAFC events.

 

Amendment 4, Motion B8

Proposed by: Deborah Hermanns, Michael Chessum

 

ADD

 

NCAFC Believes:

  1. It is very positive that this debate has been had inside NCAFC
  2. NCAFC’s main priority should be fighting for free education.
  3. We are a volunteer organisation with very limited resources.

 

NCAFC Resolves:

  1. That BDS & Israel / Palestine should not be a key priority for NCAFC & its external-facing work

Campaigns & Issues in the UK

 

Motion B9: Oppose the Counter-terrorism and Security Act

Proposed by: Defend Education Birmingham

NCAFC Believes:

  1. The government’s Counter-Terrorism and Security Act places a statutory requirement on public bodies – including universities – to ’prevent people being drawn into terrorism’.
  2. This would extend to academic staff, including Postgraduate teaching staff, being forced to monitor and ‘inform’ on their students
  3. This fundamentally, and damagingly, changes the dynamic between student and academic to one based on suspicion and surveillance
  4. PREVENT and the Government’s ‘anti-extremism’ agenda have been used to create an expansive surveillance architecture to spy on the public and to police dissent, systematically targeting Black people and Muslims.
  5. The Government’s anti-terrorism/security policy is fundamentally flawed in its approach; its operant concepts of ‘extremism’ and ‘radicalism’ are ill-defined and open to abuse for political ends.
  6. The Queen’s speech outlined further intentions by the government to suppress those undermining ‘British values’ – which remain poorly defined, if at all – and exercising new powers against speakers to universities and broadcast material
  7. Further to this According to the current Prevent Strategy, potential indicators of radicalism” or “extremism” include:
    1. A need for identity, meaning and belonging.
    2. A desire for political or moral change.
    3. Relevant mental health issues.
  8. The legal process under anti-terrorism law remains opaque and its application arbitrary and with such a broad definition of extremism all activists could be a target.

NCAFC further believes:

  1. PREVENT has been introduced and strengthened under the pretense of ‘anti-extremism’ but its real intentions have always been to criminalise any political dissent, and neutralise the political agency of Muslim communities in Britain
  2. The Act further criminalises political activism and disproportionately affects Muslims and Black people, and comes amidst a campaign of fear and demonisation from the government.
  3. Islamophobia is massively on the rise across Europe, as a state-sponsored form of racism and is legitimised by the mainstream media.
  4. Islamophobia can manifest itself in physical violence against Muslims/perceived Muslims, but also takes root in and is perpetuated by epistemic violence and imposed Eurocentric categories such as ‘good Muslims vs bad Muslims’ and ‘Islamism’ vs Islamic faith
  5. The Act has grave implications for freedom of speech, but also freedom of protest, expression, faith, movement and many civil liberties
  6. The government’s identified ‘warning signs’ of “radicalisation” problematise and renders suspect those with mental health difficulties.
  7. Psychiatry has historically been used to pathologise behaviours of non-White people in the West, and PREVENT carries forward this tradition into the 21st century.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To publicly oppose the Act and call upon the government to repeal it immediately, whilst also mobilising against any new ‘anti-extremism’ measures or Bills
  2. Work with a broad-based coalition of student groups, Black and Muslim organisations and academic unions to counter the false ‘anti-extremist’ narrative surrounding such legislation and highlight the nature of these changes
  3. Condemn the Home Office for its treatment of mental health issues.
  4. Work with UCU, Unite and Muslims and BME student groups to develop a campaign against Prevent and the Act on college campuses.
  5. Work with UCU to develop a campaign against the spying on students
  6. Develop and roll out anti-Prevent workshops and resources.
  7. To work on every campus to pass policy opposing this law and to mandate the unions to oppose PREVENT.
  8. To call for the Government’s anti-extremism agenda to be thoroughly reviewed and overhauled, and for the criteria and process under anti-extremism law to be made more transparent, accountable and open to scrutiny.
  9. To support an independent review into the legality of the proposals under the Equality Act 2010.

 

Amendment 1, Motion B9

Proposed by: Rida Vaquas, Omar Raii

 

DELETE Further Believes 4 and REPLACE with:

 

  1. Anti-Muslim racism – which is underpinned by the fact that in e.g. Britain, France, the big majority of Muslim and Muslim-background people belong to ethnic groups and communities which suffer disproportionately from poverty, poor services, austerity, etc. – takes many forms, certainly including but not limited to violence and physical harassment.
  2. The official discourse around “extremism” has been used to attack and even criminalise all who dissent from the bourgeois consensus, and particularly Muslims, above all young Muslims. According to such narratives, acquiescing in the status quo makes you “democratic”, “moderate”, etc., while “radicalisation” as such is condemned. We note the jailing of Shilan Ozcelik, an 18-year-old woman from north London, on terrorism charges, because she attempted to join Kurdish forces fighting ISIS in Syria.
  3. For us as left-wing anti-racists and anti-capitalists, it is important to argue forcefully that the problem with right and extreme-right tendencies of all sorts, including but not only religious ones, is not that they are “extreme”, but that they are right-wing and repressive.
  4. In a deeply racist society we do not draw a simple equals sign between e.g. right-wing nationalism and right-wing Islamic politics (and other forms of right-wing religious politics), but of course we fight both.
  5. While opposing all oppression, no matter what the ideology of its victims, we build solidarity with our comrades, those fighting for liberation in all communities and all countries (student organisations, workers’ organisations, women, LGBT people, oppressed ethnic minorities and the left).

 

Motion B10: National Gallery Struggle

Proposed by: Workers’ Liberty

 

NCAFC notes:

  1. The ongoing struggle by 400 workers at the National Gallery in London against their transfer to a private company, including ten days of strikes so far and a 2,000 strong demonstration on 31 May (plus solidarity actions by London students).
  2. That private security have been drafted in to intimidate workers.
  3. That Candy Udwin, the senior PCS rep at the gallery, was suspended and has now been summarily sacked for asking questions about the privatisation.
  4. That Candy Udwin is a senior member of the SWP, and is implicated in their shameful handling of sexual assault allegations.

NCAFC believes:

  1. That we should support the National Gallery workers’ struggle.
  2. That we should support Candy Udwin as a worker fighting victimisation by the bosses, while maintaining our criticisms of her and the SWP’s political record.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To send a message of solidarity to the National Gallery workers, including support for the reinstatement of Candy Udwin, publish it on our website and call for our supporters, activist groups etc to do likewise.
  2. To include a footnote or link setting out our criticisms.

 

Amendment 1, Motion B10

Proposed by: Shelly Asquith

 

DELETE Resolves 2

 

Motion B11: Protest Privacy

Proposed by: Essex Zapatista Solidarity Group

NCAFC believes:

  1. Some things about the ways we are policed have changed in the past years and decades and others have not.
  2. One thing that has become a recent fact is the ubiquitous surveillance that all protesters. Once upon a time all it required to get away with breaking a shop window was not being caught on the day, not you will wait anxiously for months or years, before one day court papers drop through your door.
  3. One thing that has stayed the same is the conviction of the innocent. As David Graeber says, the distribution of ”felony charges” after protests is essentially random. Regardless of whether you broke any windows or not those court papers could just as easily drop through your door.
  4. So regardless of the tactics you engage with on demos, it is clear we need to protect ourselves. One of the best ways of doing this is through ”masking up” or ”black bloc”, through covering your face and wearing clothing that is difficult to differentiate not only do you protect yourself, but you protect everyone else.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To promote ”Masking Up”/”Black Bloc” tactics through its website, Facebook account, Twitter account, Literature etc. This would form both advising these tactics as well as making the effort to educate why these tactics are a good idea.
  2. To cooperate with other organisations that promote protester privacy, such as NETPOL, in order to promote privacy tactics on NCAFC demos and on NCAFC contingents on demos.

 

Motion B12: The Fight in Labour Students

Proposed by: Labour Campaign For Free Education

NCAFC believes:

  1. That the ideological fight for free, fair, democratic education is fought on many fronts: on campus, in trade unions, in the formal and informal media, and in political parties.
  2. That activists’ time, energy, skills and expertise are limited there is necessarily a division of labour between individuals and organisations.
  3. That nonetheless, as a united front of free education activists, it is important that we all support one another in the work that we are doing.
  4. That free education activists can do good work in a range of political parties: for instance the Green Party, Left Unity and the Labour Party.
  5. That NCAFC should remain non-partisan and not encourage members to support one party over another, but that this is different to supporting free education activists within a party.
  6. That the Labour Party’s link to major trades unions, many with free education policies, gives it a potential strategic significance in the fight for free education.
  7. That Labour Students is one of the few remaining sections of the student movement to not support free education.
  8. That, despite students holding more left-wing views on a range of subjects that the general population, Labour Students is to the right of the party membership on the majority of economic issues and is led by members of the Blairite entryist organisation ‘Progress’.
  9. Labour Students’ disproportionate influence in the National Union of Students (NUS) has been a major factor in holding back and sabotaging the fight for free education over decades.

NCAFC further believes:

  1. That while we may disagree on whether or not to support the Labour Party in elections, it would undeniably be good for the student movement if Labour Students was more left-leaning and supportive of free education.
  2. That Labour Students National Conference, where their full-time officers are elected and their policy is decided, is a fraction of the size of NUS National Conference, and could be easily won by a strong left-wing intervention.
  3. That a handful of extra left-wing votes at a Labour Club can make the difference between the club sending a delegation of socialists to National Conference, and it sending a parade of Blairite shocktroopers.
  4. That many left-leaning students turn up to University or College every year and join their campus Labour Club, with no prior knowledge as to whether it is run by the left or the right.
  5. That it is vital that these students, particularly in rightwing clubs, are encouraged to join their campus activist group.
  6. That even one or two socialist activists intervening in a rightwing Labour Club can ensure that potential left-wing students are brought into the campus activist group and that the forces in favour of free education are strengthened.
  7. That the Labour Campaign for Free Education, an affiliate of the NCAFC, is currently engaging in this struggle inside the Labour Party.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. As a united front campaign of free education activists from different organisations and none, to remain politically independent from and not endorse any particular political parties.
  2. To nevertheless encourage the struggle inside the Labour Party as one option amongst a wide range of useful forms of political activism.
  3. To support the Labour Campaign for Free Education in its fight inside Labour Students and the Labour Party
  4. To encourage those who are not already affiliated to a party, or who are inactive members of the Labour Party, to join Labour Students with the minimum objective of turning up a handful of times to
    1. Vote for leftwing free-education delegates to Labour Students events
    2. Ensure that ‘stray’ leftwing members in rightwing clubs are encouraged to participate in the campus activist group.

 

 

Motion B13: Free Public Transport

Proposed by: Defend Education Birmingham

NCAFC believes:

  1. That the cost of public transport is too high. Education cannot be free while students have to pay thousands of pounds each year to travel around the city that they study and live in.
  2. There are still huge swathes of the British population left isolated because of unaffordable public transport, particularly those outside of urban areas. Making transport more accessible enables more people to leave their homes – in particular, women/carers with young children, the elderly, disabled people, the unemployed.
  3. The high cost of public transport is also a particular barrier to young people, who are more likely to be on low pay, if they are in work at all.
  4. The railways and bus/coach services should be in public hands. Public transport is a necessary public service and should not be exploited for profit.

NCAFC further believes:

  1. Free public transport is a ‘green’ policy. We should be demanding 1 million green jobs. Within this we need to be advocating the construction of tram, train, bus, subway and cycle infrastructure, in order to cut down the amount of car traffic on the roads, reduce emissions, and provide a stimulus to the economy. In doing so, we will be tapping into an important set of eco-socialist politics.
  2. Public transport should be paid for by taxing the rich.
  3. Students are best-placed to argue for free public transport. In lots of European cities students already receive either free or heavily subsidised transport, and school-age students already receive free transport in London. Students are also typically (though not always) money-poor, but time-rich – and campaigning around public transport offers exciting opportunities for direct action.
  4. In demanding free public transport for students, student would also be provoking a debate about free public transport in general, for everybody.
  5. Campaigning around free public transport provides an opportunity to partially bridge the gap between the ‘student movement’ and ‘wider left’.  As the politics of free education is increasingly broadened out, to include issues such as living grants, cost and condition of housing, immigration politics and so on, it is becoming increasingly clear that if we believe in free education, for everybody, then we need to be working with the countless campaigning groups, organisations and parties that are fighting for equality in the UK.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To call for a number of student-led direct actions demanding free public transport for students, initially in London – but also elsewhere around the country.
  2. For these actions to argue, more broadly, for free public transport for everybody, and for public ownership of the railways.
  3. These actions should/could include (but are not limited to) an occupation of the Mayor of London’s office, organised days of action where large groups skip the tube or train, demonstrations, action supporting strikes of workers in the transport industry and so on.
  4. To attempt to establish a broad coalition of groups to support these actions, including (but not limited to) Left Unity, Young Greens, Reclaim the Power.

 

Amendment 1, Motion B13

Proposed by: Helena Dunnett-Orridge

 

DELETE Believes 1 and REPLACE with:

 

  1. Free public transport can aid us in the struggle against climate change, insofar that it can reduce carbon emissions and provide alternative modes of mass transportation and infrastructure. It would also provide employment in the public transport and planning sectors. We must, however, refrain from citing this as an individualistic campaign against modes of behaviour. Rather, it must be a demand made of the state.

 

Motion B14: Decriminalisation of Sex Work

Proposed by: Defend Education Birmingham

NCAFC notes:

  1. Sex work refers (and is not limited) to escorting, lap dancing, stripping, pole dancing, pornography, webcaming, adult modelling, phone sex, and selling sex (on and off the street).
  2. The current regime of austerity, and cuts to services and support have disproportionately affected women and women’s services.
  3. According to the English Collective of Prostitutes since the rise in tuition fees in 2010 there has been a 1/3 rise in the number of student sex workers, the majority of whom are women.
  4. Whilst sex work is not illegal in the UK, sex workers who work on the street can be arrested on soliciting or anti-social behavioural order charges, and sex workers who work together indoors for safety can be charged with brothel keeping.
  5. Sex workers may be subject to “prostitute cautions”, in which there has to be no evidence of a sex worker’s “guilt”, and there is no right of appeal. This makes it even more difficult for sex workers to enter a different job if they so wish.
  6. The amendment to the Modern Slavery Bill introduced by Fiona Mactaggart, arguing for criminalisation of clients, was defeated in November 2014 following campaign by English Collective of Prostitutes.
  7. The full decriminalisation of prostitution was introduced in New Zealand in 2003 and has been a success.

NCAFC believes:

  1. Sex work is work. Sex work is the exchange of money for labour, like any other job. It is different from other jobs because it is currently criminalised and stigmatised.
  2. People should be free to choose what they do with their time, their labour and their bodies.
  3. Sex work and trafficking are not the same. Sex work is consensual sex in exchange for money.
  4. With the rise in living costs, the increase in tuition fees, and the slashing of benefits for disabled people, there has been a rise in students doing sex work (particularly online) alongside their studies in order to survive month to month.
  5. The lack of funding for postgraduate education makes it likely that some postgraduate students use sex work as a means to fund their postgraduate degrees.
  6. Financial reasons, and any criminal record gain due to the criminalisation of sex work, are often the main reasons for staying in sex work
  7. Stigma against sex work means that sex workers are less likely to seek out help and support if and when they need it.
  8. Regardless of the reasons for entering into sex work, sex workers of all backgrounds deserve to have their rights protected and to be able to do their jobs safely. This includes sex workers who do not find their job ‘empowering’. Whether or not you enjoy a job should have no bearing on the rights you deserve while you do it.
  9. The pushes for legislation which would criminalise the purchase of sex (and introduce what is known as the ‘Nordic Model’ on prostitution) are often spearheaded by anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ, right-wing fundamentalists, working with radical feminists.
  10. Often, legislation of this kind is brought forward in the name of anti-trafficking programmes, when in reality they are laws which aim to control what people can and can’t do with their own bodies, combined with dangerous anti-immigration initiatives.
  11. Criminalising the purchase of sex puts sex workers, especially those who work on the street, in danger.
  12. It is impossible to criminalise an aspect of someone’s job without it having a negative impact on the person at work.
  13. Legislation targeted at combating poverty, austerity, universalising childcare and a living wage, sufficient social housing, and accessible education funding and living grants, is more likely to ensure those who do not wish to work in the sex industry do not feel forced to by economic circumstances.

 

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To support and campaign for the full decriminalisation of sex work.
  2. To resist and campaign against any attempt to introduce the Nordic Model in the UK.
  3. To support any campaign for the revocation of all “prostitute cautions” received by sex workers
  4. To support and be led by the work of the English Collective of Prostitutes and Sex Worker Open University.
  5. To materially support student sex workers with (although not limited to) arrestee support, lobbying MPs, direct action (led or encouraged by Sex Workers).
  6. To campaign for living grants so no student has to work whilst in full time education.
  7. To affiliate to the English Collective of Prostitutes.

 

Amendment 1 to Motion B14

Proposed by: Helena Dunnett-Orridge

 

ADD

 

NCAFC Resolves:

  1. To encourage comrades involved in Labour Movement for Free Education and other left-wing parts of the Labour party to actively challenge Labour’s attitudes to the criminalisation of clients, as they are currently its biggest advocates.

 

Motion B15: Social Housing Not Social Cleansing

Proposed by: Warwick for Free Education

 

NCAFC notes:

  1. The 2011 Localism Act gave councils the power to force homeless households out of their communities permanently and into insecure private accommodation – which itself is one of the biggest causes of homelessness.
  2. In London, councils are currently moving homeless mothers and children out of their boroughs at a rate of close to 500 families a week.
  3. The housing affordability crisis is also spreading beyond London and its boroughs.
  4. Homelessness in the UK has risen by over 50% in the last 5 years, due mainly to consequences of benefit caps, welfare sanctions and the bedroom tax.
  5. There are currently numerous grassroots campaigns such as Focus E15, New Era 4 All and the Radical Housing Network which are actively challenging social cleansing.

NCAFC believes:

  1. Following the general election result, housing campaigns are going to be a fundamental area of struggle under the new Conservative government.
  2. Housing is a human right, and the left should be united in calling for this right to be upheld for all members of society.

NCAFC further believes:

  1. It is vital for the student movement to express solidarity with those facing eviction and homelessness.
  2. Supporting campaigns around housing is an effective way for the student movement to link up with struggles of the wider left.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To support and build for demonstrations around the topic of housing, such as the March for Homes that took place in January 2015.
  2. To condemn, and call for an end to, the process of social cleansing that is taking place in London and beyond.
  3. To contact existing grassroots housing campaigns with a view to establishing strong relationships, and to find out how the student movement can most effectively support their work.
  4. To use our channels of communication to publicise call-outs for housing-focused direct action, such as eviction resistance and occupations.

Amendment 1, Motion B15

Proposed by: Ben Towse

 

ADD

 

NCAFC Notes:

  1. As well as supporting housing struggles beyond the student movement, we are in a key position to agitate for and lead housing struggles among students.
  2. That we have successfully passed relatively radical housing policy within NUS, and the incoming NUS VP Welfare is left-winger and an NCAFC activist, meaning we are in a good position to press NUS to finally follow through on that policy.
  3. The excellent progress of the Living Rent Campaign in Scotland.

 

NCAFC Resolves:

  1. To encourage the development of local campaigns around student housing, like the rent strikes at UCL and SOAS.
  2. To press NUS to begin pro-actively organising these struggles and the activists around them into democratic tenants’ unions. These may include student tenant unions, but ultimately we want to unite non-student and student tenants in each area in the same unions, including by working with existing housing campaigns.
  3. To support and learn from the efforts of the Living Rent Campaign in Scotland.
  4. To raise a general call for “living rents” – rents set according to the needs and means of tenants, rather than the market and the profits of landlords and agents.
  5. To campaign across the UK for the following demands:
  1. Ban letting agency fees
  2. Private sector rent controls, including measures that limit the rent that it is possible to charge according to the size, quality and location of properties (a “points system” like that in place in the Netherlands and advocated by the Living Rent Campaign).
  3. Contracts that offer both security and flexibility to tenants, to replace precarious short-term contracts that give landlords all the power.
  4. End all privatisation of student halls and cap rents according to student finance provisions (e.g. in higher education, at half the minimum undergraduate loan).
  5. Extend housing benefit to students and oppose the Tory policy to cut it from young unemployed people.
  6. End all right-to-buy policies and invest in expanded social housing, funded by taxing the incomes and properties of the wealthy, and taxing homes left empty.
  7. Oppose measures that require or encourage landlords to check tenants’ migration status.

 

Motion 16: Demonstrations and their Uses

Proposed by: UCL Defend Education

NCAFC notes:

  1. There is a tendency on the student left to dismiss A to B marches as variously useless and boring
  2. The NCAFC organised a very traditional demonstration in November which reinvigorated the student movement, and was a springboard for direct action
  3. A new way of “doing” demonstrations is emerging: these are the more “spontaneous” ones which tend to go on a big walk around London and not be negotiated with the police or involve a pre-planned or publicised route

NCAFC believes:

  1. When NCAFC has organised demonstrations, they have very rarely been just from one place to another, useless or boring
  2. The “new way” of doing demonstrations has its merits for avoiding kettles and causing disruption, however it often lacks a cohesive political message or any demands and can lead to a lot of people wandering around without much to do and becomes “depoliticised.”
  3. It would be naïve to think that we as a movement can organise the kind of demonstrations mentioned above and have as high a turnout as with a more traditional demonstration.
  4. Mass demonstrations, even when organised in negotiation with the police, provide
    1. Platforms from which more disruptive direct action can be made (for example: Millbank)
    2. A way to get in a swathe of new activists
    3. A way to energise the student movement
    4. A tool for radicalisation of existing activists (especially against the police)
    5. A tool for political education of people around the demo
    6. A large focus for the national and international media, which is a good way to publicise issues.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. NCAFC should always organise demonstrations with a political slogan which has clear demands
  2. NCAFC should organise a mix of “traditional” A to B marches and smaller, more spontaneous and more mobile actions

 

Amendment 1, Motion B16

 

Proposer: Shelly Asquith

DELETE:

Resolves 2: “A to B”