By James Elliott
This month NUS’s flagship training event, ‘Lead and Change’, was held in Lancaster and Oxford. The brainchild of former NUS Senior Manager Jim Dickinson, this key introduction to NUS for sabbaticals was delivered this year by Movement for Change, a Blairite ‘community organising’ group, funded by Lord Sainsbury, who of David Miliband’s unsuccessful party leadership bid and mostly run by his backers and former SpAds.
Movement for Change preaches a form of ‘community organising’ distinct from grassroots campaigns against workfare, the Bedroom Tax and worker exploitation. They seek to replace trade unionism, and Living Wage campaigns organised along these lines circumvent workers, lobbying on their behalf rather than encouraging them to organise for themselves.
This is a paternalistic, condescending approach to organising, rooted in winning Blairites elections rather than improving the condition of workers and students. Hence, many university cleaners resent these kind of Living Wage campaigns, whereas radical movements like have the workers at the centre.
Movement for Change is heavily linked to Progress, a Blairite party-within-a-party, promoting a hard-right agenda in Labour, demanding privatisation and austerity, also mostly by Sainsbury. The only known member of Progress’ board, which appears to control the organisation as there is no internal democracy, is Alan Milburn, who went from Blair’s Health Secretary to as an adviser to David Cameron, and for Labour “to embrace an avowedly pro-business agenda and match it with a more overtly pro-business tone”.
We should reject this kind of high-level involvement by Blairites in our national union. NUS shouldn’t be cosying up to Blairites who introduced tuition fees and their false appeals to ‘community organising’, and should instead be building grassroots campaigns against austerity and for free education, with workers and students, not businesspeople, at their heart.