NCAFC Winter Conference 2017: Motions Document
SECTION 1: POLITICAL MOTIONS
No to the “Good vs. Bad” Migrants Rhetoric!
Submitted by Warwick for Free Education
1. Home Secretary Amber Rudd has recently announced plans to restrict international students visas.
2. These plans include linking universities’ ability to accept international students to “teaching quality,” most likely measured by TEF scores.
3. In recent years, the government has already scrapped the post-study work visa, introduced NHS charges for non-EU students and deported tens of thousands of international students.
4. Often the response to attacks on international students is to insist that they are not migrants and should be treated differently. This is the approach taken not only by Vice-Chancellors but also by sections of the student movement.
5. The arguments often rely on how much international students contribute to the British economy by “funding our universities” (justifying sky-high fees) or by emphasising the differences between students and migrant workers instead of challenging prejudice against both.
1. That freedom of movement is a right and we need to resist any attempts to distinguish between “good” and “bad” migrants.
2. That the left needs to defend all migrants on principle, not on the basis of how much they contribute to the economy.
3. That attacks on international students and other migrant groups are based on the same racist and xenophobic ideology, and can only be defeated through active solidarity, not creating further divisions.
1. To campaign for freedom of movement and the right to a free, accessible education for everyone, regardless of nationality.
2. To fight against any further attacks on international students, including through direct action if necessary.
3. To challenge the “students are not migrants” approach within the student movement and more broadly on the left.
Hold the Line: Defend Free Movement
Submitted by Workers Liberty
1. The recent slide into anti-immigration, anti-free- movement politics by even some people on the left of the Labour Party.
1. We have to continue to defend free movement without shame, compromise or capitulation.
2. It is a lie that free movement is against the interests of working class people. First, because migrant workers are part of the working class too – our politics of fighting for workers’ rights does not respect the borders imposed by our rulers. Second, because the often-repeated claim that immigration substantially depresses pay and conditions is not actually supported by the evidence.
3. Restricting immigration will therefore not help either UK-born or migrant working-class people. Instead, this politics serve to divide workers, damaging our ability to organise and fight against the common enemy that is actually responsible for low wages, shortages of housing and jobs, and overstretched public services – the rich and powerful, and the parties and politicians who serve their class interests.
4. The left needs to politically combat anti-migrant ideas, and advocate real solutions in their place, not concede the debate to right-wing lies.
5. The result of the EU referendum does not oblige us to stop working to change minds and change policies.
1. To continue fighting to defend and extend free movement, and to place the blame for the problems facing working class people where it belongs – not on migrants, but the rich and powerful, the ruling class.
2. To fight uncompromisingly against capitulation by the left on this issue, especially by parts of the Labour left, Labour Students left, and the trade union movement.
3. To argue and campaign for a programme of immediate real solutions to the problems facing working class people, including: uniting migrant and British-born workers in trade unions to fight for improved pay and conditions for all; reversing the anti-union laws; raising and enforcing the minimum wage; decent housing accessible to all; secure, decently-paid jobs, training and education for everyone; serious taxes on the rich and their businesses in order to redistribute wealth and reverse cuts, fund decent public services and rebuild the NHS.
Campaign to #stoptheHEreforms
Submitted by Workers Liberty
1. The higher education reforms are still progressing through Parliament, with changes so far securing only very minor improvements (e.g. the addition of token student representation at the proposed Office for Students).
2. We successfully passed proposals through NUS conference 2016 to organise a national demonstration in November, and to boycott the NSS unless and until the reforms are withdrawn, starting now in 2017.
1. Fighting the reforms should remain a priority campaign for NCAFC.
2. We have secured real improvements in NUS’s approach, compared to previous campaigns. However, it has still been lacking.
3. We must be honest that the national demonstration was not the success it should have been. There were “managerial” failures by the NUS leadership and student unions, but fundamentally the problem was political:
a. The leadership made the demo about everything in general, instead of foregrounding the clear and specific demands, which could inspire and explain, that we set out in policy (on the HE reforms as well as grants and FE cuts). We need to continue arguing that actions must be linked to uncompromising and straightforwardly understandable demands and slogans.
b. The leadership organised the demonstration as a march in London. But for activists, the day of a demo is only the tip of an iceberg. The process of organising a demo should be used to build local groups, educate, argue, organise and persuade in many local areas. Local issues and demands should be linked to the programme of the demo. The march itself should be followed by a vigorous and well-planned campaign of subsequent action.
4. The NSS boycott has value as an industrial-style tactic: complementing purely protest action by materially disrupting the running of the education system to gain leverage for concessions. To win, we may have to maintain the boycott beyond this year.
5. As well as contending with right-wingers who have attempted to undermine and disrupt the action, we need to address a number of failings by the NUS leadership:
a. They have bypassed democratic policy to set a different negotiating position – not to drop the reforms, but just to break the link between TEF scores and fee levels. We need a clear, straightforward political message and negotiating position, not a technocratic and watered-down one.
b. At times, they have been timid and apologetic about the action.
c. They have not built the boycott with as much vigour as they could, and don’t seem to have accepted the scale of the operation needed, beyond working with sabbs, to speak directly to students nationally and equip campus activists with resources.
d. Sabbatical officers have been treated as gatekeepers to their unions’ members, and as if they have the right to determine whether and how NUS may implement decisions already made. Local officers should be called on to support the strategy’s implementation as a basic point of collective union solidarity, and NUS should promote the action to all students, not limit outreach to only the campuses where officers endorse the action.
6. There is already a right-wing backlash against the actions organised so far. We should not be bounced into uncritically defending the current leadership. We need to defend the value of protest and direct action on the basis of our own understanding of how it can best be carried out, and keep constructively criticising, arguing and contesting in NUS to improve the organisation of the campaign.
1. To keep the fight to stop the HE reforms as a major priority for the coming period. If they pass into law, the campaign will call for their reversal.
2. To support this, we call for further protest and direct action, and we will be clear about our political criticisms of the NUS leadership, and our alternative proposals, in order to press for change.
3. Politically, we maintain the campaign needs to foreground clear, specific slogans and demands, while adding context with a wider political response: a publicly-owned education system, run democratically for social good.
Developing a Vision for the National Education Service
Submitted by Workers Liberty
1. Jeremy Corbyn has floated the proposal of a cradle-to- grave, free National Education Service. He has specifically raised: reversing adult education cuts to build lifelong learning by raising corporation tax; universal free childcare; abolishing tuition fees; equalising the minimum wage for apprentices and providing good apprenticeships.
1. These proposals are good but much of what an NES would mean is still unspecified. That means we have a big opportunity to influence its development through political debate and agitation.
2. NCAFCers have devoted a lot of thought to what our vision of a revolutionised education system might look like. A policy like this, potentially to be taken up by the Labour Party, is a concrete vehicle through which that vision could be thrust into high-profile public debate and hopefully translated into reality.
3. Transforming the education system cannot be successfully imposed from above –there has to be some grassroots ownership of the programme, and mobilisation from below to support, and hold to account, its implementation.
4. This weekend includes a lot of discussion of the NES, so this motion should not pre-empt that with a finished policy. However, based on NCAFC’s existing principles and previous discussions, we can say that an NES should:
a. Be universally accessible free of charge, with financial support through living grants/stipends for all.
b. Replace the chaos of market competition between institutions with an integrated service that is rationally and democratically organised to serve social good, rather the interests of the capitalist class.
c. Build on existing ideas about the “Comprehensive University” to break down arbitrary barriers within the curriculum and between streams of education, including between further and higher education, and “vocational” and “academic” study.
d. Be publicly owned and secular, and democratically governed by its students, workers and the communities it serves.
e. Through democratic control of the curriculum, allow us to overturn the sometimes overwhelming dominance of ruling ideologies in what is taught, opening space for radical, subversive, liberatory and marginalised ideas and perspectives.
f. Provide its workers with secure, decently-paid jobs and good conditions.
g. Include universal free childcare.
h. Be well resourced, by taxing the rich and their businesses and expropriating the banks.
1. Based on these points, this conference’s workshops, and previous and ongoing discussions, the NC will lead development of a set of proposals setting out our vision for an NES.
2. To discuss with organised education workers in particular, as we develop these proposals.
3. To agitate and campaign for the adoption of these proposals, particularly in the student and trade union movements and by Labour.
SECTION 2: ORGANISATIONAL MOTIONS
Submitting Motions (Constitutional Amendment)
Submitted by Warwick for Free Education
1. Currently, only groups affiliated to NCAFC can submit motions to NCAFC Conferences.
2. The nature of student activism has changed. Whereas in the past NCAFC membership mostly consisted of activists in local anti-cuts groups, there are now fewer active groups, and many NCAFC members come from campuses where there isn’t one.
3. While we should still encourage building local groups, we need to acknowledge the changes in the student movement and make sure all NCAFC members have the ability to propose policy.
4. Summer Conference is equally important as Winter Conference, and should have the power to amend the constitution.
5. In many cases where there is no separate NCAFC-affiliated activist/anti-cuts group, NCAFC supporters will be active in other leftwing groupings such as Labour Clubs.
6. We should adapt our training and written guidance to activists to this situation: educational material from NCAFC should not presume the existence of anti-cuts groups on the 2011 model: NCAFC should support the creation of radical student organisations at the campus level that fit the current situation.
1. To amend the constitution as follows:
Delete 4.A.4.2: “Local anti-cuts groups affiliated to NCAFC, and any organised political grouping within NCAFC, have the right to submit policy for the motions and proposals debates.” and replace with “Motions can be proposed by: local anti-cuts groups and other groups affiliated to NCAFC, the National Committee, or a group of at least seven NCAFC members.”
Delete 4.A.7.1: “Discuss and approve strategies for the coming months through a motions process” and replace with: “To debate motions and constitutional amendments”.
Abolishing the Secretariat (Constitutional Amendment)
Submitted by the National Committee
1. The Secretariat is currently appointed by the National Committee (NC). It has the task of overseeing democratic procedure at NCAFC events, including conference and in practice, at times, meetings of the National Committee.
2. A proposal to make the Secretariat elected was rejected at the last winter conference.
3. It has often been difficult to find appropriate and willing candidates for the post.
4. At various times during the post’s existence it has been unfilled, or its occupant(s) have been unable to perform the role, and the National Committee has had to perform these roles itself. This has not been a problem. NC members have been assigned to make arrangements for meetings, and have formed working groups to oversee the running of conferences.
5. Despite the good work of members of the Secretariat over the time the post has existed, this is arguably preferable as NC members, being elected, are more democratically accountable.
1. To amend the constitution to abolish the Secretariat, and transfer oversight of its responsibilities to the NC.
a. Amend 4.A.3.1. – “The NC and the Secretariat has ultimate responsibility for setting the agenda of conferences and other events, and ensuring their smooth and democratic running”
b. Amend 4.A.4.1. – “A motions and proposals deadline must be set by the Secretariat the NC, or its delegated conference working group, ahead of conference”
c. Amend 4.B. – NCAFC has two one standing committees: the National Committee (NC) and the Secretariat
Delete all of 4.B.3: “3. The Secretariat: The Secretariat is made up of non-NC members elected by the NC, and is responsible for the smooth and democratic running of NCAFC’s events, especially conference.” And 4.B.4: “4. The Secretariat consists of: 3 members elected by the National Committee. Members of the Secretariat should have access to all communications that NC members have. Members of the Secretariat are may take a fully political role in any activity outside of conference.”
A New Behaviour and Complaints Procedure
Submitted by the National Committee
1. Our Summer Conference 2016 instructed the National Committee to propose a replacement for our existing Safer Spaces Policy.
1. To adopt the Behaviour Policy and Complaints Procedure contained in the appendix to this motions document.
NCAFC & Direct Action
Submitted by Warwick for Free Education
1. That since the inception of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, the belief that grassroots direct action is an integral part of achieving political and social change has been a core principle of the organisation.
2. That this vocal belief has set NCAFC apart from many other groups and organisations on the student left.
3. That over the last couple of years, levels of grassroots activity happening on campuses has decreased somewhat.
4. That, nonetheless, NCAFC continues to be contacted by activists asking for support and advice when it comes to planning and carrying out direct action.
1. That direct action will never not be relevant, useful and important in the fight for free, democratic and accessible education.
2. That recent successes such as the occupation at Warwick have shown that commitment to direct action still exists in the movement and that it can be very effective.
3. That in the fight against this government’s plans to marketise higher education, direct action on both local and national levels is essential, and thus we need activists and SU officers across the country to be equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary to plan and carry out direct action.
4. That as well as practical knowledge, it’s important that activists have access to strong political and historical arguments as to why direct action is powerful and necessary.
5. That NUS has started to do more work in this area, but that a lot is still lacking.
6. That it’s important that within the active membership, and especially the National Committee, of NCAFC, we have a significant number of activists with first-hand experience and knowledge when it comes to direct action, who can be called upon to share that expertise with fellow members and/or with activist groups if requested.
7. That whilst it’s important to recognise the ways in which the student movement is shifting and changing, and to adapt our political strategies accordingly, we must ensure that we do not lose all connection with direct action and that it remains a core aspect of our broad strategy in pushing for change.
1. That as part of the updated version of the NCAFC website, there will be a “direct action hub” which will contain: key political arguments on why direct action is effective and necessary, a brief history of direct action in the student movement, links to useful practical resources on direct action, as well as a clear indication that activists are welcome to get in touch with us if they want any help/support/advice relating to direct action (including the offer for NCAFC to facilitate/co-facilitate direct action workshops on campuses).
2. That we will continue to argue within NUS for a national union which not only coordinates direct action on a national level, but also actively supports grassroots direct action happening on campuses.
3. That there should always be at least one workshop on direct action at our annual summer training event, incorporating both political and practical knowledge.
4. That, where politically useful and appropriate, NCAFC will actively seek to collaborate with other grassroots organisations to coordinate direct action around educational issues.
Integrating Newly-elected NC Members into the National Committee
Submitted by Warwick for Free Education
NCAFC notes that:
1. Often new NC members are expected to pick up their tasks and roles with little guidance, and can feel isolated unless they are already close to experienced NC members.
2. Often a small number of NC members take on most of the work of maintaining the organisation, and that often some new NC members are never fully integrated into the NC.
NCAFC believes that:
1. There is an expectation that all NC members should, barring situations where personal circumstances are having an impact on capacity and ability to organise, make an effort to engage in collective discussions, decision making and regular tasks.
2. Sometimes NC members have to take time off from organising and step back from active involvement.
3. Sometimes NC members don’t feel supported or knowledgeable enough to fulfil their role adequately.
NCAFC resolves to:
1. Implement an initial training brief for all new NC members. This will constitute a face-to-face or Skype session introducing the new NC member to decision making processes, communication platforms, working groups, expected tasks for NC members, NCAFC events and so on.
2. Implement a ‘buddy system’ for new NC members. This will involve assigning each new NC member to a current NC member who will act as a point of contact for the new member for the first 2-3 months in the position. The older NC member will answer questions, check in with the new NC member, encourage them to take up tasks and help them complete them.
NCAFC Behaviour Policy and Complaints Procedure
Proposed in motion “A New Behaviour Policy and Complaints Procedure”
NCAFC is committed to fighting for an education system that is public, democratic, open and accessible to all, and oriented towards free enquiry, the needs and interests of society, and liberation from existing hierarchies and oppressions. We seek to dismantle, rather than perpetuate, existing oppressions and hierarchies within our communities and campaigns. We are a democratic political organisation, so discussion, debate and democratic processes are how we work through our disagreements and collective decisions.
If we are to achieve these aims, we must expect certain standards of behaviour of ourselves and those involved in our organisation, both at our events and in wider society.
We must not:
1. discriminate against anyone on the basis of ethnicity, sex, gender, religion, age, sexuality, language, disability, asylum status or any other structurally oppressive criteria
2. perpetrate verbal, physical or sexual abuse, bullying or violence
In addition, we expect ourselves and each other, as members and participants at our events, to:
1. behave in a comradely and co-operative way towards one another
2. avoid causing those around us unnecessary offence or anxiety
3. respect the facilitatory methods of the Chair and only challenge them through the appropriate structures
4. listen to others when they are speaking, not interrupt and wait for our turn to speak
5. treat one another with respect, debating political ideas where we disagree without resorting to personal attacks or disrespectful language
6. respect the aims and democratic processes of NCAFC and behave with honesty and integrity
We all have a responsibility to each other and NCAFC to uphold these standards of behaviour and challenge others around us if they fail to meet these standards. If you feel that anyone’s behaviour is not meeting these standards, in general, the first recourse should be to speak to this person privately and informally about their behaviour, or ask another member or NC member to do so. However, in cases where someone’s behaviour fails to meet these standards in a serious way, especially with regards to points 1. and 2., or repeatedly fails to meet these standards, a formal complaint may be submitted.
1. To make a formal complaint about a member or attendee at an event, the complainant should write to the National Committee, or if they prefer an NC member (or members) of their choice, who can discuss the complaint with the rest of the NC while preserving the complainant’s anonymity.
2. Upon receiving the complaint, the NC will decide whether or not to investigate the complaint. All complaints should be treated seriously and assumed to be submitted in good faith unless there is compelling evidence to the contrary. If the complaint is against a NC member, they are not to take part in any discussions or decisions relating to the complaint and the rest of the NC may also decide to suspend them from the NC pending the outcome of the complaint.
3. If the complaint is deemed serious enough, a group of NC members should be convened to investigate the complaint. Factors such as the diversity of the group and members’ relationships to the accused/complainant (unless submitted anonymously) should be considered to ensure as representative and fair a group as possible.
4. The group will ask for any statement from the complainant in addition to their complaint. The accused will be informed of the details of the complaint made against them, with the complainant’s wishes regarding anonymity respected, and will also be asked for a statement. The group may also ask questions of the complainant and accused, and any other people as it deems necessary. The group should proceed with sensitivity and unintrusiveness if asking questions of a complainant whose complaint is on the basis of abuse or violence.
5. While the procedure is ongoing, the NC may take the decision to suspend the member or ban them from attending events, including asking them to leave an event if a complaint is made during an event, pending the outcome of the investigation.
6. When the group has considered the statements of the complainant and accused and any other information they have gathered, they will decide whether the accused’s behaviour:
a. is a threat to the functioning of the organisation
b. runs contrary to the aims of the organisation
c. discriminates against members of oppressed groups
d. poses a danger or harm to members of the organisation
7. If the accused’s behaviour meets any of these criteria, the group will suggest a course of action the NC should take, which could include but is not limited to: giving the perpetrator a warning about their behaviour, banning the perpetrator from events and/or expelling them from the organisation.
8. The NC will have the final decision as to the course of action to take, according to any conditions or procedures set out in the constitution, with the delegated group’s recommendations considered.
9. The process up to this point should take no more than either 30 days from the original complaint or 5 days after the soonest NC meeting after the complaint was made, whichever is longer. The NC members are to treat all statements received and answers to questions as confidential and are not to talk about the details of the investigation to anyone outside the NC.
10. If the complainant and/or accused disagrees with the decision, they can appeal the decision by writing to the NC within 30 days of the outcome. The NC can decide to uphold the decision, review the course of action or reopen the investigation, convening a different delegated group but following the same procedures as listed above. No further appeals can be made after this point.
11. If the accused is expelled, they may apply for membership again in the future and the NC will make the decision to accept or reject their membership at the time their application is received.
12. In cases where the complaint is related to verbal, physical or sexual abuse, bullying or violence, NC members will work with the complainant, if the complainant so wishes, to ensure that they have a support group around them and access to relevant services.