NCAFC is a cross-party (and no party) political alliance. We have members in many different electoral organisations, including Labour, the Greens, Left Unity and others, and members in no electoral organisation – united by shared goals and principles and a willingness to debate and discuss our differences, including our attitudes to electoral politics.
Nevertheless, we cannot and should not say that it is irrelevant to us, as an anti-austerity campaign, that a socialist who stands for many of our principles and has long been a prominent ally to left-wing struggles in education and beyond – Jeremy Corbyn – is credibly contesting the leadership of the main parliamentary opposition party.
Corbyn’s platform is not merely the “least bad” of the contenders – it represents a significant break with the right-wing factions that have controlled the leadership for a long time and that are represented by his rivals.
Most importantly for NCAFC, in education Corbyn proposes to restore maintenance grants and scrap tuition fees, at least for UK students – this was his campaign’s first formal policy announcement. That will help us to shift political debate about education funding onto our terrain both within Labour and more widely, especially if Corbyn does well in the vote.
More broadly, Corbyn’s platform stands for ending austerity, and taxing the wealthiest in our society to shift the burden onto big business and the rich. He led the rebellion of 48 Labour MPs to oppose the government’s brutal attacks on welfare claimants.
The response to this left-wing platform has been huge, and Corbyn’s candidacy has become the focal point of a substantial campaign of supporters. He now leads the polls on first preferences, and some polls predict a win. We are under no illusions that installing a new leader could, on its own, transform the Labour Party, but this is nevertheless a very significant development. (As part of working beyond the leadership contest, we encourage Labour members who agree with our stance on fees and grants to join the Labour Campaign for Free Education, which is affiliated to NCAFC.)
Corbyn should not be uncritically supported. NCAFC encourages him to go further than he has, and commit to both introducing grants and abolishing fees for international as well as UK students, at all levels of further and higher education. And many of our members, including firm Corbyn supporters, have various other political disagreements with him. These should be discussed, not shied away from. Nonetheless, NCAFC believes that fully supporting Corbyn in this election is the only reasonable choice for Labour members and supporters who share NCAFC’s goals and principles.
NCAFC includes both many Labour Party members, and many others who don’t agree that joining Labour is the best course for left-wing activists, regardless of current events in the leadership contest. After discussion among our members and a vote of our National Committee, NCAFC has decided to endorse Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign, although we take no position on whether activists should become Labour members or supporters to vote for Corbyn. We invite NCAFC members to keep debating this question, including by writing opinion articles for anticuts.com.
If you do want to vote for Corbyn, you can do so by joining Labour as a full member or becoming Labour supporter, or if you are in a Labour-affiliated trade union you can sign up to vote for free. The deadline to sign up is 12 noon on 12 August. More details can be found on Corbyn’s campaign website.