Why Left-Wing Students Should Run to Be NUS Delegates

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by Natalia Cassidy

Many on the student left, that is; students active and engaged in Left-Wing politics at their university or college – are sceptical of involvement in the NUS (National Union of Students). This attitude does not come from nowhere: the NUS has for many years been dominated by careerist bureaucrats, often giving a lot of lip service to the left, but who must be judged on their record. A record which shows a near universal failure to effectively challenge issues such as the privatisation taking place within Further/Higher Education, or the living conditions of its student members.

The NUS and campus activism

The NUS has, especially in recent years, taken a muted role in student activism. This has led many principled student activists doing excellent work on their campuses for the wellbeing of students and workers alike, to become disillusioned with the potential benefits that NUS support might bring their way. This is perhaps an unsurprising attitude given how alien the concept of a genuinely left-wing, campaigning NUS is to many students today. However, the NUS is a national body, with hundreds of University and College Students Unions as members: this gives it unparalleled potential as an apparatus to link up struggles across campuses. One only has to look at the waves that were caused in the wave of occupations that occurred nationwide in 2017-18 (in the UK and in France) to see that student activism’s impact is far more capable of having the voices of students’ heard when that voice is united rather than atomised. Had the NUS at the time supported this activism, materially and organisationally, this voice could have only been stronger still.

The NUS left as we find it today

Where has the left found itself in all this? The current dominant left strain within NUS is; in a number of ways, deficient. It offers no way forward to any substantial transformation of the way that NUS is run or operates. Without any significant democratic structures in the way in which the left is organised, there is no way for students to hold a Left-Wing group of elected full time officers (FTOs) to account. The NUS cannot and will not be transformed into a genuinely combative force for its students through the election of bureaucrats that sit slightly further to the left. The more critical Left – largely composed of NCAFC (National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts) activists have, particularly in recent years, struggled to put forward a clear and convincing alternative for the NUS, particularly given the nature of rhetoric at NUS events being to the left of those espousing it.
None of this is inevitable, a Left in the NUS can be drawn out and can distinguish itself from the right and ‘soft-left’, only through robustly democratic internal operation & a platform and programme drawn up around political lines rather than around personalized “more activist than thou” lines.

The NUS and the wider Left-Wing movement

The history of the left in government should leave us under no illusions that the mere election of left wing governments is, in and of itself, insufficient as a means of transforming society. The experiences of the governments of Callaghan Britain, Mitterrand in France and Lula in Brazil demonstrate that without a wider movement to hold them to account and push them to the left, Left-Wing governments find themselves either incapable of enacting the progressive changes they make promises to enact, or they find themselves actively engaged in the business of doing the right’s work for them (see especially Syriza in Greece).

In the event of a Corbyn led Labour government, the challenges would be no less, perhaps even greater. Capital is well equipped to defend itself from attacks from the left, particularly when these attacks are parliamentary. Where does this leave us and what does any of this have to do with the NUS? It leaves us with the urgent need to build a movement capable of pulling Labour leftwards, a task important in opposition that becomes all the more important in the event of a Labour government. The NUS has the potential, if transformed from the ground up through democratisation and a concerted effort on the part of the left, to act as a counterweight. A movement that, through action and campaigns, can support the student and wider labour movement in periods of progressive struggle. One can only imagine how the early 2018 UCU (University and College Union) strike action might have resulted had the groundswell of activism on campuses been robustly supported by the NUS.

Engaging in NUS democracy

The starting point of transforming NUS is to engage in its existing democratic structures. This means left-wing activists running as delegates through their Students’ Unions has to be the starting point. It is only through a swell of activists running as delegates that the left can have any hope of transforming the NUS. The careerist-bureaucratic milieu that dominate NUS understand that this is the basis of controlling NUS and are the kinds of students that consistently run as delegates to national conference. Only a large left-wing delegate base has a chance of electing a left-wing, transformative slate of activists that will support struggle on campus and in the wider labour movement.

Reflections on the UCU Strike: Where Do We Go From Here?

strike
By Dan Davison, NCAFC Postgrad & Education Workers Co-Rep and Cambridge UCU activist. Photo by Andrew Perry.

On 14 April 2018, 64% of members of the University and College Union (UCU) voted ‘Yes’ to the offer made by the employers’ consortium, Universities UK (UUK). Industrial action, including action short of a strike (ASOS), is now suspended. UUK’s offer aims to end the ongoing dispute over intended reforms to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), the main pension scheme for ‘pre-92’ universities. As explained in a previous article, these changes would make final pensions depend on investment performance rather than workers’ contributions, spelling the effective end to guaranteed pension benefits. In their offer, UUK proposed to establish a ‘Joint Expert Panel, comprised of actuarial and academic experts nominated in equal numbers from both sides’, to ‘deliver a report’ and ‘to agree key principles to underpin the future joint approach of UUK and UCU to the valuation of the USS fund’.

NCAFC advocated a ‘No’ vote in the ballot, finding that the proposal offered little in the way of concrete guarantees and noting how it could see UUK continuing to use the contested November valuation for the USS, despite the pension scheme’s ‘deficit’ being fabricated. On 13 March, UCU rejected a previous proposal drawn up by the union and UUK’s representatives during negotiations, after UCU members demonstrated outside the union’s national headquarters and local UCU branches called on the national leadership to turn down the deal: an outcry that trended online with the hashtag #NoCapitulation. Moreover, between the announcement of the new proposal on 23 March and the closing of the ballot on 14 April, many branches came out in opposition to the offer as it stood, preferring a deal with clearer and more reliable assurances. On social media, this position was often identified with the hashtag #ReviseAndResubmit, in humorous allusion to the peer review process for academic journals.

Whilst the 63.5% turnout for the ballot on the new proposal is not something to dismiss out of hand, the result comes as a disappointment for many strikers, as well as those who have stood in solidarity with them. I will lay out some major criticisms of the UCU leadership’s handling of the ballot and offer a few explanations for the ballot result. I will then make some critical observations about how the National Union of Students (NUS) conducted itself throughout the strike. I will end on what I hope will be a constructive and optimistic note on how we can build upon the gains of the strike, particularly the unprecedented energisation of UCU’s rank-and-file.

1. The UCU Leadership

One of the most significant problems with the ballot is the manner in which Sally Hunt, the UCU General Secretary, presented the available options in her emails to the membership. More specifically, Hunt conflated the more hard-line ‘no detriment’ position with the less hard-line ‘revise and resubmit’ position, and then framed the ‘No’ option on the ballot as a mandate for ‘no detriment’. A significant number of UCU members favoured ‘revise and resubmit’, considered ‘no detriment’ unrealistic, and would have been willing to pursue further industrial action in pursuit of demands shaped by a ‘revise and resubmit’ position. As Hunt presented the ‘No’ option as a commitment to bargaining for ‘no detriment’, we can safely assume that many members who ordinarily would have rejected the offer instead accepted it. Moreover, whilst it is established practice for a union’s executive committee to make recommendations in such matters, it appears that the recommendations Hunt gave to members were hers alone.

Unfortunately, UCU’s national leadership has a long history of failing to pursue effective industrial action when needed. As we recognised when UCU called off its marking boycott during the 2014 pay dispute, when the national leadership clearly does not support further industrial action, members become demoralised and are left to believe that, if they do vote for further action, the action will be tokenistic and ineffective. With staff members losing significant pay on strike days, one can understand why the leadership’s visible lack of commitment to seeing the strike through to the end would have had a dissuading effect on UCU members. Indeed, one would be forgiven for a certain cynical suspicion that the ballot was called during the Easter break precisely because it would be a time of year when student support for the strike would be less visible on campus and when there would be no picket lines to generate feelings of solidarity.

In many respects, the contrast between the ballot on the one hand, and the wave of demonstrations, open letters, and branch resolutions for #NoCapitulation on the other hand, is instructive for the problems with an atomistic approach to democracy in a national organisation. When members are in a room with others who have shared their struggle, the fostered feeling of solidarity boosts confidence, and one can actively participate in a structured discussion that lays out and debates the available positions. When members have to vote as geographically separated individuals, that atmosphere of solidarity and accompanying confidence are lost. Moreover, in the context of the present dispute, those members who were not active during (and, presumably, less supportive of) the strike ended up receiving disproportionate guidance from the leadership’s communications.

Nevertheless, I urge student and trade union activists not to assume the worst of those UCU members who voted to accept the deal. Apart from the leadership’s handling of the ballot and general lack of effective leadership, there are numerous understandable reasons why members would choose not to continue striking. With classes finishing for the year, the most disruptive part of the industrial action would have been the marking boycott. Since this would affect students’ reception of marks much more directly than cancelled lectures, one can sympathise with staff members’ fear of ‘hurting’ their students or losing student support by continuing the action, even if a victory for the strike would actually have helped students in the long run by resisting a systematic attack on learning conditions. Likewise, one can understand why the prospect of standing on a picket line when the campus is less busy would be quite bleak for many strikers. Once we have more data on the number of UCU branches that came out against both the rejected and the accepted deals, along with a breakdown of the ballots cast, we can better account for why members voted as they did.

2. The NUS

In a previous opinion piece, I criticised the NUS leadership for demonstrating no support for the strike beyond than a lacklustre joint statement (itself released more than a week after UCU’s industrial action ballot result), despite it being the clear policy of NUS’ National Executive Council to provide much more concrete assistance. That was at the start of February. Individual NUS officers might have made supportive gestures and commentary during the strike period, but as an institution, the NUS remained conspicuously absent. This means that the 26 campus occupations and other surges of campus activism in solidarity with UCU materialised in spite of the NUS rather than because of it.

NCAFC assisted many of these occupations by helping coordinate them online, and – in some instances – by sending members to boost numbers and expertise. This resulted in approximately 40 activists from 13 different campuses across the UK meeting in London to share their experience and draft a joint solidarity statement, with further cross-campus connections being drawn now. Similarly, NCAFC administered both the popular ‘Students Support the UCU Pensions Strike’ Facebook group, which allowed activists to share materials, and the @Occupation_hub twitter account, which kept abreast of direct action in support of the strike. Still, all this is no substitute for the material support of a national union tasked with fighting for our interests as students. In other words, if there was any moment at which the NUS should have lived up to its name, it was at the height of campus activism in solidarity with UCU. The NUS could have officially sent representatives to the occupations and committed itself to defending student protesters from victimisation, especially those on visas who take an especially high risk when participating in direct action, but they did nothing.

The NUS thus finds itself in a curious state of double removal. It is removed from the mass political drive for free education that has seen expression in the Corbyn surge and in Labour’s significant gains in the 2017 General Election. Likewise, it is removed from the fertile layer of grassroots campus activism that made the recent wave of occupations possible. As of the 2018 NUS National Conference elections, the NUS leadership is split evenly between the left and the right, but the right still holds the presidency. However, if the experience of the UCU strike has taught us anything, it is that any attempt to rebuild the student movement must amount to something far wider and bolder than putting left-wingers in office.

3. What Next for UCU?

Even though our current position is intensely dissatisfying, we have made genuine gains through our activism. UCU membership has increased by the thousands and seen unprecedented energisation at the grassroots level. Now we must ask how we rank-and-file activists can prepare for the (almost inevitable) next round in the dispute should the talks with UUK fail and, more pointedly, how we can transform the union itself. I wholly understand the temptation for left-wing members simply to jump ship from UCU. As it stands, UCU has all the trappings of a bureaucratised union disconnected from its more militant base and the UCU Left faction, dominated by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), serves as little more than an electoral machine. For these same reasons, I understand suggestions to ‘dual card’ with smaller, more dynamic unions, such as the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB).

While all available options should considered carefully, I do wish to stress that there are significant advantages to a large, national union, not least in respect of collective bargaining. Since university employers in the sector have to deal with industry-wide unions such as UCU, it is harder to drive down wages on individual campuses and make the sector even more closely resemble a market than it does already. Moreover, one should bear in mind that the character of unions can change dramatically. Many of the large national unions now infamous for bureaucracy, such as the GMB, grew out of the ‘new unionism’ of the 1880s, which replaced the older ‘craft union’ models. This shift from craft unionism to new unionism meant an upsurge in militancy and the bringing together of different workers in the same industry to fight for collective gains rather than to defend the special interests of a uniquely skilled ‘labour aristocracy’. Conversely and more recently, rank-and-file activists transformed the traditionally conservative and bureaucratic Chicago Teachers Union into an energised, combative body. As such, we should not be overly dismissive of what we could achieve within UCU, building upon the kind of grassroots revolt we saw with the #NoCapitulation surge.
In short, whether one chooses to start a new union or to reform an existing union, there are no shortcuts to effective workplace organising. For now, we must keep engaging with UCU’s activist base and ensure that its newly tapped potential does not dissipate. With new rank-and-file networks emerging in the wake of the ballot result, a glimmer of hope appears in the darkness. It is a hope that springs from a single, potent realisation: we are the union.

Reclaim NUS!

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13 million people voted for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in 2017. Amongst those aged between 18-25 62% voted Labour and 100,000 are members. Seats like Canterbury and Sheffield Hallam (bibi Clegg) were largely won by the sudden turnout of students who were enthused by radical politics. The Labour Party achieved all of this with a flagship policy of a National Education Service, providing universal free education for life.

This surge has finally hit the student movement on the ground. In the past year, the Higher Education sector has been swept with new waves of activists and activism. Student struggles up and down the country are challenging overpaid and corrupt University Management and governance structures, using direct action against the ever-rising cost of rent, fighting for fully funded mental health services and actively supporting staff in the largest wave of industrial action that Higher Education has ever seen. We are standing at a crossroads in the student movement and education sector where, if we lose, it may jade this new movement into paralysis. However, if we win, this emerging movement could change the face of our education system and UK politics for ever! But… where is the NUS?

The current NUS leadership has busied itself cosying up to parliamentarians, attempting to look and be ‘respectable’. Their failure in aims and strategy was highlighted by, Despite NUS’ best efforts, being laughably blocked from the board of the Office for Students by Downing Street SPADS leaving an unelected student at Surrey to represent us. Simply playing Select Committee doesn’t work, we can never win at their game. We must use collective power to force our wins, but NUS has consistently failed to support activists on the ground: from blocking a motion to support the national demo from even being discussed on NEC to their complete lack of effort to show mean solidarity with the UCU strikes.

There have been over 20 occupations in the last few weeks around the country, students risking their studies to support the UCU, has Shakira Martin visited any of them? Has Izzy Lenga been to a Teach-Out? NUS have put out nothing about the UCU pension dispute since February. After our members on the NEC passed a motion mandating NUS to support the strikes, the leadership didn’t even bother to produce their own material to distribute to SUs, instead they lazily uploaded UCU’s leaflets to NUS Connect and said goodbye. The Labour Students/Organised Independents slate this year is so out of touch with the membership that, at the high-point of Corbynism, they have still managed to run a candidate for NUS VP who will go on national TV and argue for a Graduate Tax.

We need national co-ordination of this emerging new grassroots movements and a leadership forged from the bottom-up more than ever. That is why NCAFC are running the following candidates for the NUS executive:

Sahaya James – President
Ana Oppenheim – VP Higher Education

NEC Block of 15:

Stuart McMillan
Justine Canady
Monty Shield

They are standing alongside other candidates from the broader left of NUS:

Eva Crossan Jory – VP Welfare
Zamzam Ibrahim – VP Society & Citizenship
Ali Milani – VP Union Development
Neal Black – VP Further Education

Conference will be full of excited Corbynista delegates, new activists from the campus grassroots and many will be buoyed from waves of activity on the ground all over the country. We are making clear that whilst the opposition at conference may wear the tokenistic badge of ‘Labour’, they are not the representatives of the movement spawned from and around Corbynism. They cannot lead students through this forthcoming era of change and radicalism, but the movement can.

NUS: unite the left to fight the right

Logo of the National Union of Students

At January’s National Committee meeting we agreed to run NCAFC candidates for President and Vice President Higher Education, and push for left unity in NUS to transform it into a union that actually takes the fight to the government. We are calling for the rest of the NUS left to unite with us around a joint platform, focussing on the activism students and workers are doing on the ground, democratising NUS and the kind of big demands we need to shake up society. The joint statement will be discussed and agreed with left NEC members tomorrow – this is our contribution to that meeting.

A United Left for Free and Liberated Education

Students face an ever more neoliberal university system and an FE sector being virtually destroyed – an alarming mental health crisis – soaring rents – a future of debt and precarious jobs – and a world all around us being wrecked by capitalism. Huge numbers are inspired by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party and increasingly supportive of left-wing politics.

NUS could be playing a tremendous role in mobilising, organising and politically engaging many thousands to take on the Tories and transform society. Instead it has been absent or even hostile while activists organise locally and nationally through demonstrations, direct action and rent strikes. Instead of allying with trade unionists and an insurgent Labour it has collaborated with Vince Cable and even the government through the Office for Students. NUS needs top-to-bottom transformation so it is a union for struggle, not a union for careerists. NUS should be standing up for a different vision: for a free and liberated education.

  • Free education, living grants for all, funded by taxing the rich and won through direct action and demonstrations.
  • There is no free education without a liberated education: fight the rise of racism and fascism, support trans rights on campus, stop and don’t collaborate with PREVENT, fight for funding for proper mental health provision. Cops off campus. Defend the right for political organisation and action on campuses.
  • For a fighting NUS and student movement; campaign using occupations, direct action and strikes; activists as organisers, not bureaucrats
  • Launch an urgent campaign to save Further Education and reverse all funding cuts.
  • Cap on rent in student halls (£100pw in London, £80pw outside), and organising a wave of rent strikes.
  • For a 5:1 maximum pay ratio in universities and colleges, with a VC pay cap of £100,000, reverse widespread marketisation. Maintain and step up the NSS boycott.
  • Support workers’ struggles in education and beyond, work with Labour and trade unions to win £10ph minimum wage and banning zero hour contracts. Run a campaign to organise student workers, from postgrad lecturers and nursing students to fast food. Actively support workers in struggle, including practical solidarity, particularly young workers like the McDonald’s and Picturehouse strikers.
  • Solidarity with all struggles against oppression and exploitation, in Britain and across the world. Support Palestinian liberation, vocal solidarity with migrants and support free movement. Opposition to war and militarism. Mobilise to fight climate change. Scrap Trident and spend the money on decent, useful jobs.
  • A democratic NUS: reverse attacks on Liberation campaigns, and end to cliques and bullying, ensure policy is actually carried out, and make conferences/debates longer and more accessible.

Why Disabled Students Should Support the Free Education Demo!

4 people with a banner reading "Disabled students' campaign" "NUS disabled students"By Rachel O’Brien, NUS Disabled Students’ Officer

On Wednesday 15th November, I will be supporting the demonstration for Free Education, running Demo HQ and encouraging disabled students around the country to attend, as well as making sure that Student Unions and the organisers make sure the demo is accessible as it can be.

Why should disabled students support free education? For me, this is an easy question to answer. All students should support free education and fight for it to be realised. Free education is not just about university tuition fees (although this is a part of it!), it is about everything from making adult education accessible and available for people wanting to return to education or start at a later age, to making sure that Disabled Students’ Allowance and Education Health and Care Plans are fully funded and fit for purpose. Our education system should be a social good and liberatory force, and right now it is neither of those things. In fact, it can often be the opposite – a place where working class students and those from oppressed groups (these are not mutually exclusive categories!) experience violence of different types. Disabled students are more likely to come from working class and lower socio-economic backgrounds, as well as having more costs than non-disabled students, so debt hits us especially hard.

It affects our mental and physical health. Debt is shown to be a major factor in student mental distress, and as a group, we will have more of it. The lack of living grants and access to disability benefits means that we are often forced to live in houses that are not accessible to us and I have yet to meet a disabled student who does not worry about being able to afford their prescription fees. Simply put, our education system and the disproportionate financial cost it has on disabled students is bad for our health. Access to education and retention rates are distressingly low amongst disabled students. We get into debt to go into education and then have to drop out due to the effect that debt and disableism has.

On the 15th, join us in marching for free education! I have been working with the organisers to make sure that the route and march itself is accessible as possible. And in the case that #wecantmarch, I will be running Demo HQ – a place where people who cannot march for whatever reason can do invaluable demo tasks. Be that because you have a mobility impairment, precarious visa status or issues around sensory overload, or any other reason – this is the space for you. We’ll be doing social media and co-ordinating arrestee support for the demo!

NUS LGBT+ Conference Bulletin

Today our LGBTQ caucus is at NUS LGBT+ conference! Check out their bulletin below (in both PDF and text format), with articles about living grants, freedom of movement, and the no platform debate.

Download the bulletin here (PDF)


Grants not debt!

LGBT+ students need universal living grants

grantsnotdebtTHE last government abolished the Education Maintenance Allowance (which provided a small amount of financial assistance to poorer young students in further education), and now the Conservatives have cut the maintenance grants of the poorest undergrads. We don’t just want to stop and reverse these cuts, because those schemes were never enough. NCAFC demands a grant – non-repayable and offered to all – that is enough for every student from further education to postgrad to live on. This is the only way to ensure that finances are not a barrier to anyone accessing and staying in education, and to make sure that every student has a decent standard of living.

How would we fund this? There’s a huge amount of money available for this and other public services – the only problem is that it is currently kept in the hands of a few. We say, tax the rich and take the banks under democratic control. The wealthy shouldn’t just pay for their own education, but everyone’s.

There are lots of arguments in favour of this, but one is particular to LGBT+ rights.

We’re often told that means-tested financial support is good enough. That’s where the government decides how much support you need according to your parents’ incomes.

First of all, the support provided now doesn’t cover full living expenses even for the neediest students, so even if we accepted that argument, much improvement would still be needed. But means-testing assumes that parents will always financially support students if they can. If a bigoted family won’t support their LGBT+ offspring, that student can face a choice of living in poverty – because the government says they don’t need full support even though they aren’t getting family help – or being stuck in the closet, hiding so that their families won’t cut them off.

Supposedly, such students can gain “estrangement” status from their parents and be funded as independent from their families. But the estrangement system isn’t just broken, it’s a one-size-fits-all approach that can never work. To get it, we have to provide proof that we have completely cut ties with our parents for some time. Evidence can be hard to find and the process is difficult and often deeply distressing. And even unsuccessful attempts at reconciliation have been held against estrangement applicants.

But it also assumes everyone’s whole family is either entirely supportive or completely estranged. How could we fix such a system? Will we means-test intolerance, with a sliding scale measuring how bigoted or supportive a student’s parents are?! This system requires young LGBT+ people struggling with their families, or even just individual family members, to completely give up on their entire families and cut them out. A bitter irony, given how those same authorities constantly moralise conservatively about the importance of the family unit.

And this isn’t just an issue for LGBTQ students. What about students whose families don’t disown them for their sexualities or gender identities, but just refuse to support their ambitions for education, for any number of reasons – from disagreeing with their offspring’s choices in life and career, to conservative sexist parents who don’t believe their daughters should be educated? Everyone deserves the ability to be financially independent.

We support universal living grants, as well as living wages and so on, because we aren’t just fighting to hold off the particular attacks being made on education right now. We are fighting for a radically liberated, socially just society, in which everyone has the freedom to fulfil their hopes and potential, be who they want and live as they wish.


Freedom of movement is an LGBT+ issue

EVERY now and then a story makes the headlines, high-lighting the mistreatment of LGBT+ migrants by the Home Office. We hear of deported individuals being told to “act straight” in a country that bans homosexual relationships, or of asylum seekers forced to show their private photos to prove their sexuality. Shocking cases like these usually cause short-lived outrage, sometimes inspire a petition in defence of a specific person. Calls for a radical change in migration policy which could really prevent such appalling abuses are still nowhere to be seen in the political mainstream.

But these, however far from isolated cases, are just the most extreme examples of the inherent oppressive-ness of border controls. Then there are countless stories that never make the news, of both EU and non-EU citizens crossing borders to live the life they want. LGBT+ migrants moving countries to be able to marry their partner, or to be recognised as their real gender without undergoing sterilisation. People who travel abroad to escape abusive families or to be out in the workplace without fear of discrimination. Although no country is free from structural oppression, for many migration is the only way of accessing the rights and freedoms that others enjoy.

Borders are not only racist – they are also sexist, ableist and LGBT-phobic. That’s why the LGBT+ movement needs to be unapologetic in our demand for free movement of people – not depending on how much one contributes to the economy, on whether or not they’re a model citizen, or on their victimhood and how much their story can move hearts. True liberation means the freedom of everyone to be true to themselves and in control of their lives, regardless of what their passport says.

Grassroots groups like Movement for Justice, or Lesbians & Gays Support the Migrants, have been highlighting the links between border controls and the oppression of LGBT+ people. Let’s join them in resisting detention and deportations, and fight for a world where one’s nationality does not determine their fate.


The debate about no platform

At this conference, we’re supporting the motion “Defend and Extend Freedom of Expression and Organisation”, to tackle a range of threats to our political and union freedoms on campuses. Most of these are from the government and college/university managers – like Prevent – but the motion also discusses our own movement’s use of no-platform tactics, arguing that these are only appropriate as a self-defence tactic against groups – mainly fascist groups – that organise to use physical violence against progressive movements and against marginalised groups.

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

What is no-platform?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attacks from the authorities

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

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

What’s different about fascists?

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

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

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

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

Reclaiming the issue from right-wing hypocrites

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

We want to show up these hypocrites, and build a consistent, left-wing campaign to defend and extend freedom of speech, debate, organisation and action on campuses. One that will facilitate a flowering of student and workers’ organisation and struggle. Join us!

Read more about the campaign for freedom to organise and freedom of expression on campuses: anticuts.com/righttoorganise 


What is the National Campaign Against Fees & Cuts?

THE NCAFC is a democratic network of student activists on college and university campuses across the country, fighting for free, democratic and liberated education that is funded by taxing the rich and business.

We’ve played a pivotal role in mobilising the student movement and supporting activism since the 2010 wave of occupations and street protests. We’ve been heavily involved in building everything from the ongoing NSS boycott against the higher education reforms to 2014’s #CopsOffCampus movement.

We help activists build for action on campuses, we join together to argue for our causes, and we organise action, such as major national demonstrations and 2015’s anti-austerity bloc on Pride with Lesbians & Gays Support the Miners.

Talk to us or find us online for more info!

anticuts.com

[email protected]

@NCAFC_UK

facebook.com/NCAFC

Left-wing motions for NUS National Conference 2017

Delegates voting at NUS conference

On 25-27 April 2016, the National Union of Students (NUS) will be holding its national annual conference. NCAFC activists will be at the conference to argue for a left-wing, campaigning, democratic direction for our national union. As well as standing candidates for leading roles, we will push for left-wing policies, and hold the leadership to account where they have failed to fulfil their mandates.

Motions for NUS conference are submitted via student unions – students propose them to their local union’s democratic structure, and if they are voted through, the union sends them to NUS conference. We encourage activists to submit left-wing motions, and also to stand for election as delegates and come to the conference to argue and vote for them! The motions below have been written by NCAFC activists for supporters to propose to their unions – they do not necessarily represent the views of every NCAFC member. Some of them are stand-alone motions, and some of them are amendments to proposals from the NUS leadership (the Zone Committees) – you can find those proposals here. NUS motions are organised into “zones” according to their topic, and each student union can submit up to 1400 words. You will need to:

  1. Put up to 1400 words worth of motions (see word counts in the list below) to your SU’s democratic structures (e.g. Council, General Meeting, Executive or Referendum). Remember to find out when there’s a meeting before the NUS deadline (5pm 28 February 2017) and check how far in advance you need to submit your motions to that meeting.
  2. Campaign to win the vote!
  3. Make sure your SU submits them to NUS using this form before 5pm 28 February 2017conference.nusconnect.org.uk/policy/submit-policy

Please let us know if you are going to put motions to your union, if you would like help, or if you have other motions you’re submitting additional to those listed here: email [email protected]. We can let you know which motions are already being put through SUs and which need to be picked up. Please also get in touch if you are going to be a delegate to NUS Conference and want to coordinate with other NCAFC activists there!


Priority Zone

Defend the right to organise, speak and protest on campuses

Amendment to motion “Liberate Education”

ADD:

Conference Believes

  1. There is a wide range of threats to students’ and workers’ rights to free political organising, expression and protest on campuses currently.
  2. Progressive and liberatory movements like ours cannot change the world without changing hearts and minds. We need political freedoms to challenge bigoted and dominant ideas, convince people, and take action.
  3. Restrictions on free expression usually attack progressives and oppressed groups. Our best defence is that willingness to defend open discussion and free speech be as widely and firmly embedded as possible.
  4. A small number of political groups, mainly fascist organisations, do not simply campaign for their ideas, they organise to use physical violence against progressive and marginalised groups. While arguing against their ideas, their organisations also pose an immediate physical threat to us, and so we need appropriate action in self-defence.
  5. Freedom to express and explore ideas is essential in the academic sphere; education institutions need to be havens for subversive, radical and controversial thought.

Conference Further believes:

  1. Problems for free expression and organising on campuses currently include:
    1. PREVENT, which targets, surveils, harasses and stigmatises Muslim students and political activists expressing radical ideas. Additionally the government wants universities to ban otherwise legal speakers
    2. Our institutions’ senior managers often want to keep controversial discussions off-campus, and prevent postering and campaigning that would disrupt their corporate image. They victimise protesters; use injunctions and violence against protests; block staff strikes on anti-democratic technicalities; get trade unionists deported or made redundant.
    3. Police harass and assault black people and protesters.
    4. The law antidemocratically restricts student unions and trade unions.
    5. Cuts and marketising reforms in HE and FE make our institutions serve the narrow interests of big business, shutting down academic freedom and diversity in teaching and research.
    6. Some student unions have become hostile to political discussion and organising that sounds radical or controversial, student activism difficult.
    7. The use of bans to shut out speakers with bigoted, right-wing and disagreeable views, instead of combating them by actively countering and defeating their ideas through argument and protest.

Conference Resolves:

  1. To launch a joined-up campaign to tackle all these issues and stand for students’ and workers’ political freedoms to express and discuss ideas and organise on campus.
  2. To foster a culture of open political discussion in the student movement, in order to have an active, healthy and participatory democracy.
  3. To re-affirm our “cops off campus” policy, and campaign for law prohibiting police from campuses without democratic permission from students and staff.
  4. In general, to combat regressive and bigoted political ideas using protest and argument. This can be difficult and exhausting, so we should support each other to do as much as each of us feels able.
  5. To re-affirm our No Platform policy against fascist organisations, but to limit our use of this self-defence tactic (acting to deny a group the ability to organise and advocate their ideas) to groups that organise to use physical violence against marginalised groups of people and progressives.

Education Zone

Fight the HE reforms

Amendment to the HE Zone Proposal, “JoJo don’t know much about quality: what a wonderful world HE could be”

ADD:

Conference Believes:

  1. The current Higher Education reforms, including the introduction of the TEF as well as easier access to degree awarding powers and university status for private providers, are an attack on the very idea of public education. They need to be resisted as a whole – it is not enough to oppose individual elements, such as fee increases or specific TEF metrics.
  2. The reforms would have a devastating impact on education workers as well as students, and student-staff solidarity is essential to resisting them.
  3. NUS has a policy to boycott the National Student Survey unless and until the reforms are withdrawn.
  4. A long-term boycott of the NSS will cause significant disruption to the running of the HE system and the implementation of the TEF, and could give students the leverage we badly need.
  5. Given that the NSS scores are averaged over three years for use in the TEF, the boycott will have maximum impact if continued nationally into future years – this has always been the case.
  6. We can build on the impact of the boycott this year to have even greater participation in the boycott in future years, which will be necessary if the government presses on with HE reforms.
  7. The way to improve the quality of education is through adequate public funding and democratising institutions. Our alternatives to metrics and marketisation must be based on the principle of democracy, not just tokenistic student representation.

Conference Resolves:

  1. To maintain the NSS boycott in future years, as a tactic in a wider campaign against the whole HE reforms, not just limited to fee increases and their link with the TEF.
  2. To actively reach out to Students’ Unions and encourage all SUs to participate in the boycott, as well as promote the action to all students.
  3. If the HE reforms pass into law, to continue the campaign with a call for their reversal and advocate for a publicly-owned education system, run democratically for social good.
  4. To work closely with UCU on the campaign.

DELETE conference resolves 8 and REPLACE with:

  1. NUS will take a democratic approach to political education, seeking to empower and support students to educate themselves and each other, and to engage in political struggle. NUS should support member unions in supporting their students in doing so.
    As part of supporting their political education, to support students in struggling for the interests of our class and other oppressed groups, and struggling to create a better society for everyone. To support students to develop the skills and organisations necessary to do so.

Supporting a National Education Service

Conference Believes:

  1. That NUS has a commitment to supporting a free, democratic and accessible education system.
  2. That the National Education Service (NES) is the Labour Party’s flagship free education policy.
  3. That Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn reaffirmed his support for this policy during the 2016 leadership campaign and included a commitment to abolishing tuition fees and providing free childcare services.[1]
  4. That work is being done by the grassroots activist organisation the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) to develop the idea of what a National Education Service would look like.

Conference Further Believes:

  1. That the NES currently represents our most realistic chance of achieving a free education system in the foreseeable future and represents a positive vision of what we can argue for in opposition to the Conservative Government’s attacks on education.
  2. That the NES is an exciting framework for expanding ideas on what our education system should look like, from schools to Further and Higher education.
  3. That we should have a free, publically owned, democratic, secular and accessible education system and support the commitments to abolishing fees and providing free childcare that are already a part of the NES policy.
  4. That any future National Education Service should have, at its core, a commitment to:
    1. Providing adequate funding to education institutions, providing universal living grants to students and secure jobs with good pay and conditions for workers, and abolishing tuition fees.
    2. Removing the barriers to education that exist because of society’s structural and cultural inequality, such as oppression based on class, gender, sex, sexuality, race and ethnic background, and disability.
    3. Being a life-long education service available to anyone regardless of age.
    4. Expanding the democratic control of education institutions by students, staff and other campus workers.

Conference Resolves:

  1. To officially affirm our support for a National Education Service and argue that it should be based on the core commitments outlined above.

[1] www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/ana-oppenheim/national-education-service_b_11581140.html


Welfare Zone

NHS Bursaries

Amendment to motion “Mental Health and Hardship”

ADD:

Conference Believes:

  1. Nursing, Midwifery and other allied health professional students do not currently pay tuition fees. They receive bursaries and a reduced-rate student loan to help with living costs.
  2. A fixed number of places are funded based on local ‘workforce plans’, designed to fulfill the needs of the NHS.#
  3. The government plans to end these bursaries from 2017, replacing them with tuition fees and maintenance loans
  4. The Royal College of Nursing oppose this as ‘unfair and risky’ and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) as ‘threatened the future of maternity services in England’.
  5. Nursing, midwifery and allied health admissions have fallen by 20% this year – in some institutions almost 50% – compounding the NHS understaffing crisis.
  6. Many current healthcare students are mature or graduates, but graduates will be unable to access loans.
  7. Many healthcare students have strong vocational training commitments alongside summative academic work, making further paid work difficult.
  8. The bursary is currently insufficient to live on.

Conference Further Believes:

  1. All medical, dental and allied health professional students should receive bursaries, or living grants, which are sufficient to live on without other sources of funding.
  2. The removal of the bursary will reduce access, particularly for graduates.
  3. The experiences and backgrounds of mature students, graduate students and students from lower socio-economic backgrounds contribute to the diversity of healthcare professionals, which is important.
  4. Other healthcare students’ bursaries are at risk.
  5. Healthcare workforce planning should be planned to meet the needs of the population.
  6. Universities will likely cut less popular, specialised courses while expanding popular courses, meaning students may gain vocational qualifications for which there are no jobs, whilst other job vacancies and health needs go unfilled.
  7. The NUS should campaign for an end to fees and marketised education and for living grants for all students. However, the specific situation of healthcare students means that separate NHS Bursaries campaigning can make different alliances and win easier victories.

Conference Resolves:

  1. To campaign for reinstatement of, retention of and expansion of NHS bursaries for healthcare students.
  2. To work with relevant trade unions and engage with healthcare students to campaign on this.
  3. To highlight the particular situation of healthcare students in broader campaigns against marketisation of education and fees, and for living grants.

Living Grants for All!

Amendment to motion “Mental Health and Hardship”

ADD:

Conference Believes:

  1. NUS previously supported universal living grants, and NUS LGBT+ currently does.
  2. The maintenance grants and EMA were insufficient to live on.
  3. Many people fall through the gaps in any means-tested system that assumes parental support – in particular those with unsupportive families, such as many LGBT+ people. The “estrangement” system is broken, but even if we can improve it, it can only help those students who cut themselves off completely from their families.

Conference Further Believes:

  1. Every student should be able to afford to live decently.
  2. Universalism – public services available to absolutely everyone – is a core progressive principle for our movement.
  3. There is plenty of money in society to restore universal grants, plus fund good public services – it’s in the bank accounts and businesses of the wealthy.

Conference Resolves:

  • In 1, after “all students,”:
    “with additional supplements reflecting the needs of student carers and disabled students,”
    and after “these demands”:
    “using the #GrantsNotDebt hashtag.”
  1. Demand this is funded through progressive taxation, such as an increase in corporation tax and taxes on the richest.

Society & Citizenship Zone

Support picturehouse strikers!

Conference Believes:

  1. That workers at Picturehouse cinemas have been striking since September for the Living Wage, sick pay, maternity/paternity pay, and union recognition
  2. That the owner of Picturehouse, Cineworld, made £30 million profit in the first half of 2016.
  3. That many students are employees of Picturehouse That Picturehouse often sells memberships and conducts marketing through Student Unions.

Conference Further Believes:

  1. That we support the demands of the Picturehouse workers and we want them to win
  2. That they set a good example for all low-paid workers and their victory will encourage others
  3. That striking for better pay is an excellent way to fight inequality

Conference Resolves:

  1. To publicise the Picturehouse dispute and encourage members to support their strike fund
  2. To encourage students who work for Picturehouse to join BECTU and find out about the dispute
  3. To encourage student unions to deny Picturehouse access to Freshers′ Fairs and other marketing opportunities until they concede the things that their staff are demanding.

Solidarity with students, workers and the Kurdish movement in Turkey

Conference Believes:

  1. That following the failed coup attempt last July, the Turkish government has been stepping up repression – including by sacking or suspending over 100,000 public sector workers, including over 30,000 school teachers and 5,000 university staff (disproportionately in Turkey’s Kurdish areas), with numbers rising all the time; imprisoning journalists; attacking free speech and the right to criticise the government; and more generally attacking workers’ and students’ rights.
  2. That the Turkish state is continuing and stepping up its brutal war against the Kurdish people and their fight for self-determination.

Conference Further Believes:

  1. That UCU has protested against the Turkish government’s violations of academic freedom and purge of education, and supported the fight for democratic rights in Turkey. We should too.

Conference Resolves:

  1. NUS will release a statement of solidarity with students, education workers, the labour movement, journalists and the Kurdish movement in Turkey, opposing the Turkish government’s repression against them.
  2. NUS will write to Egitim-Sen (the Education and Science Workers’ Union – one of Turkey’s largest trade unions, which has suffered particularly heavily under the repression) offering our solidarity and seeking links.
  3. To donate £300 to solidarity fund established by the Education International union federation to support Egitim-Sen against repression.
  4. The VP Society and Citizenship, the NEC and the Zone Committee should investigate how we can build solidarity, including by establishing direct links with students’ organisations in Turkey.

Defend migrants and support free movement

Amendment to motion “Brexit means Brexit or so we’re told”

DELETE conference believes 9. and REPLACE with:

  1. That the outcome of the referendum, thanks in part to a dishonest Vote Leave campaign that misled many people, was regrettable. The outcome was also in part caused by the fact that the major remain campaigns inadequately explained the genuine causes of and solutions (such as those outlined above) to the problems many people experience. As such, it did not properly challenge the narrative of many arguing for Brexit.

ADD

Conference Believes:

  1. Recently announced plans to restrict international students’ visas, including linking universities’ ability to accept international students to “teaching quality,” most likely measured by TEF scores.
  2. In recent years, the government scrapped the post-study work visa, introduced NHS charges for non-EU students and deported tens of thousands of international students.
  3. Often the response by Vice-Chancellors and sections of the student movement to such attacks is insistence that international students are not migrants and should be treated differently,
  4. The arguments often emphasise how much international students contribute to the British economy by “funding our universities” (justifying sky-high fees) or emphasise the differences between students and migrant workers instead of challenging prejudice against both.
  5. The recent slide into anti-immigration, anti-free-movement politics by even some people on the left, including the Labour Party left.

Conference Further Believes:

  1. We must continue to defend free movement without shame, compromise or capitulation.
  2. Free movement is not against the interests of working class people. Migrant workers are part of the working class too; our politics of fighting for workers’ rights does not respect borders imposed by our rulers. Furthermore, the evidence shows that immigration does not substantially depress pay or conditions.
  3. Restricting immigration will therefore neither help UK-born nor migrant working-class people. Instead, such politics divide students and 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. 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.
  5. We need to politically combat anti-migrant ideas, and advocate real solutions in their place, not concede the debate to right-wing lies.

Conference Resolves:

  1. To campaign to defend and extend freedom of movement and the right to free, accessible education for everyone, regardless of nationality. Blame not migrants, but the rich and powerful, the ruling class, for the problems facing working class people.
  2. 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 anti-union laws; raising and enforcing the minimum wage; decent housing accessible for 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.
  3. To fight against any further attacks on international students, including through direct action if necessary.
  4. To challenge the “students are not migrants” approach within the student movement and more broadly on the left, and to fight uncompromisingly against capitulation by the left and the student and trade union movements on migrant rights and free movement.

Scrap Trident

Conference Believes:

  1. Parliament voted last July to renew the UK’s Trident nuclear weapon system, at a cost of at least £205 billion.
  2. It was discovered in January that the Government had covered up a June 2016 test failure of a Trident missile.

Conference Further Believes:

  1. The supposed “deterrent” value of nuclear weapons depends on willingness to use them, which would mean vast numbers of civilian deaths immediately and for years to come.
  2. The government wants to spend billions on murderous weapons of mass destruction at the very time it is gutting public services. Our society is not short of money – there is huge wealth in the pockets of the rich – but this is a terrible way to spend those resources.
  3. The shipyards producing nuclear weapon-carrying submarines can be converted to produce something socially useful, without job losses.
  4. The workers involved in these projects should be guaranteed decent alternative jobs producing something socially useful, with no loss of pay or conditions.

Conference Resolves:

  1. To condemn the government’s decision to replace Trident and any further use or endorsement of nuclear arms.
  2. To campaign against replacing Trident and for nuclear disarmament on the basis set out above.
  3. To facilitate student unions to campaign for free education, jobs and services instead of nuclear weapons.

Fight Climate Change!

Conference Believes:

  1. The view of leading climate scientists that climate change exceeding 1.5°C is now likely
  2. Donald Trump’s appointments of fossil fuel executives such as Tillerson; his executive orders favouring construction of new fossil fuel pipelines; and his statements contradicting climate science
  3. That the government admits that 2.3 million families were living in fuel poverty this winter.
  4. That consumer energy prices are expected to rise 5% in 2017 – a price rise driven by gas prices.
  5. Profits of the Big Six energy firms (British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON, npower, ScottishPower and SSE) have increased tenfold since 2007.

Conference Further Believes:

  1. That organising our energy infrastructure for private profit instead of public use is wrong
  2. That private ownership of the energy infrastructure in the UK hurts people and obstructs renewable energy development
  3. That urgent action is needed on climate change – faster than is comfortable for the fossil fuels industry
  4. That the energy industry should be put under public ownership and democratic control.

Conference Resolves:

  1. To campaign for the nationalisation of the Big Six under democratic control as part of a renewed drive for student action against climate change
  2. To support protests against Trump’s rollback of progress on climate change

Abolish the Monarchy

Conference Believes:

  1. That Britain is still ruled by a hereditary monarch, who claims to be appointed by God, and who is the head of the official state religion
  2. That the Queen is due to receive an additional £2.8 million from the taxpayer in 2017-2018, making her total income in that year £45.6 million
  3. That in 1975 the Queen′s representative in Australia used royal powers to sack a left-wing Labour government.

Conference Further Believes:

  1. That Church and State should be separate.
  2. That the monarchy is an insult to human dignity: we ought to be equals and citizens, not subjects.
  3. That the monarchy is dangerous for democracy.
  4. That the monarchy should be abolished.

Conference Resolves:

  1. To issue a statement calling for a Republic.

Motion on BAE

Amendment to motion “Placements, Apprenticeships and Education For Good”

Conference Believes:

  1. BAE Systems, the UK’s biggest arms company, made over £25bn in sales in 2015, largely thanks to aircraft sales to the theocratic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
  2. The aftermath of the attempted 2015 ‘coup’ in Turkey, which has seen 40,000 people imprisoned, crackdowns on civil liberties, allegations of widespread torture… and £330 million worth of arms sales to Turkey by the UK.
  3. The urgent need for more equipment for the NHS and production of new technologies to meet the challenges of climate change.
  4. The history of labour-movement led “conversion plans”, such as the 1974 Lucas Plan, drawn up by workers at the Lucas Aerospace plant, which provided a detailed plan for converting the arms factory to produce hybrid cars, hydroelectric turbines and kidney dialysis machines instead of warplanes.

Conference Further Believes:

  1. That Britain’s manufacturing industry should be converted to socially useful production along the lines of what the Lucas Plan advocated
  2. That we want nothing to do with BAE as currently constituted. No amount of money or employment is worth the deaths of our friends in other countries.

Conference Resolves:

  1. To instruct officers to refrain from any co-operation with BAE systems, of any kind.
  2. To call for the conversion of Britain’s defence manufacturing industry to production of socially-useful machinery to support medicine, civilian employment and the fight against climate change.
  3. To promote the history of labour-movement conversion plans such as the Lucas Plan.

Solidarity with the free West Papua cause

Conference Believes:

  1. That West Papua is the western half of the island of New Guinea, the other half being Papua New Guinea.
  2. That Indonesia has occupied West Papua since 1962/3.
  3. That the occupation was internationally legitimized by an ‘Act of Free Choice’ in 1969, whereby just over 1,000 hand-picked Indonesian representatives were bribed, coerced and threatened into voting for integration into Indonesia. [1]
  4. That international media and NGOs have been largely barred from entering the territory under Indonesian rule. [2]
  5. That credible estimates put the number Papuans killed since 1962 at over 100,000. [3]
  6. That several scholars have considered the term ‘genocide’ in relation Indonesia’s actions. [4]
  7. That indigenous Papuans overwhelmingly desire independence from Indonesia, and are ethnically, culturally and linguistically distinct from Indonesians.
  8. That Indonesia often runs operations to harass and intimidate the overseas independence movement. [5]
  9. That Papuan students have often led the campaign in the urban areas of West Papua to liberate their country, and have been met with brutal repression in turn. [6]
  10. That the UK has long supported the Indonesian occupation militarily, diplomatically and economically, and formally supports Indonesian sovereignty in West Papua. [1]
  11. The existence of several international campaigns for a new referendum in West Papua, including by the unified representative body of Papuans, the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, and by a British swim team. The swim team will be swimming a global petition up Lake Geneva in August 2017. [7]

Conference Further Believes:

  1. The Indonesian occupation of West Papua is illegitimate and should end immediately.
  2. We should express solidarity with legitimate self-determination struggles, and particularly with students organizing to resist military occupation.
  3. The Act of Free Choice was a farcical denial of self-determination, and a new, free and fair referendum on independence should take place in the territory. Such a referendum should include the eligibility of all indigenous Papuans.
  4. The UK Government should cease all military training and arms transfers with Indonesia, and should cease supporting Indonesia’s claims over the territory.

Conference Resolves:

  1. To release a statement of solidarity with the free Papua cause, Papuan students and with the Free West Papua Campaign based in Oxford.
  2. That the NUS will give support to students in the UK engaging in solidarity work with the West Papuan struggle.

[1] http://wire.novaramedia.com/2016/04/5-things-you-need-to-know-about-indonesias-occupation-of-west-papua/

[2] Human Rights Watch (2015), Something to Hide? Indonesia’s Restrictions on Media Freedom and Rights Monitoring in Papua, Human Rights Watch: New York.

[3] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-08-27/human-rights-abuses-in-west-papua/4225844

[4] Sloan, J. S. & Tapol, The Neglected Genocide: Human rights abuses against Papuans in the Central Highlands, 1977–1978, Asian Human Rights Commission: Hong Kong & International Coalition for Papua: Wuppertal; Anderson, K. (2015), ‘Colonialism and Cold Genocide: The Case of West Papua’, Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal, 9(2), pp. 9-25; Brundige, E. et al. (2004), Indonesian Human Rights Abuses in West Papua: Application of the Law of Genocide to the History of Indonesian Control, Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic, Yale Law School: Yale; and King, P. & Wing, J. (2005), Genocide in West Papua? The role of the Indonesian state apparatus and a current needs assessment of the Papuan people, West Papua Project, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney.

[5] http://lacuna.org.uk/protest/silencing-west-papuan-independence-supporters-overseas/

[6] MacLeod, J. (2014), Merdeka and The Morning Star: Civil resistance in West Papua, UQP, p.136.

[7] https://www.ulmwp.org/global-petition-swim-west-papua-launched-westminster


Union Development Zone

Education for resistance

Amendment to motion “Civic engagement through political education”

DELETE conference believes 1,2,3,4 and REPLACE with:

  1. Young people are repeatedly affected with the impact of policy decisions they do not agree with. There are many recent examples including unwanted reforms to education, the UK leaving the European Union and spiralling costs of living. These policy decisions are harmful, in particular to working-class people and people from other oppressed groups, and to young people within these groups.
  2. One aspect of this is because progressive young people are not politically engaged and active enough. In addition to when young people are actively shut out and not given a vote, we know much of this comes from lack of confidence. Another core reason for harmful policy is because our society and democracy is ran for the interests of the richest in society, old and young, and so contrary to the interests of the working-class and other oppressed groups, in particular young people in these groups.
  3. Confidence involves understanding the issues and understanding how participation can make a difference. There is also a necessary aspect of confidence which develops through active participation in struggle, especially struggle which is at least partly successful.
  4. Young people are not the only group who are often shut out of politics and are less politically confident – so are working class people and oppressed groups, and young people from those groups are particularly impacted.

ADD:

Conference Believes:

  1. A significant and necessary proportion of this education can and should be achieved by supporting and encouraging young people to actively engage in progressive struggle. This also helps us develop the skills and organisations necessary to bring about further progressive change.
  2. Barriers to young people’s and students’ participation in politics also include policies restricting activism, such as anti-union laws and Prevent, as well as universities trying to silence dissent.
  3. Political education can be liberating and empowering, but it can also be sanitised, teaching only “safe” and “respectable” forms of civic engagement and used to discourage radical action.
  4. Direct action can be a necessary and effective tactic in achieving social and political change, as countless examples in history prove – from the mutinies that ended WW1 to suffragettes, strikers to the civil rights movement, and poll tax non-payment, to name just a few.

DELETE from conference resolves 1:

  • “accredited”

DELETE conference resolves 5,6 and REPLACE with:

  1. NUS will take a democratic approach to political education, seeking to empower and support students to educate themselves and each other, and to engage in political struggle. NUS should support member unions in supporting their students in doing so.
  2. As part of supporting their political education, to support students in struggling for the interests of our class and other oppressed groups, and struggling to create a better society for everyone. To support students to develop the skills and organisations necessary to do so.

ADD:

Conference Resolves:

  1. That the political education we offer should include information about different forms of direct action and the ways it was used in history to fight injustice.
  2. To resist attacks on our political rights and freedoms, including the disarming of our collective organisations through anti-union laws
  3. To defend students’ unions, activists and student journalists whenever they are being victimised, by the state or by universities, for their political activity.

Left-wing motions for NUS National Conference 2016

NUS conference voting delegatesOn 19-21 April 2016, the National Union of Students (NUS) will be holding its national annual conference. NCAFC activists will be at the conference to argue for a left-wing, campaigning, democratic direction for our national union. As well as standing candidates for leading roles, we will push for left-wing policies, and hold the leadership to account where they have failed to fulfil their mandates.

Motions for NUS conference are submitted via student unions – students propose them to their local union’s democratic structure, and if they are voted through, the union sends them to NUS conference. We encourage activists to submit left-wing motions, and also to stand for election as delegates and come to the conference to argue and vote for them! The motions below have been written by NCAFC activists for supporters to propose to their unions – they do not necessarily represent the views of every NCAFC member. Some of them are stand-alone motions, and some of them are amendments to proposals from the NUS leadership (the Zone Committees) – you can find those proposals here.

NUS motions are organised into “zones” according to their topic, and each student union can submit up to 1400 words. You will need to:

  1. Put up to 1400 words worth of motions (see word counts in the list below) to your SU’s democratic structures (e.g. Council, General Meeting, Executive or Referendum). Remember to find out when there’s a meeting before the NUS deadline (12 Noon on Friday 4 March 2016) and check how far in advance you need to submit your motions to that meeting.
  2. Campaign to win the vote.
  3. Make sure your SU submits them to NUS using this form before 12 Noon on Friday 4 March 2016.

Please let us know if you are going to put motions to your union, if you would like help, or if you want to suggest further motions additional to those listed here: email [email protected]. We can let you know which motions are already being put through SUs and which need to be picked up. Please also get in touch if you are going to be a delegate to NUS Conference and want to coordinate with other NCAFC activists there!


Contents

[Word counts in square brackets]

Welfare Zone

  • #GrantsNotDebt! [283]
  • The rent is too damn high! [271]
  • Defend our local services [374]
  • Action to beat Prevent [173]

Education Zone

  • Education not for sale – stop the HE reforms [258]
  • #StopCollegeCuts – Oppose the FE Area Reviews [389]
  • Trade union rights [213]

Society & Citizenship Zone

  • Scrap Trident – spend the money on jobs, education and public services [265]
  • Defend Migrants: Another Europe is Possible [351]
  • Climate change [258]
  • A good local community school for every student [333]
  • Syria, Daesh, Kurdistan and the war  [291]

Union Development Zone

  • Free speech and no platform [313]
  • For democratic, campaigning student unions [259]
  • Defending Our Unions [308]
  • Make FE union development our #1 priority [499]

Annual General Meeting (motions about how NUS works!)

  • Governance reviews – some basic principles [217]
  • Fund the Block to do their jobs [291]
  • Regional organising – make it a priority [154]
  • Make conference more accessible and representative  [292]

Welfare Zone

#GrantsNotDebt!

Conference Believes

  1. Despite our protests, this Conservative government has abolished the poorest undergraduates’ maintenance grants. Before it, the Coalition scrapped the FE Education Maintenance Allowance. Cutting these was shameful, but they weren’t even enough in the first place. NUS previously supported universal living grants to support all students.
  2. We need to ensure every student can afford to live decently during their studies – the fight for living grants is a fight for accessible, liberated education.
  3. Many people fall through the gaps in any means-tested system that assumes parental support – in particular those with unsupportive families, such as many LGBT+ people. The “estrangement” system is broken, but even if we can improve it, it can only help those students who cut themselves off completely from their families. That’s why NUS LGBT+ campaign voted last year to campaign for universal living grants.
  4. Universalism – public services available to absolutely everyone – is a core progressive principle for our movement.
  5. There is plenty of money in society to restore universal grants, plus fund good public services – it’s in the bank accounts and businesses of the wealthy. That wealth should be used to pay not just for their education, but for everyone else’s too.

Conference Resolves

  1. Take up the #GrantsNotDebt campaign to first reverse the cuts to maintenance grants, and then to increase them to a decently live-able level, with additional supplements reflecting the needs of student carers and disabled students, and extend them to all students in FE and HE.
  2. Demand this is funded through progressive taxation such as an increase in corporation tax and taxes on the richest, not by raising taxes on the poorest or cutting public services.

The rent is too damn high!

Conference believes

  1. NUS has already committed to campaign for demands including scrapping letting agents’ fees, taxing empty homes and multiple homes, scrapping council tax, permanent tenancies, a council house building program, and rent controls.
  2. The housing crisis is only getting worse for both students and the rest of society.
  3. The new Housing & Planning Bill is a huge further attack on social housing and will:
    1. Force councils to sell off good quality council housing to private landlords.
    2. Remove secure tenancies from council housing residents.
    3. Push up rents for many council tenants.
    4. Cut investment in social housing.
    5. Undermine the rights of travellers and gypsies.

Conference further believes

  1. Affordable, decent housing is of huge importance to student welfare and to access to education.
  2. Students at SOAS and UCL have shown that rent strikes are a powerful weapon against exploitative landlords.

Conference resolves

  1. Reaffirm the housing campaigning commitments we previously voted for.
  2. Oppose the Housing & Planning Bill and campaign to stop it (and reverse it if it does pass).
  3. Work with the “Kill the Housing Bill” campaign, which is a coalition of trade unions, local tenants’ federations, activist groups and gypsy & travellers associations.
  4. Produce and promote useful information about how to campaign for decent, affordable housing and how to organise rent strikes, and provide support and assistance to student rent strikers.
  5. Continue our commitment to cooperating with non-student housing campaigns and tenants’ organisations, aiming in the end to have unified democratic tenants’ unions for all in every town, city and region.

Defend our local services

Amendment to “SOS – Save Our Services”

ADD:

Conference believes

  1. Relying on Council Tax increases to save services can end up squeezing those who cannot afford it.
  2. We need local action to prevent and reverse cuts to services, and nationwide action to challenge the cuts to local authority budgets.
  3. We must also oppose outsourcing and privatisation, and campaign for public services to be publicly owned, under democratic control – not corner-cutting profiteers or unaccountable undemocratic charities.

Conference further believes

  1. Stopping and reversing local service cuts will usually require action beyond awareness-raising, to create pressure on decision-makers.
  2. Approaching elections we must put forward clear demands based on our democratic policies, use the election period to popularise them, and place pressure on candidates and parties to sign up to them using all effective methods.
  3. In the past, it has been possible for local councils, with the support of their communities, to refuse to implement cuts passed down from central government. Historic refusals to implement local cuts have been incredibly powerful and have caused changes at the national level. This requires not only councillors willing to resist, but an organised local movement ready to back them up with mass action when central government attempts to override them.

Conference resolves

  1. The VP Welfare should develop a strategy working with SUs and allies to win decently funded, publicly-owned services, including:
    1. Campaigns running up to all relevant elections that promote clear demands to protect services and place pressure on candidates and parties to meet those demands, including lobbying, media, protest and direct action.
    2. Complete support for organising efforts and industrial action by service workers against attacks on their pay, working conditions and jobs.
    3. Local lobbying, protest and direct action as appropriate in defence of specific services.
    4. Cooperating with NUS liberation campaigns to provide information, assistance and encouragement for campus liberation groups to campaign against service cuts particularly relevant to their members.
    5. Exploring potential for building local alliances that could effectively support councillors outright refusing to implement cuts, and for convincing councillors to do this.
    6. Campaigning nationally to reverse local government cuts, funded by progressively taxing the rich and business and taking the banking system that we bailed out under democratic public control.

Action to beat Prevent

Conference believes

  1. The racist Prevent agenda is already coming into force on campuses and NUS is rightly campaigning against it.
  2. UCU trade union has voted to equip branches on campuses to open industrial disputes to collectively boycott work duties associated with Prevent.

Conference further believes

  1. We can beat Prevent with collective, democratic action that disrupts its functioning.
  2. Workers responsible for Prevent duties are particularly well-placed to take such action.

Conference resolves

  1. Fully support the initiative of education workers, through their trade unions, boycotting Prevent duties.
  2. Work with education trade unions to facilitate branches taking such action.
  3. Work also with NUS Postgrad Section, as representatives of postgrads who teach, on how casualised student workers can contribute to such action.
  4. Help student unions and students to work with campus trade union branches to encourage, concretely assist and support such action and defend workers against victimisation.
  5. Help student unions and students to organise and support protest and direct action against Prevent on campuses.

Education Zone

Education not for sale – stop the HE reforms

Amendment to “Divorce our courses from market forces”

ADD:

Conference believes:

  1. The proposed reforms presented in the government’s Higher Education Green Paper are a potentially devastating attack on education.
  2. At the time of writing, after the consultation, we were waiting for a revised version of the reform package to be announced.

Conference further believes:

  1. Universities and teaching can be improved by decent public funding and democratic structures, not marketisation.
  2. The autonomy and campaigning activity of Students’ Unions must be defended.
  3. We need to significantly up our work to stop the proposals which, combined with cuts to grants, bursaries and FE colleges, form a potentially devastating attack on public education.

Conference resolves:

  1. To reaffirm our commitment to campaign for free and democratic education at all levels, funded by taxing the rich and their businesses, not by cutting other services or further squeezing those who can’t afford it.
  2. Actively campaign, in collaboration with education trade unions, to stop the proposed Higher Education reforms.
  3. To link fighting the HE reforms to stopping the major cuts threatening further education and to reversing abolitions of grants and bursaries.
  4. To organise a national demonstration in the first half of November 2016, focussed on 3 clear demands directed at the government, against major current attacks on education: #StopTheHEReforms, #StopCollegeCuts, and #GrantsNotDebt.
  5. To invite education trade unions to join us in supporting this demonstration.
  6. To place this action within a wider strategy of protest, direct action and lobbying, with action at both local and national levels.

#StopCollegeCuts – Oppose the FE Area Reviews

Conference believes:

  1. The Government has made huge cuts to FE and sixth form colleges resulting in course and campus closures, mergers and job losses.
  2. In 2015 the Government withdraw all funding for ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) courses, which is having immediate impact on the thousands that relied on these essential courses.
  3. The Government is conducting ‘Area Reviews’ of post-16 education and training in England, which have already begun in 7 regions.
  4. Analysis suggests that up to 4 in 10 colleges could close if the further planned cuts go ahead.
  5. The stated aim of “larger, more efficient, more resilient providers” will lead to college mergers.
  6. Sixth Form Colleges are at particular risk of closure or merger during area reviews.

Conference further believes:

  1. Further and adult education is a vital though often undervalued public good, providing for diverse students with high numbers from disadvantaged and marginalised backgrounds as well as for parents, careers, refugees and those changing career or returning to work.
  2. Further and adult education is being brutally and systematically dismantled. The Area Reviews will only escalate the existing state of crisis facing the sector, with further cuts, courses closures and job losses through mergers and massively narrowed curriculums.
  3. Large, specialist regionalised colleges and sixth forms will reduce opportunities and increase the cost of learning, further damaging access to education.
  4. Colleges have already been regionalised in Scotland and Wales where there has been no evidence that mergers save money though the cuts to courses, teaching and provision have continued.
  5. Area Reviews are focused on satisfying employers and not on education and students’ needs.
  6. The Area Reviews are part of the Government’s attack on the poorest and most vulnerable students, and a part of a wider assault on education.

Conference resolves:

  1. Oppose and actively campaign against the Area Reviews and to halt and reverse all the cuts to FE and ESOL, including organising protest and supporting and encouraging direct action against cuts and college closures.
  2. Educate students about the area reviews and the impact they will have on them, FE lecturers and workers alike, and help them organise against the reviews by offering training and support.
  3. Collaborate with trade unions and other appropriate groups on this.

Trade union rights

Amendment to “Employability isn’t working”

ADD:

Conference believes

  1. The Trade Union Bill would criminalise many forms of trade union activity; further limit the already very limited right to strike; and obstruct trade unions and the workers’ movement from maintaining political representation.
  2. Even before this Bill, there was a whole raft of laws aimed at crippling trade unions and stifling workers’ rights, dating back to the Thatcher government.
  3. The Tories are blatant hypocrites, requiring 40% or more for a strike when their party took office with less than 25% of the electorate.

Conference further believes

  1. The weakening of trade unions is a big reason why so many graduates and others face low pay, insecurity and a lack of rights, even when fortunate enough to find jobs.
  2. NUS should concretely help the campaign for trade union rights.

Conference resolves

  1. To work with unions, the Campaign for Trade Union Freedom and Right to Strike to oppose the TU Bill.
  2. To demand the repeal of all anti-trade union laws and a positive charter of rights: to join a union, organise, strike and do things which make strikes effective, including picketing and solidarity action.
  3. To create a section of the NUS website to promote union membership and highlight the fight for workers’ rights.

Society & Citizenship Zone

Scrap Trident – spend the money on jobs, education and public services

Conference believes

  1. A decision will be made this year whether to renew the UK’s Trident nuclear weapon system.
  2. The £100 billion the government wants to spend on replacing Trident should be spent on decent, socially useful jobs, free education and other public services.
  3. The supposed “deterrent” value of nuclear weapons depends on willingness to use them; and using them would certainly mean vast numbers of civilian deaths immediately and for years to come.
  4. The government wants to spend billions on murderous weapons of mass destruction at the very time it is gutting public services. Our society is not short of money – there is huge wealth in the pockets of the rich – but this is a terrible way to spend those resources.

Conference further believes

  1. The shipyards producing nuclear weapon-carrying submarines (the weapons themselves are bought from the US!) can be converted to produce something else. Governments have converted military industry to civilian purposes many times in the past and workers employed in the arms trade have previously developed plans of their own for such conversion.
  2. The workers involved in these projects should be guaranteed decent alternative jobs producing something socially useful, with no loss of pay or conditions, and a lot money would still be left for public services.

Conference resolves

  1. To campaign against replacing Trident and for nuclear disarmament on the basis set out above.
  2. To facilitate CMs to campaign for money to be spent on free education, jobs and services instead of nuclear weapons.

Defend Migrants: Another Europe is Possible

Conference believes

  1. This year will be the referendum on the UK’s EU membership, and David Cameron is already trying to renegotiate the terms, undermining important rights and attacking migrants.
  2. We should fight to defend the guarantee of freedom of movement for EU citizens (including students travelling to study), and fight to extend it to those currently locked out of “Fortress Europe”.
  3. Despite some progressive policies, the current state of the EU protects the interests of the rich and powerful. It is undemocratic and bureaucratic, and enforces austerity and privatisation.
  4. But the UK state is no less a tool of the rich and powerful. Leaving the EU would only boost anti-migrant racists and strengthen barriers against free movement and international solidarity.

Conference further believes

  1. NUS rightly already opposes Brexit. At the same time, we cannot ignore the EU’s problems. We must argue to stay in as part of a fight for a genuinely democratic and socially just Europe with better rights for migrants.
  2. The big Britain Stronger in Europe campaign is dominated by Tories and business leaders. It’s their campaign to defend the EU as it is now, and so can’t be a voice for the kind of Europe we want. The Another Europe is Possible (AEIP) campaign and Workers’ Europe have been set up to organise a progressive, anti-austerity, internationalist opposition to Brexit.

Conference resolves

  1. Campaign for the UK to stay in the EU, but on our own basis as above, for:
    1. international student and workers’ solidarity
    2. levelling up of wages, conditions, services and rights across the EU
    3. democratisation including a sovereign European Parliament
    4. freedom of movement and an end to “Fortress Europe”
  2. Campaign against David Cameron’s renegotiations undermining migrant rights, workers’ rights and human rights.
  3. To work independently from the Tory- and big-business-dominated “Britain Stronger in Europe”, instead promoting a positive vision by working with AEIP and Workers’ Europe, and student unions and trade unions across Europe.
  4. Put migrants’ rights and freedom of movement at the heart of our campaign.

Climate change

Conference believes

  1. The recent COP21 climate talks produced a lot of rhetoric, but insufficient concrete commitment on tackling dangerous climate change.
  2. The $100 billion pledged to help developing countries meet the COP21 targets is less than 8% of global military spending, to say nothing of corporate profits.
  3. COP21 had little to say about droughts, floods, crop failures, species extinctions, coastal erosion and extreme weather, and nothing about climate-driven mass migration.
  4. The UK government’s seriousness about meeting a zero emissions target by 2030 is shown by the fact it recently scrapped a £1bn competition to develop carbon capture technology and cut subsidies to solar power 65%.

Conference further believes

  1. Promoting lifestyle changes and relying on markets won’t save us.
  2. Tackling climate change requires massive public spending on developing alternative energy, transport, redesign of housing, workplaces, urban environments, and more, tied to democratic public ownership in these sectors.
  3. Unsustainable industries need to be taken under democratic public ownership, their infrastructure converted and jobs transferred to prevent lay-offs.
  4. We need mass mobilisation around these goals, linking up students and climate campaigners with the workers’ movement.

Conference resolves

  1. Make campaigning against climate change and for a sustainable world a major priority this year, highlighting demands for public ownership and democratic control of energy and transport.
  2. Highlight the government’s lack of seriousness about reaching zero emissions by 2030.
  3. Build links with trade unions on this, including support for unions representing the solar energy workers whose jobs the government is slashing.

A good local community school for every student

Conference believes

  1. The drive, accelerated by the Tories but also promoted by New Labour, to break up and undermine comprehensive secondary school education in various ways, is bad for children, education workers and society.
  2. Academies and free schools are ways of chopping up and semi-privatising education.
  3. The spread of state-funded religious schools in various forms is also part of this process, in addition strengthening sectarian divisions between people and, in some cases, handing control of education to bigoted conservative religious groups with negative consequences for sex education, LGBT+ rights, women’s rights and more.
  4. Research has shown that not only do faith schools’ selection criteria discriminate against the children of parents with other or no religion, it is also easier for middle-class parents to “game” their selection criteria, helping to pass on unfair advantage to their children.

Conference further believes

  1. State-funded schools should be neutral on questions of religious belief – every school should be an equally inclusive place for students of all religions and none, and where every student is free to believe and practice their own religion or lack of religion.
  2. Every child should be able to attend a good, local community school, and that all state schools should be open-access, secular community schools, run by the local authority.
  3. School students have run inspiring campaigns to stop their schools being converted into academies – NUS should reach out to support them with our resources and platform.

Resolves

  1. To campaign for a place at a good, local community school run by the local authority to be available for every child.
  2. To campaign for academies, free schools, grammar schools and state-funded religious schools to be turned into secular, open-access community schools run by the local authority, and for private schools at the very least to have their charitable status removed.
  3. To work with education workers’ unions, the Anti-Academies Alliance, school students who are organising, and other appropriate groups.

Syria, Daesh, Kurdistan and the war

Conference Believes

  1. The ongoing war launched by Assad against the Syrian people in 2011
  2. The expansion of Daesh and far-right sectarian militias amongst the anti-Assad opposition
  3. The Kurdish struggle for national liberation in Syria, Iraq and Turkey
  4. The UK bombing campaign begun in 2015
  5. The ongoing intervention by many imperialist powers, including Iran, Russia, France, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, the USA, the UK and their proxies.

Conference Further Believes

  1. Cameron’s bombing campaign in Syria cannot defeat Daesh, but can only increase the suffering of the Syrian people. It is cynically motivated, and designed only to increase the UK’s “prestige” internationally.
  2. Assad’s regime is monstrous and must go; and the Russian campaign to shore up his regime is equally monstrous
  3. If the UK government were interested in fighting Daesh or Al-Qaeda, it would stop the flow of support to them from UK allies: Turkey and the Gulf States
  4. The struggle of the Kurdish people for self-determination, against Daesh and the racist Erdogan government, deserves our support
  5. The Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) democratically represents a large proportion of Kurds and is a major force fighting effectively against Daesh and for the Kurds to be free, so it should be removed from the UK and EU lists of banned organisations.

Resolves

  1. To support the call to remove the PKK from the UK and EU ban lists.
  2. To issue statements, organise meetings and support mobilisations in support of the Kurdish struggle; in support of secular and democratic forces in Syria and humanitarian efforts to support the Syrian population.
  3. To send NUS banners to, and mobilise students to participate in, protests against the UK bombing of Syria.

Union Development Zone

Free speech and no platform

Conference believes

  1. Freedom of speech at education institutions has been a huge source of controversy recently, with arguments over both student groups’ calls to ban certain speakers, and the government’s racist policing of freedom of expression through Prevent.
  2. Restrictions imposed by a student union are different to those imposed by the government, but they can still be problematic. Movements like ours seek to challenge existing authorities and challenge the existing dominant ideas. That means freedom to debate ideas, is vital to our goals. The oppressed have the most to lose from attacks on democratic rights.
  3. Beyond certain clear limits, i.e. fascism, policing ideas and discussion among our members is not an appropriate activity for students’ unions; it weakens our case to the wider public when we want to oppose restrictions imposed by management and the government.

Conference further believes

  1. NUS is rightly committed to a tactic of no platform for fascists. This is not based on the idea that fascist ideas are too dangerous (for instance, we don’t support banning historical fascist texts from our libraries). Fascism is an organised movement that uses physical force to crush workers’, left and student groups and oppressed people. Fascists have declared physical war on us, so we can’t give them any space to operate.
  2. This is different to those who have bigoted views, who must be countered through argument and protest, not bans. No-platform tactics are ineffective against widely-held bigoted views.
  3. All of this is about political policy: it is a different matter from excluding individuals who are personally violent or dangerous, which is reasonable.

Conference resolves

  1. We reaffirm our commitment to a policy of no platform for fascists.
  2. As a general principle, NUS will combat reactionary, bigoted ideas politically, through argument and protest, rather than through tactics of bans and no platform.

For democratic, campaigning student unions

Amendment to “Students’ unions are valued for student engagement in learning, help us NUS”

DELETE: CR2, CR3

ADD:

Conference believes

  1. The most basic act of engagement and participation that student unions need to get right is participation and representation of students in unions. We need unions to be democratic, open to their members, and to meet a basic set of democratic standards.
  2. Without being democratic, unions cannot meaningfully facilitate the Learner Voice.
  3. At conference 2015, we passed a set of basic democratic processes and standards.
  4. NUS’s offer of advice and consultation to its members should not be “affordable” – it should be free, and included in membership contributions. It would be better to put up affiliation fees than to limit poorer unions’ access to proper advice.

Conference further believes

  1. We should reaffirm policy passed at last conference, that unions need:
    1. Elected, not appointed, representatives
    2. A flow of easily accessible information to members (records of decisions, reports from elected officers, etc);
    3. Regular, well-built General Meetings and/or Councils;
    4. Councils open to all to attend, speak and put motions;
    5. All important decisions to be made by students and their elected representatives;
    6. Autonomous liberation campaigns, and preferably full-time Liberation officers
    7. SU independence from institutional management, including guaranteed, secure resources and space; means of communication with members; automatic annual elections; and accountable election returning officers with no employment or trusteeship connection with the institution.

Conference resolves

  1. NUS will include the above basic democratic standards in any advice given to member unions on engagement and participation.
  2. NUS’s advice to its member unions will be free

Defending Our Unions

Amendment to “The Impact of Student Opportunities”

ADD:

Conference Believes:

  1. In almost every case where there has been a majority Conservative government, there has been an attack on Students’ Unions: on our ability to organise, on our funding and autonomy.
  2. The reason why some in the political establishment hate Students’ Unions is because we are democratic and collectivist organisations, which are allied to a wider labour movement, and which have a track record of fighting – and often defeating – governments and managements.
  3. The existence of democratic, participatory spaces and organisations on campuses does not sit comfortably with any vision for a marketised or privatised education system.
  4. When Margaret Thatcher tried to attack the autonomy and finances of Students’ Unions in the 1970s, NUS, led by President Digby Jacks, organised a mass student mobilisation which led to the proposals being withdrawn.

Conference Further Believes:

  1. Attacks on Students’ Unions are the result of an agenda to push education into the private sector, and an elite which – rightly – sees unions as a threat to their power to make cuts, undermine academic freedom, and attack students and education workers.
  2. Students’ Unions political and campaigning activity is essential to their function of fighting for students’ rights, and must be defended.
  3. If the government tries to undermine Students’ Unions, we will need a campaign of mass mobilisation, including protest and direct action.

Conference Resolves:

  1. NUS will actively oppose any restrictions to the autonomy, and the political and campaigning activity, of Students’ Unions.
  2. We will seek to persuade decision-makers and to build support for Students’ Unions among the wider public. But we have to be prepared to raise hell as well as build bridges.
  3. To prepare for a campaign of mass mobilisation and direct action, on a scale never seen before, if the government attempts to legislate to undermine Students’ Unions.

Make FE union development our #1 priority

Conference believes

  1. The most pressing union development need in NUS is in further education. FE students constitute a huge majority of NUS’s membership, but make up a tiny proportion of those who attend training events; who become FTOs; and who attend as delegates at democratic conferences. This is despite the fact that FE is facing a massive assault from the government.
  2. Despite this, NUS UK has spent a very small proportion of its time and political focus building autonomous FE unions.
  3. Much of the personal effort of NUS UK officers, and much of the focus for NUS’s governance review processes, has been grounded in “listening” to a narrow demographic of sabbatical officers in higher education. This is a comfort zone for many of NUS’s national leadership: sabbs are often people like them, who have the same political agendas, and the same pre-occupation with democratic bodies passing policy they don’t like.
  4. Many of the outcomes of NUS’s governance reviews and internal developments have reflected this: they have produced a whole set of events – such as Zone Conferences and the annual SU convention – which are geared towards catering for sabbs, and require significant resources to attend.

Conference further believes

  1. The reason why there such a low participation of FE students in NUS is not because FE students are apathetic. It is primarily because many FE unions do not exist in a meaningful form: some do not hold elections, or have democratic structures.
  2. NUS should spend more time building mass participation, and less time telling sabbs that they are special and clever. Our number one priority in union development, and in any future governance reviews, should be engaging the mass of NUS’s membership: by educating, training and supporting students in FE to organise and form activist groups on their campuses to oppose the onslaught of attacks on FE and to push for, alongside the NUS, the creation of autonomous, democratic unions in every school, college and university.

Conference resolves

  1. To make the development and creation of activist groups and unions in further education our number one priority in the Union Development Zone.
  2. Mass education, training and support to equip FE students with the knowledge and skills to form activist groups on campus to organise against attacks on FE and to push for the creation of unions
  3. FE union development means:
    1. Autonomous unions, that have their own resources and cannot be interfered with by management
    2. Unions having access to their own membership data and contact details
    3. An executive of officers elected by cross campus ballot
    4. Regular democratic meetings: an elected council or general meetings
    5. Full time officers
    6. Functioning and autonomous liberation groups
  4. To launch a review of NUS’s events, with the aim of making a much higher proportion of them accessible and relevant to students – including FE students – and not to a relatively tiny number of sabbs and “senior leaders”.

Annual General Meeting

Governance reviews – some basic principles

Conference believes

  1. NUS is currently undergoing a governance review.
  2. NUS is basically always undergoing a governance review, depending on the various agendas a motivations of the current FTO team.
  3. Governance reviews often seem boring, but they are unavoidably political and can have a massive impact on what NUS does – and by extension on the lives of the students we represent.
  4. The current governance review – Project 100 – is not being put to conference this year. Instead, it has been briefed to sabbatical officers and SU staff at various events, and approved only by the trustee board.

Conference resolves

  1. To establish the following principles for the governance review:
    1. Governance reforms should be launched and governed by democratic processes, such as conference and NEC. They should not be hidden in board papers.
    2. We should embrace digital technology and new forums and forms for debate
    3. There should be no reduction in the space and time allotted to democratic sessions as a result of changes to NUS structures. In fact it should be expanded.
    4. National Conference must remain the sovereign policy-making body of NUS, and participation in it should be widened.
    5. The overwhelming priority for NUS should be involvement of students and development of unions which cannot participate under the current system.

Fund the Block to do their jobs

Conference believes

  1. The Block of 15 are currently unpaid, and have no access to funding their own activities.
  2. This means that Block of 15 members who want to do a lot of activism while in office often have to live in poverty, as they cannot take on full time work or part time work alongside their studies. It also means that the Block of 15, whose job is to scrutinise FTOs, have to go begging to FTOs in order to attend events – creating a clear conflict of interest.
  3. This was not always the case: the Block of 15 used to be paid a part time stipend and had an autonomous budget.

Conference further believes

  1. Having 15 officers without portfolio travelling around the country, assisting with campaigns, implementing NUS policy and acting on their initiative would be a major boon to NUS.
  2. NUS spends lots of money on all kinds of things. Paying the Block of 15 a part time stipend would not cost a lot in the grand scheme of things, but it would mean that they were independent and effective – which at present they are often not.

Conference resolves

  1. From this year, to create an autonomous budget code within the NEC budget which can be controlled collectively by the Block of 15 for campaigns and travel costs.
  2. To pay the Block of 15 a stipend of at least £5000 from this year.
  3. To mandate the Trustee Board and NEC to produce estimates for national conference 2017 which include an annual stipend of £9000 for each member of the Block of 15 – with additional regional pay weightings  for those who qualify under NUS’s existing pay structure.

Regional organising – make it a priority

Conference believes

  1. Not so long ago, NUS had thriving regional organisations, which held their own conferences, had their own full time officers, and conducted their own campaigns.
  2. NUS Areas still exist in the constitution, but have rarely been implemented and have been majorly deprioritised. An Area can come into being if recognised by the NEC under Rule 2000.
  3. Better regional support and organisation would hold big benefits for members: it is cost-effective and it is often more accessible way to organise.

Conference resolves

  1. To mandate the incoming NEC to pro-actively recognise Area Organisations for relevant geographical areas, and to ensure that Areas are adequately resourced in being given the opportunity to get off the ground.
  2. The operation of Areas should be open and responsive to students – and participation in setting them up and attending their events should not be limited to sabbatical officers.

Make conference more accessible and representative

Conference believes

  1. Because they are driven by political agendas just as often as they are by evidence base, not all of the outcomes of governance reviews are good for democracy. Over the past ten years:
    1. NUS national conference has shrunk significantly, with many delegations more than halving in size.
    2. NUS national conference has become shorter, meaning that a very large proportion of the motions submitted are never discussed and conference is woefully inaccessible.
    3. NUS’s events have become more and more focussed on catering for a small demographic of full time officers and senior staff.

Conference further believes

  1. We should always embrace change, and use innovative methods for giving members a voice. However, we should also not compromise on basic democratic standards, and we should not be afraid of ditching and reversing things which haven’t worked.

Conference resolves

  1. To mandate the incoming President, DPC and NEC to find the resources to extend national conference for an extra day in time for national conference 2017.
  2. To directly mandate an extra day for NUS national conference from 2018 onwards.
  3. To mandate the incoming DPC to investigate the costs of increasing the size of delegations to national conference. This report should include a number of options, to be presented to national conference 2017, up to a doubling of the current delegate entitlements. The report should integrate these options with proposals for additional liberation quotas.
  4. To mandate the incoming DPC to investigate the costs of holding a second policy-making conference to merge with Zones, with a number of options to be presented to national conference 2017 – ranging from a delegate size the same size as national conference, to a much smaller delegate entitlement.

NUS should oppose EU exit: but not by joining hands with Tories and big business

europe against austerityBen Towse, NUS Postgraduate Committee

The upcoming referendum could see the UK quit the EU in a storm of nationalism, xenophobia, conservatism and “Little Englander” isolationism, tearing up social and human rights and further shutting down freedom of movement. The consequences would be dire, and NCAFC members at our most recent conference rightly voted to campaign against exit.

We discovered in today’s news that our NUS President Megan Dunn has joined the official “In Campaign” board, alongside Conservative, Lib Dem and Blairite politicians, business leaders and the former head of the Army.

It is good that the President is respecting NUS policy by campaigning against exit. However, this is the wrong way to do it. And by reports from other NUS officers and representatives, Dunn did this entirely without consultation or democratic input (which is becoming a bit of a habit for her).

We don’t just oppose exit, we also oppose the current state of the EU. It guarantees freedom of movement for many, but erects a “Fortress Europe” against migrants. It helps guarantee certain rights, but enforces neoliberal economic policies. It is painted as a beacon of solidarity between nations, but its democracy is lacking and it stands for, and imposes, the interests of the rich and powerful – the ruling class.

Of course, having the UK quit won’t solve any of these problems. Our national governments are no better, and hold no more potential for the left than the EU does. The left cannot argue to retreat into our respective nation-states and re-raise borders and division: that can only be reactionary. Instead, we have to fight for a better Europe, and indeed a better world – open borders and genuine democracy, freedom and social justice – a socialist Europe and a socialist world. Transforming Europe will require a massive fight by an internationalist left, based in the workers’ movement and on an understanding of the fundamentally opposed interests that are at play. We can only win people to this campaign by setting out our ideas clearly, and drawing an uncompromising line between ourselves and those who want the EU to remain a tool of business and the ruling class.

The campaign against exit cannot and must not be separated from our efforts to transform Europe. By joining forces with Tories, business leaders and generals to campaign against exit, the NUS President is providing them with left cover and, in practice, helping them to reinforce the status quo. Any attempt to put forward a distinct vision will be futile unless we as a movement break with those people.

Instead of joining the same team as our opponents, the student movement should link up with the labour movement and the rest of the left, in the UK and across Europe, to fuse an independent campaign against exit with a forward-looking, positive campaign for a democratic, socially just Europe. Our campaign should be democratic and grassroots, not run by a self-appointed board. And it should focus energy right now on opposing David Cameron’s attempts to renegotiate the terms of union to attack migrants, workers or civil liberties. We have to stop the tide, and start pushing it back in the other direction.

Have an opinion on this? NCAFC wants to facilitate debate among its members and can publish opinion articles and responses – email [email protected]

Emergency motion proposed to 3 Dec NUS National Exec after free education demo

NCAFCNCAFC members and supporters have submitted the following emergency motion to the 3 December NUS National Executive Council meeting in Liverpool, follwing the success of our free education demo.

In the aftermath of the appalling move by the NUS leadership to withdraw support in the run-up to the demonstration (despite a democratic mandate from the NEC), we demand that our national union reinstates its support for a meaningful campaign for free education. A meaningful campaign – a campaign that can win – must embrace protest and direct action, such as the days of action that NCAFC has called on 3 and 6 December. It must respond firmly against violence and repression inflicted on student protesters by police. And it must hold to account both the Coalition government and Labour for their failures on the question of education funding.

We are calling on the NUS National Executive to pass this motion and commit to the fight.

EMERGENCY MOTION: RESPONSE TO 19 NOVEMBER DEMONSTRATION

NUS NEC notes

1. The big turn out, positive vibe and impact of the 19 November free education demonstration.
2. The violence and repression police once again handed out to student protesters, including arrests, assaults by the cops and one student from Goldsmiths who was badly beaten and had to go to hospital immediately after his release.
3. That the government has responded to the demo by saying that it has no intention of abolishing fees, and that free education is incompatible with well-funded universities; while the Labour Party has not responded at all.
4. That the racists of UKIP demagogically “expressed support” for the demo, while also condemning alleged student violence.

NUS NEC believes

1. That the thousands of students who worked to make the demonstration a success should be congratulated.
2. That it is vital that NUS speaks out, firstly, to condemn the police response and secondly to challenge the government and Labour on the question of education funding.

NUS NEC resolves

1. To reaffirm our support for free education.
2. To issue a statement condemning the police violence on the demo, and replying to the government’s claims (we want a free, well-resourced education system, in both FE and HE, and other services funded by taking wealth from the rich).
3. To include a call on Labour to adopt free education as its policy.
4. To support and promote the upcoming 3 and 6 December days of action.