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.


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.

NCAFC members to elect candidates for NUS leadership: nominations open now

Logo of the National Union of StudentsAs part of our National Conference 12-14 December, where we will debate and decide on plans for where to take our movement next, the NCAFC’s members will also select our endorsed candidates for the Presidency and Vice-Presidencies of the National Union of Students.

Nominations are open now and will close at 23:59 Monday 1 December [extended to 23:59 Saturday 6 December]. Please read the details below about submitting nominations.

Mass mobilisation and democratic organising for protest, direct action and industrial action are the NCAFC’s focus. As activists we work both within student union structures – transforming them where we can – and independently of them as much as we need to. We aim to build a movement in our campuses, workplaces and communities, not just to win control of formal organisations. It is tempting to imagine, as some on the left do, that electoral victories at the top could offer a short-cut past the hard work of developing a healthy, democratic movement and union from the bottom up – this is a mistake.

Nevertheless, participating in these elections is worthwhile because they are a platform – one of many opportunities to argue for our ideas, challenge the direction of the bureaucratised NUS, and present the alternatives of a principled, militant student movement and a fighting, democratic union. And though elected officers are no substitute for a movement, they can help to build that alternative if they remain connected to the movement that put them there.

Therefore our candidates must be selected by, and democratically accountable to, our movement. So we invite potential candidates to put their proposed political platforms forward, and we invite members to.

See also: how to submit proposals and run for election to the NCAFC’s National Committee

USI Congress 2013 – Report from Aisling Gallagher, NUS USI Women’s Officer

NCAFC are republishing this statement and report from USI Congress, by Aisling Gallagher, NUS USI Women’s Officer

[Read more…]

Make NUS Fight! Statement on the National Union of Students Conference 2013

To add your name to this statement, email [email protected] or ring 07840 136 728

We the undersigned are fighting for this year’s National Union of Students conference to dramatically change NUS’s direction.

The anti-privatisation struggle at Sussex University, including the magnificent demonstration on 25 March, once again shows the student movement’s huge potential. But at the moment NUS is not helping to fulfil that potential.

No organisation, even the most grassroots-based, democratic and militant, can generate mass movements at will. But a national student union could act to educate, organise and mobilise its members so that struggles are more likely and that when they happen, they can win – as took place with CLASSE in Quebec.

NUS is not the only possible framework for national student coordination. Nonetheless, it is important. Many thousands of students across the country look to it; the vast majority of student unions are affiliated; and the national union has financial and human resources which could be used more effectively to massively boost the movement.

At this year’s NUS conference, we will be supporting activist left candidates for the National Executive Council. This year a larger number of activist, left-wing SU officers have been elected – we want to carry that through into the national union, to win a new NUS leadership. We will also be fighting to change NUS policy and pushing for left wing policies passed this year and in previous years to be carried out.

We oppose all cuts to services, jobs and benefits. We demand the cancellation of student debt, free education and living grants for all students, in higher and further education. We demand taxation of the rich and expropriation of the banks – which were bailed out at our expense, but continue to function to make profits and generate inequality – to fund decent education and services for all. Instead of just “celebrating the public value of education”, we want a fight against privatisation and for a public, democratically run education system. We want NUS to campaign seriously on student housing and in defence of the NHS.

We demand one hundred percent support for struggles like Sussex. We want a year-long campaign of demonstrations, protests, direct action and occupations, coordinated with workers’ struggles, to push back cuts, privatisation and fees and go on the offensive. We want a real campaign to help FE students organise and mobilise. We support building a ‘Take Back Your Campus’ campaign for the right to organise and protest, and for democracy in how our institutions are run.

Instead of relying on the Labour Party leadership and the Lib Dems, NUS should be fighting to overthrow the Coalition and working with the trade unions and the left to impose radical demands on the next Labour government.

We stand in solidarity with workers on our campuses and beyond. We support the fight for a Living Wage and a Living Minimum Wage. We want to organise students who work. We demand tough measures including links with the Workers’ Rights Consortium to ensure workers producing university/college merchandise have union rights. We want the anti-union laws abolished so workers can fight for their rights.

We want NUS to take strong stands for migrants’ rights, against immigration controls, for a woman’s right to choose and against racism and fascism.

Last but not least, we support the many motions that have been submitted to expand NUS democracy. We want resources moved from bureaucracy to democracy and campaigning. We support increasing the size and length of conference. We oppose the proposal attacking student unions’ and Liberation Campaigns’ rights to submit as many motions as they want, within the word limit. We also support a fight for more democracy in student unions, and for NUS to side clearly with sabbs victimised by SU management for political campaigning.

Please sign and circulate this statement!

James McAsh, NCAFC NC, Edinburgh University President, NUS VP UD Candidate
Rosie Huzzard, NCAFC NC, Sheffield College, NUS VP Welfare & Block of 15 Candidate, PCS DWP Sheffield Young Members Officer
Thais Yanez, NCAFC NC, Birkbeck College, NUS Block of 15 Candidate
Daniel Lemberger-Cooper, NCAFC NC, ULU Vice President
Hona-Luisa Cohen-Fuentes, NCAFC Womens Committee, Edinburgh University External Council
Edward Maltby, NCAFC NC
Beth Redmond, NCAFC NC, Liverpool John Moores University
Jack Saffery-Rowe, NCAFC LGBTQ Rep (open place), Royal Holloway SU LGBT Officer-elect
Ben Towse, UCL Union Postgraduate Students’ Officer & UCL UCU Branch Executive Committee (pc)
Rob Henthorn, NCAFC Scotland Committee, Aberdeen University
Oli Rushby, Trustee, Royal Holloway Students’ Union
Jamie Green, SURHUL Vice President & NUS Delegate
Roshni Joshi, NUC NEC & NCAFC NC
Omar Raii, UCL Union NUS Delegate & Halls Representative
Michael Segalov, Sussex Against Privatisation
Kelly Parry, Vice President Edinburgh College Students’ Association, NUS Scotland SEC (priority campaign convener), NCAFC member
Gary Paterson, Scottish Executive Committee (Communities Campaign Convener) Elect, NUS Scotland & University Strathclyde Students Association.
Alannah Ainslie, NCAFC Womens committee, Aberdeen University.
Lani Baird, President Aberdeen College, NCAFC Scotland LGBTQ Rep (intersectional), FE Rep NUS Scotland & UK LGBT committee 2011-13, FE Rep NUS UK Womens’ Committee 2013-14
Alex Peters-Day, LSESU general secretary
Esther Townsend, NCAFC Women’s Committee & University of East London)

NCAFC and NUS on Joint Committee on Human Rights at Parliament

Simon Hardy, National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, and Aaron Porter, National Union of Students, have given witness of police infringement of human rights on the last student demonstrations.

On the table was particularly the “kettling” technique and overall police violence.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights consists of twelve members appointed from both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The Committee is charged with considering human rights issues in the UK.

The Committee undertakes thematic inquiries on human rights issues and reports its findings and recommendations to the House. It scrutinises all Government Bills and picks out those with significant human rights implications for further examination.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR), chaired by Andrew Dismore MP, consists of Members of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

Thematic Inquiries

As part of its work, the Committee undertakes inquiries into human rights issues during which it seeks evidence from a wide range of groups and individuals with relevant interests and experience. Initially the Committee calls for written evidence from interested parties, which is usually followed by taking oral evidence from a selection of those who submitted written evidence.

A report is usually then produced setting out the Committee’s findings and making recommendations to the Government.

Aaron Porter issues support for occupations

This morning at 11am, NUS President Aaron Porter visited UCL Occupation to apologise for his “dithering” over support for autonomous student action, and agreed to advocate occupations as a legitimate form of protest against fees and cuts, as well as pledging political, legal and financial aid for all existant and future student occupations.

Occupiers issued the following list of demands to Porter, all of which were agreed to unconditionally:

  • to publicly support all student occupations- on the frontpage of the NUS website and all available media.
  • to call immediately for a new wave of occupations as a legitimate form of protest against fees and cuts.
  • to organise financial, legal & political aid for all current and future occupations.
  • to call a national day of action on the day of the parliamentary vote on tuition fees.
  • to officially support any staff taking further industrial action on cuts in the education sector.

The occupation of the Jeremy Bentham Room in UCL began on Wednesday at 12:15pm as part of NCAFC’s national day of action. Occupiers held the President, who has become a widely controversial figure in the student movement in recent weeks, to account.

He also criticised the NUS for being “spineless” over recent years by refusing to support student protests.

The UCL Occupation intends to continue indefinitely until its demands of the university management, including the issuing of a public statement against fee rises and HE budget cuts, are met. You can support those demands here.

A number of NCAFC activists are involved in the UCL Occupation. The liberated Jeremy Bentham Room is in fact the location of NCAFC’s founding convention.

Tweet your solidarity with the UCL occupiers:

Aaron Porter talks at UCL Occupation

… and in The Independent (15 November)

The Independent‘s Education Editor, Richard Garner, has published today the article “Students retreat from national demonstrations”, in which he mentions the way in which the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts is splitting the student movement.

Mr Garner is, naturally, refering to the dichotomy between the National Union of Students leadership and the NCAFC about the National Walkout and Day of Action on the 24th of November. [Read more…]

National Demo Route

After meeting up early on the 10th of November at ULU, the Free Educartion Bloc feeder march is joining UCU and NUS at Horse Guards Avenue.

From there the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts and everyone else is marching all the way to the rally in London Bridge.

We will be posting our route (ULU – Horse Guards Ave) soon, but in the meantime you can have a look at the logistics of the national demonstration and at a map of the route here.

Pressure mounts on NUS as education campaigns call for fightback

Education campaigns are "demanding extra" from the NUS

The NUS needs to take action against cuts and fees, and it needs to do it now.

In the couple of weeks running up to today’s anti-cuts conference in Birmingham, statements have been released by a number of different education campaigning groups and student activists demanding Britain’s National Student Union calls for a national demonstration against the swingeing cuts to higher and further education.

[Read more…]