Left slate challenges NUS leaders

Submitted by Matthew on 21 January, 2015 - 10:11

The left-wing National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts network (NCAFC) has initiated a left slate of candidates to stand for President and the five Vice President positions in the National Union of Students (NUS).

Workers’ Liberty member Beth Redmond from City & Islington College is standing for President, and RS21 member Barnaby Raine of Oxford University for Vice President (Union Development). Both are also standing for the part-time Block of 15 section of NUS National Executive. Unaffiliated socialist Hattie Craig, former Birmingham Guild of Students Vice President, is standing for VP (Higher Education).

For the VP (Society & Citizenship) position, NCAFC has said it will support left incumbent Piers Telemaque (former President at Bradford College), who is supporting the rest of the slate, if he makes a strong statement over NUS’s betrayal of the free education demo.

The NUS leadership’s candidate for President is likely to be Megan Dunn, the current VP (Higher Education) who was key to NUS withdrawing its support from demo in November.

NUS conference takes place in Liverpool, 21-23 April.

“A movement that helps people fight and win”

An interview with unaffiliated socialist Hattie Craig, who is standing for NUS Vice President Higher Education.

I’ve been involved in education activism since the big struggles of 2010, when I was a sixth former in Northamptonshire.

As a student union (SU) sabbatical I saw NUS more from the inside, and that just reinforced my view further. Very few NUS officials say anything radical; many fewer do anything radical. Finally, being involved in NCAFC and organising last term’s national demo gave me a very direct experience of NUS standing in the way of student struggle. I’m standing to promote a student movement and national union that helps students fight and win.

What are your key demands?

We want to build up a grassroots movement on the streets and on campuses.

This will not be won through deft negotiations with VCs and politicians, but by putting the pressure on through struggle. And we have a wider conception of free education. We want living grants for all, we want decent housing, we want a diverse, liberatory curriculum. We need to challenge the racist and xenophobic situation faced by international students. We need to build solidarity with campus workers and fight for democracy in our institutions.

What can student activists do about this?

Get delegated to conference, put motions through your SU, come along and caucus with us. Even if you’re not a delegate help out.

But it’s also about building the campaign for free education, joining NCAFC, building up local organisation and activism. It’s about making political arguments on your campus. It’s partly about doing things we should all be doing anyway, but we hope the NUS campaign will help with that as well as being helped by it.

What’s the measure of success?

The most important thing is to come away with a stronger movement, make new links, win new activists for NCAFC and get more people involved in campaigning.

Obviously we want to win free education again, hopefully by a bigger margin, but there are other things to fight for too. Living grants is a big deal.

We don’t just want bursaries or a promise to bring back EMA, but a decent income for all students.

“Class-struggle arguments for a different movement”

An interview with Workers’ Liberty member Beth Redmond, who is standing for NUS President.

I’m coming into this NUS candidacy in a different way from the majority of candidates, even candidates the left has stood.

I have never been a sabbatical officer, but have been heavily involved in grassroots organising over the past two years. The disconnect between the National Union of Students and actual activists on the ground is worth highlighting over and over.

I played a big role in organising the national demonstration last term, alongside other women in NCAFC, and I experienced first hand just how cynical some of the NUS leadership are. I never fully understood just how much electioneering and posturing these people do. Some of them backed the demo for electoral reasons; some of them backed out of supporting it because of elections next year. It’s hard to know what these people actually think about anything except their own importance. It’s difficult to trust what these people are doing with our national union when all they seem to care about is their own career. My candidacy is the opposite of that: grassroots organising and clear socialist politics.

I’m going to be talking about free education, living grants, opposing cuts, student housing, as well as wider political questions like the General Election, migrants’ rights, international solidarity and building links with workers’ in struggle. I’m going to argue to transform the NUS and student unions into militant, political, campaigning organisations, and aim to build student struggle on campuses and on the streets.

I will make anti-capitalist, class-struggle arguments for a different student movement as an essential part of the fight for a different society.

Isn’t NUS a waste of time?

The chance to speak to that many students about my politics and ideas is too good to pass up.

No one can deny that NUS has major reach and influence in sections of the student movement, and if we trace back the steps of this new free education movement we can see that it initially came from NUS. I’ve met very good activists because of it, who stayed involved when NUS turned its back on us.

We capitalise on the sabbatical officers we have in NCAFC because they have things we so desperately need; money, space and time to organise.

If I won, I could carry on organising but be exponentially more effective by having access to a wealth of necessary resources.

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