By Faz Velmi and Jim Bywater
Left student campaigners who attended the recent National Union of Students conference, have, along with other students, including supporters of the Campaign for Free Education, come together in a new student forum. We aim to develop a broad campaigning alternative in the student movement.
This new initiative is a considered but urgent response to the situation inside our national union. A new right-wing leadership has now been elected in NUS. Apolitical "independents" now have more control on the National Executive than Labour Students (who had been in control for nearly 20 years). And two Tory students got elected for the first time in over a decade. The drive to turn NUS into a business union is greater than ever.
Much of the blame for the growth of the independent right can be fairly laid at the door of Labour Students. They ran NUS for thirteen or so years, in preparation for a Labour government. This meant consistently selling out students, refusing to make solidarity with workers in struggle and thwarting the actions of rank and file students. At the same time most of them were busily developing their careers as future Labour MPs.
For the last five years, while we have had a Labour Government, they have often talked left but acted right when handling Labour's outrageous attacks on students. At the same time they have tried to sell us the virtues of Labour's policies on privatisation and war.
Now, more than ever, the student movement in Britain needs a broad, open and democratic fighting alternative to this inward-looking leadership. Serious-minded students who care about the state of the world, want to do more than talk about cheap beer deals for student unions. Today we see the threat of war, including nuclear war, dominate the international agenda. We see the growth of the far right across Europe. Students need a forum that can discuss and develop serious, political ideas and act on them.
* An open campaign that can bring together and organise active students on domestic issues such as education, democracy in the National Union, funding and on broader issues too - against the privatisation of public services and attacks on workers rights.
* A campaigning alternative that will take up the fight for equality, human and civil rights and will do more than pay lip service to crucial environmental issues.
* A broad umbrella campaign that brings together student campaigners on a wide range of issues.
The Student Campaign Forum has been set up to do just this.
We call on all left and radical students to support and build the Campaign Forum in colleges around the country. We will work with other groups and clubs in colleges. We will go out to the wider community, working with asylum seeker and refugee campaigns, working with environmentalists, anti-capitalists, trade unions on and off campus.
We will invite debate and discussion to develop ideas. We will call and organise joint action. We will organise action around the Forum's central demands (see box). We will build an open, democratic campaign that's united and fighting!
Join with us to build a campaign from the bottom upwards. We want to take the best activists in the colleges into the structures of NUS in order to turn the National Union into a fighting and democratic body.
Over the coming months we will be preparing and organising for the start of the new term in September. Get involved!
London launch of the
Student Campaign Forum
Wednesday 19 June
ULU, Malet St, WC1
More information: Faz Velmi 07771 720935 or Kath Owen 07818 307961, or e-mail the SCF.