AT the Extraordinary NUS Conference on 4 December, the NUS leadership narrowly managed to pass its wide-ranging Governance Review. The Review will seriously damage NUS as a democratic institution that represents and campaigns for students, replacing its already bureaucratic structures with layer upon layer of inaccessible conferences and committees.
Throughout the day the right wing steadfastly refused to actually discuss the proposals contained in the review, preferring instead to focus on general calls for “change”. This was just one example of the Newspeak that was so noticeable throughout the day. Proposals that will make NUS almost impossible to change were described as revolutionary, the revolutionary left were described as conservative, a review conducted over the summer holidays and therefore involving few normal students was described as far reaching.
When pressed on the actual content of the review the leadership resorted to barefaced lying and good old fashioned Trot-bashing. It was claimed that the left wanted to have Executive meetings on Christmas Day, and that the new “Board” proposed by the review would only have the most basic financial powers when it in fact has a loosely worded power of veto over large areas of union policy.
To rewrite the constitution requires a two thirds majority, which didn’t seem that tall an order for them as the day began. There was no requirement for union delegations to be elected, let alone elected in a cross campus ballot, and sabbatical officers overwhelmingly dominated the conference.
Nevertheless the final vote was close. Several votes had been taken throughout the day on amendments and procedural motions that effectively functioned as indicators of the numbers on either side of the argument. The anti-review vote moved from around 28% to around 32% (165 voted to ‘delete all’ with 425 against). The right wing rushed through the final vote, cutting off the debate on the main motion and refusing calls for a card count.
We were almost certainly very close to overturning the review, and may actually have been successful if the vote had been counted. Regardless, the campaign to save and extend NUS democracy now has a strong platform to build from to defeat these proposals at Annual Conference, which is much more democratic in its makeup (the constitutional amendments have to pass through two conferences to be valid).
The right wing want NUS to function as more of a lobby group in terms of its campaigns, focusing more of the leaderships energies on the financial side of the union, such as NUS Extra. They have no desire to see NUS functioning as a union in the sense of a collective representative and campaigning body controlled by its members.
We need to put forward our vision for the future of NUS as a radically democratic campaigning body controlled from below - andgo on to win.