NUS Conference 2018 will be marked by a showdown between the left and the right.
The left wing of conference will be made up of students whose politics centre on the Corbyn surge: supporters of the Labour left and socialism, however defined. The rightwing president Shakira Martin has distanced herself from this left, instead organising a high-profile review of Further Education with Vince Cable, the Lib-Dem bigwig whose party oversaw the tripling of tuition fees when it was last in government in 2009.
The urgent necessity is to unite the left to beat the resurgent right wing and create a national union capable of fighting the Government and winning. We need to unite around a political programme that can inspire students, and make clear to delegates the differences between right and left at this conference. Our collective aim should be to shift conference towards support for rent caps, living grants for all, expropriation of the banks, £10/hr wages and unionising students who work alongside their degree, free movement, Cops Off Campus, nationalisation of the big six energy companies, an end to marketisation in further and higher education, and an overall orientation towards democratising NUS and supporting the grassroots struggles being waged by students and workers on campuses.
The NUS left should also be bolder about addressing broader, bigger issues that go beyond campuses – and in particular, making a clear, bold call for socialism a central part of student politics.The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) is running candidates for NUS President and VP Higher Education to lead the fight for a radically different NUS.
Both candidates are grassroots activists involved in the Labour Party. NCAFC’s presidential candidate Sahaya James has organised thousands strong free education marches and recently lead an occupation against gentrification and social cleansing in London at the London College of Communication. She also launched UAL’s Labour Society and sits as an elected member of Momentum’s National Coordinating Group. NCAFC’s vice-president higher education candidate Ana Oppenheim has played a key role in winning NUS support for the NSS boycott to harm the government’s HE reforms, as well as organising students to boycott on campuses across the country. She has organised for migrant solidarity, including organising student delegations to protests at Yarl’s Wood detention centre and is a co-founder of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement.
These candidates have already received widespread support from many sections of student politics and Labour. In the run up to conference, NCAFC has called for the left to unite around a programme for radically transforming NUS into a more democratic union that allies with students and workers to take on the government and win.