Around seventy students attended the “We Are the University National Student Left Conference”, hosted by the NCAFC in Sheffield on 16-17 June.
Activists from more than 30 different universities, some representing Labour Clubs and free education groups attended. Many became active through the occupations and other action in support of last term’s UCU strike.
There was a sense of excitement about building on the upsurge of campus organising and using the momentum around it to renew the student movement.
In the weeks before the conference over 100 students, sabbatical officers and NUS officers signed a statement calling for the student left to unite around a clear set of political demands to link up struggles on campus on a national scale, and bring them into NUS and Labour Students.
The closing plenary on Saturday voted to endorse this statement and discussed how to develop the initiative — the political issues the student left should organise around, and how to link up and spread existing campaigns like the student-worker solidarity and anti-outsourcing campaigns at the University of London, KCL and SOAS.
Participants wanted to campaign around free movement and migrants’ rights, supporting workers’ struggles and rent activism. A working group will take this forward into the next academic year.
The conference also held discussion and practical workshops, and debates, such as the extent to which Labour Party activists should be critical of the leadership. The Women and Non-Binary caucus resolved to campaign for abortion rights in Northern Ireland and for buffer zones around abortion clinics, to organise demonstrations at Yarl’s Wood and other detention centres. Plans were made for a speaker tour around reproductive freedoms and sex workers’ rights, and to host a feminist conference.
On Sunday NCAFC members voted to organise a left wing, pro-migrant intervention into the NUS’s anti-Brexit campaign, including calling for a radical, pro-freedom of movement block at the NUS first term demonstration.
Members also voted to support and work with the newly-formed UCU Rank and File Network to fight for a democratic, militant UCU, and to run campaigns, meetings, actions and debates at universities across the country around the slogan “cops off campus”.