Cliffism

The bickering, backstabbing and pseudo-intellectual debate of student socialism.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Tackling the racist backlash?

NUS have failed to address the issue of rising Islamophobia through the dramatic move of banning the vast majority of motions on the issue from even reaching conference. The Steering committee ( a group of 7 tasked with overseeing the running of conference) has ruled out all 9 student Respect motions on the subject as well several “left” motions relating to either Islamophobia, anti-racism or the war. Just to demonstrate the hypocrisy of the decision NUS has decided to allow a debate based on the “all party committee on anti-Semitism” to go into the “welfare zone” from which it has banned all discussion of Islamophobia.

Little of this should come as any surprise to people versed in the recent (and less recent) practice of NUS conferences where the left is increasingly told to “shut up and forget” the loss of democratic structures in our national union. What is more surprising is the blatant fashion in which the powerful alliance of convenience between the rightwing Labour Students, Organised Independents and UJS using their strength on the ‘apolitical’ steering committee to remove motions which they politically oppose. Demonstrating both the abuse to which the new policy of zoning motions is open to if steering committee remains unchecked and the depths the mainstream in NUS is prepared to sink to ensure Islamophobia isn’t discussed in any meaningful form at conference. It has become an established truism to state that NUS has the most rightwing policy on free education of any national union but it is on racism and imperialism where NUS really takes the biscuit. Anyway here is the statement Student Respect has been getting people to sign:


The NUS steering committee has ruled out of order nine motions submitted by Student Respect to be discussed at NUS Conference 2007.

The motion, passed in various forms by nine student unions, appears in its original form below. It describes the climate of Islamophobia that currently exists in Britain and especially in universities, supports the right of women to wear the hijab and niqab, and aims to strengthen the current anti-fascist stance of the NUS. It was passed by the student unions at: Portsmouth, UWE, Manchester, University of the Arts, SOAS, Swansea, Leicester, Cambridge and Sussex.

The motions have apparently been ruled out of order on the basis that they were submitted into the wrong zone (they were submitted for discussion in the Welfare debate, the other three zones being Strong and Active Unions, Society and Citizenship and Education).

The decision by the steering committee is being challenged on the following grounds:

  • The issues addressed in the motion, racism and Islamophobia in general and the "no platform" policy in particular, are very much issues that concern students' welfare. No other zone fits this discussion better. The welfare zone contains other motions on racism that have been accepted.
  • At last year's conference, Student Respect and other organisations and individuals submitted very similar policy (on Islamophobia and the no platform policy) to the Welfare zone, which was accepted without being questioned. There was absolutely no indication that any changes had been made to the process this year that would result in these motions now being applicable to a different zone.
  • One of the motions submitted and accepted in the Welfare zone, whilst coming at the issue from a completely different angle, is very similar in terms of its context. Motion 703, entitled "Anti-Semitism: A Definition", refers to a general context of anti-semitism and goes on to talk about the NUS's no platform policy. While we disagree with aspects of this motion, we agree with the steering committee that it should be discussed in the Welfare debate, and that therefore so should the Student Respect motions.
  • The fact that this motion was passed by nine student unions (more than any other single motion that has been submitted) show there is a strong desire amongst NUS's membership to debate these issues in the Welfare zone. Ruling them out of order is therefore a large attack on democracy (as was another decision by the steering committee which has meant that there will be no debate at all on international students).
  • The recent change in the method of submitting motions to conference has not been accompanied by any changes to the NUS constitution and standing orders, and as such relies on a large amount of interpretation and therefore subjectivity from the steering committee. The inconsistency highlighted in the above points does nothing to instill confidence among students fighting to get their voices heard.

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