5 days to save NUS democracy?
All our best interests drive us away from discussing the running of NUS and the left has distinguished itself building campaigns for peace, justice and equality when many student officers shy away from “politics.” Monday’s “governance consultation” revealed the flip side of that coin with a discussion removed from a debate on the type of movement we need to build to win.
Substituting “mission statements” for real political vision is a symptom of a bigger problem - NUS is turning itself away from a mass campaigning federation into a centralised professional lobby group. Staff are more central to a conception of campaigning based on tinkering within the limits set by parliamentary committees rather than ideologically opposing the government’s marketisation of education. With this mindset, NUS conference is an unwieldy, expensive bolt on to the process of creating specific campaigns to be “actioned” by the national office; The National Executive (NEC) is “too diverse, large and political;” and matters of finance, accounting and process are the determining factor in deciding a new structure for the organisation.
The proposals appear to be:
-A cut down conference with reduced powers over setting campaigns
-A cut back, less political, sabbatical led NEC with no “policy setting powers.”
-An expanded National Council which would meet a few times a year and contain the token “political diversity.”
-A bigger separation between areas of NUS work
-Liberation campaigns regulated by the “financial side” of the central organisation.
A political NUS
To rebuild NUS we need to start from the sort of campaigning and vision we need to win and then work out how to pay for it. NUS’ central role most be pulling together the widest number and range of students to discuss their experience and build up an understanding of our education and the world around it. Only then can we start discussing how best to campaign effectively. To move NUS forwards we need to be working out ways to re-engage activists on the ground and politically debate the way to lay a base for our campaigns. To do this we need at least,
-A large as possible conference focused on debating our experiences and political understanding of events of developments.
-A broad, diverse National Executive representing political experience and range of student opinion (containing some form of block of 12.)
-To put liberation campaigns at the heart of NUS campaigning
-Supported local campaign groups/areas to link our debates and decisions to our activists on the ground.
We have until the end of this month to get our ideas thrown into the mix, simply rocking up at conference and hoping for the best will be too late. To organise to make sure a vision of a democratic campaigning Union is widely discussed among activists we need to start now. Email ways to expand NUS’ campaigning and democracy from your union, campaign group, society or labour club to firstname.lastname@example.org and CC email@example.com before the end of the month.
Lets unite for a political, democratic and campaigning NUS.