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From The Socialist newspaper, 3 May 2017

NUS leadership: Blairites supported by establishment

Socialist Students marching for free education, 19.11.16, photo by James Ivens

Socialist Students marching for free education, 19.11.16, photo by James Ivens   (Click to enlarge)

Claire Laker-Mansfield, Socialist Students national organiser

Against the backdrop of an impending general election, the National Union of Students (NUS) met for its annual conference. Socialist Students argued for a fighting, democratic union and a strategy to escalate the struggle for free and accessible education for all.

Unfortunately, given the gravity of the situation faced by students and young people - increased fees and debt, housing crisis, internships and low pay, etc - the conference failed to measure up to the tasks.

Last year, the left took some substantial steps forward - including the election of Malia Bouattia, a more left-wing candidate, as president. This year the right, primarily based around the Blairite Labour Students organisation, had regrouped and were well organised to try and retake control.

They had drawn support based on many of the attacks and slurs that had been heaped on the NUS leadership over the last year, particularly in the right-wing media, but also from other sections of the establishment.

These attacks have been strongly linked to the onslaught on Jeremy Corbyn and the left more widely. In particular, they have focused on seeking to conflate legitimate criticism of Israeli state policies and support for the Palestinian national struggle with the serious charge of anti-Semitism.

Mistakes

This is sometimes made easier for them by the mistaken political position taken by some of the left on the national question in Israel-Palestine, as well as some ill-put or insensitive remarks that individuals have made.

In a striking illustration of the 'two parties in one' which currently exist in Labour under Corbyn - an anti-austerity party and a pro-cuts Blairite majority of MPs and councillors - the discussion on the election saw candidates aligned with Labour Students argue for an essentially non-political approach to the election.

When debating an emergency motion on the election, Shakira Martin, who went on to win the presidency on a right-wing platform, argued for a voter registration drive divorced from the political issues and 'strictly non-partisan'.

In many ways by far the most significant debate was one which took place as part of the 'annual general meeting' on NUS governance.

This included a raft of undemocratic measures which are designed to put the overwhelming majority of decisions in the hands of full-time NUS officers, and reduce even further the power of ordinary students.

These changes will now be taken to an extraordinary conference for approval - itself an undemocratic manoeuvre. Socialist Students will therefore be organising against this.

Mary Finch, from KCL Socialist Students, gave a fiery speech as part of her campaign for election to the national executive council of NUS. We await the result of the election.

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In The Socialist 3 May 2017:


What we think

Race against time for May as Corbyn sets out anti-austerity case


Socialist Party news and analysis

Jeremy Corbyn's workers' charter

Corbyn pledges a million homes and landlord regulation

McDonnell promises reversal of Tories' tax cuts for the super-rich

Corbyn pledges end to uni fees and school cuts

Corbyn government would lift NHS pay cap

Support for socialist programme in Labour Liverpool rally


Social care in crisis

Beyond the crisis point: saving social care


International socialist news and analysis

Packed court laughs down cutter Joan Burton's comparison to Marxist James Connolly

Trump's policies hit a wall


Socialist Students

NUS leadership: Blairites supported by establishment


Workplace news and analysis

Unison health conference: fury over leadership's feet dragging

Union leadership and Labour right challenged at shop workers' conference

McDonald's forced to back down on zero-hours

PCS elections - vote Democracy Alliance

Transport union protests against driver-only operation outside parliament


Socialist readers' comments and reviews

Rare opportunity to see Russian revolution lifted off the page


Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

Mersey metro-mayor TV debate

'Socialist Steve' takes on the robots

TUSC's south Wales challenge to pro-cuts parties


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Buy your ticket now for the political event of the year: Socialism 2017

Housing association workers' and tenants' alternative awards ceremony

Sheffield mental health campaigner: "austerity kills"


 

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