Sad to see that one of the most progressive organisations in student politics of recent times, the NCAFC, have once again fallen plague to the parasites of Trot organisations and other ‘liberal intelligentsia’ . How long will it take before people realize these groups are not your ‘comrades’ and will do nothing other than suck out the life blood of forward thinking organisations. Steer well clear.
Here is a report back from the Extermination Without Pity Blog.
The behavior of some groups at NCAFC conference this weekend was pretty shocking; they should be ashamed of themselves, but they won’t be. In fact from their tweets after conference they seem pretty proud. But despite repeated calls to respect some kind of safe space – to not shout over speakers, to not laugh or insult or comment about people while they talked, to not clap (which we agreed as a conference not to do), to respect the chairing – they made absolutely no attempt to do so. I have been involved with student and left politics for around nine years now, I’ve spoken at plenty of conferences and worked with a lot of people I didn’t agree with; I think I’m pretty confident in these situations. But I had to step down from the chair of the second motions session at conference and was genuinely quite upset by the reaction I got from the floor while I was chairing. Prior to this my co-chair had already had to step down after bullying from the attendees and a statement had been made saying how inappropriate the behaviour of some people was.
Gallingly those same people then complained about a lack of time given to debate liberation motions (particularly on women, internationalism and racism) while ignoring the requests from the liberation caucuses at conference. The actions of Student Broad Left, the Socialist Workers Party and Counterfire seem to be motivated far more by “embarrassing” the AWL and disrupting conference than any genuine sense of caring about these issues.
Moreover, whilst the impact of cuts, fees and privatisation on BME and women students certainly needs to be addressed, why does the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts need a position on war with Iran? And if we’re going to have a position condemning any possibility of war why is it a problem to include comments asking for engagement with Iranian trade unionists and criticising the incredibly authoritarian, theocratic government there? That so many attendees felt they had to speak and vote against that amendment says a lot about their priorities, and the suggestion that those who criticise the Iranian government must be imperialists in favour of war is utterly appalling and must be disingenuous.
I head home from Liverpool pretty demoralised frankly. We have a national committee with far more factions and far fewer independent students and on the basis of this weekend I have very little faith that the committee or the campaign more broadly will be able to coordinate any successful action in the coming months. Months, which it should be noted will be crucial in a number of important fights: over the pensions dispute in universities, schools, colleges and the public sector; over changes to employment law that will make it far easier for employers to sack someone and which are currently being opposed by no one; and in the continuing fight to stop the HE white paper being brought in b y the back door.
I hope I am wrong and the NCAFC can help provide effective opposition to these attacks, but I doubt it.
PS congratulations to newly elected reps on the NC from Scotland, Naomi Beecroft and Aidan Turner, make sure you keep it radge and don’t let all the stalinist bullying get to you.
On 26th January, college students around the country will walk out. The student movement which made such an impact in November and December will begin again. A number of students and supporters around the country have worked together to produce a bulletin, which can be printed out and distributed in order to build the walk-outs.
Introductory text follows
Students around the country are worrying about their future. For some, it’s if they can go to university, for others it’s whether they can stay at college next year – and for others still if they can turn the heating on this winter. Our families are affected by other cuts.
Why is this happening? Because the government cares more about the wealth of the rich than the lives of the majority.
That’s why students around the country will be walking out of college and protesting on Wednesday January 26th. Join in! Lots of laws like the poll tax get defeated after they are passed.
We’ve already made a massive impact. We need the protests to get bigger, and inspire others to get involved!
Organise your walk out!
It’s clear that students can’t rely on the NUS or the political parties. That means, we need to organise ourselves.
- On Wednesday 26th Jan, walk out of college and protest. Don’t let anyone keep you in one place or stop you protesting!
- Text everyone to join in
- You can go to other schools and colleges and chant for students to walk out too
- You can organise anti-cuts groups to prepare for the next one…
- Let us know how it goes! firstname.lastname@example.org
- Protest in London or Manchester on Saturday 29th if you can…
Keep up the fight!
Today saw the UEA ‘re-freshers fair’ host the second soc-mart of the year, an event at which students can join up for teams, clubs and societies.
The soc-mart is usually utilised as a recruitment drive for the university’s many political societies, however today’s event saw a break with tradition as all major political parties and most reformist left-wing ‘radical’ groups failed to show face.
With a series of resignations from both Conservative and Liberal Democrat societies and parties and a referendum over the issue of no-platform (a policy touted by multiculturalist bureaucrats as a way of cracking down on fascists, which in practice has proved counter intuitive and self interested and, in some cases as, a method to repress revolutionary organisations) looming and a strong campaign being waged against the measure, it is clear that the conservatism of mainstream politics and campaigning has fallen far from favour in the student movement.
Strong ties are being drawn between radicals within, left, green, anti-austerity and anarchist groups as the wheat is separated from the chaff on the field of dissent.
With direct actions being orchestrated, skill shares announced, co-ops being set up and high attendance indicated for national demonstrations and days of action 2011 seems to be off to a strong start in the student movement.
By Ian Bone
There’s a general genuflection amongst the Left and some anarchists to ‘trade unionists’. Even getting a whiff of proletarian sweat by marching behind an RMT banner is enough for some comrades.Anarchists now seem as keen as the SWP in swamping any strike with uncalled for assistance.Surely the most absurd sight last year was the dear departed Martin Smith leading a group of chanting SWP student wannabee cabin crew into the BA offices. If the workers won’t accept their alloted historical role you can always pretend to be them. Trade unionists are always defined only in their relationship to work not to any other aspect of their lives.Thus there are people on the solidarity circuit still billed as ‘Liverpool Dockers’ decades after they were dockers.Caught in frozen time……..pickled by the Left s if they were never anything else or could be anything else.
So the new youth movement is told it can’t win on its own. ….the mighty TU army will be needed to win. Organisers of Saturday Jan.29th demo are already enthusinng over getting support from UNITE and the GMB. This will amount to 40 trade unionists with ther banners being widely applauded – and quite right to. But the price for this will be to ‘behave’ – we don’t want to alienate the trade unionists do we? Already we are told the demo is now on a Saturday so ‘trade unionists and families’ can attend.They’d be evn more frightened by a broken window..or a deviation from the stewarded agreed route.The price of this support aint worth paying – it will chain the movement to a corpse – see TUC plans for March 26th. The mistake is to see trade unionists only as workers – they may also be parents/sisters/friends of students/football fans/Heavy Metallers/Ballroom Dancers – they will not see themselves as defined by work. They may be angry as consumers of public services/ VAT payers/NHS users etc etc….just like the rest of us or the millions of working class unemployed or non-unionised. We engage with them as the same as us. We do not have to neuter our movement to gain trsde union support. the Left will want us to.It won’t be just the cops and stewards on March 26th trying to contain direct action it’ll be our own heads telling us not to alienate mass support. Just what Tommy Sheridan said after the poll tax riot. he was wrong. Anyone who says the same will be wrong again. It’s not so much real trade unionists who’ll be stopping us as our idea of real trade unionists in our heads.Young workers will be as excited by the street protests as the NEETS have been. The trade unionists will be just as recognisable by the brick in their hand as the banner. Solidarity Comrades.
by Ian Bone
Dora Kaplan recently commented on this blog that for the student movement to tie itself to the trade unions would be like chaining thmselves to a corpse. How true. Today VICKY EASTON – London regional organiser of UNISON – warned against outside troublemakers hijacking the march to cause violence. Already singing from the pre-scripted police songsheet. Vicky said she believed peaceful marches were the way to change things – without being asked for one example! Quite how anyone can be an ‘outsider’ on a march open to all Vicky did not elaborate. Already we can see the cop/trade union leadership developing their narrative to enable them to provide thousandsof stewards to pen people in.
Matt Hall: The last weeks of 2010 have been the most exciting politically for a long time. The tuition fees vote was lost, as we know, but this is just the beginning. One of the main achievements was how spontaneously, creatively and energetically a ‘student movement’ was formed. It is the beginning of our fight, but it is also the beginning of our movement, and we have important decisions to get right; one of the most important being how we organise.
If we do not build and grow actively within and beyond the student base in 2011 we will stagnate, and to build and grow we must organise. Our actions so far have been radical and our ideas for the future equally so. We need to channel these ideas and actions into something more powerful. However, if we organise conservatively from this point, we will kill off much of that radicalism. To centralise and bureaucratise what we have created these past couple of months, replacing one defunct and restricted representative system with another, will be anathema to most people’s anger and energy, and again, we will stagnate. Apart from the initial Millbank demonstration our only obstacle to escalation thus far has been the bureaucratic and conservatively organised NUS, with one man at the top dictating direction. To seek a replacement of such a structure, or something similar, would be alienating and de-motivating for many. Not many people seem to be seriously suggesting such a centralisation of the movement, which is encouraging, and I would add my voice to that opinion with a suggestion below about how we view the movement and some initial practical proposals, wishing to add to the important contributions on this blog so far from Guy Aitchison and Jo Casserly.
Occupations are vital to this movement nationally and still exist in networks, email lists, friendships and on campuses, and we must still consider these campus based groups as occupations, albeit adjourned for now. They provide scores of dedicated activists in disparate geographical locations and environments and are by their essence dissipated power structures, preventing centralised hierarchies from developing thus retaining the innovation, energy and autonomy that has so far ensured this movement’s success nationally. We cannot rely alone on this kind of spontaneity in itself to get us where we want to be however, but we must also not dampen it.
To focus our energies on electing sabbatical officers to be our representatives, formalising leadership within the movement or embedding some kind of hierarchy, as Jo seems to be suggesting below, I believe, would be a massive mistake. This will kill both the energy and legitimacy of the movement that has arisen through its autonomy and we have already seen how this approach has failed catastrophically, both in Parliament and with the NUS. Holding people to account every few years with an election is no accountability at all. This revealed fact is an integral part of the movement’s anger. True accountability for this movement is doing it for ourselves and holding ourselves accountable. We should continue and improve upon the alternative democratic vision created in occupations that has been successful so far and take it to a national level. The occupations presented an imperfect yet inspiring version of what true democracy is. Consensus decision-making, autonomous working groups and daily opportunities to influence strategy served us exceptionally well in occupation, albeit with inevitable problems. I sympathise with the problem of ‘unofficial leadership’ developing through force of personality and commitment that Jo astutely highlights below in this blog, however we should not discard this attempt at true participation in favour of a defunct and conservative alternative by electing leaders and creating hierarchies. This approach has already failed us and would be antagonistic to many people’s newly found energy and anger. We should be aware of the limits and issues of our existing approach and continue seeking its improvement, but solving issues of leadership and increasing participation is not achieved by formalising hierarchies.
I want to suggest that we view the movement as a whole as a collective of overlapping concentric circles of influence, ability and responsibilities (autonomously adopted), containing groups, individuals, organisations, activity and ideas. The occupations are circles of influence at the heart of this with the responsibility and ability to pull a wide range of people and groups onto campus and into the movement. They are not centralised and nor are they the grassroots proper, but should be seen as a conduit between the local and the national. Middle ground cells that have the advantage of geographical permanence and the ability to reach both downwards, outwards and upwards to the national level. The occupations should take a leading, but not leadership, role in developing the movement, by viewing themselves in this central position.
Each occupation, I believe, should take a building and organising responsibility and look outwards and towards the grassroots – to other students on campus, school pupils, community groups, Trade Unionists, workers, the general public and other universities not occupying – to bring them into contact with one another and the collective movement through free and open occupation assemblies held on campus regularly (which has already happened at a number of occupations mentioned by Guy Aitchison below). All people fighting for an alternative, not just students, are legitimate members of this movement, no matter their status, position or politics and should be seen as such. These assemblies should then influence regional and national open occupation assemblies held regularly on the same model. These open assemblies will again be a place for all to influence action and direction, from community anti-cuts groups to individual Trade Unionists, autonomous anarchists to occupying students. This will not dampen the autonomy, innovation and energy of activists on the ground, new and experienced alike, but will provide the organisation we need to increase our power on a national level.
In addition, a proper national network of occupying universities should be established to exchange ideas, build relationships and make proposals for strategy. This occupation network should seek to actively engage with students at universities who did not occupy to give help, assistance and advice for organising on campus and advice on occupying. Getting more universities into occupation is vital to keep the growth of the movement spreading, particularly outside London. These new university occupations could then adopt the same model in their area of free open assemblies and continue to build and spread the movement.
The national assemblies should be organised in conjunction with other existing groups that have been essential so far, and that should also be viewed as hubs of activity, influence and responsibility within the movement, such as NCAFC and EAN. These organisations have done exceptional work in organising national demonstrations and walkouts and will be equally integral in 2011. However due to the nature of the occupations as free hubs of collective organisation I believe they should be central to organising the national assemblies proposed.
Organising in this way will give the movement the collectivist order it requires, whilst maintaining autonomy of ideas, strategy and action at local levels. We have the online tools to do this like never before and we can organise, act and communicate throughout the movement with ease. Having this collectivist order; disparate but organised, autonomous but with unity, will maintain our strength. Our collective intelligence, through assemblies and networks, will ensure we are not all organising conflicting demonstrations and actions on the same day and diluting our strength, yet neither do ideas for demonstrations and actions need to come from, or be filtered through, one central authority. We need to link with one another in an organised way for strength, but our strength so far has come from the ground and we must keep it that way.
To realise our power we must become a genuine ‘movement’ rather than disconnected and separate groups across the country with no common voice and direction. However, what we have seen so far is that our strength comes from unity of purpose not centralisation and hierarchy; it comes from autonomous actions not hierarchical decision-making. To win we must organise, but organisation must not be imposed upon us.
by Laurie Penny
Ed Miliband’s pitiful offer of 1p membership won’t tempt the young back to parliamentary politics.
Democracy is going cheap. Just in time for the January sales, the party responsible for introducing tuition fees has decided that it wants to jump on the youth protest bandwagon. “Join the party for one penny, and we will be your voice,” writes Ed Miliband in a rather desperate Christmas message to under-25s.
Labour is making a fundamental error, however, in assuming that these young protesters want or need anybody to “be our voice”. Parliamentary politics has sold the young out, and whatever bargain-basement price tag mainstream parties slap on their membership, they aren’t buying it any more.
The young people of Britain do not need leaders, and the new wave of activists has no interest in the ideological bureaucracy of the old left. Their energy and creativity is disseminated via networks rather than organisations, and many young people have neither the time nor the inclination to wait for any political party to decide what direction they should take. The Liberal Democrats represented the last hope that parliamentary democracy might have something to offer the young, and that hope has been exquisitely betrayed – no wonder, then, that the new movements have responded by rejecting the old order entirely.
What we are seeing here is no less than a fundamental reimagining of the British left: an organic reworking which rejects the old deferential structures of union-led action and interminable infighting among indistinguishable splinter parties for something far more inclusive and fast-moving. These new groups are principled and theoretically well-versed, but have no truck with the narcissism of small differences that used to corrupt even the most well-meaning of leftwing movements.
At the student meetings I have attended in recent weeks, ideological bickering is routinely sidelined in favour of practical planning. Anarchists and social democrats are obliged to work together alongside school pupils who don’t care what flag you march under as long as you’re on the side that puts people before profit. When the Unite leader, Len McLuskey, wrote in these pages this week encouraging union members to lend their support to the “magnificent student movement”, he hit precisely the right note – one that respects the energy of these new networks of resistance without seeking to hijack it. The unions have begun to realise what the Labour party is still too arrogant to consider – that the nature of the fight against bigotry and greed has evolved beyond the traditional hierarchies of the left.
It is highly significant that one of the first things this hydra-headed youth movement set out to achieve was the decapitation of its own official leadership. When Aaron Porter of the National Union of Students was seen to be “dithering” over whether or not to support the protests, there were immediate calls for his resignation – and in subsequent weeks the NUS has proved itself worse than irrelevant as an organising force for demonstrations.
Of course, the old left is not about to disappear completely. It is highly likely that even after a nuclear attack, the only remaining life-forms will be cockroaches and sour-faced vendors of the Socialist Worker. Stunningly, the paper is still being peddled at every demonstration to young cyber-activists for whom the very concept of a newspaper is almost as outdated as the notion of ideological unity as a basis for action.
For these young protesters, the strategic factionalism of the old left is irrelevant. Creative, courageous and inspired by situationism and guerrilla tactics, they have a principled understanding of solidarity. For example, assembling fancy-dress flash mobs in Topshop to protest against corporate tax avoidance may seem frivolous, but this movement is daring to do what no union or political party has yet contemplated – directly challenging the banks and business owners who caused this crisis.
The young people of Britain are no longer prepared to take orders, and are unlikely to pay even a penny for a vacillating, pro-business party to be “our voice”. We have never spoken in just one voice. We speak in hundreds of thousands of voices – voices that are being raised across Europe, not in unison but in harmony. The writing on the wall of the Treasury earlier this month may yet prove prescient: this is just the beginning.