New union for university students

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Joined: 27-02-09
Mar 10 2009 17:55
New union for university students

Me and a few friends are setting up a libertarian socialist society at Queen Mary College University of London, and i was wondering if the various anarchist/libertarian left societies at universities up and down the country had already joined into some kind of union against the corrupt and compromised NUS. If not, then i think it is definitely something we should do. I also heard that the Socialist Worker Party is trying to do something similar in the wake of successful Stop the War Coalition student society occupations at various unis (mine included).

I read the 'The Anarchist Youth Network (AYN), personal recollections, 2002-2004' article on this website, and figure its a good starting point to learn from.

However, if there already some kind of national thing like this already, i apoligise for wasting everyone's time!

Joined: 4-04-08
Mar 11 2009 12:34

There is a very strong Libertarian group operating at Goldsmith University. Nationally there is the Autonomous Students Network. If you send me your planning to meet next I'll pop over to QMW and let yous know all about it.

Joined: 4-04-08
Mar 11 2009 12:41

Some members put this out about the NUS:

The NUS - Outside it, Against it!

Produced by activists in the London Autonomous Student's Network.

The NUS - Whats the big deal?

Put simply, the National Union of Students (NUS) is designed to control, pacify and compromise the student movement. It is a way of disempowering students trying to fight together for radical social change. Due to the partisan nature of the NUS, the efforts and energies of campaigning students have been usurped by those who seek to gain control - instead of organising amongst ourselves for the battles we need to win, we have been organised into campaigns for various contesting political factions.

But don't we get something from this? These people are there to represent us, right?

More often than not, wrong. The union’s hierarchical structures divide and alienate us, thereby stopping us from being an effective force for change. The democratic centralist structure of the NUS means that, within it, we spend more time trying to make something "policy" than actually getting out there and doing it. As for elections, those who win elections are granted a position of authority over the student body and set apart from their comrades. Those who lose continue to have no voice other than to select who they would like to win in the future.

So what about these new Governance Review Proposals, then?

The democratic processes that swept (ahem!) the NUS elites to power are under attack - and, naturally, those at the top of the NUS unwaveringly support these reforms that secure their position. [INFORMATION ON THE REFORMS] Whilst this may allow the careerist right-wingers of the union to considerably improve their CV, it illustrates the extent to which the union is controlled by those who do not see in it's role the facilitation of a militant collective student movement. Although the radical left are fighting to save the union from these reforms, they - and the union itself - will be unable to offer us anything in the means of organising for real struggle relevant to our positions as students and, increasingly, as workers. Petitions, campaigns and facebook groups are all well and good, but we can achieve so much more than this in our colleges and workplaces - and unfortunately, the existance of the NUS stands fundamentally against this. For example, Education Not For Sale, a left-wing faction, has argued for NUS to resume it's commitment to free education and grants for all, funded by taxation of the rich. The NUS will not even pay lip-service to this idea - while the power and organisation lies in the conference halls and offices of the union it will not be based on our needs and we will have no power in deciding our own course of action.

Whats the alternative?

To most of us students, the union is irrelevant beyond getting twatted at the SU Bar. Its officers, policies & governance are not irrelevant because we are apathetic or unable to appreciate what they are doing 'for' us. It is because the union does not seek relevance to our lives - as we have shown, it is merely another channel with which our militancy is regulated and stifled. Our struggles, if they are to be meaningful and successful, must be based on our actual experiences and directed entirely by ourselves. Getting people talking about these things may seem like a long shot, but you're already doing it. These are the issues we complain about to each other over a cup of tea in the morning...and over that cup of tea is where we can plan to take action over it! The things that are actually happening in our lives are not irrelevant and can never be irrelevant. However, if we are to choose to do this we will be most successful if we agree how we are to do it. Setting up non-heirarchical groups with completley open decision-making processes has enabled many activists to avoid the trappings of concentrated power. Autonomy of both collective and individuals working within that collective also means that coercion and control by any opportunist political group can be avoided. A strong focus on anti-capitalism and class consciousness helps to inform us of the significance of our actions (and the responses!) And, finally, emphasis on Direct Action means no more wasting of energy on begging officials and politicians to recognise the 'legitimacy' of our plight. No more fucking about - Let's get back to our homes, our colleges and our workplaces and let's get organised!

cantdocartwheels's picture
Joined: 15-03-04
Mar 12 2009 12:49
To most of us students, the union is irrelevant beyond getting twatted at the SU Bar

When i was at uni a whole bunch of students ran a pretty good anti-NUS campaign, not from a particualrly radical pespective, more that they hated NUS political careerists of all stripes. One of the planks of the campaign was an attack on the way NUSSL ( ) operate eg overpriced food, high venue entry prices, fixed beer suppliers and prices, cost of stationary etc In fact plenty of student unions have withdrawn from the NUS on this basis.