NCAFC WINTER CONFERENCE: POLICY PASSED
SECTION 1: POLITICS AND CAMPAIGNING
1) Free education and trans liberation
Proposed by: Luke Dukinfield, Jess Bradley, Hope Worsdale, Sara Khan, Helena Navarrete Plana, Jamie Sims, Clementine Boucher, Ana Oppenheim, Ky Hall, Uma Kotwal, Anabel Bennett-López, Stuart McMillan, Josh Berlyne, Monty Shield, Sahaya James, Hansika Jethnani, Maisie Sanders, Chris Townsend
- Trans people suffer widespread prejudice and oppression within education and broader society, lacking fundamental civil rights and legal protections; experiencing discrimination in housing, healthcare, employment, prisons, etc; and suffering disproportionate and intense levels of harassment, abuse and violence.
- The proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) have catalysed a reactionary, transphobic backlash within the media and society, incurring a moral panic reminiscent of that around Section 28, in which trans people have been viciously derided, disparaged, and vilified.
- In the context of other political trends, such as prolonged austerity, Brexit and the rise of the far-right, trans people and our rights – despite positive progress – are increasingly at risk and vulnerable. This is epitomized in the astronomical and deeply concerning rates of suicide in trans communities, and especially of trans youth.
- NCAFC has contributed significantly to the development of a vision of, and a struggle for, free education that does not merely agitate for the abolition of fees but a fundamentally transformed education system and society liberated from prejudice and oppression.
- This vision of a ‘liberated’ education is best epitomized by the various activities and campaigns engaged in by the NCAFC ‘women and non-binary’ caucus, not only embedding feminist activism within the struggle for free education, but fundamentally emphasising that free education is a gendered demand, which would therefore most benefit those marginalized on the basis of their gender.
- The inclusion of ‘non-binary’ individuals into the formerly only ‘women’ caucus is a result of the efforts of trans activists within NCAFC, and signalled a positive progression in bringing ideas about trans politics into the fold of the organization.
- Conversations and campaigns specifically around transphobia have been largely absent from conferences, NCAFC’s social media and website archive, and organizational actions – being largely confined to small, rare and informal sessions with exploration of these issues not filtering out to the broader organization.
- Now more than ever we must assert our unconditional support and solidarity for the struggle for trans liberation, recognizing the urgency and gravity of this struggle in a context of widespread stigma and violence.
- The proposed changes to the GRA have been cynically misinterpreted and disingenuously weaponized by Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs), progressives and reactionaries alike to entrench some of the most pernicious tropes and stereotypes about trans people. We resist the dominant trend to pit women’s and trans rights against one another – we recognize this division is artificial, especially detrimental to trans women, and that we cannot achieve emancipation of any community without emancipation for all our communities.
- The educational system promotes institutional transphobia at every level through such processes as: academic/curricular erasure, institutional exclusion, lack of gender-neutral facilities, employment discrimination, cuts to health, support and welfare services, lack of investment in specialist training for staff and health professionals, monitoring and registering practices, cuts to financial support, bullying, harassment and violence, community disempowerment through managerial and corporate power grabs, etc.
- NCAFC is, with its historical legacy of fighting for a materialist vision of liberation in education and beyond, well-equipped and well-situated to develop conversations and horizons around the struggle for trans liberation.
- The conceptualization of our vision for free education has not adequately incorporated an understanding of the nuances of institutional transphobia, an assertion of demands for trans liberation, and an inward and outward commitment to combatting transphobia.
- The understanding of free education as a gendered demand, and the liberatory potential of free education more broadly, cannot be complete without attending to and contesting the oppression trans students and workers suffer within the education system.
- It is taken as a given within the student movement that transphobia is fully understood and confronted – however within both NCAFC and the movement more broadly, the specifics of this conversation are underdeveloped. Our limited understanding of the specific histories and dynamics of transphobia within education and society at large entail both a lack of outward commitment to trans liberation, and also a lack of internal organizational processes to recognize and usefully tackle transphobia when it occurs. This must change, and is a task not just for a caucus but the responsibility of the whole organization.
- Free education and trans liberation mean a commitment to fighting the broader social inequities and oppressions that materially devastate trans people’s lives. Abusive medical practices, police and prison violence, and widespread homelessness are examples of broader issues affecting vulnerable and poor trans people’s lives, particularly those of colour, that must be linked up with educational activism as sites of struggle.
- To make our commitment to trans liberation clear through statements of solidarity, articles exploring the issues, and building trans blocks on demonstrations, etc. Particular note should be made to emphasising these issues and expressing solidarity on days such as Trans Day of Remembrance.
- To engage in the development of the conversation around free education and trans liberation through sessions at conference, discussions in meetings, articles on anti-cuts, and a reaffirmed theoretical and practical commitment to trans liberation within the women and non-binary and the LGBTQI+ caucuses.
- To recognize protest as a reasonable and legitimate response to TERFs, who have created careers and academic disciplines out of, in the words of the foundational manifesto in which much of their theory is grounded, ‘morally mandating transness out of existence’. Confrontational responses are often necessary when the historical tactics they have deployed include doxing, public outing and humiliation, and harassment. The problem with TERFs is not a lack of intellectual engagement with the issues at hand, and their influence in academia is still keenly felt, rendering struggle against their ideology particularly relevant to trans students.
- Facilitate discussion and consultation with trans members about the possibility and utility of setting up a trans caucus within the organization, recognizing that this is a decision that must emerge from bottom-up autonomous organizing rather than being imposed from the top down. Trans members may have different desires and needs about the kinds of spaces that are comfortable, appropriate or politically useful and NCAFC should do its utmost to be sensitive to these complexities.
- To link up with groups such as Actions For Trans Health and Bent Bars to contest broader oppressions encountered by trans people in society.
2) NCAFC supports Cut The Rent campaigns and rent strikes as a tactic
Proposed by: Anabel Bennett-López, Dominique Hua, Jack Kershaw, Matthew Lee,
Clementine Boucher, Harvinder Chera, Tyrone Falls
1. The victories of the various Cut The Rent campaigns that have sprung up on campuses nationally after the success of UCL Cut The Rent.
2. That research by the National Union of Students shows that rents are soaring for students across the country; with students in London hit the hardest. NUS identifies this as a key part of a “cost of living crisis” for students.
3. The housing affordability crisis is also wide spread beyond London and its boroughs.
4. There are currently numerous grassroots campaigns such as Focus E15, New Era 4 All, Radical Housing Network, London Renters’ Union and Acorn which are actively challenging social cleansing and skyrocketing rents.
5. As well as supporting housing struggles beyond the student movement, we are in a key position to agitate for and lead housing struggles among students.
6. That we have successfully passed relatively radical housing policy within NUS, meaning we are in a good position to press NUS to finally follow through on that policy.
1. Housing campaigns continue to be a fundamental area of struggle under the Conservative government, particularly considering the continued marketisation of our universities.
2. Housing is a human right, and the left should be united in calling for this right to be upheld for all members of society.
3. Rent strikes are an effective way of mobilising against universities.
4. That it is obscene and exploitative that students have to pay more in rent than they receive in loans or grants.
5. That with private rents becoming ever more unaffordable nationally, it is vital that universities provide an affordable alternative to all students.
6. It is vital for the student movement to express solidarity with those facing extortionate rents, eviction and homelessness.
7. Supporting campaigns around housing is an effective way for the student movement to link up with the struggles of the wider left.
1. To encourage and support Cut the Rent and similar campaigns surrounding housing on campuses, like at UCL, SOAS, Bristol and Sussex (under the umbrella of the RENT STRIKE group, the national network of Cut the Rent groups)
2. To support and build for demonstrations around the topic of housing.
3. To contact existing grassroots housing campaigns with a view to establishing strong relationships, and to find out how the student movement can most effectively support their work.
4. To use our channels of communication to publicise call-outs for housing-focused direct action, such as eviction resistance and occupations.
5. To raise a general call for “living rents” – rents set according to the needs and means of tenants, rather than the market and the profits of landlords and agents.
6. To actively support private tenants’ unions, such as ACORN and London Renters Union.
3) Recommitting to the fight for political freedoms on campus and beyond
- 18 months ago we voted to campaign for free speech and the right to politically organise on campuses, and to advocate the limited use of no-platform tactics to fascists. The policies can be found at http://anticuts.com/policies-free-speech-no-platform/. We noted the following problems: bans on speakers and meetings by government and managers; commercialisation of campuses pushing out postering, leafleting etc.; anti-political SU bureaucrats making it harder to organise events and societies; the anti-Muslim racism and anti-dissent thought-policing of Prevent policy; marketisation narrowing the academic breadth of teaching and research; victimisation and police violence against protesters and trade unionists; anti-union laws and regulations; and attempts to counter bigoted, right-wing and offensive politics with the extension of no-platform-style tactics.
- Since then, right-wingers and the authorities have only upped their cynical, hypocritical approach of using left-wing no-platform tactics to present themselves as the champions of freedom, while actually supporting much more draconian limits on freedoms. The Tory government, while implementing Prevent and marketization, now proposes to impose free speech policies on student unions from above, violating freedom of association. University managers violate student groups’ rights to organise our own events and free discussions by imposing speakers and chairs in the supposed name of “balance” and “free debate”.
- Demands to deny platforms can now be found on multiple sides of the same debates. At some universities in the USA, the right has taken up no-platform politics to demand suppression of the left, in particular to suppress pro-Palestine activists. Demands for bans have become go-to tools in political disputes: recently at UCL, Friends of Palestine society invited the anti-semitic Hamas supporter Azzam Tamimi, Friends of Israel invited the ex-IDF occupation-apologist Hen Mazzig, and both societies responded by arguing that the other’s event shouldn’t be allowed.
- The left and liberatory movements exist precisely because reactionary, right-wing and bigoted ideas dominate control of society and are widespread. Part of defeating them involves the work of changing billions of minds – winning over and educating the people influenced by them. We should be absolutely uncompromising in arguing down and protesting bigoted and reactionary politics.
- Political freedoms have always been most denied to the left, the oppressed and the exploited, in order to stop us achieving that. Our movements have had to fight tooth-and-nail to win and constantly defend our ability to organise and speak in the open. Without these freedoms, our ideas, which are in a minority, are at a disadvantage compared to the dominant ideas we are fighting.
- Building and defending as widespread a consensus as possible in favour of the right to open discussion is essential to our defence. When we say that some ideas are too bad to get these rights, or dismiss free speech as a right-wing concepts, we weaken our own position and give licence to those who will deny our movements oxygen.
- Open discussion is also vital within the left, to make sure we are democratic, self-reflective and always able to challenge and re-examine our own ideas.
- Debating our opponents, even when we are sceptical of the chances of convincing them, is most important because it gives us the chance to reach their audiences, many of whom will be less set in their ways. We are competing for hearts and minds, and if our no-platform policies mean turning down access to those high-profile platforms to challenge ideas which often have a larger audience than ours, we hamstring ourselves. Debating our opponents is important not only because we are seeking to change their minds, but because it gives us the chance to reach their audiences too. However, we must recognise that in certain situations there may be incredibly little chance of convincing those who are fiercely and ideologically committed to opposing our values, and we as activists and as an organisation must make a considered judgement as to whether it is worth expending lots of time and energy debating these people when that effort could be better spent elsewhere.
- As we agreed before, the work of going into a hostile world to confront bigoted ideas can be exhausting and distressing. We do so as a collective movement, in which we support each other, fight together, and no individual is expected to take on every battle or any more than they feel able.
- We use no-platform as a tactic against fascist organisations. Not because their ideas are too offensive or dangerous to be heard, but because fascist organisations are not just advocating ideas politically, but building paramilitary forces on our streets to conduct physical violence against marginalised groups, the left and the labour movement. Disrupting their ability to organise in any way is a legitimate tactic of self-defence – though it is not sufficient to defeat their ideas, only a political response can do that. We can extend the tactic of no-platform in limited circumstances to similar organisations which may not be fascist but share the paramilitary strategy of organising to enact their bigoted and reactionary politics through physical force. We may also extend this tactic to individuals who deploy fascistic methods which put marginalised people in direct harm or danger, such as TERFs who out trans people in front of audiences, or those who publicly name undocumented migrants.
- To reaffirm the policies we passed in June 2016 on political freedoms and no-platform (http://anticuts.com/policies-free-speech-no-platform/) and re-commit ourselves to the fight for freedom of speech, debate, organisation and political action on campuses, in order to give space and oxygen allowing students’ and workers’ organisation and struggle to bloom.
- To include in this campaigning opposition right-wing interventions from above that violate free association – we oppose the imposition of “free speech” policies on unions by the hypocritical, censorious government, and we oppose the imposition of external speakers and chairs at campus events in the name of “balance” – the right to organise “unbalanced” meetings, to promote one’s own ideas, is a key political freedom.
- To re-affirm that we target the use of no-platform tactics specifically at those organisations which attempt to build a hostile, reactionary, physical-force presence on our streets to conduct violence against marginalised groups, the left and the labour movement; and to re-affirm that we never ask or rely on the state or bosses to do this for us.
- To continue arguing for this approach in the NUS and wider student movement with patience and sensitivity to the reasons why many people advocate no-platform policies.
4) Support 1 Day Without Us – unity, solidarity and celebration!
Proposed by: Robert Liow, Hansika Jethnani, Ruby Dark, Laura Wormington, Nickolas Tang, Shreya Gupta, Shivani Balaji
- Despite attempts to placate the international student movement with promises to remove international student numbers from migration figures, the Home Office’s attacks on international students continue unabated
- Attacks on international students, such as stricter attendance monitoring for Tier 4 (student) visa holders in “compliance” with the UKVI’s policy, are part of the wider hostile environment policy deployed against migrants to discourage migration to the UK
- The NCAFC in its Winter Conference of January 2017 has previously adopted the motions “No to the “Good vs. Bad” Migrants Rhetoric!” submitted by Warwick for Free Education and “Hold the Line: Defend Free Movement” submitted by Workers Liberty, thus resolving to build solidarity between international students and the rest of the migrant community, defend and extend freedom of movement for all, and resist further attacks on international students specifically by direct action if necessary
- On February 17th, 2018, a national day of action will take place called 1 Day Without Us, called by the organisation of the same name. This is the second time such a day of action was held, with the first happening on February 20th, 2017 and resulting in 160 events across the UK
- This event is led by migrants of all kinds, people with a history of migration and those who support migrants and migration, who are planning this day of action as a day of unity, solidarity and celebration of migrants and migration to the UK
- The aim of the above day of action is to stand in unity, solidarity and celebration with the people of all nationalities and genders who have made the UK their home, including British citizens who may not necessarily identify as migrants but who have a history of migration in their family, and to celebrate the contributions that migration has made to British society while considering the possibility of a better future in which we work together in the common interests of fairness, equality, inclusivity and social justice
- The definition of migrant by 1 Day Without Us as “the people who have come to work, live, study and seek refuge here” explicitly promotes solidarity between international students and the rest of the migrant community
- We must fight back against escalating attacks on migrants and restrictions on migration from the government, and against wider societal prejudice, and against the exploitation of migrant workers
- All differentiated treatment between non-EU international students and home/EU students, including the attendance monitoring of Tier 4 (student) visa holders and also the drastically higher tuition fees that non-EU international students must pay, must be opposed as part of the fight to defend and extend free movement
- Migrant and pro-migration protests have been hugely empowering and effective in other contexts, for instance in the United States
- It is absolutely legitimate to cause disruption to fight oppression and injustice
- To support 1 Day Without Us, sending a message of solidarity to the organisers and signing on to their statement of support
- To promote 1 Day Without Us to NCAFC audiences including students, student unions and the NCAFC’s affiliated local activist and political groups through NCAFC platforms, including NCAFC social media platforms like Twitter as well as the NCAFC blog, thus helping to build turnout and maximise its presence on social media and in the press
- In so promoting 1 Day Without Us, to strongly draw the link between the fight for free education and the fight to end racist, xenophobic restrictions on migration, including attacks on international students and the continued justification of differentiated treatment for non-EU international students as opposed to home/EU students
- To contribute what resources it is able to help build the day of action
5) Support workers’ struggles on campus
Proposer: Workers’ Liberty Students
- NCAFC has always been committed to supporting workers’ struggles and put this at the forefront of our politics, including agitating for this through slogans such as ‘students and workers unite and fight’ at this year’s national demo, as we have done in the past.
- This year, there have been successful struggles for better conditions by cleaning staff at LSE and SOAS, many of whom were migrant workers. A feature of these struggles was clear and widespread student support.
- Recently, other disputes have emerged, such as the fight for the living wage for workers at Nottingham University, and the fight for better conditions for University of London workers.
- UCU members are balloting for major industrial action against massive attacks on USS pensions.
- Many NCAFC activists have been involved in solidarity work in these campaigns, and this is our opportunity to make sure that the organisation as a whole is carrying out activity in support.
- To orient itself towards serious and consistent solidarity work for these campaigns. This includes, but is not limited to, a range of activity, such as building student support at picket lines, publicising strike dates on social media and through all-member emails, and organising a series of local fundraising activities to help the strike fund, such as fundraiser gigs. Where possible and appropriate, NCAFC’s regional level of organisation should be involved.
- For starters, this should involve mobilising NCAFC’s resources for ongoing campaigns in which NCAFC activists are already involved, for example (but by no means limited to!) the staff cuts at Manchester, the living wage campaign at Nottingham Uni, and Justice for University of London Workers.
- To work to build solidarity among students and student unions for: the UCU’s pension campaign, a “yes” vote in the industrial action ballot, and any resulting industrial action; and to apply pressure demanding NUS does not drag its feet, equivocate or sell out workers, but throws its full weight behind the cause with an active campaign.
SECTION 2: STRATEGY
6) Building the organisation and rebuilding internal democracy
Proposed by: Hope Worsdale, Josh Berlyne, Rory Hughes, Lewis Macleod, Julie Saumagne, Sara Khan, Helena Navarrete Plana, Ky Hall, Luke Dukinfield, Clementine Boucher, Uma Kotwal, Charlie Porter, Stuart McMillan, Chris Townsend, George Bunn, Małgosia Haman
- NCAFC’s booklet for new members, Organise Agitate Educate, states that: “The NCAFC is fundamentally ‘bottom up’, in the sense that members and affiliated groups carry out initiatives, discuss them, and decide on the campaign’s actions and priorities through our democratic structures. The life of the campaign is made up of the actions, and the discussions and deliberations of our local activists.”
- Organise Agitate Educate also states that: “The campaign is also in a limited way ‘top down’ in the sense that the National Committee works to coordinate our work nationally; to pool resources and centralise information; to plan action in accordance with our conference decisions; to have a national, coordinated press strategy - and to help support and develop the work of local groups, by offering resources, advice and training.”
- This year, NCAFC received 153 membership applications (as of 27th November, the time of writing.) This compares to 219 applications in 2016, and approximately 432 applications in 2015.
- At NCAFC Summer Conference 2017, a motion entitled “Rebuild the grassroots, fight university cuts across the country” was passed with overwhelming support, stating that “NCAFC needs to return to its roots and return to the grassroots”.
- Our organisation should function as it is described in Organise Agitate Educate: it should be fundamentally bottom-up, and only in a limited sense should it be top-down.
- To limit the ability of the National Committee to dominate the organisation, pluralism should also be fostered; from its inception, NCAFC was positioned as a pluralist organisation. NCAFC should actively encourage involvement and engagement by activists from across the spectrum of the student left. It is not desirable for any single group to dominate the organisation; pluralism guards against this.
NCAFC further believes:
- Currently, the organisation is only in a limited sense bottom up; it is currently highly centralised, with the national committee collectively working at an increased level of activity than in previous years. This has been combined with a decline in the local tradition ‘defend education/free education’ type campus activist groups. While it is important for us to always maintain a healthy criticism of our own organisation and work to improve the activism we do, we should also recognise how the changing nature of politics nationally can affect the organisation. We should do more to foster a culture of engagement with wider activists in the decisions we make between conferences by fostering a greater culture of debate on the loomio and encouraging activists to come and speak at our monthly national committee meetings, which are always open. We should hold more of these meetings outside of London to make it easier for other activists to come.
That there are both internal and external factors behind the decline in local activist groups and membership applications, and we should recognise the changing national situation:
- Core organisational tasks, such as maintaining the membership database, processing new members, organising conferences and training, posting regular NC updates to the membership, and soliciting donations, have not been prioritised by the National Committee.
- With the exception of a few campuses, activists have largely moved away from the traditional ‘defend education’ type groups and are engaging in different areas. For example, there are growing Cut the Rent groups across the country, as well as some new activists engaging in Labour Societies following the election of Corbyn. In Scotland, significant numbers of activists organise in Socialist Societies (which are distinct from both the Socialist Party or Socialist Workers’ Party). Many activists who attended the national demo are also involved in single-issue campaigns on their campus, rather than doing activity through broader based education groups, such as on mental health services campaigning, fighting for the living wage on campus, and against Prevent.’
- NCAFC should do more to engage the free education local groups that currently exist and play a key role not just locally, but in free education groups nationally. However, rather than artificially trying to set up traditional defend education groups on other campuses - or looking to resurrect these groups where activists are focussing elsewhere - we should recognise the more diverse and wide-ranging nature of current activism and seek to engage in these areas instead. We can do this by using our current connections to activists across the country to offer practical support and tie these activists into the national movement through our national campaigning against the Government’s education reforms and for free education. To determine its strategy, NCAFC should always be looking at the wider political situation and asking: “what do we need to do to take on the challenges facing the student movement?” and the best building of our organisation will happen as a result this strategy. This is opposed developing our strategy to relate to the rest of the movement based on what we perceive to be the needs for our organisation.
- During most of last year, before the general election, there were significantly uninspiring and demotivating conditions for activism. These included a flat and politically vague national demo organised by NUS which stood in contrast to our demo the year before, followed by a right wing turn by NUS at the national conference.Additionally, while lots of new students had become engaged in national politics in the previous year by the election of Corbyn as Labour leader, during most of the last academic year Labour were very behind in the polls and the Corbyn leadership had capitulated in some key areas, for example no longer committing to freedom of movement. The general election did much to turn this around and engage students in national politics, but that has not yet translated into a link between winning free education and campaigning on the ground to put pressure on the Government and Labour Party from below. It is our job to change this.
- As has happened in the past, it is easy for NCAFC’s national committee to be perceived as ‘London-centric’. We should combat this by doing some of the more basic practical tasks better - for example maintaining better initial contact with new members and sending out the NCAFC membership packs to new members, as well as coordinating national campaigns with the engagement of these and encourage as many activists as possible to come to our democratic decision-making events.
- There was a clear steer from our Summer Conference that the NCAFC membership wanted the organisation to re-orientate itself back towards the grassroots, focusing in particular on supporting local anti-cuts campaigns and supporting activists on the ground.
- In the summer, the NCAFC Summer Conference expected that the campus cuts sweeping the country would result in anti-cuts campaigns springing up on campuses across the country, and that the task for NCAFC would be to reach out to these campaigns, offer practical solidarity, link them up into a movement, and act as a national voice for this movement. Despite contacting a large number of institutions where there were cuts going on and several members of the national committee putting in a lot of work to do this, the spontaneous upsurge we predicted did not happen. We need to reassess our strategy to relate to this.
- If NCAFC is to truly be a relevant, strong, grassroots force within the student movement, it is crucial that we are self-reflective and pro-actively responsive to the concerns and criticisms of our membership base.
- NCAFC has played a crucial role over the last 7 years of the student movement, and there is still so much scope for NCAFC continuing to play an integral role in the student movement going forward. But we need to take stock of where we’re at, evaluate where things are going wrong and make changes to our focus and strategy if we are to be truly a truly relevant, powerful and dynamic grassroots organisation.
- To refocus its organisational strategy in accordance with the beliefs set out above. This includes (but is not limited to):
- Starting immediately, the National Committee will set aside significantly more time to focus on core organisational tasks, and develop robust processes which facilitate these crucial tasks being fulfilled on a sustained and structured basis.
- Following every conference where a new National Committee is elected, there will be a skillshare day organised by the NC to ensure the sharing of knowledge and skills between more experienced and newer activists takes place.
- NCAFC will take proactive steps to encourage and foster a genuine culture of pluralism within the organisation, with a key focus on ensuring NCAFC is as inclusive and welcoming as possible to newly politicised students.
- The National Committee will develop a strategy for proactively reaching out to campus groups and activists to ask them what the key issues and campaigns are at a local level. This information will be recorded and continuously updated as a key point of reference for the NC, to enable the committee to develop strategies (in collaboration with local activists) for how to best support local campaigns. One way to do this would be to “map” the UK student left, collecting and regularly updating the details of activist groups on all campuses, contacting these groups and inviting them to get involved in NCAFC.
7) A strategy going forward
Proposer: Workers’ Liberty Students
1. Campus staff cuts are happening across the country. But that the spontaneous upsurge of anti-cuts struggles that we predicted at our last summer conference has not happened and we have not been able to engage new activists in the national free education struggle this way. It is clear that we misjudged the situation in the summer and that anti-cuts campaigns have only sprung up on a very small number of campuses.
2. Nevertheless, through holding a national demo for free education, NCAFC has made direct contact with hundreds of students on over 50 campuses, many of whom had not engaged with NCAFC before. This led to thousands of students attending our free education now - tax the rich demo in London on Nov 15.
3. Either through the engagement of existing NCAFC activists, and in many cases from the contact we made as part of building the demo, we now know that there are growing local disputes and struggles of various sizes across the country. Examples of these include fights over the living wage, VC Pay, rent, mental health services, Prevent and more.
1. Last year was an uninspiring year for activism: NUS organised a small and uninspiring national education demo with a politically vague message that failed to inspire new activists to mobilise or attend; for much of the year the Labour Party, which was promising free education policy, was well behind in the polls; and NUS took a turn to right at its national conference.
2. The general election inspired and enthused thousands of students and support for free education is now widespread. However, especially following an uninspiring year of activism this has largely meant passive support and has not automatically translated into an upsurge of activists on campuses.
3. It is our role to change this. To show that to win free education and living grants, and to end the marketisation of education, we need to build a democratic movement from below.
4. In holding a national demo, we have ‘put NCAFC on the map' this term. We have engaged lots of new activists in national free education campaigning and started to overturn the effects of the previous uninspiring year and threat of a passive national movement.
5. We now need to link NCAFC up with the activists across the country who are engaged in local disputes. Partly to bring national support to these issues and use the experience we have as a national organisation to help where we can. And partly to link these activists up with national free education campaigning and the national strategies we have committed to in order to undermine and defeat the Government’s Higher Education reforms.
6. This will mean directly contacting the students at the institutions we have made new contacts in, as well as the variety of activist groups and political societies that these activists are involved
NCAFC is a grassroots organisation and that we committed in the summer to building this from the bottom up. To do this we need to engage with these activists on the ground and help as much as we can to build these local disputes.
NCAFC Further believes:
- That as part of the mobilisation for the demo connections were made and expanded with many Scottish activists, for example:
- NCAFC activists promoted the demonstration and NCAFC at the freshers’ fairs at Edinburgh Napier, Glasgow, Strathclyde, Edinburgh University and Aberdeen University
- A NCAFC activist from London travelled and spoke to activists in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Strathclyde
- Further contact was made with activists from Abertay and Dundee - two places where, along with Strathclyde and Glasgow University, NCAFC has not had connections before
- NUS Scotland publicly backed the demo, stating: ‘We would like to take this opportunity to reiterate our long-standing belief that education is a necessary step towards creating equity across our society; to extend our solidarity with students traveling from Scotland to support the demonstration, and those campaigning against fees and cuts in the rest of the UK.’
2. Some of these activists travelled on long coach journeys from Scotland to the demo itself in solidarity, despite the fact that Scottish students don’t have to pay tuition fees.
3. There are students involved in local activism across Scotland, such as the cut the rent campaigning in Aberdeen and living wage campaigning at Abertay University, alongside the activism happening at the places that we also made contact with over the last three months. And recently at St. Andrews University, the Socialist Society (not associated with the Socialist Party) recently held a meeting of over 100 students. Additionally, the recent campaign and election of Richard Leonard as the new Scottish Labour Leader on a left-wing and Corbyn-supporting platform has engaged a lot of young people and students in broadly left wing politics and a national organisation for left-wing young people in Labour, Scottish Labour Young Socialists, continues to organise activity, for example during this Scottish Labour leadership election.
4. While tuition fees have been abolished for some students in Scotland, the Scottish Government has carried out devastating area reviews and cut further education significantly in recent years. Additionally, international students still face fees and students studying in higher education in Scotland still face large amounts of debt because of a lack of living grants combined with high costs of study, for example extortionate rents.
5. The recent Independent Student Support Review: “A New Social Contract for Students in Scotland” commissioned by the Scottish Government has recommended some significant improvements for financial support, but includes means-tested bursaries and loans and falls well short of providing education free of debt. And it is not proposed that funding for these improvements would come from taxing the rich and big business.
6. NUS Scotland’s response to this consultation was short of the policy passed at NUS Scotland conference. The review did not even include all of the demands made by NUS Scotland.
7. That NCAFC Scotland has gone through high and low points over the last seven years, and is not currently functioning as a national body. NCAFC as a whole should do more, not only to engage students in Scotland, but specifically to address the funding issues they face. And can do a lot more work to organise to win a fighting and active NUS Scotland that campaigns effectively for an end to debt of all students studying in Scotland
8. NCAFC has a key role to play in student politics in Scotland:
a) By connecting up these activists into a national movement and linking up these different struggles into a radical democratic activist network of students from across the left that does not currently exist.
b) Building this democratic network in order to develop and put concrete demands for greater education funding and other demands to the Scottish Government and exert pressure from below.
9. That this would also help engage the rest of NCAFC nationally in Scottish politics.
10. NCAFC should hold a democratic NCAFC Scotland conference to bring together these activists, develop demands for the Scottish Government, and discuss how to transform NUS Scotland into the activist body that it should be.
1.To contact all the activists NCAFC has now made contact with and build on the excitement and momentum generated by the national demo, to offer support where we know local struggles are happening, and to find out about local disputes and activism elsewhere.
2. To link this in with building our national strategy for the second term: intervening to transform the NUS into a left wing and campaigning body, and any other national actions planned in future.
3. To organise a NCAFC Scotland conference within the next 6 months, specifically looking at the possibility of organising the conference in February.
4. To organise this conference on the basis of the format of our national conferences, with a focus on discussing the activism happening in Scotland and the situation of higher and further education in Scotland nationally, and with democratic decisions taken on how to take NCAFC Scotland forward.
8) A Strategy for NUS
Proposers: Monty Shield, Ruby Dark, Ana Oppenheim, Jack Kershaw, Alex Booth, Raquel Palmeira, Sahaya James, Dan Davison, Maisie Sanders
- We are at a crucial point in the fight for an end to tuition fees and for universal living grants. The momentum is with us and we could be on the verge of winning free education in the UK
- A large student movement can exert the necessary pressure from below which ensures that free education stays on the national political agenda, keeps up the pressure on the Government, and pushes Labour to keep their commitment to abolishing fees in their manifesto and go further.
- Through the organisation of the national free education demo, and the work of local NCAFC activists across the country throughout this term, NCAFC has positioned itself as the leading student body fighting for free, democratic, liberated and accessible education.
NCAFC Further Believes:
- The Free Education Now - Tax the Rich demo was supported by many within NUS. But the right wing President Shakira Martin cynically and undemocratically blocked support for the demo being discussed at the NUS National Executive Council.
- Moreover, NUS President Shakira Martin has ignored the huge surge in student support for free education as well as the mandate for action for free education voted for at the 2017 NUS Conference. Instead, she has chosen to work closely with Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable, an instrumental figure in bringing about the fee rises from £3000 per year to £9000 per year in 2010/11.
- If properly utilised, our national union could be a huge force in the fight for free education - using its vast resources to mobilise tens of thousands of students up and down the country and win great leverage over the Government.
- If done right, running in NUS elections is also an opportunity to promote our political perspective on the student movement, whether we win or not, and to link student activism on the ground and the building of a fighting left in NUS.
- Last year, our campaigns in NUS encountered serious difficulty because we agreed to put one of our candidates on a slate, the rest of which was opposing our other candidate in another race. In retrospect, this was a mistake.
- The NCAFC has rightly been very critical of the previously dominant section of the left in NUS. Among other issues, its focus on winning and maintaining bureaucratic power, and its reliance on apolitical diplomatic manoeuvring rather than effectively reaching out beyond the corridors and conference halls of NUS and sabb offices, contributed to the current situation where it has been ousted by the right, is now in disarray lacking direction or purpose, and stands discredited.
- We should not give up our independence from that section of the left, and our constructive criticisms of it, for the sake of electoral opportunism. Being clear about this is essential if we want to run an election campaign that is about clearly conveying promoting our political perspectives both within and beyond the conference hall, not just winning power.
- We need to clearly present NCAFC as an alternative leading force, rather than allowing ourselves to be perceived as a supportive accessory hanging off the side of that other section of the left. It needs to be visible that we are putting some clear water between ourselves and the failures and deficiencies of that part of the left.
- Based on all this, we should stand a slate of NCAFC activists for NUS full-time officer positions.
- That as part of this we should declare immediately that we plan to stand a candidate for President, as well as candidates for other positions to be worked out a later date, and that we are seeking to build a strong left slate.
NCAFC Further Believes 2:
- We might choose to run a full slate across all the VP positions as well as the Presidency. We might alternatively consider endorsing other candidates, if there are good activist candidates and there is a strong case to do so. Beyond endorsements, we will only actively organise as part of a wider slate if it is composed of politically sound activist candidates and if it supports all of our candidates, not just some. A guiding principle must be maintaining our political independence and our ability to openly make the criticisms discussed above.
- This year we should run campaigns differently from in the past two years. We should focus on NCAFC’s wider politics while not engaging in the ‘slick’ campaigns run in the past two years. We should focus on getting our political message out to lots of delegates and other students without spending as much of NCAFC’s money and other resources.
- That the incoming national committee will build a strong left slate by standing lots of NCAFC activists for full time officer positions, potentially up to a full slate.
- To discuss with other sections of the left in NUS to win support for the slate we are building.
- Within the parameters discussed above, and without giving up our political independence, to discuss with other sections of the left in NUS and beyond to win support for the slate we are building.
- This approach means the National Committee should 1. actively consider and attempt to limit the number of NC members in our NUS intervention working groups or in other ways prioritising our intervention over other activity in the second term 2. avoid the duplication of administrative and political tasks be that designs and printing or the creation of contact spreadsheets and the messaging of delegations all of which is currently undertaken by a combination of wider intervention working groups and separate candidate campaign teams which has lead to an overall unnecessary increase in workload for the organisation and sometimes a lack of strategic focus and narrative coherence for our intervention as a whole. Instead now on NCAFC should collectivise the undertaking of these tasks, reduce them where possible and contact delegations on behalf of NCAFC with information which covers our motions, caucuses, bulletins, any fringe events and our candidates instead of on multiple occasions on behalf of the campaign we’re running for each NCAFC candidate (whatever number this maybe) we’ve stood.
SECTION 3: ORGANISATION
11) Moving NC elections from Winter to Summer
Proposed by: NCAFC National Committee
- We have two regular annual conferences, in Winter and Summer. We currently hold our main annual NC elections at Winter Conference.
- To move our elections to Summer Conference.
- To amend Section 4.A. of the constitution as below, so that the NC elected at this conference will serve a half-year term until Summer Conference 2018 when the new practice of summer elections will begin.
Section 4: Structures of NCAFC
Conferences are the sovereign body of NCAFC. Any member of NCAFC may attend and vote.
- Calling conferences
- The National Committee is responsible for calling conferences
- There shall be at least one annual conference per year and one summer conference per year, as laid out below At minimum, each year there must be a Winter Conference and a Summer Conference.
- Ordinarily, conference should be at least two days long
- Notice of conference
- Notice of conference must be given at least one month in advance online
- The NC will also make efforts to promote conferences by off-line methods, such as ringing around and producing leaflets and posters.
- Conference agenda setting
- The NC has ultimate responsibility for setting the agenda of conferences and other events, and ensuring their smooth and democratic running
- Ordinarily, this will be delegated to a working group
- Submission of proposals and motions
- A motions and proposals deadline must be set by the NC, or its delegated conference working group, ahead of conference
- Motions can be proposed by: local anti-cuts groups and other groups affiliated to NCAFC, the National Committee, or a group of at least seven NCAFC members.
- Any individual member of NCAFC has the right to submit amendments to motions and proposals
- Conference agenda composition
- Conference’s primary purpose is:
- To debate motions and constitutional amendments
- Once per year, To elect a National Committee
- To host autonomous caucuses
- To provide a space for open discussion of NCAFC’s actions and strategy
- The NC will meet immediately after every conference.
- If the conference is two or more days long, there must be time given over to:
- Liberation caucuses, at least 45 minutes long – which cannot overlap with each other, or with any other conference business
- Regional and national caucuses, at least 45 minutes long
- Remitting: Conference may vote, by simple majority, to remit any matter to the National Committee. If this happens, the National Committee is vested with all the powers of conference on that matter
- Summer Conference Elections
- In the months of June, July, August or September, NCAFC will hold a summer conference. This can be combined with another event (such as a training or gathering event) and will have the power to:
- To debate motions and constitutional amendments
- Fill vacant or inactive posts on the National Committee, including through caucuses
- Elections for the National Committee shall be held at each Summer Conference
- At other conferences, bye-elections shall be held to fill any vacant posts on the National Committee until the next Summer Conference. Before any such the Summer Cconference, NC members who are currently or are planning to step back become inactive in student activism are encouraged to resign so that their place can be refilled at the conference.
 The Transsexual Empire, Janice Raymond
 National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts. Organise Agitate Educate: 5.
 The figure for 2015 is approximate because NCAFC only began recording the date of application on 12th January 2015.