In the next two months, a number of AWL members, sympathisers and activists we work with closely will be running in student union elections.
AWL students are very active in grassroots student campaigning – in anti-cuts groups, protests, solidarity with working-class struggles and so on. We think standing in SU elections can play a subsidiary but important role in such struggles and in winning people to socialist ideas. And we take these elections seriously.
In early March, AWL member Daniel Lemberger Cooper will be standing for a second year as Vice President of University of London Union, the umbrella body for unions at the older London universities. NCAFC supporter and NUS executive member Michael Chessum is restanding alongside him, for President.
In the last six months, Daniel and Michael have taken major steps forward in transforming ULU into a radical, campaigning union – from mobilising students in defence of the NHS to supporting cleaners' and other workers' struggles at the University of London to providing rooms and resources for many radical campaigns and initiatives. They have created new democratic structures. They have also won respect across the political spectrum for getting ULU's sports, societies and service provision functioning again.
Will Hall, a Tory councillor in Henley-on-Thames who Michael defeated for President last year, is standing against Daniel. Hall is surrounded by a coterie of radical right, ultra-bigoted Tory boys with an appalling record of racism and sexism. He is sure to make the internationalist stance Daniel has taken on “remembrance”, ie war and imperialism, last year a central issue. This is a crucial fight. (For Michael and Daniel's camapaign, see here.)
Alongside many other NCAFC supporters, AWL members are standing for local SU officer positions around the country. In addition to comrades standing for part-time positions, Beth Redmond will be standing for President at Liverpool John Moores University, and Luke Neal for Education Officer and Ella Thorp for Welfare and Equality Officer at Newcastle.
Ella explained why the Newcastle Uni comrades are standing:
“Until this year, the main focus of my activism was grassroots campaigning. This year I've got more involved in the SU too. Grassroots activism is the key but student unions can have a major role in mobilising students and bringing weight to bear on uni managements and the government.
“With government attacks on education and the welfare state, students need political, campaigning unions more than ever. Often welfare is seen as non-political, but of course that couldn't be further from the truth. From fees to accommodation to rights at work, there are lots of issues we need to campaign on.
“At the moment, Newcastle SU doesn't do that. This year we've had a big struggle about attendance policies, with the university trying to introduce biometric monitoring. The union not only hesitated about campaigning against, but flirted with a xenophobic stance of distinguishing between home and international students. We stand for a union that fights and fights for all its members, no matter where they come from.
“Running in the election also gives us a chance to spread socialist ideas – even if we don't win and even more if we do so. The policies we're putting forward are socialist policies for how students should organise, but we're also getting a profile for broader socialist ideas through the discussions we have with people during the campaign.”
At the National Union of Students conference in early April, AWL member Rosie Huzzard, from Sheffield College, will be standing for the national executive alongside fellow NCAFCers Thais Yáñez (Birkbeck), Roshni Joshi (already on the NEC) and James McAsh (President of Edinburgh University). Matt Reuben is standing for NUS Disabled Students’ Officer and Gordon Maloney for NUS Scotland President at separate conferences. At NUS conferences will also be supporting other left candidates and putting forward policies for a fighting union.
Vote Thais Yáñez for ULU Women’s Officer
By Esther Townsend, for AWL student women
This year, University of London Union will elect a full-time Women’s Officer for the first time. We are proud of our role in creating this position. There is a lot of talk in the student movement about creating full-time women’s officers, but not generally a lot of action.
The two candidates for the ULU position are both NCAFC members. One is Susuana Antubam - President of Royal Holloway Feminism Society and one of the organisers of the recent Student Feminist Conference. We are supporting Thais Yáñez, who is Anti-Fascism, Anti-Racism officer at Birkbeck SU and one of the activists involved in creating the London Student Liberation Network. She is one of the LGBTQ reps on the NCAFC national committee and also on the NCAFC Women's Committee. Thais shares a lot of our Marxist feminist politics and has an outstanding campaigning record.
Victories in the last few weeks include the radical left maintaining and extending its control of ULU, with both Michael Chessum and Daniel Cooper re-elected; NCAFCers winning seven out of ten sabbatical positions at UCL; NCAFC sabbs elected at Edinburgh and Birmingham; the left dominating elections at Royal Holloway and a left-wing president elected at University of the Arts; left-wing sabbaticals elected at numerous Scottish universities; and Gordon Maloney being elected President of NUS Scotland.