Last week anti-cuts activists swept the board in our student union elections. All three candidates on the “Stop the cuts! Shake up YOUR union” slate were elected — Robin Law as President, Fatima Hagi as student Trustee and myself as VP Education.
Less than a year ago there was little activist culture at Westminster. The SU was dominated by a bunch of self-serving incompetents, with those who wanted a fight isolated. The anti-cuts movement has changed all that.
Westminster is facing almost 300 job losses, course cuts and the closure of our nursery. After a period of patiently building up the Fight Cuts campaign, March saw a mass protest and occupation at our Regent Street campus, with students fighting in solidarity with revived staff unions. Lecturers have voted for action and will be coordinating their strike with UCU’s day of action on 5 May.
Our opponents in the election relied on traditional SU election stuff: friendship networks, dancing round sound systems, free sweets. We argued for a campaigning union that fights on issues like fees and cuts, not a popularity contest; and I stood explicitly as an AWL member and revolutionary socialist. Radicalism and direct action did not alienate people: the promise of a union that involves and fights for students struck a chord!
With the election of left-wing sabbaticals at London unis, including UCL, SOAS, LSE and London Met, and at ULU, there is a counter-trend to the continuing right-wing degeneration of NUS.
At Westminster, the real job of transforming our union and using it to build up anti-cuts activism and political consciousness begins!