NUS elections: why there is no united left

Submitted by martin on 5 March, 2012 - 3:30

(Daniel is a National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts NC member; RHULSU President; University of London Union Vice President-elect; member of Workers' Liberty students)

I am writing in a personal capacity to update everyone on the current situation with regards to attempts to build a united left challenge to the current NUS leadership at the upcoming NUS conference (24-26 April, Sheffield) - attempts which, so far, have sadly failed. Given the furore, I think it's important for everyone to be in the know, but there is not much information out there at the moment, so please share this statement widely.

Due to attempts by the left groups SWP, Socialist Action/Student Broad Left and Counterfire to once again impose a 'united left slate' dominated by themselves rather than negotiating in good faith, two groups of left-wing candidates were nominated for the full-time positions on NUS executive. However, now even this has broken down since the SWP/SBL/CF slate has split on who to support for one position, VP Higher Education.

The various left candidates are:

President: Claire Locke (NCAFC independent) / Kanja Sesay (SA/SBL)
VP Union Development: Vicki Baars (independent)
VP HE: Michael Chessum (NCAFC independent) / Al Hussein Abutaleb (SA/SBL)
VP Welfare: Edd Bauer (NCAFC independent) / Sean Rillo Raczka (Counterfire)
VP Society & Citizenship: Jamie Woodcock (SWP)
VP FE: Jamil Keating (SWP)

Of the 'left slate' cooked up by SWP, Socialist Action and Counterfire, I would make four points:

1. The NCAFC, the only democratic organisation involving large numbers of independent activists on the student left, and which has been central to the fightback against fees and cuts, has once again been treated with contempt.

2. The groups involved denounced an attempt to involve large numbers of NCAFC activists in this process through a debate at NCAFC conference. It is now clear that what we said at the time was right: that they did so in order to clear the way for themselves to dominate. (This also explains their over-the-top behaviour at NCAFC conference: they are obsessed with NUS elections.)

3. The proposed candidates are, as a list, fairly weak, representing primarily factional convenience.

4. For all their freeness in banding around accusations that others on the left do not take liberation seriously, the SWP, Counterfire and Socialist Action have agreed a list which is 5/6 male!

Understandably, many activists, both independent and in various groups and factions, are very upset about this carve up.

However, there is now also another point, namely that at the last minute Socialist Action/SBL decided to nominate a candidate against Michael Chessum for VP HE. This candidate, Al Hussein Abutaleb, has put out a statement claiming that leading members of the NCAFC, particularly Claire Locke, are standing in the elections for racist reasons. This is unbelievably disgraceful, even by the low standards of SA/SBL. It has also split the 'left slate' since the rest of the slate are, as I understand it, supporting Michael Chessum.

Both because they are the strongest candidates and for the sake of a left which is non-sectarian, democratic and does not slander its opponents, I am urging activists to support Claire Locke, Michael Chessum and Edd Bauer, as well as Vicki Baars, Jamie Woodcock and Jamil Keating.

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