The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC), an organisation of grassroots student activist groups, will have its National Conference in the University of Birmingham this weekend (23-24 November).
Recent student activism has focused a series of large and important trade union struggles: the fights against privatisation and management attacks at Sussex and Birmingham, the national dispute over pay in Higher Education, and the forthcoming strike of the University of London Senate House cleaning and support staff. Student activists have been gearing up over this term to make solidarity with workers’ struggles, with occupations, demonstrations and blockades in support of the national strike taking place at SOAS, Sussex, Birmingham, Sheffield and elsewhere. The conference will support efforts of London activists in staging a fundraising gig to raise money for the embattled Senate House workers’ strike fund, and discuss ways of making more effective solidarity.
One of the most pressing of the struggles facing the student left currently is police harassment and intimidation of activists. The recent arrest in London of Michael Chessum, one of the organisers of the 13 November demonstration to save the University of London Union comes on the heels of a series of violent interventions and arrests by the Metropolitan Police against campaigners at ULU and striking Senate House workers. Activists will make plans to resist these attacks as well as police infiltration and monitoring tactics, which have been brought into the spotlight with revelations of police trying to recruit paid infiltrators into local activist groups such as Cambridge Defend Education.
The conference will also address the crisis in student housing. Students are being ripped off across the country, with universities and private halls companies, as well as private landlords, taking advantage of the housing shortage by charging extortionate rents.
The conference will close on the first day with a reminder of the importance of international solidarity, with an address by the Israeli military refuser and feminist activist Noam Gur.