On the first day of the National Union of Students conference (21 April, in Liverpool), delegates voted for a series of left-wing policies.
On the general election, the current leadership’s bland motion calling for a “new deal for students” was amended with much more radical demands put forward by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC), including reversing cuts, taxing the rich, public ownership of the banks, open borders and migrants’ rights.
The policy passed advocates a serious programme of direct action, and alliance with trade unions and the Labour left, whoever wins the general election. Delegates also voted to criticise NUS’s “Generation Vote” campaign, a bland effort which focuses on “intergenerational injustice” rather than injustices about class and oppression.
NUS conference has passed left-wing policy but had it ignored before. Perhaps more significant was the fact that, later in the afternoon, delegates went on to delete, by a clear margin, support for means-testing student grants. A vote on the left motion positively for living, non-means-tested, student grants will come up later.
The general mood at the conference is clearly left-leaning. On the other hand, it is quite small: less than five hundred delegates took part in the vote on means testing. There is a lot less clearly organised factional activity than even a few years ago.
Other important issues coming up include migrants’ rights, police repression and presence on campus, housing campaigns, attitudes to the EU and welfare/benefit cuts.
As with the vote for free education at last year’s conference, left policy passed at NUS provides footholds for effective grassroots student organising.
At the conference, Workers’ Liberty member Beth Redmond is the left candidate for NUS President, and NCAFC member Hattie Craig is standing for VP Higher Education. Beth is also standing for the part-time Block of 15 section of the national executive, along with two other NCAFC members.
Left, leftish and left-talking candidates are standing for the five Vice President positions, and it’s possible a number will win.