Bringing revolutionary socialism to the NUS: election victories for Marxist students

Since September Marxist students have been running campaigns to get elected as delegates to the national conference of the National Union of Students (NUS) which is taking place in Glasgow at the end of March 2018.

The term was kicked off with a campaign at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. The Marxist society drew up a bold, socialist manifesto calling for living grants for all students and for a national rent strike for free accommodation. Fiona Lali, the president of the Marxist society, stormed to a first-place victory with 40% of the total vote – making her the lead delegate to the NUS conference from SOAS students’ union.

Hot on the heels of Fiona’s election success, the UCL Marxist society notched up a second victory for Marxist students. Two comrades from the Marxist society, Emilie Dufwa and Sam Tollitt, ran openly Marxist campaigns calling for an end to the privatisation of education and for solidarity with university staff fighting cuts. Emilie was duly elected as a delegate to the NUS conference from UCL students’ union.

Throughout the term excellent campaigns were run in several other universities. Marxist students in Cambridge – Laurie O’Connel and Keelan Kellegher – ran campaigns calling for free education and a socialist NUS. They went door-knocking and gave superb performances in election hustings, defending their revolutionary socialist ideas. As a result, Keelan came within a hair’s breadth of being elected as a delegate to the conference.

In Sheffield, Lilly Cockwill from the Marxist society ran a great campaign to abolish fees and link up with trade unions. Lilly made it to the last round of candidate eliminations, and ultimately missed out on being elected by fewer than ten votes.

Manchester Marxist society members Sarah Taylor and Michelle Kaulitz ran revolutionary campaigns for election as NUS delegates. They called for the banning of zero-hours contracts, for solidarity with UCU staff on strike, for solidarity with the international class struggle, and for radical socialist policies to win free education for all students. They were rewarded for their uncompromisingly Marxist campaign by coming extremely close to being elected as delegates to the NUS conference from Manchester students’ union.

Representatives from the Marxist society in Warwick – Thomas Soud and Woody Phillips-Smith – ran militantly socialist campaigns, clearly distinguishing themselves as revolutionary Marxists. They held stalls on campus and produced leaflets arguing for their ideas. Through their hard campaigning they made huge gains by discussing Marxist policies for the NUS with students on campus.

Gilly Singh was nominated to be the Marxist society candidate in the NUS delegate elections at Liverpool University. The society ran a lively campaign with posters and leaflets calling for the NUS to adopt a Marxist programme of the abolition of tuition fees, living grants for all students, a national rent strike, and the building of links between students and workers.

The final election campaign of the term resulted in yet another victory for Marxist students, with Ross McKendrick of the Swansea Marxist society being elected to represent Swansea students’ union at the NUS conference. Ross ran a bold socialist campaign alongside Rosie Summers and Lewis Griffiths, who together made up the ‘Left Opposition’ slate. They demanded democratic staff and student control over universities, and for the NUS to adopt socialist policies.

These campaigns have been an enormous step forward for the Marxist Student Federation in its attempts to win the NUS to a socialist programme. This is the first time Marxist societies across the country have launched serious campaigns to win elections for NUS conference delegate positions, and it has been an extremely promising start, with more campaigns to come next term.

All of this has been achieved despite poor publicity for the NUS delegate elections, which are all too often deliberately underplayed by local students’ unions so that student politics hacks and careerists can step into the positions unopposed. The Marxist Student Federation has set itself the mission of breaking the cosy consensus of student politics that keeps the NUS so detached and distant from the lives of most students. We want a fighting students’ union that will work alongside trade unions to build a mass movement for socialist demands – one that can bring down the government and push for the socialist transformation of society. This is what Marxist students will be arguing for at this year’s NUS conference.