Last year the Nottingham Marxist Society was bureaucratically blocked from affiliating to the Student Union. This year however, an anti-abortion society has been approved. The Marxists based our society application on getting support and sign-ups from students on campus, who wanted to join the Marxist society. The SU decided to ignore all these students.
The anti-abortion group, on the other hand, forced their application through with threats and expensive lawyers. Nottingham Students for Life (NSFL) is now an official society on campus, while the Marxist society remains banned. This process has exposed the student union (SU) to be a complete joke. NSFL was originally blocked by the Society Committee and council. They tried to appeal the decision but were met with students mobilising against them.
In response, they threatened to sue the student union. They did this with backing from the ‘Alliance Defending Freedom’, a group the Southern Policy Law Centre classifies as an anti-LGBT hate group. At this point the board of trustees stepped in to immediately affiliate NSFL, bypassing all SU procedures, and the SU officers officially stating that they agreed with this decision.
Apparently, all it takes is the risk of legal action against the SU to get your society affiliated. Students’ own opinions count for nothing. An anti-abortion society, firmly rejected by the student body, has been allowed to trample all over the SU because they have the money and connections to hire lawyers.
Who are the trustees who have allowed this to happen? Who are the SU officers who have refused to condemn the bullying of NSFL and the cowardice of the trustees? What’s the point of a student union if the students don’t control it?
NSFL’s ideas must be fought against. We must defend the right to abortion. We stand firmly for the right of women to choose what happens to their body. ‘Nottingham Students for Democracy’ was launched immediately after the decision, and has called for a boycott of the next Societies Council meeting. Efforts are also being made to organise in support of the right to abortion, with a pro-choice society being created and the university’s Feminist Society planning a pro-choice march. These are welcome actions demonstrating that students at Nottingham will organise for reproductive rights.
We must look into the structures that allowed this to happen. Why do we have an unelected board of trustees making decisions on behalf of students? At the end of the day it seems that it doesn’t matter what the SU does, the board of trustees have ultimate control. The board of trustees’ stated goal is to ‘take account of all student democratic decisions’ in order to ‘protect the union’. It is explicitly a body unaccountable to students. And its purpose is to limit student democracy.
The Marxists will be organising on and off campus again this year, including in defence of women’s’ rights and for SU democracy. We don’t have expensive lawyers, but we have a growing number of students on our side who are interested in changing the world. We’re under no illusions about the magnitude of the fight for socialism – we want to see workers in Nottingham, across Britain, and internationally united in the struggle for a society based on need, not profit. We want to see Corbyn come to power on a socialist programme, and for a fundamental and revolutionary change from capitalism to socialism. This is why we link up with students across the country through the Marxist Student Federation, and with the Marxist tendency in the labour movement via Socialist Appeal.
But of course we have to start somewhere. And for us, the fight begins right here on campus. Join us!
Alex Randell, Nottingham Marxist Society