Plymouth votes to leave the NUS: is disaffiliation the right tactic?January 10, 2019
The University of Plymouth’s Student Union has decided to leave the NUS, after 519 of 1006 members voted to end its affiliation. The debate for leaving came after recent news that the NUS is currently facing a £3 million-pound deficit. UPSU president Alex Doyle recently told the BBC there are “significant concerns” regarding the NUS’ value for money for students, as well as a “lack of political standing and lack of support.”
It’s true that the NUS currently leaves a lot to be desired. But it is only through affiliation that universities can vote to radicalise it and change its current bureaucratic nature. With disaffiliation, we cut ourselves off from the national organisation of students and atomise the student movement.
This vote comes at a time where tuition fees have continued to rise, and students need a fighting national leadership more than ever. Under pressure from the student body, the NUS has previously mobilised 50,000 students on the streets of London to fight these harsh tuition fee increases. Voting to disaffiliate only weakens the NUS’s ability to play this role in the future. Thus the only thing the vote achieves is giving the Tories exactly what they want.
Marxist students aim to win the NUS to a radical socialist programme so that we can campaign for free education funded by expropriation of the country’s biggest businesses. We already have the resources to provide free education, but it’s in the wrong hands.
Solidarity with workers is crucial to role of the NUS in defending students, because staff working conditions are student learning conditions. Recently we have seen the potential for this in the 2018 UCU strikes, in which many universities’ staff struck against changes to pension plans. The NUS supported these strikes but could have done more to mobilise students and spread the action. This is why we must continue our efforts to change the NUS and push it to take a more radical approach to fighting for students. This simply isn’t possible by leaving.
At this year’s NUS conference, a record number of at least ten Marxist delegates will be in attendance, campaigning for socialist policies and a fighting NUS.
by Josh Hawkins, Plymouth Marxists