In the months running up to this year’s National Union of Students (NUS) Conference, I submitted a motion to the Leeds University Union which spoke out against the desperation and poor working conditions that are caused by precarious employment. The motion was not only a firm indictment of precarious work, but it also drew attention to how its upsurge in recent years is a natural product of capitalist crisis. Consequently, the motion advocated for the NUS to not only support the struggles of precarious workers – both financially and by participating – but to also campaign for a government that would transform the economy into a one run for need, not for profit.
Despite submitting this motion to my SU well ahead of the deadline that they had set, I was told by the LUU’s Political Engagement Manager that he had unfortunately ‘forgotten’ to send the motion in time for the NUS’s deadline. While he assured me that it was an accident, and that it had nothing to do with its political content, I was somewhat doubtful that this was the case.
My doubts only increased when I found out that another Marxist NUS delegate from SOAS had experienced exactly the same thing – for the same motion!
In both cases, the parties responsible apologised for their failure to submit our motions – however, I don’t think that an apology makes up for their neglectful attitude towards those who voted for us, nor for their blatant disregard for student democracy in general. Is it any surprise that so many students feel alienated and disengaged from student politics when those who are currently in charge fail to perform their duties?
At a time when we are currently experiencing an increasingly radical mood on campuses in Britain – something reflected in the growth of Marxist societies up and down the country – it is clear that the bureaucrats and careerists that currently lead our student organisations have no interest in helping us attain our demands. For them, these student bodies represent nothing but a step in their career paths, and radical change is their lowest priority.
As with all bureaucratic organisations, genuinely transformative programs threaten their continued existence. This explains why the NUS and student unions across the country have been more than happy to embrace a certain type of performative identity politics, while completely abandoning any hope of fighting for radical demands such as ending tuition fees, ending landlordism and ending precarious work.
Given this situation, we must strengthen our resolve in our struggle for revolutionary ideas, both on campus and in the NUS. The NUS could become a union that unites students and workers in the fight for a socialist Labour government, but only if we are willing to make it that way.
Jack Tye Wilson, NUS Delegate (Leeds)