I’ve been a bit mean about the NUS and its hypocritical, lying, self-serving excuses for “leaders” lately, and I wanted to clarify some things. To coin a standard slimy politician phrase, let me be absolutely clear: we need a national co-ordinated student movement to campaign on behalf of students, to advocate for students, and to defend student interests. However, following the mass discontent after the National Demonstration on the 10th November the NUS is defending its own interests: if the NUS had stopped its demo because it didn’t want to be associated with criminal damage, yes, good. We don’t want people walking blindly into a potentially dangerous situation they didn’t consent to. But they didn’t just stop there: I reached the bridge by Millbank and walked straight into a line of NUS stewards who told me that the demo was over, that people had gotten into Tory Party HQ but that the police had arrived and it was all over. And that I should go get on my coach. Is that protecting the 2000 students who were still standing outside Millbank? Or is that lying because their party got pooped?
The NUS and its leaders have since been doing their utmost to denounce anyone who was at Millbank and to claim that their opinion is representative of everyone else who wasn’t there. But I have to ask, what evidence is there that that is even true? I wasn’t even at Millbank when it all started, I was way in the back with other students who never intended to go and smash up Tory Party windows. And they were all thrilled to bits when they heard what was happening. You don’t have to set fire to a placard yourself to be ok with other people doing so.
Do you think that students and lecturers oppose Millbank? Think again:
* University of Manchester Student Union’s Statement – “We do not condone any acts of violence but we are not surprised that some students and young people fell they are simply not being heard through the formal channels of democracy and that their frustration has reached this point.”
And let us consider what the wonderful Paul O’Grady has to say:
Anecdotal and polling evidence suggests that public support remains high for what happened last Wednesday. Yes, it dropped; what do you expect when the media focus on fire extinguishers and believe our distinguished President when he says that a few extremists hijacked our protest (although, as my actual anarchist friends point out, no trouble-maker goes into a situation unmasked and bearing an NUS placard, as so many students on that day did)? I am absolutely certain those people will change their minds when their parents lose their pensions, their children lose their EMA, they lose their jobs and suddenly Iain Duncan Smith’s crackdown on “lazy and workshy” benefits claimants applies to them and reality just doesn’t accord with even the Daily Mail’s best efforts.
My leftist comrades insist on “solidarity with students and workers” – usually I am sceptical of pretty much everything the left have to say, but on this occasion, they are right. We don’t have time for the NUS trying to consolidate its power and force everyone to campaign their way. I got myself blocked on Twitter by the Academic Affairs Officer of our union after she called Manchester occupiers last Thursday “idiots” and I wasn’t very complimentary in response. This incident should never have happened: if you disapprove of a campaigning tactic, don’t engage in it. If you think the tactic is damaging to the movement, say so. But calling students “despicable” and “idiots”? You’ve been in power too long, methinks.
The NUS campaign against its own members needs to stop. Lobby MPs, hold the nicey nicey stuff behind closed doors that individual unions can’t, but when students take to the streets and start venting their rage at what’s happening to education in this country, just say it’s not an NUS thing and keep talking about why we’re pissed off. That’s a nice, workable compromise, isn’t it? Raise some awahness, yah?