In the run up to the National Conference of the National Union of Students, we have offered all candidates for President, Vice President, and Block of 15 the opportunity to write articles for us explaining their priorities, their manifesto and why delegates should support them and elect them to their respective roles. Each candidate is allowed between 600 and 1,000 words, and we will publish each article in the order that we receive them.
by Hannah Webb
I’m running to be on block of 15 because I would like to see NUS change from a weak lobbying group to a powerful stronghold of radical left activism that is prepared to actually fight the government rather than just point out where it might have got things wrong. I am under no illusions that this will happen in one year – it certainly will take many years to change in a meaningful way – but perhaps bit by bit NUS will shift to a more proactive anticapitalist organisation. Indeed, since winning free education policy at Conference last year there has been a shift in attitude towards free education such that it is beginning to be accepted as common sense, but we have a long way to go before such attitudes are permanent. We are now in a good place to present our own idea of a liberated education – one free from fees for all students, one with living grants for all, and one where our institutions are run democratically by students and staff, not run by managers for profit.
For the last four years I have been actively involved in education activism
For the last four years I have been actively involved in education activism, as a member of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, helping organise countless demonstrations, and constantly making the case for a democratic and free education funded by taxing the rich. I was heavily involved in #copsoffcampus, Save ULU, and a successful campaign at the Carpenters Estate in east London against UCL (my university) demolishing the estate to make way for a new campus. I am currently on a year abroad in Hungary, but remain fairly active in the Focus E15 campaign, a campaign which I was involved in from the start (and indeed at conference last year whilst running against incumbent Rachael Mattey for VPUD told the room that they were generally uninspiring and should look to residents of the Carpenters Estate or the Focus E15 mothers to see examples of good and effective activism).
As a London based activist, where working class people are constantly being forced out the city, housing is a huge focus, but also a perfect example of why we need to reject the idea that we can only organise around matters that students face ‘as students’ – a line that NUS pushes (what does it even mean?!) – and instead should organise with and show solidarity with the communities where we live, in order to change society as a whole.
Every year at National Conference some very good policy is passed, but is ignored by NUS as it is not in keeping with the aims of the elected officers. I would see my role on Block of 15 as fighting that; ensuring that good left wing policy is not ignored. We won free education policy last year, but NUS has done nothing except release a half-hearted ‘roadmap to free education’ whilst NCAFC and other free education activists worked full-time organising a 10,000 person demonstration. It is owing to grassroots activism that we grow as a movement, but NUS rarely reflects that, and frequently ignores or even works against the efforts of student activists. NUS needs to reflect the strong left wing principles of the student movement, and stick to them, and fight for them, instead acting as though campaigning just means asking politicians nicely then giving up.
Of course, individual Block of 15 members cannot do this on their own, and frequently become disconnected themselves, much like NUS Full Time Officers. My involvement in NUS is, always has been, and always will be secondary to my tireless grassroots activism, and NUS is only ever effective when relying on the strength of organised grassroots student activists – alone it is powerless. NUS needs to stop dragging its feet in fighting for a more liberated democratic education system, and as a member of the block of 15 I will go some way in the long journey towards making that change.
You can read all candidates’ articles here.