THE FUTURE OF THE STUDENT MOVEMENT: NUS ELECTIONS 2016 – JOE HASLAM

The Norwich Radical was born in the student movement, and we continue to be an active part within it. We recognise that while official structures are not the sum total of the movement, they play an undeniably important part and to understand the political consciousness of the student movement, you need to, in part, look at the National Union of Students. As we move into election season for the new NUS President, Vice Presidents and National Executive Council, we contacted all candidates in those elections and offered them the space to write about their election campaigns, why they are standing and their vision for NUS.

By Joe Haslam

Why am I running in this years NUS election for Block?

Because not only am I angry, disappointed, and completely disgusted with the way things are. We cannot carry on like this. It’s just not right.

NUS does some good stuff, I know there are individuals within NUS who work tirelessly to make change happen. But there are not enough of them, and so NUS doesn’t do half as much as what needs to be done. That’s not to decry the excellent work carried out by those individuals; the problems facing us right now are immense both in relentless frequency and scope, but something’s got to change, and it must change now because people are dying.

We have the highest levels of student, fuel and food poverty, which disproportionately affect students, especially minorities and young people, in recorded history. £9000 a year tuition fees, more if you want to do a specialised course in a leading institution, indebting young people before they’ve even started their working life just because they chose to do something worthwhile, not to mention the new threat that is inflationary fees and the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). Alongside that poverty, student grants are officially dead. They started with EMA and now they’ve delivered the final blow: the scrapping of NHS bursaries and Disabled Student Allowance (DLA). While we’re on the NHS, we have doctors going on strike over new contracts that would be unsafe if implemented, pre-privatisation contracts, the outright threat of NHS privatisation through TTIP and other capitalist trade deals. Fascism is growing in popularity across the country, including outrageous examples of racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia across our college and university campuses. Then there’s the Prevent Agenda, not just racist and islamophobic to the core, but a direct violation of our human right to protest. Coupled with the Trade Union bill, not to mention the horde or anti-protest gagging laws applied across the EU, it’s obvious to me that right-wing politicians are trying to outlaw peaceful protest. When they do that, we need to be ready to be defiant and protest anyway. If that means fighting the state, we better be in big numbers!

( © Joe Haslam; Field of Light )

Should I not say that in case I get Prevent officers following me around like they’ve done to other students? Tough. Don’t care. I’m here to do what’s right. If they want to spy on us, fine, let’s make sure we give them a good show to watch!

Student poverty, the end of all grants, tuition fees, debt, mass privatisation, not just the NHS but schools as well, discriminatory legislation and the attempted outlawing of dissent, benefits being cut, a mental health crisis, brought on by mass student poverty and mass student stress from debt, people being driven to suicide, oh, and while this capitalist nightmare is making its assault on students, the planet is also being destroyed. Since when did political newspaper articles start sounding like a piece from a dystopian political thriller?

Despite this, the NUS still follows a motion passed in the 70s, that states that NUS isn’t a revolutionary organisation, but a reformist one. Maybe this motion made sense at the time, but a lot of things have changed since then! Not only do we have everything outlined above happening, we have a government that spends billions on illegal genocidal wars, instead of ending poverty back home, exasperated by the ending of all student grants, telling us there isn’t enough money for a universal basic income policy, which would end poverty indefinitely, while they can afford massive increases to their wages, bonuses and Champagne budgets. There’s never enough money for nice things? Yeah, shame that, if only people paid their fucking taxes! We know for a fact that the government spies on us without our consent every single day and that some of our politicians are paedophiles. Am I really radical for wanting to overthrow this capitalist bourgeoisie and have a revolution?

I’m running for the National Executive, to put it simply and bluntly, because people are dying at the hands of this government, people are falling, people are finding it hard or impossible to cope, and that’s not right, and there’s a better way, and that way must be made to happen. The government will not change just because we ask them nicely, we have to force change if we want it, and I believe we don’t just want it, we need it.

We need a far more radical NUS that will continue with the good work it currently does, but also engage with far more direct action. Bigger, more tactical and more relentless than ever, cos that’s how the government has been responding to us.

( © Joe Haslam, Fields of Light )

We need to occupy government buildings. We need to make the student strike happen. We need to join the Trade Union Council because students are workers, we produce academic and intellectual materials and qualified workers. For as long as we are not recognised as workers, the work we do in the eyes of wider society will be undervalued. We need to occupy banks. We need “Free Education Camps”, like climate camps but focused on education. We need tactical road blockades and banner drops far more frequently. The Tories don’t care about us, they don’t care about anyone or anything except for their money and power, so we need to hit them where it hurts: money. Road blockades and government building occupations that will cost them big time. And we need to escalate till they give us what we all deserve: a free and liberated education for all.

I’m running for Block to make that happen. I’m running for change. I’m running to radicalise our movement, because I believe that the government itself is radical in its attacks towards us, and we must defend ourselves! I’m running because I can’t and won’t stand by while people die, sleep on the streets, cry, break, face poverty, face debt, face this shitty life, we deserve better than this!

That’s why I’m running for Block.

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