Socialist Worker

Vote blocks attacks on democracy in the NUS

by Rob Owen and Hind Hassan
Issue No. 2096

The National Union of Students (NUS) annual conference last week witnessed the defeat of a major attack on democracy.

It saw NUS elect anti-war campaigner Rose Gentle as its honorary vice-president and a vote to support campus occupations in the event of any attack on Iran.

The Student Respect group emerged as the official opposition to the right wing leadership in the elections for full-time positions on the NUS executive, and we were elected first and third onto the part-time executive positions.

Conference started with the defeat of the right wing leadership's 'review'. This would have seen the union transformed from a campaigning organisation into something more akin to a lobby group.

Against all odds the left mobilised 355 delegates to stop the leadership gaining the two thirds needed to destroy NUS democracy.

Defeat caused the leadership to lose the plot with denunciations of those opposed to the review and abuse directed at left wing speakers who explained where the union should go next.

Policy debate for the next two days was marked by red-baiting against free education and campaign orientated motions.

Conference shifted left under the combination of the debate around Darfur – when a Student Respect member from Sudan rocked delegates with a powerful speech against Western intervention – and Student Respect's superb full-time election results.

Hind Hassan came second with 391 (40 percent) for vice-president welfare and Rob Owen came second for vice-president higher education with 201 votes (27 percent).

The conference then passed motions opposing military recruitment and calling for college occupations against any attack on Iran.

Student Respect's votes for the part-time executive are the strongest showing for any left group in recent NUS history. Unfortunately other left groups failed to get re-elected onto the executive.

This leaves an executive of 27 members with only four clearly opposed to the attacks on democracy.

With over 100 delegates, a strong presence on the NUS executive and with executive members at universities across the country, Student Respect can now take the lead in building a movement to fight for free education, and against racism and war.

Rob Owen is a member of the NUS national executive, and Hind Hassan will be on next year's NUS national executive. They write in a personal capacity.

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Article information

Tue 8 Apr 2008, 19:57 BST
Issue No. 2096
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