A united, fighting student movement is necessary to take on the Tories’ assault on the welfare state.
The reality is that NUS has refused to lead this historic student uprising that has inspired progressives across society.
The record of the current NUS President, Aaron Porter, clearly demonstrates he is incapable of leading students into battle against the Tories.
Below we document the recent record of the NUS President.
It is this record that has caused students to lose confidence in Aaron Porter’s ability to lead the student movement:
- The NUS and UCU organised an outstanding national demonstration on 10th November. At least 52,000 protesters took to the streets. It was a huge turning point in the campaigns against the government’s enormous cuts agenda.
- Following the protest there was an absurd media storm about the vandalism at Tory HQ, the aim was to demonise, discredit and demobilise students.
- Unfortunately, the NUS President ceded to this right wing agenda and felt the pressure to halt student mobilisations. In the days following the national demo it was reported that there were to be no more large-scale rallies, with Porter commenting “the next stage is about political lobbying.” He has on this occasion stuck to his word.
- The NUS failed to support the day of action on 24th November initiated by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts. On this day students mobilized in their tens of thousands in peaceful protests across the country. It was another turning point for the movement – with massive numbers of school and FE students staging walk outs and taking to the streets. Aaron Porter and the NUS leadership opted out of this activity. The next national day of action on the 30th November was also a fantastic success – again the NUS was not involved.
- The national days of action sparked a wave of university occupations across the country. These occupations have played a leading and inspiring role in the movement.
- On the 28th November – after the wave of occupations has captured the imagination of the student movement and helped broaden public support – Aaron Porter visited the UCL Occupation to apologize for his “spineless” lack of public support for the university occupations.
- He said: “For too long the NUS had perhaps been too cautious and too spineless about being committed to supporting student activism. Perhaps I spent too long over the last few days doing the same.” He added: “I just want to apologise for my dithering in the last few days.”
- That day Aaron Porter also made a promise to the UCL Occupation to “organise financial, legal and political aid for all current and future occupations.” This promise has since been broken.
- Aaron Porter also failed to back the protest called by the Free Education Campaign outside the Lib Dem London Conference – days before the vote in Parliament. Due to the expected scale of the mobilisation, the Conference had to be cancelled.
- Calls on the NUS to organize a second national demo were made within days of the first demo. At the Emergency NUS NEC meeting on 6 December NUS Black Students’ Officer, Kanja Sesay, tabled a motion (the first opportunity he had to do so) calling on NUS to organise “as part of its campaigning strategy, a second peaceful demonstration… before the parliamentary vote” on fees. Aaron Porter opposed a second demo and persuaded a majority of the NUS NEC to vote against Kanja’s motion.
- The Guardian ran an article hours later – ‘Student protests: NUS leaders vote not to join forces with march’ – highlighting this decision.
- In panic and alarm Aaron Porter published a blog on the NUS Connect website the following day in which he stated the NUS NEC “voted overwhelmingly to approve and agree to organise a programme of joint action with the lecturers’ union UCU… which includes a national day of action, lobby of Parliament and rally and vigil in Westminister.” He added “there was no vote at the NUS NEC on any other proposals and so we did not, as was claimed, vote not to join forces with any march.”
- But a vote did take place. Aaron voted against a organising a second demo. Perhaps he felt the media publicity could damage him?
- The promised NUS ‘National day of action’ on Wednesday 8th of December did not materialise. The only event organized by NUS was the Women’s Campaign protest outside Lynne Featherstone’s office.
- On the day of the vote itself it was left to ULU to lead up the student organization of a national demo – which was a fantastic success – but could have been much bigger had the NUS put its weight behind it.
- Instead, NUS called a lobby of MPs and a ‘candle-stick’ vigil to mourn the destruction of higher education. The details of these insufficient activities (time, venue etc) were not even published on the NUS website(!!). Consequently a couple of hundred students took part. Meanwhile tens of thousands marched defiantly against the government on the demo organized by ULU.
- Aaron Porter said he was ‘not at all proud’ of protest outside Parliament.
- The NUS President was extremely quick to denounce student protesters who were exercising their democratic right to oppose the government’s proposals. But it has taken NUS days to express any concern for the students injured as a result of appalling scenes of police brutality.
- Leaked emails show that the NUS had put models of alternative cuts to Ministers, outlining where cuts could be made to the Higher Education budget without raising tuition fees. These plans included cutting grants to the poorest students, and immediately charging a higher commercial rate on interest on student loans.
- Unity is important. But students need to unite around a National President fit for purpose.