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The NUS - Stay in and change it for the better

Jun 13 2008 15:38
Camilla Royle
Camilla Royle explains why she opposed proposed reforms to NUS, and why we should stay in to make it better.
Camilla Royle

Imperial joined the NUS as a result of a college wide autumn term referendum 18 months ago. We have been fully ratified members, able to participate in NUS democracy, for just over a year. This term we face leaving it as a result of a further referendum called by the ICU leadership in a recent council meeting. The disaffiliation campaign is asking students to make a huge decision about the fates of students in years to come.

Leaving the NUS now would be taking away the rights of future students to be part of such an organisation. Taking them away when they need them most- when education is becoming more marketised with universities being thrown into competition with each other for funding and an increase in top-up fees being considered.

I opposed the recent attempt at a governance review by the NUS, not because I think the NUS is fine the way it is - I don?t think anyone does! But there were many aspects of the review which I disagreed with, mainly the introduction of a trustee board to NUS governance. These reforms aimed to turn the NUS into something more like a professional lobby group than a union, they were described as a union voting to destroy itself.

I also disagreed with the way the governance review was carried out. An emergency conference was held where one of the two rounds of voting needed to pass the review could be carried out- Imperial selected its delegates to this by mini-bus driving ability and names pulled out of a hat. I also don?t remember any kind of consulting process for ordinary students to express their views on it.

The National Union of Students was proposing a new structure which would have meant that minority student groups would potentially be excluded from the decision making structure of the NUS. Put simply, the Nomination Committee which would have been selected by the Board of Trustees (one of the most powerful bodies in the new proposed structure) would have been responsible for recommending who should sit on the Board of Trustees. Effectively, the Board of Trustees would be a self-selecting body. There would not have been guaranteed representation of the smaller student groups such as those who are part of the Liberation campaigns (Women, Black students, disabled students and LGBT students).

The NUS needs to have more of a presence on campuses, be more relevant and ask students what issues they care about. Tweaking the way the NUS is governed would ultimately do little to change this and risks making the situation worse by alienating people that aren?t interested in governance structures.

The NUS is our chance, as students, to have a voice on a national level. It is our chance to stand up and be counted. It is our chance to ensure that the government hears us loud and clear. The fact that the governance review did not pass this year should not be used as an excuse to throw all our toys out of the pram and disaffiliate. We need to be involved to make a change. Whether you were for or against the governance review is irrelevant in this debate, the fact is that the NUS is our voice. If we disaffiliate today, we don?t lose a discount card, we lose our voice. It's your vote, use it wisely.

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Discussion about “The NUS - Stay in and change it for the better”

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
Jun 13 2008 16:35

camilla also wonders why she submitted that picture to live and how long they kept it for!!

Jun 13 2008 16:49

It's the one from the last referendum, send me a new one if you want!

Jun 13 2008 16:58

The reality is that given the choice between a union and a lobbying group, the latter is infinitely preferable.

Unlike a trade union, students simply don't have the ability to strike or exert pressure. The last time we tried to do it, we lost against the government. The NUS has to reform into an insider pressure group if it is to be listened to.

That may not be sexy enough for the Trots, and it may not allow them to act out their revolutionary fantasies, but it is what will be better for students in the long term.

Anyone can march around and wave a placard, but the real test is whether or not they can sit down, advise and negotiate with the government?

4. Ummm   
Jun 13 2008 17:20

Camilla talks about democracy but wasn't she the one that voted in direct conflict with what she as an elected person was mandated to do? I don't consider that democracy.

Jun 17 2008 16:38

Camilla wrote in her manifesto that she wasn't happy with the governance review. Maybe the fact she was still elected shows that imposing a mandate in the first place was undemocratic.

Jun 17 2008 16:41

Careful, your loony left colours are coming through.

Were you in favour of the NUS reforms, or against them?

Jun 17 2008 16:42

Well in that case it is undemocratic to expect all students to pay for NUS even if they think it is a waste of money.

By this logic our affiliation fee should be reduced for every student who voted against NUS affiliation in the last referendum. The point is that ICU joined as a collective therefore we must speak as a collective and not according to whatever way George Galloway told Camilla to vote.

Let Camilla and her hard left chums have an NUS that is funded soley through contributions from individual students. Then we will see what demand there really is amongst UK students for NUS crazies and their irrelevant "activism".

Jun 18 2008 10:48

I know why Camilla wanted to stay in the NUS. No matter what she says in the article, it's really so she can head off and play politics with her loony-left chums. No other forum gives the radical socialists the veneer of respectability.

Jun 18 2008 10:49

p.s. Can you imagine the outcry if the NUS was 30% BNP? But the radical left has, in the past, shown itself to be at least as evil and destructive as fascism ever managed. We can't support these people.

10. JC   
Jun 18 2008 11:00

"But the radical left has, in the past, shown itself to be at least as evil and destructive as fascism ever managed." [citation needed]

Jun 18 2008 11:07
Jun 18 2008 13:07

Jeez, you cannot automatically associate an authoritarian, oppressive regime with radical left-wing politics purely because they failed to implement Marxism upon a country ill-suited to it. All the countries that attempted Marxism have been predominantly backward and rural, thus economically unstable. Whereas Marxism was perceived as the NATURAL overthrowing of the ruling classes by the industrial working class.

Don't be so careless. George Bernard Shaw never wished famine upon anyone, even though through his blinkered perception of the Soviet Union, he praised it. Mussolini for example was never anti-semitic or genocidal before Hitler forced it upon him, and Mussolini was the original fascist dictator.

Stop being so callous, and frankly offensive.

Jun 18 2008 16:33

Or the People's Republic of China during the Cultural revolution?

Matty, I suppose you're right and it is just a coincidence that every time the radical left has taken power anywhere it has deteriorated into authoritarianism?

Extreme socialism did cause famine through callous incompetence, but it also has caused the deliberate mass murders of millions who merely disagreed.

Also, if Marxism is NATURAL, then what's the point of a radical socialist movement at all? At what point does a workers/soldier's uprising (as occurred in China and the USSR) become 'natural' and when is it somehow artificial?

I think that eventual xenophobia is as much a part of fascism as eventual authoritarianism is of the radical left. I know you'll agree with that statement, just in the opposite way to the one I'm thinking of. :p

Jun 18 2008 16:37

(p.s. There is nothing wrong with socialism in moderation, just the extreme stuff, as with most things.)

Jun 18 2008 22:59

Hey, I'm glad you didn't bite my ass off and insult me personally as I was expecting to happen. Thanks for your reasoned response.

I was merely saying that Marxism was intended to be natural. I don't think Marxism has ever been effectively enacted. Only as you say, 'artificially', 1917 revolution was indeed the action of an opportunistic few.

Nor, do I think that Marxism is natural for our times, social democracy has thankfully prevailed(-ish). I just get a bit peeved when people say immediately that Marxism killed a load of people. I think the radical left have their merits WITHIN a democracy, even though many tar them with the same brush. However, as the 80s showed us, it does not make them electable.

Jun 18 2008 23:06

What I think a lot of people get annoyed about is the perceived imbalance in the political spectrum. That the extreme-left gets more respect than the extreme-right, this is probably due to our overall cultural liberalisation and respect for ideas of equality and respect on the whole (especially when it comes to issues of nationality and culture). I'd argue that it isn't so much an imbalance in the spectrum, but an outdated and crass spectrum to begin with.

Many try and give the radical left a hard time due to this perceived imbalance, and this seems a bit questionable. However, I'd rather have George Bernard Shaw aligned to a philosophy than Nick Griffin any day, hehe.

Jun 20 2008 14:53

why do people think all socialists are some kind of extremist nutter? loads of normal people (if there is such a thing) would describe themselves as socialists.

there's a right time for NUS to be lobbying- i went to the lobby on fees last year and i thought the idea of putting ads in all the papers etc was a good one- but there is also a need to involve more of the students that consider themselves activists through demos and big meetings on campuses with the rector etc. i think the NUS needs to reform to make itself more visible on campus.

plus whats George Galloway got to do with it. lol

Jun 21 2008 10:35

I'm sorry if I was overly personal in my attack Matty. I did not mean to be and if I was it was wrong.

In the mean time, I'm really not sure that the radical left is that much more tolerant than the extreme right. Communist societies do succeed well in promoting women's rights and freedoms, but minorities and migrants get fairly short shrift. Granted these are authoritarian regimes and should be judged as such, but they are authoritarian regimes from socialist roots.

I'm not sure the time will ever be right for Marxism, and I'm still not sure how you can tell 'natural' Marxist revolution from the ones we've experienced. And I know that the Soviet Union descended into Stalinism, and China had Maoism, with Marxism left to lie in the dust. But my point is that I'm not convinced this hijacking of the revolution isn't in fact inevitable. In other words, while Marxism does not advocate mass-murder in any way, I think it is nevertheless an inevitable outcome of the implementation of Marxism.

(Also, I have absolutely no problems with social democracy, and I recognise that we live in a social democratic country.)


I make no such assertion. Socialism gave us the Labour government of 1945, one of the best in our country's existence. However, there is definitely a lunatic fringe, and my opinion is that Respect sits firmly within that. As do the Left List and occasionally the Green Party. In short, there are many normal people who would describe themselves as Socialist, with reason. There are also nutters who describe themselves as Socialist.

And to nip a flame war in the bud, Green politics is not inherently radical left, and is a necessary part of our times. It's just our Green Party that is (if you don't believe me, compare and contrast with Germany's far more electable Greens).

Jun 22 2008 23:43

Sorry Grammar School Boy for not being clear. I was complimenting you on not attacking me personally, which is what I was expecting. Thanks again though for being polite, it makes me happy, and I am not taking the p***, it does actually make me happy when someone is patient, tolerant and polite.

Well, a natural Marxist revolution has never happened and the closest thing to it is the storming on the Bastille 1789 and that was way before Engels. All supposed Marxist revolutions have been the action of an opportunistic few. But it is all semantics at the end of the day. Your argument about oppression being an inevitable outcome of Marxism is doomed to be theoretical as I also cannot forsee a Marxist revolution. It is also like those who argue that the fact that Communists were atheists also inevitably led to mass-murder. It sure though makes an interesting discussion and thanks for humouring me and my long-windedness :).

I was trying to say that revolutionaries are not necessarily radicals and you made my point above, many are willing to radically change something within the system and they are reasonable. As soon as a militant Trotskyite talks about revolution I find it hard not to laugh. The revolutionaries tend to have lost grip on reality but I admire their candour.

Also, I agree that the greatest government we ever had is the 1945 Attlee government. I heart Bevan. I think Earl Grey's 1830 was good for its reforming aspects if limited overall - abolition of slavery and entending the franchise. But when can you honestly think of a government that redefined the country for the better than Attlee's.

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See Also

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