Socialist ideas have taken a small step forward this week at the University of Manchester. Standing as an open socialist and a Marxist, I was incredibly pleased and grateful to have been elected as a delegate to next year’s National Union of Students (NUS) conference.
The success of our campaign was ultimately down to the popularity of the policies that Socialist Students put forward. Socialist Students has nationally been running candidates on an anti-fees, socialist platform. Our group in Manchester raised the need for an NUS that uses its strength and influence to mobilise a mass movement of students and youth against extortionate fees, accommodation costs, and the Tory government. Our calls for free education and rent controls against the major letting companies were well-received.
We also campaigned in support of workers taking strike action. Many students will graduate into the world of full-time work. With the rising ‘gig economy’, a large amount of university graduates will enter into low-paid, insecure work, often in retail. It is vital that the NUS builds links with young workers’ struggles, like the recent co-ordinated strikes of McDonald’s, Wetherspoons, TGI Fridays and UberEats staff demanding an end to zero-hours contracts and a living wage of £10/hr.
Crucial to our campaign in Manchester was our determination in raising our ideas. Many students will have seen us holding regular campaign stalls outside the Students Union building, approaching students and openly discussing the way forward for the NUS. The mood was generally one of frustration and confusion about the real role of the Union. This is understandable given the total inactivity of the NUS’ leadership in defence of students rights. However, our policies were received well by people (some even identifying as ‘communists’) who initially were attracted to our society’s banner.
All of this, including the election result, shows that the determination still exists to transform the NUS. While its current Blairite leadership is falling far short of the mark, students and young people across the country are still receptive to the need to get organised and fight back.
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