National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts - An insider perspective on the leftist dead end

National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts - An insider perspective on the leftist dead end

With angry street protests spilling over into riots and occupations across the country, various groups are jostling for position as the self-appointed leadership of the movement. After the NUS made itself irrelevant in the wake of the Millbank Riot, the National Convention Against Fees And Cuts (NCAFC) took pole position.

Given the state of things at the moment, it might come as a shock to learn that self-styled NUS alternative the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) decided to delay 5 December, which was to be a day of united action for students and workers, to the 11th. Leaving aside the question of what gives them the authority to change the weekend of action-- after they'd already assumed cooperation from other groups to begin with-- it is always clear that when leftists delay action, what they are actually doing is restraining a movement and attempting to stifle it. This movement has been gaining momentum for weeks, and it seems that the NCAFC is now seeking to control it.

The NCAFC is a perfect example of what is wrong with leftism and why it can never, ever lead a movement or do anything except destroy it. Leftists, whether they are members of dogmatic parties or not, do not have anyone's best interests at heart except their own. They are the NUS without the authority. They are liberals with a veneer of revolutionary glamour. In the end, they will always turn back to traditional authority figures, be they Labour or NUS or their own appointed ones. The real movement does not come from above but from the students and other people out on the street.

I've never believed in vanguardism. The idea that the proletariat need bourgeois intellectuals to lead them from ignorance into the revolution is so ridiculously self-aggrandising that only the most deluded bourgeois would-be revolutionaries actually believe it. Unfortunately this viewpoint seems to have taken hold. The NCAFC is finally showing itself for what I refused to believe it was: a venue for Leninists to insinuate their greasy ideology of power and domination into the genuine anger that so many people feel right now, to corrupt a movement of the people and turn it to their own ends. There is nothing revolutionary about this. It is the behaviour, through and through, of politicians and bureaucrats.

But let us rewind. Let's go back almost a year, to the inception of this group at the Convention Against Fees and Cuts, which I attended in February of 2009. Let's go back to the time I spent as a key part of the group-- and what made me leave it behind. The story is pretty typical: unfocused student outrage that the UK wants to imitate the debt-ridden and deeply unequal American higher education system. I found an outlet for this outrage in leftist politics, then abandoned leftism when it became clear that leftists are far more interested in jockeying for prominence and recruiting for sectarian parties than in changing the world.

I can say with no small amount of embarrassment that I was a liberal when I came to university-- Sussex University, whose reputation for student activism is a little more radical than it actually deserves. What pushed me further to the left at Sussex (and ultimately the 'ultraleft') wasn't interminable meetings dominated by power-hungry leftists under orders from a home office. It wasn't the dogmatic Leninist propaganda. It was watching my fellow students beaten and abused by police-- brought there by a false hostage situation-- for trying to defend their education. Nothing brought home the facts like those batons did, and no proselytising leftist prompted me to action like those snarling police dogs. This is a feeling that I'm sure students all over the UK are newly familiar with, after the brutal policing that took place on the last day of action.

I linked up with the NCAFC in the hope that I could help build a nationwide movement that wasn't dominated by petty party front groups like Another Education is Possible or the Education Activist Network. I liked the fact that the NCAFC was composed of independent activists as well as full-time party stooge, and for a while I thought that we could overcome the self-interest of professional revolutionaries to build a real student-led movement.

I spent months spent trying to coax a lumbering, sluggish machine into action. I helped set up the anticuts.com website, and I puzzled over the apparent tension between Workers Power and AWL. It seems AWL lived in constant fear that WP were going to try to seize control of the NCAFC. I heard from countless people that NCAFC was just a front for AWL, and I denied it. After all, I was an independent activist in the NCAFC, and I certainly didn't consider myself a part of either group.

Not that they didn't try. Over the course of my months with NCAFC, a Workers Power hack did his best to get me to join. I needed the structure of a revolutionary organisation, you see, not having the power on my own to make a difference. I had to be told what to do by a 'revolutionary' party instead of thinking for myself. This sort of disempowering, insidious nonsense is exactly why leftists can't be trusted with the movement, and it's unfortunate that it took me so long to see it.

In the months since, I've realised that the only reason these so-called revolutionaries were there was to maintain control over the NCAFC and the wider movement. I watched them attend occupations specifically to promote their party agenda and position themselves as would-be gurus. Being the self-appointed vanguard, clearly they were the only ones with the experience and ability to tell students how to feel and what to do.

My break with the NCAFC came just a few months after I got involved. The group's national meeting had already been scheduled on the day that the Gaza flotilla demo was called in June of 2009. Despite calls to move the meeting or delay it to later in the day, the meeting went on as scheduled, dealing with a massive backlog of administrative details. At the end of four long hours, with me chairing, Workers Power attempted to force through a motion to call for an academic boycott of Israel. Those familiar with the groups in question will not be surprised that AWL took issue with this motion (as did I and several other independent activists), and there was perhaps 20 minutes of hostile discussion.

The resulting row was cut short when the group agreed that the end of a four-hour meeting was not the time or place for such a controversial discussion. When I commented that I felt the practicalities of running the group were more important than leftist grandstanding, the aforementioned member of Workers Power told me I needed to 'get my priorities straight.' Indeed. I quit NCAFC the next day. I had had my fill of leftist 'priorities.' I didn't bear the NCAFC much ill will; I just thought they were incapable of leading a sing-a-long, much less a movement. I didn't hold their patronising attitude or bourgeois arrogance against them. Until now.

Now I find this group of posturing vanguardists thinks they have the right to throttle a movement that's quickly gaining power. True to form, they've backtracked on their calls to action and tried to force the anger we're all feeling into a neat, leftist-controlled box. Their behaviour reminds me a great deal of another group of bureaucrats feigning interest in student issues for the sake of a little power: the NUS. It's painfully ironic then that the NCAFC has tried so hard to paint itself as a better alternative to Aaron Porter's collection of shameless careerist politicians, given NCAFC's recent attempt to squash the legitimate anger of students and channel it to the group's own ends.

The only difference between the NUS and the NCAFC is that the NUS has the veneer of respectable authority, as evidenced by its squeamish attempts to distance itself from the occupation of Tory party HQ-- a position that Aaron Porter is now backtracking on. It makes the perfect foil for NCAFC's posturing as the 'radical' wing of the movement. But now the NCAFC have tipped their hand. By trying to rein in student anger and delaying action, they will smother the spark that has been lighting this country up from Brighton to Aberdeen. With this ridiculous decision-- made by people I used to consider friends and genuinely concerned activists-- they have shown that they are not the radical wing of anything.

So it is no surprise that a member of the NCAFC tried to argue with me that Aaron Porter of 'despicable idiots' fame is now allegedly on-side. He's apologised, he's very sorry, so can he please lead the movement again? It is beyond satire that the same people howling at the Lib Dems over their tuition fee lies actually give any credence to Aaron Porter's turn around. Only leftists could condemn one group of spineless liars and welcome another back into the fold in the same breath.

I didn't realise how prophetic it was when I said not to trust leftist politicos-- less than 24 hours before the NCAFC attempted to turn a day of action that they co-opted into a day of leftist dogma and rhetoric. The NCAFC will try to sanitise this movement just as the NUS have. They are not to be trusted any more than a political party, because the pillars of the NCAFC are political parties. Experience has taught me that you cannot work with leftists, because they are always working against you. There is always another agenda, there is always a party pulling the strings. If the anti-cuts movement, student and otherwise, is to succeed, we must shake off the attempts of leftists to control us and make us more palatable to their 'revolutionary' sensibilities. We do not need them. All we need is our own conviction, our own action, our own power to change the world.

Comments

alibi
Nov 30 2010 02:17

what a waste of an hour writing that.

things are happening and the kids on the street are not interested in this shit, or if any fucker is jostling for "leadership" - leadership of what? a slowly updated website? and they're not interested in this article either. you're wasting time that could be spent trying to achieve victories here and now.

its time for action and at least a semblance of unity.

leave writing the history books til some history has actually been fucking made.

the key period is middle of december when the vote happens - no point in burnout before then. and we're looking at a very heightened period with probably 3 demos in a week. the decision makes sense. between the 30th and the 9th: occupations etc. if folk want a demo on the 5th nobody is stopping them.

Joseph Kay
Nov 30 2010 02:26

Now is not the time for criticism! Fall in line! What leadership? They're doing the right thing, follow them!

posi
Nov 30 2010 08:28

I certainly hold no brief for WP, or AWL, and I haven't been involved in NCAFC, but this does seem a little silly. What are the criticisms?

Quote:
the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) decided to delay 5 December, which was to be a day of united action for students and workers, to the 11th ... it is always clear that when leftists delay action, what they are actually doing is restraining a movement and attempting to stifle it. This movement has been gaining momentum for weeks, and it seems that the NCAFC is now seeking to control it.

So here's the latest facebook message from NCAFC:

Quote:
Two weekend protests have been called, supported by both the national meeting and local groups in different areas: on BOTH Sunday the 5th AND Saturday the 11th of December students, parents and workers will organise local protests and actions. In some areas people are doing this on the 5th. In other areas, like London, the big event is for the 11th.

The next weekday day of action will be Thursday 9th December. . .

Now, I can't remember where I saw this, but my impression was that the reason to delay in London was that a number of activists wanted more time to prepare. Is it true that this was the reason given? You disagree? OK. But why? Was this decision not a genuine expression of NCAFC/other activsts opinions about what they wanted to do - are you saying it was pushed through manipulatively? OK, but then tell us why you think that.

Even on its own terms, the accusation makes no sense. Institutionally, NCAFC have everything to gain and nothing to lose from bigger escalation. They have no institutional-representative function (and could only gain one through escalation), and no resources to protect.

This review article is also fundamentally unbalanced insofar as it fails to mention NCAFC activist's role (of course, amongst others) in making the Millbank actions happen, AND calling the 24th, AND the 30th. Nothing positive to say about what they've done in terms of encouraging links between students and - e.g. - striking tube workers? NCAFC cannot take credit for all that happened on the 24th. But they can take credit for having caught and judged the mood well enough to make a call out that led to the biggest expression of civil direct action in Britain for a good while, and having built the skeleton organisation over the previous 18 months to give it impact. Frankly, anarchists (and non-anarchists like myself) could do with thinking about why it is that AF and SolFed (with, between them, larger organisations than AWL + Workers Power) weren't able to have the same impact.

Workers Power said that the author "needed the structure of a revolutionary organisation". We all know trot recruitment tactics can be a bit annoying and unprincipled, but this really isn't that bad. Presumably Joseph K also believes that the structure of a revolutionary organisation can be useful for communists, which is why he's a member of SolFed. Does SolFed recruit in movements as well? Don't they make the argument that the structure of a revolutionary organisation is useful?

A Workers Power person also said to the author needed to get their priorities straight, or whatever. Is a bit of spine too much to ask? In politics, you're going to have arguments. Whatever movement you're in, there will be people who disagree with you, and have disagreements about what's worth discussing. You going to walk out every time?

Quote:
a member of the NCAFC tried to argue with me that Aaron Porter of 'despicable idiots' fame is now allegedly on-side

But to be honest, this is hardly the view of NCAFC in general, or even most activists, is it?

Quote:
I watched them attend occupations specifically to promote their party agenda and position themselves as would-be gurus

I was at Middlesex for a few days, including the debates around the injunction etc. There were NCAFC people there, and I didn't see them act like this. In fact, they tended to be rather quiet, and more willing than most to stick it out. I'm sure there are a few people who act like this, but again - grow some spine. Challenge them.

Apart from that, it's just a lot of splenetic assertions about leftists with little detail to back it up. AFAIK, there are a number of anarchists in the group who haven't felt moved to leave; and a good few independents - why have they decided to stay?

Mike Harman
Nov 30 2010 08:56
Quote:
Now, I can't remember where I saw this, but my impression was that the reason to delay in London was that a number of activists wanted more time to prepare. Is it true that this was the reason given? You disagree? OK. But why? Was this decision not a genuine expression of NCAFC/other activsts opinions about what they wanted to do - are you saying it was pushed through manipulatively? OK, but then tell us why you think that.

I followed this date change pretty closely in a few different places, and ended up talking to a couple of people in the NCAFC about it. This is what I understand to have happened:

1. The SWP called a 'co-ordination' of students in London, on Saturday night, of around 150 students, which they overwhelmingly controlled. I haven't seen this meeting advertised anywhere.

2. They want to have a teach-in on Sunday in London (no need to say what an SWP-led teach-in will be like).

3. They don't want any competition for this teach-in from other London events.

4. So this co-ordination took a vote to cancel/push back the 11th December date and told the NCAFC to change the date for the national callout - as a co-ordination they claimed to speak with authority for the student movement/occupations etc.

5. A couple of people in NCAFC wanted to keep the SWP happy whatever happens, so unilaterally changed the date on the facebook page (which has multiple administrators).

6. This pissed off a number of people on the facebook page, people who already had events organised outside London, had taken they day off work for it etc.

7. It also pissed of the majority of the NCAFC organisers who then spent several hours back and forth trying to get an agreement to change it back (rather than changing back unilaterally, although I don't see why they had to stick to some kind of protocol when the other group had clearly fucked up in a serious way).

8. It's now stuck in limbo advertising both weekends, and the NCAFC, as far as I know, has no intention of calling any action in London on Sunday 5th despite previously promoting that date. This is an improvement over completely whitewashing the 5th event out of the picture (even if nothing was booked centrally, 2,500 signed up on the expectation it would be before the date was changed), but still not a healthy situation.

So my impression is that within the majority of the NCAFC, or at least the person I spoke to, they're still quite genuinely trying to build a movement, keen on as much action happening as quickly as possible etc. And prior to this I'd been pleasantly surprised with how they'd conducted themselves. However, the SWP definitely isn't, and it looks like some people in the NCAFC are either SWP members or extremely easily swayed, and used their position to mess around with things. Also the NCAFC structure appears to be much more weighted to people cancelling things at short notice, than it is to promoting them in the first place.

Between all that, I don't think we have a machiavellian plot to fuck things up by NCAFC itself, or even a liberal balking at how far things have come / attempt to control it. But it's clear that there are tensions in that organisation towards that side which are already playing out, and that the SWP is in full swing attempting their usual shit.

My hope would be that local groups and people in London could rise above all this and organise stuff for this weekend anyway, that will likely depend how today goes. However it seems likely to me that a lot of places without a strong local presence are just keeping an eye on the callouts, and responding to them via their social networks (say towns with schools but no university etc.), and these are going to be the most fragile in terms of a leftist demobilisation.

I agree the article here doesn't put its point across as well as it could. I think JK has posted some specific examples of bad behaviour in the Sussex campaign, if this was NCAFC members then that might provide the concrete backup for the other points made.

On the specific date change, it's a complete mess and shows how fragile things are to even a little bit of manipulation, we'll have to see if that's just the NCAFC that gets messed up by it or the wider movement.

Entdinglichung
Nov 30 2010 09:29
slothjabber
Nov 30 2010 09:42

Everyone except the Workers' and Students' Movement facebook group, which is trailing it first on their page of events for the 4th.

http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/event.php?eid=166941933346069

alibi
Nov 30 2010 09:56

if there's a criticism to be made its not officially joining up with UK Uncut for joint action - that would of made best sense and its not too late for some tie up to be achieved to that end. also "protest on a sunday" has a bad ring to it - don't think there'd be numbers coming out but may be wrong. certainly fewer press would be interested.

to be fair i don't think Ian Bone knows the ins and outs of what's happening within NCACF and i would hold my hands up and say others here are far better informed than me so feel free to take my comments with a pinch of salt.

but these are heady times - don't waste them.

Avery Delaney
Nov 30 2010 10:10

You ask some good questions posi, but you also seem more interested in insulting me than actually getting answers. The long and short of it is that I have plenty of specific instances, but I didn't want the article to simply be a laundry list of things they've screwed up. The point of writing it was to make people aware that this group are not really any better than NUS or EAN or anyone else, and your assertion that they've built a good skeleton is outright wrong.

I think their bad decision making about Sunday-- which is what prompted the article-- is a clear indicator of how disorganised they are. That much clearly hasn't changed since I left the group in June. I could have told you that this surprise decision and the resulting argument amid the group was coming, because it's exactly the sort of thing that's happened before-- because exactly the same handful of people are running things. NCAFC has always had issues with certain members taking unilateral action without properly consulting the group. It's just that before there weren't as many people paying attention.

One of the strengths of the NCAFC was that it doesn't have a party line. But the sad fact is that NCAFC is constantly engaged in a tug of war between WP and AWL, both of whom seek to control it. It's not Machiavellian so much as typical leftist dogma: we know what's best, so we should be in charge. I was always vocal about my contempt for vanguardism when I was in the group, and vocal in my criticisms in general, so your ad hominem nonsense accusing me of being weak-willed just doesn't fly. I said early on in this article that I was new to activism when I joined NCAFC, so expecting me to instantly know how leftist parties work and just accept their foibles is pretty damn silly. And I left NCAFC precisely because I 'grew a spine.' I recognised that it was not going to change, after months of trying, and I didn't believe it had the capacity to facilitate a movement. I still don't think it does.

mons
Nov 30 2010 10:10

Agree with posi that what they have done is really not so bad, and I imagine a substantial section of NCAFC was probably pissed off by it.

Mike Harman:
I'd be surprised if there was SWP influence in NCAFC - they were very anti-SWP when I was involved. But it's possible.

I think some of the criticism is probably valid (people of both groups, especially AWL tried to recruit me from after my very first meeting), but they really haven't done any more than make an (undemocratic) mistake at this stage; I really don't think they delayed it to control struggles for the reasons posi gave, instead Mike Harman's explanation is more sensible. Also, they should be given credit for things like the students linking with tube strikers initiative.

I guess we'll see in the weeks ahead...

Avery Delaney
Nov 30 2010 10:24

Mike, what you've just described is exactly the problem with NCAFC. SWP naturally refused to join the group or work together in any way-- though they did regularly send representatives to suggest that NCAFC dissolve and join up with EAN-- and for some reason, certain members of the NCAFC insist on bowing to SWP pressure on issues like this. I really don't understand why.

You are also quite right in that the structure of the NCAFC makes it very easy for people to make snap decisions without really consulting anyone. A look at the discussion list will bring up the same couple of names over and over, and once something has been posted to the list, it's considered 'discussed.' (I was guilty of this myself, I admit.) As I said in my response to posi, this has always been a problem with NCAFC, and they haven't done much to fix it. If they want a position of prominence in the national movement (and they clearly do), they can't keep doing things like this.

There are some keen and experienced people in NCAFC, and up until yesterday, I was quite pleased that the group was getting so much attention. But they've shown that, as a group, they can't be trusted not to screw things up. I sent them a furious email after I found out about the change on Sunday, and instead of explaining what you've explained, which would have been smart, I got a high-handed response that essentially just defended it. The response was also copied to their discussion list, for some reason, so if you're interested, you can find it there.

Basically, this article was my way of warning new activists not to make the same mistake I did. I've come to realise that leftists are only a hindrance to this movement, not because they're wicked Machiavels, but because their dogma and their power structures inhibit real change.

Red Marriott
Nov 30 2010 10:42

Whatever its supposed stylistic shortcomings, in content a useful article for many who may not be familiar with leftism. I think A Delaney has quickly developed more clarity about leftists than some others here who've clearly been making too many compromises with leftists for too long.

Entdinglichung
Nov 30 2010 11:05

why does Bourdieu's term "profit of distinction" always comes to my mind when I read this stuff

posi
Nov 30 2010 12:09

Hi Avery - I wasn't trying to insult you, so apologies. I am, however, sceptical of some of what you say. In the absence of any real substance to your criticisms of NCAFC, it seemed like your objections were to do with fairly superficial stuff like WP trying to recruit you, rather than the fundamental dynamics of the anti education cuts movement which is the main thing. And, against that background, it was/is hard to see how the very sharp conclusions you draw are justified.

You say in a later comment that "I've come to realise that leftists are only a hindrance to this movement, not because they're wicked Machiavels . . .". But in your article you described them "trying to rein in student anger" and "restraining a movement and attempting to stifle it". You clearly put what they were doing down to purposeful agency with the aim of holding back the movement. That would have been Machiavellian. So what is your considered view?

Mike's account of what has happened is helpful. To me, it suggests that there's a tension within NCAFC. There's some typical trot behaviour, and some people who're resisting that organisational tendency. Who knows how it will work out? But I can't see how dismissing the lot of them as "leftists" in a totally undifferentiated manner is helpful. There's obviously a bunch of activists, including independent activists, who've projected alot of activity through NCAFC, which has been seriously effective by UK standards. What do you have to say to them? "You're leftists"? "Leave NCAFC"? And do what? How do you want the movement to be coordinated, insofar as some sort of formal coordination is useful (clearly in terms of call-outs issued so far, it has been)? By who? You want an anarchist coordination which excludes trots but somehow includes normal students?

"they've shown that, as a group, they can't be trusted not to screw things up."

Nobody can be "trusted not to screw things up". The only way to maximise the chances of things not being screwed up by anyone is for a maximum of debate, including the input of people with opinions like yours, through a decent process. I have talked to people who aren't AWL/WP who don't feel it's a stitch up at the moment. I myself left an AWL student front a number of years ago after it was clear there was no play or use in it at the time. But clearly, at the moment, NCAFC has captured something real. Why not engage with it? If you yourself don't have the personal energy - I get the impression you felt isolated within the organisation - then fair enough. Everyone's got to make choices about what they do with their time. But that doesn't add up to the conclusions of the article as expressed above.

Entdinglichung wrote:
why does Bourdieu's term "profit of distinction" always comes to my mind when I read this stuff?

Like many people, I'm sure I've got no idea wink

PS - Mike, I keep getting a validation error when I try and post...

Samotnaf
Nov 30 2010 12:43

Not knowing much about NCAFC, I found the article very interesting and clearly far more useful than alibi's "let's not think on our feet"-type comments, and posi's insults (they were insults,regardless of whatever you wanted them to be ). Theory and practice obviously inform each other, and it's no use waiting till after history has been made (and it IS being made - Millbank, the occupations, Lewisham yesterday etc. all prove it) to start reflecting. "Reflection is not genuflection" as someone in France once said. Mike H. qualifies the facts in the article and in information's helpful, but the general drift of NCAFC seems to be the classic leftist desire to stamp a movement with the organisation's name, and that's what really comes across. I know I'm not really adding anything to this debate, but I just wanted to say I really welcome Avery Delaney's article.

Rob Ray
Nov 30 2010 13:07

Jesus me and Samotnaf agreeing, whatever is the world coming to...

posi
Nov 30 2010 13:34

Whilst one or two of my sentences could, at the outside, be reasonably characterised as insults - for which I've apologised, a rare enough thing on these boards - dismissing my two entire posts on those grounds is disingenuous. Nothing that Red or Samotnfhave said goes beyond emotional identification with the conclusions of the original post, and contains no engagement with the specific questions I've asked.

Red Marriott
Nov 30 2010 16:44
Quote:
Nothing that Red or Samotnfhave said goes beyond emotional identification with the conclusions of the original post, and contains no engagement with the specific questions I've asked.

Wrong - it was also an "engagement" with and criticism of the dismissive arrogance you've since felt obliged to apologise for.

posi
Nov 30 2010 17:12

No, I didn't display "dismissive arrogance", you must have misunderstood. You've got nothing to say about the political substance of what I've said; only in confirming your own general - and, yes, dismissive and arrogant - prejudices.

Red Marriott
Nov 30 2010 17:43
posi wrote:
this does seem a little silly... grow some spine. ... it's just a lot of splenetic assertions about leftists with little detail to back it up. ...

.

Quote:
No, I didn't display "dismissive arrogance", you must have misunderstood

Whatever you were apologising for, and more - that's what I call such dickheadishness anyway.

Quote:
You've got nothing to say about the political substance of what I've said

Not a lot, I can't be bothered – uncritically promoting inclusive leftism is rather boring. But that doesn't disqualify anyone from commenting on your arrogance.

Quote:
confirming your own general - and, yes, dismissive and arrogant - prejudices.

No surprise that the leftist who supports prison screw strikes should baulk at those who want to break out of the leftist prison. I'm happy to express prejudice against such attitudes; http://libcom.org/forums/news/prison-officers-unofficial-action-spreads-18112009

alibi
Nov 30 2010 18:00

proof positive today that this inane ideological pish is irrellevant.

these kids are uncontrollable. they won't be led by any fucker.

leave the swappies and whoever to have their revolutionary erections over who's calling what if thats really what they're doing.

the street doesn't care it just wants action- but it needs to be unified action. no fucker will notice if it isn't.

posi
Nov 30 2010 18:10

Red - Ha. OK. Restart that thread if you want to. I'm not embarassed by it.

A bunch of activists, not all of whom are died in the wool trotskyists and a number of whom are libertarians - NCAFC - promote a day of direct action which ends up drawing in thousands of people in taking direct action.

Someone posts an article on libcom which claims, without a shred of evidence, that NCAFC activists are really trying to restrain and hold down the movement, and - by way of evidence - gives a few anecdotes about how he wishes some people from workers power were a bit nicer on a couple of occasions. He describes no internal differentiation, and sees no ambiguity in the organisation or what it has done. A few hundred activists who've kicked off something quite impressive, part of a real movement? Fuck 'em, they're "leftists". You support this perspective. And I'm being the arrogant, dismissive one? Get a grip.

I point out that this is nonsense, and there's no evidence for it - something which you don't, far as I can see, dispute. I could have been a bit less spiky, but frankly, whatever.

You are keen to point out how "useful" the article is, despite the fact that it obviously contains nothing of substance, in terms of either information or argument. Samotnaf, despite this, finds it "informative". Read it again, seriously.

Quote:
dickheadishness

In a similar vein to the placards - F**k you smile

Someone can delete that for flaming at the same time they delete Red's thing.

mons
Nov 30 2010 18:28

Posi was being quite dismissive and insulting. But nobody's replied to the substance of what posi's said!
I think the article is partly right, but think it's over the top (draws big conclusions from very little) and really badly un-nuanced (ignores the more positive things NCAFC has done).
Clearly they are problematic though, and the less their influence over students the better. After today and the Amazing stuff going on in Oxford where I was I think the movement has far too much strength and independent spirit to let NCAFC fuck things up.

Red Marriott
Nov 30 2010 18:44

The article attempts, it seems, to make a critique of leftist involvement in that movement from the author’s own experience – and it corresponds with the predictable tactics of leftism generally. Because the left does involve itself in organising action on issues, are we to applaud and repress criticism of the role of unions/parties every time they organise a strike/demo? No, for obvious reasons we won’t so disarm ourselves in the name of a shallow 'unity'. I appreciate that this movement is a little different in its youth and diversity which has made it harder for the left to get such a grip – but the leftist elements of the old world that will seek to limit that movement are, according to the article’s description, already present within it. Militant Tendency were very active in the Anti-Poll Tax movement, put loads of organisational energy in alongside more libertarian elements – should they have not been criticised from the beginning for what they are and their predictable manipulations?

If there are inaccuracies, misinterpretations etc in the article they can be debated/corrected – but the article has posed the necessity of a critical attitude to leftist manipulation and, for those not seeking some futile left unity, that is useful.

posi
Nov 30 2010 19:25
Quote:
should they have not been criticised from the beginning for what they are and their predictable manipulations?

They should have been criticised for what they actually did, when they did it, which was from near enough to the beginning not to present a big problem for a critique. But in any case the analogy is not appropriate. NCAFC is not merely AWL + WP. A better analogy would be denouncing a local anti-poll tax union because a number of its members were Trotskyists, having left in a huff because they asked you to join their organisation/wanted to talk about South Africa in a meeting one time/postponed a demo.

Quote:
If there are inaccuracies, misinterpretations etc in the article they can be debated/corrected

I would welcome that. But by saying it is "useful" and "informative" you imply it does rather more than start a debate, rather that you agree with its conclusions, and consider them factual.

Further more, when the accusation is that activists are accused of purposefully holding back a movement, there better be a solid reason for saying that. I would prefer not to have a culture where that sort of thing gets thrown around without any real basis. So it's not that we should refuse to criticise anyone who organises an action. Rather, that we should make sure that criticisms are clear and accurate, not just throw them around in case someone fancies a debate.

mons
Nov 30 2010 20:01

I agree with Red Marriot about the need for criticism and that praising the good they do isn't really necessary, so I think I was wrong on that.
But I do agree with posi that we should avoid hyperbole, etc. and clearly NCAFC aren't deliberately trying to derail the movement, so we shouldn't say it.
Sorry this post doesn't make any points really, just wanted to acknowledge I think I was wrong earlier.

Mike Harman
Dec 1 2010 03:19
Quote:
Further more, when the accusation is that activists are accused of purposefully holding back a movement, there better be a solid reason for saying that. I would prefer not to have a culture where that sort of thing gets thrown around without any real basis

Well it's quite clear that there were people in NCAFC who did exactly this with messing dates around on the national callouts. Guardian or BBC is now only mentioning national days of action on the 9th and 11th, not the 4th/5th despite both the #ukuncut tax avoidance stuff and an increasing number of local actions.

So the end result of this was pushing back (or effectively cancelling) protests just at the time when things are gathering pace, even now news is coming in of fresh occupations, many of the occupations yesterday were by school rather than uni students - this is still developing.

We should also note that it was the NCAFC who were involved in negotiations on march routes with the police etc. prior to yesterday, so at least in London they are doing the official protest organiser + stewards thing to an extent as well, even if that's getting ignored on the day (when it's equally ignored by the police of course).

The fact that this appears to have fallen more into fuckup category (with SWP manipulation and a couple of people inside NCAFC going along with it) than machiavellianism means I'll personally be keeping a close eye on the NCAFC more than anything else, but Red is absolutely right in pointing out that just uncritically supporting groups like this is what leads to 'betrayals' later on. Better to be prepared and honest about how things are up-front.

I'm not going to bother trying to clean up the 'flaming' since it's more of a spat anyway, if you're embarrassed by it go back and edit your own posts.

slothjabber
Dec 1 2010 09:58
mons wrote:
... and clearly NCAFC aren't deliberately trying to derail the movement, so we shouldn't say it...

You see, I don't think that is clear.

Maybe I'm one of the suspicious hyperbolic/splenetic politicos who denounce the 'manoeuvres of leftism' overmuch, but on Sunday (or whenever it was) that NCAFC changed the date of the next callout (having previously, as I still claim, steamrollered the United Day of Action into changing their callout for Saturday 4th) I was absolutely convinced that the whole thing was a cynical ploy to roadblock an escalation of struggles. Maybe I over-reacted then but i saw a real danger to the momentum of the protests.

Now it seems there is more internal dissent in the NCAFC than I was first aware of, because I'm daft enough to assume that if an organisation issues a statement it's because the organisation has debated it and it's been approved, not because a couple of people have made a decision on their own and then gone public.

But I don't think that the fact that there's internal disagreements changes anything fundamental; I believe we need to be very wary of the NCAFC. Any group could to seek to control the protests but only the NCAFC it seems to me is actually in a position where that's a real posibility. They have a lot of goodwill from students; they are like it or nor seen by a lot of students as the co-ordinators if not exactly the leaders of the national demos.

A 'stitch-up' between the NCAFC and the NUS would be a real danger for the movement - not so much the protests, because students would still be angry and still demonstrate, but the idea of spreading and co-ordinating the protests. This is the real strength of the movement so far, it's going forwards in unexpected ways and the police, government, NUS and anyone else trying to dampen down the protests have been wrong-footed. But this process is very fragile and we as revolutionaries and class-conscious workers and students need to defend it. Part of that defence involves keeping a close eye on groups that claim a leadership role, which I think the NCAFC has.

mons
Dec 1 2010 13:57

I totally agree with almost all of your post slothjabber. The only thing we disagree on is whether their derailing of developments is purposeful, or whether it's a consequence of a misjudgement by their steering committee and bad politics. The fact that they have a structure which allows them to do things like fuck up the dates thing is a problem. Also, the fact they seek control over the movement, and worked with police and assumed the leadership role, is bad - I just don't think it's done with bad intentions.
Good point about watching them getting too cosy with NUS. That would either totally stifle any real struggle, or lead to us breaking off from their control altogether. Based on my time organising with NCAFC, I could imagine a large influential group supporting working with NUS, but there would be resistance.

slothjabber
Dec 1 2010 14:47

Hmm, I really want to be clear here. I have withdrawn my earlier accusation that the change of date was a stitch-up. In the light of the new 'leaks' from inside the NCAFC I think it's more likely to be a cock-up.

What I haven't done is taken down posts where I've said I believe it's a stich-up. I think it's more honest to say 'that was my position when all I had to go on was the statement by NCAFC, now it looks like I might have been hasty in condemning them'.

petey
Dec 1 2010 15:29

i'm viewing from afar, but i certainly support the politics of the post and it's not out of season if it's accurate.

admin - removed flaming - tit for tat is one thing, joining in is going to be heavily moderated in either direction