The Imaginary Party on the NUS, the prospects for higher education and students and how the latter can organise around their material interests.
We all know what’s happening. The NUS has called its annual demonstration today just like it has done every single year since 1997 – with the exception of course of 2011, probably the one year when such an event could of had an impact. It’s what they do with disarming regularity. The NUS has no intention of fighting for anything at all, let alone winning.
What are the demands of the NUS? Do they even have any? What have these idiots decided for our future? They aren’t fighting for our education, they are fighting for their future careers as politicians and second rate political consultants, and as such they could never risk being implicated in any student movement that carries a generalised political risk; that is, one that has a chance of actually changing anything. This much was evident in 2010/2011.
The NUS is incapable of supporting any movement for change. It is undemocratic, bureaucratic, unrepresentative and a conveyor belt for a Labour Party which supports the continued destruction of the Higher Education in this country. Disaffiliation from the NUS is no longer the idle talk of university union hacks but instead an increasingly evident necessity for the advancement of any collective demands we may have around fees, debt, rent and work.
Students elsewhere have rejected these outdated models of representation, choosing instead to organise themselves before proceeding to win their numerous demands, the most recent example being Classe in Quebec.
We stand where we are and while the vantage point does not seem advantageous, it could not be any other way. We need to get serious because when we say ‘no future’ we mean it; not as hopeless nihilism, but rather as the purest expression for our desire for the real movement to abolish the present state of things.
Given the way society is currently structured it is to say a publicly funded and free higher education system is indeed unaffordable. The ‘compromise’ and ‘consensus’ of the post-war welfare state was a historical anomaly – it can no longer be afforded if the present system is to remain.
The survival of the system relies on the very immiseration of millions, as indeed it always has done. People increasingly resorting to food banks to survive, 90 homes per day being repossessed, people dying from their illnesses after being declared fit to work after an ATOS disability assessment, mass homelessness, crumbling elderly care homes, police repression, riots, debt, mental illness, depression, addiction and suicide.
This is the permanent state of things – but, as political consensus tears through what is left of the welfare state in the wake of the crisis, the glove that had previously covered the invisible hand of the market and its worst excesses has been replaced with a knuckle-duster.
We are led to believe that youth unemployment is our only problem and that work, any work, is the exclusive means to both a better future and a meaningful life. We instead contend that it is work that is the problem within the present setting. As university students being trained as mid-level functionaries to go on into the economy and service the debt we have accrued in training. We simply cannot ‘work ourselves’ out of the crisis and there is definitely no more promised land under capitalism.
The party, in short, is over.
That is not to say the money has run out, on the contrary, there is an abundance of resources and technologies sloshing around the world’s coffers that could provide for human requirements. Work instead functions under this system as political technique and is not born of economic necessity. The university has become a debt factory, training debtors to find meaningless work in order for them to pay off the debt which they have earned in training for that same meaningless job. Austerity is capitalism, our debt is necessary, but only for their profits – the work on offer for us is a debt repayment plan and our education is an expensive skills workshop for future exploitation.
The NUS, for its part, is content supporting this illusion with ‘workplace skills’ and ‘employability’ initiatives promoting the lie that somehow ‘everyone’ can come top of the pile of 100+ applications for each job if we ‘all’ just get the right skills. Sending its members into this economy to fight against one another like rats in a sack. Some perverse game of chance on a sinking ship with no prizes for anyone. Some Unions.
We must utterly reject any idea that the NUS is an institution with student interests at heart and must instead begin to organise how we fight back. As a first step we believe democratic institutions of education are essential, namely ones that are not geared towards the debt economy and run by financial managers. As such we have some suggestive demands, a bare minimum – you will also have your own demands no doubt. Take the following points to be an initiation of a discussion:
1. The abolition of all tuition fees in UK higher education.
2. The cancellation of all student debt accrued under the fee regime so far.
3. Re-introduction of universal student grants and EMA.
4. The democratisation of campuses – an end to management structures, replacing them with communities of learning run by all who inhabit, use and work at the university.
5. Completely open and common public access to all universities (including to lectures, libraries and resources).
It is a sign of the times that these quite reasonable demands seem radical in the present context. These demands are achievable but they depend on us finding each other and organising around them, consistently.
What can we do? How do we find each other?
1. Organise departmental assemblies – talk about demands that matter to you with your fellow students and lecturers, put our demands up in your own department and union – write them in stairwells, toilets, walls, everywhere.
2. Run for an elected position in your college on a ticket of disaffiliation from the NUS.
3. Create and disseminate literature about your demands.
4. Link up with other struggles on your campuses, such as living wage campaigns for service workers. The university is screwing them over, find out how.
5. Organise in your halls – rent is simply unsustainable for virtually all of us and nearly every student is aware of this. Identify this problem for what it is, a political grievance whose only solution is a political movement. Learn about how to organise around these issues of rent and housing.
6. Think of ways to challenge and destroy university management - besmirch them, make clear to everyone how grotesque their pay is, how grotesque they are.
7. Speak to and organise with lecturers, many of whom are sympathetic to the fight with management that is ahead.
8. Wear the red square – the symbol that united the Canadian students.
To generalise the offensive means to radicalise disaffection with every hierarchy.
To exercise our destructive creativity against society.
To sabotage the machines and goods and property that sabotage our lives.
To promote indefinite wildcat strikes.
To organise assemblies in all campuses and workplaces.
To keep continuous links between all the places of struggle.
To overlook no technical means of free communication.
To give direct use-value to everything that has exchange-value.
To occupy permanently occupy the factories and public buildings.
To organise self-defense of the conquered territories.