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NUS leadership has no strategy to win

When the NUS NEC passed a strategy document, supported by NUS president Aaron Porter for the student movement on 10 January, they showed once again that they want to plead and negotiate with the Con Dem government, rather than organise a fight to stop their plans.

The document agreed to sponsor the Manchester demonstration on 29 January, supported by the Trades Union Congress and the lecturers’ union UCU, but failed to mention the demonstration in London (the capital and seat of power), called by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, the Education Activist Network and supported by trade unions Unite and GMB. As it happened, many students in the south of the country came to the highly successful London protest, while NUS coaches from southern towns going to Manchester were left empty.

On 19 January, Parliament voted to scrap the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA). This date was picked because many school, college and university students were in the middle of exams, a deliberate attempt to minimise students’ active resistance.

Fortunately for Cameron and his friends, the NUS were all too eager to help. Instead of calling for demonstrations and occupations on the day of the vote, they called a national series of token demonstrations the day before. They wanted to let students let off steam without the option of taking meaningful direct action. On the day of the vote, they refused to support the march on Parliament and favoured only a lobbying exercise instead.

This lack of leadership by the NUS reflects massive underlying problems with its strategy. They want to lobby the government into cutting and privatising education slightly less, rather than fighting to halt the plans in their tracks. They hope that by simply having peaceful A to B demonstrations they can gain the ear of the Tories and Lib Dems. It didn’t work before the election and it won’t work now.

The Tories are an openly pro-big business, pro-banker, pro-capitalist party, with nearly 20 millionaires in the cabinet. Selling off education to the highest bidder doesn’t bother the party that sold off railways, electricity, steel and phones to the private sector.

Despite failing to mobilise students, Aaron Porter still audaciously claims to have been responsible for the biggest mass movement since the Iraq War. But he supported only one of the three national days of action, walkouts and occupations in the winter of last year.

If we want to stop the Tories then we need to broaden out our struggle. There will be more days of action, and students must keep walking out of class, keep occupying the schools and universities, and keep taking the direct action necessary to stop them ruling.

We need to create links and take united action with workers in the public and private sector who are about to witness first-hand the effects of these Tory attack. This means linking our anti-cuts and fees groups with local anti-cuts campaigns, coordinating our protests and linking our struggles together. This means we have to oppose and fight every cut, not just education cuts, and that our action needs to be bold and confront the government. We don’t have time to waste to beg for mercy from people who don’t care.

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