The LUU “leadership” race
So, the dust has finally settled on the LUU Exec elections. The “Leadership” Race, a modern day beauty pageant for the idiot sons and daughters of the middle classes, has yielded the next generation of political leaders, ready and waiting to take up their positions on the Exec.
Armed with little more than sound bites, a catchy slogan and a professional looking campaign, these wannabe Camerons and Cleggs (or possibly even Milibands) will be responsible for representing students at a time of unprecedented attacks on education.
And yet, in spite of fees, cuts and privatisation, 99% of the candidates put forward nothing resembling a strategy for opposing the Tories austerity programme. Apparently the best we can hope for is “value for money”, which at £9k you’d forgive students for demanding a little more longer library opening hours (personally I’d settle for a car…).
Has it always been like this, Student Union elections being little more than CV fodder? There’s always been an element of the NUS providing the much needed greasy pole up the political and business ladder, particularly for Labour Party apparatchiks. But alongside the neo-liberalisation of education more generally, there’s been intensification in the marketization, and de-politicisation, of student politics itself. LUU is now little more than LUU PLC, an enormous money spinner that has turned the union into a shopping centre.
Nationally, the NUS provides meal tickets for the under talented and well connected for years, before farming them out to some consultancy or think tank (remember Aaron Porter? Most hated NUS President? £125 an hour as an Education Consultant!!!). And all the while ordinary students, the ones the NUS and local student unions are meant to represent, are facing the brunt of government austerity.
This process has led to the NUS being a mealy mouthed, passive organisation that opposes mass, militant action. They refused to support the Millbank occupiers, despite them doing more for the student movement than any NUS bureaucrat. They did fuck all to support student occupations. And most recently under the Supreme Visionary Leadership of Liam “Student for Life” Burns, we marched miles out of London into a muddy field. I’m sure the government are delighted they can rely on the NUS leadership to ensure such peaceful, disciplined actions!
So what do we need? For a start, we need to break this idea that the cuts are inevitable or necessary. Fees can and should be scrapped. EMA should stay scrapped – but replaced with a living grant for all college students. To do this, we need to build a mass, democratic student movement built from below like the one in Quebec – that organises strikes, protests and marches to stop the government in its tracks.
In Quebec they overturned fees – we can do it here. We need to draw students into the movement, not alienate them with tedious X-Factor style elections, but show them that there is actually something worth fighting for. We need to fight to democratise our student unions, take them out of the hands of careerists and bureaucrats and make them serve the interests of the students. And we need to stop our student unions being turned into shopping centres and instead turn them into centres of resistance to the Tories austerity programme.
If we can do this we might actually have a chance of beating the bastard Tories and get somewhere towards the goal of free education – and it might make the “Leadership” Race just that little bit more interesting.
By Paris T, LUU Revsoc