Broad Left Blogging


Taking a broader perspective…

The NUS and far left strategy….

Zain Sardar is LSE Green Party Society Chair and masters student. GPTU and Barnet TC youth officer.

The National Union of Students as a whole is more and more splitting into two great hostile camps, into two great factions directly facing each other: Labour Students and the far left. Despite the eloquence of the above statement it is a bit naughty of me to portray the far left as a homogeneous amorphous mass when in reality it is divided and subdivided into itself- a distinction Marx would make between the ‘genus’ and ‘subspecies.’

However, the same is true of Labour within the NUS except not on the same tragicomic scale. The ‘Organised Independents’ are a faction within NUS that hold a thinly veiled pretence on being politically independent; when the faction itself was set up by Labour students in the first place in order to build up a façade of democracy or a semblance of political competition (a poorly keep secret).

This was mainly because on a circadian basis the far left present themselves as the sacrificial lambs, at NUS conference’s full time officer elections, to be slaughtered year on year at the sacred alter of the Gods of political moderation.  This perpetual circle and soap opera, a kind of inverted and perverse permanent revolution, is the structuring principle of NUS conferences.

During last year’s NUS conference at Gateshead, Newcastle the then outgoing president, one Wesley Streeting, tweeted that he and another sabbatical were perceived as playing the part of ‘pantomime villains’ for the far/ hard left. It seems in one sense he was right – there are ‘pantomime villains’ in the NUS, but it is the far left itself that continually takes on this role. When far left candidates stand in NUS full-time officer elections; their demands for such things, God forbid, such as free education become concurrent with some devilish trickery which would signal the political end of the NUS as a credible political force. Ordinary rank and file students at NUS, if anything, are mobilised and polarised to vote in order to keep these characters out.

As a man of the far left I would like to think we on the far left of NUS are open to new and innovative ideas. What I recommend we do for this year only, by way of experimentation, is do nothing at all. Of course we continue – SWP, Student Broad Left, the left in the Labour party, the Green Party etc. to fight the cuts, and convince students of the need to fight the cuts; firstly university cuts and then them all. However, what I am proposing is an amnesty- that we refrain from running for full time positions within NUS for this year only.

This would be a strategic move par excellence which is an exemplar of Slavoj Zizek’s notion of ‘passive aggressivity.’ He elaborates on this-

‘passive aggressive behaviour…is a proper radical political gesture, in contrast to aggressive passivity, the standard ‘interpassive’  mode of our participation in socio-ideological life in which we are active all the time in order to make sure that nothing will happen, that nothing will really change. In such as constellation, the first truly critical step is to withdraw into passivity, to refuse to participate- this is the necessary first step that, as it were, clears the ground for a true activity, for an act that will effectively change the coordinates of today’s constellation.’ (Slavoj Zizek, The Universal Exception, pp. 223).

The effect of this would be subvert NUS full time elections in order to change the relations it enjoys with ordinary rank and file members at NUS conference. This limiting of choice and quite graphic emptiness on ballot slips will correspond with the raising of consciousness and doubts in students’ minds of the health of NUS democracy.

This year can be a fresh start for the far left in the NUS, a chance to be active against the cuts, while withdrawing from NUS democracy in order to highlight the superficial, anti-pluralistic and Labour Students hegemony within it. It is only when we ‘go on strike’ so to speak that the NUS will really appreciate the far left’s contribution within it and we can start to draw students afresh to our politics once again.


Filed under: The Left, Trade Unions, , , , , ,

3 Responses

  1. Sam Coates says:

    Fantastic, how do we convince everyone to do it?

  2. Sam Coates says:

    But at the same time, should we not be trying to mobilise lefties onto NUS delegations? This is certainly an untapped area for Greens

  3. Zain Sardar says:

    Of course Sam, you’re right, we should be mobilising lefties into NUS delegations, but when it comes to standing candidates for full-time posts we’re so far off at the moment with a lack of resources, and greens/ lefties in top positions in SUs. We need to break the cycle of defeatism that has pervaded the far left in the NUS, and let Labour Students answer, with the spot light focused on them, for the lack of competition within NUS democracy. We need to move away from failure fetishism or the culture of ‘celebrating our defeats.’

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

The Arrow of Progress

%d bloggers like this: