Why the student movement in England is essentially dead


10:45 am - February 8th 2011

by Sunny Hundal    


      Share on Tumblr

There is growing media chatter globally about the “rising anger” of this generation’s youth. Student protests in the UK; uprisings across the Middle East; the rise of India and China; things kicking off elsewhere etc.

But its also too easy to overstate the impact of these changes, especially if the student movement here is anything to go by.

The first demonstration of November 2010 brought with it a tidal wave of hyperbole about the impact students would have on the current government. This was Britain’s 1968, we were told almost daily. It has yet to materialise into anything coherent and politically potent.

The premature death of the movement is already here. It was precipitated by the egging of NUS leader Aaron Porter several weeks ago. By the time he was chased and jeered in Manchester in late January, any chance of resuscitation was effectively dead.

* * * * * * * * *

Porter faced calls from radical students to go immediately after the first big demonstration. His crime was to apologise for some of the violence: he was being “divisive” they said. These calls grew after onset of student occupations, which the NUS did not officially support.

Porter admitted later the “dithering” was wrong and promised action, but the NUS backed away from his commitment after some insiders said the legal and financial resources needed to support the occupations could end up bankrupting the NUS. Radical students claimed he had betrayed them once again.

There were tensions within the NUS too. Many underestimated the strength of feeling against the rise in tuition fees and were out of touch with student opinion. But there were also fears the radicalised elements could get out of control and wreck the NUS’s reputation. Some also felt that feeding this energy would encourage them to try and take over the NUS again. The NUS ended up advocating a cautious approach while the radicals wanted to quickly capitalise on the anger. Compromise was never really explored properly.

I predicted earlier that the campaign against Aaron Porter would end up consuming the student movement, and so it has come to pass. Most radicals now say the student movement can’t progress unless Porter is ousted.

But this won’t happen easily. NUS elections are coming up in April (apparently no one wanted to wait until then) and it is likely he will win again. It’s unclear how much of the student body is swept up in this wave of radicalism: less than 50 out of 650 student bodies held occupations. Less than ten passed resolutions against Porter.

Following the last incident of jeering, he hit out strongly, saying he would not be silenced.

* * * * * * * * *

We are left with an ugly stalemate. The NUS is unlikely to organise any major student demonstrations going forward, other than coordinating with TUC events. Its resources are now going to be focused on lobbying at Westminster rather than demonstrations.

The radicals won’t give up easily, but don’t have the resources or inclination to mobilise large numbers of students. Numbers at the last London demo were a tenth of the first one; Facebook and Twitter alone can’t bus people down from across the country. And the chances of ousting Porter are slim, thanks to the way the NUS elects delegates, let alone replacing him with a candidate who will unite everyone.

The unions too are likely to treat students with some suspicion from now: the Manchester event was a joint TUC / NUS event and ended up as a disaster once SWP activists started egging not just left-wing MP Tony Lloyd but other speakers.

Students will no doubt be part of the March 26th march, and there will be sporadic demonstrations and events across the country. But a repeat of the big demos of Nov/Dec 2010 is highly unlikely.

* * * * * * * * *

Two thoughts. While a new era of pessimism, higher youth unemployment and falling living standards looks inevitable, the political direction is completely incoherent. We could see the rise of a range of protest groups from anarchists to the English Defence League, but still end up with little political change.

Secondly, the fight against the governments cuts is now essentially a localised battle. It will have to be fought area by area, raising issues through targeted campaigns, than through mass national demonstrations. Of course, I could be proved wrong and the students could be united again. But I highly doubt it.

    Share on Tumblr   submit to reddit  


About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
· Other posts by


Story Filed Under: Blog ,Fight the cuts ,Trade Unions ,Westminster

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Reader comments


Does anyone actually have any specific proof that SWP members threw eggs at Tony Lloyd? Are you just repeating Luke Akehurst’s usual inaccurate claptrap?

The SWP – of which I am neither or a sympathiser – currently has a policy of critical engagement with the Labour Party, and indeed seems keener than some Labour Party members I know to get Labour MPs and councillors speaking on anti-cuts platforms in my area.

2. Mark Carrigan

As much as I admire your work, Sunny, you don’t half overstate your case sometimes. What worries me most about this post though is not the hyperbole (the ‘essentially’ in your title does so much work as to render the word ‘dead’ basically meaningless) but the impact a claim like this can have on such a high profile forum.

Your evidence basically amounts to: (a) an unsubstantiated claim about the organizational significance of the conflict within the NUS (b) pointing out that only a minority of institutions engaged in occupations (c) turn out declining as weekly demos progressed during one of the coldest winters in recent memory.

And you conclude on this basis that the student movement is ‘essentially dead’?

Maybe there is not much of a student movement because the students don’t have any real grievances: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2010/12/19/what-do-the-students-want/

4. Mark Carrigan

@ Andreas

A few key claims in your argument are manifestly false or (wilfully?) misunderstand the arguments being made, as well as the government’s proposals:

“We don’t know yet if universities will make use of this higher cap and which universities will do so at what level.”

“students now always claim that everyone will graduate with a debt of 27,000 £. That is of course just as wrong. It might be that some students will have that debt-load upon graduation, but most students will have much less debt.”

“Higher income for universities should actually lead to more available places in higher education.”

“there were also fears the radicalised elements could get out of control and wreck the NUS’s reputation.”

So far as I’m aware the NUS has and richly deserves the reputation as a talking shop for far left wannabe politicos and little else. Perhaps, given that students hurt only themselves by “withdrawing their labour”, the union model is not the best one to represent students?

There is / was plenty to dislike about the student movement: its hubris and apparent superiority complex to unions, to name a couple. I wouldn’t agree it is dead though. I’d also argue it is important, and should be protected from dying.

Having been at the last demo, I disagree that the weather was responsible for a dwindling turn out – it seemed to me it lacked a sense of purpose and energy. I’d argue a few people got carried away with the idea of leaderless protest and failed to provide some much-needed direction.

The student movement still has traction and a lot of determined members (if I can use such a word). I’ve been to countless meetings lately, which were attended determined and politicised young people – and no SWP! Ultimately, though, I’m with Owen Jones on this: it’s a fledgling and fragile movement that cannot survive the lack of direction that currently characterises it.

It would be good to see it get organised and come up with a strategy – a bit of humility might also not go amiss, especially where trade unions are concerned!

So far as I’m aware the NUS has and richly deserves the reputation as a talking shop for far left wannabe politicos and little else.

So far as I’m aware the NUS has an richly deserves the reputation as an elevator for ambitious rightwing Labour careerists (David Aaronovitch, Jim Murphy, Stephen Twigg, Phil Woolass, Charles Clarke, Lorna Fitzsimons…)

If there’s really anybody out there who really thinks it’s a talking shop for far lefties then I suggest they try to get in contact with the mother planet to restock the oxygen supply.

Hmm. As an FE teacher my comment would be that the NUS doesn’t represent FE students and never really understood the impact of the loss of EMA. Hundreds of our students can not afford to come to college without it. Those younger students protesting about EMA were without effective leadership; they were failed, once by the government and again by the NUS – no surprise that there contribution has dwindled. The weak response now is absolutely a failure of Union leadership; student and trade.

Finally, having read most of what you write with an open and interested mind, I find your reference to Anarchy and the EDL as ‘protest’ more than a little mis-judged. I have no doubt that those exploring anarchy as a political philosophy may be a little offended, though suspect the EDL will be delighted at moving from ‘racist thugs’ to ‘protest group’.

9. Alisdair Cameron

So far as I’m aware the NUS has an richly deserves the reputation as an elevator for ambitious rightwing Labour careerists

Spot on. There’s been nothing far left about the NUS for decades, and to be honest it’s a stretch to maintain that it’s ever had streak.
What there is, precisely because of the domination of the upper echelons of the NUS by cliquey,careerist, on-message drones, is a vacuum at what could be the centre for student protests. That is why “the student movement in England” in terms of a single entity is dead. Doesn’t mean that student protest is dead.

Even on its own terms, the headline of this article is an overstatement. The student movement (by which Sunny means the post-November 2010 movement) is clearly not “essentially dead”. That would mean it has effectively ceased to exist and we are back to where we were before November, which is clearly not true. The movement can still mobilise thousands of people, and there are networks of activists across universities that previously did not exist.

I would argue that it has lost momentum, which is a different thing. My argument here has been that the movement needs direction (shameless plug: http://owenjones.org/2011/01/31/the-anti-cuts-movement-needs-direction/) otherwise it will eventually fizzle out. People won’t just keep coming out on the streets in sizeable numbers just to vent a bit of steam. There needs to be some sort of endgame – and at the moment, the question ‘So, what next?’ hasn’t been answered.

Sunny is also wrong, I think, to connect the NUS shenanigans and the loss of momentum. He can argue that going for Aaron Porter’s woeful ‘leadership’ is a tactical mistake, but I don’t see what it has to do with the movement running out of steam.

The NUS effectively abdicated its responsibilities to lead this movement, and therefore left it to other elements to take the initiative. That’s why even a number of ‘right-wingers’ or ‘moderates’ (or whatever you want to call them) within NUS are also frustrated with Aaron Porter – they feel he has made a terrible tactical blunder.

Yawn. You wish, Sunny.

The NUS isn’t dead.

It’s still fulfilling it’s function of helping charmless apparatchiks like Porter prepare for their safe Labour seats.

The real question is should it be killed off? It’s obviously unfit for any other purpose, and in this climate it would be helpful to have a student group which could actually achieve something.

Translation: The unionised student movement is dead. The grassroots one is not.

“Most radicals now say the student movement can’t progress unless Porter is ousted.”

Can you name one?

@ Ellie Mae – Not sure who you’re referring to when you say the student movement is hubristic and ignored unions. It certainly wasn’t my experience, or that of others I’ve spoken to. I can only guess you’re reading far too much into one or two articles that have appeared in the mainstream press.

A vote of no confidence motion in Aaron Porter was brought before Newcastle University Student Union last week. It was rejected with 79% of the vote against the motion.

I have seen little evidence that any of the rumblings against Porter are strong outside the ULU-UCL-Birkbeck College-SOAS axis that so dominated news coverage of student protests last year.

To an extent, I agree with Sunny – not that the student movement is dead, particularly, (I’m not close enough to it to comment) but that we’re getting a look now at the realities of local cuts as the furore around the pre-December student actions dies down.

There are some great campaigns being run, and I hope that they will be successful and some probably will be, but it’s my feeling that things won’t really hit the fan until enough time has passed for the social fallout from some of these cuts becomes obvious and inconvenient to the Haves. Hopefully, that will happen relatively quickly. A lot of councils are passing new budgets based on reduced settlements whether people like it or not – there are often vigorous protests out the front of town halls and a lot of bad press, but they’re pushing ahead nonetheless in many cases. In a lot of cases already, we’re not trying to save services, because they’ve already been cut. Hammersmith libraries are an example. It’s no longer a question of saving them – the decision to cut was taken at the beginning of January by the cabinet. It’s a question of trying to get them back.

Councils that have lagged in coming up with cuts proposals seem to be slightly more responsive to pressure – it seems that Newcastle, for instance, is attempting to reduce the need for job cuts by charging for some services, because of concerns about adding to the area’s already-dire unemployment figures. There are of course big problems with charging for services, but the point is that the council seems to have shifted a bit on redundancies in response to union pressure. That’s my take – others will have their views.

Being realistic is important – rather than aggrandising the protest movement (ie straight-out exaggerating the scale of it and the impact it is having), we need to keep working to convince people to participate and to draw their attention to the social problems that will be the inevitable result of this government’s programme.

I have found the excesses of some reporting about the movement upsetting, because it’s very unfair to people who are dealing with these cuts – for a while there, a lot of people seemed to be under the impression that getting a couple of rowdy students to your protest was very likely to turn things round. If only that was the case. In fact at council level, it’s also about playing councils at their own game – coming up with alternative proposals, trying to buy time by picking holes in policy and consultation processes, pressuring local representatives and so on. That is not to say occupations of libraries and other buildings, and big protests and big pressure aren’t magnificent, because they are and I hope they continue to grow and ultimately have a major impact. I think that will need to happen for the government to be stopped. It is simply to say that people have a responsibility to report what they see, not what they wish they were seeing. If people don’t do that, the disappointment at the reality is soul-destroying. It actually makes the movement weaker, because people have read or heard about something that they feel makes their protest minor in comparison.

I think the student movement before Christmas was marvellous and showed the way. That, however, was then. Owen Jones wrote a very good piece about the fact that it couldn’t continue in that form, because not all students were against cuts and so on and not all workers could afford to take the same time to protest that students could, etc. I thought that piece was realistic. What I think you will see, though, and already are seeing in some cases and places, is more people with time and reasons to get involved as unemployment worsens and the fallout from this cuts madness touches more and more lives. Nobody can predict the future and I certainly have no real idea how and when the movement will show itself next, but my feeling it that it will take the form of local aggro as local situations become untenable. The thing is, I think they will have to become untenable first.

This is a deeply silly article. Firstly on NUS, yes they did call the first march but the giant subsequent protests were not supported by NUS, so how did they happen Sunny?

Secondly the idea that SWP members would “egg” a speaker at a rally sounds deeply suspicious to me, especially as the SWP (as said above) is trying to relate to the left of the Labour party at the moment. I’ll not go so far as accusing you of making it up but some evidence would be useful. However may I say that all trade unions will now treat all student protests as “suspicious” due to one, probably imaginary incident, is frankly preposterous.

Finally, the movement has dropped for the simple reason that it did not succeed, the fees bill passed through parliament. However that does not mean it is “Dead” merely, IMO, sleeping.

Guy,

Firstly I think you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of the mainstream press. Outside of our Twitter / bloggy bubble, mainstream media is still most people’s primary source of information. So if the student movement is being portrayed as hubristic by the mainstream, that is a bad thing, and it should be addressed.

Secondly, I don’t think it’s just articles in the mainstream media. For example, earlier this morning I (surreally) got into an exchange with Ed Miliband about the role of Labour in the anti-cuts movement. I was immediately greeted by students asking me about Ed Miliband’s role in university occupations – as though they were the very epoch of social justice and activism. Compared to the TU movement, it’s small beer.

Like I said, I’ve met a lot of determined and politicised young people, whose intentions are to be lauded. But from blogs, twitter, and yes mainstream media, there seems to be desire for unions to keep their distance, as though these students are the first ever to go on a demo. That may be a minority of people, but if it is, it’s a loud minority. It’d be good to see other students take the initiative and extend an olive branch to TUs. I don’t think an anti-cuts movement can exist without them.

People won’t just keep coming out on the streets in sizeable numbers just to vent a bit of steam. There needs to be some sort of endgame – and at the moment, the question ‘So, what next?’ hasn’t been answered.

Owen – I’m surprised you haven’t clocked this bit yet.

The minute you start talking about endgame, then you have to get into the political realities. I’m afraid that won’t happen with many people, who are opposed to ‘the system’ full stop.

There has never yet been a proper discussion of political goals and means in this nascent movement so far, and its very unlikely there will be. The minute you do, splits will emerge and it will all fall apart.

Ellie makes an excellent point about the unions needing to be involved – more specifically, that workers need to be involved. The thing is, a lot of workers feel that unions are dragging the chain and should already be balloting. Students and workers could work well together to pressure unions for faster action.

Kate: it seems that Newcastle, for instance, is attempting to reduce the need for job cuts by charging for some services,

Thats interesting… I think a series of articles on how councils are responding to the cuts in different ways than what is expected of them might be a good idea. We could then have a good discussion of what might be best practice.

Sunny – not a bad idea. Bit snowed atm, but I could probably do a bullet-point list featuring five or six different approaches? We’ve got everything from the Hammersmith school of cut-and-sell-everything to proposals to merge functions and roles, etc (which Hammersmith is also doing, ironically).

Sunny – with reference to my posting at #1 – can we please have a source for the unlikely allegation that the SWP is indulging in egg-chucking, or delete it please?

Fair criticism of comrades we disagree with is one thing. Repeating what I suspect to be untrue rumours started by rightwingers is another.

All the events I’ve attended relating to the cuts have had an excellent mix of student and worker groups and people from all levels of both, which I was happy to see as it’s obviously essential. This comment thread is the first place I’ve seen anyone say this isn’t happening, or even that there’s a perception that it’s not happening.

At the last big anti-fees protest I attended, two of the union speakers got the loudest applause – and rightly so, they gave excellent speeches.

An incorrect analysis from someone whose views I often agree with. Sunny, if the student movement has waned its got nothing to do with Aaron Porter and everything to do with momentum – when the movement was at its peak was when protests were coming thick and fast right up until parliament was to vote on the bill. Now that they’ve voted and there’s been the Dec/Jan break, some may have felt ‘the protest moment’ was over and little that can be done now. The ‘what happens next’ voice hasn’t been loud enough. Aaron Porter is a traitor and the future of the movement doesn’t hinge on him – last year (& this year’s EMA march) were successful protests without his endorsement. The success and failure of the movement hinges on students and their actions and I think they need to recover momentum for demo 2011.

The NUS haven’t represented students for a long time. It’s a talking shop for people to build their political careers. I spent four years in student politics in Wales, during which time I campaigned for our union to disassociate from the NUS, who were effectively taking our money, and giving us very little in return (sending monolingual campaign material to a union which is constitutionally bound to only use bilingual flyers/posters/etc, isn’t going to make many friends). We stayed tied to them, but only thanks to busloads of NUS supporters coming from elsewhere in the country and telling scare stories to ordinary students, and possibly the most biased debate I’ve ever attended, chaired by the young Fabians.

Glasgow Uni had a sit in last week, against the cutting of their mature student facilities. They’re not even affiliated with the NUS, and yet still have the urge to fight against the cuts. I think anyone who thinks the NUS is anything to do with students is sorely mistaken. Most students have the urge and the ability to mobilise themselves if the need arises. The NUS might be dead in the water as an effective union, but the student movement has always existed outside of their remit. The only surprise is that Porter thought for a moment that he would be listened to.

We aren’t going to see a repeat of the demonstrations, because the driving motive for those demos was tuition fees. They’ve been voted through, just like the cuts to EMA. What will more than likely happen is that there’ll be smaller demos in individual universities as the cuts begin to take hold. You’re right to say that we need some kind of aim, however. The original demos in Nov were to stop the rise of fees. That didn’t work. So what to oppose next? And is it honestly worth it? Will students who wouldn’t normally involve themselves in politics find the drive to march for something when Government isn’t interested in listening?

Twenty years ago we were demonstrating against a Tory government’s education ‘reforms’. Back then it was the ending of student grants and the introduction of loans. Like the current demonstrations the mood was angry and pretty spontaneous. The NUS, then as now cuddled up to the Tories and the Banks, so much so they accepted sponsorship from Lloyds Bank, who could have given crocodiles a lesson in weeping, seeing how much they were going to be making out of the whole deal.

The emphasis from the NUS leadership was backing off angry protest and putting their faith in negotiation. The majority of the anger was before the Xmas break. Come the Spring the majority of students were either glad to be graduating and getting out of the system and/or studying for exams. With such a combination of factors it was hardly surprising the movement went “up like a rocket, down like a stick”, as student movements are wont to do. Student action against the Poll Tax suffered a similar fate, with the NUS capitulating on key points

The negativity in the articel wholly unnecessary. ‘Only’ 50 occupations is actually one hell of a lot, and about 50 more than there were during the Student Loans fight. The determination and commitment of those students who occupied is something to be proud of, not pooh-pooh’d away in Hundal’s typically arrogant fashion.

Finally, Hundal seems to be taking the lull in student protest as a sign of the anti-cuts movement going downhill and breaking up into localism, even as the activist (as opposed to clicktivist) Left is building for the national TU struggles that are coming. No serious Leftie has any illusions that student protest alone is ever enough to fight this sort of Government. That can only be done by the combined effort of millions of students and workers. The sort of outright defeatism and cynicism so prevalent in this article undermines that fight, as one suspects it is designed to do

Ellie, I’m not saying the student movement hasn’t put a foot wrong – far from it – but I think you’re massively inflating the importance of one or two articles, getting caught up in the Twitter bubble, and ignoring the concrete links that have been formed with the TUs and the many thousands of young people that have become politicised and will now continue to be active as the movement broadens out. At UCL we often had unionists drop in and students are continuing to go to speak at branch meetings. The recent demo in London had the support of several trade unions. Students were heavily involved in the recent library occupation at New Cross and at the Lambeth demos yesterday. Does that count as the student movement? Or is that simply “local” campaigning? Obviously it’s neither, it’s the movement widening out and taking different forms. So, yes, most students do recognise the importance of forging links with unions. At the same time, it has to be said, the trade unions are not immune from criticism. There’s a kind of middle class leftist attitude which views it as sacrilege when one is insufficiently deferential to the TUs/calls them out over their inaction. The TUs will have to be central to any successful resistance, true, but the entire movement can’t wait for the leaderships to get their act together.

Kate: but I could probably do a bullet-point list featuring five or six different approaches?

That would work!

ITYM the centrally controlled establishment sanctioned student movement designed for cateerists like yourself is dead.
the radical decentralized and democratic movement is alive and well. Unfortunately for you that’s a bit scary for the powers that be on the left – if they can’t control it then its a threat to their power.

To echo one or two of the previous points, I’d think it’s fairly obvious that the main reason for the loss of momentum is that the bill has passed. That’s pretty inevitable with any such protest movement – once the deed is done, then momentum ebbs away. The question is how to get it back – and that may well be a long game, tied to defeating the government agenda more broadly rather than one solitary decision that has now been taken. These are difficult questions to answer – and Owen’s comments about the limits of a leaderless movement carry a lot of weight – but I don’t think it’s remotely accurate to proclaim the student movement dead. Even now, post-December, the student movement (which doesn’t actively involve a majority of students, but that’s another story) is far more alive than it was during the genuinely dead years of 2004-2010.

Unfortuantly, despite the fact most of what people are saying about the NUS is true, it is an important organisation.

It has finances, staff and access to the media. This means it is important that it is run by somebody who isn’t in the position purely to advance their career, but by somebody who can run an organisation properly and in the interests of their members. Which is why you need to get rid of Porter and have a non-party person elected.

I think it is correct to say momentum is lost, and as the bill has gone through street protest won’t be as effective. But there are other things that badly need to be done;

(1) Every SU should now be doing a voter registration drive, with the specific intention of using the student vote to punish MPs who voted for the bill. If you can’t get a deterant effect against MPs who vote for party not principle then political campaigning is pointless.

(2) Whilst the bill may have gone through, there is still a lot of policy work to be done, and campaigning on getting replacements for EMA, at the very least ensuring concerns of students and college kids have a high profile should be the least an organisation representing students should be doing.

(3) Links need to be made with other anti-cuts movements, and the street activists esepcially need to be focusing energy on winning these campaigns, not focusing on old battles.

(4) The NUS should also be supporting activists facing charges, not just through legal advice, but in terms of careers advice and support once criminal procedings are over. If you can’t support your comrades over the long run, don’t be suprised if tomorrow’s students focus on networking into the city instead of social justice.

(5) As the welsh assembly have decided to do things differently, it would be a great idea if the NUS could publicise this, offer support to the yes campaign in wales, and nationally use it as an example of the benefits of devolution and as an alternative of what can be done differentlty – even within the context of massive budget cuts.

Off topic – can I say that I don’t like this new format of putting comments box above the comments? – Have it above the tweets by all means but its a little annoying to scroll back up just to write something.

Can we have an answer or an amendment please Sunny?

. The ‘what happens next’ voice hasn’t been loud enough.

As I say – thats when further splits will come. There is no sense of pluralism or need to tolerate different views in this movement. Further splits are inevitable.

Sunny – with reference to my posting at #1 – can we please have a source for the unlikely allegation that the SWP is indulging in egg-chucking, or delete it please?

Thats absurd – of course I’m not going to delete it. They were several people who attended that event, who were utterly appalled by what happened and said it was SWP activists.

If you say it isn’t – feel free to offer the proof.

I’ve offered some fairly strong argument as for why it was unlikely to have been SWP members chucking eggs at Tony Lloyd.

You’ve offered nothing to suggest that it was, except reference to ‘several people’ (unnamed). Nobody’s suggesting that eggs weren’t chucked, or that chucking eggs is a good idea. The question is who did it.

Maybe you should at least make it clear that you are relying on someone else’s say so, as you weren’t there, and link to one of the ‘several people’.

Otherwise I’m afraid you just sound like another arrogant, ignorant Labour rightwinger deriding everybody to their left as ‘the SWP’. And a downright liar.

Is that why you refuse to reveal whether you’re a member of the NUJ – your sector’s trade union? Because you don’t understand any basic rules about fact checking, sources, and attribution?

“you don’t understand any basic rules about fact checking, sources, and attribution?”

I hardly think Journalists are likely to understand this, even NUJ members.

“They were several people who attended that event, who were utterly appalled by what happened and said it was SWP activists.”

Without asking you to reveal sources having an idea of what the political positions of the “several people” may allow us to make a better judgement on the credibility of what, on the surface, appears to be an utterly incredible claim.

37

You’ll probably find that even the most outrageous claims in a newspaper are accompanied by “allegedly” or “according to…” Without that, the author is presenting something as incontrovertible fact which, given that he admits he wasn’t there, is not true.

If Sunny adds who this is ‘according to’ we can go and ask them about their highly-doubtful claims.

K – “last year (& this year’s EMA march) were successful protests”

EMA been restored and tuition fees cut, then ? Or is success defined in other terms?

Sunny seems to have a pretty fair grasp of the actualite here – unlike some who see the protests as the start of the revolution.

You do have to wonder exactly how we got here. Was it conspiracy, or was it cock-up? It’s usually the latter.

1930s – only the top 2-3% could get a free university grant – and many working families with bright kids were just too poor even to get that far. My mother, a very clever girl, and all her siblings had to leave school at 16 to bring some money in. My father-in-law’s folks had just enough dosh to get him through sixth form, and he ended up a senior academic.

But only a small elite got to uni. There was enough money for free tuition AND grants for the poor.

1950s-70s – the Golden Age (which of course never existed). Enough prosperity for a clever working class kid to stay on at grammar school and do the UCCA round as was. A few more universities (the redbricks, Warwick, Essex, Sussex etc) but still only 5% or so went to uni, so free tuition for all, and maximum grants for, say, the son of a primary teacher. Maybe a few more % at Poly or Teacher Training – still enough cash to go round. 10% of school-leavers in mid-70s ?

Early 1990s – the cloud no bigger than a man’s hand, as the Tories discover that new universities are incredibly easy to create – new headed notepaper, a few signs outside the buildings, and Leeds Poly becomes the Metropolitan University of Leeds, while the Breedon Bar in Cotteridge becomes the University of Central England. At the same time – and this is the killer – the Polys, which used to mainly cater for local students, become much more like universities in that they start competing nationally for students.

The 1980s and 90s also saw major expansion in University numbers – for example Leeds in the 70s was I think the biggest UK university with 9,000 students. Now 24,000. All these students were getting fees paid and most had grants pre-1997.

“As the university population rose during the 1980s the sums paid to universities became linked to their performance and efficiency, and by the mid 1990s funding per student had dropped by 40% since the mid-1970s, while numbers of full-time students had reached around 2,000,000 (around a third of the age group), up from around 1,300,000.” The fiscal strain of the massive expansion is beginning to tell.

30% of school leavers ?

1997 onwards – Labour go somewhat insane, proclaiming that 50% of school leavers should be at uni – i.e. anyone over average intelligence. Every teacher training college in the land becomes a university (no longer a live-at-home student body), and the school leaving age is raised to 18. Ironically, the main beneficiaries are the middle classes, who can now get their more average children through Uni. You find former Polytechnics which are now much more middle class than a university was 25 years previously.

As above, the financial strain of this idiotic ‘all must have degrees’ policy finally catches up. They HAVE to introduce loans and tuition fees, otherwise the 50% non-uni candidates are subsidising the top 50%.

And that’s how we got where we are. Utter madness, but that’s what happened. The question is, what of the future? Will any working class youth fancy three years at Uni with a 60K debt at the end of it, and no prospect of buying their own house until they’re 45 – if then ? Will the university bubble burst ?

I can’t see any alternative to closures of many departments. I can see it now. Loads of bearded, sandalled blokes in corduroy jackets, a thin dog on a string at their side, a paper cup in front of them with some loose change in it, holding up signs saying:

“WILL ANALYSE DECONSTRUCTION METHODOLOGY OF HERMENEUTIC IN TERMS OF EVOLUTIONARY EPISTEMOLOGY FOR FOOD”

I wonder how much of the energy of the first demonstrations was due to anger at the betrayal by the Lib Dems that has since burnt out? There was certainly lots of hyperbole and passion but, as Sunny pointed out before, it’s hard to use such strong emotions to keep a protest group motivated. There needs to be a sense of direction and a guiding philosophy. Dare I say it, there needs to be leadership too.

Part of the trouble students now have is due to their attitude to the TUC and others who should be their allies, and perhaps a sense that come the Milk Round they’ll be queuing up in their new smart clothes saying,”I always saw my future as a career in Barclays Capital Management.”

Sunny is quite right that some humility is needed plus a sense of being part of something bigger and working with other groups.

I don’t disagree with most of what you said, Laban. But a) I don’t see how it links into the idea that the student movement is dead in the water, and b) I disagree with the idea of those who don’t attend uni are somehow “subsidising” those who do attend. Whether it’s a grant or a loan, the money comes from the public purse, which is paid for by the taxpayer. Students don’t pay tax whilst they study, but they do pay it when they graduate and (ideally) get a better paid job. And whether they pay that money back through graduate tax, higher rate tax, or loan repayments doesn’t really matter that much. It all comes down to the same thing – higher education costs money, and the cost is largely repaid by those with degrees.

I agree that 50% at university is a crazy level. And I’m someone who fell into the trap of thinking it would further my prospects if I had a degree. The reality is I’d have been better off if I’d stayed in my local government job (ironically) rather than returning to uni. But I don’t think using ability to pay as a measure for who does and who doesn’t get a degree is a fair system.

Anyway, that’s all a bit OT. I don’t think for a moment the student movement is dead. Student politics is actually coming into it’s own. It’s up to the unions to capitalise on the newly politicised young people, and use the momentum to further the campaigning. Of course, we’re in the middle of exam time at the moment for most universities, and the lengthy Christmas holidays were immediately before that. Perhaps that’s why there has been a long silence from students?

@planeshift. I do agree with a lot of what you said. But I’m a bit reticent about the idea of SUs moving to mobilise their students in general elections. In theory, yes. Students ought to have a voice in their local area. But having attended a university in rural Wales, where Plaid Cymru have a stranglehold, I’m a little worried that the students (who make up around 70% of the population in term time) voting en masse in a vacuum (ie without working with the local community) in protest against the cuts, could leave an entire community without proper representation, IYSWIM? It would be far better for SUs to get involved with their local communities in such cases, and not try to skew a vote as a means of protest.

“ea. But having attended a university in rural Wales”

Well that’s either Lampeter or Aberyswyth – which are both in the ceredigion constituency. Currently held by Lib Dems after 2005 when the students were too thick to realise Plaid’s Simon Thomas was one of the most active anti-war MPs. But equally an ideal constituency for tactically voting to punish the Lib Dems.

But yes, SU’s need to get involved with the local community and work together to oppose cuts.

@planeshift.

Nope. Bangor University. North Wales. Arfon constituency. Has been Plaid since time immemorial. Not strictly rural (being as how it’s made up of Bangor and Caernarfon) but comparably rural, ie there’s bugger all there, except for the uni and a lot of pubs.

Don’t wanna bleat on about Bangor though, as it’s a bad example. Town and gown relations have never been brilliant, thanks to the language issue and the fact that students rule the world (or think they do, at least) in Bangor. But the union there have made big inroads in getting local candidates to speak at union events, for both Westminster and Assembly elections.

Ah… yeah I wouldn’t have classed bangor as rural though 😉

@planeshift – have you BEEN there?!!

I think it’s impossible for students to exist in a vacuum, and I agree that there may have been a loss of momentum in student protesting. But I think it’s a bit early to be calling time on the movement yet, or suggesting it needs “helping”. The NUS have shown their true colours in the last round of protesting, but as I’ve said, they don’t speak for the majority of students. Young people are still out there, and they’re still making their voices heard. There’s more than one way to skin a rabbit.

And is localised protesting any bad thing? But then it comes back to my previous feelings on many protests being supported around the country by others sympathetic to the cause. It’s still possible for localised protesting to tap into national feeling and support.

Yeah I have – few nights for a work event a couple of years ago.

It’s a fairly big town, and if you add the population over the other side of the menai bridge. Certainly bigger than Aber, or the valley’s towns. Given the main industry is tourism for snowdonia, its no different to somewhere like Torquay. But I wouldn’t say I felt strongly about the matter 😉

Yeah, it’s a big town thanks to the university. And yes, it’s bigger than Aber. But, you know, comparably small compared with most university towns. And Porthaethwy isn’t in the same constituency. But we’re splitting hairs now! 😀

I get quite annoyed when people say we don’t need leaders and we don’t need direction and we don’t need formal structures. I used to think that, and in theory I’d still like that. Turns out, though, that organising an anti-cuts group locally is bloody difficult.

Guy – will send you a proper response at some point.

Bangor citizens would not count the population on the other side of the bridge – that’s Menai Bridge.

The town / gown issues in Bangor aren’t down to language, but down to the university’s monolithic presence which has lead it to engulf every community facility possible. The cinema, theatre, townhouses -everything is becoming university-owned, and this is understandably dissatisfying for locals who feel increasingly marginalised.

,y 5 penn’orth
(1) The demonstrations were dramatic and impressive and also had an effect on the Trade Union movement (what political scientists call “A kick up the arse”) (2) The protestors were not wrong to go beyond the limits of AaronPorterist Sensibilism – had they stuck there with glowstick vigils, they would never have had any effect in the first place (3) They did have an effect, but were not strong enough to stop the Commons vote. They did , however, unnerve the coalition and raise the price for a future Labour govt not doing enough on fees. (4) The ‘movement’ might be in abeyance after the vote but I don’t think it is over. Coming flashpoints are (a) any student bloc would be warmly and demonstratively welcomed on the 26th March TUC protest . While students took part in previous (I’m thinking back eg to the 80’s/90’s NHS related demos) broader anti-cuts protests, they would not have been looked on so warmly as a distinct group by the broader Labour Movement as I think they are now. (b) the announcement by individual universities of their actual fees levels – probably in May. While the govt claimed £6k was the norm, I think most universities will come in above it. Likely all the Russell Group and the “redbricks” coming in at the full £9k, with even a fair few “post-1992” institutions coming in at £7k ish. While the Labour leadership will be hoping for massive and passive demonstrations but no significant strikes or militant protests in response to the cuts , the situation is more dynamic. The cuts too harsh, the coalition too unstable, the potential for action in the TU, student and spontaneous popular movement too high for a guaranteed “grand old duke of york” response. The student movement is an early- and I think likely continuing – part of this mix. More prone to rapid ups and downs than the broader movement, but not “dead”.

Ellie, OT but had to address your point.

There is the language issue (Welsh language courses were the first to go), which has been badly received given the way the uni came into existence (thanks to the donation from local slateworkers). The theatre was always owned by the uni, but was run by a different company. The cinema closed because there was no local support. Because of the presence of the uni, it’s an easy target. It’s often blamed for the rise in student accomodation, which is privately owned, and is the result of local companies capitalising on the student market.

Would love to discuss this further, but prob not here 😉

Strange article. Really, Sunny at his sopping wet worst.

The logical consequence of Sunny’s position is that those who believe Porter is a pathetic waste of space whose deference to power is undermining the student movement must nevertheless accommodate him because he will not take the appropriate course for someone in whom there is no confidence and step aside. I do not think Sunny has ever grasped that there is no distinction between endless compromise and capitulation.

And this is simply disingenuous: “Porter faced calls from radical students to go immediately after the first big demonstration. His crime was to apologise for some of the violence…” Sunny is fully aware that there was much more to the anger directed at Porter than this but characterises the situation inappropriately.

Feeble stuff all round but a helpful reminder.

I should say that I am generally supportive of the positions taken by this site, and Sunny himself. But this article is really weak stuff.

SRB

Sorry I thought you meant Lang issue in terms of Lang barrier.

I have some responses but not here. Besides I’m off on a libcon pub jaunt!

Btw I am Bangor born n bred 🙂

We’re bad students.

We’ve let ourselves down. We’ve let the movement down. But, most of all, we’ve let Sunny down. 🙁

57. morelikewater

I think debating Sunny’s opinion here is almost irrelevant. The reason for this is that all he’s doing, and he’s doing it quite well, is writing sensationalist headlines & articles. Offline, these headlines would sell newspapers, online they get 80 comments. Music critics write about people that make music, they shouldn’t be confused with musicians.

The problem with the ‘movement’ is it’s lack of leadership (ineffective leadership is just as bad as no leadership), mass movements do not work well along anarchist lines in the longer term, possibly the only hope going forward is for the remnants of the ‘movement’ to join up with their local union branches and start targeted localised campaigns, particularly against sitting MPs that back the cuts.

59. George Stockton

Aaron Porter is a opportunistic rat and his NUM is tightly bound to a Labour party with opinions the right of Margaret Thatcher on higher education.

There’s no reason why a left-wing, grassroots student movement couldn’t hire buses and organise.

A stupid question:

Why should we listen to ideas on political ‘direction’ from a man who can’t seem to decide whether he’s Tory, Labour or Lib Dem; but nevertheless seems certain that the SWP “throw eggs” (untrue) at demos he wasn’t at? Then dismisses “the radicals”. But nevertheless credits the EDL as a “protest group”?

Why do I suspect that the above ‘positions’ are far more useful to a career in the press rather than any living, breathing campaigns? Believing in nothing really – but when in doubt, conveniently blaming the ‘loony left’ in the interests of mainstream acceptance (and pay cheques). Reminds me of any number of “left-of-centre” columnists…

And no, I’m not in the SWP, before any of you ‘principled’ liberals jump to predictable conclusions.

The re-tweets are priceless:

“An argument about the ‘death’ of the student movement which deserves to be countered”

“i reckon @sunny_hundal is definitely working for ‘the man’ now, i take offense at Anarchists being list with the EDL”

“*stifles yawn*”

“Is this the cry of a desperate man?”

“more utter bollocks”

“Prominent liberal commentator finds his ability to read the way the wind is blowing “is essentially dead””

Heh. Find some of the comments amusing. Armchair activists who have no clue about political direction or have a plan are annoyed someone has burst their bubble, shocker.

Try and rubbish the article all you want; water off a duck’s back.

I’m happy to be proven wrong. I want nothing more than the left to get their act together. But some of you are do engrossed in calling other people ‘careerists’ or ‘traitors’ or whatever, and spending all your time infighting, that I highly doubt it will happen. Which is a shame. But some of the pathetic responses here illustrate that some of you will never learn.

Sunny is spot on IMO.

The biggest issue I see is the lack of continued protests.

Occupations come and go, high street protests are irregular.

And the March 26th is so far away, unless there is something else to focus on people will forget about things.

So many tweet about how well Egyptians protested. They didnt stop until they got their demands.

Over here that would equate to a store being protested at every day until change, or universities being in occupation constantly until the gov backs down.

If Egyptians can risk death or jail for their beliefs, and tweets use #solidarity in tweets, then to me that means following their lead and protesting non stop.

Part time activists wont make the changes people want to see, and neither will a divided movement.

Heh.

Instead of actually answering any issues commentators heve with this article (like the fact that he bases his ‘observations’ on inaccurate reports and that he endorsed ALL THREE MAIN POLITICAL PARTIES WITHIN TWO YEARS), Sunny dismisses any critics as ‘armchair activists’.

A smirk, a shrug. Smug dismissal. We have ourselves a middle-market columnist.

“Nope. Bangor University. North Wales. Arfon constituency. Has been Plaid since time immemorial. Not strictly rural (being as how it’s made up of Bangor and Caernarfon) but comparably rural, ie there’s bugger all there, except for the uni and a lot of pubs.”

Er… Arfon was only created in 2010 and is a marginal (Plaid majority of 1,455 over Labour). Before the boundary changes Bangor had never been in a Plaid constituency; along with Bethesda it had previously been paired with Llandudno in the Conwy constituency which was held by Betty Williams for Labour from 1997 and was Tory before then (yeah, it was a fairly polarised constituency at times). I would also dispute that the rest of the area has been Plaid since ‘time immemorial’ as it was Labour until 1974…

“The town / gown issues in Bangor aren’t down to language, but down to the university’s monolithic presence which has lead it to engulf every community facility possible. The cinema, theatre, townhouses -everything is becoming university-owned, and this is understandably dissatisfying for locals who feel increasingly marginalised.”

What theatre? It’s been knocked down (along with the ghastly monument to Soviet architecture that was the SU building) hasn’t it.

But, yeah, what issues that exist don’t have much to do with language; the parts of Bangor with the most Welsh speakers (the suburbs around the hospital and Maes-G) are also the parts with least contact with the University and with students. The only major exception to that pattern is Hirael.

Sunny

Please address the issue of the blatant untruth in your article, which has been brought to your attention.

By all means ignore my off-topic (though not irrelevant) dig about the NUJ, but do you understand that you cannot just repeat blatant LIES in your articles? Unless, at least, you credit some source for the lie which the reader can interrogate?

The students were always going to be a damp squib and it was obvious to anyone who was actually a student. Now if you could please tell Laurie Penny to come down off her mountain that would be just great.

Some valid points, some clear inaccuracies

“I predicted earlier that the campaign against Aaron Porter would end up consuming the student movement, and so it has come to pass. Most radicals now say the student movement can’t progress unless Porter is ousted. ”

So, you have previously made a prediction of cause and effect
You decide the student movement has died
You also decide this is linked to Aaron Porter, thus fulfilling your prophecy

This isn’t logical, and its not true. Most ‘radicals’ I’ve come across think the NUS is mostly irrelevant, not the maker of the movement (Remember the glowstick lit vigil on December 9th? No?). The campaign to get rid of Porter has had little demonstrable impact either on the student movement or the NUS. Unfortunately the more believable explanation of loss of momentum after the fees vote, holidays and lack of next step doesn’t fit your predetermined journalistic narrative of radicals and splitters.

Sorry, totally OT, but…

Alun. I’d argue Bangor was only represented by Labour because of the fact that Bangor was included with Conwy and the more easterly parts of the NW coast. There’s a fairly strong PC presence on the local authority – far more than Labour. It’s more akin to Caernarfon than Conwy, in reality. That’s the point I was making – mass student voting in Bangor could conceivably affect the result because of the marginal nature of the new seat. The Lib Dem councillors are in wards with the highest concentration of students living there.

As for the theatre, they’ve knocked down TG and the SU. But it’s being replaced by Pontio, a new arts centre/theatre/cinema/students union/you name it. Owned and run by, yep, you’ve guessed it. The university. And there’s not really a part of Bangor that doesn’t come into contact with uni, when you consider it’s one of the main employers in the town, and until recently the SU was one of only two venues within the town.

Ok, time for some proper responses (sorry, been out most of the day so this has been difficult).

Mark Carrigan: And you conclude on this basis that the student movement is ‘essentially dead’?

I’ve explained what I mean by that – the return of November and December 2010 size demos isn’t likely. This isn’t just because the vote has been passed through but also because of the infighting.

As I’ve explained above (which no one disputes) – there is a stalemate on either side. I wish there wasn’t, but there is. That means the radical elements and the NUS now officially hate each other and will not pool resources together. And the radicals have also decided that fighting with the NUS is priority number one.

I went out of my way to be as neutral as possible in my assessment. If people disagree with the assessment, they are welcome to challenge it, but its obvious some people just dislike any critical voices whatsoever.

——–

Ellie Mae: I’d also argue it is important, and should be protected from dying.

Well, for a start that would require abstaining from sectarianism and accepting that people have different ways of working, different priorities and will not always agree with your methods. And it also requires students to remember who the bigger enemy is.

If the biggest and most immediate enemy isn’t a Tory, then frankly you’re just engaging in sectarianism. Its not my job to save the student movement – that is the job of students. I’m just pointing out what I think is happening… but I think other lefties need to learn from the massive mistakes the students have made.

——-

Kate: As an FE teacher my comment would be that the NUS doesn’t represent FE students and never really understood the impact of the loss of EMA

I sympathise with that view, and I can see why people think that.

But people are taking contradictory positions here.

Eitherthe NUS is worth taking seriously and the student body needs them (in which case fight hard to take ownership at the right time) because of their resources.

Or they’re a waste of time, should be ignored, and politicised students can organise themselves.

What annoys me is the stalemate – with students claiming the NUS is worthless and yet mounting a constant campaign against it to take charge (and failing on that too). The energy is now almost entirely concentrated against Aaron Porter because he is apparently the barrier to student victory.

Some people still don’t like a lefty going against the conventional wisdom and challenging that – so we get idiots coming here and throwing accusations of careerism, being a liberal (wow, big insult) and my voting record. Fair enough, but that just makes you look like a tool who is throwing his toys out of the pram. Not saying you are, but

The problem is though, Sunny, that successive changes to the constitution makes it hard for changes to the NUS to take place. Change would have to start in individual unions, in terms of sabbs being elected and reps being sent to national conference, who then have to successfully have motions tabled and heard properly. In order to make change happen in the NUS, you have to get people INTO the NC. For which you’d need a national student body to co-ordinate all those who want change, to make change happen. Kinda like the NUS is. Which is run by people who don’t want the status quo to change… and so it goes on.

Student politics is basically like a mini parliament. You’d be as well suggesting that we get rid of the Tories by infiltrating the party and changing the ideology. It’s not something that’s achievable within the time frame we need to make a stand against the cuts. That’s why movements like Socialist Students have been so important – they’re the ones used to fighting campaigns like this without the red tape and ratification that stifles any kind of action within the NUS. I’m not exaggerating when I say that NUS conference is like the People’s Front of Judea forming a rescue party. The Constitution runs to 94 pages, and that’s without looking at the dreaded procedural motions.

And when it comes to representation, well. Ahem. This is the union which has create a post for a Vice President (Further Education), and has “liberation” committees for black students, women, LGBT and disable students. But no representation for mature students, who make up a massive number of students in the UK. I was told there was no need for one, by a former president of NUS Wales.

I do think the NUS exec, and Porter in particular, have been caught on the hop. They’ve been lulled into a false sense of security because the NUS haven’t been called to act on a campaign as big as this for YEARS. It’s been a long time since anyone outside LGBT have had to formula a massive campaigned aimed at Government. And I think that’s where the members who have an eye on a political career have been caught out. They don’t want to bite the hand that feeds. Making too loud a noise against a Government made up partially of Lib Dems (and when the Labour party have been backwards at coming forwards in opposing the cuts) means that they run the risk of being labelled a dissident by those who make up party selection lists, or who are looking for researchers. BUT at the same time, they haven’t formulated any kind of plan as to what to do to satisfy what is obviously a massive issue for students. If you look at Porter’s election speech from the NC 2010, it talks about opposing tuition fees. But it’s concentrated on petitions and lobbying. And there’s nothing about what would happen if the fees were voted through. Which they were. So they’re reduced to making policy on the fly – which the constitution isn’t designed to allow.

There’s student politics – which the NUS excels at. But this is the real deal now. And I think most students realise that. And whilst there is plenty of scope for campaigning on local issues in their own area, I think most are just going to bypass the red tape and get on with campaigning. The marches I attended in Glasgow before Christmas made it very clear that the protest wasn’t just about education cuts, it was about cuts all over the board, and all over the country. EMA still exists in Scotland, tuition fees don’t. And yet Scottish students still came out in force against the Government.

So yes… what I’m saying is, the NUS isn’t really in the right place to be campaigning for anyone right now. But infighting in that particular organisation doesn’t mean that the student movement isn’t alive and well. It just means that it’s union isn’t doing what it should be doing. And whilst that IS definitely a problem, it’s not something we can be worrying about at the moment.

73. aaron peters

@Guy why engage with this article and these points its complete garbage…re. your points on New Cross and Lambeth you are entirely correct but this is lost on these people, because THEY HAVEN’T GOT THE FIRST CLUE about what is going on. They are not political streetfighters, campaigners, theorists…in fact I don’t know what the hell they are. I would suggest that Sunny actually goes to anti-cuts meetings, TU-Student meetups and direct actions like Lambeth and New Cross before casting his often erroneous and ill thought judgement on who is doing whIf you can’t run 20 km in a day you basically don’t know how many direct actions were done by students and EMA kids on the last student demo Topshop was closed from 12-8, only briefly opening for 10 mins at a time…it gets interesting at 5 mins

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=um215SKRNBo&feature=related

In any case LibCon has clearly had its day – give me Open Democracy for critical and insightful analysis anytime.

p.s. if you are interested Sunny I am currently writing a workout plan for journalists to keep up with student and EMA civic swarms, it will include a lot of cardio, speed endurance etc – usual stuff…DM for a PDF

Owen:
Sunny is also wrong, I think, to connect the NUS shenanigans and the loss of momentum. He can argue that going for Aaron Porter’s woeful ‘leadership’ is a tactical mistake, but I don’t see what it has to do with the movement running out of steam.

I think there are two inter-related problems here.

First, some loss of momentum was inevitable, given that the vote had been passed. No one really talked about what would happen after that, or prepared for it (esp if they wanted the movement to sustain itself).

There could have been ways to sustain that, locally, at universities, but it didn’t really gather steam for various reasons too long to get into.

Secondly, the stand-off with Aaron Porter means a lot of time is spent trying to oust him and replace the leadership.

Will that actually happen? I see very little signs that this will be successful (though, surprise me!) in April. So that means a stalemate, no coordination between NUS and radical students on action, and precious time and effort spent fighting each other.

Guy Aitchison asks who says Porter should be the first target. Erm, just ask Owen Jones, ask Ben Beach, ask lots of others on Twitter. Every student who has been disagreeing with my positions on this has repeated endlessly that AP needs to be ousted first for the movement to succeed. I’m staggered you can’t name one.

Maybe you should at least make it clear that you are relying on someone else’s say so, as you weren’t there, and link to one of the ‘several people’.

I find it amusing some random commenter with a new name is trying to give me journalism lessons. Anonymous sources are common, and I’ve personally named / linked them to others, though they don’t want to be named publicly.

You can disagree with that because you think all SWP people have agreed not to attack or criticise any Labour politician at all (so wait, you’re telling me there were no SWP people at recent local Labour councils campaigning against those councillors?). Its just that I’ve heard otherwise from more than one person, one who is an active member of the trade union movement. Take that as you wish.

W Kasper: And no, I’m not in the SWP, before any of you ‘principled’ liberals jump to predictable conclusions.

Nah, you’re just a tool with nothing intelligent to say other than the same old ‘careerist’ jibes at anyone who says things you don’t like. What a surprise. Muppets like you are dime a dozen.

Planeshift @ #33 – excellent suggestions there by the way. That should a post in itself.

frolix33: The logical consequence of Sunny’s position is that those who believe Porter is a pathetic waste of space whose deference to power is undermining the student movement must nevertheless accommodate him because he will not take the appropriate course for someone in whom there is no confidence and step aside

This is disingenuous and muddled.

The first question is: Is the NUS important as an org, to be taken seriously and had on side for the fight against the cuts? If no – go do your own thing instead of trying to oust him.

If it is, then the question is – will a protracted fight against NUS leadership help the general fight against cuts or not? I don’t think it will, simply because it will end in stalemate. As is very likely.

But if you think it will help – then what is the plan to oust him? Just chucking eggs when he turns up? Or are you people actually organising for the elections in April?
And furthermore – who is putting themselves forward as leaders, and what is their agenda? What would they like to see happen?

All we get is a lot of frothing about how Porter is holding everyone back and if only he were gone we’d get a million people out on the streets and this govt would fall. I’ve never heard more immature, naive political guff in my life than over the last three months. And especially from people who keep calling for unity but wouldn’t know pluralist politics even if it hit them in the face.

“First, some loss of momentum was inevitable, given that the vote had been passed. No one really talked about what would happen after that, or prepared for it (esp if they wanted the movement to sustain itself).”

Two points here (1) If the student movement had put a lot of effort into “planning for what we do if we lose the vote” before the vote was lost, it would have been a weak and defeated campaign from the start – it really would have just been the glow stick rally, and this discussion would not be taking place.

(2) As to what happens next – as I said, one coming flashpoint is individual universities will be announcing their fees levels in the next months. Very few will be below £6k, but there is room for local protests, with each Student Union demanding their own university doesn’t raise fees, does have more bursaries etc. In fact there will be some protests – the only question is how many. Some of these will be organised by the existing SU structures. Some by the various campaign groups. There is room here for small local victories as well – Universities – particularly the “Russell Group” ones – have some local leeway here, but will tend toward the greediest approach to fees..

(3) In the run up to 26th March demonstration there is also a strong possibility of UCU strikes over jobs, pay and pensions. Again there is a role for local Student Union involvement here – these are the kind of nuts and bolts that keep a long running campaing bubbling over.

76. Luis Enrique

I find it amusing some random commenter with a new name is trying to give me journalism lessons.

fucking hell Sunny, tone it down a bit, you’re not Walter Cronkite

I find it amusing some random commenter with a new name is trying to give me journalism lessons. Anonymous sources are common, and I’ve personally named / linked them to others, though they don’t want to be named publicly.

I’ve got perfectly good reasons for not using my real name when posting from a work computer in work time, thanks. But then it’s not me who is making groundless accusations on the basis of anonymous sources.

You can disagree with that because you think all SWP people have agreed not to attack or criticise any Labour politician at all

Well that’s not what I said, as you well know. But I do know that their current position towards Labour (which as a centralist organisation, their members do stick to) is not such that they would be chucking eggs at a Labour MP coming to speak at an anti-cuts demonstration. You would know that too, if your knowledge and understanding of left-wing politics went beyond that of a Dorling Kindersley book on liberalism.

Your ‘sources’ (other liberals and Labour Party hacks on Facebook) are either also pig-ignorant or flaming liars. I’m afraid knowingly repeating their lies demeans your blog. No wonder you’re all coy about joining the NUJ. I doubt they’d have you with standards like that.

What on earth does the NUS have to do with the student movement?

#74: Guy Aitchison asks who says Porter should be the first target. Erm, just ask Owen Jones, ask Ben Beach, ask lots of others on Twitter. Every student who has been disagreeing with my positions on this has repeated endlessly that AP needs to be ousted first for the movement to succeed. I’m staggered you can’t name one.

Sunny – I’ve never argued this. My position is that it would be helpful if Aaron Porter was replaced with someone who embraced the movement that has emerged since November (and provided genuine leadership). But I don’t think it’s a precondition “for the movement to succeed” – and if anything, I think it’s a bit of a distraction.

“Guy Aitchison asks who says Porter should be the first target. Erm, just ask Owen Jones, ask Ben Beach, ask lots of others on Twitter. Every student who has been disagreeing with my positions on this has repeated endlessly that AP needs to be ousted first for the movement to succeed. I’m staggered you can’t name one.”

err I’ve just asked Owen and Ben on Twitter, Sunny. As I thought, they both confirmed that they DON’T believe Porter being ousted is a precondition for the student movement’s success.

See:
http://twitter.com/#!/OwenJones84/statuses/35290271012888576

http://twitter.com/B3nB3ach/statuses/35301119844564992

So the only two people you name don’t actually take the view you attribute to them (a good argument for checking facts first!)

Kind of undermines your “infighting has killed the student movement” meme a bit, no?

“I’d argue Bangor was only represented by Labour because of the fact that Bangor was included with Conwy and the more easterly parts of the NW coast. There’s a fairly strong PC presence on the local authority – far more than Labour.”

Hmm…? It was the Bangor end of the old Conwy constituency that won it for Labour in the first place and which held it in 2005. The last set of local elections in Gwynedd were very deceptive for various reasons (enough that would make this unexpectedly interesting digression less than entirely justified). Bangor certainly isn’t solidly Plaid.

“It’s more akin to Caernarfon than Conwy, in reality.”

Oh, absolutely. But Caernarfon is hardly the absolute Plaid stronghold that most people outside the area think it is.

“That’s the point I was making – mass student voting in Bangor could conceivably affect the result because of the marginal nature of the new seat. The Lib Dem councillors are in wards with the highest concentration of students living there.”

Ah, in that case I don’t think I disagree with you in much more than detail then. Mass student voting in Bangor would certainly make a nice change…

“As for the theatre, they’ve knocked down TG and the SU. But it’s being replaced by Pontio, a new arts centre/theatre/cinema/students union/you name it. Owned and run by, yep, you’ve guessed it. The university.”

It’s slightly more complicated than that, but, yeah. Still, who else would run such a place (indeed, would such a place even be built?) if not for the university? Resentment at domination is understandable (though the extent to which people care tends to be exaggerated whenever the issue is mentioned; mostly people are just, understandably, annoyed by students littering and throwing up all over the place) but there’s always a point at which things become a little daft.

“And there’s not really a part of Bangor that doesn’t come into contact with uni, when you consider it’s one of the main employers in the town, and until recently the SU was one of only two venues within the town.”

Yeah, yeah, yeah, but that’s not what I meant. I doubt anyone seriously minds the fact that the university employs a lot of people here. By ‘contact’ I mean with the more arguably negative aspects of the city having a sizeable (for the size of the city) university. Basically, language really isn’t the problem. The issue is that Bangor is basically a tough little maritime town (as a former slate port and a – former – minor shipbuilding and railways centre) and a small university city at the same time.

“In 2008, he wrote a blog post saying that non-white voters should consider voting Conservative, on the basis that “brown people” were being deliberately targeted by anti-terrorism legislation brought in by the New Labour government of Gordon Brown.[15]

In 2010, on his Liberal Conspiracy blog, he personally backed the Liberal Democrats in the UK General Election.[16] The Liberal Democrats went on to form a Coalition Government with the Conservative party.

About 3 months after the Coalition Government was announced Hundal joined the Labour Party in order to influence its political direction.[17] In August 2010 Hundal personally backed Ed Miliband in the Labour leadership election.[18]”

Always ‘riding the wave’, eh? If not recommending that ‘brown people’ vote for a party making a shameless bid for racist supporters – with nods of approval from the EDL – licking it’s lips at the prosepect of racially-motivated cuts and extended police powers. Maybe we should blame the same “whiners” you were not so long ago. They only have themselves to blame for police discrimination and nazi thugs, eh?

Or jumping the “Cleggmania” bandwagon, round the time when the Guardian makes its regrettable endorsement. Perhaps ignorant of their freely-available Orange Book.

Then, when it’s the ‘done thing’ to get oh-so-outraged that Tories are behaving lie, er, Tories, strolls into the Labour party within three months, telling us who should be leader – conveniently, the one who won. Just fancy that!

Then, feels qualified to issue his diagnosis on the health of certain campaigns, especially those ‘immature’ people who fail to be happy with Aron Porter.

Maybe your not a careerist, but you’re somewhat muddled, throwing your lot in with ‘mainstream’ consensus when it’s opportune to do so. Pick up any newspaper, and it’s clear that similar topsy-turvy, agenda-compliant, trend-led bollocks is the punditry du jour.

“Muppets like you truly are a dime a dozen” – on every op-ed page out there.

Luis: when did I say I was? I just don’t need jibes about not having an NUS pass on the basis that I don’t reveal the names of people who said there was SWP activists in Manchester.

Onlooker: But I do know that their current position towards Labour (which as a centralist organisation, their members do stick to) is not such that they would be chucking eggs at a Labour MP

So basically, your entire diatribe and hysterics rest on the fact that because some SWP people have said they’ll work with Labour to oppose the cuts – you believe not a single SWP activist will campaign against Labour politicians.

Are you on crack?

FYI there has been plenty of petitioning by SWP activists across the country on cuts imposed by local councils. Now you’ll tell me that’s also lies and slander will you?

W Kasper:
It’s always a delight to be attacked from the left by muppets with such poorly constructed diatribes.

You’re calling me a careerist, while simultaneously trying to call me racist while admitting that I’ve voted for different political parties because I didn’t agree their their stances at the time. Hilarious. Oh and apparently I’ve had “nods of approval” from the EDL. Stick to putting cartoons on your blog and watching them – seems like that suits your level of intelligence.

On crack? I’m beginning to wonder whether you can read.

So basically, your entire diatribe and hysterics rest on the fact that because some SWP people have said they’ll work with Labour to oppose the cuts – you believe not a single SWP activist will campaign against Labour politicians.

No, that isn’t what I wrote. The SWP’s official position is not such that they will be throwing eggs at Labour politicians speaking on a nominally left platform. So far you’ve done nothing to disprove this.

You really shouldn’t repeat these lies if you want your blog to have any credibility as a fact source, rather than just a soft-left rant-platform.

FYI there has been plenty of petitioning by SWP activists across the country on cuts imposed by local councils. Now you’ll tell me that’s also lies and slander will you?

Eh? I know there has. I’ve worked with SWP members on producing some of those leaflets. What on earth are you on about? Either you can’t read what I’m writing or you can’t grasp the fairly basic content. Which is it?

You really shouldn’t repeat these lies if you want your blog to have any credibility as a fact source, rather than just a soft-left rant-platform.

Thanks but I’m not looking for credibility from people such as yourself. Since you haven’t proved I’m lying other than to point to vague central diktats – you’ll excuse me if I don’t take notice. I’ve had two people say that to me, and I’ll take their word over some random commenter.

The rest of your comment makes little sense too. You and WKasper should set up a blog together and rail at the liberal left in harmony for spreading their lies etc. Lastly, no I’ve not applied to join the NUJ yet and its not any of your business.

By the way, have you applied to join the NUJ?

People such as myself? Mainstream Labour Party leftwingers who object to lies? Blimey, who are you aiming at then? The sort of people who repeat scurrilous rumours without checking them at all? If you still trust those ‘sources’ of yours then you really are going to be in trouble soon.

And yes, it is our business. If somebody pontificating about how ‘the left’ ought to behave can’t even be bothered join his own union, thereby undermining all his colleagues who are, it matters a great deal. It marks you out as the egocentric chancer your postings have always suggested.

Joining a union is not some private ethical dilemma; it speaks volumes about you and your ‘left’ credentials.

People such as myself? Mainstream Labour Party leftwingers who object to lies

As you’ve not offered any proof that I’ve lied, despite me repeatedly asking for it, I can only assume you are a loon with nothing better to do.

You know perfectly well, Sunny, that it’s impossible to prove a negative. That’s a stupid thing to say, even by your standards.

You know perfectly well, Sunny, that it’s impossible to prove a negative

Oh jeez, I can’t be asked to spend half my evening engaging with some illiterate tool. You either prove that someone is lying, if you’re going to accuse them of that, or fuck off. Its really that simple.

I’ve explained to you (accepting that you don’t know much about leftwing politics) why it’s extremely unlikely to have been the SWP chucking eggs. All you’ve done is repeat a rumour from an unreliable source (I’ll call him AW for the sake of argument). Try harder in future.

why it’s extremely unlikely to have been the SWP chucking egg

So in other words you don’t have any proof, and yet you’re accusing others of being liars. Hey, lucky you’re not a member of the NUJ or a journalist either hey.. or writing under your name, to show everyone what a tool you are.

Sunny, this is pretty undignified and you’re not presenting your argument in the most positive way.

Being patient here…Sunny, do you need me to explain in words of one syllable why it’s impossible to prove a negative?

Let me give you an analogy.

Prove you personally weren’t involved in smashing windows at Millbank on the student demo.
Prove you never shouted “Tory Jew” at Aaron Porter.
Prove you’ve never punched an old woman in the nose.

Now, I don’t believe you’ve ever done any of those things, but if I blogged that “two of my mates said you did”, you couldn’t PROVE otherwise, could you?

Here’s another analogy. Your allegation is about as likely as Peter Taaffe urging people to join the Labour Party, or the AWL coming out as secret Hamas supporters. It doesn’t take a political genius to understand that. But in the absence of those basics, instead you’d rather rely on the unreliable word of a ‘mate’ with an anti-SWP agenda, presumably to further your own sectarian agenda.

You’re right, I’m not a journalist, though fortunately I’m not publishing anything which purports to be journalism, nor pretending to be one.

But I have got beyond the bit on page two of ‘How to be a lefty’ about what trade unions are, why you should join one, and a few choice descriptions of self-described leftwingers who choose not to join up.

That’s probably all it’s worth saying on the subject. It’s a shame really but there you go.

“while admitting that I’ve voted for different political parties because I didn’t agree their their stances at the time. ”

There is absolutely nothing wrong with voting tactically, and voting for different parties (I’ve done it myself). Lets use a consumer analagy – a person who stays loyal with the same car insurance firm is likely to get increasingly ripped off. A person who shops around every year, does their homework etc, will get a far better deal.

I was once at an event on regeneration – close to an election. It had a labour politician who made the point that if the area wanted to continue getting regeneration money, it should vote labour as they were supporting the efforts. I wanted to ask whether actually, as the area was a safe labour seat, that was part of the problem. If the community could organise themselves to make the constutuency a marginal you can bet your life that governments would have made far more of an effort to regenerate the area. I never did get to ask the question directly.

Why we have to slavishly vote for the same party all the time is beyond me…

Armchair activists who have no clue about political direction or have a plan are annoyed someone has burst their bubble, shocker.

So the SWP were throwing eggs at Aaron Porter from their armchairs? That’s pretty impressive throwing, you have to admit.

97. Liverpool1911

Deserves reposting.

“I’ve just asked Owen and Ben on Twitter, Sunny. As I thought, they both confirmed that they DON’T believe Porter being ousted is a precondition for the student movement’s success.”

See:
http://twitter.com/#!/OwenJones84/statuses/35290271012888576

http://twitter.com/B3nB3ach/statuses/35301119844564992

“So the only two people you name don’t actually take the view you attribute to them (a good argument for checking facts first!)”


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Why the student movement in England is essentially dead http://bit.ly/hNRbXT

  2. Beth Watts

    RT @libcon: Why the student movement in England is essentially dead http://bit.ly/hNRbXT

  3. Ellie Mae O'Hagan

    Tell us what you really think Sunny! RT @libcon: Why the student movement in England is essentially dead http://bit.ly/hNRbXT

  4. Socio Imagination

    RT @libcon: An argument about the 'death' of the student movement which deserves to be countered http://bit.ly/hNRbXT

  5. Mark Carrigan

    RT @libcon: An argument about the 'death' of the student movement which deserves to be countered http://bit.ly/hNRbXT

  6. Public University

    RT @libcon: An argument about the 'death' of the student movement which deserves to be countered http://bit.ly/hNRbXT

  7. Owen Jones

    Disagree with @sunny_hundal that student movement is dead, but it needs political direction if it has a future http://tinyurl.com/6jnd2gp

  8. ally

    i reckon @sunny_hundal is definitely working for 'the man' now, i take offense at Anarchists being list with the EDL – http://bit.ly/hNRbXT

  9. earwicga

    RT @libcon: Why the student movement in England is essentially dead http://bit.ly/hNRbXT

  10. ally

    i reckon @sunny_hundal is definitely on an agenda, i take offense at Anarchists being listed with the EDL – http://bit.ly/hNRbXT

  11. Paul Wood

    RT @libcon: Why the student movement in England is essentially dead http://bit.ly/hNRbXT

  12. Jesse Landry

    RT @libcon: Why the student movement in England is essentially dead http://bit.ly/hNRbXT

  13. UoE Occupation

    *stifles yawn* http://bit.ly/hNRbXT

  14. m.f.

    RT @ExeterOccupied: *stifles yawn* http://bit.ly/hNRbXT

  15. sunny hundal

    Why the student movement in England is essentially dead http://bit.ly/hNRbXT

  16. Florence A

    RT @sunny_hundal: Why the student movement in England is essentially dead http://bit.ly/hNRbXT

  17. Rooftop Jaxx

    Is this the cry of a desperate man? RT @sunny_hundal Why the student movement in England is essentially dead http://bit.ly/hNRbXT

  18. Rooftop Jaxx

    Is this the cry of a desperate man? RT @sunny_hundal Why the student movement in England is essentially dead http://bit.ly/hNRbXT

  19. Dan Fox

    RT @sunny_hundal: Why the student movement in England is essentially dead http://bit.ly/hNRbXT

  20. Dan Fox

    RT @sunny_hundal: Why the student movement in England is essentially dead http://bit.ly/hNRbXT

  21. hcpolitics

    RT @sunny_hundal: Why the student movement in England is essentially dead http://bit.ly/hNRbXT

  22. benbryant

    RT @sunny_hundal: Why the student movement in England is essentially dead http://bit.ly/hNRbXT

  23. Sean Court

    Why the student movement in England is essentially dead | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/cz85lIj via @libcon < more utter bollocks

  24. Kevin Blowe

    Prominent liberal commentator finds his ability to read the way the wind is blowing "is essentially dead" http://bit.ly/hNRbXT

  25. jeanmorton

    @UKuncut Worrying – RT @libcon: Why the student movement in England is essentially dead http://bit.ly/hNRbXT

  26. Why the student movement is basically the same as always. « Some Random Bint

    […] to Sunny Hundal, writing on Liberal Conspiracy, the student movement in England is essentially dead. This is because the NUS are all fighting amongst themselves, and instead of getting together with […]

  27. Daniel Pitt

    RT @libcon: Why the student movement in England is essentially dead http://bit.ly/hNRbXT

  28. FREE/GRATIS- education as sabotage and the poverty of student rhetoric | Deterritorial Support Group

    […] the ‘student movement’ in the UK would die down. It was equally inevitable that the banality-factories of liberal punditry would start wittering away, devoid of any meaningful analysis as to the extent to which it […]

  29. Cameron promotes ‘muscular liberalism’, the big society teeters on the brink and Project Merlin conjures up a trick for the banks | British Politics and Policy at LSE

    […] Conspiracy laments the death of the student movement in England due to infighting in the NUS and an incoherent […]

  30. Leave Aaron Porter alone! « No comment

    […] are saying that the student movement is dead. And I wish I could disagree fully, but this stupid factionalist infighting is getting us nowhere. […]

  31. Link Loving 15.02.11 « Casper ter Kuile

    […] Sunny Hundal on why the UK student movement has died before it ever really lived again. Depressing reading. […]

  32. Education as sabotage and the poverty of student rhetoric « Really Open University

    […] passed, the ‘student movement’ in the UK would die down. It was equally inevitable that the banality-factories of liberal punditry would start wittering away, devoid of any meaningful analysis as to the extent to which it […]

  33. Occupational Therapy | Search for the Master Copy

    […] is not to say that with the end of an Occupation of space, a movement itself comes to an end. But it does give fuel for slow-witted opinionizers that suggest it has. Equally chess may well be […]





Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.