On NUS NEC, the factions have started cross-dressing. Time was when you pretty much knew who was left and who was right. Now some of the lefties — self-styled revolutionaries, no less — are taking the lead in voting down anything which smacks of socialist principle.
These “Trots” come in different shapes and sizes.
First, we have Kat Fletcher, elected President as a united left candidate but now on a fast track to the right.
Kat normally insists on chairing NEC meetings so she won’t have to take a position on anything, but intervenes at points she considers crucial — most recently to push through cuts to NUS democracy and defend the ESF’s promotion of Islamist Tariq Ramadan.
This month, her big idea was that NUS, which is in a financial crisis allegedly so deep that it has cut its National Conference to less than three days, should pay an external consultant £60–80,000 to “review” our campaigns.
Apparently the “stakeholders” involved in this will include the DfES (I kid you not).
After that the meeting voted down a second national education funding demo this year on the grounds that it would be too expensive.
There were two motions on Iraq to be discussed, one from myself (in support of Iraqi workers) and one from Tom Whittaker of the SWP and Peter Leary of Socialist Action (in support of the Stop the War Coalition).
My resolution argued that: “The Iraqi labour movement has an indispensable role to play in achieving democracy, secularism and self-determination for the peoples of Iraq”.
Unfortunately, it turned out that no one knew what secularism was!
Our “Trot” friends argued that it meant state-enforced atheism, Enver Hoxha-style (this is presumably the only thing Pete Leary doesn’t like about Stalinist Albania). Tom
Whittaker insisted he was not in favour of secularism, as “Iraqis should be able to vote for whoever they want”!
So out went secularism, though, against the protests of Whittaker and Leary, the rest of the motion was carried.
I also proposed a motion on the Behzti incident, pro-free speech and against Government proposals to outlaw religious hatred.
Pete Leary argued that we couldn’t discuss this, as National Conference had already voted to support the law. But had it? Maybe so, but no one else was sure, prompting a Fletcher intervention to rule the motion was out of order.
Finally, we discussed the G8 mobilisations.
I argued that we should of course support the “Make Poverty History” coalition, but not uncritically, since the NGOs have watered it down into a Blairite PR campaign.
We should argue independently for free student and trade unions, fighting for democracy, healthcare, education and workers’ rights in developing countries.
“Stop being divisive!” shouted Whittaker and Leary together — and on the initiative of these “socialists” my proposal was voted down.
If only the right-wingers in NUS were as good at cross-dressing as the SWP and Socialist Action are.