The right wing of Labour Students and its allies have run NUS for more than 20 years, resulting in defeat after defeat for the student movement. Since 1998, however, they have faced increasing opposition, with a united left slate challenging the Labour/"independent" leadership in the elections at every NUS conference.
In 1998 and 1999 this united slate was made up of the Campaign for Free Education and the SWP's student wing SWSS; since then it has also included various independents and student supporters of Socialist Action.
This strong display of left unity has drawn in wider forces and begun to loosen the right wing's hold on NUS, with the CFE winning Vice-President for Further Education and CFE candidates coming close to winning the presidency in 1998 and again this year.
Last year, however, SWSS and Socialist Action made it quite clear that they were not really interested in left unity: in addition to preventing the production of slate publicity for distribution to student unions and failing to attend election hustings, these friends of Ceaucescu and the Muslim Brotherhood did not even pretend to vote for CFE candidates, with the SWSS organiser leaving the room just before the presidential vote!
Since then the prospects have grown even worse, with rumours that SWSS and Socialist Action want to establish a student version of the Monbiot-Yaqoob-Galloway "Peace and Justice" coalition, involving the MAB-dominated Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS). After the 26 October demo, the SWP's member on the NUS executive attacked CFE co-chair and AWL member Alan Clarke as being "just like the Nazis" because - guess what - we "don't like Muslims".
The CFE's steering committee has written an open letter to the rest of the left urging unity in this year's elections - but it remains to be seen how the SWP and fellow travelers will respond.