by Edd Mustill
NUS president Aaron Porter will have to be careful, as we say back in Sheffield, that he doesn’t “get a sore arse from sitting on the fence too much.”
Initially, he decried the day of action on the 24th for supposedly distracting from the NUS “strategy” of attempting to force by elections on Liberal Democrat MPs, using a constitutional provision which, by the way, does not yet exist.
He humbly back-tracked publicly in a speech to the UCL occupation on Sunday morning. He has acknowledged that peaceful direct action including occupations are accepted as a legitimiate tactic by the NUS, although his recent blog studiously ignores the existence of NCAFC and EAN:
“I want to announce my support for a new wave of action, spurred on and supported by NUS and Students’ Unions, mobilising our students in colleges and Universities and working with other activists and supporters from across the education sector, the trade union movement, parents, families and beyond. There has never been a more important time for a united student movement, and this is what I will lead.”
No activists will read this and think, “Thank god! At last we have a leader.” The numbers at tomorrow’s day of action will not be any higher because of this belated announcement.
Today the Cambridge Defend Education group, which was served with an injuction against its occupation of the Old Schools site, claimed on twitter:
“asked @aaronporter for support w/ our possession order. He said ‘we are not offering legal advice or financial support to students.’”
Porter tried to clear this up by suggesting that the NUS is seeking legal advice about the rights of occupiers but not on a “case by case basis.”
The NUS completely lost the leadership of the student movement after Porter so strongly and quickly condemned the Millbank protest in the national media. They are now trying to reclaim that leadership. The radical students who have mobilised themselves, and the groups who have been behind the days of action, must not let them do this.
Remember that the NUS wanted us to have one march, on the 10th, listen to some speakers, and go back to lobby our MPs. Remember that they have no strategy for defeating higher fees and education cuts.
The ball is still in the court of the radicals. We must start to formulate a strategy for defeating the Bill, and we must keep up and increase the use of democratic forums like general assemblies for debating the direction of the protest movement.
Comparisons can easily be drawn between Porter and Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour Party (remember them?) Perhaps Aaron gets a dizzying feeling when he sees Ed on the telly; a sense that he is gazing into his own future. Like Aaron, Ed has been unable to make his mind up about whether he supports the students protests, or perhaps whether it is politically expedient for him to do so. Political fence-sitting is fine in times of social peace, and it might even win you an election. Not any more.
Good luck to everyone tomorrow.
As they say in France, “The future belongs to us!”