NCAFC Women are supporting Kelley Temple in the elections for NUS National Women’s Officer at this week’s NUS Women’s Conference (13-15 March, Leeds). Kelley Temple is not part of the NCAFC, but we are supporting her because we think her election can be a step in building the fighting student women’s movement we are working towards. As part of this, and in order to realise that potential, we are seeking to build a serious, organised left-wing with NUS Women’s Campaign.
In February, we sent Kelley Temple a list of twelve questions. Her replies are, for the most part, a breath of fresh air. She stands in vivid contrast to the political timidity and bureaucratic passivity of the Women’s Campaign as it is currently run under Labour Students. Kelley says she:
-Opposes all cuts to jobs and services
-Supports heavily increased taxation of the rich and proper nationalisation of the banks
-Supports cutting profits, bonuses and military spending
-Supports free education – no fees, no graduate tax, and universal living grants
– Has consistently backed the student struggles of the last 18 months, and has criticised the NUS leadership for its passivity and lack of strategy
-Supports a fully comprehensive school system, school students’ unions affiliation to NUS, trans rights and involvement in the Campaign, sex workers’ unions and a push to involve self-defining women from all oppressed groups
-Last but not least she is highly critical of the failure of the Women’s Campaign to involve and mobilise women
(Kelley’s full answers to our questions.)
We agree with these demands and want to mobilise as many student women as possible to fight for them. For the last two or three years, alongside the rise of anti-cuts activism and workers’ struggles, there has been a growth of feminist activism and campaigning – particularly among young and student women. Unfortunately NUS Women’s Campaign has played little role in this, not even in terms of support and political guidance for campus women’s groups.
The reason is the “leadership” of Labour Students which, if anything, has somehow managed to degenerate in the last year. This Women’s Officer election gives us an opportunity to change things and move back towards the kind of radical, militant Women’s Campaign which played a leading role in the NUS left until about a decade ago. Both candidates in the election call themselves “socialist feminist” but Kelley’s answers, and her record within NUS clearly mark her out as different from Estelle Hart.
The key thing, however, is to build a serious organised left in the Women’s Campaign. This is not just because we disagree with Kelley Temple on some points – on her assessment of Liam Burns, for instance, and on whether councils can refuse to implement the government cuts. It is not just because her answers to our questions are more left-wing than her manifesto and campaign materials. It is because many years of experience in the student movement and labour movement show that the election of left-wing leaders often achieves little if not backed by a grassroots movement capable of making demands on them, pressuring them and, if necessary, seeking to replace them.
For too long in the Women’s Campaign almost everyone has talked left but there has been no organised bloc of legitimate left-wing activists developing ideas and demands, and organising to achieve these. NCAFC Women is committed to building such a bloc. We will be holding regular caucuses at Women’s Conference and invite all delegates who agree with our basic approach to attend and get involved. Beyond that we urge student feminist activists to get in touch, invite a speaker to their women’s group and get involved in discussing and campaigning around our Charter for Women in Education.