Defend Education Birmingham are publishing this statement indicating that we want to join a federation of similar organisations. We call on other anti-cuts groups to have similar conversations and, if possible, make a similar commitment.
Following the success of students in Quebec, people in the UK are increasingly looking at federal methods of national organisation. For example the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts voted at its recent conference to hold another conference in the next six months specifically to organise some kind of federal structure of students’ unions. We believe that this structure should not be restricted to students’ unions, but should also open itself to affiliation from anti-cuts groups.
Federal organising is important because it ensures that national co-ordination is in touch with the grassroots movement. At open national meetings influence is gained by the group who can bus in the highest number of attendees; however in order to gain influence in a federal organisation it is necessary to grow your local group and to convince them of a set of ideas. This creates a structure that is far less open to disempowering sectarianism.
We believe that a federation of only students’ unions is both undesirable and unfeasible because of a number of structural failings. Students unions are dominated by bureaucracies that have to be constantly fought in order to orient them towards struggle. Even large grassroots organisations cannot fully transform their unions and the gains they make can be taken back alarmingly quickly. A national fighting students union such as Assé in Quebec can never be built out of these structures.
Our aim with a federal structure should be to bring together all students engaged in struggle. Some of this takes place within students unions, but more takes place in anti-cuts groups, which are the major grassroots organisation in the British student movement. We therefore believe in the following principles for a federated Union:
- Direct Democracy - Groups affiliating to the federation should be democratic, with mandated and recallable delegates to national decision making.
- Dual affiliation - Recognising that struggle goes on in both student unions and anti-cuts groups and that both should be allowed to affiliate.
- Solidarity - The group should organise on the principle of national co-ordination and national support for local organising.
We are publishing this in the hope that other anti-cuts groups have these conversations and hopefully commit to a national federation. We would be interested in meeting with other people from around the country to discuss how we can push federal organising in the student movement.
One of the people from Birmingham submitted this to NCAFC conference, it provides some indication of a possible structure for a student federation, but it is by no means fully worked out or final:
The Federation of Fighting Students
NCAFC conference will call for the creation of a Federation of Fighting Students. A federal organisation dedicated to the creation and maintenance of a permanent force pushing against the power of University and College management, The Government, and the Economic Elite.
1. The Federation of Fighting Students exists to:
- Receive affiliation fees from affiliated student unions and anti-cuts groups
- provide affiliated student unions and anti-cuts groups with
- Activist training
- Advice and Guidance on how to build strong campus anti-cuts movements
- Advice and guidance on radical reforms of their structures
- On tap advice for students and officers
- Welfare and support for students and officers
- Fund other organisations and campaigns.
2. Officers of the FFS:
The FFS conference shall elect 5 voting members of the FFSU Committee to carry out the task of providing support and services. These shall be:
- Activist Welfare Officer
- Activist Training Officer
- Union Structures Officer
- Fundraising Officer
These officers shall be accountable to the FFS Committee and conference.
3. Affiliations from Student Unions
- Unions affiliate through their own democratic structures
- The affiliation fees for student unions should be set at the end of the academic year to be ready for affiliations from September. (In the first instance of this Constitution, initial members will set this before the beginning of 2013 to allow affiliations in the new term).
- Affiliation fees shall be set as a ratio of money to FTE equivalent student numbers, or as a proportion of any union’s affiliation fee to NUS, or as a proportion of reserves, or as a proportion of turnover, or as any combination of any of these.
- Affiliation fees shall be agreed by the FFS committee
4. Affiliations from Anti-cuts groups
- Anti-cuts groups affiliate through their own democratic processes
- Each Anti-cuts group must show they have 50 members who wish to affiliate by providing the FFS committee with their contact details
- The affiliation fee for an anti-cuts group would be a minimum of £100 per year (£2 per person per year) but should be more if the members can afford it (especially in the case of Sabbs etc.)
5. FFS Committee
The Committee of the Federation of Fighting Student Unions is made up of:
- § One delegate from each affiliated union and one from each affiliated anti-cuts group (It is possible for one campus to have two votes)
- The 5 operational roles elected by the National Committee
- The combined vote of the officers should be capped at 25% of the full FFS committee. (If the committee was made up of three delegates plus the officers, they would share one vote)
6. FFS Conference
- FFS conference is the sovereign body of the FFS and has ultimate decision making power
- The FFS conference will be made up of delegates from each union and anti-cuts group
- Delegates to FFS conference must be elected.
- Each affiliated union will get two delegates, or one if they represent less than 50% of the largest affiliated union
- Each affiliated anti-cuts group will receive one delegate per 50 members and £100 affiliation fee, to a maximum of four delegates. For example an anti-cuts group with 100 members, paying an affiliation fee of at least £200 would receive two delegates.
- At least half of each delegation (rounded down) will self-define as women or as a non-binary gender.
- The constitution of the FFS can only be changed by conference on the basis of a simple majority.
7. Affiliation approval
Student union affiliations must be approved by the FFS committee or conference. They may also terminate an affiliation by a 2/3 majority if it is deemed necessary for the basic functioning of FFS.