The Labour Campaign for Free Education (LCFE) held its inaugural conference last weekend (Saturday 21 March) at University College London, with the event comprising of a mix of workshops, motion discussions and planning for practical actions.
At the sessions we heard from a number of invited guests, including the political editor of the New Statesman George Eaton who gave a stirring account of the case for free education and the limitations of Labour’s current policy, and Young Labour Under-19s Officer Rida Vaquas who spoke of the need to tie the fight for free education into a vision of a better, more equal, and socialist society.
One theme was learning from the history of the free education movement, and Lloyd Russell-Moyle the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Lewes and a former activist with Educational Not For Sale gave a very informative talk on the struggles of the left in the student movement to fight for free education since the policy was ditched by Jim Murphy’s National Union of Students (NUS) in years leading up to Blair. This was supplemented by contributions from Labour Students and National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) activist James Elliott and Young Labour National Committee member Caroline Hill about the current state of Labour’s youth movements.
Our other main workshop of the day was led by the 3 Cosas Campaign for sick pay, holidays and pensions at the University of London, bringing together another main concern of LCFE – how the system of fees, loans and marketisations has accelerated attacks on the pay, conditions and pensions of higher education workers.
One of the most important aspects of the day was the open and democratic discussion on our principles, constitution and policies. As the fight for free education is linked to the democratisation of the labour movement, and society at large, it is important that events such as ours are democratic and accessible.
We passed our constitution, giving the campaign durable and democratic structures which will allow us to grow outwards as a co-ordinating network of students, workers and Labour members who believe in free education.
Motions passed included supporting the 28th March demonstration in Birmingham for Free Education, affiliating to the NCAFC, “supporting workers in future industrial disputes in education to defend courses, jobs, pay and conditions”, and taking a stand against the increasing crack-down on protest, including the use of pre-charge bail conditions on campuses such as Warwick.
Going forward, we will be attending the 28th March demonstration on Saturday, and have plans to continue producing materials making the case for free education in the labour movement and in society, and to organise a real counter-weight to supporters of continued tuition fees or a graduate tax.
Get in touch if you want to join with us or stay informed about our next steps!