Putting politics first

Communist Students stood in recent Sheffield student union elections. Laurie McCauley reports

Communist Students stood two candidates in the second round of elections to the Sheffield student union executive. Our unconfirmed first-preference votes are: Michael Copestake (standing for finance officer) - 125; Jamie Tedford (activities officer) - 179. Though very modest, we are pleased with this result.

It represents about the same percentage as our first round results, when Huw Groucutt (standing for education officer) and myself (standing for president) received just over 5% of first and second preferences, and I was elected as delegate to NUS conference. It is likely, however, that the turnout was even lower this time. Having the elections split in two was not helpful in maintaining the momentum of our campaign, but we were out flyposting, leafleting and distributing Communist Student every day.

There was one other left candidate, close to the Student Broad Left and running for women’s officer, whom we voted for, while being openly critical of her sub-reformist platform. The other candidates were largely apolitical this time round and even more existentially drab, if that were possible.

CS comrades Jamie and Mike performed well at the election hustings in front of a mostly hostile crowd. Attendance at the hustings was still lower than in the first round - the assembled students were essentially the candidate’s friends and the union bureaucracy. Our comrades proceeded to denounce the parody of democracy, where candidates are allowed a one-minute speech, followed by a one-minute response to two questions. No wonder few students take it seriously - only five percent bother voting at all. At the end of his speech, comrade Mike challenged the other candidates to a debate - an offer met with embarrassed silence. In response to a question about one-party states, the comrade retorted that the Stalinist USSR was “not exactly my idea of a good time” and put forward CS’s vision of a genuinely emancipatory international communism.

The hot topic on campus is the defeat of the right wing’s governance review at NUS annual conference earlier this month. The Sheffield SU council, in common with other councils at several universities, had mandated all conference delegates to vote in favour of the review - a so-called ‘democratic’ mandate on delegates elected by an open student vote, despite the fact that several of us had been elected on openly anti-review platforms.

Five Sheffield delegates broke this mandate and voted against - and while the student council did not follow through its threats of having us removed on the day, we are now facing a disciplinary hearing which could refuse us conference expenses - a purely vindictive affair which has an added twist of irony, coming from an executive dominated by members of the Christian Union.

Current women’s officer and SBL member Bryony Shanks was one of the rebels and has since been suspended from her duties as punishment. Whatever happened to turning the other cheek?

Our main focus of work will now be building for the second Communist University North, which is at Sheffield over the weekend of May 3-4.

For full election results go to: www.shef.ac.uk/union