Yesterday saw Socialist Students conference being held in London. I got up at a silly time in the morning to get there, crammed in the back of a car with four other comrades from Huddersfield. On the way down I mostly read End of the Hamptons by Corey Dolgon, a book I got for my birthday a while back, interspersed with general chatter and trying to find our way to the conference.
Anyway, when I got there we entered the fairly smart conference hall at Holloway Road Resource centre and was promtly aatempted to be greeted by Sparts, but i was running late so i ignored them and went inside. The main room for the conference was quite odd, looking a lot smaller than it actually was, there was about 125-150 people there i think (i know there was seating for about 110ish and quite a few people were standing (but i only counted the closing session and some people left early).
Anyway, the day began with an opening rally, with a collection of photos of various campaigns Socialist Students and ISR have been involved with (fortunately they didn't show the photo from the Machester 06 anti-war demo where my bandana is sticking up - it looks realy daft), followed by conference splitting into two to go to sessions on rights at work and fees.
The fees debate had Wes Streeting, NUS VP Education, Matt Dobson and Hannah Walter from Socialist Students and an anarchist Dan Glass from Sussex. Both Socialist Students spoke well, Matt speaking about the Campaign to Defeat fees, and Hannah speaking more specifically about anti-cuts campaigns in Durham (probably the most interesting of the four). Dan Glass seemed to be going on a lot about an idea of 'tent-universities' an awful lot and for me didn't really hold a perspective of how to link the campaigns against cuts and fees up. Wes Streeting tried to defend NUS's position (and didn't do particularly well) although he seemed to be slightly less bad than the rest of the labourites controlling NUS, he still couldn't defend the fact that he was a member of the labour party, saying that he wished Socialist Students members were still in there, forgetting that many of us (but nowhere near all) are members of Socialist Party, and many of our comrades got thrown out of that very same labour party for sticking up for working class people. That and he seemed to avoid the question of what to do next.
After this came lunch and a phone call to my partner who couldn't make the conference with me and then the discussion groups. I was chairing the Save the NHS session, and oh how badly did that go. The problems for me was that very few people turned up to that session only six excluding me and the three speakers, so when no-one wanted to speak in the discussion i felt i had to say something. It wasn't pretty, i completely screwed up what i was saying, fortunately Roger Davey, a UNISON member and one of the speakers saved me by coming in again. However, if I did that session again i'd probably aim it even more specifically at NHS students and young workers, who face the prospect of not having jobs or very low pay. I don't think i'd want to chair it (to be honest after doing NHS campaigning for a year and a half you begin to get a little sick of it).
Next came the motions, and I spoke on the motion about NUS, very well I thought and also came in on a few of the other motions. There were some very good discussions on issues relating to nuclear disarmament (and critics who say we never talk about revolution should have been there to here it) and on iraq.
Finally came the closing rally, which I have to say dragged a little particularly because there was a supposed 20 minute discussion, which wasn't really used except for a finance appeal, and a slide show presentation that wasn't as good as the first.
All in all though a good day, and we had a fair few debates in the car on the way back. Particularly about charities which i'll try and go into in a bit.