Tuesday, 4 September 2007

NUS, HSBC and Facebook

One of many thing in the press in the UK at present is that NUS (the National Union of Students) has forced HSBC to scrap it's plans to charge graduates through a campaign set up on the online social network Facebook.

I find this interesting as back in March, as Socialist Students conference, Wes Streeting a Labour Students member and NUS VP Education was really promoting facebookas a campaigning tool for the future, whereas we argued for a mass campaign to defeat fees. Was Wes correct, and our kind of camapigning a thing of the past. Well no.

On the NUS website and Wes' NUS officer blog, he said

"There can be no doubt that using Facebook made the world of difference to our campaign. By setting up a group on a site that is incredibly popular with students, it enabled us to contact our members during the summer vacation far more easily than would otherwise have been possible. It also meant that we could involve our former members - the graduates who were going to be most affected by this policy.

“HSBC’s decision to reverse this policy is a victory for this NUS campaign and the individual action of students and graduates across the country. The fact that this U-turn has been forced is a testament to the role of unity and communication in empowering students and encouraging fair deals from student and graduate bank account providers.”


As a result we:

Set up a Facebook group which has now attracted around 4,000 members to oppose the move and visibly demonstrate our opposition – this group attracted press coverage throughout the media including BBC, Sky, The Guardian, The Times, The Express, The Daily Mail, The Independent, Channel 4 and The Scotsman. In recent days the press pressure has been mounting as a result of more than 200 people joining the group per day and interest in the planned stunt outside HSBC headquarters

Wrote to HSBC calling for a meeting to discuss their policy change

Examined the policies of all the other major student account providers and confirmed that they would not be following the precedent set by HSBC

Sent out an action briefing to students’ unions and asked unions to prepare for potential first term action

Planned a photo stunt involving student officers and activists from the Facebook group outside HSBC headquarters to generate more media coverage

Now to be fair, this is much better campaigning work than NUS has done on fees, especially I would say the fact that they were actually trying to get local student unions to do something. Please note however, that the only concrete activity that NUS had organised was a photo stunt to get press coverage.

However, in the Guardian Money supplement this Saturday, mention is made of students on the facebook groups organising protests at HSBC banks across the country

It is understood that apparently spontaneous, but secretly planned, demonstrations could have gridlocked HSBC branches across the country. Students intended to turn up in large numbers at HSBC city centre branches in university towns, forming long queues at cash and enquiry desks, each asking the same questions about how their account would be hit and how they could move overdrafts elsewhere

The idea was to block branches with a peaceful protest next Tuesday lunchtime - at the same time as the National Union of Students (NUS) planned a demonstration outside HSBC's Canary Wharf headquarters.

This apparently was suggested by a postgraduate from Leeds. I'd suggest it was this that made HSBC change their mind rather than Facebook. For me it shows the importance of mass campaigns where all students (or workers) can take part and contribute to it.

Another comrade has recerntly blogged about online activism as well,



Dave Marlow said...

As more and more people begin to set up personal profiles and pages through online networks like Facebook, I imagine campaigning is only the beginning. Anymore it's feasible to do just about anything through the internet.

Renegade Eye said...

I would imagine MySpace might also work.

In Asia people use Frienster for networking.

Leftwing Criminologist said...

Don't get me wrong, I think it's a good way of being able to communicate with people, but it's not as NUS are trying to portray a substitute for actual campaigning, more like an aid to such campaigning.