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Socialist Review Index (1993–1996) | Socialist Review 179 Contents

Socialist Review, October 1994

Ben Selwyn


The Saatchi strategy


From Socialist Review, No. 179, October 1994.
Copyright © Socialist Review.
Copied with thanks from the Socialist Review Archive.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


As students return to university and college in September and October, the familiar conflicts within the National Union of Students will inevitably resume. This battle can be energy sapping, like a war of attrition, especially when the NUS seems to do everything in its power to deactivate students.

Thus it will not surprise many that former NUS president Lorna Fitzsimmons has now got a job for the advertising agency Saatchi and Saatchi (the company which never ceases to help the Tories in their hours of need). Fitzsimmons will be well suited to the job since advertising is about appealing to the atomised individual. Her strategy of lobbying parliament to protest at NUS reforms and grant cuts succeeded in atomising many students by preventing them from taking collective action – only 4,000 took part in the official NUS demo, while there are over one million members of the NUS!

However, it is not only students who have a regressive bureaucracy. Many lecturers find themselves dictated to by a group of managers who earn twice as much as them and generally make teaching and researching a harder job – for example increasing the amount of paperwork teachers have to do. In various instances they attempt to clamp down on free discussion (in my college a manager tried to stop a meeting on the Hebron massacre) and most harmfully they are the ones who are pushing for shorter contracts for teachers.

Needless to say, many lecturers would be delighted to see the back of such bloodsuckers.

However, to group the NUS and the managerial bureaucracy together is wrong. The NUS exists (however miserably it fails) to protect and advance the cause of students. The managers on the other hand, like those in the NHS and elsewhere, exist purely to squeeze higher productivity out of the lecturers, while receiving fat salaries. They represent the government and the employers.

All students should work to defend the NUS and radicalise it, not through taking over its bureaucratic structures but by building strong grass root organisations that can push the NUS into activity.

A radicalised student movement (even if the NUS remains hesitant and restrictive) can achieve its own goals, as in the University of North London last term, and it can also give a light to pressurised lecturers. Once they see us fighting back, then they will inevitably think about it as well.

A mixture of radical students and lecturers can have the effect of winning many reforms (getting our grants back for one) and generally providing both students and lecturers with a better environment in which to work, teach and organise. This should be our aim for the next academic year.

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