Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Anatomy of a compulsion supporter: Nick Kelly

Earlier on we talked about the types of people who support compulsory membership because they derive benefits from the existing system. One category of people we identified was “student politicians using associations to promote their worldview”.

Since his loss in the Vuwsa presidential election, Nick Kelly has exemplified this category of person. His written comments since his loss have further eroded any pretence of legitimacy which compulsory associations might still attempt to make.

Nick’s comments on his loss revealed his view of his role. Compulsory associations and compulsory presidents claim to represent all students. This is an impossible task but Nick was content to play along with this charade up until the point he lost. In his first president’s column after his defeat Nick revealed that he saw his role not as attempting to represent all students but rather as initiating some sort of student revolution. When voters turfed him out he reverted to Marxist analysis and interpreted his defeat as a conspiracy by the forces of capitalist reactionaries represented, oddly, by a combination of Young Labour, National and Act.

So ultimately Vuwsa for Nick Kelly was never some sort of diverse patchwork of student interests but instead it was a vehicle to be driven towards a socialist utopia. When voters said they didn’t want to come along for the ride, Nick spat the dummy.

Now he’d have you believe that Vuwsa in 2007 won’t represent all students because it’s been captured by Helen-hugging Young Labourites. And on this point he’s correct. A Labour friendly Vuwsa in 2007 will not be representative of all students. But then neither was an embryonic revolutionary Vuwsa in 2006. And nor by the same token would a raving pro-capitalist Vuwsa at some point in the future be representative of all Vic students.

Tertiary students have diverse political views and it’s impossible for one organisation to simultaneously represent the views of all students. If a compulsory association says ‘A’ it’s misrepresenting all the students who believe ‘B’.

The only way to achieve accurate representation is to make membership optional and allow individual students to join or not join an association based on whether or not the organisation
reflects their views, values and interests.

PS Nick's latest column lays into Salient but the free speech champions at Salient have neglected to post it on their site. You can find it here though.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

misrepresentation is theft

This year we were blessed with a VUWSA President who doubled as a member of the Workers Party - a socialist group who believes in revolution to bring about an end to the capitalist system that is so holding us all down. This helps explain the huge deficit VUWSA incurred, a situation that led to the outrageously undemocratic levy increase a few weeks ago.

But the revolution will not be happening on our watch. Nick Kelly lost the recent VUWSA election for 2007 to Geoff Hayward, current VicLabour President (standing down next year). Just like the deficit, this wasn't his fault either. Apparently it was the unholy capitalist alliance between Labour, National and Act that removed him from office.
Maybe it was more to do with the fact that even Labour sounds normal compared to
this rant found in the comments section:

"The reality is that for most of us things are going to continue to get worse under capitalism. Since the end of the post war boom students and workers have continued to be squeezed harder and harder to maintain the levels of profit. Wages continue to be driven down, the 40 hour working week is now a distant memory for many workers.

"A lifetime of debt for graduates isn't now seriously challenged by any party in parliament. We need stop looking to lobby politicians to bring about change; we need to stop thinking that the next select committee submission is actually going to do jack shit. Historically any significant political or social change has come from a mass movement of the people. It has come from people breaking the rules.

"The only way the human race can bring about any real change in the future is to get rid of the capitalist system. As long as people are exploited for their labour power in return for profit people's living standard won't improve. Capitalism cannot be reformed, what the last century has proved is that social democracy and attempts to make capitalism nicer just don't work in the end. The destruction of the Alliance after they supported the invasion of Afghanistan proved where this sort of politics leads."

So the Communist has been voted out and replaced with a President from the ranks of Labour. It is an improvement, yet it does nothing to address the fundamental flaws of compulsory student membership.

Those students who are not extreme/centre-left look at the student association and feel completely disenfranchised. Yet through VUWSA we are all required to pay money towards causes we do not believe in.

My Act membership is no secret - I choose to pay $10 a year to them as I believe in their values and policies. But despite my political leanings, VUWSA forcibly takes 12 times this amount off me and channels much of it into values and policies I consider detrimental to our nation's progress.

It's not merely a financial issue either - student associations claim to represent the entire student population when they write their submissions and hold their sparsely-attended protests.
Look at the ravings of Nick Kelly and tell me if he was able to represent every student.
Look at Labour's policies and tell me if Geoff Hayward can represent every student.

Such are the joys of a compulsory system. Associations take money from everyone regardless of their political persuasion - or lack thereof - and use it in ways many disagree with. Worse than that, they do the same with something even more precious - our voice.
VSM would give all students the chance to regain control over both.

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Monday, October 09, 2006

Compulsory student associations are illegitimate

Ask any student politician why compulsory student associations exist and you’re bound to be told that they exist to provide representation and services.

Yet supporters of compulsory membership don’t want to debate representation. It’s the issue which dare not speak its name. For example in the recent debate about the Vuwsa fee increase, the Vuwsa executive focused entirely on the so-called services which they claimed were under threat if the fee was not increased.

Compulsion supporters don’t want to touch representation because they know it’s an issue where they have absolutely no credibility. This is because by its very nature compulsory membership is the equivalent of misrepresentation.

An organisation’s form of membership is key to the organisation’s legitimacy particularly where representative (as opposed to service) organisations are concerned.

Representative organisations exist to stand on behalf of their members. People indicate their willingness to have an organisation represent them by consenting to become a member of the organisation. By doing so a person is saying, “I agree with the goals, values and policies of this organisation. I agree to join this group and give my consent to have this group act and say things on my behalf”. This is what happens when people agree to join trade unions, political parties, charities, pressure groups etc.

An organisation is illegitimate if it does not have an individual’s consent yet claims to speak on behalf of that individual.

Compulsory student associations do not receive permission from individual students to speak on their behalf. Instead students join an association so they can gain access to tertiary education. Yet compulsory associations continually claim to represent all students. In fact compulsory associations misrepresent the students who don’t agree with the things associations do and say in their name.

Imagine you wanted to buy a house and, without your permission, someone presented themselves to the vendor as your agent. Imagine if this pseudo agent then negotiated the purchase on terms which were not acceptable to you. You’d be outraged that someone had claimed to represent you without your permission and had said things which you don’t agree with. Thousands of tertiary students face this same situation every day.

Misrepresentation should be an issue of great ethical concern to student politicians yet they don’t want to address it as they realise it would expose the illegitimacy of all compulsory student associations.

Student politicians tolerate the misrepresentation caused by compulsory membership because compulsion also delivers big money. And the most important thing to supporters of compulsory membership is their free and unfettered access to other people’s money.