NUS conference is coming up. Motions are being; drafted, circulated, proposed and seconded all the across the country. However, soon many of these excellent motions will fall foul of the loud cries of the representatives of the “silent majority”. Any successful articulation and clear win in a debate by the left in The NUS and Student Unions will be immediately met by denouncement as being unrepresentative of the “silent majority” of students.
It has becoming something a running of joke within the University of Birmingham Guild of Students and many other unions. That some “represent” those who don’t vote, whose existence cannot be verified let alone their views and then claim that this “silent majority” in fact share their own political views. The argument follows that those of fighting to support strikes, for the use of peaceful direct action, to defend education and end Israeli apartheid are simply the voice of a “vocal minority”. This belief is taken on by those espouse protection for this silent majority against the “radical” vocal minority.
“As sabbs we can do a lot, but we can not push string, we need direction from the people who elected us and the people we now serve, we serve now nearly 30,000 students, so, tell us what you want us to do! We do things very well, but we can, we must and we will do better, not being blindsighted by trivial and meaningless little snippits, but LISTEN to the students and encourage the voice of the silent majority.” Guild President Blog
The term “silent majority” is historically used when you are in clear minority in terms of public opinion and need to claim wider support without any evidence. Nixon started appealing to “silent majority” of Americans to stand up for the continuation of the war in Vietnam against the “vocal minority” at time when support for the war was a massive clear minority in the polls. The term traditionally meant the “silent majority” that is the “dead”, however now within student politics it means a “dead idea” being propped up by cynical disingenuous ploy to claim fictitious popular support.
We (the student left) are winning the debate on nearly all our issues that we will bring to the NUS in motions. If anything the real silent majority is now the students who support strikes, support peaceful direct action, want to see a end Israeli apartheid and create free education system but aren’t as vocal or active as the real minority of right wingers claiming the support of the “silent majority”. Support for the strikes, amongst students and young people couldn’t be more clear cut. IPOS Mori polling showed an outstanding 80% of young people supported the strikes on November 30th . The Student demo’s last year polled equally well. Imaginative peaceful direct action which has been at the heart of the “unofficial” student campaigns is also proving massively popular, 73% of respondents in a poll said they backed UK Uncut style tactics. The UK public like the majority of the rest of the world are showing increasing support for the Palestinians.
“While overall views of Israel have not moved substantially over the past year , there have been significant increases in negative views of the country among Americans (negatives rising from 31% to 41%) and Britons (from 50% to 66%).” from the BBC global poll
There are plenty of complex social, socieo-economic reasons why right views are over represented in student unions and the NUS, partly due to the fact that activism is often a luxury that only the most privileged and detached can afford. The important thing to remember is that the argument that the “silent majority” needs protecting from our unrepresentative views is a straw man argument of the losing side. NUS delegate elections maybe over however, it is now very important if you are not NUS delegate that you start prepping your unions delegates on the facts and the debates so that don’t fall prey to disingenuous “silent majority” cries at conference. If you’re a student, contact your union, find out who they are and start writing e-mails and messages to them, ask them to meet up if you can.