By Sam Creighton,
“Does Aaron Porter represent students as a whole?” That is the short, sharp, shock of an answer from Mark Bergfeld, NUS NEC member and candidate in the race for National President, when faced with the accusation that he only voices the opinions of an already vocal minority.
A key figure in the Education Activist Network and figurehead of this year’s left slate, Bergfeld is happy to court controversy. He’s been a vocal and constant critic of the current NUS leadership. “It has been said that we need to apply the right tactic at the right time. However, continuously our leadership has failed to take the collective decision and take the right decision and take the right tactic.” On the 9th December, the day the vote on tuition fees was put before Parliament, Bergfeld claims that “we almost brought the Coalition to the brink of collapse with 30,000 students on the streets of London but at the same time our NUS decided to have a glow stick vigil to mourn the death of Higher Education.” Mark is calling for a strong line when it comes to the tactics the NUS should implement: “A petition is good, a rally is better than a petition, a demonstration is better than a rally and a strike is better than a demonstration. In that sense we need to say as a Union that the Tories have escalated to the fight, attacking every person, left right and centre and we need to escalate our tactics. We need to say at some point in time that the Coalition has abandoned negotiations and that time actually was three years ago when they didn’t put us on the table to have input in the Browne Review in the first place. Last year I famously claimed, and Porter acknowledged, that we’d suffered a major defeat by not getting anyone to sit on the Browne Review and this is how NUS’s tactics and strategy have failed the vast majority of students. ”
He says FE students have been particularly let down by the lack of leadership shown by the NUS and even claims that the organisation has told them that some cuts are necessary. He says this is terrible, explaining that “I’m putting a line forward that no cuts are necessary whatsoever, that we will fight each and every cut.”
Bergfeld has been a supporter of the more militant side of the student movement, refusing to condemn the events at Millbank, he continues to stand by these convictions, saying: “There is no such thing as a bad protestor”.
Some members on his slate, most notably Sean Rillo Raczka, have said they don’t expect to win their elections and are running to shape the debate, Mark evades this question when put to him, simply stating: “We’ll fight like we’ll win”.