Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/741/15632
Exeter Socialist Students leads campaign to victory
Support the national student demonstration
Carlus Hudson, Exeter Socialist Students
Socialist Students in Exeter did a debt-o-meter on the Campaign to Defeat Fees day of action, photo Jim THomsom
Socialist Students recently won a major victory in the University of Exeter Students' Guild (the local student union).
Exeter students voted on a motion submitted by Socialist Students to have the Guild support the National Union of Students (NUS) demonstration on 21 November against high fees and youth unemployment.
Hundreds of students voted on the motion, and the result was overwhelmingly - by a three to one margin - in favour of supporting the demo.
Socialist Students ran two stalls every day throughout the voting period and found no lack of anger against austerity or lack of enthusiasm for fighting the attacks on students, and cuts in general.
By addressing concerns and offering constructive socialist alternatives, many students were won over to supporting the demonstration.
This seriously challenges the reputation of students at Exeter as right-wing or apathetic. When a means of fighting the cuts and building for alternatives is provided, many students responded positively.
Extensive use of social media and the student press was made to raise awareness of the NUS demonstration and win the support of students.
By developing a coalition between a number of political student groups on-campus, and by reaching out to students in general, Socialist Students has built the basis in Exeter for a student fightback against the cuts which has delivered this victory in the Students' Guild.
The 'no' campaign
There was a bloc of opposition to the Guild supporting the NUS demo led by the Liberal Democrats, Conservative Future, and the far-right religiously free-market Freedom Association.
Their counter-campaign was limited to a Facebook group which principally argued that money spent by the Guild on the demonstration could be better spent subsidising the bar.
On top of their total misreading of what Exeter students care about, the campaign completely ignored the fact that money spent on the student bar and money spent on demonstrations are drawn from entirely separate sections of the Guild's budget!
The 'no' campaign made zero effort to make their case to the student body or to understand the issues students care about.
They decided to restrict their campaigning to channels where people already opposed to the demonstration simply talked among themselves.
In these circumstances, it hardly seems surprising that there was so much enthusiasm for the demonstration.
With a strong popular mandate, Socialist Students met with the Guild the Tuesday following the victory to begin talks about how the Guild is going to support the demonstration.
The Guild has set aside enough money to offer free transportation to London on 21 November to students and is seeking financial support from local trade unions to put on additional coaches.
The Guild has offered a generous publicity budget to make sure students are aware of the demonstration and the availability of transport.
Socialist Students is looking forward to the next few weeks of organising to get students to the demonstration.
We are organising a meeting a few days before 21 November about student and youth issues and continuing our year-round activities of regular meetings, stalls, socials and other events.
There is now a strong network of socialists and other left-leaning people in the Guild and other student societies who can be called on to support Socialist Students' campaigns.
The campaign coalition will also be extremely helpful in campaigning against Devon County Council's cuts to street lighting across Exeter - including almost all of campus - which will make Exeter unsafe at night.
Additionally, Socialist Students is seeking to launch the Rape Is No Joke campaign within the Students' Guild.
There is a great deal of potential in Exeter University for students to be radicalised not only by the continuing economic crisis nationally and globally, but by a strong and growing socialist organisation that students can get involved in.
The open and democratic nature of the meetings and the society as a whole make it inviting to anyone interested in fighting the cuts and working towards socialist alternatives.
See www.socialiststudents.org.uk for updates on the demo
In The Socialist 7 November 2012: