Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/273/24536
Students Look For A Socialist Alternative
Socialist Party members have found an enthusiastic response on activity in the universities and colleges this term.
At the Freshers' Fairs our stalls were often inundated with students wanting to sign petitions and join the Socialist Students' societies. Top of the list of concerns was the war against Iraq, followed by tuition fees, the abolition of the grant and spiralling debts.
The war against Iraq has had a radicalising effect amongst students and young people in general. In Leicester 25 attended the first Socialist Students' meeting of the term; at Brunel there were 13 new members. One student described the mood at his university, "Quite a few from my university went on the demonstration in London, many of them came back really wanting to do stuff here as well!"
What has been most striking though has been the readiness of students to join the Socialist Party. "It seems that the war, S11 and the situation in the world has caused a lot of students to look for an alternative to capitalism. We've had people ask to join who have already decided that they are socialists and want to join a socialist party." said one student member.
Socialist Party members are now helping to build mass action at universities and colleges across the country against war on Iraq on 31 October.
FOR THE second year running Freshers' Fairs have taken place to the sound of beating war-drums. Overwhelming opposition to Bush and Blair's plans on Iraq means a constant flow of students to sign our petitions and discussion around our stalls.
Over four days we sold 124 Socialists at Sheffield University and another 53 at Sheffield Hallam University.
The most significant aspect has been the number of students already interested in socialist ideas. Spotting a Che Guevara T-shirt I shout, "Hey Che, over here! Are you a socialist?" "No," replies Adrian, "I'm a communist." After a discussion, he joins Socialist Students.
Emily is overheard asking the Socialist Workers' Party what the difference is between them and the Socialist Party. They tell her that they're more radical, more left wing and more revolutionary! We explain that we link up the day to day issues with the need to change society, including in the anti-war movement. Later Emily joins Socialist Students.
Gustavo, a Venezuelan student who has joined the Socialist Party, was among the first 200 who faced the tanks outside the fort where President Chavez was imprisoned during the US-backed coup. He is in touch with students and the popular assemblies back home and wants to open international links.
Bob came on the anti-war demo, Steve's been on his first paper sale, Jane's going fly posting, Jim's really enjoyed the Socialist Students' meetings and Jeremy joined on the web-site!
Over 60 have signed up for the Socialist Student societies and four have already joined the Socialist Party with more to come.
"I'm a socialist and I'm looking for a socialist organisation." This was the way one student at the London School of Economics introduced himself to the Socialist Students' stall at the Freshers' Fair.
Working and being involved in an industrial dispute before coming to university had helped to forge his political views. He now wanted to discuss how to make socialism a reality.
Students have crowded round our stalls to sign the petitions against the war in Iraq, many want to know about an alternative to the madness and horror of capitalism. In the week building up to the huge anti-war demonstration on 28 September, it seemed everyone who signed the petitions knew about the protest and was planning to come. Our idea that the war was about the strategic interests of USA imperialism, especially oil, was met with nods and agreement.
We have sold 330 Socialists on 21 stalls in 14 different universities and colleges in just over a month. Socialist Student societies have been set up in two universities so far with plans for more. This is the basis of building a socialist organisation amongst students in London.
At Coventry University, the Socialist Party has a high profile due to years of campaigning against tuition fees, and in the last year against the war on Afghanistan and threatened invasion of Iraq.
Over the course of the week we sold around 75 Socialists, and met dozens who signed up for Socialist Students and who wanted to be kept in touch with our activities.
At Warwick University we underestimated the amount of interest we would get. By early afternoon we had sold out of Socialists and one of our members had to drive back to Coventry to collect another bundle! From ten in the morning to six at night, our stall was kept busy with students walking up for a chat, buying our material and signing up for Socialist Students. We met students from Italy, China, Egypt, Brazil,United States, Russia, France, Ireland and a Cuban woman who had read our article on Cuba and Che Guevara and wanted to discuss it.
Over 50 joined Socialist Students and around the same number gave their details to be kept in touch with future events. We are now organising for the 31 October day of action.
In The Socialist 18 October 2002: