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From The Socialist newspaper, 2 March 2006


ISR/Socialist Students conference 2006

Change the world!

THE INTERNATIONAL Socialist Resistance (ISR)/ Socialist Students conference on 4 March 2006 was a vital conference for every young person who wants to fight to change the world. Reports on the conference will follow. The following was written before the event.

The opening Fight for our future! rally has guest speakers from the Bolivia Solidarity Campaign, the national convenor of the PCS union's youth network (personal capacity) and the Jean Charles de Menezes campaign as well as speakers from ISR and Socialist Students.

Sessions include:

Closing rally on:

Come to the ISR/ Socialist Students conference Saturday 4 March, 10am - 5pm. Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London WC1 (nearest tube Holborn). Tickets 3 or 5.

Get active and get organised with ISR and Socialist Students.

020 8558 7947

Students' struggles

Sussex: Students march for their future

UNIVERSITY OF Sussex students demonstrated against the lack of lectures and seminars, books and food provision at their university on 16 February.

Richard Mullin, University of Sussex Socialist Students

This demonstration demands included: a minimum of eight taught hours per week for every student on every course; no more rent rises beyond inflation; a canteen serving a variety of healthy food in the evening; and also no introduction of top-up fees.

The demo was called in the name of an official student union campaign 'Sort US (i.e. the University of Sussex) Out'. However members of Socialist Students set the date, decided the demands, produced and distributed the publicity and rallied the troops with only occasional (but much-appreciated) help from elsewhere.

We took every available opportunity to publicise our cause, including the annual elections for full time ('sabbatical') posts in the union. Most candidates for sabbaticals pledged in words to support our campaign, though far fewer showed up to the demo. We approached the more co-operative candidates with a petition stating the demo's demands, which we asked them to use and build up as part of their election campaign, with some success.

We also produced 3,500 copies of a 'Sort US Out' newsletter written primarily by Socialist Students members. The result should be a sabbatical team that will continue to be sympathetic to campaigning activities next year.

However, the support we receive from the union tops is passive or even obstructive. One of the so-called leaders of the 'Sort US Out' campaign tried to prevent us from contacting the local press saying it would damage the university's reputation.

We don't care if this stops applicants wanting to come here - they have a right to know what kind of service they are getting in advance. University of Sussex is, for many students a dire place to study.

Socialist Students will take the campaign forward by linking the demo's demands to the NUS conference delegate elections. We're standing three candidates and each will use the petition as did the best sabbatical candidates a few weeks ago.

We also need a leaflet on the AUT strike taking place shortly, and we aim to produce a third issue of the newsletter. There is also talk of another demo before the end of term - Socialist Students will campaign energetically for this.

Hungry students fight profit hungry corporations

FOLLOWING THE great example of Lambeth College, (see the socialist, 425) Socialist Students at Exeter University are campaigning against the privatisation and sub-contracting of canteens to private companies.

Jim Thompson, Exeter Socialist Students

All eating establishments in Cornwall House, one of Exeter's union buildings, are sub-contacted to Scolarest, a company that is part of the Compass Group multinational. Scolarest's appalling record includes feeding school children too much salt, sugar and fats through their monopoly control over many schools' food production.

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver had exposed their "profits over health" attitude. So you can imagine Exeter students' reaction when they realised that this monstrous company were producing food for canteens which many students and staff rely upon.

Scolarest use their monopoly in Exeter to put up prices while compromising on choice and quality. They have also attacked their staffs' working conditions and pensions. Sub-contracting of canteens is just part of the broad neo-liberal sweep into education which forces universities, schools and colleges to be run like businesses.

In Exeter this meant closing the chemistry and music departments, raising catered hall rents to 140 a week, the planned privatisation of halls of residence and the ruthless restrictive sponsorship of failing departments by big business - which effectively gives private companies a stranglehold over departments, telling them what to teach in exchange for much-needed finance.

Together with the 3,000 top-up fees to be charged next year, this commercialisation of our education effectively denies students from working-class backgrounds the right to a free, decent education.

In Exeter we already have a lot of support. So far the campaign has included doing a stall every day, linking up with the TGWU union, collecting names on a petition and handing out our literature putting forward a socialist perspective.

Our motion, calling for a mass campaign against Scolarest and expensive food, was passed in the Guild (our students' union) General Meeting. Now we can build the campaign even bigger involving mass meetings, a boycott of Cornwall House and the drive to get 2,000 signatures on our petition.

Isolated campaigns such as these cannot reverse the neo-liberalisation of our education, but we can force vital concessions such as price drops. We will also keep fighting for the democratic running of universities under the control of students and staff to make sure that education is for educating and not profit!

No cuts in Lambeth college

LAMBETH COLLEGE is to face up to 2.6 million in cuts. This will at least mean 60 redundancies and dozens of vital courses will be shut.

Rob MacDonald - Lambeth College student president

The government plans to 'prioritise' courses for 16-19 year olds and courses that will directly lead to employment. Lambeth College is hit hard due to the community nature of many of its courses. Courses in English as a second language and other vital community-based courses will be severely attacked.

A campaign to defeat the cuts must be called to include all college unions but also importantly the wider community who will in the long term be heavily affected by these cuts. The campaign is likely to include strike action.

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In The Socialist 2 March 2006:

Quality education for all

Education under attack

Campaign for a New Workers' Party

Stoke councillors join the Socialist Party

Corruption and lies

Ken Livingstone removed from office

Change the world!

Fight for women's REAL right to choose

IRAQ: Sectarian civil war looms as the occupation flounders

Swansea car workers fight plant closure

University staff to strike

Sheffield workers are fighting back

35,000 public-sector workers strike


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