Reports and Campaigns
Reports and campaigns:
Students march for free education
On 19 November, over 5,000 students joined a lively march calling for free education. The demonstration was a brilliant display of huge anger and determination to fight back. Students had come from around the country, some without any support from their student union, instead organising with friends to make sure they could attend.
Socialist Students had a vibrant contingent with lots of chanting and some fiery speeches. Over 60 Socialist Students members joined this bloc on the march, with more throughout the demonstration.
One of our chants was "students and workers, unite and fight!" The most immediate task following the demonstration is organising solidarity with university staff in their battle over attacks on pensions.
Students who took part were rightly outraged that the right wing leadership of the National Union of Students (NUS) had withdrawn support for the demo.
This kind of betrayal is not new. The inspiring 2010 student movement against the trebling of tuition fees and scrapping of EMA was kicked off by an NUS-organised demonstration but then they abandoned the fight. This, combined with workers being blocked from taking action at the same time by their own weak union leaderships, meant that the movement ended in defeat.
We have to fight to avoid the same this time. We have to step up the action with more protests, strikes and occupations.
We also have to have discussions on every campus about what students should do at the ballot box in May. The rich 1% have four big parties all organised to represent their interests. We need our own party - one that fights in the interests of all workers, young people, poor and oppressed. Organisations like the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition have stood in elections as a no-cuts challenge to the big business parties.
And we have to make sure that the movement is armed with ideas that can lead to real change. Socialists reject the notion that ordinary people must shoulder the burden of paying for a crisis created by bankers, big business and the super-rich.
We oppose every cut and fight for a society in which the big monopolies are owned publicly and run under democratic control. Rather than production being organised to satisfy capitalist greed, the economy would be planned democratically to meet the needs of ordinary people, without destroying the planet.
Young Greens and the Socialist Party
In the run up to the 19 November free education march the right wing leadership of the NUS pulled out from backing the demonstration, citing concerns over the safety of the students participating. Some NUS officers also raised the presence on the demonstration of left wing organisations, including the Socialist Party, as an excuse for pulling support, outrageously presenting this as a 'concern' over the issue of violence against women and sexism within the student movement (see statement on the Socialist Party website).
The NUS officers, and others who repeated their attacks, were careful not to be specific enough in their published comments to risk legal action for defamation. The youth section of the Green Party, the Young Greens, however, did post a statement on their website which was clearly defamatory in its allegations about the Socialist Party. They had made no attempt to contact the Socialist Party beforehand.
The Socialist Party wrote to the Young Greens, offering to meet them to answer the misinformation they had clearly repeated without question, but also demanding that the offending post be removed within 48 hours. The Young Greens agreed to remove the statement and no further action was taken on this occasion.