The Socialist 5 October 2011 |
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Students join the socialists as fury grows over cuts and fees
Socialist Students has had an excellent response at this year's freshers fairs. Fury is the most frequently displayed emotion whenever the government or bankers are mentioned. Heads turn rapidly when the words "fight back against Con-Dem cuts and tuition fees" are said. An increasing number of students also come over to our stalls looking to join a socialist organisation.
Despite the anti-democratic tactics used by some student unions to attempt to stop Socialist Students from building support, we have had record-breaking numbers signing up to get involved in our societies. Huge numbers have bought copies of the Megaphone magazine and the Socialist paper and our first meetings have in many cases been packed out.
The reports below and in the last issue of the Socialist give a sense of how the mood of students and young people has changed, even since last year. This looks set to be a great year for Socialist Students, building the fightback in colleges and universities up and down the country.
This year Birmingham Socialist Students had our biggest ever presence at colleges and universities around the city.
At Birmingham City University we had our first ever official stall inside the fair, with several sheets of our petition against education cuts filled out. At the University of Birmingham several people asked to join after seeing that we were the most serious political group on campus, with enough names now to get our new society registered.
When leafleting Newman College canteen at lunchtime, the first five people we spoke to all reached into their pockets to buy a copy of Megaphone magazine, while at Aston University we managed to raise over £20 towards our campaigning fund, with several students seeking out a socialist organisation.
All in all a successful few weeks, which should give us a base to build for events around the Jarrow March for Jobs and for a mass walkout of students with their lecturers on 30 November.
For the last three years Socialist Students members at Nottingham University have attempted to affiliate to the student union and every year we have been denied.
After we pass all the relevant checks to make sure that the group is not offensive or a copy of an existing society, the student council is allowed to vote on whether it can be a society.
This council, which is made up of the presidents of all the other societies and is hardly ever in quorum, has voted us down year-on-year. It doesn't matter that they do not represent the whole of the student body; they decide what societies should be allowed to affiliate and have the cheek to call it democratic!
Because of this Socialist Students were not allowed to have a stall place at the freshers fair (which the student union sell to commercial companies for £2,000), hand out leaflets on campus, or book rooms on the campus.
But this ban has not stopped us campaigning. Instead we have held stalls outside the halls of residence during freshers week, where 25 copies of Megaphone and 20 copies of the Socialist were sold.
Goldsmiths, south London
After a slow first day of being hidden away from the main marquee in a quiet secluded common room the other side of campus, Socialist Students were allowed on the second day to join the main freshers fair where the ball defiantly started rolling.
Many students we spoke with expressed their anger towards the rising of tuition fees and the loss of EMA, and were eager to hear how we planned to tackle these issues. Interest was not focused solely on fees but encompassed all the cuts in general, showing how young people are more eager to engage in politics and get involved in matters that affect them and their future. There was also keen interest in the Jarrow march.
Over 80 students signed up to find out more information about the society with many also expressing interest in the Socialist Party.
On Monday 26 September the Socialist Students group at Sussex University participated in the freshers fair, where we gave out a programme for our meetings that are coordinated with the Socialist Students group at Brighton University.
We have established a system of weekly meetings, with each university taking it in turns to host the discussions on a fortnightly basis.
We also made a banner to plug the Jarrow march, especially the final stage in London.
We engaged in many positive conversations, sometimes running for over half an hour, and gave out over 1,000 leaflets and programmes. All in all, it was a very successful day!
Our first meeting was held the following day and it was well attended. The introduction about the crisis of capitalism and the socialist alternative inspired debate on important topics such as class, the nature of the British economy, how it has changed and how it compares to 'emerging' economies. This lead on to discussing the isolation of the 'Arab Spring' revolutions and the need for them to be supported internationally.
The freshers fair and meeting has built a good base for further growth of the Socialist Students group at Sussex University.
South West Wales
In one week Socialist Students met new supporters in three universities in south west Wales.
From Monday to Wednesday, Swansea University Socialist Students ran a petition against education cuts and tuition fees while leafleting for our meeting on 'Socialism: an idea that can change the world'.
On Thursday, at Trinity Saint David in Carmarthen, we met several people interested in joining Socialist Students and distributed stacks of leaflets advertising the Jarrow March for Jobs.
We ran a stall outside Swansea Metropolitan University on Friday, despite incredibly hostile student union officials who did their best to grab leaflets off students as they entered the freshers fair.
50 copies of Megaphone were sold during the week and seven students attended their first Swansea Socialist Party meeting.
Huddersfield Socialist Students held a stall outside the university against tuition fees. A group of young Asian men came past but refused to sign the petition.
"It's not enough, we've got to do something about the banks," one said. Another chipped in: "It's ridiculous, don't we own some of them? They should pay for education. Our fees pay for them."
We discussed for another ten minutes as I explained our socialist programme of nationalising the financial sector under democratic workers' control, to nodding agreement.