Liverpool Socialist Students rallying before marching to the encampment. Photo: Alex Smith
Liverpool Socialist Students rallying before marching to the encampment. Photo: Alex Smith

Leicester walkout

Socialist Students is helping lay the groundwork for a student walkout and march at De Montfort University (DMU) in Leicester on 24 May. We have been doing campaign stalls and meetings on campus to get as many people as possible aware of our plans. We have been in contact with the student union too.

The reception at DMU has been overwhelmingly positive. Many students state how they were looking for such protest activity about Gaza, as there has not been much on campus compared to the other university in Leicester, which has an encampment.

We have captured the mood at DMU. We have also received a positive reception from university staff, with UCU union members coming to our meetings, and on-site security expressing their solidarity with us.

We will continue to build for our student walkout on 24 May, with activity planned for the whole week leading up to it.

Saada Mohamed, Leicester Socialist Students

Oxford students push silent uni

Oxford Action for Palestine has had a busy week. On 16 May, the campaign held a rally/press conference, partially motivated by a statement released by Oxford University’s vice chancellor. That statement committed to nothing except “constructive dialogues”, yet they even failed in this, as they have not replied to any of the camp’s attempts at direct communication.

I had attended an anti-war rally a month earlier in the same place. But this crowd was considerably larger, its atmosphere far more charged.

Oxford Action for Palestine has received support from 14 trade union branches.

On Saturday 18 May, Oxford Action for Palestine organised a die-in outside the Sheldonian theatre and Bodleian library, blocking all exits but one during the lead-up to the graduation ceremony. The camp has become noticeably more organised, and had some stewards present at this protest, albeit with very basic training.

Concerningly, university security staff assaulted two protesters at this action. It is shameful that the university chooses to send security staff to deal with the student protesters, physically endangering their own students, instead of having constructive dialogue that they claim is so important.

And Oxford Action for Palestine has set up another camp at the Radcliffe Camera. Security is an ongoing concern, between police circling camp one and a worry that non-student supporters will likely get removed by staff at camp two.

But pressure is rapidly mounting on the university to negotiate, while Oxford Action for Palestine doesn’t seem about to back down any time soon.

Alex Chapman, Oxford Socialist Students

Liverpool – how can we win?

The protest marches have seen newer generations come together to denounce the Israeli government attacks on Gaza, as well as their own governments for their complicity in continuing to provide arms and technology that are being used on the front lines. But it is not only the Tories and Labour who are complicit.

UK universities have research contracts and financial ties to the Israeli state. This has prompted students to take those protests directly onto the campuses, with demands to the university chancellors to divest and halt ties.

The University of Liverpool encampment in solidarity with the brutal crackdowns of US students, and to demand that the university halt complicity, including diverting funding away from companies that create weapons that have been used by the Israeli government to commit atrocities in Gaza.

Students from universities across Liverpool have joined together to take over Abercromby Square, or Alareer Square as we’ve renamed it, after a Palestinian poet killed by an Israeli airstrike. We’re putting demands in plain view of students and staff.

The encampment has grown, with almost all of the square taken up. Multiple events, rallies, and other activities have been called by the encampment – notably a rally outside the town hall on Nakba Day.

The encampment has support from the community, with food, tents, and other necessities. The students are well organised, with officers appointed for safeguarding, security and other measures.

Socialist Students members have been discussing with the wider public about the encampment, its aims, and what they can do to support – helping to broaden its reach. We need to push the university to breaking point, so that the fees that students pay are not used to fund the slaughter in Gaza.

Socialist Students says: broaden this movement to involve the wider public, ensure democratic discussion of the movement’s demands at its heart and centre, and fight for a socialist alternative to end capitalist war and exploitation. All issues at the heart of stopping the war on Gaza.

Lewis Rees and Niven Day, Liverpool Socialist Students

Lack of transparency at ‘business-run’ Manchester

The camp is bigger and better equipped, with different tents signposted for visitors. I crossed paths with a Daily Mail journalist there, who had just been refused an interview.

I asked the camp about broadening the movement, including about the marketisation of education. They said: “As a camp, we obviously acknowledge that this is a symptom of a wider issue of capitalism, of imperialism, of colonialism, and within the university spaces of the marketisation of education.”

I also proposed our Socialist Students’ demand on the universities to open their financial books to inspection by our movement. They said: “There’s a huge lack of transparency at the university. It does operate as a business, it is a business, and I think that leads to a huge lack of transparency between the management, the workers, and the students. There’s no transparency there.”

Socialist Students held a campaign stall near the student union, where it was evident the effect that the protest camp was having on students’ political consciousness.

One student was hesitant to sign our petition, as she was worried how it might affect her visa. This is a worrying reflection of the Tory government’s attitude towards pro-Palestinian sentiment, and growing uncertainty around international student visas.

Sam Hey, Manchester Socialist Students

Socialist Students says:

  • Disclose all finances – universities should open their books to democratic inquiry by students and staff
  • End marketisation – for fully funded, free education
  • Broaden the protests – we would be strengthened if more students, and workers, joined the action
  • The encampments should be spaces for everyone to discuss how to transform this movement into the mass action needed to fight for Palestinian liberation
  • For fighting, democratic student unions that represent our interests
  • We need a political voice – for a new workers’ party with socialist policies to end war, oppression and capitalism