Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/850/20414
Students occupy for free education
Students across London have been occupying universities, demanding free education and improvements to services. Members of Socialist Students and the Socialist Party have been supporting the movement.
Occupations have taken place at the London School of Economics (LSE), King's College London, Goldsmiths, and University of the Arts London. Students expressed frustration with a lack of action by the National Union of Students (NUS) and opposition to the austerity consensus of the mainstream parties.
Participants at LSE are demanding management redirect funds from advertising and vanity projects to student support. They are fed up with enormous sums going on expensive new buildings while class sizes bulge and pastoral services dwindle.
Occupiers also demanded an end to zero-hour contracts, a living wage for all university staff, and an effective strategy for action from lecturers' union UCU.
Many students enthusiastically adopted our ideas during discussions. We have sold numerous copies of the Socialist.
Socialist Students and the Socialist Party support these actions. We argue that students' unions and the NUS must give backing to the occupations' demands.
If they won't, Socialist Students is ready to organise action - and stand for election against current leaders. The Socialist also calls for a vote for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition to reverse all attacks on education.
Our decision to occupy the management building of the university reflects widespread anger among students at continued privatisation and marketisation of education.
The demands of the occupation include recruiting more counsellors to meet increasing demand, reducing pay disparity between university staff, and more democracy in decision making.
UCU has offered its support, saying: "We have faced attacks on our pay and pensions, increased managerialism and workloads, and we will want to work with students who are resisting the tide of neoliberalism inside our universities."
There are plans to use the space we have occupied productively, setting up free workshops and lectures, as well as spaces for students to work.
Cain Shelley and Beth Sutcliffe, Goldsmiths Socialist Students
Right to participate
Goldsmiths students are currently occupying university-owned Deptford Town Hall as part of the struggle for free education.
The occupation has also produced an extensive list of demands on other issues. This includes defending the counselling service, ending outsourcing and poverty wages, and electing a full-time women's officer.
Members of the Socialist Party and Socialist Students support all the occupation's demands and have been building it right from the beginning.
On the second day of the occupation there was an assembly of around 120 students discussing how to take the struggle forward. This was a productive meeting and our ideas were generally well received.
We raised the example of the school strikes against academisation in the same borough. We suggested a follow-up meeting after Easter. We also pointed to the role of TUSC in challenging the mainstream parties at the general election.
However, as the meeting was dissipating, one Labour Party member began harassing us. She demanded we stop selling the Socialist and handing out leaflets.
We refused this, and pointed out that many had happily taken our material. In response she rounded up around 12 others to harangue the four of us. Trapped in a corner of the basement, we argued extensively for our right to participate in the occupation and hand out material, but were eventually forced to leave.
The Socialist Party and Socialist Students both absolutely reject this blatantly undemocratic manoeuvre. We will continue to fight for our right to participate.
It is essential that all groups have the democratic right to organise within the student movement and to debate ideas. This is a clear attempt to push the movement to the right and exclude socialist ideas.
Socialist Party youth organisers' meeting
Kris O'Sullivan, Socialist Students
Socialist Party members from up and down the country met at the youth and student bureau on 21 March. We discussed events both at home and abroad.
Topics ranged from the rise of Syriza in Greece, and electoral campaign work among youth in England and Wales, to the Youth Fight for Jobs campaign, and the work of Socialist Students in the NUS and students' unions across the country.
In addition, the meeting shared lessons of successes and setbacks, to learn and adapt for work in other regions.
- Read more about free education and Socialist Students at: www.socialist students.org.uk
In The Socialist 1 April 2015:
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party youth and students
Socialist Party comments and reviews