Claire Laker-Mansfield, Socialist Party youth organiser
One hundred and twenty student union officers – who have so far failed to lift a finger in the fight against tuition fees and cuts, or to support striking lecturers during the recent University and College Union dispute – have made national headlines with the claim that “over one million students demand a people’s vote on the Brexit deal”.
Building a movement to fight to get the Tories out, and to demand socialist policies – free education, a real living wage and nationalisation, for example – ought to be the top priority of student unions around the country.
It ought to be the top priority for the leaders of the Young Labour and Labour Students organisations, especially when you consider the many thousands of young people who have joined Labour, inspired by the prospect of an anti-austerity alternative under Corbyn.
But cut as they are from an old, Blairite cloth, many of the leaders of these organisations have other priorities. Chief among these is undermining Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and, linked to that, keeping the UK in the capitalist, austerity-loving, European Union.
The figure one million was reached on the spurious basis of adding up the memberships of the student unions these officers come from. There have been no democratic votes on any of these campuses to support this approach.
At the same time, the right-wing chairs of both Labour Students and Young Labour have written to Jeremy Corbyn demanding the Labour Party adopts a policy of fighting for a ‘people’s vote’ on any Brexit deal. In the case of the Young Labour chair this has led to a direct rebuke from the organisation’s more left-wing national committee.
It is true that many young and working class people are rightly fearful of the potential consequences of a Tory Brexit deal, which would surely seek to prioritise the interests of big business and the rich at the expense of ordinary people.
As the Socialist Party has consistently pointed out, the real question is not ‘hard versus soft’ Brexit but will it be a workers’ Brexit or a bosses’ Brexit?
By far the most effective way to oppose a bosses’ Brexit is to demand and fight for a general election. This could potentially offer much more than a take-it-or-leave-it vote on a Tory deal.
If Jeremy Corbyn was prepared to face down the right, including organising his supporters to take on those Blairites who remain in place in structures such as Labour Students, he could present working class people with a genuine alternative at the ballot box.
If the leadership of student unions and the National Union of Students applied themselves to the task of organising resistance to Tory rule with the same vigour and determination that they have shown in seeking to undermine Corbyn, the current political situation in Britain could potentially be a very different one.
Socialist Students will continue to organise all those forces willing to mobilise to fight cuts and fees and will be fighting to build mass student walkouts to coincide with Trump’s visit – linking this with the demand to kick out the Tories.