The Socialist 2 October 2019 |
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Freshers fairs 2019: Students impatient for change and determined to fight
Talking to freshers in Leicester (Click to enlarge)
Students across the country are furious with Johnson and the Tories, but see Corbyn as too hesitant. They are looking for ideas which can explain the unprecedented political crisis, and for a way to join a real fight for socialist change.
Below are reports on just some of the campuses where Socialist Students and the Socialist Party have been out building the fightback. Find out more and join Socialist Students at socialiststudents.org.uk.
We had an excellent first Cardiff Socialist Students meeting - 50 people there, and the best discussion I can remember. More questions and more engagement than we've had before.
We've signed up close to 300 people now across the city's three university sites, which has got to be a record. We're also discussing with several people already about joining the Socialist Party. Looking good!
At the University of Leeds freshers fair, students queued up to sign up to Socialist Students' mailing list.
Over the last few years, many students have said they are interested in socialism because of the anti-austerity policies Jeremy Corbyn's put forward in leadership and election campaigns. This year, many were critical that Corbyn wasn't pushing those ideas enough, and were keen to get involved with a campaigning organisation that could push socialist ideas more consistently and further.
Over the course of freshers and the climate strike around 120 signed up to our mailing list.
Our first meeting was among the best we've ever had, with students grappling with the confusing political situation, including discussing how to defeat the Blairites within Labour, what is the basis of Johnson's populist appeal, and how long could that last.
The meeting was clear that if Corbyn moved decisively for a general election, and pushed his anti-austerity policies to the fore by defending jobs and campaigning for public ownership in a new Brexit deal, this could have huge appeal.
"I mean, nationalising the banks shouldn't be that big a deal, it's necessary," said one student. Many were keen to discuss socialist perspectives on Brexit, ending austerity and tackling climate change. Students also asked questions about how we could redistribute wealth and how working-class people could take power.
Socialist Students signed up over 52 people at the University of Southampton on 25 September. Several expressed interest in joining the Socialist Party too.
Out first meeting was a great success. We had eight new members along, and several students signed up to attend Socialism 2019. New members will be joining us on our regular campus stall.
Overwhelmingly, University of Bristol students wanted to talk about ending the Tory government and expressed their anger at Boris Johnson's recent actions.
Without prompting, students commented about the Brexit crisis acting as a cover for the vicious austerity of the Tories since 2010. There was also some scepticism about Corbyn's ability to challenge Johnson while he faced attacks from within the Labour Party.
We signed up 171 interested in Bristol Socialist Students. Most encouraging was the appetite to become active on campus, also reflected in the 7,000-strong demonstration for climate action in Bristol last week.
Sheffield Socialist Party helped our student members at Sheffield Hallam University freshers fair. The student union organisers must have been having a laugh - they put the Socialist Students stall opposite the Conservatives, union flag, Boris and all!
It helped us though. We signed up 58 new students interested in the society. It also gave us an interesting insight into the wannabe future representatives of the ruling class.
Their recruitment lines were "we don't really do politics" and "are you interested in drinking?" So the spirit of Eton and the Bullingdon Club will continue if we haven't already overthrown this degenerate, rotten capitalist class by the time these gilded youth come of age. You've been warned!
Students were animated by socialist ideas, but sceptical of Corbyn's strategy, at University of Sheffield freshers on 26 September. Around 20 took part in the first Socialist Students meeting, with more of the 100 sign-ups giving apologies for absence.
There was openness to socialist EU exit arguments, and frustration that the Labour leadership seems unwilling to fight. A lively discussion that evening on how to oust Johnson, and what socialism is, showed much promise for the Sheffield student fightback.
Leicester Socialist Party was out at De Montfort University and the University of Leicester to build Socialist Students. Students and workers were keen to sign our petition: Boris out and Corbyn in on socialist policies.
There was a mixed reaction to Corbyn, not helped by him seeming weak. But there was a strong interest in socialist ideas and joining a fighting organisation - Socialist Students.
We had some great conversations, with young people keen to buy the Socialist newspaper and Socialist Students' magazine Megaphone. We discussed the climate strikes, socialist case for leaving the EU, and the role of Socialist Students in fighting alongside workers for socialist change.
There has been a huge thirst for ideas on campuses such as University of the Arts London and Brunel University, where students want to set up new Socialist Students societies. This year we sold more copies than usual of the Socialist Students magazine Megaphone and the Socialist newspaper.
We had good sign-ups at Goldsmiths, Middlesex and University College London freshers. Socialist Party members were also out at the University of East London, King's College London and Imperial College London to help build Socialist Students.
Following the fairs we have been hosting socialism Q&A meetings, giving students a chance to talk about the current governmental crisis and how to fight for a general election. We advertised the climate strike on stalls before 20 September, and encouraged students to link up with workers taking action that day, such as in Lambeth where council workers held a rally.
On 5 October, Socialist Students members from across London will join young workers at a meeting called 'capitalism is crisis'. From the Tories to the economy to the climate, we will discuss all the problems facing young people under this rotten capitalist system.
Over 50 signed up for more info at Coventry University and the University of Warwick. We had eleven new people at our first meeting at Coventry Uni, with many coming out to help on the climate protests later that week.
Ten came to the first Warwick meeting. Two Chinese students and one Hong Kong exchange student came and are keen to discuss more and campaign around events in Hong Kong and the links Warwick has with the Chinese Communist Party bureaucracy.
Over 100 signed up across Birmingham City University, Aston University, the University of Birmingham and Brum's many colleges. Socialist Students was also present at the University of Wolverhampton, with a host of people signing up. Eleven new people came to our first meet-up in Birmingham.
We had regular street meetings all day at University of Sussex freshers fair as groups of students gathered round our stall and to hear our programme to boot out Boris and fight for a Corbyn-led alternative and socialist policies.
Over 50 signed up as interested in Socialist Students, including students from the US, Mexico and Greece who came to our Brighton meeting hosted by Brighton Socialist Party. Our meeting had a strong international flavour, ranging from Britain to Trump, from Mexico to Syriza, with students asking how we can overcome the powerful capitalists and their imperialist policies.
There is a strong anti-Tory mood among students, they are very open to our socialist ideas and are keen to get active, debate and discuss. The meeting agreed to organise further events and campaign on campus to build links with workers and their unions.
Reflecting the fog of Brexit, there was confusion and questioning at the University of Bradford, where Socialist Students had a freshers stall just off-campus. There was a smaller but very serious layer of students interested in discussing the ideas to cut through the impasse.
A number of students enthusiastically left their details and bought copies of Socialist Students' magazine Megaphone. We're holding a meeting to try to establish a society for the first time on 3 October.
Socialist Students stalls took place across the East Midlands - at Lincoln, Derby, Leicester, Northampton, Nottingham, De Montfort, and Trent universities. At every one there were students who were keen on our anti-Tory message and anxious to get a general election now.
Many detailed discussions took place as students wanted to know what we thought of recent events around Johnson and parliament.
Lots were prepared to sign up to Socialist Students and organise in their own universities. In Northampton, for example, three students were among the nine new people who attended the Socialist Party's public meeting, 'Tories out of Northampton County Council and Tories out of government'. They were making plans to set up a new society at the university straight after.
Socialist Party members met with an interested and enthusiastic response from students in the North West. Many gave their contact details for Socialist Students events, and in both Liverpool, and Manchester and Salford, students attended Socialist Party branch meetings for the first time, at short notice, in order to get involved in our work.