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From: The Socialist issue 526, 26 March 2008: Iraq: five year nightmare

Search site for keywords: Socialist Students - Students - Fees - Northumbria - Climate change - Environment - Campaign to Defeat Fees

Socialist Students: Our year of fighting back

WITH GROUPS organised at over fifty universities and colleges, Socialist Student members have been at the forefront of much campaigning and discussion over the past year.

Toby Harris, Oxford Socialist Students

Socialist Students has been the only organisation to seriously take up the issue of tuition fees and the big business takeover of universities, turning student anger into action with the Campaign to Defeat Fees (CDF). At the NUS conference on 1-3 April, we will be urging other students to support our campaigns.

"What do we want? Free education! When do we want it? Now!" chanted 60 students marching though Cambridge's streets in February, on the second national day of action called by CDF. These students - from both universities and several local sixth form colleges - were joined by hundreds more protesting around the country.

We built 'walls of debt' in Bristol, Northumbria, Oxford and elsewhere, amassed 'diplomas of debt' in Manchester and even dressed up as a 'fat cat philanthropist' and a 'student in chains' in Kent. We showed that students have a choice, that there is opposition to fees and we can build a fightback.

When we gain positions in Student Unions, as well as carrying out the responsibilities going with the position, we use them as a platform to mobilise students and create broad campaigns. At Portsmouth University our Student Union positions helped us collect 1,000 signatures against fees in a few weeks and bring media attention to our lobby of Universities Minister John Denham in February.

This arrogant MP - who felt that mentioning his 'big pay-packet' was relevant to our discussion - was faced with students from Portsmouth, Southampton, Winchester and Oxford, demanding some answers and noisily opposing his pro-market agenda. Compare this to the NUS leadership's attitude - they advise students to lobby their MPs by inviting them to dinner!

Socialist Student groups have campaigned against the BNP in Northumbria, Barnsley and elsewhere. We fought the privatisation of campus childcare facilities in Exeter, and are defending the right to protest at Nottingham University. On 8 December our large red contingent was seen on the national climate change demonstration, calling for 'system change not climate change!'

A growing thirst for revolutionary socialist ideas among young people everywhere is reflected in large Socialist Students meetings on subjects like 'What is Socialism?' and well-attended meetings on the life of Che Guevara and the Cuban revolution.

Socialist Students has shown its willingness to discuss its ideas with others, from debates with vice-chancellors at Portsmouth and Leicester, to discussions on the environment with People and Planet and the Greens, to a recent debate between the First Secretary of the Venezuelan Embassy and Karl Debbaut from the Committee for a Workers International on 'Chávez's revolution: 21st century socialism?' that attracted 80 students.

At these meetings and elsewhere, we have shown that only the transformation of society along socialist and democratic lines can end exploitation, poverty and war whilst protecting our environment. Join Socialist Students!







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