Building for a national student strike: Socialist Students 2021 conference, Sunday 28th February

Below we publish Socialist Students’ discussion document for our upcoming national conference on Sunday 28th February at 1pm.

If you’re a socialist student, rent strike campaigner, anti-cuts activist or a student fighting for free education, and you want to discuss how we can build the student movement for free education, then read this document and come to our conference to participate in the discussion – you can pre-register for the conference by following this link; https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZMtdOypqjwtHdfngyUmOZLsj_ulPofLnSJs


Building for a national student strike

  1. Ten years after the eruption of the student movement, which saw thousands of university and college students mobilise in a struggle against the trebling of fees and the scrapping of EMA, universities have entered a new phase of crisis in 2020, ultimately thanks to the market funding model of Higher Education. A decade on, it is urgent that a national student movement to fight for the scrapping of the market model and free education is built.

  2. Students on university campuses across the country have taken the first steps towards getting organised against the symptoms of the market model of Higher Education. Socialist Students fought for and put out the call for campus protests in the new academic year, organising them in many areas. During the first term, following the A-Levels victory over the summer, students organised protests demanding fee and rent refunds, as well as demanding that no cuts are made on campuses due to the coronavirus crisis.

  3. Alongside these, students in some areas established rent strike campaigns.Since the announcement of new lockdown measures preventing many students from being able to return to university, new rent strike groups have been created. Approximately 50 official rent strike campaigns have been created since the start of the academic year.

  4. Socialist Students has energetically participated in this movement, including putting forward the need to a build a national student movement with a bold programme to kick profit out of Higher Education and student housing.

  5. We fight for free education – the scrapping of tuition fees, the introduction of living grants for students and the cancellation of all student debt.When Jeremy Corbyn raised this in his 2017 manifesto of scrapping tuition fees, it enthused thousands of students and young people. While scrapping tuition fees was estimated in Labour’s 2017 manifesto to cost roughly £9.5 billion a year, the Tories have spent an eye watering additional £280 billion in 2020, mainly to prop up the profits of their big business friends.

  6. In student housing, we have been fighting for 100% rent refunds for students unable to move back into their halls, with the funding for those refunds made up for by the government. We also fight for the right of students in private accommodation to be released from their contracts early, with compensation paid to the landlords only on the basis of proven need, and for rent controls.

  7. Concrete victories have been won by students at universities across the country who have paid out partial refunds on this term’s rent to students in halls, despite the fact that students have been scattered across the country because of the lockdown.

  8. This movement has already won small gains from the government. On the 18th of January, Welsh Parliament announced that it was releasing £40 million of emergency funding to Welsh universities’ hardship funds. Two weeks later on 2nd of February, the Tory government announced £50 million of additional funding to universities in England.

  9. The level of additional funding won so far is inadequate, representing about £25 per student for those studying in England. But it shows that when we fight, government funding can be won.

  10. Although the education secretary is, at the time of writing, expected to announce a phased return to campuses for students from 8 March onwards, the announcement by Universities Wales that face to face teaching will not recommence in Wales until at least the Easter break is an indication of what university managements may do in the rest of the UK.

  11. Anger amongst students will undoubtedly grow if the return to safe campuses is yet again delayed. This could mean further calls for not only rent refunds, but tuition fee refunds as well.

  12. The renewed crisis on campus has also meant a drive by university management to attack jobs and conditions of staff on campus. Staff on many campuses in the University and Colleges Union (UCU) have taken strike action since the start of the academic year against threatened cuts to jobs on campuses.

  13. Socialist Students stands in solidarity with those strikes. We stand for uniting students and staff in a collective struggle for an education system run in our interests – against all cuts on campuses, for health and safety on students and staff, and for the government funding our universities need.

  14. Meanwhile, the capitalist class and the Tories are split over the question of how to resolve the crisis in Higher Education. This represents a big opportunity for the student movement to boldly go on the offensive and fight for free education.  

  15. While some students have taken the first steps towards getting organised, the key task of linking up these separate local movements into a national movement is yet to be achieved. This is a reflection of the crisis of student organisation and leadership nationally as well as locally. We desperately need democratic and fighting student organisations locally and nationally to discuss out the crisis facing students and the strategy and programme necessary to fight back.

  16. That is why Socialist Students is launching its campaign for a national student strike. We are writing to the leadership of the Rent Strike network as well as the NUS and others to propose a ‘council of war’ to bring together students in struggle across the country to discuss how we can build a national student movement to win free education.

  17. This we believe must also include a discussion on how we can build a political voice for students and young people. Currently, there is no party students can rely on to fight for our interests – only 20 MPs so far have signed a Parliamentary petition supporting student rent strikers. Since Starmer took the leadership of the Labour Party, his priority has been to prove his loyalty to big business and that he is not prepared to fight for our interests. We need a new party that will fight for the interests of workers and students.

  18. Our campaign for a national student strike also happens on the ground locally. Although it is still unclear when exactly students will return to the campuses, Socialist Students has the opportunity to put out the call now for campus protests as soon as soon as students return to campuses.

  19. This means organising Socialist Students public meetings over Zoom, and writing to different campaigning organisations locally, not only rent strike groups, but UCU branches, local anti-cuts groups, liberation societies, and anyone who wants to fight for free education, to discuss campaigning alongside Socialist Students.

  20. We are fighting to draw broader layers of students into the struggle for free education by mobilising the many tools at the disposal of the student movement – not only rent strikes, but occupations, walk outs and mass marches. Key to achieving this is by raising a bold programme which takes up the many crises facing students, staff and post-grad students.

  21. Socialist Students’ programme includes the demands for rent and fee refunds for students, for an end to all cuts on campuses, for democratic trade union and student oversight of health and safety on campuses, and for free education, all linked to a programme of public ownership to make the 1% pay for free education.

  22. We will continue to build Socialist Students as widely as possible on the campuses. We want to reach the best layer of campaigners and students who are interested in discussing and debating socialist ideas to change the world by holding regular Socialist Students meetings and campaigning activity on campus.

  23. Socialist Students says that capitalism has failed our education system and offers no future for young people whatsoever. Despite the huge crisis facing working class and young people, Britain is the 5th richest country on the planet. That’s why we fight for socialist policies – to take the banks and monopolies which dominate the economy into democratic public ownership in order to provide a decent future of young and working class people, including affordable housing, decent jobs, and free and high quality education for all.

Socialist Students steering committee

Socialist Students open letter to Rent Strike network: Building the fightback for free education

Below we carry an open letter from Socialist Students’ steering committee to the Rent Strike network’s national co-ordinating committee, requesting a meeting with representatives from the Rent Strike network to discuss what the next steps for building a national student fightback for free education are. The Rent Strike network has links to rent strikes happening at over 45 universities across the country, with Socialist Students members on both its national co-ordinating committee and its national reps group, as well as leading rent strikes in different areas.

We are writing to you today in hopes of initiating a discussion on how our organisations can work together to build the fight for rent and fee refunds for students for the year, as well as the fight for free education.

Across the country, universities this year have been thrown into financial crisis as a result of decades of cuts to funding for Higher Education. The market model of education has meant that students have been lied to by university management, just so they could gain access to our tuition fee and rent payments.

In response to the lies we were told, as well as the complete lack of support given to us by our universities, students have begun the process of getting organised on campuses across the country in the rent strikes. By getting organised, we have demonstrated that students can win – millions of pounds in rent refunds have been won by students so far.

Socialist Students demands 100% rent refunds for students who are unable to move into their halls because of the pandemic. We also demand the right of students in third-party accommodation or the private rented sector to be released from their contracts, with compensation to the landlords paid out only on the basis of proven need. We also put forward the need for rent controls for students to end the rent rip off.

The recent announcements by some universities that there will be no face to face teaching for the rest of the year will rightly fuel the demands of students for further rent rebates for unused accommodation, as well as tuition fee refunds for the year, both of which Socialist Students supports and has campaigned for this year.

Without government funding to make up for these refunds however, universities face deep financial crisis, which means the threat of further cut backs, meaning a further eroding of the quality of education students receive. The threat of divisions between staff and students, which would only benefit university management, is present. Socialist Students has a history of campaigning alongside UCU members to mobilise student support and solidarity with striking campus staff fighting against cuts and job losses on the campuses.

We think therefore that there is a burning need now to discuss how we can build a national student movement which will fight the Tories for the funding which our universities need.

Since the start of the pandemic, the Tories have spent a massive £280 billion, largely towards propping up the profits of big business. The Welsh government last week announced £40 million emergency funding towards Welsh universities hardship funds.

While still an inadequate level of funding, we nonetheless think this represents a victory for students. In addition to this, as a cross party Parliamentary group has called on the Tory government to release £700 million towards the hardship funds of universities in England, the lid is being lifted on what is possible from the point of view of fighting for fully funded and free education.

Socialist Students says that now is the time for the student movement to go on the offensive and boldly demand free education – for the scrapping of tuition fees, the introduction of living grants for students and the cancellation of student debt, linked to a programme of democratic public ownership. Socialist Students says that capitalism has completely failed our education system and young people, which is why we fight for socialist policies to provide every young person with a decent future which includes access to free and high quality education.

We would therefore like to invite a representative or representatives from your national co-ordinating committee to attend a national steering committee of Socialist Students to discuss how we can broaden the current rent strike movement in the fight for free education, to mobilise alongside the rent strikes all of the potential tools at the disposal of the student movement, including occupations, walk outs and marches on campus.

We would also like to invite local rent strike organisers to speak at local public Socialist Students meetings, as well as to invite rent strike organisers to speak at our national conference on Sunday 28 February.

We look forward to hearing your response,

Socialist Students steering committee

Socialist Students calls for;

  • Rent refunds for students. For 100% rent refunds for any student unable to move into their halls for any reason, with the money for those refunds made up for by the government.
  • For the right of students in third-party accommodation or the private rented sector to be released from their contracts. Compensation to the landlords only on the basis of proven need!
  • For rent controls! Bring all third party halls into ownership and control of the universities, as a step towards democratically set rents, decided on by elected committees including students.
  • Refund our tuition fees – this year and every year! Fight for free education and make the 1% pay for it!
  • For a no detriment policy to be introduced for assessments affected by the lockdown.
  • End all cuts! No attacks on jobs, wages and conditions on campus to pay for refunds – make the government pay. For student and staff unity against all cuts on campus.
  • For democratic trade union and student oversight of all health and safety measures taken on campus to stop the spread of the virus – no trust in Vice Chancellors, management or the Tories to handle this crisis in our interests!
  • Build a national student movement to fight for the funding our universities need. Scrap tuition fees, cancel student debt and introduce genuine living grants for students. Fight for fully funded, high quality and free education.

Socialist Students launches petition: Refund student rent and fees – fight for free education and make the 1% pay for it!

To sign the petition, visit http://chng.it/nKBMzv6FMT

Students have been lied to. We were lured to the campuses on the false promise of real life teaching and real life freshers and social events and then locked down, just so university management could get our fees and rent. We’ve suffered the consequences of these lies as we’ve been left by management to virtually fend for ourselves, with the mental health of many suffering.

Students however are fighting back, getting organised to demand rent and fee refunds from their universities. We say universities should pay out those refunds, with the funding made up for by the government. The Tories have spent billions to prop up the profits of big business during the pandemic – why not that kind of money for our education and futures?

But this crisis did not just fall from the sky along with Covid. The disaster faced by students and staff on campus is the result of years of cuts, outsourcing and marketisation on campus, all linked to the completely broken tuition fee funding system.  

That’s why Socialist Students fights for free education – for the scrapping of tuition fees, cancellation of all student debt, and for government funding for free, high quality education for all. We stand for the building of a national student movement to fight for free education. If you agree with us, you should join us by visiting socialiststudents.org.uk/join.

Please sign if you agree with the following, and discuss with any group you’re a member of to endorse these demands;

  • Rent refunds for students. For 100% rent refunds for any student unable to move into their halls for any reason, with the money for those refunds made up for by the government.
  • For the right of students in third-party accommodation or the private rented sector to be released from their contracts. Compensation to the landlords only on the basis of proven need!
  • For rent controls! Bring all third party halls into ownership and control of the universities, as a step towards democratically set rents, decided on by elected committees including students.
  • Refund our tuition fees – this year and every year! Fight for free education and make the 1% pay for it!
  • For a no detriment policy to be introduced for assessments affected by the lockdown.
  • End all cuts! No attacks on jobs, wages and conditions on campus to pay for refunds – make the government pay. For student and staff unity against all cuts on campus.
  • For democratic trade union and student oversight of all health and safety measures taken on campus to stop the spread of the virus – no trust in Vice Chancellors, management or the Tories to handle this crisis in our interests!
  • Build a national student movement to fight for the funding our universities need. Scrap tuition fees, cancel student debt and introduce genuine living grants for students. Fight for fully funded, high quality and free education.

Refund the rent, cancel the fees, and fight for fully-funded, publicly owned education

Theo Sharieff, Socialist Students National Organiser

The government’s announcement of a new national lockdown on Monday evening has left a huge question mark over what university students can expect for the rest of the academic year. At the time of writing, it is totally unclear to millions of students, many of whom have already paid their rent for the term, whether or not they will be allowed to return to campus.

This episode has yet again underscored not only the complete incompetence of the Tory government, which has sought at every stage of this pandemic to put the profits of big business ahead of our health and education, but also the broken funding model on which universities are run.

With the new lockdown, students across the country face the possibility of being made to pay both full rent and tuition fees for stay-at-home, online-only university courses.

In particular, the prospect of paying thousands of pounds of rent for rooms which they won’t even be able to live in will be outrageous to thousands of students. Students who for any reason are unable to move into their halls of residence and have already paid this terms rent should be given 100% rent refunds by their universities, with the money for those refunds made up for by the government.

Students who are yet to pay their rent, or no longer require the use of accommodation should be released immediately from their contracts should they wish, including those living in either third-party accommodation or in the private rented sector, with landlords given compensation only on the basis of proven need. 

Universities were already in the midst of a huge funding crisis prior to the arrival of Covid. Students last term were lied to by university management so that universities could get access to our rent payments and tuition fees.

That’s why Socialist Students is fighting not only for rent refunds for the year, but for free education. This means tuition fee refunds through a cancellation of all student debt and the scrapping of tuition fees, and replacing the broken market model with a fully-funded and publicly owned education system.

Part of fighting for free education is fighting to kick profit out of higher education. This would involve placing all halls of residence currently owned by private companies under the ownership and control of the universities themselves. This would lay the basis for democratically set rents in student halls, decided on by democratically elected committees with the involvement of students themselves.

To win all of this will take the building a mass student movement, uniting rent strikers, students struggling for free education and university staff fighting cuts to fight the Tories for the funding and resources our universities need. Come to Socialist Students online national conference on Sunday 28 February to discuss how we can build such a movement.

Build on the Manchester rent strike and A-Level victories!

National movement needed to fight for free and quality education for all

Birmingham Socialist Students protest, October 2020
  • Scrap tuition fees and end the market model – government investment for free, high quality education for all
  • No cuts on campus – end low pay and privatisation. For a united student and staff struggle for the resources we all need
  • Take the wealth off the 1%, fight for socialism

To discuss how we fight for an education system in our interests, come to Socialist Students national conference on Sunday 28 February.  Get in touch at socialiststudents.org.uk/join for more info.

Students have been lied to. We were told to move onto university campuses and into halls of residence on the promise of real life teaching and real life freshers and social events. Vice chancellors guaranteed students over the summer that very little would be different for us this year.

But within a matter of days of term starting, it became clear that none of this was true. Students were lured to the campuses and then locked down, just so university management could get our fees and rent. We’ve suffered the consequences of these lies as we’ve been left by management to virtually fend for ourselves, with the mental health of many suffering.

We’re fighting back however. At Manchester, hundreds of students mobilised in protests to remove two metre high fences which were set up by management around Fallowfields student halls to pen students in.

On a number of campuses, students have been organising campaigns to protest against the conditions we’ve been forced to endure this term, including demanding fee refunds.

The pay-out worth £12 million won by students at Manchester University for 30% rent reductions next term following a rent strike and occupation shows that when students organise, we can win. Imagine if the Manchester students were linked up with students on every campus across the country to organise coordinated actions. On that basis we would have the potential to win not only rent reductions but fee refunds – a step on the road to ending student fees.

Build on the rent strikes
Rent strikes, alongside mass protests, occupations and walkouts, are an important tool in the arsenal students have at our disposal to fight for an education system run in our interests. Socialist Students supports rent strikes and calls for them to be democratically organised, with elected rent strike committees set up to spread the campaigns and democratically discuss the tactics and programme of the movement.

The victory at Manchester University is just the start however. Following this victory, students at Manchester and across the country will be faced with more of the same problems next term.

We need to build a national student movement to extend this victory onto every campus – for affordable rents, but for free education as well. That’s what Socialist Students is fighting to achieve.

To win all of this will mean taking decision-making on campuses out of the hands of the vice chancellors and management who have made one disastrous decision after another for students and staff alike. Their priority is carrying through the Tories’ agenda of cuts, privatisation and attacks on our education, not standing up for what we need.

That’s why Socialist Students is campaigning for united student and staff struggle, including the establishment of campus councils of war made up of campus trade unions, workers and students.

By bringing together students, staff, and campus unions, we could discuss what resources we need to build an education system run in our interests, how best to fight the Tories for those resources and make the decisions about the day to day running of the universities.

Students haven’t been the only ones to suffer. Campus staff have been at the sharp end of the bosses’ attacks, which include vicious cuts to jobs, wages and conditions, often through outsourcing.

In the last 3 years, university staff have turned towards their trade unions, such as the UCU, which has taken multiple rounds of industrial action to battle against those attacks. On a number of campuses, the UCU is balloting yet again for industrial action against the threat of even more job cuts.

Thanks to the broken tuition fee funding model, our universities are facing a funding crisis. Management will seek to solve this crisis by carrying through further attacks to the jobs of staff and our quality of education.

This illustrates why democratic staff and student control of our universities would need to be accompanied by a complete break with the market model of university education. This means scrapping tuition fees, reversing the underfunding and privatisation of our campuses, and replacing fees with full government funding for free and high quality education for all. Socialist Students stands for the building of a mass student movement which can link struggles on campus locally into a national movement to fight for free education.

Capitalism to blame – fight for socialism
While the billionaires have increased their wealth over the course of the pandemic, capitalism is unable to provide young and working class people with the basics – a free education, decent jobs, and a future.

Capitalism is a system in crisis. Winning free education will take building a democratic and united student and workers’ movement to challenge capitalism itself. That’s why we fight for a socialist alternative to capitalism – to take the vast wealth and resources in society into democratic public ownership, to meet the social needs and wants of the majority in society.

Solidarity with Manchester students – Fight for democratic control of campus safety

Theo Sharieff, Socialist Students national organiser

Socialist Students sends solidarity to students at the University of Manchester (UoM), who through their protests, have ensured the removal of two metre high security fences designed to pen them in. University management took the outrageous decision to set up fences around the Fallowfields student accommodation, with the only available exit for students guarded by security.

After the protests, UoM Vice Chancellor Nancy Rothwell apologised and announced the fences would be removed first thing the following morning, begging the question why they were ever set up in first place? This incident highlights the crucial need to take decision making about how to curb the spread of the virus on campus out of the hands of university vice chancellors and management, and put it in under the democratic control and oversight of staff and students ourselves.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Socialist Students has been calling for the establishment of democratically elected health and safety committees on the campuses, made up of campus trade unions, staff and students. For years, management on campuses have been happy to implement vicious cuts to jobs, courses, and student support services, as well as privatisation and outsourcing – attacking both our education and staff. Why should we trust them to run the campuses in our interests in this time of crisis?

It’s been these cuts – cheered on by the Tories and right-wing Blairite MPs in Westminster – which have left our campuses completely vulnerable to the spread of the virus. And these cuts are the result of the tuition fee funding system which means our universities go underfunded, while university bosses compete amongst each other to attract as many students to ‘their’ universities as possible. They have gone as far this year as lying to students about face-to-face teaching and the existence of ‘real-life’ fresher’s and other social events. We demand a full refund of the fees paid this year, and public funding of free education, including the cancellation of all student debt.

Capitalism cannot deliver high quality and free education for all – fight for socialist policies

Socialist Students condemns this outrageous incident on the Manchester University campus. But attacks like this are happening on students all across the country, as the government and university management try and pin the blame for the spread of the virus on students.

We call for the establishment of staff and student health and safety committees on the campuses, as a step towards a democratic discussion about how to start running the universities in our interests. We fight to reverse all of the funding cuts to our campuses in the last decade, and to end all outsourcing on campus. We demand an end to rip-off landlords preying on students for profit, and fight for students to be able to democratically set rents in all student halls.

To win all of that means building a national student movement, armed with a programme to kick private profit out of Higher Education. It means fighting for the scrapping of tuition fees, and for government funding for our universities, to guarantee a high quality, safe and free education for all students.

Socialist Students recently held a rally bringing together over 80 student campaigners and young workers from across the country. We discussed building the national campaign for free education, for decent well paid jobs for all, and for a future for young people. Get in touch with Socialist Students to join us on your local campus.

Online Socialist Students and Young Socialists rally says: We won’t pay with our futures

Socialist Students protest at the University of Birmingham, 21 October 2020

Theo Sharieff, Socialist Students national organiser

Over 80 students and young workers attended the Socialist Students and Young Socialists online rally on 25 October. The main theme running through the rally was the abject failure of capitalism to provide young people with a decent future, and why the fight for our future is the fight for a socialist alternative to capitalism.

“We’re paying £9,000 a year to get lied to, locked in and go insane with little to no mental health support and zero financial support” explained Michelle Francis, Bangor University Socialist Students

Michelle reflected the anger of students, lied to about what was waiting for them on campus. On the basis of bold campaigning for free education, Socialist Students at Bangor is a growing force.

Bea Gardner, Southampton University and College Union (UCU), put the case for staff and student unity to fight for democratic oversight of health and safety measures on campus to curb the spread of the virus.

Attendees also got a taste of Socialist Students international links. The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) in Nigeria gave solidarity greetings. DSM is participating in the mass youth movement against police brutality and for an end to the hated and corrupt Buhari regime (see solidarity protests in Britain on this page and an interview with activists on 15-16).

It isn’t only on campus that the futures of young people are under attack. Alex Hutchinson, Hull Trades Union Council, spoke about the Young Socialist campaign for trade union action to fight against the youth unemployment crisis.

Alex explained that if the bosses were putting up a fight to make young people pay for the crisis, then young people need to get organised and fight to make the 1% pay instead.

Firms threatening redundancies should be nationalised, and have their financial books opened to inspection by the workers, to save jobs. We need to fight for a mass programme of government investment in socially useful job creation.

Deji Olay, Black Lives Matter (BLM) activist, pointed to the massive explosion of working-class anger in the streets against police brutality and racism – proof that young people are up for a fightback. All the class inequality in society was magnified by the pandemic.

Deji said Young Socialists wants to help democratically organise the BLM movement and popularise socialist policies to end racism and all oppression – intrinsic parts of capitalism.

The short reports from students and young workers were a highlight of the meeting. From the A-Level protests in the summer to refund our fees protests now, Socialist Students and the Young Socialists have been to the fore organising the youth fightback.

There was enthusiasm to continue campaigning. Get out campaigning with Socialist Students and the Young Socialists in our week of action – starting 26 October – to demand that our generation is not made to pay for this crisis with our education, our jobs or our futures.

Solidarity with youth, students and workers in Nigeria fighting against police brutality and the Buhari regime – #EndSWAT

To hear from socialist activists in Nigeria about the struggle against police brutality and for a socialist future, come to this Sunday’s Socialist Students and Young Socialists national rally over Zoom! Register for free over Event Brite here – https://www.eventbrite.com/e/socialist-students-and-young-socialists-national-rally-tickets-119810687993?fbclid=IwAR0YtQbsl63cs7kuaSoCRgbdI6nAz1o9xexlarlxwEJW_mT6jm9BGaJwV34

Socialist Students wishes to send solidarity to the ongoing mass movement in Nigeria against the Buhari government, which began nearly two weeks ago against police brutality and the hated, corrupt and murderous SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad). After announcing the disbanding of SARS following days of spontaneous youth protests, the Nigerian government has moved to replace it with Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) units – essentially the SARS by another name!

Young people have built this marvellous movement in the face of further violence and repression from the Nigerian police backed up by the army – Amnesty International estimates that 10 protesters were killed over last weekend, while further shootings against protesters by police have taken place in Lagos yesterday.

Since it began, the movement has quickly developed into a struggle against the corrupt Nigerian government itself. The current President Buhari and his All Progressive Congress party were elected by just 15.2 million people out of a population of over 200 million! Additionally his election took place on a promise to put an end to the corruption and inequality which has plagued Nigeria for decades. Five years on, nothing has changed for the millions of workers, youth and poor across the country.

The inequality gap between the rich and poor has reached new heights. 102 million now live in ‘extreme poverty’ – close to 50% of the population! Young and working class people in Nigeria face widespread poverty and unemployment, and additionally are now being threatened with fuel and electricity price increases by the Buhari regime. Now tens of millions of youth are mobilised in the streets demanding the end to the Buhari regime.
60 years after independence was won in Nigeria from British colonial rule, capitalism has failed to provide the very basics for the vast majority.

Meanwhile, a tiny minority at the head of a corrupt system get filthy rich. Oxfam in 2017 pointed out that while 112 million live in poverty, the richest Nigerian man would take 42 years to spend all of his wealth at $1 million per day.

Youth to the fore internationally in the fight against capitalism
In Britain and internationally, young people are being forced into a struggle against the system of capitalism for their rights and futures. Earlier in the year, we saw the development of a huge youth movement in Britain around Black Lives Matter. Thousands of working class youth poured into the streets across the country, demanding an end to police racism and violence, as well as an end to the huge class inequalities in society which were magnified by the pandemic and subsequent lockdown.

Socialist Students stands in full solidarity with the movement in Nigeria and with socialists who are fighting to end the system of capitalism which relies on police violence and brutality to maintain the rule of the rich. Please send messages of solidarity to the Youth Rights Campaign at youth_rights@yahoo.com.

“It’s not fair” – lockdown students demand free education

Come to Socialist Students’ national zoom rally on Sunday October 25 at 1pm – register for zoom details here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/socialist-students-and-young-socialists-national-rally-tickets-119810687993?fbclid=IwAR0ag5J4zqt1amyOIngjQ234VKnKAlHJa594j2h_GJXojdBLSP4Vja62mhM

Below is an edited letter from Peggy Owens, Cardiff Socialist Students to Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford

I am writing to you to express my concern regarding the treatment of students and the prospects they face following the COVID-19 pandemic. Students have been unfairly blamed for the recent surge in cases, urged to go back to university – moving away from home – only to find themselves in an isolated and dangerous position. With rising debts and insecure housing, they are also left most vulnerable to the financial consequences of the pandemic.

There has been a complete lack of planning in the way the government has coped with coronavirus. First, we were locked down, then, in order to restart the economy, they decided to offer ‘Eat out to help out’. It is no wonder students took advantage of this. Is it their fault that they took the opportunity to meet up after a long time of isolation? No. But alas, they are being tormented for it. With multiple U-turns from the government it is no surprise that people are now confused about what they can and cannot do. However, the singling out of students feels particularly cruel and frankly discriminatory. Government rhetoric has unfairly blamed students for the recent surge in cases when in fact it is government mismanagement which has led to one of the worst death tolls in the world.

Students have been coaxed into moving into halls or student accommodation with the lure of ‘in person seminars and lectures’ only to find all of their education will be delivered online. They could have stayed at home and stayed safe but instead are forced into a busy student environment where viruses spread like wildfire. Not only this but they are now being threatened with a Christmas away from their families quarantined in Halls of Residence. It’s not fair.

For some, higher education is now similar to being in prison. Locked in halls in Manchester and Swansea, students are having to spend their first weeks of university in confinement with no emotional or educational support. They are left wondering what higher education can offer them – predicting a future of joblessness, with the hospitality industry in shreds and no job prospects in sight. Manchester university have suspended face to face teaching and Aberystwyth have also suspended all face to face contact. With this quality of teaching and experience available, students have a right to be angry, I think.

Being locked in halls or other student accommodation is particularly stressful for students with health problems at risk from COVID. I currently live with a man who is shielding and was almost faced with eviction after he was promised a no detriment policy on his course, only to find out this only applied to third year students. This is not just.

The current global pandemic was unprecedented. However it is not fair for students to have to shoulder so much of the burden. I have a number of requests on behalf of students from across the country to address the unfortunate situation in which we have been placed:

1.) I propose that tuition fees are refunded completely because we are not getting the education and university experience we hoped for and, most importantly, were promised. The Tories have shown that the money is there, why can’t we take after countries like Germany and Norway where higher education is free for all?

2.) I propose that there should be mass testing for students.

3.) There should be free accommodation for those who are isolating and students rights as tenants need to be strengthened. Contracts should not be terminated early and eviction should not be lawful.

4.) There should not be cuts to courses, jobs or staff pay as these should be funded by the government.

I think the education system needs to change drastically, this was true before COVID but is now more prescient than ever. Student debt is a deterrent to students from lower income backgrounds especially in the current climate where job prospects are so poor. Meanwhile we have a shortage of many essential staff – shouldn’t we be encouraging young people to go to university to become teachers and nurses of the future?

Socialist Students demands:

• Refund tuition fees – this year and every year! Cancel student debt
• End the rent rip off
• No cuts to courses, jobs or staff pay
• No trust in the Tories and VCs! For democratic trade union and student oversight of all measures taken on the campus to stop the spread of the virus
• Make the 1% pay – take the banks and 125 biggest businesses into democratic public ownership – for socialist planning to provide free, high quality education and jobs for all

Where next for the Black Lives Matter movement?

Come to Socialist Students’ national zoom rally on Sunday October 25 at 1pm – register for zoom details here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/socialist-students-and-young-socialists-national-rally-tickets-119810687993?fbclid=IwAR0ag5J4zqt1amyOIngjQ234VKnKAlHJa594j2h_GJXojdBLSP4Vja62mhM

Deji Olay, socialist and Black Lives Matter activist

This summer the Black Lives Matter movement reignited, following the police murder of George Floyd. Millions of people in the US, UK and across the world took to the streets to fight against racism and police violence.
The protests over the last several months have drawn attention to racism but, if we want change, the movement has to go beyond raising awareness. The question that needs to be asked now is – how can we turn this energy for change into effective action?

Seeing the popular support for the movement, corporate PR departments raced to tell the world that they also believed ‘Black Lives Matter’. However, these empty gestures often backfired when employees described their own experiences of racism at these companies. Never mind that these companies continued to profit from the capitalist exploitation of working class and poor black people across the globe.

The Tory government has attempted to quell the protests by launching another inquiry into racial inequality, with this one being set up by someone who doesn’t believe in institutional racism. They have also deliberately attempted to divert attention away from the real issue of police brutality and racism by stoking fears about helpless refugees. The BBC and capitalist media have supported this and created hysteria around ‘cancel culture’ – but not a single protestor or organisation called for BBC Proms to stop the singalongs of Rule Britannia!

Rather than promote the aims of the movement, as the leader of the Labour Party, Keir Starmer called some of demands “nonsense”, a statement Nigel Farage “heartily agrees” with. Months after leaks revealed racism from some Labour Party officials towards Diane Abbott, the party has still done nothing. This is all well in line with Starmer’s aims to reverse the changes made under Jeremy Corbyn and move the party back to the right.

It’s clear that corporations – and the politicians they own – are not going to fight against racism as long as they can profit from division and imperialism. All they can offer are empty gestures. To get the changes we demand, the Black Lives Matter movement must move beyond raising just awareness and demonstrations.

Following the shooting of Jacob Blake, sports athletes and teams organised wildcat strikes in the US. This is a huge step up in the movement and a significant opportunity for the Black Lives Matter movement to increase its strength. While protests and boycotts can be ignored, the economic impact of a strike forces the ruling class to make concessions. Disappointingly, the initial strikes ended early in the NBA due to harmful advice from former President Barack Obama, but a day of action still had the billionaire owners scrambling to the negotiating table. Imagine what could be achieved if workers took strike action?

The battle needs to be continued by students and young workers organising where they are strongest.

Socialist Students demands protection for workers from racism in the workplace; however, if we want an effective way to fight racism we must be better organised at work. Trade unions are still powerful organisations. Black people and young people can no longer afford to be underrepresented in the unions, especially in this economic climate, considering that the 2010 recession resulted in half of young black men in the UK facing unemployment. We say all workers into the unions, all unions into the struggle!

The GCSE and A-level algorithm has shown that the government still wants to maintain racial and class inequality. When I speak to teachers in the education unions about the effects of racism in education, they support change. Teachers and communities need to be empowered to make changes. Socialist Students calls for democratic control by workers, unions and the community of education.

The spontaneous Black Lives Matter protests this summer were a sign of the energy and potential of the Black Lives Matter movement in the fight against racism and police brutality. However, to get substantive change students and young workers must organise at work, schools and universities.

Socialist Students fights to;

  • End discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, disability, sexuality, age, and all other forms of prejudice. For the building of a mass movement which unites all young and working-class people around a socialist programme to end oppression and austerity.
  • End police harassment. For the democratic accountability of the police overseen by local committees, made up of democratically elected representatives of trade unionists, local community organisations, young people and local authorities.
  • A democratic socialist plan of production and distribution to meet the needs of the overwhelming majority in society and to provide a future for young workers. Nationalise the top 125 monopolies, banks and finance houses in Britain under democratic workers’ control and management so we can make the decisions about what is needed. Compensation to be paid only on the basis of proven need.