Ever since Socialist Students heard that arch-aristocrat and Tory House of Commons leader, Jacob Rees-Mogg was due to speak at an event hosted by the Leeds University Conservatives, we initiated the call for protests against his visit and the Tories anti-working class, pro-big business austerity agenda.
Over the course of the last week, several other left groups joined the call for the protest, and we had a great response at the Leeds Beckett freshers fayre where we gave out leaflets promoting the protest. Many students’ response was shock that he would even think he’d get any sort of audience from ordinary people in Leeds, and were enthusiastic about joining the protest.
As the numbers on social media promoting the protest grew, the ongoing crisis in parliament deepened, as well as the rough reception Boris Johnson got in nearby Morley (currently a Tory held seat), then it appears Rees-Mogg has cancelled. Socialist Students will remain ready to organise a fresh protest if the event is rearranged, but in the meantime we will continue our campaigning for a general election and building our support for socialist ideas to challenge the capitalist system the Tories defend.
Socialist Students groups have been campaigning at freshers fairs, signing up hundreds of students across the country over the last few weeks. We’ve been out discussing with students against the backdrop of utter crisis for the capitalist class. Since the below editorial for our magazine was written we have seen the supreme court find against Johnson and rule the prorogation of parliament null and void. Read below for what we think about the need for students and workers to fight for a General Election now and for Corbyn to fight on socialist policies to win!
This September, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is returning to Parliament along with other Tory MPs. Elected by less than 100,000 predominantly elderly and wealthy members of the Tory Party Boris’ ‘election’ marks another turn and ramping up of the Tory Party civil war.
Former Tory MP Nick Boles attempted to savage Johnson on his very first day as Prime Minister by telling the press that the party has been “fully taken over by the hard right”. This was in response to one of Johnson’s first moves as PM – to sack 18 cabinet ministers in the biggest cull in living memory, and pack it full of pro-Brexit supporters, including Jacob Rees Mogg, the head of the pro-Brexit European Research Group.
This is the state of the complete and utter disarray of the ruling Tory government, which with the fast approaching ‘Brexit Day’ of October 31, is teetering on the edge of collapse.
It’s an unstable situation for the capitalist class, unlike anything in British history. Inherent in the situation is the collapse of the Tory government, a new general election, and the possibility of the coming to power of a Corbyn led anti austerity government, elected on a programme that saw Corbyn nearly take power in 2017 on the back of the “youthquake”, the flocking of millions of students and young people to polling stations to vote for Corbyn’s manifesto.
To vote for free education; for a mass programme of council house building; for the renationalisation of mail, water and energy and the railways; for a ten pound an hour minimum wage and the abolition of youth rates. The hopes of millions of young people were raised at that election, and could be yet again at the next election.
Brexit Corbyn has put himself forward, in the event of a no confidence vote tabled by himself against Johnson in Parliament passing, to lead the formation of a temporary ‘caretaker government’ to avert a no deal Brexit on October 31 by applying for an extension of Article 50 in order to call a general election. The fact Corbyn has put himself forward to form such a government and press for a general election is a positive, and should be welcomed.
But Johnson has threatened that, if a no confidence vote passes, and if a new alternative government and Prime Minister fails to be agreed by Parliament, he will not call a general election until after October 31 in order to complete a Tory Brexit – with or without a deal.
Fight for a general election Either would be bring no relief for students and young workers if left in the hands of the Tories. A Tory negotiated leave, or crashing out with no deal at all, will be used by the Tories – the party and government of the super-rich – to continue to make young and working class people pay for the economic crisis of capitalism.
What is needed now is an all-out campaign from every corner of the student and labour movement to fight for that general election. For students, this should start with a massive national student demonstration called by the NUS, as well as Corbyn and McDonnell, during the Autumn term, demanding a general election with the demand for free education central to mobilising students. If the NUS refuses to call such a demonstration, student campaigners from campuses and colleges around the country who want to kick out the Tories should co-ordinate and organise a demonstration themselves without the NUS.
This would be a strong start and potentially spell the start of the end for Johnson’s government. But the entry of the trade unions onto the scene, firstly with a national trade union-led demonstration as a first step towards co-ordinated strike action if necessary – bringing the working class onto the streets alongside students struggling for free education and students’ rights – would tip the balance of power completely.
Programme But crucial to mobilising such a movement is a programme capable of giving a clear and bold alternative to the pro-capitalist austerity policies of the last decade – a socialist programme.
Socialist policies would mean free university education and the cancellation of all student debt, as well as the introduction of living grants for all students. With the publication of the Tory Auger report, it’s clear that the Tories still have students in their sights and will try to yet again make us pay for the crisis caused by the rich (see pages 15 and 16 for more).
It would also mean an end to the marketisation of our universities and funding cuts to services on campuses, as well as a complete reversal of all academisation and cuts to schools and colleges.
In the world of work, it would mean a minimum wage of at least £10 an hour for a start – we say £15 should be the living wage in London, as well as the banning of all zero hours contracts.
It would mean ending and reversing all cuts to public services, including to the NHS, and the launching of a mass programme of council house construction and the introduction of rent controls in the private sector.
And crucially, it would mean the nationalisation – not just of the railways, mail and the energy companies as Corbyn has outlined, but also taking the banks and the other big companies into public ownership, under the democratic control of workers and young people, to fund all of these policies and plan the economy for the benefit of the vast majority of the population and to protect the environment from climate change.
Such a programme could unite workers and young people who fell on both sides of the EU referendum, in a united battle to topple the Tories and fight for jobs, homes and services for all. This is the only force capable of breaking the logjam in Parliament.
If a Corbyn led government was propelled to power by such a mass movement, Corbyn would have the basis to negotiate with the EU a socialist Brexit deal – a Brexit which would be in the interests of the overwhelming majority of society – millions of working class, young people and students, as well as the middle class.
This would mean a deal that would scrap all the anti-worker directives and legislation of the single market – including the posted workers’ directive, legislation prohibiting the renationalisation of industry, and laws restricting state aid – and to establish a new customs union in the interests of students and workers.
National unity government? But every time the moment arrives when a Corbyn government seems to be on the cards, his enemies mobilise to stop him at all costs. This doesn’t only include the Tories, but also the Blairites, who could back the formation of a “national unity” government with Tories, Lib Dems and all manner of pro-capitalist, pro-austerity politicians.
That’s why Socialist Students says that it is crucial Corbyn calls for the removal of the pro-capitalist elements of the Parliamentary Labour Party, the Blairite MPs, and campaigns for their reselection and replacement with class fighters who will fight for the interests of workers, students and young people, not for the interests of big business.
The rank hypocrisy of the pro-capitalist politicians will be an outrage to the overwhelming majority of students and young people. The fact that Jo Swinson – leader of the little bosses’ party, the Lib Dems, responsible for trebling university tuition fees alongside the Tories in 2010 – refuses to back even a temporary Corbyn government to prevent a no deal Brexit demonstrates what the pro-capitalist politicians truly fear.
Their biggest fear, and the only glue which holds the fractious Tory Party together, is the coming to power of a Corbyn led government. The anti-austerity policies he campaigned on in 2017 and continues to campaign on is only part of what frightens big business and their political representatives though.
It’s the raised hopes and expectations of millions – including students – which the capitalist establishment truly fears. The election of a Corbyn led government could unleash a whole new wave of mass struggle, pushing Corbyn further to the left than he intended to go.
Socialist Students says go further But if Corbyn is to mobilise a movement both within the Labour Party to transform the party, and a movement in wider society to oust the Tories, he needs to go on the offensive with bold socialist policies.
Why not instruct all Labour councils now to stop passing on cuts delivered to them from the Tories in Westminster using their massive financial reserves and borrowing powers, and build local campaigns, mobilising students, workers and the community as a whole, to fight for the funding required to make good on all of his anti-austerity pledges.
With a guarantee from shadow chancellor John McDonnell that a future Labour government would underwrite any debt, linked to taking the banks and finance companies into democratic public ownership, such a fightback could be the beginning of the end of Boris Johnson and the rest of the rotten Tories, and point the way towards a socialist future.
12:30pm Murraygate, Dundee, Tuesday 6th August Near Tesco’s
The Young Socialists, Young Workers Rights campaign will be protesting and raising the need to join trade unions.
Maddie, Dundee fast food worker, and member of Unite Hospitality, “If you’re sick of your boss, join a trade union and get involved in our day of action. Retail bosses like Asda are hammering workers with attacks like Contract 6, where paid breaks and holidays are cut and workers are threatened with the sack if they don’t sign up. We support the fight of the GMB trade union against Contract 6. Recently we have sign Tesco workers organised in USDAW take strike action, CWU postal workers walk out against management bullying and Unite airport workers strike for decent pay and to defend pensions. The best way to defend your rights and conditions at work is to join and get active in a trade union. We fight for trade union rights for all workers on day one of employment”.
Oisin, Glasgow bar worker, and member of Unite Hospitality, “Young Socialists Young Workers Rights campaign fights for a £10 an hour minimum wage and trade union struggle for a living wage. Recently at festivals like Glasgow TRNSMT we have seen young workers suffering tip theft and working without breaks. Exploitation of young workers is also rife at the Edinburgh Fringe and T in the park. Bar workers suffer bullying, uniform charges and exploitative shift patterns every day of the week. It’s time to stand up and fight back. As well as fighting for rights at work we want to change society and end capitalism. That means workers control in workplaces, socialism, taking over the top 150 major companies, banks and industries into public ownership”.
Wayne, Dundee factory worker and member of the GMB, “We need to fight for the rights of all workers including apprentices who should be paid a living wage with the trade unions fighting for the Construction Training board to implement this.
The SNP government talks about “fair work” but has let workers down including failing to protect skilled work at the Caley Railworks through nationalisation.
Jeremy Corbyn has a lot of pro worker policies such as a £10 minimum wage, one of our tasks is to call on the TUC, the STUC and the Corbyn Labour leadership to launch a mass campaign of rallies advocating socialist policies, mass demonstrations and co-ordinated national strike action to bring down Johnson’s Tories and force a general election.”
For more information, ring or text or text Maddie on +44 7596 456551
Theo Sharieff, Socialist Students national organiser
Theresa May on Thursday admitted that herself and the Tories got it wrong on tuition fees and higher education funding.
The headline proposal contained in the long delayed Auger report is to give students from disadvantaged backgrounds a £3000 a year maintenance grant, admitting that the Tories in 2015 got it wrong. This will come as welcome news to students who have been forced to take out loans and accrue debt just for choosing to pursue studies in higher education. It’s a reflection of the massive pressure the Tories are under, terrified of the huge anger their policies of cuts and austerity measures has created.
Other suggestions in the report are completely woeful. Even the suggestion to cut fees by a small amount to £7,500 is cover for vicious attacks on students and low paid graduates in debt.
The plan suggests extending the period over which former students would repay their loans from 30 to 40 years. Moreover, the report suggests lowering the income threshold for loan repayments to begin, meaning that even lower paid young workers will be forced to give up their wages towards paying off loans and extortionate interest, simply for going to university.
Clearly these changes are intended so that the government has more time to claw back money from the currently huge and growing pile of national student debt. The debt currently stands at £118 billion, and is predicted by the government to reach £450 billion by 2050 without inflation. Three-quarters of students will not pay back their loan in full by the time it is wiped, and the state will be footing the bill.
The Tories are aware that they are presiding over an economic time bomb. Desperately, they are attempting to remedy that by fighting to further shackle former students, as we age into retirement, with a lifetime of debt.
But even the proposal to reduce tuition fees is a poisoned chalice. When the Tory-Lib Dem coalition trebled tuition fees back in 2012, the government cut its funding to universities, meaning universities were forced to rely on student’s tuition fees for funding.
With the report suggesting a decrease of tuition fees to a still ludicrous £7500 a year, and no proposal for the government to plug the funding gap, universities would face a huge cut to funding – resulting in cuts to courses, redundancies, and closures.
Scandalously, bosses of the Russell Group came out in March to rally against reducing tuition fees for this reason, pretending that there would be no alternative. This however isn’t true.A mass struggle of students united with workers to end austerity could provide free, fully funded university education. Jeremy Corbyn raised in the 2017 general election abolishing tuition fees, but Socialist Students says he should go further – to not only scrap tuition fees entirely and to introduce living grants for all students, but also to cancel all the outstanding student debt.
With Theresa May gone, now is the time to launch that fightback. A campaign to fight for free education which mobilised students and workers in demonstrations and strike actions could spell the end of the Tory government which is tearing itself apart with yet another leadership contest – and fight for an anti-austerity Corbyn led government to power on a socialist programme.
Tens of thousands will take to the streets of London on 4 June to protest against the visit of US president Donald Trump. During his state visit he will also attend – at the invitation of doomed prime minister Theresa May – D-Day commemorations in Portsmouth, angering many.
The sacrifice of D-Day soldiers and others in the fight against fascism during World War Two led to the election of a reforming Labour government in 1945, by returning servicemen and women, determined not to see a return to the capitalist crisis and austerity of the 1930s.
To see May and Trump show their respects is the height of hypocrisy after overseeing a decade of austerity that has thrown many veterans further into poverty, with cuts on pensions, benefits, housing and the NHS.
The great-great grandchildren of these veterans, also hit by austerity, are joining the fightback by leading climate strikes. They are helping to build the protests against Trump in Portsmouth alongside local trade unionists. These world leaders, ‘masters of the universe’, are masters of hypocrisy.
Their claims to defend democracy and act for the many as voices for peace and prosperity are shallow lies to hide the reality. Representatives of the super-rich, their policies are for imperialist plunder and profit, if necessary through war and sponsoring dictatorships.
For workers and their families in Portsmouth, including those working in the armed forces and defence industries, their policies of austerity have led to massive cuts in jobs, particularly at Portsmouth BAE dockyards, pay, pensions, benefits, education, the NHS and council services.
Growing poverty, food banks and homelessness is the outcome. For armed forces personnel returning from conflict, cuts to mental health services has left many of them suicidal and living on the streets.
Portsmouth trade unionists, students and socialists have come together to sign a joint letter of protest opposing the visit of Trump saying: “Trump’s system is one of war and militarism, exploitation and misery, racism and misogyny.
“We stand for a system based on solidarity and the belief that together, united as a class, working people can surmount the international problems caused by the elites like Donald Trump – from climate change to capitalism itself.”
This letter has raised the call for an immediate general election to bring down the Tory government which invited Trump: “An immediate general election, putting an anti-austerity Jeremy Corbyn led Labour government committed to socialist policies in power, is the only way to deliver for the many not the few.”
Only on the basis of a socialist world can we hope to see an end to poverty, racism and war, where the world’s resources can be used in a rational way through democratic workers’ control and planning to meet the needs of all and the planet.
NUS conference is meeting this year in the midst of an unprecedented crisis for itself as an organisation.
The NUS is on the brink of bankruptcy. The responsibility for this catastrophic situation clearly lies with years of successive right wing NUS leaderships who have pushed through undemocratic reforms which have concentrated power in the hands of unaccountable and inept leaders. What has made them inept is their rejection of their role in leading student struggle, instead using the NUS as a springboard into political careers in pro-big businesses parties. They have totally failed to fight for students – including when fees were introduced in 1997, and when they were trebled in 2010, and they have failed to mobilise the massive student support for Corbyn’s 2017 manifesto in the streets against a crisis ridden Tory government.
The reform motion submitted by NUS’ so called “Turnaround Board” says that “there have been attempts to fix NUS’ democracy and governance as far back as 2004.”
There certainly have been reforms since then. But they have not been to the benefit of ordinary students, but rather designed to deliberately side-line and alienate students from the structures of the NUS.
Governance reviews pushed through undemocratically by the NUS’ bureaucracy deliberately side lined the active involvement of students in the internal life of the NUS as a campaigning organisation, and converted it into little more than a charity or a think tank, lobbying politicians without the involvement of its rank and file. NUS’ strength is in its million-strong membership, but this has not been mobilised in defence of students’ rights.
This is summed up by the fact that it was an unaccountable board of trustees who presented a report to last year’s April conference, misleading conference and stating that they had ‘no concerns’ about the financial state of the organisation!
In response to the financial crisis, the Turnaround Board produced a ‘White Paper’ of proposals on how to reform the NUS for consultation to produce the reform motion presented to conference.
But how was this so called ‘consultation’ undertaken? The leadership of the NUS allowed Students’ Unions to submit their official responses without any involvement or democratic discussion whatsoever with students themselves – just responses from SU presidents or CEOs! It’s obvious to all that this entire process has been an undemocratic sham from beginning to end.
The results of this sham consultation are laid bare in the reform motion presented to this year’s conference, as well as a new set of Articles and Rules for the NUS.
Given the lateness of the release of this document, it’s impossible to deal with every detail of what is proposed.
But what’s clear is the proposals mean that the last vestiges of control by ordinary students over the NUS’ political direction are to be removed. An annual NUS manifesto is to be set out, not to be determined by a democratic conference, but instead by a new ‘cabinet’, made up of the 7 full time officers, and to be approved by a board of directors. Students will only be involved to be ‘consulted’ on, not through a conference and face to face democratic discussion and debate, but through online ballots!
While conference will be made even shorter, Students Unions’ will be free to select their delegations however they want – without holding campus wide elections if they choose. Additionally, the proposals argue for the abolition of the NEC, a body which potentially could channel the desire of students for mass struggle , the cutting of 13 full time officers positions, and for elections of full time officers to be contested purely on personal ‘merit’, not on political ideas or manifestos.
These final proposals, if successfully pushed through, could potentially finish the process set in motion years ago when the first governance reviews were introduced by Blairite Presidents such as Wes Streeting (now an anti-Corbyn MP) – seeing the further transformation of the NUS away from an organisation which can lead students in struggle, moving towards the status of a think tank.
That’s why Socialist Students rejects all proposals put forward by the current leadership, including the proposals to cut funding to liberation campaigns and to current full time officers.
However, the NUS does find itself in a state of genuine financial crisis. That’s why we call for the opening of the NUS’s books to the democratic oversight of students and elected NUS officials as part of a democratic investigation into the organisation’s finances, and potential financial solutions to the crisis, led by students and democratically elected officials.
What next? A crucial step towards this would be the organisation of general emergency meetings on campuses organised either by Students’ Unions or students and campaigners ourselves dedicated to discussing building a democratic and fighting national students’ union and potential solutions to the NUS’ financial crisis. Out of this could come an extraordinary national conference to discuss the way forward for our movement out of this crisis in the NUS, open to all students, campaigners and activists.
This could come from a successful struggle to fundamentally transform the NUS; to fight for a re-founded NUS as a democratic, accountable and fighting organisation that puts the fight for things like free education and student grants, affordable student housing, the fight against cuts and marketisation and the struggle to kick out the Tories centre stage.
Socialist Students stands for a student movement which links up with workers in the fight for a society based on peoples’ needs, not the profits of big business – a socialist society.
If these reforms do go through however, it is very doubtful that the NUS will be an organisation which can lead on these issues – in which case, the task of building a new national students’ union will be crucial. In a time when the Tory government is wracked by such deep crisis, and with such huge opportunities for students wanting to fight back, it is vital that we have continue the fight to get organised on a local level on our campuses and link up nationally in the fight against austerity. The recent climate strikes, the 2017 general election, and the student support for the UCU strikes last year all demonstrate the huge appetite for this.
A national students’ union that fights for free education, for students’ rights, and to kick out the Tories
Mass students meetings on every campus and college to discuss the way forward for our movement