Big progress for Socialist Students at Huddersfield University

Huddersfield Socialist Students

Dylan Oxley, Huddersfield Socialist Students

University of Huddersfield’s political societies have been long inactive for a few years.  But since September, Socialist Students has been doing fortnightly stalls at Huddersfield University and also in the town centre. Before Christmas, we were out campaigning on campus for a Corbyn government with socialist policies, and although not every person we met committed to joining Socialist Students on the spot, many were interested in coming to our meetings to discuss socialist ideas with us.

During that time, we have held meetings about the election and how we can organise on campus to fight the Tories, and those who came to the meetings were keen to get involved with Socialist Students locally. Eventually, we gathered enough momentum to become an officially registered society at the university, reflecting the roots we’ve managed to sink in a short space of time on the campus.

After the results of the election, interest in Socialist Students has noticeably increased, and after our first stall in the university SU we had a lot of students talking to us, signing up to Socialist Students, and buying our badges.

On our stall at this year’s refreshers fair, we decided to campaign on the renationalisation of the railways and transport systems; with around 60% of students at Huddersfield University commuting from home, the issue of affordable fares is incredibly important to working class students. .

We held a mock ballot on what should be done about the Northern Rail situation. There were four options on the ballot paper – leave it as it is, hand the franchise over to another private rail operator, nationalise the service but keep the same management, or nationalise the service under the democratic control of workers and service users.

Students agreed that it should be renationalised, but it was interesting to discuss how it should be done. After discussion, many students agreed and voted that current management should be replaced with workers’ democracies, by nationalising the railway service under the democratic control and management of the railway workers and rail users Some students weren’t aware that the railways were privatised, and their interests were sparked knowing that their commutes could be much cheaper as many commuters got little or no student maintenance loans.

Although initially the progress of building Socialist Students was slow here in Huddersfield, eventually our momentum increased, and we now have students contacting us showing interest in joining the society and even more coming along to our meetings. After the election many students have come to realise that action is needed against Johnson and the Tories, and we will continue to fight against them.

Fight and defy the Tories on campus

Socialist Students members marching in central London

Organise, strike, and resist on the campuses

Students and young people are angry at the victory of Johnson and the Tories. That anger must now be turned into action to fight the Tories and all the attacks they’ll continue to make.

Over half of young people think their lives will be worse than their parents’ generation – only 22% have faith in the system to deliver them a better standard of living. The struggle to achieve the socialist policies we need to fight for our futures goes on. Socialist Students is putting out the call for students to get organised on campus, alongside workers, to fight against any new rounds of Tory attacks, and to fight for the right to free speech and the right to protest on campus.

Instability for Johnson
Boris Johnson and the Tories have no solutions to the problems we face, of student debt, low wages, the housing crisis, or environmental catastrophe. They represent the interests of capitalism – a system which, ten years on from the global financial crash, stands on the precipice of yet another economic crisis – and therefore can offer no future whatsoever for students and young people. They remain utterly split, including over the question of Brexit and the future trading relationship with the EU and the US.

Johnson has set his sights on introducing legislation which would outlaw all out strike action on the railways – setting his government up for a confrontation with the rail union the RMT.

And across the globe, capitalism means complete political, economic and social instability. In Chile, youth and students have sparked a mass national uprising against austerity and the right wing Pinera regime after the government attempted to increase metro fares by a small amount of 30 pesos. The rallying cry of the movement has been ‘it’s not about 30 pesos, but 30 years of injustice under capitalism’. Youth have been key in mobilisations around the world, including Hong Kong and the Middle East.

Get organised on campus
Back in Britain, the campuses have been one of the frontlines of resistance against Tory austerity. Over the last two years, campus workers organised in the University and Colleges Union (UCU) have taken militant strike action on campus, with students flocking to picket lines in solidarity. UCU members are set yet again to take strike action over a period of 4 weeks this term!

Also for more than a year students have been taking bold action in the monthly climate strike mobilisations.

There have been threats to the right to organise and protest on campus. Before the election, students at many universities were banned from canvassing student accommodation for the general election.
And with the Tories continuing full steam ahead with the marketisation of Higher Education, struggles against job and course cuts, and cuts to student services could develop.

That’s why Socialist Students is calling for a ‘council of war’ on campus – drawing together everyone and anyone who wants to fight against further Tory attacks on campus – students, workers, campus unions such as the UCU and UNISON, Corbyn supporters and anti-austerity activists – to say we won’t take one more cut or attack against students or workers!

To do that, we need to get organised. Students’ Unions could play a role in advertising and promoting a general students and workers’ meeting on campus to discuss and organise the tactics of fighting Tory attacks on campus. But if they don’t, we need to build democratic student organisations that will fight back, both locally and at the national level.

Join Socialist Students’ to help us in our campaign against the Tories on campus, to discuss with us the tactics and policies we need to fight for a socialist future, and to link up nationally with students organising on campuses across the country. We want to discuss not only how to end austerity, but how we can fight for an entirely new kind of socialist society – beginning with taking into public ownership the banks and big monopolies which exist in Britain to plan societies’ vast wealth and resources for the needs of all students and workers.

Young people who voted for Corbyn’s manifesto will now ask… How can we win those ideas?

Theo Sharieff, Socialist Students national organiser

It’s no surprise whatsoever that millions of young people voted for Jeremy Corbyn in the December general election. Despite Labour’s defeat at the hands of Blairite sabotage against Corbyn in Parliament, the media, and the council chamber, Labour overwhelmingly got by and far the largest youth vote compared to other parties.

56% of 18 to 24 year olds voted for Corbyn’s programme, as well as 54% of 24 to 29 year olds. The Tories got 21% and 23% in the same respective age categories.

Although this was slightly down from 2017 – when 62% of 20 to 24 year olds voted Labour – the youth still overwhelmingly went to Corbyn. In seats kept by Labour, the youth population was on average 1.5 times higher. 1.4 million under 25s registered to vote, 36% more than in 2017.

Young workers and students have suffered under Tory cuts. Resolution Foundation research found that the living standards of millennials are on the decline in most measurements.

Half of today’s young people believe that we will have worse living standards compared to their parents. Only 22% think we will do better.

The young people who voted for Corbyn’s manifesto will now ask – what are the next steps necessary to win those ideas?

Life for millions of young people has been unbearable under the last decade of Tory rule and will continue to be so long as they’re in government. That Corbyn didn’t win will no doubt leave young workers and students feeling disappointed, if not extremely worried, about what their future will look like under a Boris Johnson government.

Despite the Tory victory, the idea of an alternative to the misery of capitalist driven austerity will not simply disappear back to where it came from, in fact it can grow.

The genie is well and truly out of the bottle. This is especially true for millions of young people whose lives have been blighted by austerity.

As we enter 2020, it is more vital than ever that young people get organised to fight against Tory austerity in workplaces, in schools, colleges and universities, and in local communities.

Whatever happens in the Labour leadership contest, young people and students desperately need a party which is rooted in and takes its cues from the working class. A mass party of workers and youth that will fight for our interests against the big business bosses and their capitalist system.

Socialist Students is calling for a ‘council of war’ on the university campuses – to bring together students, activists, uni workers and unions to discuss how to resist further Tory attacks to our education and our democratic right to organise and protest on campus. This should include University and College Union (UCU) – which is discussing taking further strike action in the new year – and Unison.

The National Union of Students (NUS) leadership should now begin organising for a mass student demonstration, linked to mass student and workers’ meetings on campuses.

These local meetings should be organised by student unions – and the campus trade unions too. They should discuss and plan the tactics of building for a national protest, linked to a programme of refounding and democratising NUS.

If you want to help in the fight against the Tories, then join with us.

Corbyn sabotaged by the Blairites – build a mass student movement to resist further Tory attacks on education!

  • Blairites have to go! Kick them out of the Labour Party and refound Labour as a party of workers and young people with a socialist programme!
  • For a council of war on campus, bringing together students, workers, trade unions and others on campus to resist the next round of Tory attacks!
  • Defend on campus democracy! For democratised students’ unions and a refounded, fighting NUS!
  • Join Socialist Students!
Jeremy Corbyn and Tom Watson, photo Rwendland/CC 

Students and young people will be disappointed with the news that the Tories managed to win a majority. Already the right wing media and the right of the Labour Party, the Blairites, both who moved heaven and earth to attack Corbyn over the last four years, are piling on to try and claim that Corbyn’s anti-austerity programme which lost the election. They’ve been waiting for four years to jump at the opportunity to hammer that Corbyn’s programme is ‘unpopular’.

But that couldn’t be further from the truth. While the right wing media and capitalist press have attacked Corbyn for delivering ‘Labour’s worst result since 1935’, the reality is that Corbyn won 10 million votes – higher numbers wise and percentage wise than Labour’s vote in 2005. Policies such as free education, the abolition of youth rates, the scrapping of zero hours contracts, the mass construction of council housing, and the renationalisation of rail, mail, water and the energy companies remain enormously popular policies.

No peace for the Tories
Despite winning a majority, there will be no easy ride for Boris Johnson’s government. The divisions in the Tory Party over how the best handle Brexit in the interests of big business will not disappear, but will deepen.

And the anger at years of Tory cuts and austerity will also not disappear. Johnson was forced to promise measures to improve funding to the NHS, education and so on, in order to win this election. Workers who, in their words, ‘lent’ the Tories a vote to get Brexit finished, will not forget those promises.

But he also vowed to introduce further legislation to curb the ability of workers to take legal strike action – and indication not only of the massive attacks which are to come the way of working class and young people, but also of the Tories anticipation’ for mighty struggles of workers and young people will launch against the coming Tory attacks.

Compromise with the Blairites to blame
Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell do share some of the blame however. Chiefly, they have to accept the responsibility for not using the last four years to mobilise a campaign in the Labour Party to kick out right wing Blairites saboteurs out of the party and replacing them with socialist fighters!

Take for example Corbyn’s mistaken position on Brexit which cost him dearly in seats in the North and the Midlands. His position of remaining ‘neutral’ in a second referendum was understood by many workers to be an attempt to undo the democratic result of the 2016 referendum, and was a complete concession to the right wing of the Labour Party, who if they had it their way would have forced Corbyn to adopt an out and out remain position.

Brexit was not the only mistake. Corbyn made other vital concessions to the pro-capitalist wing of Labour. Corbyn’s programme was missing from the vast majority of local Labour Party campaign material. The mass rallies of the 2017 election campaign, which made that election feel at times like a movement, were missing this time round.

But above all else, Labour councillors who control hundreds of councils up and down the country, have for years voted for vicious and life changing cuts to local jobs and services. ‘Labour’ for millions of working class people wasn’t just the legacy of Tony Blair, which included the Iraq War, the privatisation of parts of the NHS, and the continuation of Thatcher’s anti-union laws, but it concretely meant job losses, homelessness and poverty for local working class communities.

Socialist Students called for Labour councillors to take a stand against cuts delivered from the Tories in Westminster – to use their enormous spending reserves to pass no cuts budgets, and to build mass local campaigns to demand the funding stolen by the Tories back to local communities.

Had Corbyn and McDonnell issued the order to Labour councils to adopt such an approach after the release of their manifesto, and demanded that Labour councils began immediately with turning Corbyn’s anti-austerity promises into a reality, many would have seen that Corbyn was prepared to fight to improve their lives.

A new party needed
Corbyn and his supporters in the Labour Party now must hold firm to resist the attempted onslaught by the right of the Labour Party to discredit his enormously popular programme. Corbyn and McDonnell have correctly said that their anti-austerity programme wasn’t what lost them the election. But they now must go further and draw the conclusions necessary to fight to make that programme a reality.

This election result is proof that it is impossible to fight for the interests of working class, young people and students while attempting to represent the interests of big business at the same time. It is now urgent that a labour movement conference is called, of Corbyn’s supporters, trade unionists, and students and young people, to refound the Labour Party as a mass democratic workers’ party organised around a socialist programme.

What next for the fight on campus
The Tories will no doubt come for further attacks to education and students’ rights. Needed now is a council of war on the campuses – bringing together students, campus workers, UCU and UNISON members, and anyone who wants to fight against Tory attacks – to discuss how to resist the next round of Tory attacks, and to defend the rights of students and workers to organise and protest on campus. The new year will no doubt bring new struggles on campuses, with the UCU union already discussing a second round of industrial action in 2020.

The NUS leadership should begin organising now for a mass student demonstration in the new year, linked to mass student and workers meetings on campuses which plan and discuss the tactics of building for such a demonstration. These local meetings on campuses should be organised by Students’ Unions, linked to a programme for the refounding and democratisation of the NUS. Alongside measures for national student actions to defy the Tories, the trade union leaders need to mobilise in the workplaces to defend the NHS, public services, jobs, living standards, and the environment from further Tory attacks.

Socialist Students conference: Students and workers united in struggle

Ella Doyle, Birmingham University Socialist Students

Michael Morgan, Warwick Socialist Students, speaking in the election rally
Students from across England and Wales came together in Birmingham for the 2019 Socialist Students national conference on Saturday 30 November.

Berkay from London Socialist Students chaired the 60-strong rally on fighting for a Corbyn victory with socialist policies.

Michael, Warwick Socialist Students, spoke about the need to fight the attacks on free speech on campus. Some student unions have banned general election campaigning on campus. Some universities threatened to penalise students supporting the UCU strike.

Sundar, a student activist in Pakistan, phoned in about the fight for student unions, banned by the Pakistani government since 1984.

Connie, a school student from Birmingham who has been involved in the climate strikes, called for nationalisation of the polluting industries. Connie also explained the important role that Socialist Students can play in assisting in setting up student unions at schools.

Lucy, a strike committee chair from the University and College Union, highlighted the shared struggle of students and workers under a management system that runs universities as businesses. Many contributions from the floor revealed the positive impact that student involvement has had on these movements.

After lunch Bea Gardner, Socialist Students national chair, introduced a really useful discussion on building our societies on campuses, which dealt with organising good political meetings, a focus on activity on campus, linking up with struggles in the wider area, standing for positions, and involving new people.

Andrea, a student from Chile, gave an inspiring report of the mass upheaval in her home country.

Finally, the Socialist Students steering committee was elected. Theo, national organiser, explained its role and candidates were invited to come forward. The conference prepared us for the battles to come – in this election, on the day after, and in 2020.

Out campaigning for a a Corbyn government with socialist policies at Leeds University

Allen Haigh, Leeds Socialist Students

With the general election rapidly approaching, the Leeds University Socialist Students have been actively campaigning for a Corbyn led Labour government. Along with our regular Wednesday stalls, we decided to canvass at one of the larger student halls, Lupton residences, on Thursday, November 21st to assure that all students had registered to vote, and to have a conversation with them about the current political landscape. We also sought to help disambiguate any thoughts or perceptions students had about Corbyn’s campaign; and expressed our strong belief that an anti-austerity, anti-capitalist government with a socialist programme, one in line with the needs of workers and students alike, had the potential to radically change the workings of our society for the better.

We were pleased to find that generally students were already registered, and were personally invested in the outcome of this election. We spoke to some students who were already planning to vote for Labour based on the strength of their manifesto, as well as others who still felt ambivalent about their voting intentions but were intrigued or impressed by Corbyn’s pledges on free education, and investment in the NHS. We visited one block that was largely composed of student nurses, who were particularly sympathetic to Corbyn’s plans for the NHS due to their first-hand experience of inadequate funding and gross mismanagement. We exchanged thoughts on what we perceived to be the current shortcomings and what needed to be done in the future to protect the interests of staff and patients alike.

We also canvassed in the Hyde Park, an area with a large student population in Leeds, on Monday, 25th of November, and again were pleased to find that most students had registered and had educated themselves about some key policy differences. We stressed to Corbyn supporters that regardless of the outcome of the election, there would remain a continuous need to fight for socialist policies, whilst those who remained undecided pledged that they would remain vigilante of media bias, and do their research on what a Corbyn campaign would really stand for. Most of all it was good to see that almost every single individual saw Boris Johnson’s anti-establishment rhetoric for what it really is, a farce, and most seemed to recognise the need for real change in society; Leeds socialist students will certainly continue to fight for a fairer Britain.

Students back UCU strike at Leeds Uni

Molly Rampton, Leeds Socialist Students

Hundreds of University of Leeds lecturers, staff and students are rallying against pension cuts, unstable/zero-hour contracts, overwork and wage inequality. UCU members at 60 universities are striking for eight days over the coming fortnight after the university managements failed to respond to demands for fair treatment of all staff. Leeds Socialist Students Society are enthusiastic supporters of the movement, along with other student groups and individuals.

The UCU strike is a crucial last resort in the fight for fair working conditions at many universities across the country. Many lecturers and other staff live without the security of knowing that they will be employed until the next academic year or semester, while even those with long-term contracts have seen their pensions slashed. Many staff are paid hourly, which does not include time spent planning for and evaluating work outside of class hours. Wage gaps remain static, with people of colour and most women earning less than their white male counterparts.

The strike has been criticised for disrupting student’s education – a claim deliberately blind to the fact that this education cannot take place without quality teaching; which in turn cannot take place without quality of life for those teachers. Staff at Leeds must feel valued and secure within the institution in order to be able to impart their knowledge and expertise effectively.

The mistreatment of Leeds University employees is directly at odds with the enormous fees currently paid by students. The academic body deserves investment into educational, rather than market demands and we will stand for nothing less.