The Socialist 4 October 2007 |
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Students want to fight back
University is becoming an absolute rip off! £3,000 a year for top-up fees. £100 a week rent in many student halls. Brighton University is charging students £40 each to go on house-hunting trips in a city notorious for high rents! As well as being ripped off by the government and universities, attending a freshers fair means running the gauntlet of banks, credit card companies, loan companies, mobile phone companies, insurance companies, book retailers and exploitative recruitment agencies all seeing students as an opportunity to boost their profits.
But students are angry and hundreds have signed the Campaign to Defeat Fees (CDF) petition, many indicating they want to be actively involved in building a campaign against fees, cuts and privatisation. New Socialist Students societies are being set up. Opposition to the war in Iraq, Trident nuclear weapons, cuts in the NHS and climate change lead many to seek an alternative and they are open to socialist ideas. Organising meetings where political ideas can be discussed and debated mean we can make the case for the socialist alternative. If you need any help or advice please contact Matt Dobson on firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 8558 7974.
Aston & Birmingham Universities
Amidst Jitsu and Alt Music societies, Socialist Students quietly made history at Aston University. We became, according to the students union, the first political society to have a stall at the freshers fair, but also successfully got the necessary 10 students paying £5 each to become an official society!
Both new and established students were looking for socialist and left-wing ideas. One had been on anti-war demonstrations and came to find us specifically because "you are always the noisiest and best organised group there."
We also handed out over 1,200 leaflets at Birmingham University for an all-Birmingham Socialist Students meeting. There is a real opportunity to build Socialist Students in Birmingham, and spread campaigning and socialist ideas in Britain's second biggest city.
Ben Robinson ISR national organiser
Queen Mary's University
A record 46 students signed up to Socialist Students at QMU in Tower Hamlets, and nine came to a meeting. Over one hundred will be kept informed about the CDF and other activities by email.
Some students we discussed with had been socialists for years and wanted to get more active, while many came to ask questions and find out more about socialist ideas – from where would the money come from to scrap fees to what kind of electoral system would you have under socialism?
We wondered if the free pictures of Boris Johnson were helping the Tories or putting people off. Students were unimpressed that the Tories had been given a stall in the freshers' fair while Socialist Students were forced to campaign outside.
Naomi Byron Tower Hamlets Socialist Party
Many socialists talk about struggle. Embarking on organising Socialist Students in Canterbury, a conservative area, I can appreciate this sentiment. However, helped by Socialist Party members from Brighton, we managed to get about 100 people signed up at the freshers fair.
We also gained affiliation to the student federation and official status. The first meeting provided lively debate and fresh faces and the future of Socialist Students in Canterbury seems bright.
I was especially buoyed when we were chosen to participate in One World Week, involving a debate forum with other political societies. Certainly, the pace of progress for Socialist Students in Canterbury has made all the hard work and 'struggle' worth it.
Zaine Sarder Kent Socialist Students
This year Socialist Students has seen a growth in support for socialist ideas. Over the week we ran out of copies of the Student Socialist! Campaigning against the renewal of Trident nuclear weapons and plans to build a new nuclear power station on nearby Anglesey, we signed up 20 students to help start a society at the university.
A 'what is Socialism?' meeting attracted seven new people. We have plans to get a society registered with the students union, to visit the picket lines in support of striking postal workers and arranged to go to see John Pilger's War on Democracy at a local cinema.
Gemma Chapman Bangor Socialist Students
Opposition to fees and loans is strong at Swansea University where over a hundred students signed the CDF petition. Of them 33 joined Socialist Students although discussing on the wide range of topics they were concerned about proved somewhat difficult when competing with 100-decibel club music!
It didn't stop us selling 16 Student Socialists and around 20 copies of the socialist. Socialist Students will be meeting next week to work out activities and meetings for the autumn term.
Alec Thraves Swansea Socialist Party
University of Huddersfield Huddersfield Socialist Students have plans for meetings and activities for the whole term on the basis of the survey we conducted at the freshers fair. Over 50 people indicated they would be interested in joining Socialist Students. Both the organisers of the Muslim society and the debating society were interested in organising joint activities.
Disabilities, charities and mature students officer positions will be up for student elections. Fingers crossed some of the new and some of the existing Socialist Student membership will have successful campaigns.
Rob Horrocks Huddersfield Socialist Students
115 signatures, 17 magazine sales and two book sales show the excellent response from students at Sussex. Lots of students, and not just the freshers, were looking for ways to get active and want an alternative to the opportunistic mainstream political parties. Wising up to the debt that the Labour government has imposed, students saw the need to seriously organise a fightback.
Not the only political group, we had Conservative Future opposite, handing out tacky Boris Johnson memorabilia (!), the anarchists and the Socialist Workers Party. But our record of genuine activism, involvement in campaigns inside and outside the university and practicing what we preached gave us the edge over other groups. Students see that we are a serious organisation and we have high hopes for our first meeting next week and a good year of campaigning ahead!
Lee Vernon Sussex Socialist Students
At Cardiff University over 50 freshers applied to join the Socialist Students society at the freshers fair where Socialist Students campaigned against Trident nuclear weapons and 30 attended a meeting that evening to hear Hannah Sell, deputy general secretary of the Socialist Party, outline the ideas of socialism. This week Cardiff Uni Socialist Students are showing The Revolution Will Not Be Televised about the failed coup against the Venezuelan revolution.
Dave Reid Cardiff Socialist Party
University of Glamorgan
Nearly 40 joined Socialist Students and many are expected to attend the meeting this Wednesday on 'what is socialism?'
Joe Fathallah Cardiff Socialist Party
Despite the dreadful weather Socialist Students got 26 students signed up. Many more expressed interest in either the society or the CDF, including the students' union president, who is keen on campaigning and opposes tuition fees. A week of lunchtime stalls gave us a head start in terms of meeting people and getting organised. Interest in socialist ideas combined with opposition to the high levels of fees. Anger over debts through accommodation, food and other living costs added to this.
To top it all the Conservative Society agreed to have a debate with us, so watch this space!
School of Oriental and African Studies
While practically we were out in the cold, SOAS gave Socialist Students a warm response. Petitioning against military repression in Burma we got into in-depth discussions, explaining the role of multinationals and imperialism in the region and although other groups were petitioning on the same issue we were unique in putting forward a socialist solution. We explained that Socialist Students also campaigns on the day-to-day issues like fees, debt and cuts in education. Many students were interested in discussing socialism and Marxism. 25 students signed up and we sold four magazines.
Matt Dobson Socialist Students national organiser
At a packed Goldsmiths College freshers fair, 50 students signed to join Socialist Students and several are interested in coming along to local Socialist Party meetings. Discussions on: what is socialism?; what is happening in China?; and the importance of trade unions took place. A group of students were very keen to take part in meetings and to help out with campaigning work against tuition fees and against attacks on local transport services.
Chris Newby London Socialist Party
Exeter Socialist Students had a fantastic response to their week of freshers activity. Despite it being £3.50 to join the society, 43 students paid up with 50 more wanting more information. Socialists from Germany and Turkey were interested in joining both the Socialist Party and Socialist Students. We sold 17 student magazines, 30 copies of the socialist, socialist books and two Socialism 2007 tickets.
16 new students attended the 'what is socialism?' meeting and pub crawl afterwards. This week we'll have stalls at Exeter FE college and a CDF day of action on Friday on campus as well as visiting postal workers' picket lines.
Jim Thomson Exeter Socialist Students