From: the Socialist Students national steering committee
We write today in the hope of opening up a discussion on how best to build and take forward the student movement this autumn and beyond. Building on the increased support for demands around free education and cancellation of the student debt, Socialist Students has already called for students and any student groups willing to participate to launch local direct action on budget day across university campuses up and down the country. This is in response to the political developments which have transpired since the election, developments that have served to both embolden thousands of students while simultaneously destabilising the rule of the Tories.
The general election on 8th June represented one of the biggest political shake ups Britain has seen in recent memory. Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto, which called for the abolition of tuition fees, the reinstatement of maintenance grants and the creation of a ‘National Education Service’ raised the sights and expectations of hundreds of thousands of university and college students alike that the demand for free education is winnable.
Alongside this fresh politicisation of a huge new layer of students and young people, the Tory government, before the election confident that it could strengthen itself in Parliament ahead of fresh attacks on the education system and wider society, has instead been severely weakened. Turning out in greater numbers than at any general election since 1992, young people gave the Tories a bloody nose and slashed their already small majority even further, forcing them into a political stitch up with the arch reactionary DUP, a now widely despised deal publicly. This proves that when young people are offered a worthwhile future and can see a clear leadership ready to fight for it, they can move into action.
Reflecting this drastically altered political situation, Socialist Students has consistently stated the need for national demonstrations, and that they be co-ordinated by a fighting and democratic NUS leadership. Without the NUS, a national demonstration on the 15th of November, if it goes ahead, will need to organise democratically all capable forces within the student movement. This should include Socialist Students, which has grown to be a national organisation present on 40 campuses up and down the country. With organisers who have collective experience in leading various student protests and days of action, and having roots amongst students on numerous university campuses, Socialist Students would play a hugely positive role in building and mobilising for a national demonstration in the Autumn time alongside NCAFC and other student organisations. Organising a successful national demonstration, especially in absence of the leadership of the NUS, will take the involvement Socialist Students and other organisations which have a national presence on university campuses.
The setting up of democratic planning committees, with participants from NCAFC, Socialist Students, and other groups willing to participate, should be central to achieving this aim. By establishing structures which allow for the participation of different groups in democratic discussion around the different aspects of building for such a day of action (such as the political demands we should raise as a movement, how each group can mobilise as many forces as possible, speakers lists etc) we can have a greater impact as a united movement.
In addition to this, Socialist Students has previously called for a national day of action on as many college campuses possible around Budget Day. Socialist Students agrees with NCAFC that it is necessary to build further action beyond simply one isolated national demonstration, and that the danger exists of the energy of a movement dissipating if further escalations building on a national demonstration are not prepared. Socialist Students, under the banner of an ‘education shutdown’, has called and already started preparations for direct actions at the local level on university campuses by students, including mass student walk outs, occupations and local demonstrations in support of free education on budget day. Given the current mood, such action could potentially be received very enthusiastically and pull new layers of students into struggle, especially if built co-operatively and democratically alongside other groups.
We look forward to hearing your response to the points we raise here and furthermore suggest an urgent meeting ahead of the start of the new term. We hope this will be helpful to building alongside you and other groups for elevated student struggles in the future.
Socialist Students Steering Committee
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