Over 100 students attended this year’s annual Socialist Students conference at Birmingham University, on Saturday 24th February.
The day highlighted the successes of Socialist Students’ work over the last 12 months and the growth not only of Socialist Students in a number of areas but also a growth in the popularity of a socialist ideas and an alternative to the capitalist system amongst students and young people.
The day started with a discussion on the role of students in the fight against austerity. The speakers included a Birmingham University lecturer, who spoke about the
ongoing UCU strike action in defence of lecturers’ pensions, Richard Beddows, Unite convenor during the Birmingham bins dispute, and Theo Sharieff, chair of Socialist Students.
Meeting the day after the first wave of strike actions had been concluded by the UCU nationally, there was an outpouring of solidarity from the conference floor towards the striking lecturers, and students later discussed and voted in support of Socialist Students building for student strike actions alongside the industrial action being taken by the UCU.
Richard spoke about the bitter dispute between refuse workers, and their employers, the Labour-run Birmingham city council. Richard reaffirmed the importance of student and worker solidarity, and the discussion clarified Socialist Students’ opposition nationally to pro-cuts and pro-austerity councillors – be them Tory, Liberal, or Labour.
Two parallel sessions were then run side by side. The first was to discuss the events in Catalonia mass movement of youth and workers which developed at the end of 2017, introduced by Jose Antonio Lopez Bueno, organiser for the Sindicato de Estudiantes (a socialist led students union) and a member of the revolutionary socialist organisation Izqueirda Revolucionaria in the Spanish state.
Jose and others students made the point that the national question, such as the question of Catalan independence, is of vital importance for any socialist wishing to reach the masses of society with a revolutionary socialist programme, and holds serious lessons for Corbyn in relation to Scottish independence here in the United Kingdom.
The second session, introduced by Socialist Students national organiser Claire Laker Mansfield, marked the anniversary of the revolutionary strike wave which swept across France 50 years ago, binding together workers and students in a revolutionary challenge against the capitalist system.
After taking elections on a range of motions submitted to the conference by the elected national steering committee and Socialist Students groups around the country, conference voted to elect a new steering committee, which has grown substantially since last year, reflecting the continued growth of Socialist Students and the building of new groups nationally.
The day finished with a rally, entitled ‘the Struggle is International’, which highlighted the international links Socialist Students has to a whole host of socialist organisations across the world. Conference received messages from young activists and co-thinkers in Hong Kong fighting against clampdowns on democratic rights by the regime, heard from Refugee Rights organiser Lawanya Chandra, and a greeting from Nigerian co-thinkers running a campaign in defence of education rights and against the suspension of 5 student activists who have been attacked for fighting against university fee hikes in Nigeria.
The conference demonstrated the serious work countless Socialist Students groups are conducting up and down the country, building the forces for the socialist transformation of society in schools, colleges and universities both here in Britain and across the world.
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