Students: politics and action
"SEATTLE. THAT is what made me come this weekend. I was so inspired by what they did on those protests. It just made me want to fight but, more importantly, it gave me hope for the future." They are the words of one of the 200 representatives from Socialist Worker Student Society groups across the country who attended last weekend's SWSS 2000 conference. The conference was a brilliant success. Students discussed both the fight against tuition fees in the colleges and the bigger questions facing all those who want to change society.
"People are talking about politics everywhere," said Duncan from Manchester University. "They are talking about Seattle, about Section 28 and about Mumia Abu-Jamal." Andrew from Warwick University told the conference about how, out of the blue, two students had got together and produced stickers with red stars on them saying "renationalise buses" and plastered them all over the college.
Claire from SOAS spoke about their recent occupation and how "people are not just anti-capitalist. People want to know what the alternative is, and what socialism is all about. "Environmental issues are a major question. We've got to counter people's misconceptions about socialism. We want a sustainable future."
James from University College London said, "We're in occupation at the moment in defence of non-payers but people want to do more than that. They want to build a wave of occupations and a mass movement against fees." And Alan from Warwick spoke about how "some people think socialism has no thing to say about oppression, but socialists have a brilliant analysis of racism and gay oppression and the how the system itself is oppressive."
Sarah from Oxford told Socialist Worker, "It is great to see so many student activists with political ideas coming together. It is exciting to talk about these issues. Everyone has the same goals and ideals but there are many different perspectives and lots of controversy."
"The workshops were brilliant," said Hannah from Leicester University. "I went to one on economics because you can't just say that capitalism doesn't work. You have to know why it doesn't work and why it will never work." Ben, Mark and Katie from Heaton Manor School in Newcastle were at the conference. They said, "The forum on racism and injustice was really moving. The discussion on the environment was really interesting. There was a good mixture of opinions. Everyone joined in."
Catherine, one of a dozen people from Keele University at the conference, told Socialist Worker, "I came to find out more about socialism. I've learnt such a lot since I got here, partly from the meetings, which are really useful, but the best thing is sitting around having discussions with people."
Occupy against fees
STUDENTS AT University College London were occupying part of their college at the start of this week over tuition fees. The occupation began on Wednesday of last week when over 300 students met and voted to occupy immediately. "The whole thing started when we heard about the occupation at SOAS," says John from UCL. We called a meeting to try to spread the occupation but we lost the argument. But we campaigned hard in support of SOAS and when we met a week later people were convinced that occupations are the best way to fight." UCL management was expecting an occupation and had padlocked up the finance and admin corridor. "At first we occupied one of the college records offices, but it was a bit dingy and we weren't hitting management. But then we found an open window and got into the finance corridor anyway," says John. "We then barricaded ourselves in because we knew the college authorities would send in bailiffs to evict us."
That is exactly what happened on Thursday of last week. But the evicted students immediately met and decided to re-occupy another part of the building. We don't want UCL to expel anyone who can't pay their tuition fees. We don't want the college to even collect tuition fees. And we don't want any victimisations of those involved in the occupation."
- Demonstrate against tuition fees. Defend non-payers . Sunday 13 February, assemble 2pm, Cowley Place, Oxford.
Picket of FHM and Loaded Monday 14 February Assemble 1pm, James Clerk Maxwell Building, Stamford Street, London SE1
- Called by NUS Women's Campaign