By Thomas Foster
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Swansea students victorious over divestment demands

It's an example of the strength of action
Issue 2809
Student encampment at Swansea university (Photo: @swanseaswss)

Student encampment at Swansea university (Photo: @swanseaswss)

The Swansea student encampment has won a commitment from the university management to divest £5 million from Barclays bank.

After seven months of campaigners protesting against Barclays, which provides billions in loans to companies that provide weapons to Israel, it is one of the most significant concessions won by Palestinian protesters yet.

Socialist Worker can reveal that the management has also committed to ensuring that all its investments follow an ethical investment policy. And it says it will change the scholarship policy so that Palestinian students can access them and to not repress any political speech on campus.

The Swansea university chancellor has emailed students at the encampments these commitments in writing, which Socialist Worker has seen.

Jack, a student involved in the encampment, said there was a jubilant mood. “We wanted to make sure that our university can look back at this moment in history and say it didn’t stand idly by,” he said.

“We weren’t content to watch our tuition fees go towards the atrocities in Gaza. It is impossible to ignore.

“We do bear responsibility in this country for what happens overseas,” Jack said.

“Imperialism isn’t just men in red coats stealing jewels from countries. The money we have in this country is being used to fund Israel’s genocide,” he argued.

The crucial strategy of the encampment, which was set up on 1 May, was pushing outwards and incorporating wider forces on campus.

Jack said, “We realised that the university hated bad publicity, and so we tried to create as much bad publicity for the university as possible—targeting students at the university and online.”

The Swansea encampment actively set out to involve “people on campus who initially weren’t convinced of radical action but believed in the Palestinian cause”.

“We spent a lot of effort winning over staff members, union branches, and student union full-time officers to give more power to our demands.”

The encampment held rallies focused on how much money the university had invested in companies complicit with Israel’s apartheid.

“A huge number of staff members come down to support the encampment,” Jack said.

“We had teach-outs and cultural events where we focused on bringing more people into the encampment and winning them to political action.”

And being focused outwards enabled the encampment to grow. Jack said that the first night was “just a few socialists sticking it out all night”. But subsequently, the numbers grew.

Jack went through the meetings the students had with management. “In the first meeting, they were dismissive.

“In the second meeting, we came with more support. We presented a letter of solidarity from the university’s UCU union branch and held a rally,” he said.

“The rally was important, it showed management they weren’t just meeting with people in the room, but with the Palestine movement.”

He said that “the encampments are an effective place to build wider Palestinian solidarity within the student body”. “The encampments can sway management if they get enough public support.”

The encampment packed up on Friday. But the students are going to “continue doing targeted actions over the summer” to ensure their demands are met.

Palestine activists across Britain should throw themselves into supporting the student encampments. The success of Swansea students shows the strength of action.

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