School strikes and demos - a user's guide

There are a number of important things to remember if a strike or a demonstration is going to be effective. First, make sure that there are a lot of other school students who are angry about the war - preferably teachers too. Make sure everybody is well informed about recent events and background issues. Use the school notice board, school magazine, Stop the War Coalition leaflets and stickers and leftwing papers. Get posters from the local STWC. Make your own posters and banners. Work out slogans. Talk to teachers whom you trust. Talk to other school students during breaks. Talk to your parents. But do not bank on their active support. You must be prepared for the worst. You must be prepared to be punished. You must be prepared for the local and national media - papers, TV and radio - to distort the facts and denigrate you and what you have done. You must be prepared for some of your friends to give in when parents and the head teacher bully them. A demonstration does not need to be a walkout. Its form depends on what you want to achieve. You could refuse to go to the lessons of a ranting, pro-war teacher who will not permit debate or you could stage a protest meeting during break time. Remember, though, by staying in school you and your friends, especially the younger ones, can more easily be intimidated by teachers. Whatever protest you stage, do not be put off by threats. Work out your demands in consultation with others: eg, an assembly addressed by a STWC speaker or the right to display anti-war posters. Stand up for what you believe. Be clear about what you want. Be polite but firm. Show courage. After a demonstration, if anyone is singled out for having initiated the action, support them. Be loyal. Go with them if they are to be told off or punished. Go to the press and media. Produce your own leaflets after any protest or strike. Put out a statement for the establishment and leftwing media. Phone or email the STWC or the Weekly Worker if you need help. Make sure that promises made during your strike or demonstration are delivered after it is over. Write down what was said and by whom. Do not believe all the offers or fall for the flattery. Welcome those teachers who say they are willing to discuss. Remember though that people should be judged by what they do, not what they say. This applies to teachers and school students alike.