A new generation of students is coming into politics. Communist Students has been recruiting through the country and, as our three short reports show, it is clear that a new mood exists
Communist Students made a very successful intervention at the University of Manchester’s freshers fair, meeting some interesting new comrades and signing up 80 students to the new student society.
The continued trend towards commodification of university life was very much in evidence. Many students seemed to have turned up merely for freebies, with banks and businesses just as rife as union societies. Comrades had the rather amusing experience of witnessing the various clubs and businesses competing against each other - which almost led to a ruckus on more than one occasion. After last year’s failure to ban the military from campus, army recruitment officers were, as ever, out in force.
With the Socialist Worker Student Society and Socialist Students also having stalls, comrades faced the oft asked question, ‘Why are there so many left groups?’ We responded to what is, after all, sometimes a healthy frustration by explaining the CS view that the left must come together - on a principled Marxist basis.
This was generally well received - even the politically inexperienced are incredulous at the notion that the left can only unite by watering down its politics. Iranian students were particularly receptive to our message and many were impressed by the consistent work of CS within the Hands Off the People of Iran campaign in general, and its links with Students for Freedom and Equality in particular.
Another feature of freshers week was the rather dubious treat of very loud ‘Christian rap’ booming at us throughout the fair. But we were able to talk to a good number of Christian students, many of whom were interested to hear our ideas on what a ‘better sort’ of society would entail.
There were the usual questions to be fielded. Were we Stalinists, who wholeheartedly supported the Soviet Union? Is Marxism relevant at all? Of course, in the present economic climate, increasing numbers of students are now giving this serious consideration - something the left must actively encourage.
The Kings College London freshers fair of September 18 and 19 was a good opportunity for the recently established KCL Hands Off the People of Iran group to put across its politics.
Although, perhaps unsurprisingly, the ‘campaigns’ section of the fair was generally less populated than elsewhere, the reception was good, with many interesting discussions, and over 80 signatories to the campaign statement obtained. Some of these students will hopefully become committed supporters involved with the campaign, especially following the upcoming Hopi launch at KCL.
The security presence at the fair was incredibly excessive, with every student subject to a search prior to entrance. This resulted in a terribly slow incoming flow of people. Bureaucratic regulations which permitted a maximum of just two people staffing each stall was another difficulty. This entirely unwarranted restriction proved almost impossible to police, however, despite the best efforts of the authorities.
At least the Communist Students stall outside the main hall was able to benefit from the long, slow-moving queues, allowing those waiting to get into the fair plenty of time to examine the stall’s contents and debate with our comrades. Again, much interest was shown, and the freshers fair edition of Communist Student was widely distributed (and hopefully read!).
The intervention was, then, largely a success, upon which activities both for CS and Hopi can be built at KCL.
The fair at School of Oriental and Asian Studies was successful. Lots of people showed an interest in the CS stall and were happy to talk when approached. Hopi also went down well.
Most people we spoke to had some grasp of leftwing politics, and I had some productive discussions about anarchism, Stalinism, Iran, etc. In general there was a more political feel to the event than previous freshers fairs I have attended.
Personal highlights included trying to explain myself to a distraught Falun Gong supporter, being laughed at by a bloke who after some discussion turned out actually to be a communist, and being asked by a future Sandhurst recruit if there were any socialist organisations that “weren’t completely anti-war”. I resisted the temptation to direct him to the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty.
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