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Free Education Demonstration: Educate, Agitate, Organise!

August Thalheimer | 26.02.2009 14:57 | Social Struggles

Around 600 students gathered at SOAS University to demand free education and a living grant for all. Although numbers were slightly lower than had been initially expected, it was very encouraging to see students turn out in such numbers in an action that was organised completely independently of the National Union of Students – the first time since the late 1990s. It may also underline the fluidity of the current period we are entering into against the backdrop of the greatest crisis of capitalism since the 1930s.

But we should also be clear that this demonstration consisted of little more than the left groups, a handful of ‘left’ unions who had mobilised and a contingent of anarchists. This was palpably clear to those from London who arrived slightly early to the demonstration – until some of the buses arrived from places like Edinburgh, Manchester and Sussex we were in the rather odd situation of having at least 6 left groups gathered but hardly nobody to leaflet or speak to – indeed, some comrades even began to speak to each other, swap papers and leaflets etc. It’s good to talk.

CS comrades intervened in the demonstration. Echoing Willhelm Liebknecht’s call for Marxist parties internationally, our banner clearly spelt out the tasks the student movement should set itself: Educate, Agitate, Organise!

We distributed special copies of Communist Student and discussed with activists and demonstrators. We also led some (deliberately provocative) chants about the need to organise to fight the capitalism system and struggle for socialism.

The notion that an action like this could somehow serve as a springboard to a “new national union” is illusory. For us, it is politics that matter if we are to be able to cohere a movement that can fight and win. Having three different free education campaigns with almost exactly the same name and not a cigarette paper between their political perspectives can only hinder our movement. Student unions are not trade unions in the sense of unions like the RMT, ASLEF or even Unison because the relationship between student and university is not that of worker and boss. But even if it were, it is hardly the duty of Marxists to put forward trade unionist politics which are by definition sectional and insufficient.

The overriding task of the student movement is to struggle for a national Marxist student organisation. This would be able to:

Educate: Organise debates and discussions necessary to overcome the political and theoretical shallowness of the left – forging genuine unity and educating comrades both new and old, perhaps drawing in sympathetic academics and thinkers
Agitate: Create effective unity in action and not the wasteful duplication of political activity we currently see – constantly and unwaveringly bringing to the fore that the fight against fees, the struggle against imperialist slaughter, economic disaster etc is inexorably linked up with the struggle for communism – “the liberation of all human beings without distinction of race or sex”
Organise: Patiently starting to establish genuine Marxist roots on campus, in workplace struggles, in the field of culture, entertainment and sport and thus taking a key step towards the establishment of what we need to resist the capitalist crisis – a party of Marxists as Marxists – a Communist Party.

CS comrades will be meeting up this weekend in order to discuss the way forward for the student movement and how we can step up our campaigning work to fight for politics that can get the organised ‘Marxist’ left out of the current cynical ‘broad front’ ‘vanguard party’ morass in which it finds itself. Crucial to this must be the fight for honesty democracy and openness to break the left from the bureaucratic centralist organisational norms it has slept walked into.

We appeal to students interested in leading a class fightback to join us and to educate, agitate and organise for the politics of Marxism in all spheres of life – the only viable political alternative to the rotting system of capitalism.

August Thalheimer
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