The last year has seen an explosion of mass movements across the world, with students often playing a significant role. These developments are taking place in Britain too, with a radicalisation of students around the climate strikes and overwhelming support amongst young people for a socialist Labour government.
The Marxist Student Federation is playing an important role in these events. Over the last few months it has become a reference point for left-wing students on campuses looking for radical ideas, and has mobilised forces in support of the climate strikes and UCU strikes and in support of a Labour government, through the Students4Corbyn campaign. For a more detailed account of the role played by the Marxist Student Federation in the last year, see below.
This year's MSF conference - on 15 February - will undoubtedly be the best yet, with students coming from across the country to discuss the earth-shaking events of the last year. There will be discussions on the revolutionary movements happening across the world; on the climate strikes (with guest speaker Leonid Shaidurov, a leading organiser of the climate strike movement in Russia); and on the building of a socialist youth movement in Britain and beyond.
The last four months have been filled with activity for the Marxist Student Federation. 2019 saw powerful movements explode around the world, and Britain has been no exception.
The new academic year kicked off with our most successful freshers period yet. We were present at 36 universities and signed up close to 3,200 people to our Marxist societies. This translated into over 700 people attending our first meetings of the term.
What we’ve seen in Britain and on the world scale is symptomatic of the crisis of capitalism. This is set to be the theme of our annual conference taking place on 15 February in London, with hundreds of students from around the UK meeting to discuss these events.
The huge climate strikes that took place last September are evidence of the anti-establishment mood. Marxist students were present in at least 15 cities at these protests across the UK.
We say that capitalism is the cause of climate change. In order to overcome that we need class politics. The climate strikes organised by Fridays for Future have transformed the debate around climate change and engaged a new generation of youth in politics.
However, for the strikes to enact change, they must be built in coordination with the labour movement. Our comrades internationally are putting forward this position and we do so here as well.
On top of this, we had the UCU strikes. In 2018, lecturers went on strike over the period of a month to fight against attacks on their pensions. The strike ended with a compromise from the UCU leadership. Since then, UCU has seen a change in leadership with the election of Jo Grady – a left-winger.
In late 2019, UCU staff took 8 days of strike action, and Marxist students across the country made sure to stand in solidarity with striking staff on the picket lines. Buoyed by the announcement of the general election, the mood amongst the staff and students was enthusiastic. In Leeds, the Marxist Society led the student solidarity action, providing coordination for the left on campus.
The mandate for strike action went beyond Christmas, and if they continue this year, the MSF will once again be in support of our university staff.
One of the largest events was the general election. We launched the Students4Corbyn campaign, working with Labour societies where we could to mobilise student support for Corbyn. In Sheffield, for example, in conjunction with the Labour society, our comrades planned mass canvassing sessions every single week leading up to the election. This helped keep the Sheffield Hallam seat red.
At every campus, we made sure students were registering to vote, and put forward our argument for a socialist Labour government. We supported Corbyn and the manifesto, but urged that in order to see through the policies and reforms promised, a Labour government would have to go much further and expropriate big business.
In the 2017 election, youth were firmly behind Corbyn. In 2019, we saw the same. Statistics show the majority of young people backed Labour. Evidently, this was simply not enough to overcome the Brexit divide that has defined politics for so many in the last few years.
However, we are confident that our fight against the Tories will go from strength to strength. Johnson’s demagogic appeal to certain layers of the working class will not be easily maintained.
Many in the ruling class believe the Labour defeat signals the end of left-wing politics in the UK. A “sensible return” to the centre ground is what they desire. They are wrong. The centre ground is dead.
Young people who were radicalised by the Corbyn movement will not simply disappear. They will form the basis of a new surge in the class struggle, one that is capable of transforming the country.
Linking up with the working class
Despite the scandalous intervention of the courts to prevent the CWU striking before Christmas, our comrades were and remain ready to stand with workers who take their struggle to the industrial plane in the new year.
It the job of students to link up with the working class. That is the role of the MSF and we will take the lessons of 2019 into this new year. Now is the most important time to be organised, to take the fight to the Tories and the capitalist system they uphold. Join us!