The last few decades in higher education have been marred by marketisation. The pandemic then saw some of the worst conditions yet for students and staff.
Students were locked away in tiny rooms, forced to pay extortionate rents, lied to about “blended learning” and, for non-white students, increased racist abuse. As a result, one student a week committed suicide during the last academic year.
Crisis of capitalism
Lecturers and non-academic staff were not treated any better. They were given no resources or training, and forced to work twice as hard.
The simple truth is that this was not just a product of coronavirus, but of the general crisis of capitalism. Only a month before the first lockdown hit, UCU lecturers had been striking against pension cuts.
Last year, students across the country engaged in rent strikes, to fight back against this marketisation.
Despite not being caged into rooms this year, their situation is still dire. University halls are still charging extortionate fees to live in tiny rooms. Students’ education is still being eroded. And with rising inflation, student loans are not enough to live on.
Anger and action
It is no surprise then that students are still angry; and both academic and non-academic staff are also stirring. Now, as the country begins to open back up, the old wounds of the pay-freeze, pension disputes, and the general marketisation of education are opening up again.
Unison members have already started to fight back, with a ballot over the real-wage cuts being put forward. And the UCU is to ballot members at over 150 universities for strike action over pension cuts, pay, and working conditions.
Unity and solidarity
Workers and students have been treated with callous disdain throughout the COVID crisis. This will only get worse – unless we fight back.
The truth is that students and staff on campus face the same system, and must therefore unite in the same fight. It is only with unity and solidarity in each other's struggles that we can fight against this system.
Ultimately, the working conditions of UCU and Unison staff on campus are the students’ learning conditions. It is only through fighting for a fully-funded, fully-free-education system that we can end this crisis of education!
Students and workers: unite and fight!
Marxist Student Federation
Capitalism has reached a dead end. Whilst billions across the world face chaos and crisis on a historical scale, a tiny handful of billionaires owns an obscene amount of wealth.
We are therefore fighting to overthrow capitalism, and to establish a socialist society based upon the planning of production for human need rather than for profit.
To achieve this, we need ideas that offer a proper understanding and analysis of the world around us; ideas that provide a guide to revolutionary action. That is why we base ourselves on the theories of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky.
As Lenin stated: “Without revolutionary theory, there can be no revolutionary movement.”
There are a lot of lies and distortions about Marx and Marxism. That is no accident. Marxism is the only political theory that genuinely strikes fear into the heart of the ruling class. That is why the establishment deploys every means at their disposal to keep young people from studying these ideas, which threaten their rule.
As Marx himself said; “Philosophers have interpreted the world in various ways, the point however is to change it”. Any worker, any student is able to read and understand Marxism. That is the point of it. It is time to #ReadMarx for yourself.— Marxist Student (@MarxistStudent) September 20, 2021
Join one of our reading groups NOW!✊ pic.twitter.com/rkJxyqlHhK
In academia in particular, everything Marx ever wrote is distorted. His ideas are made utterly obscure, or are simply falsified.
But Marxism is no academic exercise. Marx – and every truly Marxist theoretician that followed him – did not devote their lives to writing texts just out of ‘academic interest’. They wrote theory in order to explain why the world is the way it is; to provide the lessons of the experiences of the workers’ struggles, so that armed and equipped with such a theory, the working class can seize power.
As Marx himself said; “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.”
So there is no need to waste time reading about how academics interpret Marx; or about what academics have to say about Marx. Instead, it’s time to read Marx for yourself.
The Marxist Student Federation is taking this task seriously. That is why we are launching our #ReadMarx campaign, with reading groups in over 35 cities on the classics of Marxism.
There is no time to waste. We need to educate, agitate, and organise. So join one of our reading groups today, and start learning about the ideas needed to fight for revolution.
Thirst for revolutionary ideas on campuses – Join the Marxist Student Federation!
Marxist Student Federation
This year’s university freshers period has started with a bang for the Marxist Student Federation (MSF), with enormous energy and fantastic reports from activists on campuses across the country.
The first couple of weeks of the new academic year have seen Marxist society stalls at a range of universities, including Oxford Brookes, Strathclyde, Glasgow, Manchester Met, Falmouth, Greenwich, Cambridge ARU, Coventry, Sussex, Leeds Beckett, Leeds, Nottingham, Nottingham Trent, Newcastle, University of the Arts London, University of East London, University of East Anglia and many more.
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Initial indicators show an enormous thirst for the ideas of Marxism amongst the newest crop of university students.
In Manchester Met, for example, the first meeting saw an amazing turnout of 40. In Glasgow, the Marxist Society had an incredible 50 attendees at its opening event, with many more coming along for the social afterwards as well.
Thanks to everyone who came along to our freshers meeting and sub crawl last night! It was a really good discussion and a great tour around the city. Your generosity raised £50 for the society and we hope to see you all at our next meetings. ✊🚩 pic.twitter.com/1rGLGO39Au— Glasgow Marxists (@GlasgowMarxists) September 17, 2021
The MSF is also present in schools and colleges. Comrades at a school in north west London, for example, hosted a discussion on the articles in the latest Revolution youth paper, with 10 students attending.
The mood amongst students and youth today is extremely radical, with many new MSF sign-ups already calling themselves Marxists and revolutionaries.
This was seen at many early MSF meetings on the topic of Why Marx was right. As one of our comrades in Glasgow mentioned:
“Convinced that a revolution is necessary and possible, MarxSoc attendees asked the most important question of all: what can we do? To which we replied: Educate ourselves in the ideas of Marxism and build the forces of revolution!”
The MSF is also making inroads into new places, with debut stalls at the freshers’ fairs in Oxford Brookes and Cambridge ARU this year – both of which gained a positive reception.
And this is only the beginning. The MSF will be present for freshers’ fairs at dozens more universities in the coming weeks, signing up hundreds of students to Marxist societies up and down the country.
We’ll be hosting political discussion meetings and Marxist reading groups, week-in, week-out. We’ll be linking up with staff on campuses to campaign, support strikes, and defend education. And we’ll be organising to attend the Revolution Festival and COP26 climate protests in large numbers.
So get involved today! Join your local Marxist society! Join the revolution!
Further education lecturers in Liverpool prepare to strike
Lecturers at further education colleges are taking strike action over pay. We spoke to Nina Doran, secretary of the UCU liaison committee at the City of Liverpool College.
What is the national coordinated strike all about? How many colleges are involved?
The strike is about pay. FE pay has been cut by approximately 30%. There are now 13 colleges taking action. The college employer body (the AOC) recommended a 1% pay offer, and FE unions have condemned this as an insult. We are demanding more.
In the City of Liverpool College you also have a local dispute. What is the issue?
The employer aims to divide staff over pay – they have offered a 2% pay increase that is linked to a worsened contract. That means some staff will gain a very small pay offer, while others will get nothing. Coupled with this, the new contract increases the teaching workload even more, and so threatens the quality of teaching and learning.
The college finances are graded outstanding, so we want to push hard for our fair share. We have one of the highest paid principals in the country, so this really does tell us that the money is there. We need to show the employer that loyalty goes both ways. And we know our worth after working through the pandemic and sacrificing so much to put students first.
What is the plan of action?
Our first day of action is Tuesday 28 September, followed by two further days the following week on the 6 and 7 October; then to be escalated further, if we have to, with additional dates.
What support have you got from other UCU members? And from other trade unions?
Unison reps in college have been very supportive. They joined a meeting we had with local MP Kim Johnson, and made it clear that the way teachers have been treated over pay is unfair at that meeting, to their members and to management.
Our fellow UCU members at Liverpool University – in their strike against redundancies – have been an inspiration in terms of what can be achieved if you are loyal to each other.
We will be reaching out to all colleges and unis in the north west too.
You say that teachers in FE have fallen well behind teachers elsewhere. What is the overall state of further education, in Liverpool and nationally?
It is about £9k difference. And conditions of service are much different – eg. The teaching contact is higher, and teaching across many different courses and action; higher education courses as well as further education.
We struggle for basic resources, and for basic effective IT. And in a lot of cases, teachers have told me that they need to buy their own stationery.