Britain: Marxist students make their mark at freshers 2017

Since mid-September, Marxist students all over Britain have been signing people up to join Marxist societies at their universities.

In 2013, student supporters of Socialist Appeal decided to establish the Marxist Student Federation – a network of university Marxist societies that had been developing for several years. The Federation, and the Marxist societies that make it up, have as their goal nothing less than international socialist revolution.

Such ambitions have their basis in Marxist theory, of which the societies make a serious study through discussions and reading groups on texts by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. For the Marxist Student Federation, theory is a guide to action. We take to heart what Lenin said – that theory without action is sterile, and that action without theory is blind.

So far, Marxist students have been at freshers’ fairs in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Brunel, London South Bank, Queen Mary, Liverpool, Newcastle, Hull, Reading, Sussex, Portsmouth, Leeds, Manchester, London School of Economics (LSE), Kings College London (KCL), Swansea, University College London (UCL), Kent, Bristol, University of East Anglia (UEA), Southampton, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), Leicester, and De Montfort.

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Altogether 2,166 new university students have signed up to Marxist societies in the last couple of weeks, and several hundred have already attended the first meetings of the societies.

Through October, Marxist students will be at freshers’ fairs in Oxford, Cambridge, Warwick, Durham, Imperial, London Metropolitan, and Essex. Altogether this makes 31 campuses with a Marxist presence, with thousands of students nationally keen to get stuck into studying the ideas and how to apply them to the class struggle in the modern world.

Meetings in universities like Queen Mary and Kent have kicked off with the topic of What is Marxism and why is it relevant today? Meanwhile in Southampton and Liverpool the term started with discussions on From Brexit to Corbyn: is revolution possible in Britain?

Later this term Marxist society meetings will be discussing theoretical topics such as Marx’s Capital, 150 years since its first publication, and introducing Marxist philosophy. Historical issues such as the 50th anniversary of the death of Che Guevara and the Paris Commune of 1871 will also be discussed this term. And current events from Venezuela to North Korea will be covered by many societies. A particular highlight will be the celebration of Black History Month in October, with meetings ranging from The Black Struggle and Socialist Revolution to The Caribbean Revolutions and the end of the slave trade.

For the Marxist Student Federation our discussion meetings are a guide to action. Already this term the Marxist societies in Liverpool, Manchester, and Leeds mobilised their members to attend the demonstration against the Tory conference in Manchester.

The KCL Marxist society participated in the demonstration against precarious labour called by the IWGB union. And the Leeds Marxists will be attending the picket lines for a strike of University and College Union (UCU) staff members at the university next week. The Sussex Marxist society enthusiastically attended the Labour Party national conference in Brighton, including the 6,000-strong rally for Corbyn.

Marxist societies in a number of universities are also preparing campaigns to get Marxists elected as delegates to the National Union of Students (NUS) conference later this year. Marxists have set themselves the task, as a concrete and practical step in the fight for socialism, of winning the NUS to a radical left programme that will adopt bold socialist policies and militant tactics to link up with trade unions and fight for students and workers.

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At present, Marxist societies are also trying to link up with the Catalan solidarity movement. Members of the CUP pro-Catalan independence party will be addressing the first meeting of the Cambridge Marxist society. The Glasgow Marxists participated in a solidarity demonstration on the day of the independence vote. Other societies will be holding a meeting specifically on the situation in Catalonia as well. Several London Marxist students also attended a demonstration outside the Spanish embassy in defence of the independence referendum.

In London, the Marxist societies have organised a Karl Marx walking tour of the city where Marx lived, wrote Capital, published the Communist Manifesto, and founded the First International. The KCL Marxists have already had a Marxist picnic in on the banks of the Thames – the first of many joint social events for Marxist societies in London.

On 20-22 October, the Marxist Student Federation, jointly with Socialist Appeal, is hosting an international weekend Marxist festival in celebration of the centenary of the Russian Revolution. Esteban Volkov, the grandson of Leon Trotsky, will be speaking at this event via video link from Mexico.

This October Revolution festival will have sessions on Marxism and Art, Marxism and the Labour party, Trotsky’s theory of the Permanent Revolution, fascism and the far right, and many more. Speakers at the Saturday afternoon rally, titled Corbyn to Power on a Socialist Programme, include Steve Hedley, the assistant general secretary of the RMT union, and Danielle Tiplady, a leading activist in the Royal College of Nursing.

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This academic year has already gotten off to a great start for the forces of Marxism on campus. With a serious approach to theory, a dynamic approach to activism and a determination to link up the struggles of students and workers, the Marxist Student Federation is looking to grow even more this year. Whether it’s in our meetings, on the picket lines, in the NUS delegate election campaigns, or at the October Revolution festival, we’re looking forward to meeting you and welcoming you to the struggle for international socialist revolution.

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