The Lancaster Marxists’ activity in support of striking UCU members at Lancaster University has been a great success. We have been on the picket line every day speaking to staff; our comrades have given speeches at rallies raising Marxist demands; and, we were also invited to lead a UCU teach-in on the lessons of the revolutionary events of May 1968.
Throughout all of this, we have been providing input on how to build support for the strikes. In particular, the idea of a student-staff assembly – which would include members of other unions on campus like Unite and Unison – was keenly welcomed by the UCU members we talked to on picket-lines and teach-outs.
Building on the momentum of this campaign, we decided to organise a student walk-out to coincide with the last day of the strikes. We had to take this upon ourselves as the Lancaster Students Union disappointingly wanted nothing to do with the campaign. We did, however, work closely with the UCU branch to organise the demonstration.
In preparation for this walkout the Lancaster Marxists took the leading role in advertising and planning, with a number of postering and leafleting sessions, which gave us the opportunity to chat to other students about the strikes and their views on how higher education is run.
We discussed demands such as democratising education, explaining what it would mean to have a University run by students and staff. We also discussed accessible education and how we need full funding to make this happen!
Our campaign jointly took an optimistic outlook on the possible student participation but also the potential to link both student and worker struggles in a unified demonstration.
This optimism – unfamiliar within other groups on campus – was well founded. We received passionate and equally radical whilst handing out flyers, during our organised meetings and our intervention in student representative faculties.
The walkout was a modest success with around 100 people participating at the demo on the centre of campus, including many members of the UCU. This was one of the largest turnouts for a joint student-staff demo on campus in recent years.
Our comrades gave three speeches. One dealt with the barriers that working class people face in attaining a good education, in particular those who need learning support. Another raised the need for students having more control over education. Lastly, a comrade spoke of how free and fair education is something that benefits the whole of society, and therefore shouldn’t be treated as a money-making scheme in the hands of fatcat managers. These were all well-received.
However, our job doesn’t end here. The need to harness this radical energy and use it to build a fighting, socialist movement of students and staff is more urgent than ever.