A Marxist manifesto for the student movementOctober 12, 2018
There is something seriously wrong with the world. In a time when there has never been more wealth on the planet, we are going to inherit a society from our parents in which our standard of living will be far worse than theirs.
We are going to have to work until we are older, for less money and then receive a pittance of a pension. We will struggle to ever have a secure place to live. We will have costly and lower quality healthcare. Our children will attend poorer, sub-standard schools. Environmental catastrophe could eradicate millions of people’s homes and lives.
There are enough resources in the world that none of this has to happen. But all the wealth and the natural resources are in the hands of the 1%. They don’t care about improving our lives – they only care about making profit for themselves.
We don’t have to take this lying down. We can fight for our future – the future of all young people. If we don’t stand up for ourselves no one else will. Our fight isn’t just against one particular regime. It’s against the capitalist system as a whole – a system based on greed, corruption, private property and exploitation. The mess the billionaire class have made of our future is not a case of capitalism gone wrong – this is the best that capitalism has to offer.
For this fight we need a serious and organised approach. We should study the history of class war and revolution – this is the theory of Marxism. And we need to get stuck into today’s class struggle on a local, national and international scale.
It is ordinary people who go to work every day under increasingly difficult conditions and for increasingly low pay who keep society going. If landlords and shareholders don’t show up to work, nobody notices. But if the people who staff the shops, do the paperwork, and actually produce goods and services don’t show up, then everything grinds to a halt. The power in society is in the hands of the workers, not the bosses, and our task is to fight alongside the working class to make use of this power wherever we can.
Student politics has mostly always been a sideshow of wannabe MPs practising the fine arts of hypocrisy, posturing and careerism, with a grossly overinflated sense of their own importance. We shouldn’t tolerate this self-indulgence anymore.
We are proposing a Marxist manifesto for the student movement. Students need to be part of the workers’ struggle against that class of people who would sacrifice all of us, workers and students, for fatter profits. We’re for international socialist revolution. We’re not interested in patching up a failed system – we want to smash capitalism and build a new society based on need, not profit.
Like any movement to change the world, we have to start somewhere. We’re students, so we’re going to start with our student unions and the National Union of Students. They have the power to lead millions of students in Britain with revolutionary socialist politics and link them up with the struggles of ordinary people fighting to defend their living standards.
If you want to fight for a fundamental change in society then you need to join the Marxists. Attend and organise Marxist societies at schools and universities; support Marxist candidates in student elections; and run in student elections with a Marxist manifesto.
This manifesto outlines our strategy to link the student and workers’ movements in the struggle for socialism. We’re under no illusions that this will be easily achieved. We’ll have to fight hard. But when the stakes are as high as they are right now – when our future happiness and even our survival are on the line – this is a fight worth joining.
Students and workers: unite and fight
Central to our fight to change society is linking the student movement with the class struggle. We need a campaigning strategy that is coordinated with the trade unions, the labour movement, and the entire working class.
We want joint meetings and campaigns with trade union branches and organisations over local, regional, national and international issues facing students and young workers. We want a public and bold joint strategy by student unions and trade unions to fight for the rights of workers’ and young people and to fight against capitalism, including escalating demonstrations and strikes.
As part of this strategy, we want to campaign, locally and nationally, to sign up post-graduate students and university academic staff to the University and College Union (UCU), to sign up non-academic staff to relevant unions (Unison/Unite etc.), and to sign up teachers to the National Education Union (NEU).
Lots of students are also workers, often in low paid, zero-hours jobs. We want to get these students unionised and able to fight, as organised workers, for decent pay and conditions.
We want coordinated student walkouts in solidarity with workers who are taking strike action. And we are for a national campaign to raise funds to support workers on strike.
We must fight to give the student and trade union movement a political expression. Our strategy of co-ordination between students and workers must aim to bring down the Tory government. We need to put pressure on Jeremy Corbyn and other anti-austerity politicians to guarantee that, when in power, they will take whatever measures are necessary to carry through their left-wing policies. This means preparing for a struggle against the right-wingers and the bosses and bankers, who will do everything possible to sabotage a left-wing government.
Students must not underestimate the role we can play in this fight. In the 2017 General Election, it was the student vote that swung Canterbury to Labour after 100 years as a safe Tory seat. We want to organise and mobilise the student movement in this way, as an important auxiliary force in the economic and political struggles of the working class.
Fight for free education
With a united struggle of students and workers, we can fight for free education. We want to campaign alongside teaching unions and anti-austerity politicians against cuts and closures to university courses, further education colleges and school teaching staff.
We think education should be free for everyone, throughout the whole of their lives. We should get rid of the idea that education ends artificially at the age of 16 or 18 or 21. If people want to continue their studies as adults and alongside their work then education should be made freely available to them, and they should be given the necessary time off and childcare provision. We want to campaign for this alongside trade unions in all sectors of the economy and to argue for this as a central plank of Corbyn’s proposed National Education Service.
We stand for a society in which work and education are not artificially separated. Practical work and academic study should both be part of a person’s life from youth to old age. We stand for the integration of mental and manual education, so that, for example, every construction worker is also an architect.
Achieving this means keeping education free from the influence of big business. Along with the teaching unions, we want to build a campaign against academies, because they are the first step towards the privatisation of schools. We want to link this to a campaign alongside local authorities to demand sufficient funding from the government to maintain good quality schools, a campaign that will bring down the Tory government and replace it with one that will take the necessary measures to provide this funding.
We are opposed to the privatisation of student accommodation and other student services at universities, because this causes universities to be run for the profits of private companies, instead of for the sake of education. We want to Corbyn to deepen his proposed programme of nationalisations to include all those businesses that are currently running student services.
We want schools, colleges and universities to be run cooperatively by students, parents, teachers, academics and staff. We stand for democratic control of schools, colleges and universities by elected representatives, not unelected management. We want elected managers to be paid the same wage as teachers and staff, not university vice-chancellors who earn six-figure salaries while academic staff are taking pay cuts.
We are in favour of democratically run schools, colleges and universities to formulate a common national, and even international, strategy for education, based on the needs of students and society as a whole. If the NHS needs more nurses, then the education system should concentrate on training more nurses. If we need more builders, then more courses in construction should be offered.
We want a democratically decided plan of investment in research and development at universities, based on the needs of society. We’re firmly opposed to private companies, which are run for profit, dictating which research projects get funding and which don’t.
Housing and health
We stand for full living grants for all students over the age of 16. This is because giving students sufficient money to survive on will allow them to live and eat healthily, improving their mental and physical wellbeing.
We stand for the abolition of all student debt, which hangs around the necks of people long after they complete their studies as a source of anxiety and stress.
We stand for free, good quality accommodation for all students. To achieve this, we want a coordinated national campaign of rent strikes among students. Local rent strike committees should be formed, rent strike organisers should be trained and a rent strike fund should be established to cover any costs to students incurred by participating in rent strikes.
We want to link student rent strikes to local, regional, and national housing campaigns and tenants’ unions. We want the land, the housing stock, and the biggest construction companies to be nationalised under the democratic control of working class people. Then we can provide housing for everyone, students and workers, on the basis of who needs it – not who can pay the most for it.
We are opposed to the privatisation of the NHS and student health services which damages the quality of and access to healthcare. We are opposed to cuts to NHS funding and to bursaries for student nurses. We are for massive public investment in health services and want to campaign jointly on this issue with the doctors’, nurses’, and other health workers’ trade unions.
With these measures on housing and health, we can put a stop to the mental and physical health crisis that afflicts thousands of us ‒ this crisis has its roots in the capitalist system and its stranglehold over our education and employment.
Oppression and exploitation
We are opposed to oppression and exploitation in all its forms. Racism, sexism, homophobia and every other form of bigotry can and should be rendered extinct throughout society. Moreover, nobody should be prevented from accessing an education due to poverty, or suffer through miserable, low-paying work upon entering the employment.
We demand that free childcare be provided at all schools, colleges and universities, so that everyone has equal access to education. And we stand for full living grants for all students so that no one loses out on education because they can’t afford to take time off work. Being a student is a full-time occupation and no one should be forced to work to survive whilst trying to study.
For those students who have jobs we are for their organisation as workers to fight for better rights at work. We are opposed to the casualisation of graduate teaching assistants. We are in favour of the living wage for apprentices. We are for the prohibition of zero-hours contracts, on which many young people and students are employed and through which they are exploited. We are in favour of flexibility of working hours on our terms, and based on our needs, not those of the bosses.
We are opposed to the Prevent legislation, because it is an attack on civil liberties that disproportionately targets Muslim students, and is increasingly being used against radical left-wing students. We stand for a mass campaign aimed at winning staff over to the side of students, and refusing to cooperate with the government on this scheme.
We stand for the unity of the working class and students, whose collective action is the weapon with which we will stamp out oppression and exploitation of all kinds.
We stand for international solidarity with students and workers fighting for their rights and a better world, from South Africa to Brazil, from the USA to Palestine.
We want to raise funds from the student and labour movement to help the class struggle in countries around the world. And we want local and national meetings to debate, discuss and issue public statements of support for the international class struggle.
We are opposed to the racism and xenophobia experienced by immigrants, including the discrimination faced by international students. We are for the abolition of all tuition fees for international students. And we are opposed to the policy of sending international students out of the country as soon as their degree is completed.
Building a mass movement
We stand for the creation of an active mass movement in which millions of students and workers can participate, based on the policies in this manifesto. This is the only way to make student unions relevant to the lives of students – by involving them in a struggle to improve their lives in a meaningful way, and fighting to change society.
We want the creation of local grassroots campaigning groups, of students and workers, which can hold discussion and planning meetings on the ideas in this manifesto, and put campaigns for policies in this manifesto into practice.
We want to see a massive and permanent social media campaign in which millions of students can participate, to get these ideas and campaigns into the public eye.
We stand for the creation of a school student union that can give voice and representation to students of all ages, and bring them into the struggle for radical political change by linking up and coordinating with the NUS and the teaching unions.
Mass engagement with student unions will be dependent on bold policies and well-coordinated campaigns that capture the burning desire for radical change in society.
For a future free from capitalism
As a society, we have the resources to achieve all the demands in this manifesto. The banks, the biggest businesses, and the wealthiest individuals have enormous cash reserves and private ownership over the entire economy. We demand that the rich pay to give young people a future.
Some people say that taxing the rich and big businesses is the way to make them pay for decent education, housing and healthcare. We agree that the rich should pay, but we say that the only way to make them pay is to take them over. The biggest landlords, the banks, and the biggest businesses should be nationalised immediately and without one penny of compensation paid to the wealthy owners who have been getting rich by exploiting the rest of us for decades.
On that basis, not only could we fund free education, but we could rationally and democratically plan the economy, with the full participation and control of the working class. That would be the only way of linking up the needs of society with the ability of the education system and the economy to satisfy them.
This would be a system based on need, not profit. It would be a socialist society. And to achieve it we have to overthrow the capitalist system which puts profit above all else.
Together with the organised working class, we can overthrow the capitalist order ‒ run by the rich, for the rich ‒ and transform society into one fit for humanity.
There can be no free education without socialism, and no socialism without revolution. Students and workers ‒ unite and fight!