Planting the Red Flag on Campus – Part OneSeptember 24, 2014
Over the past couple of weeks Marxist students all over the country have been attending university freshers fairs and holding their first meetings of the term with hundreds of students who are eager to learn about the ideas of Marxism and their relevance to today’s world. Below are reports from some areas who have had their freshers fairs already. Stay tuned for many more to come over the next couple of weeks! (See Part Two for more reports)
We had an official freshers’ stall on one day of the freshers’ fair, which was in a marquee in the main building of the University. In addition to this we also had a separate stall set up in another part of the main building. Throughout the day the stalls were manned by comrades from the Marxist society and Socialist Appeal.
Due to limited space at the fair because of the large number of official societies we only had the stall in the marquee on Tuesday but on Wednesday we still set another separate stall in the main building. Across both days we were able to sell large amounts of Marxist material to interested students, including pamphlets written by society members, as well as some copies of the Socialist Appeal newspaper and a couple of In Defence of Marxism theoretical journals. We also received several small donations to the society (in return for homemade cookies and shortbread – which helped draw people in!) In total we raised £45 for the society. The main achievement of the fair was us signing up a total of 148 people for the society, which is even more people than last year’s freshers’ fair.
Overall across both days there was a good mood amongst the students and many people who signed up for the society seemed very enthusiastic about coming to our planned events over the coming weeks.
Following this very successful freshers’ fair we followed this up by having its first event of the semester on the Thursday of the same week. The title of the event was “What is Marxism and Why Does it Matter?”, which was a lead-off given by Daniel Morley from Socialist Appeal in which he gave a brief but thorough introduction into the ideas of Marxism followed by an hour long discussion. This was followed by a pub crawl entitled the “Red Clydeside Pub Crawl”, which involved getting off at a few stops on the Glasgow subway which were near locations of historical socialist interest and past working class mobilisation and briefly discussing the events which took place at the relevant stations, which considering Glasgow’s history was quite a lot!
These events were very well attended, with around 40 people attending the discussion and from this attendance around 15 came along on the pub crawl. The discussion following the lead-off was lively and included people bringing up a wide range of topics from spiritualism to democracy under socialism. The pub crawl proved to be very well received, as it was last year.
To sum up, our first event of the semester was an overwhelming success, and it suggests that the Glasgow Marxists are going to have another excellent year.
We had two stalls at Edinburgh University Freshers’ Fair: one in the societies fair inside the University venue, and a stall outside on the street with books and papers for the passers-by. The stalls were manned by members of the Marxist Society and supporters of Socialist Appeal. The first day was quite busy, and we got over 60 people signed up to the society mailing list. The second day was much quieter but we still managed to sign up a handful more people to the society.
We had an introductory meeting at which Rob Sewell, editor of Socialist Appeal introduced the discussion. This was attended by around 15 people, 10 of whom were new students.
The discussion was lively and interesting with most of the people who attended our meeting joining us for drinks afterwards to continue the discussion. We are looking forward to this new period as one in which we will be able to engage with the youth who have become politically involved during the last few months, and are looking for a way forward after the referendum.
The Manchester freshers fair took place on the 16th and 17th September. Members of the Marxist Society and supporters of Socialist Appeal were on the stall in the fair over the two days. This is our first year as an official society and we attracted a lot of interest and managed to gain exactly 100 people signed up to the society over the two days.
On the Wednesday evening we had a meeting on ‘What is Marxism?’ which attracted around 15 people. Daniel Morley from Socialist Appeal gave a very good lead-off which provoked a multitude of questions and a lively discussion. Afterwards, we went to the pub with around five people all of whom seemed very interested in getting involved with building the Marxist society on campus.
We are planning to have a stall on campus each week to get more people involved in the society and to start a reading group for those who want to read the classic texts of Marxism. This term in Manchester has got off to an excellent start!
Marxist students and supporters of Socialist Appeal from Southampton, Brighton and Portsmouth helped out at the Portsmouth Freshers Fayre on September 17th and 18th.
Despite some problems with the student union staff we remained in excellent spirits and set our stall up outside the entrance to the campus. We gave out leaflets for the meeting on ‘What is Marxism?’ to be held in the SU building and over the course of the two days we managed to sign up around 30 people to the society.
21 people turned up to our first meeting at which Ben Peck from Socialist Appeal gave the introduction. There was an interesting discussion and a good mood throughout. Several people joined us in the pub afterwards to continue the discussion.
Once again the Fresher’s Fayre at Sussex has been a success for the Sussex Marxist Society. Between 10:30am and 4:30pm, an estimated 90 people were signed up to the Marxist Society mailing list, and while the number has been greater in the past, many of the comrades present felt that the enthusiasm of those who approached us was far better.
In total, eight members of the Society were present throughout the day. With good division of labour we were able to have a large presence at the university, with two or three members leafleting around the fayre and guiding interested people straight to our stall.
Approximately £20 worth of Marxist books and magazines were sold, which, although was a small sum, was still quite good considering that most Freshers fully expect to be given free material at the fayre so tend not to bring money with them.
Throughout the day we made it very clear that we are committed to learning Marxist theory to provide us with a guide to action. Rather than being put-off by the discipline and commitment involved, most people were further drawn to us by our seriousness, particularly those who were from countries where the class struggle is intensifying. In this way, I think our seriousness served to draw a noticeably more international character to the people we met, with a number of Pakistani and Indian contacts becoming very interested when we explained our links with the International Marxist Tendency, and the Pakistani Trade Union Defence Campaign.
Armed with translated pamphlets, our boldness in approaching more Chinese students also proved fruitful. While we are always initially met with caution by students who’s understanding of communism might be only the legacy of the Chinese Communist Party, once we had explaining that the Chinese Communist Party does not represent Marxism, we were able to sell a newly-translated Chinese pamphlet on ‘China’s Long march to Capitalism’.
The turbulence of the economic crisis in Europe is beginning to rock the more stable northern European countries and Scandinavia, thus we were also approached by several Germans, and two very good Swiss students who enthusiastically proposed that we pursue our ideas of a reading group. Likewise, three Icelanders also signed up to the society.
Beginning at 6pm with an introductory discussion on ‘What is Capitalism? What is Socialism?’, the meeting attracted approximately 20 people, some of whom arrived late or had to leave early. The discussion itself went extremely well, with debate around the Scottish referendum, the concept of ‘State Capitalism’ and our perspectives on the degenerated worker’s state in the USSR, and brief discussion about communally-run factories in other such states.
A number of people accompanied us to the pub after the meeting, all of whom engaged enthusiastically in discussion and were excited to attend the Marxist society next week. This is an extremely promising start to this year’s Society in Sussex university!
We started off at 11.30am when the fair started and we set up close to the entrance of the fair itself.
Sadly Worcester student union is not very accommodating to the revolutionary activity of its students and did everything in their power to thwart our attempts to sign people up to the Marxist society.
But even despite this we were able to sign up a handful of students to the society and sell some copies of the Socialist Appeal newspaper. There’s no stopping the forces of the Marxist Student Federation!
Queen Mary, University of London
Wednesday and Thursday was the Queen Mary (London) freshers fair. Members of the Marxist society and supporters of Socialist Appeal signed up 110 people to the society’s mailing list across the two days. We had two stalls – one inside the fair and one at the entrance to the campus.
Even more students than last year seemed genuinely interested and enthusiastic about discussing the ideas of Marxism and building the society on campus.
We also used these two days to distribute the latest edition of The Red Letter – the newsletter of the QM Marxists – and put up posters around the university.
We are confident that we will build a thriving Marxist society this year at Queen Mary – our first meeting next Thursday should be a big success.
Kings College London
The KCL Fresher’s Fair has now concluded and we are very pleased to announce that over 240 new students signed up to the society’s mailing list. All were invited to drinks after the fair had finished and we have already met a number of students keen to help us continue to build the KCL Marxist society this year.
2013/14 was undoubtedly a steep learning curve for our young society as we struggled to make significant inroads into university and campus life. The results are already a significant improvement upon last year which goes to show how good forward planning can reap great rewards.
We were also able to sell £62 of literature including 5 Socialist Appeal newspapers and 4 copies of ‘The Classics of Marxism’. Encouragingly, many students expressed an interest in starting a reading group tackling the four texts included in the volume.
All in all, we are excited about what should be a proactive and important year for the KCL Marxist Society. Success at this year’s Fresher’s Fair has given us the impetus we needed to build our society in earnest. Something all of us here at KCL Marxists look forward to.