A Marxist Student Federation member came a respectable second in the King’s College London student union elections, which concluded last week. Running on an openly socialist programme, Joe Attard of the KCL Marxist Society received 500 votes (compared to 700 for the winning candidate) from fellow students and postgraduate TA colleagues, demonstrating a real appetite for radical ideas at a traditionally conservative university.
Joe was contesting the newly created position of Vice-President Postgraduate off the back of the Fair Pay for GTAs campaign he ran in 2016, which ended with a significant series of victories for postgraduate teaching staff, who are severely exploited at British universities.
Despite facing an incumbent officer, who enjoyed endorsements from several large societies, Joe and a team of Marxist students and sympathisers ran a highly organised campaign that inspired hundreds of students at KCL. This grassroots approach resonated with many students who would not otherwise have voted.
Throughout the two-week race, Joe was adamant that student issues are inherently political. During hustings, he pointed out that key matters like the national mental health crisis, the BME attainment gap, and the marketisation of the Higher Education sector all stem from the crisis of capitalism, which has loaded young people with debt and victimised working class university applicants, all while denying them meaningful employment.
He advocated radical class struggle between students and unionised workers on campus, taking as his campaign slogan: “postgrads and workers, unite and fight!” Noting the Fair Pay for GTAs campaign and the on-going action of cleaning staff at King’s, he suggested that students and workers on campus should bind over their shared interests as a united front against overpaid university bosses on campus and the Tory government beyond.
“The battle for free, fair and accessible education begins on campus, but ends on the streets. With Fair Pay for GTAs we saw what workers and students can achieve when they fight as one. We need to make that approach a microcosm of the strategy adopted by the Student Union at a national level: unifying with the organised working class to halt the Tories in their tracks, and ultimately overthrow the capitalist system altogether.
“Under capitalism, education will never be free.”
Despite coming runner-up in this election, Joe and his team were not deterred. “To come second in a ten-horse race, all on a grassroots basis, at a university like King’s, on an openly revolutionary platform is incredible,” Joe said. “I congratulate the incoming Sabbatical team, and intend to hold them accountable to ensure that we have the radical, fighting union we need.
“I would like to offer a special thank you to the nurses and midwives at King’s, who have been some of my most ardent supporters. After NHS bursaries were scrapped, it’s hardly surprising that there is a revolutionary spirit in nursing and midwifery faculties. Solidarity, comrades!”
Joe’s impressive performance was echoed in several other student union elections across the country: including Sussex and Cambridge, in which far-left candidates either won or came within striking distance of victory.
These results demonstrate the increasing militancy of the British youth, who are beginning to draw ever more radical conclusions, having seen their futures sacrificed to the altar of capital.