As the new academic term gets underway in many universities, Marxist students have been at yet more freshers fairs signing up hundreds of students who are interested in building an organisation capable of fighting for socialist policies within the student movement. Below are reports from some of these freshers fairs, with more on the way in Part Three. (See Part One for more reports)
Over the course of two days, with the help of members of Newcastle Marxist society and supporters of the Socialist Appeal newspaper in the North-East, we signed up 82 new people to the Marxist Society and sold £14.70 worth of Marxist literature and material.
On the whole the reaction we got from people was incredibly positive. Students were happy to see the Marxists present and many of them had chosen to seek us out to discuss with us and find out what we were about having heard of our society. When we explained how important we view theory and how we see this as a guide to action which we can use to get involved within the students’ union an the NUS to campaign for revolutionary socialist ideas and in providing concrete solidarity to the workers’ struggle, the students tended to respect this serious approach and many decided to get involved with the MSF.
We handed out 780 leaflets and put posters up around Newcastle and Northumbia universities which led to a successful first meeting of around 20 people the day after the fair finished. The introduction to the discussion was given by Ben Gliniecki from Socialist Appeal and the questions and comments that followed touched on Venezuela, Isis and the Middle East, and the fight against fascism in Ukraine.
The meeting was followed by a short business session during which comrades spoke about the strike action being taken by workers in mid-October, and the plans for the TUC demo on the 18th. The society will be getting involved with both these things.
Sheffield Hallam Freshers fair took place on 23rd September. There isn’t yet a Marxist society at Hallam but the Marxist Student Federation is looking to starting one in the future, so we began our work by setting up a stall outside the Students Union building for the activities fair on Tuesday.
Across the day we managed to get a handful of students signed up, sold two Marxist Student magazines and one In Defence of Marxism magazine. Obviously, it wasn’t a revolution on campus; but there were plenty of positives to be taken from the day.
One of the students who did sign up was very keen and expressed an interest in attending our meetings. Another student who is very interested in the ideas of Marxism stopped by the stall to chat with us for a while and has since been in contact and shown great interest in coming to our meetings. This means we now have students keen to build a Marxist Society Hallam which is a significant gain for the MSF.
The Leeds Marxist Society ran a stall over the opening three days of Freshers week, with six members of the Marxist Society and Socialist Appeal supporters in Leeds helping out.
Monday was the busiest day with the majority of people signing up to the society, despite being moved from our position outside of the union in order to ensure ‘fairness’. The stall, however, was also successful on the Tuesday and Wednesday. Overall we had at least 100 people sign up to join the society. 11 copies of the Socialist Appeal newspaper were also sold, along with three copies of the Marxist Student magazine and five copies of the Communist Manifesto.
Our first meeting was a success. Adam Booth from Socialist Appeal led off excellently on ‘What is Socialism?’. There were 31 people in attendance, around 20 new faces, and the discussion gave a good balance between questions and comment. The discussion was continued in the pub afterwards.
The main priority of the society now is to build on the success of Freshers week and to stay in contact with people who may be interested in getting involved further – we’re looking forward to an excellent year ahead.
Anglia Ruskin University
On the day of the freshers fair we managed to have a well-manned stall, with five members of the Cambridge Marxists helping out at various times through the day.
Arriving at 9.30, half an hour before the fair opened, we set up outside the building in which the fair was being held. We were in a fairly good position, with virtually every student passing us as they entered the fair, and our banner with ‘Cambridge Marxists’ clearly visible.
Happily, we ran out of our 300 term-cards and signed up around 20 people to the society. Many of these people expressed definite enthusiastic interest and others even stayed longer and had in depth conversations with us. We are hosting a reading group to discuss the Communist Manifesto with those who signed up.
The UoS freshers’ fair is a one day event which took place on Thursday 25th September. We had six members of the Sheffield Marxist Society in attendance with supporters of Socialist Appeal also giving us a helping hand.
Through pushing paid membership of the Marxist Student Federation we didn’t managed to gather as many contact details as other Marxist societies. But we did managed to achieve 22 paid members to the MSF, with an additional 27 people registering their interest. We are confident that we will manage to achieve at least 30 paid members when those who showed interest attend an upcoming Marxist Society meeting. We also sold an In Defence of Marxism magazine during the fair and handed out roughly 450 flyers advertising our term card of meetings.
We held a meeting in the evening of the freshers’ fair with around 15 people in attendance to hear Adam Booth from Socialist Appeal speaking on ‘What will Socialism look like?’ We managed to raise £25 for Adam’s travel expenses and everyone who came to the pub seemed keen to get involved with the life of the Marxist society in Sheffield.
At this year’s freshers fair, with the help of Kent Marxists and supporters of Socialist Appeal, we managed to collect 94 names of students (and a number of lecturers) interested in finding out more about the Marxist Society.
In addition we now have 4 members of the Marxist Student Federation on campus who paid the £3 membership for the year. We had a brief meeting to introduce the MSF, at which between 20 and 25 attended to discuss founding the new MSF society at Kent. Provisionally we have planned a meeting for either next Wednesday or Thursday evening on campus on the subject “What is Marxism?”
Across two days of the freshers fair, Liverpool Marxists signed up around 130 people to the society and sold £10 of Marxist literature.
We held a meeting in the evening of the first day of the fair at which 12 people were present. The discussion was on ‘What is Marxism?’ and was introduced by Ben Gliniecki from Socialist Appeal. The quality of the discussion was very high with genuine interest and enthusiasm in the ideas from all those present. Another meeting is planned for two weeks time.
This is the first time the MSF has had a presence at Liverpool university and we are looking forward to it going from strength to strength.
On Saturday 27th September, eight members of the Marxist society and London supporters of Socialist Appeal, manned the stall at the SOAS Freshers’ Fair in central London. Our stall was very successful, with approximately 150 people signing up to our mailing list over the course of the day. This is significant given the relatively small size of the university. We noticed a high quality with regards to many of the students signing up, with a good number describing themselves as Marxists and being very enthusiastic to see us. As well as our official stall we also had a second stall just outside of the entrance.
During the day we sold three copies of the four Marxist Classics and many more expressed an interest in joining a reading group. We also sold 12 copies of the Socialist Appeal newspaper, one “What is Marxism?” book, and four Marxist Student magazines.
We are very positive about the prospects for the term ahead and we are sure that the SOAS society will have its best year yet.
University of East Anglia (Norwich)
The UEA Marxist Society is being re-established this year and the work started with having a stall at the fresher’s fair. Two of us were present for the fair and, despite some initial difficulties, the day was very successful. We managed to hand out about 150 flyers and about 30 email addresses were collected from people interested in coming along to our meetings.
The first meeting was held a week later and was introduced by Ben Gliniecki from Socialist Appeal on the topic of ‘What is Marxism?’. Eight people were able to come along to the meeting which was excellent and as well as a great discussion there was enthusiasm among some of the attendees to start up a reading group, and to help out with flyering for the next meeting.
This year was full of good expectations for the Soton Marxists, as we have grown consistently since last year and today we are a well known society within the University of Southampton. Even though the freshers fair was only one day, we started to advertise the first event of the society from the Saturday before freshers week started by inviting everyone to attend the talk introduced by Fred Weston from the International Marxist Tendency on “What is Socialism? What is Marxism?”.
Moreover we were determined to have a presence on campus throughout the week and not only during the day of the fair. So on Sunday we went to university armed with a stall, and an array of Marxist literature. We were soon asked to move because we did not book the space that we were occupying on University soil. But in the face of adversity we found out that it is actually possible to book a space outside or within the student union where we can set up a stall and advertise the society as much as we like. We immediately booked a space for the whole week, so we were able to be there everyday for at least for three hours on campus with the stall. This was useful in terms of organising leafleting and postering, printing material for the Soldarity with the Anti-fascist Resistance in Ukraine campaign which we are starting this term, printing material for the 18th of October TUC demo in London, sending e-mails, etc.
The fair itself was really good. We were placed outside the main area but the positive thing was that we had definitely more space than the other societies. The space being less crowded we were more visible. We had a good number of sign ups -158 in total – but more importantly a significant number of people came to us really enthusiastically stating that they were looking for us. We even had one guy that came to sign up his friend which could not come to the fair himself!
That evening we had the first meeting with 35 people participating. We booked a larger room than the one we use during the semester, and our expectations were fulfilled with the room being almost packed. The discussion was very lively, with many contributions from the floor. The meeting at the pub afterwards was also well attended.
On Thursday we had the stall in the main square of the university, and we leafleted for the film screening that we had planned for the evening. The film screening had an attendance of about 15 people, most of which were people that we had met the previous evening. The movie we showed was Ken Loach “The Spirit of ‘45”. In fact the movie lasted till 8.30 and the discussion continued until after 10 p.m. with very good points being made by everyone.
In general we have been very well organized and the level of commitment from members of the society to continue building it this year demonstrates what a powerful motivating force the ideas of Marxism can be!