Our Plan for a Democratic, Liberated and Socialist Student Wing

As the government turns pandemic threat into social catastrophe, students are facing another lost decade of stagnant wages, rising rents and a deteriorating public sphere. Studying in marketised and exploitative institutions and in the shadow of climate breakdown; it feels as if our future has been cancelled.

But from climate, to rent, to industrial action, we are organising to fight back. As Black Lives Matter rallies marginalised people to fight for racial and social justice, more and more of us are coming to consider what a world beyond racist violence and rampant exploitation might look like, and what it might take to get there.

We need to build a strong student movement to give form to this struggle. A student movement that will fight not just for a free, liberated and democratic education system but for a socialist society. And to do this the political wing of the labour movement will need a student wing worth the name.

We’re running to be the three student representatives on the Young Labour Committee to build that democratic, liberated and socialist student wing, support grassroots organising and facilitate political education.

Together we have years of experience organising across the labour and student movement. Unionising students, organising climate strikes, supporting striking UCU workers, fighting institutional racism and taking on the political establishment by bringing the socialists these struggles have created to fight our corner in councils and parliament. 

We know the difference student members can make on the ground because we’ve done it. We want a student wing which knows that real power is built from the grassroots up and supports Labour student groups to do this.

In place of the glorified clique that was the old ‘Labour Students’ we would demand an open and democratic student section inside the party, based on the Young Labour student representatives with a committee elected by one member one vote and liberation reps including the long fought for trans officer.

Where our universities are designed to separate students from the wider community and stifle solidarity we would push for a student section integrated into the party, with formal relationships between our clubs, CLPs and Young Labour branches. We’d offer clubs the support they need to engage with the party, and persuasive conversations and community organising training to win local elections and community campaigns.

But we won’t wait around for the party to deliver this or substitute structure for organising. We will be in regular communication with students on the ground, producing materials, coordinating campaigns and delivering political education working with club officers and activists.

We will support student members to establish clubs at Further Education college and universities, reach out to Welsh and Scottish Labour students to represent clubs from every corner of the UK and work with our comrades in socialist student wings abroad to learn from their organising and build solidarity.

Where Labour Students of the past neglected grassroots activists, we want to empower them; where it alienated students, we’d welcome them; and where it built careers, we’d build socialists.

This work is more urgent than ever. With the scrapping of maintenance grants, the rise of precarious work and rising rents, working-class students face huge hardships at university. We’ll give clubs the resources to organise students into their workplace and tenants unions, as well as support striking workers on and off campus, putting trade unionism at the heart of our student wing.

We need a socialist student wing that organises us in our workplaces and communities where wealth and power are produced. To win better wages, hours and conditions but also to win the worker-led Green New Deal on which our collective livelihood depends.

As student representatives we would mobilise students behind movements for climate justice on this basis, equipping activists to demand action from their institutions and building unity between the climate and labour movements.

Any real movement to transform society must have shared understandings of the world. We need a student wing that is conscious of the history of our movement (at its best and its worst) and conscious of the ideas and theories with which working and oppressed people have remade the world.

As student representatives we want to work with student Labour groups and organisations across the Left to develop political education programmes and events that bring student members together to build shared consciousness and prepare us to organise.

We need to support the demand to decolonise and decommodify our institutions, as well as contest which ideas and histories are taught and which are erased to carve out an education from a system which is being hollowed out by marketisation.

We need political education that through reading, discussion and struggle equips students to understand the social system we live in and how it is built on the exploitation and oppression of working, colonised, racialised and gendered people. 

This education is critical to confronting the transphobia, anti-Black racism, antisemitism and all forms of oppression in our movement. It’s on this basis that we can build a real movement to build class power and transform society – we want a Labour student wing that is part of this movement.

Published in Tribune 11th August 2020

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