Socialist Alternative

Starting university? Join Student Socialist Alternative!

Join Student Socialist Alternative here!

Students across the world have been on the frontline of struggles for change. Most recently, people of all ages have been joined by radical students in the #BlackLivesMatter movement, demanding justice for George Floyd and for an end to racist policing.

We have been central to the climate strikes movement, and played a huge role in building solidarity for the UCU strikes. More and more of us are drawing conclusions about how the problems facing us – racism, climate crisis and all oppression – are systemic issues.

As a system, capitalism only knows the language of what is profitable for an exploiting elite – not what is needed by the mass of people around the world, which is becoming more and more obvious each day with the ongoing Coronavirus crisis.

More than ever, our movement needs a Marxist and revolutionary voice.

We believe that the fight against oppression, exploitation and climate chaos has to be the fight for socialist change. This means co-ordinating struggles wherever they emerge. We also believe that to change society we need to understand how capitalism works and that we need to educate ourselves in socialist and Marxist theory. With a movement of students and workers united with anti-racist, climate and anti-oppression campaigners, to build a movement for revolutionary change! If you agree, join SSA today!

Like our page on Facebook here.

NATIONAL RALLY
Capitalism, Class and Revolution: An Introduction to Student Socialist Alternative
Thursday 29th October, 6pm
REGISTER ONLINE | FACEBOOK EVENT

Want to get involved? Come along to a meeting near you:

Coventry | Monday 21st September, 7.30pm | Global capitalist crisis and why we need socialism

South London | Friday 25th September, 5pm | Socialist walking tour: a History of Struggle

Liverpool | Monday 28th September, 7.30pm | Introduction to Marxism

Huddersfield | Tuesday 29th September | Why are we still paying full fees with next to no lecture time?

York | Thursday 1st October, 7pm | The housing crisis: What it is and how to fight it

Sheffield | Monday 5th October, 7pm | Global capitalist crisis and why we need socialism

Leicester | Monday 5th October | Introduction to Marxism

North London | Monday 5th October | Introduction to Marxism

Brighton | Tuesday 13th October | The housing crisis: What it is and how to fight it

WHAT WE STAND FOR

HOUSING

  • Support rent strikes. Ban evictions and cancel arrears for students and workers renting privately.
  • For a living maintenance grant – not loans – for all students.

EDUCATION

  • Reimburse fees for lost face-to-face teaching hours under Covid-19. Mobilise the student movement and unions together to fight for free education on demand.
  • Fight to kick the market out of education. For a fully-funded, free and democratic public Further/Higher education system, based on meeting the needs of students and not of overpaid Vice-Chancellors.
  • For fully-funded mental health support in all schools, college and universities, to be provided and funded by a massive increase in funding from the wealth of the billionaire class.

FIGHTING OPPRESSION

  • Build the movement for black lives. Form BLM assemblies in every town and city to democratically plan the way ahead for the movement. Mobilise trade union power to push back the racist far-right.
  • For socialist feminism. Capitalism is a system that thrives on the oppression of women. Strike to end the gender pay gap!
  • Queer liberation, not rainbow capitalism. LGBTQ+ people still face widespread discrimination in the workplace and in society generally. Our movements must challenge all backward ideas and be central to the struggle for freedom for all – regardless of orientation.

WORKERS

  • The pandemic will end up risking the livelihoods of many part-time working students, probably for years to come. The trade unions must step up to organise us in the workplace to demand work for all. Fight any or all job losses and maintain all contracts!
  • For an immediate £12/hour minimum wage, as a step towards a £15/hour living wage for all – no to age discrimination in pay for under-25s!
  • Students should link up with campus unions when they take action against cuts and redundancies – students and workers unite!

CLIMATE

  • Build a militant, anticapitalist climate strike movement. Unite students and workers in the global struggle to save our planet.
  • Nationalise the big polluters. Worldwide, 100 companies are responsible for 70% of global emissions. We say nationalise the big polluters, starting with the energy companies, under democratic control. That way it would be possible to begin to embark on a just transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy, safeguarding existing jobs and creating millions more in the process

CAPITALISM IS CRISIS – FIGHT FOR SOCIALIST REVOLUTION!

  • Take the wealth off the capitalists! Nationalise the banks and major companies under democratic control, to lay the basis for a socialist future.

#ALevels2021Strike: Interview with an A-Levels striker

#ALevels2021Strike – interview with an A-Levels striker

A-level students have announced school and college strikes taking place around the country next week. This is in response to government plans for students to sit their exams as usual despite, in many cases, losing months of education time as a result of school closures during the Covid-19 pandemic. Socialist Alternative is actively supporting the student strikes, and discussed the movement with Aaisha, one of the organisers. 

Last weekend, we saw school students protesting in London around next year’s A-level exams. Can you tell us more about what the main issues for students expecting to take their exams next year are? 

The government has told us that we have a fair playing field, and they have also told us we are old enough to motivate ourselves to work and study. But they have completely ignored the reality of the issues that have been caused due to the lockdown.

Some people have had teachers teaching them every lesson, but on the other hand some of us have only had photocopies from textbooks to work through on our own. For a lot of us, this will mean our grades will take a hit if we have to take the normal exams. Especially for working class and BAME students, there is the potential for their grades to be affected much more badly in comparison to other students. 

So far, students have organised public statements, petitions and protests against the government’s plans. How has the government responded so far? 

The government has done very little in response. Today they gave a statement saying they are considering delaying the exams until late July 2021. But this would not be a real solution – we have had 4 months of no teaching, so shoving exams on us two months later is not going to fix the issue. I imagine instead pushing the exams back will actually have the effect of causing more problems for the exam board and for the universities. 

What has been the approach from Keir Starmer’s Labour Party? How have they responded to the current plans? 

Starmer has agreed to the government’s proposal of delaying exams. Aside from not being a real fix, this also doesn’t address all the other problems people have had to face. I think they have forgotten that teachers are people too – they have a life outside of teaching. Forcing them to take on the extra work well into their summers is unfair on them as well. Unfortunately, their approach has been mostly in line with the Conservatives. A few people like Jeremy Corbyn and Zarah Sultana are the only MPs that have really spoken out about it so far. 

What are the next steps for the movement of school students? What kind of action are you organising to continue fighting back against the government’s plans? 

We have decided to go on strike until the government meets the demand to draw up some form of satisfactory emergency plan. At the moment there is a real lack of clarity. Robert Halfon, the Tory MP has said there is a ‘50-50 chance’ of exams going ahead next year, and at the same time, they are saying they could delay our exams. We really don’t know where we stand at all right now. 

We will be holding strikes and protests from Monday 7th September at a number of schools and colleges. We are encouraging students not to go into school on these days. Some students will have mocks on some of those dates, so we are encouraging them to go in on those particular dates, and instead to choose their own strike dates themselves. 

(A list of protests organised so far is as follows:)

London – Parliament Square

Leeds – Millennium Square

Manchester – St Peter’s Square

Bristol – College Green

Birmingham – Victoria Square

Cornwall – Fleming Quay

Coventry – Outside Ofqual offices

Leicester – Clock tower

You’ve reached out to some of the education unions as well. Can you tell us more about why you’ve done that and what role the unions can potentially play?

We are hoping for the unions to help support our struggle. There are a lot of different issues and struggles going on right now, and we need a united approach and a general consensus to be able to fight and to get what we want. We hope the unions can help to promote and support our strikes, and to boost our message, because we need to convince other students to support the strike. 

So far we have reached out to the National Education Union and NASUWT (the two main education unions), as well as particular activists in the NEU. We also plan to speak to the NUS (National Union of Students).

What should school and college students do in their areas to help support this movement? 

If they want to get organised, they should get involved and take part in the strikes and protests. Speak to your classmates and help organise more protests and strikes. You can also sign the NEU’s petition, and follow our social media to stay updated. 

https://alevels21strike.carrd.co/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/alevels21strike
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/alevels21strike/

Read Socialist Alternative’s latest article on the strikes, and how we can fight to transform our education system

After the A-level marking victory: Only organising can defend education – #ALevel21Strike

Over recent weeks college students got organised across the country to beat back the elitist marking algorithm, winning the demand for teacher assessments. Now, students involved in the #ALevel21Strike have been organizing to demand real clarity on the situation of those in Years 11-13. So far, Ofqual and the government have failed to explain how the A-level qualification process will be run. And while students have had no face-to-face teaching hours under lockdown, signs point to them forcing us to take the same exams as before. This will cause us inevitable stress and will have a damaging effect on our results if action is not taken right now. 

#ALevel21strike have now made a list of demands in response. They say that the A-Level syllabus must be reduced in line with the limited teaching. Questions have been placed on the suitability of the exam model, with the organisers demanding a heightened emphasis on coursework, along with more guidance for UCAS applications and an automatic re-sit option for all students who believe that the pandemic and lockdown has negatively impacted on their grades. 

Class issue

As the campaigners have pointed out on their website, “No open days have led to students blindly applying to a university in a city they’ve never been in close proximity to, disproportionately affecting the working classes.” 

Johnson’s abject mismanagement of the Covid-19 crisis has exacerbated class inequalities. Some students from working class backgrounds, for instance, will be unable to work from home due to a lack of technology and a lack of quiet space, making the attainment gap much worse. This is why our movement has to also fight for policies to address these issues, such as: 

  • Public funding for extracurricular support, along with investment into free public spaces where students can go to study. We could fight for funding to re-open youth community centers, to create a safe and secure learning environment.
  • Funding for schools and colleges, reversing cuts so that free laptops and tablets can be made available to aid in learning. 
  • Providing mental health support. Counseling should be made available in every school and college, along with education on mental health issues.

Tories not to be trusted 

Student Socialist Alternative fully supports the demand from both the National Education Union and #Alevel21Strike for a mass consultation on next year’s A-Level processes. But we also need to remember that this is a government that we should never have any faith in. Alongside the consultation, we will need to set up bodies to hold them to account. 

Bodies made up of representatives of school workers’ unions and students should be set up as part of the process of negotiating how our A-levels will be dealt with in the coming years and beyond. Steps towards this could be taken by organising conferences of college students, youth strikers and education union activists to plan out the fight and to discuss what a radically transformed education system could look like.

If the Tories fail to provide for us, we need to be ready to take matters into our own hands, running the qualifications process ourselves. Only democratic control by students, workers and parents would successfully reflect our educational needs – not a government that has been proven not to care. 

This will mean building our movement for education justice from the bottom-up. What the victory over the grading system showed was that when we get together and fight, we can win. This is why organising groups must be set up in each college to take the struggle further. Supporters of Socialist Alternative in the education unions will be arguing the case for this and raising the need for teacher/staff solidarity with the #Alevel21Strike demands.

Socialist education needed

This movement will need to be sustained if it is to deliver real results. This is not just about Covid, but is also about what sort of education system and society we want to live in.  

Education under capitalism reflects the norms and interests of the ruling elite, turning schools into sterile unaccountable grade factories. The exam system, while pretending it is about measuring our abilities, is actually about spreading out stretched resources that the ruling elite fails to give funding to. 

While we are treated like numbers on a screen, we know we are worth more than that. This is why it should not be capitalist governments that decide our future!

“The NEU is establishing a high level commission this year to scrutinise assessment which will give an important opportunity for school workers and students to come together to discuss what alternative there is to high stakes tests that are designed primarily to ration resources rather than objectively assess ‘ability’. But also a national day of action in the Autumn term could bring the anger and frustration out onto the streets in an organised way, and build on the momentum created by the victories scored over A Level and GCSE results.”

– James Kerr, school teacher and union activist, Lewisham

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