Many students are completely inexperienced politically, but are beginning to question the system, write Ted North and Dave Isaacson
Members of Communist Students held a stall outside Oxford University freshers fairs on October 7 and 8.
It was easy to predict the reactions of some of the scions of the traditional upper classes. Yet a few sniggers and bemused looks aside, there were no particularly sharp arguments coming from those that see communism as their worst nightmare. One piped up with “What crisis?” as he scurried on by, not waiting for an answer. But most people were not so stupid as that.
We gave out a large number of Communist Student and material from Hands Off the People of Iran. In all, just over 50 signed our contact sheet. There were perhaps, relative to other universities, somewhat fewer students with some background or prior knowledge of far-left politics. If anyone did display an acquaintance with the left groups, it came in the form of questions like “You’re not anything to do with the SWP, are you?”
Comrades from the Socialist Workers Party were present on the first day, along with Workers Fight and a comrade from the Enverist Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist), who was leafleting for a meeting on “democratic renewal”. On the second day, the Socialist Party and the Spartacists were also in town. The point we often repeat – that if the ostensibly Marxist left was joined in a single organisation its strength would be far greater than the sum of its parts – was well demonstrated. Students who are sympathetic to the aims of socialism would have been less confused and more likely to commit themselves if there had been a single Marxist organisation present. And we would be taken a lot more seriously by our enemies too.
The standard economistic ‘Fight for jobs’ type leaflets were being handed out by the SP, one of whom became a touch aggressive when a CS comrade insisted that a workers’ militia is a basic democratic demand and not lunatic posturing. Most of the SPers were friendly enough, though – unlike the comrades of the SWP, who refused even to make eye contact.
Many who spoke to us are completely inexperienced politically, but are beginning to question the system (as are young people in general). We expect a good turnout to our upcoming introductory meeting at Judges room, Oxford Town Hall on Thursday October 27 starting at 7.30pm. We have Mike Macnair, leading CPGB member and author of Revolutionary strategy, speaking on the capitalist crisis and the communist alternative. There will, of course, be plenty of time for discussion. Indeed, as we have repeatedly stressed, open debate and democracy are not just good ideas: they are in fact crucial in building both the Communist Party and the wider working class movement. And for us this is about now, not at some hypothetical date in the future.
Unfortunately the first left meeting our Oxford comrades planned to attend – a Stop the War Coalition rally featuring Jeremy Corbyn MP and Tariq Ali on October 12 – was cancelled at the last minute. But we will continue trying to engage with the left as it is currently constituted, as well as building our own organisation and carrying out educational and agitational activities. We will be launching a study group reading David Harvey’s book on Marxist economics – Limits to capital – to begin on Saturday October 31. And before that we are encouraging as many people as possible to attend the Stop the War Coalition demonstration in London on October 24. We are also planning, alongside other comrades, to get a Hopi branch established in Oxford.
Many would not consider what is, on the one hand, a traditional bastion in ensuring the continuity of British capitalism, as fertile ground for communist growth. But on the other hand, Oxford University also attracts many sincere and bright young people who, looking at global poverty, ecological crisis and capitalist greed, want to radically transform things. Our challenge is to equip them with politics, theory and organisation.