For a re-orientation to campus in 2013

For a re-orientation to campus in 2013

I feel that in 2013, Socialist Alliance needs a perspective of re-orienting toward campus.

Campus is an important place for radical ideas to be discussed and acted upon. Many future leaders of the working class will begin their activist training at university, and we want to win them away from the ALP to a program of fundamental social change. 

The 2012 anti-neoliberal Edufactory conference in Canberra opened with an outline of the cutbacks occurring or proposed at many campuses across Australia, especially in the area of social sciences.

Big struggles at Sydney University have repelled some attacks, while struggles at La Trobe University and across Victorian TAFEs have thrown a section of the student population into activity, at least for a period. 

These attacks in the context of the deepening economic crisis indicates that campus will be an important area of struggle in 2013. 

In addition to the various cutbacks to staff, courses and services, we have also seen increasing attacks on the rights of free speech. Simple tasks like booking a room for an event or setting up an information table have become long bureaucratic processes. In Queensland, right wing student unions have disaffiliated activist groups 

and then used this an excuse to prevent activists campaigning on campus. 

Having said this, many of the campaigns on campus in the recent period are based around broader social justice campaigns such as refugee rights or environment issues. 

Refugee action groups exist on a number of campuses and many campuses have environment collectives. 

In 2013, we need to think about what will involve students in struggle against the system. 

This year we have launched our exciting new “nationalise the mines” campaign in the lead up to the next Federal election. This offers the potential of tying in the important campaigns for a sustainable environment with discussions of public ownership.

How can we take this onto campus in the new year? 

In particular, we need to think about what our campaign focus for orientation week is, and what sort of events/forums we should do to begin the year. 

Should it focus on our “nationalise the mines” campaign in the lead up to the election? 

Should the focus be the important refugee rights campaign? Refugee forums have been well received on campus in Melbourne in recent years.

The focus shouldn't deter us from discussions and involvement in multiple campaigns on campus as resources permit.

It is important to remember that new campaigns can spring up at any time, and we need to be flexible in our approach. 

We also need to look at campaign groups that are active on each campus, and work out how best to work with and build these to mobilise the broader student population. Refugee action groups? Anti-cuts groups? Environment collectives? 

Student conferences in July are also an important area of work. At the Students of Sustainability conference in July, our ecosocialism forum attracted 43 people. Participants were also treated to a great talk by Cam Walker on the anti-coal seam gas campaign and a talk by a climate activist from Bangladesh. 

The success of Edufactory shows signs of fightback in the next period. Another Edufactory conference will be in held in Sydney around the Anzac day weekend. 

Where Resistance branches exist, we need maximum collaboration. Campus work needs to be seen as the priority of the whole tendency. 

In 2013, Fred Fuentes is to become the national campus work co-ordinator. I think this a very important step, as there is a greater need to co-ordinate our campus work nationally. 

I understand that there will be a campus work fraction at the national conference, and I think this will be important to help discuss this further. 

Some things to think about as we head in to 2013 are: 

  • Which campuses to direct our energy onto in each city? 
  • How to strengthen our national collaboration on campuses? 
  • What should our focus be for campus orientation? 
  • What campaign groups are active on each campus that we want to be involved in? 
  • How can we get newly radicalising students more active in broader campaigns in 2013?

Hopefully this will be the start of a fruitful discussion.