Hundreds of students and young workers will be meeting online tomorrow for the annual conference of the Marxist Student Federation. We encourage all our readers to join us for this important gathering of young revolutionaries.
The Marxist Student Federation invites all students and young workers to the MSF online national conference 2021, taking place tomorrow: Revolutionary youth for revolutionary times.
With capitalism in its deepest ever crisis, and further attacks on workers and students on the cards, the need for Marxist ideas and revolutionary leadership has never been greater.
The past six months have seen enormous struggles of the youth emerge, including the biggest university rent strike movement in decades.
Marxist activists have been playing a leading role, calling for free education, full rent rebates, and democratic control over education.
All this and more will be discussed at this year’s conference of the Marxist Student Federation. Buy your ticket now!
Join other students from across the country for a day of discussion and debate, in order to arm ourselves for the struggles that 2021 will bring.
The ruling class are preparing to crush workers and young people. We must prepare for revolution!
- The death agony of capitalism: World perspectives – 10:00-12:00
- Lunch break – 12:00-13:00
- Marxism on campus: Reports from the frontline – 13:00-15:00
- Break – 15:00-15:30
- Order from chaos: The role of leadership – 15:30-17:30
From 6pm, there will be a screening and Q+A of Santiago Rising, a documentary on the 2019 Chilean uprising. You must buy a separate ticket for this event here.
Tori Anderson, LSE Marxists
The upper echelons of the higher education sector are currently rife with debate about how to deal with mounting pressure and rebellion from students. Squabbles over hardship funding, interest on student loans, tuition fees, and student rent payments have taken centre stage.
The Tory government and university management are the two major parties in this dialogue, each calling on the other to support students. Both claim to be making their most thorough effort to do so.
Students, however, know that this is not the truth. The COVID pandemic has made it clear that we are seen as nothing more than sources of revenue for the government and universities.
One proposal put forward by vice-chancellors has been a 15-month removal of interest from student loans. But this is an insubstantial offer, which has been proven to benefit “only the highest earning – predominantly male – graduates”.
The government has also announced an extra £50m for student hardship funds in England, on top of £20m agreed in December. However, calculations demonstrate that such sums would only equate to a measly £20 per student.
The government’s £50million hardship fund does not go far enough to help struggling students, with a higher figure spent on just two days of the eat out to help out scheme.
The fund works out at a measly £20 each for the country’s 2.46 million students.https://t.co/kTBvF5EvE3
— Stop The Student Rip-Off (@StudentRipOff) February 3, 2021
On top of this, the government has confirmed that they are “not considering a reduction in maximum fee levels to £3,000”, instead keeping tuition costs at £9,250 per year.
University bosses have taken the same stance, justifying the price of student accommodation on the basis that educational standards have been conserved. The 50+ rent strikes currently taking place, however, demonstrate that students are certainly not happy with the quality of their university experience.
Although meagre, these concessions show that the government and university leaders are feeling the pressure from students. And rent strikes are helping to add weight behind students and their demands.
The problem facing university management, however, is that appetite comes with eating: even small concessions can provoke further demands.
We have already seen this take place, following the victory won by the Manchester rent strike in November, which led to a 30% rent rebate for the first term. Now students are emboldened to demand more. And Marxist activists in the rent strike movement are working to push for the strongest possible demands.
Fight for free education
Within the debates around the movement’s programme and demands, Marxist students have consistently linked the question of rent with the need to fight against the marketisation of education, and to call for free education.
With capitalism facing its deepest ever crisis, it is clear that governments everywhere will be looking to carry out further cuts and attacks on public services and spending in the years ahead – including to education.
But the wealth exists in society to fund free education, and much more. However, this money sits in the hands of the billionaires and bosses, who are more interested in making a profit out of education than in making it accessible.
Demand the whole bakery!
The rent strike movement has helped to organise students and put the government and universities on the back foot. Now is the time to press home this advantage, and connect unfolding rent strikes to demands for the complete refund and removal of all tuition fees.
Already, some modest reforms have been afforded, such as the increase in hardship funding. This raises a further question: If the government is able to increase hardship funding from £20m to a total of £70m, for example, how can we believe their narrative of ‘affordability’?
We must demand more than crumbs. A temporary pause on interest for student loans will make little-to-no difference to the crisis students are currently facing. The scrapping of tuition fees and student debt, however, as some left Labour MP’s called for, would be a real and tangible step forward in the struggle for free education.
Students shouldn’t have to pay tuition fees this year, or any year.
Scrap fees. Cancel student debt.
— Zarah Sultana MP (@zarahsultana) February 6, 2021
Students have been offered a slightly bigger piece of the cake. But at the end of the day, we must demand the whole bakery!
Kick out capitalism
Conversations about inadequate hardship funding only address the symptoms of the problem. The real disease is capitalism, which has infected universities and the education sector in full.
We must kick the market and profit out of education, and bring in democratic workers’ control to allocate resources on the basis of need.
It is the working class who ultimately produce all the wealth in society. And it is workers who keep society running. It is therefore workers themselves – in conjunction with students – who must have control of running universities.
It is time to confront the marketisation of education head-on. This cannot be resolved within the confines of the capitalist system. The only remedy is to bring about the socialist transformation of society.