Sunday, 11 March 2007

Regional Youth Meeting: Fees

Saturday saw the third or fourth regional youth meeting in Yorkshire, called to discuss the campaign to defeat fees and the upcoming Socialist Students/ISR Conference. The meeting was the broadest so far, with comrades from 6 different branches (Huddersfield, Leeds, York, Hull, Sheffield & Wakefield), with comrade BR from the national centre leading the main discussion, and myself unexpectedly asked to chair the meeting. It's been a while since i chaired a meeting, but I hope I did a reasonable job. Anyway, BR discussed how the campaign had developed so far, the fact that unlike NUS we hadn't been wining and dining New Labour Ministers but actively campaigning on the issue are were raising demands to scrap fees. The main demand has been to build a mass movement against fees, but unlike the SWP we don't just mean a properly organised demonstration, that would just be the starting point.
The day of action organised by the campaign was seen as a success, at least in terms of press coverage in most areas, however most of those involved in Yorkshire weren't from beyond the ranks of Socialist Students (although, to be fair the weather was pretty awful) and we need to look towards building the campaign further.
Another significant thing that had been noted by comrades was the school student walkouts that had recently happened in Newcastle and the West Midlands against poor quality education. In the anti-war movement the SP put a lot of emphasis on these and the trade unions as a way of trying to stop the war.
Comrades then joined in the discussion commenting on how there seems to be anger at fees, but a kind of proxy consciousness exists where people although angry don't want to do anything themselves. Other comrades commented that from experience they've found that college students seem to be the most angry, as in some cases they just don't go to uni cos they're worrying about debt (although once you've done a year at uni and you're from a poor background you start worrying about debt).
Other comrades raised ideas of how we could help support each other in the campaign, particularly areas where we only have a few members and of course the NUS, who have put out messages supporting the campaign, although this is reallyt lip service. Comrades raised the whole disaffiliation argument, and it was agreed that at best the NUS is the best thing going at the moment, we can't replace it with an active campaigning national student organisation at the moment, that's not to say that the situation won't change in the future, but for the time being we need to put press onto NUS and challenge them (both electorally and through our campaigning).
The meeting concluded that we should try and build for another day of action at some point, perhaps putting more focus on the colleges around the region this time. Students are angry at fees, it's more a case of how to harness this anger to do something about them.

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