Tuesday February 26 2013
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Destroy the students?

The IDOOP report below indicates that a motion calling for a complete break by the SWP with its student members has been circulating

SWP - about to eat its young?

A motion submitted to a branch by two well-respected longstanding comrades in the organisation (and now circulating widely) essentially lays the ground for a justification for forcing a split between the students and the party, while justifying taking disciplinary measures against students who remain in the organisation post-conference. 

The main issue isn’t the fear that the organisation won’t be able to hold students, but that retrospective changes to perspectives, constructed on a spurious basis, has had the effect of disorientating many SWSS groups across the country. This is compounded by the removal of Jamie W as NUS NEC candidate 2 days before the deadline, after months of negotiation, and now the decision by the student office not to submit our FE candidate's nomination for NEC block.

Established SWSS groups have continued to hold large meetings on key ideological questions, as they were doing before conference and in line with agreed perspectives, but groups feel this is in spite of the changes to the student perspective, rather than because of them.

In this context, it is important the CC clarifies whether or not they support the cavalier attitude to losing students displayed in the Tottenham branch motion.

The student office has almost dissolved itself post conference. Many SWSS groups are no longer being contacted by the Student Office.   No reason has been provided for this, no strategy or lead is being provided by CC in a vital period in which student union elections are about to begin on campus, as well as NUS elections in which the SWP has intervened for decades. The SWP’s work inside NUS, includes affiliating to our United Fronts, pulling together left unity and intervening for national demonstrations while counter-attacking the right inside of the union. This has taken years to build. At the same time there are key debates ongoing over the role of NUS, from which the SWP must not abstain.

Jamie W was blocked, without discussion with the student fraction, from standing in the NUS elections. Now FE student and IDOOP faction member Shereen P has not had her nominations to the NUS NEC submitted, a position widely viewed to be secured, thus effectively blocking her from standing. The explanation lies in the CC's actions and they bear the responsibility.

Debates and arguments need to take place over the new student strategy. The CC should try to win students to their new strategy, but need to clearly state what this it entails. The fact remains that the vast majority of students share concerns over the way the disputes case was handled. Students have called for a measured and adequate response to strengthening the DC procedure; this has been met with fierce resistance by the Central Committee, which has spilled over into a complete shift in the CC's student strategy based purely on factional disagreements, not on a basis in the real world which would normally trigger a change in strategy or tactics.

Arguments by the CC and supporters are now being made that the ideological turn has not been made in SWSS, that SWSS has been acting as an 'autonomous' section of the organisation, that SWSS should be a ‘support organisation’ of the SWP etc. 

If this is the case, then the CC should have made this clear in the pre-conference period, in 3 internal bulletins, and a National SWSS Meeting (NSM) the day before conference, or at conference. Two CC members were present in the NSM, outlining the great part SWSS has played in building in the movement, building the organisation and building ideologically over the past years. The CC backed the student commission at conference, which endorsed it overwhelmingly. In some sense, SWSS has actually made all changes the CC is now proposing, with the end of the student movement and an ideological thirst on campus being fully addressed by SWSS across the country. Make no mistake, despite the decline of the national movement, the anger on campus and in colleges still burns, and this can be seen now through the local struggles after the Higher Education Bill, where, for example, post-92 universities are undergoing reforms and privatisation. SWSS has been central in fighting this. 

Claims that SWSS members are demoralised from the collapse of the student movement are misleading. SWP students have engaged both in local struggles and in a process of political development in the party’s tradition, engaging in all aspects of theory and ideology – which give SWSS its political drive to build the party, both practically and ideologically. Students have been involved in all key areas of our united front work, linking up student struggles with workers, confronting Sexism, Homophobia, Racism and Islamophobia on and off campus.

New students arrive at colleges every year, SWSS has been central to building a periphery based on the IS tradition which seeks to win students to revolutionary socialism. This work is maintained by SWSS groups nationally, which strives to establish themselves on campus, to build a political and critical culture while intervening in the struggles around them. It can take years to establish SWSS groups on campus in which vast sections of the student campus gravitate around SWSS, for example Sussex University is currently in a 4 week occupation, with SWSS taking a lead. Most importantly, the arguments put forward by the CC shift the argument away from the Disputes Case, onto political and ideological debates which cannot be concluded properly in less than 2 weeks.

We reject the notion that students have not fought for our ideas. The struggle pre-2010 with the Gaza Protests and Post-2010 after the defeat of 2010 required SWSS to raise the ideological standard to the sudden rise in activity, but this was only possible with a crystallized set of ideological demands and ideas, an extremely high attention to ideological detail. SWSS has constantly fought and has a serious ideological record. This is shown in the recruitment figures year-on-year, shown in the serious SWSS groups developed, and the calibre of the student cadre that the party now has, after the decline of a national movement. The ‘Ideological turn’ now being called for is founded on a false basis, it represents a ‘batten-down-the-hatches’ turn inwards, a retreat into Marxist study circles in which ideology and education is the primary focus of SWSS, with agitation and real intervention put to rest.

The political period we are in, wars, revolutions, riots, strikes and austerity, we believe that we cannot afford to turn inwards under the rallying calls to ‘preserve the organisation’, to do so is unnecessary and puts at risk the party’s intervention in the wider fight against austerity the very intervention which conference rightly prioritised. SWSS stands to fight for the party, despite the crisis, reaffirming the SWP as both an ideological and an interventionist organisation and seeking an adequate response to the handling of the Disputes Case. Despite the situation - the conviction of SWP students continues to grow.

Arnie J. (Newham/UEL SWSS)

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