Students back UCU strike at Leeds Uni

Hundreds of University of Leeds lecturers, staff and students are rallying against pension cuts, unstable/zero-hour contracts, overwork and wage inequality. UCU members at 60 universities are striking for eight days over the coming fortnight after the university managements failed to respond to demands for fair treatment of all staff. Leeds Socialist Society are enthusiastic supporters of the movement, along with other student groups and individuals.

Molly Rampton, Leeds Uni Socialist Students

The UCU strike is a crucial last resort in the fight for fair working conditions at many universities across the country. Many lecturers and other staff live without the security of knowing that they will be employed until the next academic year or semester, while even those with long-term contracts have seen their pensions slashed. Many staff are paid hourly, which does not include time spent planning for and evaluating work outside of class hours. Wage gaps remain static, with people of colour and most women earning less than their white male counterparts.

The strike has been criticised for disrupting student’s education – a claim deliberately blind to the fact that this education cannot take place without quality teaching; which in turn cannot take place without quality of life for those teachers. Staff at Leeds must feel valued and secure within the institution in order to be able to impart their knowledge and expertise effectively.

The mistreatment of Leeds University employees is directly at odds with the enormous fees currently paid by students. The academic body deserves investment into educational, rather than market demands and we will stand for nothing less.

Leeds Uni Socialist Students campaigns for Corbyn’s anti-austerity policies

With the general election rapidly approaching, the Leeds University Socialist Students have been actively campaigning for a Corbyn led Labour government.

Allen Haigh, Leeds Uni Socialist Students

Along with our regular Wednesday stalls, we decided to canvass at one of the larger student halls, Lupton residences, on Thursday, November 21st to assure that all students had registered to vote, and to have a conversation with them about the current political landscape.

We also sought to help disambiguate any thoughts or perceptions students had about Corbyn’s campaign; and expressed our strong belief that an anti-austerity, anti-capitalist government based on a socialist platform, one in line with the needs of workers and students alike, had the potential to radically change the workings of our society for the better.

We were pleased to find that generally students were already registered, and were personally invested in the outcome of this election. We spoke to some students who were already planning to vote for Labour based on the strength of their manifesto, as well as others who still felt ambivalent about their voting intentions but were intrigued or impressed by Labours pledges on free education, and investment in the NHS.We visited one block that was largely composed of student nurses, who were particularly sympathetic to Labours plans for the NHS due to their first-hand experience of inadequate funding and gross mismanagement. We exchanged thoughts on what we perceived to be the current shortcomings and what needed to be done in the future to protect the interests of staff and patients alike.

We visited one block that was largely composed of student nurses, who were particularly sympathetic to Labours plans for the NHS due to their first-hand experience of inadequate funding and gross mismanagement. We exchanged thoughts on what we perceived to be the current shortcomings and what needed to be done in the future to protect the interests of staff and patients alike.

We also canvassed in the Hyde Park, an area with a large student population in Leeds, on Monday, 25th of November, and again were pleased to find that most students had registered and had educated themselves about some key policy differences.We stressed to Corbyn supporters that regardless of the outcome of the election, there would remain a continuous need to fight for socialist policies, whilst those who remained undecided pledged that they would remain vigilante of media bias, and do their research on what a Corbyn campaign would really stand for.

Most of all it was good to see that almost every single individual saw Boris Johnson’s anti-establishment rhetoric for what it really is, a farce, and most seemed to recognise the need for real change in society; Leeds Socialist Students will certainly continue to fight for a fairer Britian.
We stressed to Corbyn supporters that regardless of the outcome of the election, there would remain a continuous need to fight for socialist policies, whilst those who remained undecided pledged that they would remain vigilante of media bias, and do their research on what a Corbyn campaign would really stand for.

Most of all it was good to see that almost every single individual saw Boris Johnson’s anti-establishment rhetoric for what it really is, a farce, and most seemed to recognise the need for real change in society; Leeds Socialist Students will certainly continue to fight for a fairer Britian.

Rees Mogg event in Leeds cancelled

Ever since Socialist Students heard that arch-aristocrat and Tory House of Commons leader, Jacob Rees-Mogg was due to speak at an event hosted by the Leeds University Conservatives, we initiated the call for protests against his visit and the Tories anti-working class, pro-big business austerity agenda.

Over the course of the last week, several other left groups joined the call for the protest, and we had a great response at the Leeds Beckett freshers fayre where we gave out leaflets promoting the protest. Many students response was shock that he would even think he’d get any sort of audience from ordinary people in Leeds, and were enthusiastic about joining the protest.

As the numbers on social media promoting the protest grew, the ongoing crisis in parliament deepened, as well as the rough reception Boris Johnson got in nearby Morley (currently a Tory held seat), then it appears Rees-Mogg has cancelled. Socialist Students will remain ready to organise a fresh protest if the event is rearranged, but in the meantime we will continue our campaigning for a general election and building our support for socialist ideas to challenge the capitalist system the Tories defend.

Leeds University Socialist Students

Students flock to join Socialist Students at Leeds Uni

Leeds Uni freshers fayre

At Leeds Uni freshers fayre this year students queued up to sign up to Socialist Students mailing list.

Iain Dalton, Socialist Students Yorkshire organiser

Over the last few years many students said they were interested in socialism because of their support for Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-austerity policies he put forward in both Labour leadership campaigns and the 2016 general election.

This year though many students were critical that Corbyn wasn’t putting forward those ideas enough, and were keen to get involved with a campaigning Socialist organisation that could push his demands more consistently and further.

Over the course of freshers fayre and the climate strike on 20th September around 120 Leeds Uni students signed up to our mailing list.

Our first meeting was amongst the best we’ve ever had with new members grappling with the confusing political situation including discussing how to defeat the Blairites within the Labour Party, what is the basis of the populist appeal of Boris Johnson and how long could that last amongst others.

The meeting was clear that if Corbyn moved decisively for a general election, and pushed his anti-austerity policies to the fore by putting forward clear red lines in terms of defending jobs and public ownership in his proposals for a new Brexit deal this could have a huge appeal.

Students Strike Against Climate Change and Council Hypocrisy

Around 600 students joined the 4th #youthstrike4climate in Leeds, this time assembling outside Leeds Civic Hall in a direct response to the council passing a ‘Climate Emergency’ motion one month, then voting to fund infrastructure for airport expansion the next.

Iain Dalton, Socialist Students Yorkshire Organiser

As the petition launched prior to the strike states, why isn’t the council using the estimated £50m for this on measures consistent with the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030, such as the petition suggests creating green jobs by upgrading the environmental efficiency of council and school buildings. Or investing in green public transport?

Tanis Belsham-Wray, Secretary of Leeds TUC and Socialist Party member, emphasised the need for students to link with the trade union movement, and the need for developing a plan of creating a environmentally sustainable economy with decent high-quality, well-paid jobs.

After calling for the big energy companies and others to be taken into public ownership to acheive this,  Tanis said in her speech “As a Socialist, we say let ordinary people make these decisions, let’s have democratically elected bodies in our workplaces, schools, colleges and universities, that link together and decide how things should be run to meet the needs of the many and not the interests of the few.”

Students were also angry about the upcoming visit of Donald Trump, his vocal climate change denial was high up on the list of reasons students wanted to protest against his visit and the #YouthStrikeAgainstTrump on May 3rd initiated by Leeds Socialist Students received substantial interest from students coming up to our stall to find out more.

Linked to this was interest in setting up a Students Union in Leeds, with 16 students signing up from 6 different schools across the city, both to organise against Trump’s visit but also giving the increasingly hostile attitude of school authorities towards the climate change strikes.

There was also interest in Socialist ideas, with 22 copies of the Socialist newspaper sold as well as the recent climate change pamphlet and others wanting to join Socialist Students.

Solidarity with the Yellow Vests! France’s Gilet Jaunes Call for End of Capitalism

“Aware that we have to fight against a global system, we consider that it will be necessary to leave capitalism.”

Over the weekend, the Assembly of Assemblies (Assemblée des assemblées), the highest organising body of the Gilet Jaunes, released a statement calling for an end to capitalism. The Gilet Jaunes movement began in November of 2018, initially as a protest against a planned fuel tax. The proposed tax threated to add to the rising living costs of French workers, especially those who cannot afford to live in the gentrified cities, and must commute to work by car from the surrounding towns. In France, all drivers are required to keep a hi-vis vest in their car, so the vests were used as a symbol of unity by the protesters.

Andrew Saxon, Leeds University Socialist Students

The movement quickly grew as an outlet of frustration at the rising costs of housing, food, transport, and dissapointment in president Emmanuel Macron, who prior to his election presented himself as a political outsider who promised reform, but quickly enacted policies of austerity, and tax cuts for the wealthiest in France, showing himself to be very much a part of the neoliberal establishment.

Initially, the movement was politically diverse, with protesters from along the political spectrum, many of whom had previously been politically inactive. Although copycat protesters abroad have co-opted the imagery of the Yellow Vests for the far-right, the movement in France has coalesced around principles of economic and social justice. The statements from the Assemby of Assemblies affirm these goals, including calls for redistribution of wealth from the billionaires, the rights to free healthcare and education, and genuine efforts to tackle climate change and take control of the energy companies out of the hands of the bosses.

The Macron government’s efforts to stifle the protests, such as the so-called “Grand Debate”, have been rightfully recognised as damage control, an effort to obscure the intentions of the government. Protests continue despite repeated instances of police brutality.

However, it is a weakness of the assemblies approach to declare itself independent from the trade unions. In France the trade unions are numerically weaker than in Britain, but can and have draw significant layers of workers into struggles including strike action which is vital in taking the movement forward to win it’s social and economic demands.

Leeds Socialist Students stands in solidarity with the movement of the Gilet Jaunes, and welcomes their recognition that the problems of the French workers cannot be fully resolved under capitalism. There has so far been little published in English on this declaration, so we hope that we can raise awareness among English speaking supporters.

The statement in English trabslation can be read here: https://translate.google.co.uk/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fblogs.mediapart.fr%2Fmaison-du-peuple-de-saint-nazaire%2Fblog%2F080419%2Fappel-des-gilets-jaunes-de-saint-nazaire-assemblee-des-assemblees

The full statement in French can be read here: https://blogs.mediapart.fr/maison-du-peuple-de-saint-nazaire/blog/080419/appel-des-gilets-jaunes-de-saint-nazaire-assemblee-des-assemblees

Third Round of Climate Strikes in Leeds

The third round of climate strikes took place in the middle of high school students’ Easter break. With around 400 gathered on the steps of Leeds Town Hall the turnout was smaller than on the previous two strikes. However, considerable developments were made towards achieving a greater level of autonomy and unionisation for the striking students.

Meanwhile, Leeds City Council intends to double the number of passengers using Leeds Bradford Airport despite councillors passing a climate emergency declaration!

Morgan King, Leeds Socialist Students