This document was adopted by AWL conference 21-22 November 2015.
NOTES ON STUDENT ACTIVITY FOR THE NEW 2015 ACADEMIC YEAR
After the Corbyn surge, we can expect that there will be a surge of interest in university Labour Clubs. This interest from leftwing students, who were enthused by Corbyn, may not be automatically or immediately reflected in a surge in membership of Labour Clubs. But it does mean that it will be very easy for Labour Clubs to rapidly recruit large numbers of students. Generally, these will be broadly leftwing students. They will not be ready-made socialists – but they will reflect and be influenced by the politics of the Corbyn campaign.
In addition, many people in the broad anti-cuts, anti-Tory movements that have taken place over the last 5 years, and people around the organised left, will be likewise ‘interested’ in Labour. Not organised into Labour, or confident about intervening in Labour – but they will be open to the idea of getting active in Labour.
Our job is to organise and politically hegemonise these people, and Labour Clubs on campuses. We need to
1) Join Labour Clubs and get to know people
2) Argue our ideas and promote AWL profile in Labour Clubs (with certain provisos relating to security)
3) "Organise the influx" – recruit new and existing leftwingers to Labour Clubs on the basis of fighting for leftwing ideas
4) Consolidate leftwing victories in the clubs by winning officer roles and policy votes, and delegate elections to Labour Students Conference
5) Encourage Labour Clubs individual students to get active off campus – by doing various kinds of campaigning in local areas and, crucially, by setting up constituency-level Young Labour groups and building them; and getting involved in local labour movement activity, including local Labour Party branch meetings.
We want Labour Clubs to assume the character that anti-cuts groups have had until now: as being ‘the place to go to find out what leftwing activity is going on on campus’. We want Labour Clubs to be organising for the 17 October refugees demo, the 4 November fees demo, and the NCAFC’s student strike ballot campaign. We want Labour Clubs to hold big political discussion meetings. We want to recruit lots of people from Labour Clubs into Workers’ Liberty, quickly. All of these goals are realistic. They will all probably involve a faction fight against the right. We should aim to break the right quickly, and teach those around us not to be intimidated by the right wing’s longer years of service and apparently superior ‘Labour knowledge’ or prestige.
Labour Young Socialists
Labour Young Socialists has been founded, at our initiative, as a national organising centre for the left in Young Labour and Labour Students. It will produce model motions, articles, a blog, and possibly a publication.
Comrades should circulate motions, blogposts and literature produced by LYS, and get Labour Clubs to affiliate to LYS. In general we should not busy ourselves setting up campus ‘affiliates’ or ‘branches’ of LYS, but rather just get to work organising students around ourselves as Workers’ Liberty and working with other left-wingers in Labour Clubs to transform them into democratic, lively, active, militant bodies. Neither should we get wrapped up in layers and layers of ‘hats’, wrapping the LYS badge around ourselves as a ‘front’ for our AWL identity. Neither should we prioritise distributing and promoting LYS literature over distributing and promoting AWL literature.
If and when LYS develops a membership structure then comrades should become individual members and encourage other leftwingers in their Labour Clubs to become individual members.
Insofar as local LYS groups are set up, they will be set up at the city level to drive and support the creation of Young Labour groups by the left, and the takeover of Labour Clubs by the left.
Intervention in Labour Clubs is our priority now. There is going to be a big influx into Labour Clubs, and we need to make sure that this influx is not wasted – either wasted because it dissipates or fails to defeat the right, or wasted because it is hegemonised by other leftwing ideas which are inadequate, or worse than inadequate.
This means that the previous policy of running Left Forums has to be seen in a new light.
The aim with Left Forums was, and is to create a visible, well-known and accessible ‘hub’ where students can come to check out ideas: a regular rhythm of well-publicised discussion meetings punctuated with high-profile speaker events and so on. The Left Forum was intended to become the go-to place for students to come and find out about leftwing ideas on campus – i.e. something with a high and independent profile, and regular, accessible meetings in consistent locations. Left Forums were never conceived of as simply "leftwing meetings conducted by AWL but with added ‘cover’".
There is still a need to have a body which fulfils this role. Our perspective should be to get the Labour Clubs to organise Left Forum-style meetings which do this.
In order to get Left Forum or Left Forum-style meetings to run properly, branches must help their students to get speakers, draw up a list of ideas for meetings, and generally advise students on how to run meetings effectively and offer practical assistance.
In some places, we will be able to run the Labour Club’s public activity more or less from day one – by walking in, and offering to help set up a series of public meetings under the Labour Club banner. We should do this wherever we can.
In all cases, we should be flexible about precisely what ticket we organise ‘broad’ meetings and activity under. The objective is the same in every case: to gather people around us and set the political tone.
The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, in which we are involved, continues to be an important part of student politics and activism. In fact it has experienced a modest influx of support and activists recently. We will continue to be involved; encourage Ncafc members and groups to become active with us in the Labour Party, Labour Clubs, Young Labour, etc.; and promote Ncafc's demands and initiatives in the Labour Party, etc.
Workers Liberty Public Profile
No part of the above activity should interfere with us carrying out the basic AWL ‘propaganda routine’ on campuses, i.e. regular sales and stalls, passing petitions around lectures, doing contact work, and organising Workers’ Liberty public meetings and reading groups.
Within Labour Clubs, we should be bold about selling papers. We lose much more by excessive caution than we do by taking the (small) risk of being witch-hunted.