Sinead Rylance reports on Freshers’ Fair 2010 at the London School of Economics.
Four comrades from Communist students held a stall at LSE’s fresher’s fair on the 28th September. The fresher’s fair was quite lively and there were a lot of stalls outside so we set up with most of the other left groups who also presumably don’t have members that attend LSE. Both Labour students and Conservative future didn’t seem to have much of a presence there. The Socialist Workers Party had a stall with interchanging full timers throughout the day, campaigning for the mobilisation against the upcoming Tory conference. The Socialist Equality Party, Socialist Appeal and Lutte Ouvriere also had stalls. Comrades handed out copies of the new CS, publicising the London Communist Forum on 9th October and getting around 30 signatures. Most of those interested seemed to be from India or China, but also had a couple from Germany, Spain and Greece – it does seem to be a very international University.
Students commonly mistook us for the debating society, as we were stood near their poster. When told that we do in fact debate and discuss all types of issues; communism, capitalism, history and philosophy, they didn’t seem to hear. Obviously communism is the one issue most don’t want to debate. An article in the fresher’s fair edition of The Beaver (LSE’s Students’ Union paper) suggested that the political atmosphere at LSE was starting to become more sedate, with students tending to lean more towards issues which “directly influence us… [which] must not cause controversy…must not divide students”. However in his article Zachariah Sammour correctly states that “these are based on a series of false assumptions, primarily that activism must be a uniting force. When one recognises the fact that activism would not exist if there was not both the need for social change and resistance to it, it becomes clear that the opposite is in fact true”.
True to form the students’ union has set up a big campaign “freeze the fees”, which is being pushed by the newly elected Sabbatical officers who have had leaflets printed off pre-term. This team has found a cause to be political about, which does directly influence students, does not cause any real controversy (especially compared with what we should be demanding) and does not divide students as any student with any sense would know that it would be in their interest to freeze the fees and most students agree on this issue. This campaign seems to mainly be being led by Education officer Ashok Kumar, who seems to be left leaning and has recently been involved in the National Campaign against Fees and Cuts and campaigns at the University of Madison Wisconsin. He was adamant that he agreed with our call to abolish fees altogether, but was currently concerned about what was “achievable” at one particular institution. A tried, tested method that has produced failure after failure.
Many different groups, political parties and student unions have been calling for the broadest biggest campaign against these cuts and these broad campaigns are becoming apparent in universities across Britain. The SWSS stall didn’t seem to be calling for anything much different than what the LSESU was calling for, students interested in activism and not paying fees tended to be attracted to their stall and students studying economics or history with an interest in communism seemed to be attracted to ours.
Like most students at most Universities the students seem to be quite apathetic and loathing towards activists. However, we had some interesting discussions with a few people who are at least coming across Marx in their studies, if not actually taking him that seriously at the moment.
As one rather naive first year economist put it: “Marx is bunk, but I have no idea why”. One might have expected more from an elite University with ‘Join the global debate at LSE’ as the catch line on the university webpage.