Vote Communist for Shef Union 09!

I’m Laurie Smith and I’m standing for President of Sheffield Student’s Union 2009. I am a Marxist and a member of Communist Students, and I believe student politics needs to be about more than just personalities and the crushing bureaucracy they inhabit- no wonder hardly anyone votes!

When standing before I have always made clear that a few Left bureaucrats will not significantly change NUS, and been critical of this approach on the left. Those that want to change the system from within find that the system changes them. So my campaign is not just about voting communist – it is about arguing for our politics and winning people to the idea of a mass student movement. One based on politics that can win- the politics of Marxism.

Laurie Smith on


This is the fourth year CS has stood candidates in the elections here, and this time I’ll be keeping you updated on all the thrills and spills using the Twitter website, to which I will be sending updates from my phone during campaigning. The latest will be shown on the CS site (in the right menu) or go to my twitter page to see older updates.

Join the Facebook group!

Manifesto and Video

What I fight for

—Student politics—

Most students are apathetic about Union elections- but who can blame them when there is so little meaningful choice on offer? Even the candidates who have some politics aren’t honest about them, and all limit their aims to being a good bureaucrat for a year, working within a system in which the university can veto any of their decisions. Student politics can be about much more than this self-serving crap; and needs to be if we are to fight for our collective interests and win. A student’s union, for example, should surely fight for education to be available to all for free. Yet Sheffield and our national union has surrendered utterly to New Labour over top-up fees and abandoned the aim of free education. Long dominated by Labour Students and rightist hangers-on, the ruling clique of NUS also passed their ‘governance review’ last year which destroys what remained of democracy in the union. Now it is essentially an administrative and sometime ‘lobbying’ body. A bureaucrat’s union with a policy of permanent surrender is no way forward. To fight the government and the decaying capitalist system we need a mass student movement- based on the radical politics of Marxism.


The current education system – where students are burdened with massive debts and forced to take paid work to get themselves through college, must be ended. Under capitalism, the education system will never be about the pursuit of knowledge and furtherance of skills in order to enrich our life experiences, but about creating the next generation of exploitable office-dolts.

With the introduction of tuition fees more students than ever before have to hold down McJobs and study at the same time, whilst the NUS pathetically whimper for concessions of “keep the cap” to the greasy politicians they later want to become. I will fight with students for the abolition of all fees; for grants set at a minimum wage level (not the slave labour rate of the current minimum wage), and for the socialisation of our own education.

Students, alongside lecturers, teachers, pupils and parents, must be at the forefront of opposition to these attacks on our education system and demand an education that equips us for what really counts- changing the world!


My first involvement in politics was attending a protest against the war on Afghanistan and I was later part of the militant student action against the Iraq war. The recent wave of University occupations protesting Israel’s barbaric assault on Gaza have shown that students are not the passive, nihilistic beings we are often portrayed as, and shown that collective action can achieve results. But we must deepen the politics of this movement. We can have no faith in the Obama administration; the election of Barack means a change in only the image of U.S. Imperialism, not it’s vicious role in the world, which is to ensure the continued dominance of American capitalists in the global order of states. The new president has pulled troops out of Iraq, but sent more to Afghanistan. He has also made clear that he backs Israel’s Zionist project as much as Bush.

As a communist, being against imperialism does not mean I support any old reactionary regime or group which also opposes it. Unfortunately many on the ‘left’ do fall into this sort of nationalist politics, and the leadership of the Stop the War Coalition are often heard cheerleading for various reactionaries like the regime in Iran (hangs gay people and tortures students fighting for democracy), Hezbollah (throw acid on women) and Hamas (want an Islamic state).  As an internationalist and a fighter for human liberation I cannot just shut up about sexism and homophobia, oppression and murder. I am a member of Hands Off the People of Iran, which as well as campaigning against the threat of any imperialist intervention, war or sanctions against Iran, looks to build active solidarity with grass-roots forces in Iran, the militant women’s, workers and students movements. Because of our criticism of the ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ approach, both HOPI and CS have been shamefully barred from affiliating to Stop the War.

The recession creates conditions for war; rising protectionism and falling profits will increase national tensions; there is also the matter of competition over dwindling natural resources. As the U.S. economy declines, it is likely to lash out to try and maintain it’s status. It is necessary to build a movement which does more than just go on aimless marches and listen to the same old clichés from the top table. A movement flexible in tactics- but always principled in it’s internationalism.


In order to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq and the “War on Terror” that the cronies in the American and British regimes had to find a “scapegoat” to portray as the enemy, attempting to hold us in a constant state of fear so that we do not question their wars or their numerous attacks on our basic civil liberties.

These attacks also directly affect students. In a leaked Government document from the department of education and skills, university staff are asked to spy on “Asian-looking” or Muslim students and inform Special Branch of any dodgy-goings on. Communist Student candidates vehemently oppose these basic attacks on our basic freedoms and will fight to reveal what exactly is going on in Sheffield University.

I will argue for united campaigns with Islamic societies on campus in order to counter any surveillance or harassment of “Asian-looking” students, or in defence of any of our civil liberties and democratic rights – including organising ethnically (and sexually) integrated physical defence squads when necessary.

I am also a secularist and advocate the complete separation of state and church/mosque/temple in order to achieve the full equality of believers and non-believers. But I am not ‘neutral’ about religion. Marxists are atheists. We seek to overcome religious superstition and win people to a materialist outlook. As such I oppose political Islam, a reactionary and repressive political movement.

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Women still form an oppressed group in society. Millionaire businesswomen are held up as the victory of feminism; yet two thirds of workers performing the lowest paid jobs in Britain are women. And though women have generally achieved equality of political rights, most still face discrimination in work and in the home, where many are still expected to do all the work of raising children. Women are more at risk of domestic abuse and sexual violence.

Capitalism is intertwined with sexism; unpaid childcare performs the function for capital of raising the next generation of workers, free. Women also form a ‘reserve supply’ of labour brought in when capitalism is expanding or there is a war on; and we will probably see in this recession that they will be the first to go. Women are exploited by capital both as cheap wage workers and domestic slaves.

As a communist I support demands such as free, 24-hour childcare for student parents in the Union and in society as a whole, the socialisation of housework by state enterprises to free women from the burden of domestic chores, and free abortion available on demand. Increasing numbers of students are turning to prostitution to fund their studies as top-up fees go through the roof. I believe prostitution must be decriminalised to remove it from criminal control. Prostitutes should be provided with special health care and other services to reduce the dangers they confront, and measures should be taken to give prostitutes wider social opportunities.

I believe the complete liberation of women can only come as part of the liberation of the working class -and vice versa. Communism has to be ‘the emancipation of all human beings without distinction of sex or race’ (Marx). But as a particularly oppressed group, women must self-organise to fight sexist ideas at all levels of society and continue the struggle for full economic, social, political and cultural rights.


Gay people have often been used by the right wing as a scapegoat and are still persecuted in society and discriminated against in work and by the state, though overt homophobia is currently not ‘politically correct’ for the bourgeois parties. Homophobia and transphobia divide the working class. As well as campaigning against these attitudes, students need to be mobilised in order to defend and advance the rights of LGBT people; I support full rights in regard to marriage and reproduction, equality in the workplace and for no discrimination in custody cases on the basis of sexual orientation.


As a communist I stand against the prohibitions of the capitalist state and for the full legalisation of all drugs. This is because I do not believe any state should have the right to tell people what they can’t put in their bodies. Humans have experimented with drugs for thousands of years and it is not surprising that a curious, intelligent species like ourselves does so. The illegality of drugs keeps their supply in the hands of gangs and means users have no idea of the strength or of what other substances could be mixed in.
The communist alternative is simple. It is for the complete legalisation of all drugs and the socialisation of their use. The irrationality surrounding the use of drugs tells us that the ruling class has no rational programme for society as a whole any more – all it proposes in response to these real social problems are increased measures of authoritarian social control that actually makes the problem worse. The ‘war on drugs’ however, cannot be won.


There is only so much food, only so many mineral deposits, and only so many trees and forests for humankind to put to use if we want to keep on living. The effect of fossil fuels on the global climate threatens to destroy whole ecosystems and render the Earth uninhabitable for people. Under capitalism the logical and planned use of resources is impossible. In a world of massive overproduction of food, millions starve to death. The profit motive is the soul of capitalism and is the root of all misuse of resources and of unnecessary environmental damage. It is not profitable to feed the starving, it is not profitable to save the rainforests, it is not profitable to encourage free public transport, it is not profitable to make poverty history. I believe that this madness must end; capitalism must be positively overcome by the conscious control of the majority of the world’s society – thus ensuring the correct balance between meeting expanding human needs and ensuring sustainability.

—The Left—

Communist Students fights for the unity of Marxists, who are currently dispersed over an array of tiny ‘parties’ which are more or less dogmatic and, ironically, undemocratic. But our unity must be based on politics that can win. Not the politics of mindless activism in which students are seen as leaflet fodder for the various left groups, or the politics of hiding our real views to ensure we get voted in.  We believe communist politics are true and necessary, and we aim to win students to those ideas and build a mass movement of Marxism. At a time when capitalism is in rapid decline, war looks set to spread, and many working class people are again being priced out of education, the minimalist platforms of the other Left candidates are a complete irrelevance.

Some of them are Marxists, but in public dilute their politics to a vague leftiness; to get elected, and because they believe you, the students, aren’t ready for these ideas and must be led slowly to the truth! Arrogant rubbish. I support the other leftists standing in these elections- but critically. Your strategy is a failed one. We need unity, yes: but it has to be on the basis of being open about our communist politics and fighting for them to become hegemonic in society. Those politics cannot be a long list of dogmas which members must agree with. Marxism is a strategy for human liberation. Differences are natural and inevitable, so freedom of debate and a healthy democratic culture, in which minority views can become the majority,  are necessary for sustainable unity. And if our class is to run society it must train itself in political discussion, and practice in it’s own organisations the democracy it wishes to see in the world.


It is clear as we enter this recession that capitalism fails as a system, even on it’s own terms. For a while the true nature of the system is revealed more clearly; the so-called wealth generators, the capitalists, are actually exploitative vampires, who in collusion with the state are making the working class pay the costs of the crisis. The working class includes not just those in paid employment, but all who do not own or control the means of production. That includes the unemployed, pensioners, and most students in a country like the UK.

This recession is not down to a handful of ‘bad apples’ making risky decisions; it is a crisis of the system as a whole. Capitalism lives through boom and bust, and in a recession it becomes necessary that swathes of production are left idle and resources destroyed. It is obvious that it is technically within our power to provide enough for all; that starvation and poverty are unnecessary. Yet the lives of millions are at the whim of abstract market forces which take on a life of their own and which no-one really controls or even understands. There is an alternative. Organising ourselves to take the means of production into the hands of the majority of society- and running them based on the principle of human need, not a tiny class’s desire for profit.


I am a communist because I believe that capitalist society -where the majority of the world’s population own nothing but their ability to sell their labour power, and production is based on the need for capital to accumulate- is the root cause of war, poverty and the destruction of our environment. I am a consistent democrat; we need democratic control over every aspect of our lives including education, work and production, not the sham democracy of the British state. Communism is a strategy for the liberation of humanity through the liberation of the working class. As the exploited, propertyless majority of society, the working class has an objective interest in overthrowing capitalism. It has the social strength to abolish capitalism and can, with organisation, take over the running of society.  Communism is the end of classes, nations and money through the flourishing of democracy and conscious self-control, where production and distribution is based on the principle of human need and not on profit for the sake of profit.

Vote Communist! And join us in the fight for a mass student movement of Marxism!

Laurie Smith


  • “capitalism must be positively overcome by the conscious control of the majority of the world’s society”

    This statement is vague, what is meant by conscious control, are you advocating a marxist malthusianism? It needs clarification.

  • It is somewhat vague, but this isn’t Das Kapital. I simply meant that the majority must be conscious of what they are doing. They cannot be ‘tricked’ into socialism by an enlightened vanguard or a benificent state.

    Speaking of overcoming capitalism positively, I hope your picture of Stalin represents a lame stab at postmodern humour rather than a sincere indication of your politics.


  • Well done with the 298 votes Laurie. 5.8% is good for an out and out communist. How does that compare to the soft ‘left’ candidates?

    By the way 298 votes is more than the entire turnout of the last sabbatical election I stood in at Leeds Met.

  • Thanks Dave. The soft left got much higher votes but none were elected. You can see the full breakdown here: link

    Bad times at Leeds Met! I thought our turnout was low- it was higher this year because of online voting.

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