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Is there life outside Labour?

In our continuing series on left strategy, Chris Nineham from Counterfire responds to Laura Smith and John...

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What is Counterfire?

Counterfire is a socialist organisation committed to building the biggest possible movements against a system that is creating more and more crisis and misery.

Whether or not we get real change depends on wider struggles in society, it depends on mass movements, popular protests and on workers taking action.

We believe that this kind of popular opposition requires a dynamic extra-parliamentary left, rooted in workplaces, communities and colleges.

We also believe that these struggles are connected. Racism, sexism and all oppressions are a product of a society based on the exploitation of workpeople by a tiny minority of capitalists.

War, climate change and inequality are all symptoms of a chaotic system based on competition for profits.

In the process of helping to build resistance, Counterfire puts the case for a revolutionary socialism that ultimately seeks popular control of society and genuine liberation for all.

What we do

Our members are actively involved in the protest movements and workers struggles around the country, and we are organising local Counterfire groups - currently online - to help build solidarity with struggles and popularise socialist ideas and analysis.

As well as putting on a wide range of debates, public meetings and other events around the country, we run one of the best read websites on the left which has scores of contributors and tens of thousands of readers every month and - in normal times - we distribute thousands of copies of the left's first free paper. 

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Trotsky in the Bronze Age

Join Counterfire

Counterfire is a socialist organisation building the biggest possible movements against austerity, war and racism. We believe that change happens when working people get organised and fight for it. Politics is not only or mainly about what happens in parliament.

We have one of the best-read websites on the left with cutting edge news, analysis and socialist theory and we distribute thousands of copies of the left's first free paper.

Most importantly we are organising a dynamic extra-parliamentary left in every area of the country. We have local groups which meet (on Zoom for the time being) to discuss the political situation and organise and support local campaigns, strikes and protests.

If you want to be part of a campaigning, revolutionary left that will fight for fundamental change then join us now.

Socialist Explainers

Keeping the police off campus means building the biggest possible movement against the attack on education, and against austerity

Students, lecturers and trade unionists from across London universities and beyond, including Brighton, Sussex, Oxford and other universities, gathered at a lively protest outside ULU today. The protest comes after outrage over heavy-handed policing and 38 arrests at last Thursday’s protest and the occupation of Senate House last Wednesday.

This is the first protest since the University of London issued an injunction banning “occupational protest action” on campus for 6 months, including occupations and protests by students. More than 2,000 people marched from ULU, around Senate House, past the Institute of Education and to SOAS.

The demonstration ended with a mass sit-in outside SOAS, and further protests outside the inquest of Mark Duggan and UCEA, the body responsible for negotiating lecturers’ pay. The numbers on the streets today, and the involvement of staff and students, ensured the police stayed away.

Reminiscent of the student revolt in 2010, the occupation of Senate House was organised in protest against the privatisation of the student loan book, the planned closure of ULU, in solidarity with cleaners fighting for decent pay and pensions, and in solidarity with lecturers, who have been on strike twice in the past month in response to a 13% pay cut since 2009.

The presence of police on campus and the level of police brutality over the past week have clearly struck a chord amongst both students and staff, but questions are also being asked about the state of higher education and what kind of action is needed to defend education.

Ben Gray from Queen Mary said, “I think there’s no need for the police on campus. The presence of police is about intimidation and the criminalisation of dissent.  We see it at Queen Mary all the time. The Tories are selling off the student loan book and they’re using the police to prevent students from protesting against the privatisation of our education.”

Last night at SOAS, over 300 students and staff organised an open meeting to discuss the police presence on campus. There was much debate and discussion, but there was consensus that any movement against the police and in defence of education needs to involve the widest possible layers of people.

Mya Pope-Weidemann, a student at SOAS, said “Today was a victory for the student movement, and an incredible demonstration of the solidarity and will to resist amongst students. The police are the armed wing of austerity on campus and today we showed we won’t be intimidated by violence in the face of democratic protest.

The rising exploitation of students and staff alike, the government sell-off of our debts and the proposed abolition of ULU are unacceptable. It’s time to pull all these campaigns together to defend our education system, keep up the momentum and come back strong in the New Year. If we can unite, then we can take back our education system.”

For the moment, the challenge is to spread the movement to every campus across the country, and move from the involvement of thousands to the involvement of hundreds of thousands in defence against the attack on higher education.

The Student Assembly Against Austerity is organising a week of action 3-7th February over the privatisation of the student loan book and a mass student meeting at the end of January to plan the week of action.