People have been asking NCAFC what they can do to help build up support for the national demonstration on the 21st November. Most of the work involves spreading the word about the demonstration, but this is also a perfect opportunity to bring together interested people to make a local anti-cuts group at your college or university. Here are some practical things you can do:
1. If you have an anticuts group on campus, build it. If you don’t, set one up. The most important thing to get sorted out early on is to ensure that there is a group of activists on campus capable of organising, both for the national demo and on local issues. Get everyone interested in getting involved together and hold regular, well-advertised meetings for the group. Your local anticuts group is a vital point of reference for organising , and will be a place where a broad range of students can go when the movement gets going. Keep in touch with other groups in your area, and link up with the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts.
2. Ask your students’ union what their plans are, and make sure that they’re good. How many people are they hoping to take to the demonstration? How will they do it? Have they done any costings for publicity and transport? Will that need to be fundraised or do they have a budget? Some unions won’t want to do anything, so be prepared to convince them that this is something they should be preparing for. Use the democratic structures of your union (general meetings and student councils) in order to promote mobilising for the demo, and offer to help in whatever way you can.
3. Invite all of your friends to the NUS official Facebook event. https://www.facebook.com/events/259158454193672/
4. Look for like-minded people who can help over the summer. There isn’t a huge amount of time on top of classes once term starts again, so you need to be prepared to hit the ground running, and that means you need people. If your institution has student clubs and societies, look for ones likely to have interested people in their membership. Political societies are always a good place to start but also contact other campaigning and charitable groups like Amnesty International and People and Planet. Liberation groups – feminist societies and women’s groups, anti-racist and BME organisations, LGBT networks – are very good places to find interested people. Youth wings of political parties and trades union branches are also worth trying. And don’t forget that everyone has a stake in defending education – including sports clubs and music societies.
5. Contact your university or college trades union branches. There will usually be at least two trades union branches on campus, one for academic staff, and one for support staff. Examples include Unison, Unite, UCU, and EIS (Scotland). There will also be branches in your local area. These organisations may have some experience or networks that you can tap into, but most importantly they may have bigger campaigning budgets than your students’ union, and should be willing to use it to help you fight for education. The Trades Union Congress has also called a demonstration on the 20th October, and your local branch may need your help to raise its profile amongst students. Solidarity is a 2-way street.
6. Design some posters and leaflets. Think about your message – how are you going to convince people that they should come to the demo? NCAFC will be producing some general materials that all campuses will be able to use, but making your own leaflets will always connect better with people locally. Your publicity should be clear, simple and accessible. People should have a clear idea of why they are going on the demonstration: to demand free, public and accessible education, funded by taxing the rich; an end to cuts; and the restoration of EMA. Put these slogans front and centre.
7. If you are at a large university, plan a communications strategy. This sounds boring, but it’s important. Does your institution have student halls? Figure out a plan of how you’re going to knock on every door to make sure as many students as possible know about the demonstration and how to sign up to go. Get a copy of the lecture timetables and draw up a plan on how to do a lecture announcement to as many different classes as possible, to make sure you’re not wasting time talking to the same group of people again and again. Which groups on campus will let you use their mailing lists? Start your own mailing list and start collecting email addresses and phone numbers in case news needs to be spread quickly.
8. Work out what you’re going to do for Freshers’ Week. An open meeting or debate on a topic related to the demonstration is a good idea, but you should also have stalls on campus, flyers to give out to people, and possibly also a social to get people involved in the group. If your institution doesn’t have a Freshers’ Week, why not just organise these events anyway?
9. Spread the word! Talking face to face is the most effective way, but over the summer you might reach more people by using your Twitter and Facebook to publicise it, and spread any relevant news stories about the aims of the demonstration. Start a Facebook event for your own institution and spread it around (this is also a good way to contact interested people in your area). Write a blogpost about why you’re going and why others should go too (and make sure you send it to us so we can post it on the NCAFC website!).
10. Link up between HE and FE/schools. If you’re at a university, talk to students at the gates of your local school or FE college. If you’re at school or college, link up with your local university. School and FE students are being hit hard by cuts and fees, and have often been the most important elements in getting turnout on the day and keeping the movement going afterwards – especially with mass walkouts. Why not set up a meeting for everyone in HE and FE in your area, and leaflet outside FE and sixth form gates for it?
And… Remember that the national demo isn’t the end of the story. In order for the student movement this year to be a success, we have to make sure that localised direct action – walkouts, demonstrations, occupations – continue well after November. Keep your local anticuts group going, and communicating with other groups, and watch out for more days of action called by NUS and NCAFC.