The Guardian • Issue #2099

EDITORIAL

Support students – and beyond!

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2099

Students have a bad name in Australian politics. A lot of politicians cut their teeth in student politics – you’ve got to start somewhere – but ‘student politics’ is a bit of an insult in Australia. It implies that the politics in question aren’t real. “They’ll be different once they grow up and get a job” is a common response to student protests. Right now a lot of students are protesting in support of Palestine, by setting up encampments on university campuses. Are the encampments worth supporting?

Yes they are. Remember, the cause is really important. At the time of writing, 15 thousand children have been killed by the Israeli Defence Force in Palestine. Including bodies not found yet, the number of dead is over 40 thousand. That’s not just a faraway tragedy. Our government helps by relationships with Israeli military companies, and by keeping diplomatic relations with the Israeli government responsible for the genocide. This situation is beyond urgent.

The stereotype of student protests is that the students eventually go back to class, finish their courses, grow up and get jobs; so nothing changes, except that older people get to sneer at students for youthful idealism. Any such sneering is misplaced for two reasons. Firstly, at least the students are doing something. They’re trying to stop an ongoing genocide that Australia is implicated in. Anyone who isn’t also trying to stop it doesn’t get to criticise that.

Also, it’s not just students who protest a bit and then stop. The anti-Iraq war protests were some of the largest in history, but life went back to normal and the Iraq war went on. Occupy Wall St got a lot of attention, and lasted for 59 days, but capitalism in the US is just as horrible now as it was then.

It’s easy to conclude from this that protests don’t work, and we could stay home. That would be a mistake. The lesson to take from these examples is not that protest doesn’t work, it’s that protest often needs to be the beginning of continued action.

Every act of protest is important in the fight for a Free Palestine, every call, email, every body at a rally. To be effective, protest needs to be ongoing and sustainable. In the case of apartheid, the campaign was long-term, and ongoing. Crucially, the long-fought and successful campaign to end apartheid involved workers and their unions, as well as students.

When Nelson Mandela was newly released from prison and on a tour of Australia, he made a point of scheduling a unions-only event in order to thank union members for never giving up in the long struggle against apartheid.

Students at the encampments are engaged in a long-term campaign against genocide. We salute and support their efforts. The struggle is ongoing. It needs workers. Workers need unions.

To be effective, unions need active union members. The Communist Party of Australia supports active union membership – it’s one of the duties of Party members. Party members are active in Unions for Palestine.

Key demands:

  • Unilateral recognition of the Palestinian state
  • Boycott Israel
  • Support the student encampments
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