The Student Movement [ZACF]

It rests with you [the youth of the well-to-do classes] either to palter continually with your conscience, and in the end to say, one fine day: “Perish humanity, provided I can have plenty of pleasures and enjoy them to the full, so long as the people are foolish enough to let me.”

Or, once more the inevitable alternative, to take part with the [Anarchist-] Socialists and work with them for the complete transformation of society… come and place your services at the disposal of those who most need them. And remember, if you do come, that you come not as masters, but as comrades in the struggle…

The never-ceasing struggle for truth, justice and equality among the [working and poor] people, whose gratitude you will earn – what nobler career can the youth of all nations desire than this?

Peter Kropotkin,
An Appeal to The Young,
1880, various editions

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We support the progressive student movement in higher education because it is progressive, because it is fighting racism, because we oppose racism wherever it exists, because we stand in solidarity with the struggles of working class students, and because we believe we can recruit serious Anarchist/ Syndicalist activists from it.


We recognise that the problems students face -low bursaries, bad conditions, racism et.- are the product of capitalism and the State, and that this has concrete implications for how we approach the student struggle.

This means that the student movement can only succeed if it is anti-capitalist. In turn, this means that links have to be built with other anti-capitalist struggles like rent boycotts etc. In concrete terms, the university is not an island, it is vital to build alliances.

Given students distance from the production process, varied origins and general numbers in the overall population, the student movement is unable to make a revolution. That is to say, it cannot solve its problems by itself. Only the working class can make the revolution because it a productive class with no vested interest in capitalism united in the workplace and powerful because of its ability to disrupt production. Therefore a student-worker alliance is necessary to students.

However, such an alliance should be on workers terms- if students do not defend workers, they should not be supported by workers. In other words, there must be a principled alliance that emphasises the needs of the working class. Moreover, our general principles of class struggle lead us to argue that workers should play the leading role in this alliance. The students should not come as experts and leaders but as comrades coming to aid the struggle of the workers. Overall, these students would fall into the category of the middle class that splits to join the workers in the struggle and the revolution. They should renounce the privileges of the middle class and ambitions for power in the State and capitalism.


The universities and technikons need to be fundamentally restructured in two ways:

  • Democratised and placed under worker-student-staff control (as should all education)
  • Reorientated – at present they train experts and managers whose function is to work for the bosses to provide knowledge, control etc. Instead of this situation, the intellectual resources of the tertiary education sector must be made to serve the needs of the working and poor people, who, after all, sustain the universities and technikons through their labour. At present the professions are distorted by capitalism: the doctor cannot practice properly, for the people are ill due to the conditions of capitalism; the teacher is regulated to teach obedience and bourgeois history, not independent inquiry and the struggles of the working class etc.


We argue as follows:

  • For a breaking off of alliances between student groups and political parties in parliament.
  • For the unification of student groups into broad transformation fronts with the end goal of forming Black-centred progressive student unions.
  • For solidarity from students for workers struggles against repressive labour relations, casualisation of jobs, retrenchments etc. with an immediate focus on the thousands of workers who already work in the tertiary education sector as cleaners etc. Solidarity with teaching and office staff.
  • For a class struggle approach to the student struggle, not a black nationalist approach that denies the importance of class.
  • For opposition to all funding cuts, discrimination and bad conditions. For increased funding to historically Black tertiary education, and for increased bursaries to prevent the exclusion of the Black working class youth from higher education. Unconditional opposition to racism.
  • For mass action, not reliance on politicians, as a way to win gains.
  • Affirmative action to make the university populations of the historically white universities and technikons representative of the country as a whole.
  • Defence of all student activists victimised for fighting for transformation.
  • Opposition to all reactionary uses of science. For example, military research, work on surveillance, vivisection. Defend the rights of students to refuse to perform vivisection. Fight for a people-centred form of science, not a bosses technology tool increase exploitation.