by Megan Fortune, Sami Wannell and Beth Smith
I didn’t know what to expect when I started uni last year. I had seen enough films and heard enough of my dad’s moans to assume that at University I would find a hotbed of political struggle from uneducated ‘lazy lefty students’, but this was not the case. I became aware of the anarchist group through chatting to a random guy at a RAG social who asked me to come along to a bring-and-share dinner the anarchists were holding. Having never met an anarchist before I had no idea what to expect from the evening, but I decided to be brave and went along. Never before had I been around people who cared and followed the same things as I did, and from then on I was hooked on activism.
Warwick activists are split into many groups and interest points and I won’t sit here and pretend to know them all. The main people I met through the year were the anarchists, People and Planet people, members of political parties from Tories to Socialists, and all sorts of groups with more specific focuses. Through these factions and individuals I got involved in a variety of actions. These ranged from handing out leaflets at a football match against the eco-vandalism committed by E.ON, to lying in the rain being trodden on by giant fruit in an attempt to highlight the plight of Honduran workers under Fruit of the Loom. It went on to the feat I am most proud of: our sit-in in solidarity with the victims of the Israel-Palestine conflict. This is, in my opinion, the act we should have most satisfaction in, as it not only brought many different campaigning groups together but also brought the problem to the attention of many who would not normally be involved in politics.
I arrived at Warwick on the look out for activism and was pleased to discover just how much was going on. I first got involved with the anarchist group, (having found out rather at random that such a group exists) but have since become involved in many other groups as well. There are many different and varied groups at Warwick – a big shout out in particular goes to WASS (Warwick Anti-Sexism Society) and Weapons out of Warwick (part of People and Planet) – but many people are in a number of groups and so there is a strong sense of an activist community. This helps us stay focused and enthusiastic, but also manifests in the form of many bring-and-share parties.
During my time at Warwick a couple of actions in particular have stood out. As mentioned by the other contributors, being a part of last year’s sit-in for Gaza was inspiring and invigorating. It felt amazing to claim a space in which to show solidarity and to educate ourselves. I also felt myself gain confidence through my involvement – for example by facilitating meetings, talking to the press etc. I was also involved in the action at Faslane nuclear submarine base a couple of years ago. It was very empowering for me to take direct action as part of a well-prepared and well-supported group. However, the bulk of activism at Warwick involves small and unglamorous actions such as leafleting each careers service event in which arms companies take part. These actions are just as important and can be really satisfying too.
It’s easy to get involved with activism at Warwick and societies are really open for whatever level of involvement you want to have.
We used to be known as “Red Warwick” in the 60s and 70s, because us Warwick students used to go through protest after rent-strike after occupation. But I’ll be wholly honest. I got involved with “activism” (whatever that means) at Warwick when I arrived in 2005 because of pretty people. Two whole sexes of them! I mean, there had been definite political ideas in my mind before, but it’s something I’d always been discouraged from talking about. There were your standard “student” post-90s activist groups: socialists, anti-*badthing*ists, single-issue folk like environmentalists and human-rightistas, what have you. The people I ended up with first were all very lovely, very polite and very proper. Even when I found my home with our friendly neighbourhood anarchists, the group normally viewed as rabble-rousers, we were all pretty smiley and informal. This vision got shaken a teensy bit when someone decided that we go up to Faslane to blockade a road outside the military base. We decided to be very prepared, organising non-violent direct action workshops, numerous planning lists, and more “what if this went wrong” situations than you could shake a stick at. We even got trained by the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army (I’m not joking). Many court cases and many many months later, the feeling really had changed amongst a few of us… if I weren’t me, I’d probably use the phrase “paradigm shift”. We were a lot less intimidated by authority for one – breaking the law and “getting away with it” gives you a bit of a new outlook.
The anti-arms trade campaign really kicked off after that, along with a shift more towards disrupting over passively informing. Trying to halt talks by the Atomic Weapons Establishment (triggering a love of doing everything “in waves”), dressing up as Death to go into careers fairs, that sorta thing. When we heard about how some other universities had started occupying lecture rooms in solidarity with those affected by the December/Jan escalation of violence towards Palestine, we had the confidence to do something. So we did.
Now I’m all old and establishment-y, so it’s up to all the new whippersnappers to rabble-rouse now. I may stand at the sidelines and make tea. Or teach you how to find your inner clown…
For more information -
On Warwick Anarchists – facebook search ‘Warwick Anarchists’ or email firstname.lastname@example.org
On Dissident Warwick – facebook search ‘Dissident Warwick’ or email email@example.com