Talkin’ ‘bout a revolution

Student group pushes revolutionary message, but are students listening?

A fledgling group on campus is hoping to promote student radicalism and raise awareness about revolutionary politics.

Formed last November by students at the University of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba, the Student Revolutionary Federation aims to “ students and youth to global cultures of resistance and revolution, through building a revolutionary spirit of solidarity on campus,” according to their mission statement.

Alex Paterson, one of the main organizers of the collective’s U of W wing, said the group was formed because he, along with other students active in the local Occupy movement, were becoming increasingly frustrated with the “reformist message of Occupy Winnipeg.”

As a result, Paterson balks at the idea that the SRF is an extension of the Occupy movement on campus.

“Ninety-nine per cent of the group would argue some kind of revolution is necessary to overthrow capitalism and other oppressive structures to create a better world,” said Paterson, an indigenous governance master’s student.

For Paterson and the SRF, the revolution begins at school by engaging students with their message of social transformation.

“Students have been at the forefront of social movements since we’ve had universities,” said Paterson, a former member of Winnipeg Copwatch.

To this end, the group has leafleted, set up an information table at this year’s Snoweek and participated in the 2012 Student Day of Action.

In addition, they plan to hold a “Disorientation Week” that will mirror September’s Orientation Week festivities. The goal is to bring in speakers that Paterson says will “critically engage how the university is tied to capitalism and imperialism.”

However, the SRF have so far found its efforts to build a dialogue with the student body less successful than anticipated.

Paterson points to how many members of the university community are taken aback by the group’s rejection of conventional political discourse.

“People are a little shocked that our message is a bit outside of the norm,” he said.

“Our banner at the Day of Action was ‘Fuck Tuition’ and that’s not what people are used to.”

On the other hand, he believes that if people are open minded and willing to engage in a conversation, they will gain a greater understanding of what the group is talking about.

David Jacks, a student at the U of W and former president of the UWSA, applauds the SRF for challenging mainstream viewpoints.

“It speaks to a certain audience and should work hard to encourage like-minded students to get involved,” Jacks said of the group via email, adding later: “The SRF presents very valid, contemporary and thought provoking perspectives to the discourse community at the U of W.”

As the group is relatively new on the scene, a comprehensive statement of principles has not yet been agreed upon. Likewise, the SRF is still in the process of designing a website - although they do have a social media presence.

Visit the SRF online on Facebook under Student Revolutionary Federation, on Twitter at @SRFUW or via email at [email protected].

Published in Volume 66, Number 20 of The Uniter (February 22, 2012)

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