Withhold and Resist: How to Sustain the Strike

One of the key issues facing campaigns is students leaving the strike or organisers burning out. Once the group has built up a strong front to tackle threats, intimidation and potential eviction or legal consequences, the group must work to prevent members from leaving through collective care (see px: self care/collective care), a strong sense of solidarity, empowerment and transparency as well as having counter-intimidation strategies in place.

Firstly, freshers must have a feeling of control and agency with regards to organising the strike - this is why a democratic and localised group structure is so important (see 'structure' chapter).  Striking cannot be top-down - strikers must be empowered to organise and maintain the strike. We must also ensure that people with a strong interest in the campaign with less time or energy to devote to the strike (often low-income students who have to work to afford to live at university) have a voice within the organisation. Social media comes in handy here—strikers can be kept up to date through online forums (facebook groups, for example) and/or group chats, and often it is useful to have separate ones for different halls to facilitate meetings and specific issues.

Counter-intimidation strategies can perhaps be best explained through an example of intimidation in action, and the potential dropout of strikers that comes with it. One tactic that has become increasingly common from management at UCL is the issuing of threats in the build up to exams - groups need a solid organising structure and support base in place to anticipate and efficiently deflect these threats before people leave the strike. Rumours spread quickly and without these mechanisms, strikers can often feel alienated from the group and fearful of management. Again, as with everything, communication between groups and organisers is key.

In addition, any good strike must prepare specific support for the groups most at risk of legal or other repercussions. The first group are international students on student visas, who often need a guarantor to secure housing for the following year. Often the university is the only guarantor available for these students, so their threat to withdraw this for strikers needs to be dealt with. One method that has been attempted is using the students union as a guarantor, with a bank account being set up for these students to pay money into to prove that they're striking for political reasons rather than financial difficulties.

The second group are students who simply can't afford to pay their rent. Whilst many of them could also be on strike for purely financial reasons, the university often counts them as political strikers. Whilst this is good for us, we must make sure that such students are adequately assisted in their struggle, especially since universities have become increasingly terrible at dealing with such cases (one example at UCL involved a student being contacted by a debt collecting agency before receiving notice from management, who got the amount of money owed wrong, causing the student undue levels of stress). We must make sure lower-income students are able to strike, but also that avenues such as switching to cheaper halls are made available to them early on in the year. Providing this kind of support is also a good way to make sure they stay on strike.