What are the objectives of the student movement? This principal question of strategy can now be posed.
Until this year the English debate on the student movement was concerned with two problems: whether students can be revolutionaries, and whether struggle in the universities can be revolutionary struggle. It is now widely accepted that the answer to both these questions is yes. Yes, students in student struggle can be revolutionaries; yes, the universities are strategic and vulnerable elements of late bourgeois society.
These questions of strategy and their answers remain incomplete. Practice has established that students can strike against the hierarchy of authority and the prestige of knowledge—the twin pillars of academic power; that students in a student milieu can engage in many-sided revolutionary struggle; that a strategic majority of students can be won to revolution. For the most part without prospect of entering the ruling class, without capital, suspended in time between the terrors of examinations, students can strike out en masse against bourgeois order, especially that represented by their own authorities.
It is not inevitable that students will act in a revolutionary way, but the possibility has been clearly shown. The student movement must become the realization of this possibility.
In the universities the question of power is being posed. Revolutionary students must have the determination to resolve it—to help all students free themselves from the hegemony of the authorities by establishing red bases which will detach the student body from the institution’s controls, set up dual power on the campus, and create the permanent possibility of revolutionary action at the highest level. Red bases must be built on democratic centres in the faculties, departments, halls of residence, flats, societies, clubs, study groups, newspapers and magazines, and on the physical liberation of student existence from external controls. In bourgeois society red bases could be Latin Quarters with an internal life that is open and militant, and a majority ready to switch the offensive overnight. To achieve this free area of action means acquiring space where the cultural and material pre-conditions of
Any democratic mass challenge in higher education challenges oppression in the society as a whole. However the repressive power of capitalism is not everywhere the same. If the right methods of struggle are found, and if revolutionary action is firmly based on the aspirations of the masses, capitalist power can be thrown back in particular limited contexts. All such territory gained will only be held precariously, and can be lost or ‘contained’ unless the general force of the revolutionary movement develops. The peasants of Vietnam are breaking one particular link of the chain of international capitalist power, even though their liberation will not be complete until imperialism as a whole is destroyed.
For the student movement there are two pitfalls to be avoided: the reformist interpretation of the demand for student power that imagines that socialism can be built on one campus, and the defeatist notion that nothing can be changed until everything is changed and that the work of revolutionaries is therefore solely to make propaganda for revolution—never actually to start making the revolution in the situation where they find themselves.