How to organise a high school anti-war group

Issue 

Already this year, dozens of groups have been formed on high schools, organising students to protest against war on Iraq and the accompanying slaughter of the Iraqi people. The socialist youth organisation Resistance has put together some handy hints for school protest organising.

The following points are taken from Resistance’s school activist kit. The complete kit can be picked up from one of the Resistance centres listed below, or downloaded from <http://www.booknotbombs.org.au>. Of course, there are no formulas — but these ideas might help.

1. Calling a meeting

Different school administrations vary in how they respond to political activity — some totally ban any meetings on schools, while others will be fine about it. You can just announce that it is happening (and wait to see if anyone tries to stop you) or you could approach the principal or a teacher to get a room organised.

2. Letting people know

Try to get the meeting details put into the daily announcements — then everyone will know about it, not just the people you know. It can be good to put up posters or distribute leaflets with the details on them.

There will most likely be a variety of people who will turn up — not always the ones you expect. It is important to break down the school’s approach of dividing students by age and, often, other interests, to get an inclusive atmosphere.

3. The first meeting!

There are different ways to run the meeting: you might want to show a film or get an outside speaker about the war, or just have a discussion about what student’s ideas are. People will want to discuss their ideas, so make sure there is time for discussion.

Also, make sure that people have something to do afterwards. Some ideas are: distributing leaflets; producing an anti-war zine like Student Underground; putting up posters after school; coming to an anti-war stall; or helping to make badges, banners and signs at a Resistance Centre sometime.

You also might want to set another meeting time at school, and get people to help build it. A good project for the group might be to organise a contingent to the next big rally in the local area, or the nearest city. To do this, you’ll need to work out how to make sure lots of students know about it, where to meet and, if you need to walk out of school to do it, how to minimise pressure from the administration. Resistance can help with all these questions.

4. Networking

It’s important to work out which teachers are supportive. It’s worthwhile letting those who are know what you’re doing, and working out what they can do to help. Networking with the students representative council can be useful as well — maybe someone could go along to a meeting to explain the issues and upcoming events. Use the events students control: school socials can have a progressive theme and school magazines can write about the war.

5. Dealing with repression

Where there are bans on political activity at school, you might want to fight that directly — through a free speech petition, for example. The more controversy you generate, and the more support you get, the more likely it is that the administration will back down. This has to be weighed up though, and be careful — the last thing you want is to be expelled.

From Green Left Weekly, March 5, 2003.
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