Karol Florek: Classroom warrior



SYDNEY — “I believe that young people will be especially affected by the war, and that is one of the reasons why opposition to the war among youth and students is so strong”, Karol Florek told Green Left Weekly. “The March 5 student strike is looking to be the largest mobilisation of youth in many years and will help to advance the peace movement.”

Florek, who recently turned 18, is probably the youngest candidate running in the March 22 NSW election. He is standing as part of the Socialist Alliance's upper house ticket.

Florek first got involved in fighting for refugees’ rights in 2001, when he was a student at Fort Street High School. He joined the socialist youth organisation Resistance, and worked with others to organise protests for refugees’ rights, against corporate tyranny and against war.

By 2002, Florek and some friends had formed Fortians For Refugees, a school-based group involving some 30 or 40 students that is still active on the school. In an interview with Green Left Weekly published in June 2002, Florek explained: “I think that high school students are mature enough to be able to make up their own minds on political, social and ethical issues. And really, that's what education is for. It's not just about getting a degree or a job, or going to university, it's also about becoming an independent thinker and a conscious citizen.”

This year, Florek will start an arts degree at Sydney University, and is already planning to organise student opposition to war, starting with the March 5 student strike.

“Many of the soldiers being sent to the Gulf are young, and the 'enemy’ whom they will confront will predominantly consist of young conscript soldiers”, Florek told GLW. “The bombs that will shower Baghdad and other cities are sure to kill many children and youth. Many young people feel a sense of moral outrage at the prospect of being party to this slaughter, and stand in solidarity with the people of Iraq.

“The strike will leave students better organised, enable them to form networks, and to be better prepared to take further action.”

Florek points out that the NSW election provides a platform to campaign against war, because the issues are linked. Explaining the “books not bombs” theme of the March 5 student strike, he argues that increased defence spending has come at the expense of education funding, and a liveable youth allowance.

“In addition to being a humanitarian outrage, a war will be very expensive. This will be paid for by further cuts to public services. The Socialist Alliance believes the building of a strong anti-war movement is an integral part of the election campaign. It is up to ordinary, working people to get out onto the streets and stop this war.”

[To find out more about the Socialist Alliance’s election campaign, visit < http://www.socialist-A HREF="mailto:alliance.org"><alliance.org>.]

From Green Left Weekly, March 5, 2003.
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