By RUAN MUNASINGHE
On Aug. 26, tens of thousands of people bustled around Storrs, Conn., as classes began at University of Connecticut (UConn). This large university, known for its basketball team and parties, may not seem like a key area of the class struggle. However, in weeks and even months before the first day of classes, young Marxist students in the UConn Youth for Socialist Action (YSA) began their efforts to build the only revolutionary student group on campus.
The YSA knew that a strong panel early in the year is likely to attract many people, especially at a time where students are not drowning in schoolwork and new students are looking for activities and clubs.
Two joint YSA/SA panel discussions were planned in the month of September coming back from summer break—a panel on the current crisis in Puerto Rico and a panel on gentrification featuring author Sam Stein. The Puerto Rico panel is scheduled for Sept. 5. In the wake of hurricane Maria, the #RickyRenuncia mass protests that brought Governor Rosello out of power, as well as a series of other mass demonstrations of various sorts on the island, YSA is seeking to foster a discussion of what is happening on the island and why it is important to people in Connecticut—a state with a large Puerto Rican population who have been an important part if the history of the state for many decades. The panel will feature Puerto Rican activists and academics both from the island and from Connecticut.
The panel on gentrification (entitled “Run Down Towns and Priced Out Cities”) will feature Sam Stein, a renowned academic who authored the book “Capital Cities.” It is scheduled for later in September (9/26) The panel is part of a sort of regional book tour. Stein will also be giving talks in Stamford (9/5) and Hartford (9/12). The panel in Storrs will feature graduate student of economics Osman K.
The week before school, YSAers set out to cover the campus flyers advertising the club, and each of the upcoming panels. In total, nearly one thousand flyers have been posted on walls and handed out to people.
The flyering and individual reach-out efforts paid off. UConn YSA was one of the few clubs on campus to have a meeting within the first week of school. It was definitely a lively and exciting first meeting. A total of 26 attended, including many people who identify as queer or trans. There was a packed agenda through which the group had lively discussions on Kashmir, Puerto Rico, the UK and Boris Johnson, and more. There was also plenty of time to think of ideas for future panels and campus activism. Many alumni, community members, and other comrades were very happy to see the group of young revolutionaries when UConn YSA uploaded pictures to Facebook.
Going out of the meeting, the YSA cadre has been busy coordinating flyering efforts and building the panels. At a time when more and more young people are questioning the viability of the capitalist system, YSA is organizing, educating, and pointing the way forward to revolutionary socialism.