Reflections from Eastern Avenue: How the propaganda war was won

Reflections on building for the May 21 climate strike.

For the past month I have spent most of my time building for the Student General Meeting, and for the next week I shall spend most of my time building for the climate strike. But why? 

The odds may seem, at times, stacked against us, with the capitalist destruction of this entire planet looming larger each day. I’m sure many of us feel disheartened hearing about Scomo’s government forcing through appalling plans to expand Australia’s gas industry. The only way to confront these climate crimes is by building a mass movement of the working class, and for us that starts here on campus. The SGM and the large-scale building efforts are simply the first steps in creating the opposition necessary to bring about a much needed green revolution.

As we would all know by now the SGM was an incredible success, largely thanks to the relentless efforts of our members on campus over the past month. We stalled and postered every single day, and waged a strong propaganda war against the university in the final days before the meeting. We also called every single name that signed the petition for the SGM, and although not everybody that confirmed over the phone ended up attending, it was still important to create a solid base of support. The sheer scale of building required proved draining for many of us, but it was all worth it when it was announced that we had made the quorum of 200 people.

The vote ended up passing unanimously with 227 students voting in favour (with supporters in the room taking us to over 250). At the time the SGM was meant to start, I was worried that we weren’t going to pull this off. We started with what seemed to be less than 50 people, and I was still yelling on the megaphone desperately trying to get more people to join us. When the march began, I still wasn’t confident, but all that changed when I looked back and saw over 100 people behind me. At that moment, I knew that the building had been worth it. As I’ve been reflecting over the past week or so, one question has stuck in my mind: what if it didn’t work? Would the building have been worth it?

I’ve reached the conclusion that yes, it still would have been worth it. Building isn’t just about getting numbers to one event, it’s about politicising society (or in this case the campus) and laying the foundations for a mass movement. On that last day before the SGM, you couldn’t walk ten metres without seeing a poster for the meeting, or an announcement scribbled in huge chalk writing. We won the propaganda war. The university couldn’t keep up with how fast we were spreading the word. That, for me personally, is the real win; that we started with a few of us on sparse stalls, and ended with a movement that had more willpower than the university had resources. 

The struggle obviously doesn’t stop with the SGM. It also won’t stop with the climate strike on May 21. It’s time to use the collective power that we have built to generate even more collective power; to exponentially grow this movement. I believe that on-campus building will be the most important part. We will be in every lecture, poster every surface, chalk every flower pot. We will be out there every day until May 21 and every day after, until our movement becomes strong enough to overthrow this capitalist system.

It may seem foolish to think that we can change the course of history with a stack of leaflets, some posters, and a handful of chalk, however, I strongly believe that this is where real change starts. So I’d encourage you all to give it a shot, to take some power back in a very real way, and to make a change. It was the Lorax who put it best when he said “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”