Last November and December, three student days of action brought tens of thousands of students, schoolchldren, university staff, trade unionists and mobilized members of the general public onto the streets to demonstrate against the Tory-led coalition government’s horrendous plans to axe all funding for arts, humanities and the social sciences, as I explained in my article, Did You Miss This? 100 Percent Funding Cuts to Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Courses at UK Universities, and to raise fees from the current rate of £3290 a year to a maximum of £9000 a year. I reported on these protests in my articles, 50,000 Students Revolt: A Sign of Much Greater Anger to Come in Neo-Con Britain, Cameron’s Britain: “Kettling” Children for Protesting Against Savage Cuts to University Funding, Government Wins University Tuition Fees Vote, But So What? Remember the Poll Tax!, Heroes and Villains in the Tuition Fees Vote and Video: 15-Year Old Tells UK Government Why It Has Radicalised A Generation.
This cruel and dangerous proposal is driven by a malignant ideology that infects almost all of the coalition’s plans to destroy as much of the British state as possible, privatizing whatever hasn’t yet been privatized, and handing the cost of as much as possible onto the “consumer,” under cover of the economic crisis. Noticeably, the government has failed to tackle those responsible for the crisis — the banking sector and corporate tax evaders — and appears unconcerned that its plans for Britain’s universities could result in numerous departments — and whole institutions — being forced to close.
As is apparent from my discussions with staff and students at a number of universities, government claims that the average fees will be “only” £6000 a year, and that £9000 will be exceptional, are clearly mistaken, as the message I have received is that, even charging £9000 a year, universities will not even be able to offer the servce they currently offer, adding to fears of a widespread collapse throughout the entire university sector.
Despite the scale of the resistance, Parliament passed the government’s proposals for university cuts and huge fee increases before Christmas, and followed up, just last week, by confirming the government’s additional commitment to do away with the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA), which provided financial support for children from poorer families to stay on at school and to contemplate attending university.
If apathy rules, or anger is turned inwards into despondency and despair, the government will have won, but as the assault on education is just one part of the government’s horrendous assault on everyone except the rich and the super-rich, it is imperative that the struggle continues. Before Christmas, I was delighted to note that, almost by some sort of cultural osmosis, the schoolchildren taking to the streets for the first time, after the psychic cosh of the New Labour years, had not only sprung out of bed with the words “Tory scum” on their lips (and other choice descriptions for the unprincipled Liberal Democrats), but had also become aware of 1990’s Poll Tax Riot, when an unjust law passed by Parliament was reversed through widespread public dissent and non-cooperation.
Activists have also picked up on another slogan, lifted from French demonstrators — “what Parliament does, the streets can undo” — and with that in mind I’m happy to publicize two simultaneous protests on Saturday — one in Manchester, and the other in London.
Details of the Manchester demo, organized by the TUC, in partnership with the National Union of Students (NUS) and the University and College Union (UCU), “the largest trade union and professional association for academics, lecturers, trainers, researchers and academic-related staff working in further and higher education throughout the UK,” are below:
A Future That Works: A TUC National Rally for Young People
Platts Field Park, Saturday January 29, 2011, 1 pm to 3 pm
The abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance, the increase in university tuition fees, record levels of youth unemployment, and the coalition government’s programme of vicious and unnecessary cuts are hitting Britain’s young people hard. Routes into education and employment are being squeezed as young people are made to pick up the bill for a financial crisis they didn’t create.
“A Future That Works” will highlight the impact of the recession and the coalition government’s cuts programme on young workers and young people in general — and promote the trade union, student movement and partner organisation campaign against the cuts and for the alternatives.
Speakers include TUC Assistant General Secretary Kay Carberry, British Youth Council Chair Liam Preston, GMB National officer Sharon Holden, NUS President Aaron Porter, NUT General Secretary Christine Blower, UCU General Secretary Sally Hunt, Unison Young members representative Graham Smith, FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack and Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey and representatives from ATL, NASUWT and PCS.
The rally will be preceded by a march from central Manchester, organized by the NUS and the UCU, which will assemble at 10.30 at the Manchester Museum (near to Oxford Road junction with Brunswick Street), setting off for Platt Fields Park at 11 am.
And here’s information about the London demo, organized by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts and the Education Activist Network, and supported by the UCU, PCS, UNISON HE Committee and London Student Assembly:
Unite for Education, Fight Every Cut
Saturday January 29, 2011, 12 noon, ULU, Malet St, followed by a march on Parliament
After eight months in office the Cameron-Clegg pact faces mass opposition in the streets. Hundreds of thousands of students have protested, walked out of their schools and colleges, or occupied their universities. The vote to treble tuition fees and scrap EMA might have passed through parliament, but the fight for education goes on. The attacks on education and young people are part of a wider assault on workers and the public sector that must be resisted. A record one million under 25s are now unemployed and hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs, as well as pensions and benefits, are under threat. Students have paved the way for a movement which can beat the Con-Dem austerity agenda. We call on workers, parents, pensioners and the unemployed to join us on the 29th to win a future for all.
Speakers at the rally at ULU include: students who have occupied university buildings in protest, Alan Whittaker (UCU President), Michael Chessum (NCAFC), Max Watson (UNISON NEC), Alfie Meadows (Defend the Right to Protest), and speakers from Kings College London, We Support our Teachers and the Tunisia Solidarity Campaign.
At the closing rally outside Parliament, from 2 pm, speakers include: Jody McIntyre (activist and journalist), John McDonnell MP, Barnaby Raine (Westminster School, School Students against the War), Zita Holbourne (PCS, Black Activists Rising Against Cuts), Jim Wolfreys (UCU NEC, Kings College), Kanja Sessay (NUS Black Students Campaign), Alex Kenny (NUT NEC), Mark Bergfeld (NUS NEC, Education Activist Network), and other students who have occupied university buildings.
And finally, here’s a statement from Right To Work:
The Coalition may have forced the vote on tuition fees through but as the slogan on recent demonstrations in France said, “What Parliament does, the streets can undo”. The poll tax in Britain was defeated after politicians had voted for it and Thatcher was bought down in the process.
The TUC-initiated youth rally in Manchester on 29 January and the demonstration in London called by the Education Activist Network and National Campaign Against Cuts and Fees are the next steps in the fight over Fees. These demonstrations in London and Manchester on the 29th must now be taken up as a rallying call for all students, community activists and trade unionists.
The student movement has shaken the government, but students cannot win this fight on their own. This is a fight for each and every person under attack by the Coalition and our resistance seeks to unite them all.
Many trade unionists have in turn shown real solidarity in support of the student mobilisations and university occupations, and in some cases education workers walked out to join their students on the protests. The size and strength of the demonstration on November 10th, organized by NUS and UCU, gives an idea of what is possible when trade unions throw their weight behind the students.
The coalition of trade unions, student organisations and community organisations agreeing to build for the demonstrations in Manchester and London on the 29th January has provided the movement against the governments attacks a real opportunity to demonstrate the determination of students and workers to continue the fight for education for all.
The Coalition may have forced the vote through, but they are also very weak. That is why they have resorted to such heavy handed policing. Now is the time for us to unite for education. The protests that have taken place in the wake of the 10th November have shown the capacity of our movement to turn out in our thousands simultaneously across major cities. The 29th January can be an important stepping stone to ensure that we get a million people on the streets on the TUC‘s demonstration in defence of public services on the 26th March.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here), my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Andy Worthington, zita holbourne. zita holbourne said: First Major Student Protest of 2011 — in London and Manchester on Saturday January 29 | Andy Worth.. http://bit.ly/gH3QEz […]
On Facebook, Imran Chaudhry wrote:
Poll Tax Riots, i can smell something coming soon on similar lines
Al Mokopane wrote:
Andy, what do you think of the uprisings in the Arab world (Tunisia and Egypt)?
Thanks for the comments.
And Al, I hope to find the time to write something soon about the inspiring popular uprisings in the Arab world. To date, I have only found the time to deal with the Tunisian uprising as it relates to Tunisians in Guantanamo, or released in other countries:
[…] response to the latest raft of austerity measures, students came out and protested for a cause, en masse. It got messy, but hey, nothing like this. Response? Jowly outrage and zero engagement […]
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