Socialist Worker

Top-up fees: another revolt to worry Blair

Issue No. 1875

LAST SUNDAY Blair faced a real challenge as over 30,000 students took to the streets to protest against university tuition fees. The demonstration was far larger than any recent student marches. The war in Iraq has left more than Blair's heart in a weak condition. He faces massive revolts in his own party and in the nation at large over a whole range of issues.

The question of university top-up fees is among the most important. Blair is determined to allow universities to charge up to £3,000 in tuition fees. This means students leaving university with £10-20,000 of debt, a burden which is too heavy for many.

New Labour's removal of grants and introduction of tuition fees means that many working class students cannot afford higher education. By allowing some universities to charge much higher fees, the government is ensuring a two-tier system, with access to university based on ability to pay, not ability to learn.

You don't need a university education to see that higher fees and more debt will put off poorer students. The Blairites deny this. They claim that the new proposals mean the return of the maintenance grant.

The poorest students will be exempt from paying fees, and fees will be paid after graduation rather than up front. The proposals for the grant only provide for a tiny minority, and even then it is completely inadequate to cover the rising costs of living at university. The same is true of bursaries to cover fees. They are only available to a small proportion of students, leaving many working class and lower middle class students to suffer.

Many students already pay their tuition fees with loans, which they pay back later after graduation. The new proposals mean that the burden of debt on graduates will increase even further. This issue comes down to principles.

The proposals for top-up fees will deter many working class students from even applying, while ensuring that those who do are forced onto vocational courses. The sole aim of their education will be to make them more productive workers, while a genuine higher education will be reserved for the elite few who can afford it.

Education is the right of everyone. To ensure that all students can access a university education we must demand that tuition fees are scrapped and the grant is properly restored. We must demand that the chronic underfunding in higher education is solved not from students' pockets, but from the public purse through a tax on the rich.
Sam Caldwell, King's College, Cambridge

Taking wrong 'values'

JAMIE RANKIN (Letters, 18 October) criticises Socialist Worker's position on headscarves for French Muslim school students. He says that the separation of church and state stems from the traditions of the French Revolution of 1789.

In two world wars the revolutionary symbols of the Tricolour and the Marseillaise were used to urge workers to put nation before class. The idea that France was the homeland of revolution was part of the myth of the 'civilising mission' that was used to justify forcing French values on other countries.

When France colonised Algeria in 1830 there were schools in every village. Some 120 years later 90 percent of the native population were illiterate. The French Revolution is a vital part of our tradition. It should not be degraded by using it as an excuse to force French customs on people who choose to dress and behave differently.
Ian Birchall, North London

Secrets exposed

THE SECRET Policeman documentary shown by the BBC last week proves what many in the black community have felt since the Brixton riots and Macpherson report. The programme exposed the institutional racism in the police to the rest of the country.

In east London the constant harassment of black youth has gone up. This summer, while the police were trying to keep black youth in east London off the streets, the local authority kept most of the youth centres closed.
Makola Mayambika, Salford University

Yet more killer lies

GENERAL MIKE Jackson is the head of the British army. He wants us to believe that they invaded Iraq to liberate the Iraqi people. Thirty years ago he was a captain in the Parachute Regiment, based in Derry, that opened fire on a civil rights march, killing 13 civilians.

Two weeks ago at the Saville inquiry into Bloody Sunday, General Jackson refused to accept that the dead were unarmed. General Jackson and the rest of the establishment hate the fact that we have forced them to hold an inquiry to hold them to account.

They hope by repeating these lies they can put just enough doubt into people's minds to let them off the hook.
Kelly MacDermott, London

Teachers dig deep for Unison strikers

I AM a teacher at Acland Burghley Secondary School in Camden, north London. Unison union members in the school were on strike for increased London allowance recently. This did not shut the school, but the library was closed. I wanted to do something to show support.

Me and the other SWP member in school went around the staff room and office at break collecting money for the strikers. I had copies of Socialist Worker under my arm, and together we sold three copies and collected £114. Some people put tenners in, while others emptied their pockets of whatever they had.

I was chuffed to pieces and felt a lovely glow all day knowing that my workmates thought enough about the strikers to dig deep. Two weeks prior to this we had collected 44 signatures on an 'End the occupation of Iraq' petition.

It's clear to us that the government has the money to settle the Unison claim, but it prefers to spend the money on guns instead. I gave the money to the Unison steward on Friday, and it was concrete proof that teachers give their backing to the classroom assistants', librarians' and technicians' fight.

Collecting for strikers shows you how your workmates feel about solidarity in a way that really means something.
Rob Stainsby, NUT union rep Acland Burghley (personal capacity), North London

Give this scheme no credit at all

THE WORKING Family Tax Credit is a wage cut, not a top-up to pay. Capitalism pays enough for a full time job for a worker to maintain herself and family, to work and create the next generation ready to be exploited in the future.

This was what the socialist thinker Karl Marx said in the 19th century. He was not that out of date, as I remember in the 1960s as a single young man earning enough to keep myself and go out to buy clothes. I could still balance my weekends bopping to Motown and swaying to light and bitter.

As a single man I was paid enough to maintain a partner and children I did not yet have. Working Family Tax Credit is modern-day capitalism catching up with this and overtaking Marx. If you have been in a race for 150 years you can expect to be overtaken on some things.

A single or married person is now paid enough to keep only one child. Those responsible for more than one queue at the Working Family Tax Credit counter for the extra handout. Next time you think of New Labour's Working Family Tax Credit, think wage cut.
Colin Frost Herbert, Crawley

Two sides of the same coin

I HOPE people got to see the BBC2 showing of Life and Debt recently. The programme highlighted the far-reaching effects of IMF-imposed debt in Jamaica. From independence through to current times, depicting anti-IMF strikes and protests, it didn't flinch from the big issues. The multinationals don't care for humanity.

The 'war against terrorism' and the WTO-led war against humanity are two sides of the same coin.
Anna Gordon, Manchester

Blockade Bush in the palace

IF GEORGE Bush is being allowed to stay in Buckingham Palace, perhaps the best way to stop him swanning around London would be for us to block the roads around the palace. This would stop Bush leaving and being wined and dined by Blair and other sycophants. This would be easier to organise than trying to track him round London.

I don't know if there's a helicopter pad at the palace, but there aren't many in the capital for him to land. He'd be stuck in the palace with only the vile royals for company-a fair punishment.

We could block the roads around Downing Street and keep the other dog at home too.
Claire, Wales

Iraqis have right to self defence

WHEN ISRAEL attacked Syria, George Bush lamely said, 'Every country has a right to defend itself.' By this reckoning the Iraqis have every right to not only attack US and UK soldiers, but also the UK and US themselves.

The Independent on Sunday revealed US troops bulldozing orchards as a 'collective punishment to farmers in central Iraq'. This Israeli-style attack is what US occupation of Iraq means.
Dr David MacDonald, Leigh

Old activist looks to future

I AM writing to express my heartfelt gratitude to all the SWP members who supported me through my recent illness. I am 76 years old, and from a generation who were taught to venerate worthless and useless individuals.

This seems to be disappearing now and opens the way for radical new things to appear on the political horizon. I hope that the SWP will play its part in this new thinking
Jim Benson, North London

Hoey's attack makes me sick

LABOUR MP Kate Hoey has a habit of attacking the wrong target. Usually it's foxes-last week it was cyclists, whom she dubs 'lycra louts'. Their crimes? Ignoring red lights, not using cycle lanes and making rude hand gestures.

Never mind that last year 20,000 cyclists were killed or injured on Britain's roads. It's a pity she doesn't use her newspaper columns to attack the real enemy-those who are responsible for our crumbling transport system which pits all commuters against each other.
Sara Yupdir, East London

We need to win over US public

AS A US-based British anti-war activist in Bush's heartland area, I was shocked to read of his impending state visit to Britain. I believe there must be a march on the US embassy and that the protest must be directed at Bush's home electorate more than our own.

Bliar is willingly uzsed by Bush. He is the smooth, articulate voice that Bush isn't, used to persuade an increasingly war-weary US home audience to stay in Iraq.
Larry Iles, Eastbourne

Socialist Worker better than BBC

GREAT ARTICLE about the US ghost fleet on its way to Hartlepool (Socialist Worker, 18 October). You'll never work for the BBC unless you can brush up on the blandness. Love and peace.
Neil Marley and comrades, Hartlepool Volunteer Defence Force

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Article information

Sat 1 Nov 2003, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1875
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