Socialist Worker

Spreading fees fight can win key victory against the government

by Siân Ruddick
Issue No. 2230

Unity in the struggle: Students from the University of East London joined striking London Underground workers on the picket line at Mile End on Monday

Unity in the struggle: Students from the University of East London joined striking London Underground workers on the picket line at Mile End on Monday

The student revolt has broken the idea that there is a “cuts consensus” in Britain.

David Cameron wants anyone opposed to the cuts to feel isolated—a lone mad voice in a room full of sensible, calm people who support the trashing of our welfare state and public services.

But militant student resistance has shown a fight back can happen—and it’s popular.

Deputy prime minister and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg is looking more panicky by the day.

His MPs and his party are in turmoil over how to vote on the coalition’s plans to raise tuition fees to £9,000 and scrap the Education Maintenance Allowance.

The scale of the students’ revolt, and the splits inside the coalition, mean we can stop the attacks on education—and strike a hammer blow at other cuts too.

Students have been inspired by the struggles in France and Greece, and outraged by the bailouts for the bankers by a government that defends the rich.

The militancy of the student movement has shown that people in Britain can fight too.

Students’ energy and momentum can inspire the workers’ movement—and must if the students are to win.

“I work in adult education and the Millbank protests really changed the atmosphere at work,” says Martin Empson, a trade unionist from Manchester.

“It felt like the mood had shifted and that a fightback is possible. The day after the student protests someone handmade a petition against the cuts and passed it round for people to sign. We were really inspired.”


The UCU lecturers’union has initiated calls for a national demonstration in London on the day parliament votes on fees.

As Socialist Worker went to press it was unclear precisely when the vote would take place.

But it is clear it must be “Day X” for the workers’ movement.

The more unity and solidarity there is between workers and students now, the greater peoples’ confidence to stage walkouts and stoppages on the day.

And there should be a focus in every town and city on the day of the fees vote.

Students have key tasks in the run up to the day of the vote.

There have been over 20 occupations of colleges and universities since 10 November. More than 13 were taking place as Socialist Worker went to press on Tuesday.

They have spread, but there are many places that haven’t occupied, but could if there was agitation and organisation.

People involved in occupations must share their experiences and news in their local area—with speaking tours of universities and colleges who are not currently in occupation.


Student delegations should go to local workplaces and invite workers to speak in their meetings and occupations.

Spreading and building the student movement is a crucial task.

But the movement will be most effective if workers join it in large numbers.

This is the lesson from France in 2006.

The movement against the CPE—a law aimed at slashing young workers’ employment rights—began with huge youth mobilisations.

Without them there would have been no movement against the law from the trade union leaders.

But the key moment came when it spread to workers who had been inspired by the youth.

The combination of students and workers forced president Jacques Chirac’s government to give in rapidly.

Every worker should take a petition in support of the students’ fight round their workmates to build solidarity.

Hold a meeting at work and invite a student to address it.

Start fundraising to help pay for coaches to take students to London on the day of the fees vote.

In Leeds the trades council pledged “unequivocal support” to the student occupation, and students have spoken at trades council meetings in the city.

On the day of the vote in parliament workers should organise a lunchtime rally, send delegation to protests and if possible go for a walkout.

In the colleges and schools there has to be an argument for strikes.

In the run-up to the fees vote there is a call for “Peoples Assemblies” to be held on campuses this Sunday

5 December—inside student occupations where possible.

They can be turned in a focus for the whole local trade union movement and help build up momentum for day of the fees vote.

Find out where what’s happening in your local area and get delegations along.

There is also a suggestion for another student day of action on Saturday 11 December.

We have a chance to deal a powerful blow against the government that would leave it severely damaged just a few months into office—and with most of its cuts agenda yet to be imposed.

That opportunity must be seized with both hands.

National Demo: Day of Fees Vote

Parliament will vote on increasing tuition fees some time before it breaks for Christmas

Sun 5 December: Peoples Assemblies on college campuses

London-wide “Teach-in”: Education for the People–Not the Market, 12 noon to 4pm, London School of Economics

For more information go to

Students have shown the way to fight the Tories

Students have shown the way to fight the Tories

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