Socialist Worker

Students—it’s time to restart the fightback

by Siân Ruddick
Issue No. 2233

Students on the march last year (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Students on the march last year (Pic: Socialist Worker)


The student demonstrations that exploded onto the streets of Britain in November and December were a huge shock for the coalition government.

The challenge now is to restart the offensive and to take it to a higher level.

University, college and school students remain determined to defeat the fee increases, campaign against the scrapping of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) and the avalanche of education cuts.

But there is no time to waste.

This month will be crucial in deciding the future of education in Britain—and the balance of power between ordinary people and the government, students and their vice chancellors, workers and their bosses.

All roads lead to the national demonstrations in London and Manchester on 29 January.

These protests are the next significant opportunity for the student movement to put direct pressure on the government.

But they are also a place where trade unionists, pensioners, the unemployed and campaigners can vent their anger.

It’s a chance for everyone who hates the coalition to take to the streets.

Decide

For university students, the first weeks of term will be crucial in rebuilding the atmosphere of resistance on campus.

Vice chancellors have to decide the fee levels for each institution by February, when new prospectuses are printed and sent out to tempt new students.

This means that the start of term has to see waves of resistance across every campus in Britain—it must not be “business as usual”.

Rallies, meetings and emergency general meetings need to be organised from day one.

Last term saw outdoor rallies, protests, walkouts and occupations—we need more of this, if the government’s pernicious plans are to be defeated.

Vice chancellors must feel the pressure from students.

Occupations and protests need to take place at the heart of the universities—sit-ins in the vice chancellor’s office or finance and admin buildings, and disrupting management meetings to protest against the cuts.

The fires that blazed around Westminster in December, the roads that were blocked and lecture theatres occupied showed what students can do.

Despite being denounced by NUS president Aaron Porter, students continued to organise themselves, building protests of thousands in London and across the country.

The build up to the protests in London and Manchester on 29 January is an opportunity to broaden out the movement once more.

Emergency general meetings can pass motions, mandating student unions to back the protests and put on transport and win more people to coming on the demos.

The lecturers’ UCU and the GMB unions are backing both protests.

This is a chance for students to reach out to their lecturers and other workers and encourage them to join the movement.

Maximise

Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB, said, “We are proud to join with students and the University and College Union. Our public services section shop stewards and members will be contacted in order to maximise our support.”

This battle isn’t just against fees—it is a struggle against all the cuts the government wants to force through inside universities, councils and workplaces up and down the country.

We have to go all out to build the activities leading up to 29 January protests.

The nationwide EMA day of action on 26 January can play a vital role of encouraging more school and FE students to join the movement.

The day after the demonstration a national student assembly will meet in London to help coordinate more action.

With the futures of millions of young people in the balance it is vital this movement continues to grow.


University of Kent

Students at the University of Kent in Canterbury stayed in occupation over the holiday.

This was despite legal threats and harassment from management.

The students received impressive levels of solidarity from across the country, from students and trade unionists alike.

Well done!


Key dates for the movement

  • Sunday 9 January
    London Student Assembly
  • Tuesday 18 January
    Education Activist Network public meeting with Terry Eagleton and others
  • Wednesday 26 January
    EMA nationwide day of action
  • Saturday 29 January
    National protests in London and Manchester
  • Sunday 30 January
    National student assembly, London

For more information go to http://educationactivistnetwork.wordpress.com


If you enjoy Socialist Worker, please consider giving to our annual appeal to make sure we can maintain and develop our online and print versions of Socialist Worker. Go here for details and to donate.

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.