Socialist Worker

Make these strikes electric festivals against cuts

by Jonathan Neale
Issue No. 2242

University lecturers have voted for strikes. Some will strike in the week before 26 March.

I have three old ideas that could make those strikes electric festivals against all the cuts.

The first comes comes from 1970. I was a lecturer working at an African-American college in Knoxville, Tennessee. We had 820 students.

At a mass meeting 800 students voted to strike against the war in Vietnam. The next morning, 800 stood on picket lines. The teachers joined the strike.

We can't get 97 percent of students on a picket line here yet. But we can imagine 2,000 or 3,000 students at each big university. That would close them.

And police can't stop students going onto campus without closing the university. So hundreds could go from the picket lines and talk to anyone working or studying.

To make this happen, we need to change how we organise. Facebook, Twitter, public meetings and occupying one lecture hall will be necessary. But it will be nowhere near enough.

We need meetings in each hall of residence—in someone's kitchen. We need informal canteen meetings, a sea of leaflets, and then mass meetings that vote for action. We have to think not in terms of militant minorities, but of thousands.

My second idea comes from 1982. I was a hospital worker in Tower Hamlets, east London. We had a series of national one-day strikes.

Every time we came out, we sent nurses and others in uniform down the road. They just walked into the town hall, the dust depot, the library, and so on. They asked those workers to join our picket line at lunchtime and come out on strike with us the next time.

Lots of workplaces joined us.

The NHS is threatened now. In many universities there are student doctors, nurses, and other professionals. Many have not been part of the student protests. We won't reach them through our established networks.

But small informal meetings, now, of medical students and in student nurses halls could get people going. Informal meetings on wards and in canteens, and formal union meetings, can get other hospital workers moving.

This does not have to be strikes. Hospital workers work shifts. There are always a lot off shift at nine in the morning.

Think about hospital workers with placards and uniforms standing in the middle of thousands of students.

My third idea is to get a picket of disabled people, standing next to a picket of NHS workers, in the middle of a sea of students…

To do this you have to think big, move fast, and talk to strangers. I know you can. I have seen such things done.

Then on the bus back from 26 March, people will know what to do when they get home.


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