Hundreds of students marched through central London on Wednesday on a demonstration for free education and against university cuts.
The march, called by the National Campaign against Fees and Cuts, called for living grants for all students.
It was loud and lively. Protesters chanted “education for the masses” and “no ifs, no buts, no education cuts,” setting off smoke grenades along the route.
They also chanted “students and workers unite” and “shame on Picturehouse” in solidarity with Picturehouse strikers as they passed the chain’s central London cinema.
Deeqa, a student from University College London, told Socialist Worker, “It’s extortionate how much the government allows universities to charge in fees. We have no jobs and no savings and they’re putting us in thousands of pounds of debt.
“I’ll never be able to pay off all my student debt. We just want the same benefits of free education that older generations had”.
And Saffron from Liverpool said, “It’s not just about free education. It’s that what we’re paying for isn’t what we’re getting. We pay £9,000 and we still have to pay the university for printing and accommodation.
“Universities just see education as a business venture. It’s cheaper for me to rent accommodation privately than it is to rent from the university.
“Our education shouldn’t be a business opportunity”.
Some protesters also linked the fight for free education to the fight against racism. One part of the march chanted “no borders, no nations”. And Deeqa talked about fighting Islamophobia and the Prevent strategy, which is used by the government to make universities spy on Muslims students for signs of “extremism”.
“I’m involved in fighting Islamophobia on campus,” she said. “I’m against Prevent.
“There’s a campaign pushed by the media to blame Muslims for terrorism. When there’s a terror attack in Britain they always say Muslims are to blame.
“But far more Muslims are victims of terror attacks in other countries and it’s not reported as much. In my home town Mogadishu in Somalia 300 people were killed in a terrorist attack and there was no front page news here.”
There was a much smaller turnout than at last year’s march organised by the NUS students’ union. The demonstration would certainly have been much bigger if the NUS has backed it.
But it was supported by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn who recorded a video in support of the march.
Corbyn has promised that a Labour government would scrap tuition fees. Protesters chanted Corbyn’s name as they passed Downing Street.
George, from Warwick, told Socialist Worker, “The general election has encouraged campaigners at the grassroots. It’s not all about electoral politics, but it’s shown that Corbyn has support.”
And Saffron said, “The general election gave us hope. Labour didn’t win but the Tories didn’t get a majority either. We needed that campaign of hope.”