British students fight back against education cuts!


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When 52,000 students marched through the streets of London on November 10 both police and the student union ‘leaders’ themselves were shocked at the size of the protest. This turnout was an indication of the level of anger students have towards the Conservative/Liberal Democrat (Con-Dem) coalition who are attempting to introduce serious cuts to the education sector.

Polly Tonynbee from the Guardian Newspaper told the students “you are low in the pain picking order” as they voiced their opposition to the government’s massive increase in tuition fees. Unfortunately for Tonybee, this was not the feeling of the students who now face tuition fees in excess of 9000 British Pounds per year ($14,200 AUD) and an 80% cut to higher education spending.

By Adam Hemsley, Socialist Party

The students took it upon themselves to make the first strike against the Con-Dem’s brutal cuts that also threaten jobs, housing benefits and welfare payments. As a result they have opened up a massive breach in the governments defences which, if taken up by the trade unions, could open up new possibilities for defeating the biggest attacks on working people in Britain for over 80 years.

The November 10 march was the biggest student demonstration in 30 years and students from all of the major universities were in attendance. College and high school students also attended in large numbers. Many sacrificed their attendance-related Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) knowing they would lose more if the cuts go through.

At least one group of students was there on a “school trip” organised by their college when it became clear they would go with or without their teacher’s permission. Many students in attendance warned of the threat of a return to ‘Thatcherism’ – often in very colourful language.

Betrayal of the Lib-Dems

While blame for theses attacks is laid firmly on Prime Minister David Cameron and his Conservative Party, the true hate figures for the students are Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and his Liberal Democrats. In the last general election many students enthusiastically voted for the Lib-Dems who had promised to abolish tuition fees and end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The complete betrayal of those promises by colluding in the rise in fees and the continuation of wars has exposed the Lib-Dems for what they really are; yet another capitalist party of corrupt politicians.

As a result the National Union of Students (NUS) has started a “decapitation policy” aimed at seats held by the Lib-Dems. Nick Clegg’s seat in Sheffield has become the first target with the NUS campaigning for a vote of no confidence, therefore triggering a by-election.

Protest is not enough

The fact that students made the first serious move against the Con-Dem government may have come as a surprise to the main stream press, but anyone paying attention to movements of students over the last ten years will understand this radical action.

Many of the students have previously taken part in the massive anti-war protests of recent years. But while these demonstrations were huge they were not enough to stop the war. This experience has shown many students that protest alone is not going to stop the actions of governments whose main interest is defending the profit driven system of capitalism.

In order to effectively fight back students need to link up with the workers movement. Industrial action by workers is of key importance as workers are potentially the most powerful force in society. If workers stop work en masse the entire economy can grind to a halt.

Students and workers unite

British students have set an example to all those who are fed up with the capitalist agenda of cuts, cuts, cuts. The task now is to broaden and strengthen the movement to include all those affected by the government’s attacks. The example of the anti-poll tax struggle that brought down the Thatcher Government in the 1980’s must be looked to for the lessons that will secure victory against the Tories once again.

Students must unite with trade unions and other working class organisations willing to take a stand against the cuts and this government of millionaires. Moves in this direction are already taking place with the National Shop Stewards Network launching an All-Britain Anti-Cuts Movement in January. Students from across Britain have been invited to join and help strengthen fight back.

On November 10 an element of France came to the streets of London. In the next period we are likely to see mass movements in many more countries across the globe as governments are attacking students and workers with a brutality not seen since the 1930’s. The only way forward is a unified movement of students, the unemployed and the working class, for a democratically organised socialist plan of production capable of providing jobs, housing and education for all.

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