By Stephen MacAvoy
Photo Selena Sheridan
The huge upturn in student militancy in the past month is a significant boost to every progressive who wants to defeat the Tory-led offensive against the working class. It is the beginning of forces in Britain joining the resistance against the capitalist offensive which has been unfolding across Europe.
The core of the present situation in the UK is an attempted massive transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich of a scale even greater than that achieved by Thatcher. The poor will quite literally forced to pay for the crisis and for the restoration of capitalist profits.
The present government is a ‘reverse Robin Hood’: taking from the poor to give to the rich in the form of rebuilding the income of the institutions, in particular the capitalist banks, which created the crisis in the first place. Defeating this offensive will require very large resistance from the working class on a scale which would change the political situation in the country.
The enormous scale and militancy of the student’s response to this first major attack from the Tory-led government should therefore give great encouragement to the rest of the working class movement on the need for an uncompromising opposition against cuts. If resistance on such a scale were shown by the labour movement, the Tory led offensive would be defeated and the support of the Tory-dominated government would collapse.
Starting with a huge national NUS-called demonstration, which was the largest student mobilisation in decades, the momentum continued to build. This was despite the NUS leadership’s subsequent failure to call any further serious mass actions or to offer serious support for the other events taking place — no doubt fearing the radicalisation this would cause inside NUS. The first demonstration was then followed with a national walkout and day of protest against fees that saw protests organised by literally hundreds of activists in colleges across the country through social media and involving tens of thousands; a wave of occupations in around 25 colleges; further demonstrations, including one that forced the cancellation of the Lib Dem London conference; and then further days of activity around the Parliamentary vote on fees and against the abolition of the EMA.
These mobilisations reflects a big shift away from relative passivity in Britain, in contrast to some other European countries such as Greece or France, that followed the onset of the financial crisis in 2008. There is now sharply increased mass opposition across Europe to the austerity measures which has recently been followed by general strikes in Spain and Portugal, enormous protests in Ireland — which were the equivalent of over 1.5 million on the streets in Britain — and huge level of continued mass resistance in Greece. Whilst none of these defensive struggles have yet been successful — and the political drift rightwards in Europe and the other imperialist countries has not been halted — such actions are the basis on which the cuts can be fought and the political situation can begin to be reversed.
That is also why in Britain the Conservative-led government, the police and sections of the media are now seeking to demonise the student protests and are physically attacking them in a flagrant attempt to de-legitimise protest and demobilise for any future protests.
Every ongoing student protest against education cuts should be fully supported, as should those campaigns fighting for justice against police brutality and media attempts to criminalise the protests. For a still wider social mobilisation, building the national TUC demo on 26 March 2011 is a top priority for the anti-cuts movement.