Wednesday, 10 November 2010


Student Militancy a Welcome Surprise

Exclusive to Sons of Malcolm
by Celia McAteer
Weds Nov 10, 2010

No one expected what came today, not the right, not the left and
maybe not even those who brought the fight themselves. We have got
used to hearing “we’re not like the French” who take their fight to
where it hurts, and force all eyes on them until they have been

But today, what could have been a march by students and lecturers
within the confines set by those they are meant to be marching
against, may prove to be the first protest of this generation that
will not just send shivers through the halls of power but also
expresses an acknowledgement that it is not possible to have your
voice heard through the instruments of the state.

In an effective vote of no confidence of Aaron Porter, the careerist
president of the long discredited National Union of Students (NUS),
who co-organised today’s demonstration against the cuts and tripling
of tuition fees, hundreds of students broke away from his protest and
charged into the Tory headquarters in Millbank chanting Tory “die
Tory scum”.

Police were absolutely out of their depth and outnumbered as
protesters smashed windows, threw computers out of windows, set off
fire extinguishers and even threw one from the roof.

But today also showed just how far removed progressive institutions,
like the NUS, are from the people they claim to represent as the fact
that they had not dreamt of what unravelled, showed they have not an
inkling of the depth of the anger felt by those who are really being
hurt by the cuts.

While they talk every day of a “lost generation”, with youth
unemployment double the national average at 17 per cent (rising to
almost 50 per cent for young black people), a crippling rise in
university fees, mass cuts to youth recreational, health training and
employment services - there has been no change of approach within
these institutions to oppose these changes. They urge people to
“fight back” and then propose that that fight takes the forms of
demonstrations, lobbying and letter writing to plead with the enemy
to treat them with kid gloves.

Aggrieved workers can demonstrate, but their real power lies in their
right to unionise and withdraw their labour - however limited that
right is and there is some recongition that workers need to take the
law into their own hands. But when people are angry because of issues
not related to employers, like today, people have absolutely no power
to challenge that within the law. This generation learnt that from
the inability of the 3 million strong march to stop the war in Iraq
in 2003, or have any impact on it, and no amount of insistence
otherwise from unrepresentative progressive institutions can change
that belief.

Furthermore if such institutions were representative of the young
people they speak for, they would have been able to anticipate the
events of today to make it more effective - not least because the
consequences of the police crackdown could have be anticipated and
mitigated against.

It is the failure of the leadership of progressive institutions that
has lead to the arrests of 32 and counting young people who stormed
the Tory headquarters which accommodates those who cooked up the mass
assault on their generation. Instead of standing with those who are
now being criminalised, to show at least an understanding of their
anger, Mr Porter has condemned them as “despicable” and UCU general
secretary Sally Hunt has described the events as “regrettable”.

Finally, those who say that this kind of action jeopardises public
support for their cause, miss the point that the public do not see
the point of supporting actions that fail to even get noticed, let
alone have an impact. And claims, from the right and left, that those
who lead the occupation of the Tory HQ were not students, again shows
just how far removed institutionalised political forces are.



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