On the 26th March the trade unions have called for a massive action in London to save education and stop the cuts. If we can organise masses of students and youth to attend this march with the aim of Shutting Down London, then we can begin a process that could reverse the fee hikes and restore the EMA on a national basis. There are many ways to Shut Down London for a day. A million people on the streets of London on the 26th March would shut it down that day. We can achieve this. The trade unions have already booked trains and coaches to bring people to the march from all over the nation. We can help fill the trains and coaches. But our movement can achieve far more than this if we build it as an independent mass movement determined to win.
We need to bring down the Coalition Government in order to defeat the cuts. Actions led by students in Tunisia and Egypt have taken to new heights the struggles of students and youth that started in France last autumn and spread to Britain, Greece, Italy and other places. If we begin preparing now to make the 26th March the first of many days of action to Shut Down London we can win. But to achieve this task we must learn the lessons from our actions of last November and December, so that we can be better organised, more politically clear, and able to employ tactics that can win. We must use the next couple of months to build a collective leadership that is accountable to the movement and committed to winning the fight. Movement for Justice is the only organisation determined to carry out this perspective. We urge all of those want to win to join us now.
The greatest gain of our movement last November and December is the transformation it caused in us. For the first time we were able to feel powerful and free. The marches, working to shut down London with perfect strangers that had our backs and always supported each other and even getting kettled and fighting, talking, and partying with people from so many different cultures and backgrounds, gave us a glimpse of the society we could create. The student movement we built in response to the Government’s fee hikes, abolition of EMA and savage cuts in education funding has been a wake-up call for a nation stunned by the Coalition’s planned destruction of the central social advances of the twentieth century – free public education for all, a free NHS, and basic security for all through the welfare system. We inspired so much of the country with our boldness.
Over Christmas many of us were told by parents, teachers and other authority figures that what we felt was not real and that what we did was inconsequential. Some of us are desperate to counter the cynicism and pessimism of those who say, “if you fight, you lose, because the rich and powerful will always have power”, and are searching for a real answer to the question of why we failed to stop the fee hikes and the abolition of the EMA.
To Win We Must Escalate Our Fight
The truth is that the Government won the votes in Parliament, not because the Coalition is so strong but because we didn’t exercise our social power enough – because there wasn’t enough social unrest on our streets, in our communities and at our educational institutions. We have the power to shut down London and other major cities, to shut down education and stop ‘business as usual’. That’s what we have to do if we want to save free, public education. But in order to win, we need a leadership that is committed to broadening our struggle and educating and organising our student bodies.
One of the dangers we face in building the 26th March is that we will cede all power and decision-making authority to the trade union leadership, the do-nothing, self-proclaimed community “leaders” and Labour Party officials. We cannot let our new movement become immersed in or subordinated to dead-end manoeuvres with trade union bureaucrats or the current NUS leaders. These leaders are tied to the Labour Party and will tie our new movement to the Labour Party. The Labour Party is not even trying to bring down the government and has never even pledged to restore the EMA or reverse the fee hikes and all the other cuts that the Government is making.
Build an Independent Movement of Students Tied To the Black, Asian, Muslim, Immigrant Communities and the Oppressed
The Coalition Government, despite all of its bravado, knows that what it is trying to pull off is dangerous and could lead to social upheaval. They are constantly testing out how far they can go. There are constant threats of more cuts, but what will actually be proposed in the March budget is still in flux. It is becoming more apparent that if the Government’s policies of massive cuts are enacted the whole society will plummet into a far worse economic crisis, and some of their billionaire backers will take fright and abandon the Coalition. The job of the movement is to organise the boldest, angriest resistance to the cuts that we can. If the Government had paid a bigger price for the fee hikes, and the social stability of the whole society had been thrown into question, a lot of the proposed cuts would already be rescinded.