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Students demoStudents come up against a political brick wall

The explosion of anger on London’s streets yesterday was not confined just to the students who attacked the Tory Party HQ. It was also expressed in the fact that unexpectedly vast numbers of students and lecturers turned out to demonstrate against soaring tuition fees and education cuts.

Over 50,000 came to express their opposition to the Con-Lib government’s programme of cuts. It was the first major march against the Coalition and the biggest student turn-out for over a decade. Frustration and anger ran through the whole march. A common refrain was that “no one is listening” – reflecting the fact that the accepted political process is a dead end.

Students demo

“Tory scum”, chanted students breaking in to the Millbank headquarters of the Tory party. They should have added “Liberal Democrat and Labour scum”. In fact the Tories are the only main party that are not fees turncoats. Before the election, every Liberal MP signed a pledge to oppose a rise in fees. And it was New Labour that first introduced top-up fees in 2001, against Blair’s specific election pledge not to do it.

New Labour commissioned the Browne review of higher education funding, which went even further than the Coalition to propose lifting the cap on fees altogether. Who can say they wouldn’t have accepted its proposals if they were in government?

NUS President Aaron Porter, a member of the Labour Party and like Ed Miliband a supporter of a graduate tax, cannot explain how a tax, rather than higher fees, would enable young people from less well off backgrounds to go to university in the first place.

Lord Browne’s proposals represent the completion of the marketisation of higher education, which is enthusiastically supported by all parties in parliament. It discusses university entirely in the narrow terms of economic growth and money. David Cameron was happy to be able to tell a Chinese student that raising fees for British students would mean fees for overseas students could be held down.

Students demo

Public funding for universities is being slashed by 40%, to be replaced by 2012 with student fees of up to £9,000 a year at some universities. Students starting university this year will already leave with debts of at least £25,000 each and the new measures will push that even higher.

And when they graduate, they will enter a job market in slump. With 69 candidates chasing every graduate job, the 2010 graduate cohort joined thousands still unemployed from the previous two years. They are now part of a generation of young people, graduate and non-graduate, who are over-represented in the ranks of those unemployed for more than a year. Youth unemployment is nine times higher than the national average.

Students demoThe reality is that universities are now part of the market state and unworthy of the passionate commitment that lecturers and students continue to give them. The answer to this massive problem is to go beyond protest against the Con-Lib government, and recognise the transformation of the state as a whole that has resulted from corporate-driven globalisation.

States provide education only insofar as it will benefit big business. Whichever party is in control they are ready to sacrifice the future of millions of young people – and everything they could achieve for human society – on the altar of the mighty market.

But using technology and networks that have been largely created by the younger generation, a global alliance of the young and older workers can facilitate a transfer of power away from these global elites, and their corporate masters, and into the hands of the majority.


In the end, neither marching nor extreme forms of protest like the attack on the Tory Party HQ by themselves will bring about the kind of social revolutionary change that will create a world free from profit and exploitation.

People’s Assemblies, with full representation of every part of the community including students, young people and the unemployed, are the way to make a start in the process of transforming society’s economic and political power structures. All students are invited to come to Liberation Beyond Resistance – Towards a People’s Assemblies Movement in London on December 11, to plan the next steps along this road.

Penny Cole
11 November 2010

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Your Say

Jonathan says:

Well David, strange way to put it. Are, or is that ‘is’, ‘nesses’ different than or is that from, ‘isms’. Heard that argument, or would you want ‘opinions’, before, by those that would hide their own particular ‘ism’ under a bushel. And by fracturing those of firm historical foundations of those past fights, turning all into ‘Hamlets’, so quant, so, well fixed. If we have seen an historical trend, if that is by ‘good neighbourliness’ people have ‘defined’ themselves in struggle, and wish to pass that down then it will grammatically become an ‘ism’. Where did I hear it before, oh yes the insistence to call the particular ‘ism’ I adhere to – and therefore would be identified by, or in set theory be found under in the British Library – the insistence (even by this bloody word processor’s spell check) that it was called an ‘ite’ as the boot went in – literally. An attempt to remove its innate movement, any sense of development, of belonging to a school that has roots, has a history of struggle. And I choose to live or die under that banner: my choice. Of insisting on social relations over this total individualism which brings out the worst anti-socialism from those Individualists, of course here I refer to Libertarianism, it happens to be one of the defining features of my ‘ism’.

But mostly those serious ones when push comes to shove drop that argument till later and fight the common enemy. Serious on my side and theirs because the more honest ones will return to their ‘ism’ after as I do, and we argue that out: again. Of course in the ‘neighbour’ will be found much that seems to be a glue and yet needs addressing ‘scientifically’, say the electricity, or the ‘pensioners’ or by the development of a positions by the different ‘ism’s. But ‘the neighbourhood’ doesn’t get to the centre now does it. In the argument of stripping others bare of credentials, of where actually they are coming from; the whole history of their, our, species is denied them.

Peoples Assemblies will meet in ‘Neighbourhoods’ and virtually by, say conferencing for those lucky enough to have the internet and unlucky enough to, well have no legs, or transport: of course your ‘good neighbourliness’ might come in handy to get the old and infirm and the disabled to meeting through a whip-round in transport but I doubt it, not till the Assemblies are organised. Then neighbourhood is what is organised, all the ‘isms’, even those that don’t realise yet they are within one: humanism will be the organisers. Then sometime in the future the ‘isms’ will also wither. But as I say I’ve heard that one before.

David says:

I was under the impression that Peoples Assemblies are about neighbourliness, and the stimulation of democracy. You achieve these things by example, not by isms.

Jonathan says:

It seem strange to disenfranchise ‘anarchists’ or think it an exclusive ‘club’, already formed, of ‘opposition’. In fact many who act by marching already would not yet identify themselves politically and a lot will identify themselves through ‘opposition’ to ‘what is’. Certainly the dislike of ‘law and order’ comes to play but to oppose that with another ‘law and order’ as implied in the comments [below], without explaining the lawful nature of crisis and the order of a disciplined response, will not grab the attention: attention must be grabbed by slightly more than the crisis and admonitions.

And what can be seen clearly by many is the imposer of all these cuts and will be cuts. Imposed on to those who are in the firing line of cuts (and other aspects of ‘a big society’ yet to surface). The identity to these youth is Authority. Then Anarchism may indeed feel attractive to certain layers. And some aspects of Anarchist tactics also attract. And some may find themselves spontaneously anarchic. And I for one do not throw out (in my head) the organisational skills of this particular group of anarchists. Or groups, for they also fall within a broad spectrum. Indeed the spectrum is very broad and must also have its fringes not immediately noticeable to the senses. Even applying this to organised Anarchism one must see the principle of opposition. What must be secured, retained, as a part of the historical process to pass down is not obvious you know. I happened to be trained in the school of Marxism; it was a hard school and took a lot of training: why should we think the lessons are intuitive? Maybe I was slow; maybe other Marxist will say I need more training. Which lessons of actual struggle applicable haven’t even been laid out clearly in this changed environment is what Marxism is also for? And for those that know some of that history remember a book republished by New Park was ‘All you need to know about state repression’ by AN anarcho-marxist.

But worse than all it seems that this argument is a ‘private one’ to be carried out by some elite (Marxism) and not by all those who have the right to speak. Because to them Parliament sees and certainly the State ‘thinks’ they are most defiantly in opposition: that is the two already are drawn in battle formations – just some don’t know it yet. The ones that most definitely do are getting all the flack.

Before the debate as to what shall be organised is coming this ‘who has the right to debate’ is gathering. Strange one that. It is true, and I for one realize, we have been here (almost) before. And I remember that the historical confidence of Trotskyism’s position (note an organizational position not an ‘individual’ one) has been put forward a thousand times and more; a joint opposition. This position has a particular history in Marxism and is laid out a thousand more times. And each time it has to be addressed anew. Only through this joint organization of those in a ‘joint’ jam can the differences be clarified. Not by standing back and then organizing: it is the time to organize. And all should be invited ‘to the party’, (well almost all). And the Theory is the central matter and can not be just demonstrated virtually or only in theory but the synthesis of theory and practice. If one doubts the actual putting of it, let’s say it is for those who have a ‘stake’ to do it: it must be done. And yes it will need leadership. But the confidence came because it was proved in practice; and what we have is a new practice not the old one.

‘Anarchists’ are almost by definition an amorphous mass; the-party-of -none-party-people. And new layers that are brought in are by definition almost an amorphous mass, and youth are almost by definition ‘new’. It is leadership that must be defined. Because of their principles they have interesting and creative methods of decision making. True the first four Internationals taught immense theoretical and organizational lessons, the first as to Anarchist, but only to those who know of them and or are reared in the organizations descendant from them. But some of those in the camp of the ‘jam’ also are in opposition to the theoretical camp of this or that group; a contradiction that must be dealt with.

Let us not mistake anarchy for chaos and then allow our own critique to be high-jacked by the ‘mainstream media’. Most unfortunate that would be, most ironic to have imposed on our critique the acts of a few ruffians dressed in bow-ties. Then by imposition our suggested leadership to be bent in the breeze; for that is all that New Labour will end up suggesting, eternal opposition, through its presentation in the New Media. It has started this; soon it will seem N-L can suggest anything for it also has been in opposition for eternity, that was not that it was it that laid the base, that is not it which would, quite safe and sage this ‘new’ lot do as said in the main piece: renege. Those representatives of N-L in the student body hold everyone back, after all, and not those ‘going too far’ so why should those appearing undisciplined be the targets of attack? Then even N-L, when the moment comes, will sneak into the Assemblies by the back door and then creep forward to try and divert it: all, of course, in the name of democracy – and nothing else. Making the anarchy seem so much more attractive. Remember this is not an era of defeats so the lessons learnt from past struggles when giving leadership now count with extras.

The debate as to tactics can only properly occur in forms of an assembly, the slogan People’s Assembly surely must be for this, without that imposing discipline from ‘on high’ (or as I am stuck in the sticks ‘on low’ – but still thankful for virtual reality) will not be heard.

Of course the identification by the libertarians of Stalinism, and even the totalitarianism of War Communism which Stalinism enshrined in its Programme, rather crudely, becomes a weapon against Marxism and the smugness some anarchists would wield all this does irritate Trotskyists and sometimes for the very reason that they would rather be fighting alongside these layers than arguing against them. To me the AWTW review on Orwell would have been handy to sweep such arguments aside. But Trotskyism, that not only sacrificed in the Soviet Union but during the long period of isolation, in this struggle or that, is reducible in the last instant (as a living reality) – but felt like the actual purpose at times – to the keeping of Marxism alive, must again be tested in practice. Marxism is not an abstraction, therefore, and as a living reality must express itself through new layers. However the struggle for leadership is not like some American Beauty Pageant, and should be approached only with the goals in sight.

And the need to educated new generations to make a bridge over the anti-authoritarianism and confront the ‘fear’ of any discipline leading to some identical form (yet seen as content) in outcome needs great patience and will lead later, I’m sure, to a sharp fight against dogmatists. Those layers who lack discipline bring a lot, not only to struggle, but to outcome. The crisis facing humanity in terms of the types of creativity based indeed on their own types of thinking is a necessity. For as to what is new and to come we can’t know it all as all is obviously yet to develop as are the internalization of the new socialized humanity. Let us not think that ‘anarchism’ springs from the heads as if fully formed. More steady it seems and sometimes more enduring other layers are created from a decaying system which imposed discipline in a way different from the classroom and lecture hall and the demands of study. And these other layers often learnt this discipline alongside the destruction of culture. But alienation attracts to struggle those who desire a world with meaning and worth and struggle itself appears in-itself to have more meaning to those who naturally rebel against ‘the established fact’. Though seeming shallow at times (even feeling original with age old ‘modernisms’) take to the form of discipline necessary now slowly because of the failure of their own ‘internal’ critique. And do we forget Marx’s opening blast to action.

11 Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.
From Theses On Feuerbach for those who have forgotten or have never heard of it owing, one hopes, to youth. Take it apart and see that destruction is as put in the comment. Naturally the quote must have context and one hopes that as ‘natural philosophers’ youth act to bring about change. And do we deny it needs change: no. Of course everything is ‘creative destruction’, gradual and with leaps. I think the urge to ‘heave’ at this moment will bring with it certain fragmentations in discipline if for no other reason than that although there is a ‘guide’, being history, this is such an unprecedented moment that looking this way or that, searching, will bring a critique of action resulting in action as well as a critique of critique being action: and for some straight action. None of that leaves the ‘world of Marx’.

Of course what to watch for will be the provocations as agents and as circumstances. But the state forces, and the tendencies that will shy off, or have a community of interest that although different from that of financial capital is certainly not based on a world of identity based on the worlds ‘progressive classes’ have to be confronted. To go from attacks on N-L at this moment and be diverted by ‘certain acts’ is for ‘day-time TV surely.

Wait till we hear what they say next, wait till we see their lessons and get them into the meeting on December 11th.

Dylan says:

'Youth unemployment is nine times higher than the national average' that's an extraordinary statistic.

Communism is a dead word from history. Its connotations are Stalin, death and failure. A made for need, not for profit society must be sold to a world with unique global corporate problems, but communism can't be sold to the people - any more than the word socialism can.

Phil says:

The problem with anarchist violent action is that it distracts and detracts from what communism is about - which is taking conscious control of our lives. It is difficult to see how the resolution of theoretical problems facing communists is aided by anarchist actions which are essentially individualist.

Fiona says:

A communism that doesn't permit the kind of 'creative destruction' we saw last Wednesday, isn't my kind of communism! Winning people over by the power of critique is necessary but will take simply ages, a few broken windows, smoke bombs thrown and an occupation by *students* the vast majority of whom were not in fact anarchists, though anarchists were present, may I think, achieve more in the way of the politicisation of young people than hours of critiquing! All methods necessary, talk and action!

Phil says:

I think Marxists should be clear and say without ambiguity that actions like the staving in of the windows at Tory Party HQ, far from helping the communist movement, do in reality make the task of communists more difficult. The "by themselves" formulation used by Penny is an evasion of this basic truth. Communism has to provide such a powerful critique of capitalism that the majority are won over to communism. Violent anarchism is part of the problem, and definitely NOT part of the solution.

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