Thursday, November 11, 2010
Students be proud
Well done to all the students who attended yesterdays anti-fees demo, but an especial well done to those who attacked the Tories Millbank offices. Not because violence is a principle, it's a tactic, but because they have shown a willingness to go beyond polite lobbying, beyond business as usual.
Some points to make. (1) I clocked off at 4pm yesterday and walked across Vauxhall Bridge (where I saw the most beautiful blood-red sunset over Battersea Powerstation) to check the demo out. Shortly after 4 o'clock there were still over 1,000 students on Millbank. The siege was the work of a minority, but it was not a small minority and certainly not the 'usual suspects'. For one thing, there aren't that many 'suspects'.
(2) Don't worry about the so-called violence. Unless you have an unnatural empathy with computer terminals or glass panes you will not feel any pain. No one was seriously injured yesterday.
(3) Those students involved in the siege were right to go beyond the usual A to B routine of lobbying. The entire political establishment is ranged against them to some degree or other. They will not be swayed by reason and timidity. Students have to continue their campaign, they must bring as much of ordinary life to a standstill until the political elite are forced to back down. Occupations must be on the cards, but sustained joint strike action with lecturers and support staff will really shake the world.
(4) 50,000 people marching on a weekday is excellent. The NUS is not a democracy, the exec are not a dynamic bunch (most are on their way to being New Labour spear carriers or Unison witch-hunters), but in terms of numbers yesterday's demo topped anything the organised working class has attempted. It is up to our unions now to match, nay, top this level of militancy.
(5) The proposed changes to fees will not come in until at least 2012. These students were, in the main, not marching for themselves but for their younger brothers and sisters. They were showing a simple but excellent form of solidarity and consciousness.