A Case for the ‘A to B’ March – and more!

A comment piece from Shelly Asquith, SUArts President

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It’s recently become a trope to dismiss what is termed the ‘A to B march’ as ‘boring’ or ‘ineffective’. In this context it is counterposed against what are viewed as more militant actions. This is a valid opinion, but one I believe has the potential to isolate a huge influx of new activists.

We do, as the Left, need to diversify what we do and who we involve. I don’t think anyone who advocates marches would disagree with that. We must also recognise that a march is, for many, the first step in politicisation, and an opportunity therefore for us to radicalise them.

The first big action I took part in was the January 2009 march against the Gaza massacre. I spent the entirety of my EMA on a two hour train journey to attend, and there weren’t many other actions I’d have done that for. Since then, I’ve used many forms of direct action – legal and otherwise. But I wouldn’t have naturally picked up a brick, a bike lock or a balaclava before I’d picked up that placard.

Something happened this week that reaffirmed by belief in the necessity of the classic march. I watched We Are Many; a fantastic film about the global movement against the Iraq war. 1.5 million people in London marched, millions more across the world, to show their opposition to military action. The film shows brilliantly how, though they didn’t halt the invasion in 2003, Stop The War built a lasting campaign that has made an impact on foreign policy and built a generation of activists.

When I see thousands of people on a march – families, children, the elderly – I don’t think it is ‘boring’ but rather inspiring how so many people, despite their differences, can come together for a common cause. And it is these marches that, for many, will be their first point of contact with the movement.

Like it or not, June 20th will be big. Huge. The backing of national organisations and the groundwork of activists means that people have heard of it. The march will allow involvement from workers who do not have the privilege to take a Wednesday off to protest; to book in advance and travel up or down the country. It’s an opportunity for migrants who so often fear arrest and deportation for being part of smaller actions where they are more easily picked out by police. People will bring their children, who couldn’t necessarily engage with something more militant – and we should celebrate that young people will be set an example that opposing the Tories is a normal (and dare I say it, even fun) thing to do.

It’s important we don’t use the rhetoric of the right. The more people continue to call marches boring and ineffective, the more we appease the arguments of our opponents in the student movement who do not believe a national demonstration for free education is worthwhile, for instance. Personally, I find getting up at 5AM to stand in the rain on a strike picket more boring – but of course I do it anyway because it’s bloody important. The point is – many forms of direct action are more or less personally appealing to different people, and we need to appreciate that and offer a variety; rather than isolate people because their preference is not what you enjoy.

There is a will and a need for many tactics – and the classic march can act as a catalyst for more. Either as a base for finding thousands of new activists to invite to the next step, or as an event in itself to escalate from. Few people see ‘A to B’ as our be all and end all; I am in favour of A to B to C to D (or even Z if you have the energy!). A march with an occupation here, a roadblock there; a series of strikes and social media blocades. None of these are mutually exclusive – let’s do it all!

It’s integral we build demonstrations if we want to bolster the Left, bring people in and give strength to other tactics. That’s why I will be calling for us to build for the End Austerity Now demonstration on June 20th. I will also advocate for NUS to call a march in the Autumn – and if they don’t, we will do it anyway. One comrade’s boredom is another’s radicalisation.

Do you agree, or disagree with me? Want to be involved in a collective discussion about the tactics and strategy of the student movement going forward?
Make sure you register for NCAFC Summer conference 12 – 14th June and bring people with you. Be a part of the fightback!

#WeCantMarch on May 27th

CF2Ged_WAAAgb8bThe #ToriesOutNow demo which was called by London Black Revolutionaries and others to respond to the surprise election of the Tories was an inspiring experience – but what was also inspiring was the emergence of #WeCantMarch on twitter.

With that in mind, we hope to offer a list of suggestions inspired by that hashtag, to help those who won’t be there on the day make a co-ordinated contribution. This list of suggestions will focus exclusively on actions linked with the demonstration, but of course, our movements rely on organisation and reproduction way beyond the boundaries of a single day.

Marching is not the pinnacle of political action, and other forms of organising activity are even more important. Physical action in a specific place at a specific time is only one component of struggle. The march on the 27th it is part of a much broader movement – one which has to be rooted in organised communities.

Taking action on a local basis to produce and reproduce left wing campaigns is vitally important, much more important than walking through the streets on a summer evening. With that in mind, here are some ideas for co-ordinated action on the 27th itself.

Design shareable social media content and get it trending: Pictures, videos, blogs, gifs, posters and more can all help spread the message and help our arguments reach new people.

Write about how the cuts will impact you, and share your testimony on social media:    Taking part in consciousness raising by telling personal stories, if you are able to and comfortable with doing so, is an incredibly effective way to reach out to apathetic or un-involved audiences to get them on side.

Help share information to demonstrators:  If there is important information to be shared that will effect demonstrators safety – like police forming a kettle, instances of police violence or arrests being made – we need everyone to know as quickly as possible. You can help by sharing any content which has particular practical relevance.

Arrestee Support:  We will be posting information on the @NCAFC_UK twitter account as the day goes on, and should any arrests take place we will be sharing information on how/where you can offer support.

Continue to raise issues of accessibility:  #WeCantMarch raised a lot of awareness about the inaccessibility of left wing politics – keep raising these issues, and help make sure that organisations and individuals get better at organising accessibly.

NCAFC Disabled Caucus


What does the Student Loan Book sell-off mean for us?

Osbourne’s plans to sell off £23bn of public assets will include selling the pre-2012 student loan book, valued at approximately £12bn. This is nothing less than an attack on every student who has taken a loan since 1998. The only way to respond to such an attack is to escalate our organisation and our action. We have to continue building a movement which can take on the government on fundamental issues which will determine the future of our generation – if we don’t, then we will all face the consequences.

Because student debt is so toxic, it will mean either a government subsidy via a ‘synthetic hedge’ or a hike in interest and repayment rates on student loans.

The first option uses public money to guarantee private profit, the second option amounts to a vast and retroactive stealth hike in tuition fees for every student since 1998.

Governments have used debt sell-offs before, but this time rises in repayment rates are more likely than ever before. The total failure of the tuition fee system will leave students in huge amounts of debt which could have its conditions changed at any time. Only keeping the loan book in public hands will guarantee that loan conditions do not change.

In showing that he is willing to sacrifice students for private profits, Osbourne is establishing that the new government intends to destroy our education system.

Free Education MCR: Why we are occupying

The University of Manchester went into occupation on Wednesday April 13th. We have occupied the 4th floor of the Harold Hankins building, a disused part of the university which is being remodelled as part of a £50 million development for a hotel. We are now in our fourth day of occupation, and it is already the longest occupation that the university has seen in three years.

This occupation has been in response to a number of different factors; the threat of five more years of austerity and cuts to our education system, the increasing neoliberal attitudes of universities, who are spending more of their time focusing on generating capital than providing education, and also the need for a space on campus where students and staff can practice the kind of education that they want to see.

At Free Education MCR we believe in an education system that is free, liberated, and democratic. Our university is not free. It relies on a fee system that squeezes students for thousands of pounds a year from its students, especially international students who are treated like cash cows and then persecuted by state forces like the UK Border Agency. Our university is not liberated. International students, PoCs, women, and people from working class backgrounds are all underrepresented in the curriculum and our teaching staff, as well as having attainment and pay gaps for black and women students and workers. Our university is not democratic, students have practically no control over management and we do not even have a say in who is elected head of our university.

We’re occupying because we want to force management and other students to think about these issues. We’re occupying because we want to put our visions of a democratic education system into practice in our own space. We want a university where staff are paid on fair and equal contracts, where students have a say in the running of their institution, and where £50 million developments do not come at a time when millions of pound in bursaries are being slashed. However, this vision is not shared by our university, which has used security and scare tactics in an effort to end the occupation and prevent us from creating an open, democratic space for learning.

Initially, we were denied food by the university, as they had blockaded all doors with security and even tried to prevent us from hauling food up through the windows. However, after negotiations and strong media-pressure, the university caved and we have food coming into the occupation through sabbatical officers of the Student’s Union. We have food now, but the university is still trying to shut us down through preventing access for students who wish to enter the occupation in an effort to whittle away our numbers.

If you want to help us to force management to concede open access to the occupation then please sign this letter of solidarity with us and tell the management of the University of Manchester that you think everyone should be able to practice a democratic, liberated, free education in a space of their own!

Edinburgh People and Planet: why we are occupying our university

11060315_10155588508790088_8552597559731885482_nOn Wednesday the 14th of May, Edinburgh University students went into occupation. Students continue to occupy central management offices, with the occupation now into its third day.

Students took this necessary act of escalation after an institution, which has consistently claimed to value ethical and sustainable investment, refused even partial divestment from fossil fuels at its university court.

Such a flagrant betrayal of moral principles came as a devastating shock to members of the fossil free campaign at Edinburgh University. Over the past three years the campaign has used more conventional tactics to convince students and staff of the dangers and ethical pit falls of a university investing millions of pounds in fossil fuels.

Over the course of the occupation the institution has repeated its commitment that all students have the right to protest. Instead occupiers face a situation where unless someone is ready to immediately enter the building as they leave, university security prevent access. Rather than supporting the rights of all students, university managers are at best only recognising the rights of a small number of students at any one time.

At worst, and in actuality, it demonstrates that the university have been forced into concessions, but are still attempting to suppress this occupation, and with it to suppress the rights of its students.

While occupations share many themes, unlike many of our comrades across the UK, this occupation has only one demand:

‘We will leave the occupation when the university makes a public statement committing to divest unconditionally from coal and tar sands over the next five years.’

In this demand students have been utterly reasonable. In response the university have offered tokenistic rehashings of the announcement it made on Tuesday. By this they belittle the intelligence and dedication of the activists involved, who have selflessly interrupted their studies to protest and reverse the appalling lack of moral character by their institution.

The university has around 9 million pounds invested in fossil fuels with companies like BP and Shell. In every consultation with students and staff the overwhelming majority believe in total divestment from fossil fuels. In refusing to match the will of its students and staff, the University is proving it values only the interest of a few wealthy fossil capitalists.

Students are occupying under the rallying call of the fossil free campaign, an international movement which has succeeded in pushing 28 universities to divest from fossil fuels and the arms trade. Following freedom of information requests students recognised that the Geosciences Department is in the pocket of oil companies. Taking money from BP, Shell, and ConocoPhilips over the past ten years in the form of grants and gifts, it’s clear why the university won’t divest. As ever it’s obvious the university cares more about capital than the planet. It cares more about financial gain than the environment. It cares more about profit than lives.

Because global warming is killing people. It’s not some far flung issue that will effect people in fifty years time, right now it is the poorest across the world who are dying for the profits of fossil fuels. That’s what makes the Edinburgh occupation so important. An incremental step towards changing direction on global warming. The start of that change has to be our universities, then our governments, then everyone.

The occupation remains in good spirits, attempting to throw off the university’s regressive restraints. It sends solidarity to Manchester. The occupation will not end until the university commit to unconditional divestment from the coal and tar sands industries. The campaign will not end until the university divests completely from all fossil fuels and arms companies.

Demands from the Manchester occupation

Students at Manchester have been occupying part of their business school since Wednesday afternoon. They have put together a list of demands:



Education is a public good, not an individual investment or private service. Its value cannot be expressed in monetary terms.

We demand that UoM management publicly express support for a free education system, funded by the taxing the rich, and do everything in their power to realise this goal. We want a living grant for every student, wherever they are from. We also demand that UoM management do not cut the Manchester Bursary; they should increase it. We want to be part of a university which does not invest in the fossil fuel industry, but rather makes positive social change. We do want a university that treats its international students as equal to any other – not as cash cows.

We recognise that these problems are exacerbated by self-serving management structures in our university as elsewhere, but ultimately stem from national political and economic choices. Only a system of free, publicly owned and democratic education can address these issues.


Those who are already marginalised in society are going to be hit the hardest by five more years of a Tory government. A £12billion cut to the welfare budget means the scrapping of the disabled students allowance; it means £500million being funded by making migrants pay to use the NHS; it means the already massive 24% cuts to further education getting worse; it means the counter-terrorism and security bill deepening the isolation of Muslim students; and it probably means a lot, lot worse that we are yet to find out about. It should be a priority of our campaign, and of the university, to protect the most vulnerable students, whose rights are only going to be quashed even more over the next five years.

We demand that, in the event of the government charging migrants and international students for use of the NHS, the university covers the cost for all students, as well as lobbying the government for a full repeal of the policy.
We demand that the university does not implement the Counter Terrorism and Security bill.
We demand that, as the government continues its attack on further education, the university of Manchester does not cut its access programmes, which are important in ensuring that students from working-class backgrounds can access university.


Students currently have no say in the appointment of the Chancellor. This could result in Peter Mandelson – the man who commissioned the Browne Report which precipitated the rise in tuition fees – becoming the ambassador of our university. This is symptomatic of a lack of democracy within the university which reinforces the position of students as if they were passive consumers.

In the short term, we demand that the all students and staff are given a vote in the upcoming election of the chancellor.

However, this is not sufficient in the long-term. Therefore, we demand a student-staff body, directly elected by students and academic and non-academic staff, responsible for making all managerial decisions of the institution. The university is nothing but the sum of its parts. Students and workers are at the essence of this institution and thus should have direct and democratic control.


We demand that the university introduce the necessary changes to become an accredited Living Wage employer and end zero hours contracts for university staff.
We demand that the university adopt a 5:1 pay ratio in order to close the disgraceful pay gap between university management and workers, as well as make radical steps to address the deplorable racial and gender pay- gaps that currently exist.
We stand in solidarity with the staff currently facing the threat of compulsory redundancy as a result of the university’s plans to alter their redeployment policy. We demand that the university fully cooperate with UCU and abandon these unnecessary changes.
We demand that the university recognise the important contribution of their postgrad teachers and pay them a fair wage. We demand that all departments cooperate with UCU to introduce contracts that clearly stipulate the duties and pay for GTAs (graduate teaching assistants), many of whom are currently employed under terms that are severely lacking in transparency.
We demand that the university halt the trend of casualization in academic work. We demand that they reject the Warwick ‘Tech-higher’ model and the outrageous disregard for the welfare of education workers it represents. We do not want our teachers to be forced into precarious employment.
We demand that the academic integrity and freedom of university researchers is respected and that the output based financial model of evaluation is replaced with a more equitable method.

University of Manchester is OCCUPIED! Help break the siege!

Students at the University of Manchester have been occupying the Harold Hankins Building since around 3pm yesterday. The University are refusing to allow neither access nor food to the occupation and have called locksmiths and the police in an attempt to remove them. Here is their statement:

The University of Manchester is in occupation. We are occupying because we know what five more years of a Tory government means. It means the hopes of millions of young people and workers shattered by cuts and privatisation. There is talk of another rise in tuition fees, funding apprenticeships through 24% cuts to further education, and scrapping the disabled students allowance once and for all.Manchester2

We know what the market does to education, and we know we need to fight it. We are occupying to reclaim space from the university’s corporate projects—and to use it to educate ourselves freely. The area we are in is being redeveloped into a £50m hotel and “executive education centre”. We are occupying to begin to create a space where we are more than customers, and education is more than a business.

There are currently 30 of us in the Harold Hankins building of Manchester Business School, and whilst we want to welcome everyone into the space for debate and discussion, the university is currently ordering security staff to not allow free access to the occupation, or even allow food to be delivered to us.

We condemn the university attempting to starve us out of the occupation rather than let us use what is supposed to be our own space for our own education. We call management to allow us food and free access. We welcome the solidarity of all students and workers and invite them to join us.

Use the below text as a template to email Manchester’s Vice Chancellor – [email protected] – and help them to lift the siege!

Dear Vice Chancellor Rothwell,

It has come to my attention that university management are restricting both access and food deliveries to the occupation of the Harold Hankins building which has been going on since yesterday afternoon.

This is abhorrent. Students have a democratic right to protest and occupations are a legitimate manifestation of that; attempting to starve them out is a draconian and repressive measure of which management should be ashamed. Your attempts to intimidate the protesters have not worked.

The students have stated they wish to use the space as an educational facility, and there are people outside who wish to partake in the protest but can’t because security are not letting anyone in.

Let the students express themselves and listen to their concerns, lift the siege and allow food and free access to the occupation.

Follow them at @FreeEdMCR or https://www.facebook.com/freeeducationmcr?fref=ts

Fight the Tory government! Actions across the country!

Last week11107723_10155488648795510_3805457201197691948_n, thousands of people marched in central London in a statement of defiance against the Tory government.

This weekend and in the coming weeks, groups all over the country are planning local actions. We have put together a list of all protests and meetings happening across the country. Find one near you and get involved. And if there is no protest happening in your city, then organise it!

On Saturday 16th May and in the weeks following it, we are calling for more action from anti-cuts groups, students and activists to fight against cuts and austerity and for the education system and the world that we want to see – free, democratic and liberated. And campus occupations are beginning to take root again – London universities has just had 6 weeks of occupations, and Salford occupied yesterday… we’re hearing rumours of more! National rail workers today announced that they will be going on strike and housing campaigns are quickly spreading across the country. 

Mobilise in your city, in your community, on your campus: educate, agitate, organise – occupy, strike, resist!

If there is a protest or meeting happening which is not listed on here, then please email us at [email protected] so that we can add it!

List of demonstrations, actions and meetings curently being organised:

13th of May, Wednesday

Bristol:  5pm, Queen’s square: NO TO CUTS -#endauserityNOW (organiser: Bristol against Austerity)

London: 6pm: #ReclaimBarnet (organisers: Sweets Way Resists, Our West Hendon)

Oxford: 6:30pm: Planning the Oxford Fight back (organisers: RS21)

14th of May, Thursday

London: 6:30pm, Logan Hall: Radical Left General Assembly (organisers: The Brick Lane Debates)

Newcastle: 5pm, WHQ: Another 5 years: Don’t just mourn, organise!

16th of May, Saturday

Birmingham: 2pm, Chamberlain Square: Stand up for Choice! (organisers: Abortion Rights)

Sheffield: 12pm, Devonshire Green: Sheffield protest against Austerity – no point crying over spilt seats – #toriesoutnow

Cardiff: 1pm, Queen Street: End Austerity now: Community march against the Tories

London: Saturday, 10am, near Euston: The don’t represent us (organiser: RS21)

21st of May, Thursday

Birmingham: 7pm, The Drum: Got the Blues? Building an Alternative to the Tories 

23rd of May, Saturday

Manchester: 12pm, Piccadilly Gardens: Protest against Austerity Manchester

Leamington: 12pm, Coffee Box Cafe: Anti-Austerity Meeting (organisers: Warwick for Free Education & Leamington Greens)

27th of May, Wednesday

Fight Austerity, fight the Tories – March on the State Opening of Parliament (organiser: NCAFC)

Leeds: 5pm: No to five more years of Austerity (organiser: Yorkshire Youth Fight for Jobs & Education)

30th of May, Saturday

National Day of action called by UK Uncut on the 30th of May

- Nottingham: Saturday, 30th of May, 1pm: Fight the cuts – Fight our Future (organiser Nots Uncut Part-of UK Uncut) 

– London: 1pm, Parliament square: The Great British Right Off! – Protest for the Human Rights Act

– Newcastle: 11am, city centre: Newcastle protest: End Austerity now

20th of June, Saturday

National demo END AUSTERITY NOW on the 20th of June (organiser: The People’s Assembly against Austerity)

- Student bloc on the demo

Thousands to march on state opening of parliament – fight austerity, fight the Tories


Many thousands are expected to march on the State Opening of Parliament on 27th May in a statement of defiance against the Tory government.

Having received 36% of the popular vote and 24% of the eligible vote, David Cameron has now formed a government.

This new Government is will try to cut £12bn out of welfare, privatise the NHS, raise tuition fees, decimate local services, make strike action illegal, scapegoat migrants, worsen the housing crisis and crush all dissent that stands in their way.

The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts has initiated a call for a march on the day that parliament opens to send a clear signal that this barbarism will be resisted. Since the callout was sent out yesterday, over 2,000 people have said they will attend, and many more are expected to do so in time.

Callum Cant, a member of NCAFC’s national committee and an activist at Warwick University, said: “The only thing that can stop the Tories’ plan to dismantle the welfare state is mass resistance – we will need to mobilise broad layers of the population and send a clear message that we will not let the Tories smash up society.  That resistance starts now, and we are determined to fight and win where we lost before; the student and anti-austerity movements are bigger and more prepared than they were in 2010.”

Hannah Sketchley, from NCAFC and Co-Convenor of NUS London which is backing the demo, said: “This government received a minority of the popular vote, and less than a quarter of the eligible population voted for them. The idea that they are beyond protest is absurd and dangerous.”


salfordIn light of the recent outcome of the general election, around 20 students at Salford University have occupied the council chambers in the Old Firehouse Building on campus. They have produced a list of demands for university management:

1.We demand that the vice chancellor and university fight to protect international students, in light of the attacks by the current government.
2. We demand that the rights of all university workers to withdraw labour in protest, to be protected in absolute
3.We demand the university and VC fight for free education, and against the ongoing privatisation of our Universities
4. We demand that free and open access to the NHS is prioritised for every student.
5. We demand that the standards of accommodation and rates of rent be kept fair and just, in light of the economic situation for the most vulnerable of students.
6. We demand that the university actively fights the demonisation and social cleansing of disabled students by this governments.
7. We demand that the university continues to provide good access and services in regard to mental health.
8. We demand that the University condemns the racist border policies of the current government.
9. We demand that on-campus transport stays free for all students.
10. We demand that University enshrines and protects the right to peaceful protest, peaceful expression and peaceful direct action.



Please send messages of solidarity and if you’re in the area, come down and visit.