On Tuesday 4 December, a small contingent of students and staff from the University of Liverpool and nearby institutions left a rally organised by UCU around the national strike to occupy the Irish Studies building on Abercromby Square. [Read more...]
“University students around the country say film footage seen by this program reveals a politically motivated crackdown on their right to protest.” Check out Paul Mason’s video report on the “Cops off campus” struggle. [Read more...]
Hundreds of student, trade union and academic activists sign letters in the Guardian on “Cops off campus”
On 9 November the Guardian published three letters on the ‘Cops off campus’ struggle. One was a letter signed by over a hundred student activists and student union representatives, initiated by NCAFC members. [Read more...]
As London Transport workers and community activists prepare to oppose Transport for London’s plans to devastate London’s transport network through cuts, NCAFC is supporting the fight and mobilising students as part of it.
On Tuesday 10 December, 7pm, at University of London Union, there will be a first meeting of those who want to build a strong community campaign, including but not limited to support for Tube workers’ action (they are currently balloting for strikes). [Read more...]
Time: 12 noon, 11th December. Place: University of London Union (ULU), room 3C. Contact: 07964791663 or [email protected]
This Wednesday, students will be demonstrating again. NCAFC is hosting a press conference on the day so that participants and supporters from all over the country can say why they will be there.
The past week has seen an unprecedented level of police violence on campus, with draconian injunctions from the University of London and bail conditions banning students from congregating in public in groups of more than 4. At Sussex, 5 students have been suspended for protesting, in Birmingham students have faced persecution and court injunctions, and in Cambridge, police are paying students to spy on each other. Across the country, we are being attacked, but we will not be intimidated.
We are fighting for an education system that is public and democratic, free for all. Campuses should be places for inquiry, critical thinking and dissent. Across the country, students and workers are fighting for that vision. Students and workers united hold all of the legitimate power. The only power that management has is the power of political policing and court injunctions.
The panel will include:
- Students directly involved in the Senate House occupation
- Occupy Sussex, which is fighting against the suspension of 5 students involved in protest
- University of London Union (ULU)
- Birmingham Defend Education, who occupied in defiance of an injunction
- Cleaners from the 3 Cosas campaign, whose strike action spurred on protest at the University of London
- Trade union and academic speakers
- Green and Black Cross (GBC), the legal support network
We will also be inviting speakers from anti-police violence campaigns.
1pm, Monday 16 December
Scottish Tory HQ, Northumberland Street, Edinburgh EH3 6JG
The blog says it will “help keep up the cross-union co-operation fostered by our first strike on 31st October. It is open to members of any and all of the Higher Education unions (UCU, Unison, Unite, EIS, etc).”
By James McAsh (James is an NCAFC supporter who sits on NUS National Executive Council. Last year he was President of Edinburgh University Students’ Association)
After a wave of occupations – and a crack down from police and university administrations – the British student movement is back.
Reports of the death of the student movement have been greatly exaggerated. Students in Birmingham occupied a management space on the 20th of November. Then Sussex went into occupation, then Edinburgh. Birmingham sparked a wave of occupations across the UK. Many in established leftwing campuses – Sussex, Edinburgh, Sheffield – others on campuses with a less radical recent history, like the University of Ulster. About a dozen campuses have been occupied in the past few weeks.
At first glance, it looks like a repeat of the 2010 student revolt. It’s not. There are similarities, but many differences. This movement is already much more sophisticated. The class of 2010 has graduated. Students who were 15, 16, or 17 when Millbank Tower was stormed now make the up the bulk of the movement. For this generation the groundwork has already been laid. The debates about the legitimacy of occupations were settled before they first set foot on campus. We’re much more aware of the student movements’ strengths and weaknesses. We have a clearer understanding of their relationship with workers, with management, and with the state.
The context is different too. In 2010 ‘austerity’ was a niche word. The labour movement was stagnant. A few people still had respect for the Lib Dems and believed that a vote at the ballot box was enough. That’s no longer the case. Three years into the Coalition Government, public opinion has changed. The trade unions are flexing their muscles. Somewhat inevitably, the state is responding with brutality and political repression.
The student movement’s strength and energy often transcends to other movements too. The 2010 student movement gave vitality to the fight against austerity. We lost our key demands but its legacy lives on. What’s happening now could play a similar role in shaping future movements. There are five keys things we need to understand about the current situation, why it’s happening, and what it all means.
1) The key demands aren’t about students, they’re about workers
Workers pay is central to the movement’s demands. The occupations were organised to coincide with campus strike action, and they adopt the unions’ demand. Some go further, calling for the pay ratio between the highest and lowest paid staff to be reduced to 10:1. This is being played out against a backdrop of ubiquitous support for strike action, even amongst more moderate students’ unions.
This is new. In 2010 the demands were student-focused: to save EMA and keep the cap on university tuition fees. The year before, education workers had also gone on strike but student union support was minimal. The big change we’ve seen in the student movement in recent years is the rise of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) and campus anti-cuts groups who emphasise student-worker unity. Back in 2010 we were chanting ‘Students and Workers; Unite and Fight’. For the class of 2013, the chant goes without saying.
2) The movement isn’t a reaction to an immediate threat, it relaunched itself on its own terms
In 2009 students occupied in reaction to the Israeli offensive in Gaza. Next it was in response to course closures. In 2010 it was about tuition fees and EMA. In 2013 these protests are not reacting to one single event but rather to a constellation of continuing political processes: the marketization of education, the corporatisation of university governance, and the casualization of labour. 2010 was reactive. 2013 is proactive. This recent surge comes from an act of collective will. We’ve shown that we can flex our muscles when we need to.
3) We’re developing a longterm narrative
In 2010 we knew what we were against. Now we know what we are for: free and accessible education, democratic institutions, decent pay and conditions for all workers. The anti-austerity movement hasn’t yet developed a strong positive narrative. The student movement is beginning to.
We recognise the enormity of our task and we’re under no illusions of our strength. We’re self-consciously ‘movement building’. Every occupation and every demonstration strengthens us. There’s widespread recognition that another flashpoint like 2010 will happen. We want, and more importantly, we must, be better prepared. We’re building resilient organisations, equipping ourselves with stronger ideas, and finding more effective ways to organise. More importantly though, we recognise that this is what we’re doing. We are building a sustainable and organic movement and know that these elements are crucial.
4) Questions of liberty and democracy sit alongside economic demands
It’s not just about economics. The class of 2013 are fighting for liberty and democracy. The first occupation in Birmingham demanded change in university governance, bolstering the power of elected students and staff. More specifically, the occupation of the University of London’s Senate House was in part a response to the university’s plan to shut down its students’ union.
The movement has evolved beyond ‘anti-austerity’. Money still matters but so does power. The past decade has seen universities become increasingly corporate, with Vice Chancellors acting like CEOs, and the gap between private companies and public universities collapsing before our eyes. At the same time the state has curtailed more and more of our liberties. The student movement is tackling austerity and authoritarianism simultaneously. The Coalition Government is pushing forward with more and more cuts. At the same time, it’s also attacking civil liberties through draconian measures like the Gagging Law. The student movement’s dual-approach will become increasingly important.
5) University management and the police are playing with fire
Universities and State responses to the occupations and protests have been brutal and repressive. This is a big gamble. They are hoping that this will quash future dissent. But they risk adding fuel to the fire, pushing more students to protest, and other citizens alongside us too.
The responses so far include:
• The University of Birmingham have taken their students, including one student union sabbatical officer, to court
• Management at the University of London invited the Metropolitan Police to evict the peaceful occupation of Senate House. This led to false-arrests, assaults against students, and similarly brutal response to a march the next day.
• Two universities have gone to court for injunctions against all protests on campus, a move that has been condemned by Amnesty International
• The Vice Chancellor of Sussex has indefinitely suspended five students from their studies
• Approximately forty students have been arrested. The bail conditions prevent students from going within fifty metres of SOAS campus (despite this including their places of work or study), or ‘being in a group of four or more persons’ in a public place.
But this policy is backfiring. The Facebook page calling for a day of action against police brutality has already gained 1000 attendees less than a day after it was created. Last night I was at an NUS event. The organisation that condemned the Millbank occupation in 2010 was united in support for student occupiers and was appalled by police repression. All signs point towards the movement growing as a consequence of heavy-handed responses. These protests are escalating, and an increasingly authoritarian response from institutions will only steel the resolve of protesters. Students will not be cowed by the baton-strikes; they will only be determined to continue the fight.
The movement is still young, and we don’t know how things will turn out. But it’s clear that the class of 2013 has learned from the mistakes and successes of 2010, and that whatever happens next in the student movement will have repercussions throughout the rest of society.
This article was originally published at opendemocracy.net
Attend the facebook event here.
In the past month universities across the country have been subject to unprecedented levels of violence from the police, targeting a resurgent wave of activism against the privatisation of the university system.
Across the country, students are initiating a vibrant, popular, winnable fight for democratic and public universities, free from exploitation and repression. We cannot be beaten if we stand together.
In the past week, police have violently evicted, beaten, and arrested students from peaceful occupations in London and sent undercover police officers to spy on students, arresting 3/4s of the union sabbatical team. They have attempted to recruit students to act as informers against fellow student activists in Cambridge, and attacked protests against outsourcing in Sussex. Across the country, managements are using injunctions and violence to suppress dissent; at Birmingham, students were threatened with
£25,000 court costs.
The scale of the police’s response has never been witnessed on British universities. Students beaten, strangled, having teeth punched out, dragged across roads, and violently bundled into vans. This cannot be allowed to continue.
The violence of the police is not just a student or education issue. For years the Metropolitan police have been able to beat, arrest and murder citizens in London with impunity; the IPCC functioning as nothing more than cover for unaccountable, systematic violence.
Groups all over the country are calling for a national day of action on Wednesday December 11th – with local action and a demonstration in London. This event is being set up as a reaction to this call; we are relaying this call for urgent solidarity.
***What is #copsoffcampus?***
We stand for an education that is public and democratic, free for all. Campuses should be places for inquiry, critical thinking and dissent. Across the country, students and workers are fighting for that vision. Students and workers united hold all of the legitimate power. We are the people who give our institutions life and make them function.
The only power that management ultimately has is police and state violence. They can’t win the argument, but they can – and do – call in the cops, assault and intimidate us. With an agenda of austerity, the authorities are behaving in an ever more violent and repressive way.
Our response is to mobilise harder.
Meet at 2pm at the University of London Union (ULU)
If you cannot make it to London on the day, or want to stay local, do something on you campus.
• Democratic campuses, public education
• Solidarity with staff and the fair pay strikes
• Stop the privatisation of student debt.
• Against the police/austerity agenda
Contact NCAFC: Daniel Cooper, ULU Vice President, [email protected], 07840-136-728