The mass movement begins. The war continues

Students, lecturers and education workers mobilised throughout the country to support a national demonstration in London in protest against tuition fees and cuts to colleges and universities jointly organised by the student, university and colleges unions.

The Tories and Liberal Democrats are proposing to make public universities the most expensive in Europe. College grants will be cut and tuition fees triple. Many students would leave university with a student finance debt of £30,000 and be paying back that loan over many decades.

The overall budget for Higher Education, excluding research funding, will be cut from £7.1 billion to £4.2 billion, a 40% by 2014-15. It will be done by withdrawing all teaching funding from arts, humanities and social science subjects. One in ten universities will see their public funds wiped out! The research science budget is being cut by £1 billion.

The 50,000 demonstration reflected the rising anger against the savage attacks on education. The government plans would end access to higher and further education for all but the well off.

The proposed system will mean the privatisation of higher education with elite institutions charging the highest fees. Institutions will attempt to sack staff and cut the quality of course provision in order to reduce costs. Moreover, the Government is proposing, building on what the Labour government did, to open up universities and colleges further to private providers of education.

The protest is the biggest step so far in building a national movement against the cuts. What moved so many were the cuts, but also the opposition to putting learning much more directly under the control of business and the pursuit of profit.

During the demonstration finding the doors open to the Tory party HQ 1000s of students tried to occupy the courtyard. There was a party mood. The violence was started by the police, they made arrests and afterwards the police and media launched a witch-hunt condemning peaceful protesters as “criminals” and violent. The real vandals are those waging a war on the public services.

Our movement must defend those arrested. The hostility from the media, MPs and some union leaders is in marked contrast to the lack of horror at the cuts from MPs who all buy into the lie that the deficit has to be cleared by destroying public services.

The Government is preparing social violence. The attack on education, as with all public service cuts, will mean a further attack on the rights of the poorest and most vulnerable, the greatest number of whom are youth, women, blacks and ethnic minorities. It is the same process as in the National Health Service and across all public services and benefits.

Their measures would destroy the future for ordinary people.

The resentment and anger is rising across the country but that is not reflected in the leadership in the trade union bureaucracy. They prevented a national demonstration from taking place this year on the basis that the union memberships were not ready to demonstrate. Yesterday’s demonstration proved them utterly wrong. But is also a warning that one of the greatest obstacles to building a mass movement is the majority of the trade union leadership.

Growing Opposition against the cuts

The education demonstration adds to the growing resistance seen in the strikes in London by the NUJ (Journalists), the FBU (fire-fighters) and the RMT (railway workers). Other unions are also balloting for strike action against the attacks on pensions, jobs and services.

This is a war waged by the Government and now local councils are supporting that war by setting budgets that will implement the government’s proposals, including Labour councils. Jobs and services are being destroyed – children’s centres, youth services, pensioner services and many others are closing or severely cut. It will create a downward spiral of joblessness with terrible social consequences.

At the same time as the 50,000 London demonstration, many local protests are being held in towns and cities across the country. In Liverpool on the same day over 200 trade unionists and young people heard the organisers from the Trades council demand that the Labour controlled local authority make no cuts and set an illegal budget to protect services and join with the unions and communities. The council voted to carry through the cuts.

The Liverpool TUC said to the City council, “Take a stand, set an illegal budget and tell the Con-Dem coalition that you are not prepared to engage in economic vandalism against the public sector that will set our city, and the country, back years. If you don’t we will do all we can to rally the labour movement and the communities of this city to mobilise in campaigns, in protests, in strikes and blockades to make sure that the cuts you are considering are fought every inch of the way.” This was warmly received by all on the protest.

The government and councils do all of this to “get rid of the deficit”. But these attacks have nothing to do with the deficit. The deficit is a smokescreen for the deliberate onslaught on public services.

They look to the days of the workhouse and the poor laws, and to the cuts of the 1930s in jobs, unemployment benefit and housing. They want charity and voluntary labour to replace public services for the working class while reinforcing elite services for the rich.

Since the spending review cuts announced in parliament 20 October new details have come out every week. This week the government announced proposals to attack the unemployed even further. Unemployed will be increasingly penalised if they do not work – that is accept any job, if they refuse 3 times they may be cut off for three years. May be they will be given food vouchers to stop them starving, maybe not.

Before that they announced a proposal to cut housing benefits that will force 100,000s of poor families to leave their homes.

The “deficit” was caused by the fact that billions of pounds of public money were pumped into the banking system to keep the banks afloat. Those banks are now raking in profits, handing out mega bonuses – courtesy of “the deficit”.

In fact since 2008 and the bail outs the banks and the multinationals continue their cut throat business, swallowing up other banks, speculating like mad on even faster computers that are developing their frenzy on stock exchanges. They are driving the world to further militarisation, global antagonism and greater debt.

The attacks on the working class is not a choice for them, in order to compete on a world scale for the plunder of what is left of the world they plunder their own working class. Every week in Britain it is becoming more clear that the cuts are like the 1930s but the leap back will be greater than the 1930s as they want to close services or put them directly under the control of private companies – with a ‘public logo’.

It will not end there as they are creating the conditions for a another slump because they cannot overcome the main contradictions of a rapidly decaying system – private property and the national boundaries of capitalism.

Many have been inspired by a different international movement – that of the workers and the youth in France and Greece. And we will have to carry that feeling further by making direct, permanent and organic links with the fighting sectors in Europe and building a European movement.

The clashes are coming with the trade union bureaucracy which is one of the greatest obstacle in holding back the movement. The demonstration in London was the biggest since the anti-war demos of the early 2000s and like then not only the students but the youth including school children are beginning to strike and take to the streets.

The working class faces a prolonged agony and hell of privatisation until it can build mass movement of demonstrations, strikes, occupations and blockades that can stop and remove the government on the basis of a socialist programme of extending public services, nationalisation and opening the books of all the main banks under the democratic control of the masses, a public works programme to urgently rebuild public housing and for full employment with a sliding scale of hours and no loss of pay, and for workers to have the right to decide and strike when they want.