There is one simple lesson from history that we must remember in the light of the 10.10 NUS march: The Poll Tax riots were successful in getting the Poll Tax scrapped. As I pointed out in a letter to the West Briton this week, Liberal Democrat MPs absolutely must vote against the fee rise – but without constant pressure, both on the streets and in parliament, they will not do so. And Labour must also embrace the fight against the cuts; arguing over small technicalities relating to the details of the cuts will be self-defeating and only undermine the real fight that students and communities are putting up to defend education and other public services.
In Cornwall we must kick-start our own campaign. There have been union meetings in recent months in Truro, but these have amounted to relatively nothing in terms of action. On the other hand, yesterday’s student march must be the beginning of something broader. We cannot let our anger just fizzle away – it must, and will be, continually revitalised over the coming months as the full impact of the cuts is realised, and the fee rise plans are completely uncovered. The front page of The Socialist this week was a call to arms for students – ‘We won’t pay’.
Yesterday’s march was a manifestation of that rallying cry. How the left react to the small-scale violence of yesterday’s NUS march in London is critical to how we deal with the cuts and rise in tuition fees. The occupation of Tory HQ was indeed radical, but the smashing of a few windows and some furniture thrown does not justify the right-wing press’ outrage that seems to equate damaging property in political dissent with wide-scale carnage and murder. The actions of the few at the Millbank offices was ‘irresponsible’ as some UCU lecturers pointed out earlier – but, as they go on to say, it did much more to raise awareness of the unjust fee rises than the 50,000 others marching elsewhere in London. And no one can doubt that it must have left Tory MPs quaking in their boots – perhaps it may even persuade them to think again about what they are inflicting on this nation’s youth.
I repeat what others are saying: this is only the beginning. The beginning of a mass movement for investment, not cuts. For universal education, not elitism. And most of all – for putting people before profit.