Why student organisation could change this country for the better

Today, student activists occupying the Jeremy Bentham Room in UCL heard news that their court hearing, determining the future of their direct action, has been moved to Tuesday – a result that has been held as a victory for the movement, and an opportunity for extra planning and campaigning. Time will no doubt be spent devising action before next Thursday, when Parliament has the opportunity to vote on raising tuition fees.

Already the Liberal Democrats are being massively embarrassed by their dithering on the vote, Vince Cable receiving the most concerted kicking for his limp decision to abstain from voting, so as not to split the government – a point which which highlights their waning power feeding out of the LibDem portion of the coalition.

Phone calls made to Liberal Democrat MPs by the media group of UCL Occupation found that many are “undecided” or even “out of the country” on the day of the vote. Instead of becoming complacent at the attitude taken by many of these MPs, anger is rising at how these politicians, one time champions of free higher education, are going to be one of the main reasons why the vote could fail us.

As visits from other universities, trade unions and organisations have made clear, student uprising is not a single issue matter, it is a microcosm of the way people as whole feel in this country. When very rich investors like Warren Buffett remind us how tax cuts for the rich are unfair during times of austerity, we know things have taken a turn for the worst, and though it cannot be condoned, tension, anger and even violence will rise. What must be encouraged is that nobody takes the ideological cuts lightly, one thing visitors have reminded the occupiers is that they have been a massive influence on activism as a whole, and serve to remind all people that we don`t simply have to sit and watch while attacks on our economy are made.

It is worth pointing out that the scare notion of capital flight is the thing that generally provides justification for easing up on tax avoidance, gifts for the rich and very rich, as well as dilly dallying on transaction taxes or the bank levy. Yet cuts to the public sector are seen as comparatively easier to operate for right wing governments, because lesser off people tend to put all their income back into the national economy, as opposed to the privilege wealthier people have in spending, or even registering for tax purposes, internationally. However, what the mass mobilisation of the students are representing is that this comfort will now be short lived – already the Lib Dems are running scared, pulling out, as they have, from holding a conference in London.

Another consequence of student organisation is that the National Union of Students, and Aaron Porter in particular, is increasingly becoming seen as an irrelevence, or at worse, a hindrance. Students, who are directly affected by draconian cuts, are operating fantastically, but on a national level they need leadership. Soon there will be enough who agree that Porter is no longer fit to be that person, that realisation could be sooner than he thinks. If he doesn`t step up his game, and define his principles in a more coherent and consistent way, he will either have to quit or make the decision himself to take to the shadows.


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