Fiona Edwards from the Free Education Campaign makes the case for another national demo
With a vote in parliament likely to take place before Christmas we seriously need to turn the heat up on the ConDem government to defeat higher fees of £9,000.
The last demonstration on 10th November was an outstanding success and a turning point in the campaigns against the government’s enormous cuts agenda. With at least 52,000 angry protesters taking to the streets, the demo was by far the largest student mobilisation for decades - and much bigger than any of the demonstrations against the introduction of top-up fees in 2004. More than anything else it proved that tens of thousands of young people are prepared to fight the coalition government's reactionary agenda of austerity.
Building on this success is absolutely vital. Another national demonstration against the government's proposals, preferably on the weekend before the parliamentary vote must be absolutely central to our campaigning strategy moving forward.
In addition to another massive demonstration, we need to keep up constant campaigning over the coming weeks. Petitions, occupations, sit-ins, other non-violent direct action, lobbying and other creative methods are necessary to create the momentum we need to defeat the government's illegitimate and reactionary proposals to increase fees. It is excellent that students across the country will be taking such action on Wednesday 24th November. The activists at Goldsmiths, Sussex, SOAS and Manchester that have already peacefully occupied their campuses in opposition to the ConDem government are an inspiration to us all.
However, we must learn the lessons of the last demonstration. Acts of violence and vandalism undermine our movement, playing into the hands of the right wing who seek to weaken all demonstrations and resistance to the cuts. These acts risk having the impact of reducing the size of our future demonstrations as people mobilise in smaller numbers than they otherwise would have in order to avoid getting into a confrontation with the police.
Also young, inexperienced activists are now at risk of receiving heavy penalties – potentially long prison sentences – as the vicious media witch-hunt against those involved continues.
Of course, following the protests there has been an absurd media storm about the vandalism at Tory HQ. Much more attention has been give to shattered windows than the damage the Tories’ policies will inflict upon young people. This is clearly not really about broken windows or the foolish acts of inexperienced individuals – but about putting the maximum pressure on NUS and others not to call further actions. We must not cede to this agenda which seeks to discredit and demonise student protest against fees and distract attention away from the central issue: the government's disastrous policies.
We have the potential to build a mass movement that includes hundreds of thousands - potentially millions - of people against higher fees and savage cuts. All of our efforts must be channeled into making this possibility a reality.
Another national demonstration ahead of the vote is the most effective way to maximise the anger and opposition of an entire generation. A demo at the weekend will mean that students and lecturers can be joined by tens of thousands of parents, past students and all those who wish to see the next generation have the opportunity to fulfill their potential by accessing a university education.
Join the campaign to call upon the NUS NEC to organise second national demonstration by passing Student Broad Left’s model motion in your Students' Union. The model motion can be found here: http://studentbroadleft.org.uk/2010/11/fight-fees-we-need-another-national-demo/