Tuesday, January 18, 2011



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Thursday, January 13, 2011

March on Parliament – Protest to save EMA, 19th January

On Wednesday 19th January, MPs will debate and vote on the abolition of EMA.



We must protest in our thousands against the government’s plans to abolish EMA – vital support for young people and often the difference between gaining a college education and not.

Assemble 4pm at PICCADILLY CIRCUS to March on Parliament from 5pm

Supported by the London Student Assembly, National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, Education Activist Network and Free Education Campaign

Please spread the word by inviting everyone to the facebook event here.


The NUS have called a lobby of MPs – to put pressure on MPs ahead of the vote.
You need to arrange a meeting with your MP before you travel to London. Once you have arranged a meeting fill this form (http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/emalobby) to let NUS know which MPs are being lobbied.
Visit the NUS website for more info.


Day of action sponsored by NUS

The NUS is encouraging students to organize local activists such as lunchtime / after college protests, handing in petitions to constituency office – on 18th January – the day before the vote.

Check with your Students’ Union for further details.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Aaron Porter is no longer fit to lead the student movement

Mary Robertson, supporter of the Free Education Campaign, writes in today’s Guardian on the need for an NUS leader who will fight for us, not one who admits defeat before the battle over tuition fees has started.

The gap between the official and the unofficial student movements is growing. Last month, tens of thousands of students gathered on Parliament Square in an attempt to prevent parliament passing legislation that would allow tuition fees to increase – the latest in a series of demonstrations, occupations and other actions over the preceding month. As students attempted to defend their education system, around the corner, tucked out of sight on the Victoria Embankment, 200 people were mourning its death at a glow-stick vigil organised by the National Union of Students (NUS).

The contrast between these two events – both in terms of size of attendance and in tone – provided a stark illustration of why the NUS president, Aaron Porter, is no longer fit to lead the student movement. He demonstrated this yet again at this week's NUS National Executive Council (NEC) meeting by voting against supporting two further student actions in January.

Parliament may have passed the tuition fees bill on 9 December, but students involved in mobilisations at the end of last year have made clear that they are not giving up. The phrase "this is just the beginning" has become our mantra. It is evidence of our resolve that we have called two major actions for January: a "Save EMA" day of action on 26 January and a "Defend Education" demonstration in London on 29 January. The latter is intended as a complement to a youth rally for jobs taking place in Manchester on the same day. It has the backing of the UCU, Unite, GMB, NUS Black Students Campaign, the Coalition of Resistance, the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, the Education Activist Network and the Free Education Campaign. Yet in a clear sign of how out of step the NUS leadership is with its members and the rest of the union movement, Porter and the majority of the NUS NEC voted against backing either.

At a time when union leaders such as Len McCluskey are praising students and calling on the labour movement to follow in their footsteps, the NUS president is refusing to back further actions to defend education.

It is also a sign – and not the first one – that Porter seems to be giving up the fight. Over Christmas, he wrote an open letter to Simon Hughes MP, the government's newly appointed advocate for access to education. In it Porter says: "We are finding it hard to get the government to explain how it will ensure that £9k rather than £6k fees will be the 'exception'". There you have it: Porter's response to the threat to higher education is to politely request an explanation of how tuition fees will only be doubled rather than tripled in most cases.

The NEC vote was just the latest in a series of betrayals. The NUS repeatedly failed to back, let alone call, days of action in the weeks leading up to the vote. Porter only belatedly pledged support for occupations and then failed to deliver on his promise to provide them with legal support. In the days after the last demo, he refused to make a statement condemning police violence, despite more than 43 students being injured.

Students need a fighting union. The fact that 52,000 people from right across the country attended on 10 November demonstrates the ability the NUS has to mobilise when it puts its infrastructure behind it. We move into the new year with the firm belief that we can defeat the government's plans. But to do so we need an NUS leadership that will fight with us and for us, not one that will resign itself to defeat before the battle has barely commenced.

Two universities – Birkbeck and the School of Oriental and African Studies – have already passed motions of no confidence in Aaron Porter. Twenty five will be enough to trigger a national conference and a campaign for this to happen is already gathering momentum.

It is not too late for Aaron Porter to change his mind. Actions planned for 26 and 29 January are crucial next steps in our fight against the government's cuts. The NUS needs to demonstrate its willingness to lead the fight by backing both events. Otherwise, it's time for Aaron Porter to go.

Monday, January 10, 2011

NUS sinks to a new low – Aaron Porter it is time to go

Today the NUS refused to support a day of action and a London demonstration against the scrapping of EMA, higher fees and cuts that has wide student and trade union backing – including from UCU, Unite the Union, GMB, National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, Education Activist Network, London Student Assembly and the Free Education Campaign.

The Save EMA: National Student Strike Day of Action taking place on the 26 January and the National demo – No fees, No Cuts! Defend Education and the Public Sector taking place on the 29 January are both key opportunities for students and the wider public to mobilise in our thousands in opposition to the Tories’ assault on students and the welfare state.

However, the NUS President Aaron Porter led a majority of the NUS NEC to vote against supporting these actions.

Sean Rillo Raczka – leading progressive NUS NEC member – tweeted the results of the vote (see @seanrr1982):

“NUS NEC votes against supporting London Demo on the 29th Jan. 13 for supporting and 22 against”

“NUS NEC votes against supporting London EMA Day of Action on 26th January. For supporting 26th 6, against 27”

Following Aaron Porter’s latest betrayal of students, Sean tweeted:

“Sickened by out of touch NUS NEC. Told Aaron Porter to resign, he opposes students. My amendment pro a militant NUS is being discussed now.”

That we need an NUS leadership willing to lead the fight against Tory cuts could not be clearer.

It is no wonder that the ‘It is time to go Aaron Porter - we need a fighting NUS’ campaign is gathering momentum.

With or without the support of NUS the fight back against the Tories must continue.

Please get involved in promoting the next day of action and two demonstrations:

Wednesday 26th January, 12noon – 6pm
SAVE EMA: National Student Strike Day of Action – London event is from your school or college to Trafalgar Square to various after actions. Facebook event for further details.

Saturday 29th January - Demonstrate in London and Manchester

London National demo – No Fees, No Cuts! Defend Education & the Public Sector! 12pm-3pm, central London

Manchester TUC rally for young people – a future that work, 1pm-3pm, Platt Fields Park, Manchester

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The last occupation standing – Kent occupiers lead the way

Yesterday student occupiers at Kent University ended their sit in after a month of occupation, marking the end of this round of national, mass direct action on campuses across Britain.

On leaving the occupation, student Ben Stevenson said “it’s not over, it’s simply the end of the beginning and we will continue pursuing our campaign.” We could not agree more!

Congratulations to all involved in the Kent Occupation – you are an absolute inspiration.

Check out the BBC coverage of how the occupation ended yesterday here.

Below we share a video from before the Christmas holidays of the occupiers pledging to stick it out over the festive break – a goal they impressively achieved, despite the university making life as difficult as possible by cutting off the heating and preventing people from entering and leaving the building.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Students must not meekly accept defeat on fees - a response to Aaron Porter’s letter to Simon Hughes

By Fiona Edwards (Birkbeck Occupier) and Mary Roberston (SOAS Occupier)

Today NUS President Aaron Porter wrote an open letter to Simon Hughes MP who has recently been appointed to the role of ‘Advocate for Access to Education’ in the Tory-led government.

With higher fees of 9k fast on the way you would think that the ‘leader’ of the student movement would be writing to Hughes to remind him of the overwhelming opposition amongst students and the wider public to this disastrous, immoral and counter-productive policy.

You would think that the NUS President would have taken this opportunity to politely remind Mr Hughes that the scale of student anger over the decision to treble fees is not going to fade away. Indeed, you would think Porter would have expressed a little pride in the fantastically inspiring student uprising – on a scale unrivalled in decades.

You might even expect Aaron to point out that students are going to continue to fight against all higher fees tooth and nail and oppose every single cut to our education and public services.

Instead, we have an NUS President that meekly accepts defeat. On the question of fees he recommends that Simon Hughes ensures “fees over £6,000 really are only charged in exceptional circumstances.”

We should be demanding that fees of £6,000 are charged under NO circumstances whatsoever! And why on earth does the NUS President imply that £6000 annual tuition fees are acceptable?

These words are not the words of a fighting NUS. These are the words of an NUS leadership that is incapable of putting up a fight to defend the next generation.

It is alarming that the author of this letter is the leader of an organisation which represents 7 million students. This cannot continue.

A new NUS leadership is required now more than ever. Aaron Porter, you know where the door is – it is time for you to go.

For further details see the facebook page: ‘It is time to Aaron Porter – we need a fighting NUS’

Mass direct action is hardly dinosaur politics, by Michael Chessum

Michael Chessum, of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, writes in Monday's Guardian on the opportunities for students to lead a wider, united movement against savage cuts.

Never let them tell you that protest achieves nothing. Before the first national student demonstration on 10 November the government could talk with impunity about a programme of unprecedented co-operation in the name of the national interest.

Within a month it was beating schoolchildren off the streets and rushing Liberal Democrat MPs through the lobbies against their own election pledges. The contrast between the vibrant student protests and the suited millionaires in the cabinet, some of whom have now admitted that they voted against their stated intentions, is stark.

Police tactics have proven to be a political education in themselves. They have taught anyone who was on the streets that the state regards the safety of property twice as highly as it regards the welfare of people. The right to presumption of innocence, to sanitation and sustenance, to personal safety, all proved to be expendable. Anyone who followed the media will have noticed that smashed windows and vandalised buildings were the headlines; that Alfie Meadows – a philosophy student from Middlesex University who was apparently hit on the head by a police baton and left with bleeding on the brain – was seemingly deemed a secondary matter.

These are the symptoms of a society, and of a political class, which has internalised the values of neoliberalism to the point of absurdity and brutality. They come alongside a programme of cuts that will hit the poorest hardest – leaving many cut off from university education to join the masses of the unemployed and underpaid.

Now, this era of political extremism has begun to be challenged: not by a new approach from within the political elite, but by a tide of fury on the streets – led by teenagers and co-ordinated through Twitter and Facebook. “Real politics” and “the big society” have manifested themselves, and they have turned out not to be as compliant or as obedient as those in power had hoped.

In the new year, the student movement will be tasked with firming up its aims and methods, and linking to a broader range of social forces. The calls to action from Len McCluskey, Brendan Barber and Mark Serwotka shows that the student movement has been instrumental in leading trade unions into the battle – putting them on the spot over their willingness to fight. The past two decades have seen an enormous assault on education, public services and working conditions, unprecedented in its ideological nature. It is an indictment of the official structures of trade unions and students’ unions that it has been left to the likes of us to lead the way.

For McCluskey to state that serious trade union mobilisation is important, and can be triggered by student protest, is hardly dinosaur politics, as one misguided Guardian editorial had it. The student movement has redefined the form that tactics take – with flash mobs, online mobilisation and amorphous organising structures. But it is still the basic principles of mass civil disobedience and the withdrawal of one’s labour that has the power to lay low the coalition. Students cannot meaningfully withdraw their labour, or bring down the coalition on their own – but they can create the atmosphere and the conditions for something much bigger. This is why students and unions must work closely together in the months ahead.

The return of mass direct action on campuses and on the streets has carved out a political space quite distinct from the old structures of resistance. Its rejection of the rhetoric of deficit reduction and the inevitability of austerity and social injustice has yet to find serious backing from the front benches of the Labour party, which for years concerned itself precisely with the reaffirmation of market-driven economics.

It also stands in stark contrast to the National Union of Students, which has nervously refrained from any kind of direct ideological challenge to the status quo – preferring a politics of appeasement and an abandonment of the principle of free higher education. There is now evidence to suggest that its president colluded with the government to cut maintenance allowance for the poorest students. NUS leaders must end this culture of vanity and capitulation. Those who are incapable of doing so should resign.

With the tuition fee bill passed through parliament, we now face a campaign to repeal the government’s reforms, or – better still – to make the government so untenable that its policies are never implemented. Eyes now turn to the national demonstration in London and Manchester on 29 January, as well as other days of action centred around the defence of education maintenance allowance.

Our cause is far from defensive or anachronistic. The fight to defend the welfare state is a transformative, not a conservative, political project. It will put us on a collision path with the ideological status quo and the classes that benefit from it, and will give us an opportunity to thrash out our vision for the future. It is a future that emphatically includes rank and file organisation among ordinary working people. Call me a dinosaur if you must, but I’m only 21.