Tuesday, 21 May 2013
What has happened to the student movement?
Is a very good question since two big demonstrations one a lot smaller and angrier than the last 2013 has been a somewhat quieter year for the students movement. Not being a student myself I look on from outside but the anger on tuition fees, lack of EMA, rental prices for students, cost of studying all haven’t gone away surely and the anger can’t have either. No doubt much of this lack of fight can be laid at the door of the NUS who have failed to mobilise students to defend education and mount a challenge to this rotten government. Socialist students which are affiliated to the socialist party have been doing excellent work on campuses up and down the country having our best year yet in terms of numbers. But our influence is still small. We will be putting pressure and calling on the NUS to organise a national demonstration this autumn very shortly. There have been small victories and incidents Sussex university had a fantastic demonstration with an occupation which was disgracefully evicted a while back now in protest over privatisation of the education system. Again NUS did not show up most students now are starting to fight without their own union of students this is a worry but not unsurprising given the role the NUS places with its pro labour party leadership and timid outlook. Recently a victory at Birmingham university has shown an example how students and workers when they unite can win victories even on a small scale and not totally resolved is a good start and shows we can win. Maintenance & support staff at University of Birmingham are celebrating near-total victory as university management have abandoned restructuring plans. 361 Hospitalist and Accomodation Services (HAS) staff faced compulsory redundancy, pay cuts and being forced to work anti-social hours under plans announced in March; the £407,000-a-year pay packet of the Vice-Chancellor would have been unaffected. The University also planned to force staff to work weekends and holidays for no extra pay. These plans have all been dropped and staff has won extra flexibility in setting their own schedules. Edmund Schluessel - NUS NEC-elect, UCU and Socialist Students Birmingham University Unison worked closely in partnership with the students’ union, Birmingham Guild of Students, to fight back against the cuts and job losses. Staff and students demonstrated together against university management on May Day, and, in a major show of solidarity, the Students’ Union put out a call for a national student mobilisation in support of the Birmingham HAS staff. In a statement, student campaigning group, Birmingham Defend Education, said, “This outcome demonstrates that protest and direct action work. Unions were negotiating on these issues behind the scenes for two months, whilst the University kept announcing further attacks. As soon as they started to sign up large numbers of new members and talk about strike action, and we sent our statement to David Eastwood, the University abandoned the majority of their attacks within two weeks. This also illustrates the power of students and staff when working together. We should remember that staff and students, not management, are what make the University work. If we recognise this, and the power that we have when we stop doing what we’re told, we can claim the conditions of work and study that we want to see.” The problem of low pay remains unresolved. Many maintenance staff at Birmingham and dozens of other universities is paid only the national minimum wage, while the university makes annual profits of nearly £30 million. Lecturers and other uni staff on the national pay spine have received real-terms pay cuts every year since 2009. The five-way consortium of university trade unions, consisting of UCU (lecturers), Unison, Unite, GMB (all support staff) and EIS (teaching trade union), are meeting with employers on the 21st to discuss the latest 0.8% pay offer. The five unions should unanimously reject the offer and prepare for national coordinated action to stop the pay cuts and job losses, and push the TUC (Trade Union Congress) to name the day for a 24-hour general strike against all the cuts. As an incoming Socialist Students member of the National Union of Students’ (NUS) executive I will push for NUS to learn from Birmingham students’ example and to give the fullest possible support to any action in defence of education and against the cuts. Once students come back after the summer there will be new angry students paying higher fees getting charged even more to live and get by. It’s a disgrace that the NUS would rather spend their time doing pointless survey’s and focus on the smaller issues not that they are not important but when our whole education system is at threat surely their priorities could be better placed. With socialist students getting its first member elected on to the NEC of the NUS in Edmund Schluessel we can now begin to gain influence beyond our own ranks. A statement put out by Edmund on socialist students website said that students need a voice and for too long the NUS has not represented the real views of students on the ground. Our aim is to turn the NUS into a fighting union to give students hope and an avenue to fight back in. Socialist student’s basic aims and demands are: What We Stand For Education Abolish tuition fees. Write off student debt. Restore EMA. Campaign for full living grants to cover the living costs of all students in post-16 education – including those at university. No to higher and further education funding cuts. Defend every course, job and service. No to academies and Free Schools. For exam boards and all other privatised services to be taken back into public ownership – no repeat of this year’s exam mistakes fiasco! Stop the marketisation and privatisation of universities in Britain. No to the government’s white paper and a two-tier Higher Education system. No university should be allowed to go to the wall! Lift the cap on places and publicly fund the expansion of high quality higher education. Build local anti-cuts campaigns and ‘Youth Fight for Education’ groups in every school, college and university, linked on both a regional and a national level. Support action taken by education workers to defend their conditions and our education –their fight is our fight. For the transformation of Students’ Unions into fighting organisations, with bottom-up democratic structures. For a fighting NUS. For education that is fully funded, publicly owned, democratically run and universally free at all levels – a socialist education system. Work and Welfare Support the Youth Fight for Jobs campaign. No to mass youth unemployment- for a decent job for all. No to the government’s slave labour ‘workfare’ schemes. For decent training opportunities and apprenticeships for young people which pay at least the minimum wage, with a guaranteed job at the end. No job losses in the public or private sector. When private bosses claim they can’t afford to maintain jobs, we say open the books. Let us see where the money has gone. For nationalisation of companies threatening closure, under democratic control with compensation given on the basis of proven need. Fight for a minimum wage of at least £8 an hour as a step towards a living wage. No cuts to housing or other benefits. End lower benefit rates for young people – for the right to Job Seekers Allowance at 16. No to ‘workfare’ and slave labour internships. For decent jobs paid at least a minimum wage of £8 an hour. Support the National Shop Stewards’ Network anti-cuts campaign which fights all cuts to jobs and services The immediate re-opening of all youth services that have been closed, including reinstating sacked staff. Rights Defend the right to protest. No to the victimisation of student protesters. For the right to organise in every school, college and campus. No to ‘kettling’ and police violence on demonstrations. No to racism, sexism, homophobia and all other forms of discrimination. Fight the far-right racist BNP and EDL. Jobs, homes and services- not racism. Build mass campaigns to defend communities. No platform for fascists in education. Rape is never the victim’s fault. For a mass campaign against sexism. No to reactionary attacks on women’s rights. Defend and extend abortion rights. No to the three main bosses’ parties. For a new mass workers’ party that fights in the interests of ordinary people. For International Solidarity and Socialism For solidarity between working class and young people across the world. Solidarity with the Arab Spring – No to western intervention – it is on behalf of big business and capitalism. No to war and imperialist intervention. For the Immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan and Iraq. End the siege of Gaza. No to Trident nuclear missile replacement Support the Sri Lanka Tamil Solidarity campaign – for the right of all people to self-determination. No to environmental destruction. For a sustainable democratic socialist plan of production that won’t destroy the planet. No to capitalism. For a socialist world, where the big monopolies are taken into public ownership, the economy is democratically planned and resources are used to meet the needs of all humanity. A campaign for students must start here. As terms are drawing to a close exams are being taken work must start now for action in the autumn to defend education and to fight for free education for the many not just the few.