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Protest and Babylon

Author: joe

Tuesday, 30 November, 2010 - 19:10

I went to today's teach-in at Bournemouth University, where 150 students and staff spent two hours discussing the planned fee rises and associated education cuts; I reported back on the CoR conference - in summary, I said:

We have to see the cuts in a wider context. It's easy to be taken in by the rhetoric, largely unquestioned by the media, that tells us that cuts are inevitable, and that we have to have pain now so that we will be in a better position down the line. The cuts are not about some piece-meal slap-dash emergency measures trying to deal with a unexpectedly large deficit.
The cuts are actually targeting the poorest, most deprived, most vulnerable people in society - the unemployed, the council tenants, the sick, the users of social care like support for adults with learning difficulties, mental health services and medicine for long-term conditions. It is a concerted attack on civic resources, pensions, healthcare, housing benefit, child benefit, legal aid, libraries, fire-services and day-care.
It is an attempt by a cabinet full of millionaires to open up welfare to predatory private sector companies whose motivations are profit rather than well-being - so that speculators can profit from hardship. It is a systematic attack on the welfare state which is wholly ideologically driven.
The important response is solidarity - not just to fight fee rises and defend education, but to fight every cut and defend every service; not to pick and choose which cuts we want to fight, but to defend the principle of a welfare state which tries to prevent poverty and provide a safety net for the most unfortunate in society.

To be fair, that's probably a more succinct and eloquent version of what I really said, but hey. And obviously I repeated Tony Benn's anecdote (see the end of this post) about the boy in the mine shaft, because it's great.

What was really heartening was to see that so many people showed up to talk about what can be done. Can we emulate the student occupations elsewhere? Can we write an open letter to our VC asking for a clear rejection of the current HE proposals? Will the union support the students? How do we make the arguments? "What is to be done?" the trot inside me was thinking.

What was really worrying, though, was to hear that the cops had been calling up individual students on their mobiles, wanting to know what they were going to be doing in their protests, warning them that they might get arrested, and clearly trying to intimidate them and warn them off.

But that's the Babylon for you: there is no such thing as an impartial instrument of the state, and the fuzz are not good guys. I really hope the students here grasp a moment of political opportunity, and don't let the state scare them back into silence.

Categories: babylon, protest, education, cuts, solidarity, dayx2, bu,
Comments: 1