It seems obvious to say that education is a social good. In a rational society, in which the interests of the vast majority are met, school and university investment would be planned and free education delivered to all who want it.
But we are not living in that kind of society. Our lives are governed by the unelected 1% who plan their investments based on what’s profitable for them, not on what’s best for the rest of us. For such people, operating in the low wage, low skill, crisis economy of 2015, free education would make a very poor investment. In the past free education could be funded by the state, but thanks to the ongoing crisis of capitalism this is one area which is now more and more being exposed to the ravages of these capitalist vultures.
The result is that we are seeing the cost of education increase. Fees are rising, grants have been replaced with loans, debts are being privatised, student services are being privatised, staff are being sacked and teaching standards are deteriorating. For big business this is the only way to make money out of education. Profit is their goal (everything else comes a poor second) and their Tory friends in government are only too happy to prop up the capitalist system by helping them reach it.
This is why we are marching on 4 November. We want to see education freed from the shackles of fees, debt and privatisation. And we realise that this means freeing society as a whole from these capitalist bonds. We are marching for free education and for socialism.
We must use the money in the banks and the coffers of big business to fund free education. They will not give this over willingly, which is why ordinary people have to organise to expropriate their wealth and put it under the democratic control of trade and student unions who can invest it according to their members’ needs. Ordinary students and staff know far better than a Tory bureaucrat what investment is required.
We can and must enlist the help of the Corbyn-led Labour party in this task. A broad plan of investment in education is needed – something that Corbyn has hinted at with his National Education Service. Corbyn has also come out in favour of free education. We need to demand of him that he follow through on these promises by arguing for the expropriation of the capitalists and placing their wealth under democratic workers’ control.
This demonstration on 4 November is just a small part of what our fight for socialism must look like. The quest for profit and the capitalist crisis are causing brutal austerity to be visited on the working class internationally. If we’re going to win and keep free education it will be through united action with student unions and organisations all over Britain and the world.
But even more important than that is to join the working class in the trade unions, in their struggle against austerity. These workers have the power to fundamentally transform society into one where the interests of the majority, not the profits of a few, are paramount. Whereas university management is unlikely to pay much attention to a few students going on strike (the university will still get their fees anyway), the capitalist class trembles at the prospect of millions of workers striking for just 24 hours. If the working class refuses to work, how will the rich be able to leech profits from its labour?
It will be by using radical methods, in both the political and industrial arena, that we resolve the burning problems that threaten to engulf education in Britain. Our demo on 4 November has to be a springboard towards building a united struggle with students and workers internationally. When we march it must be with a clarity of understanding and purpose: we can never guarantee free education under capitalism – the fight for free education is the fight for socialism.
Join us on 4 November!
by Ben Gliniecki, MSF Executive