On Wednesday 19th November, thousands of students took to the streets in London to protest extortionate tuition fee rises, to demand free education for students in the UK, and to show solidarity with students everywhere who want a fairer society. Marxist students from across the country were present on the demonstration, gathered together on the Marxist Student Federation bloc.
Anger against an out-of-touch elite
A passionate crowd of students from all over the country gave rise to a lively and militant mood among the protesters. Protesters were angry about the unfair level of fees and the lack of assistance for poor students offered by the government. Students wanted to make it clear that education is a right rather than a privilege, and that the abolition of the educational maintenance allowance, the increasing of tuition fees, and the debt burden students are now required to take on are all deplorable actions taken by an out-of-touch political elite.
The understandable and impressive level of anger among these students at the current education system was palpable, and this led to a fervent and electric atmosphere before and during the march. There was a spirit that was not present at many other marches, including the TUC demonstration last month in October, which is surely a heartening thing for anyone who believes in real change for this country and elsewhere.
The militancy of students, who marched through London to Parliament Square, was clearly an indicator of how strong the anger is amongst youth against the ruling elite of the country. Slogans criticising the education cuts and demanding the removal of the Lib Dem-Conservative coalition were chanted stridently throughout the march to the approval of passing cars and on-looking workers, further adding to the lively and radical attitude of the students.
Failure of the NUS leaders
One thing that unfortunately overshadowed the demo was the withdrawal of support for the protest by the NUS (National Union of Students). The cited reason from the NUS was safety concerns. However, it is worth noting that there were as few as 11 arrests made, whilst thousands of students peacefully participated in what was a generally safe march. If the NUS was genuinely concerned about safety, meanwhile, it should have helped to organise the demonstration, using its significant resources to arrange stewarding.
This demonstration could have been even larger than it was, and the anger and enthusiasm of the students present could have been capitalised on in a far greater way, had the NUS given their support and helped organise the march. Promotion of the march and assistance in organising, as well as a seal of approval from an organisation like the NUS, would no doubt have provided a significant boost for a protest, as was the case in 2011 when 50,000 students protested in London with the NUS’ support.
For a fighting, socialist leadership!
For the student movement to succeed in its aims of promoting a fairer society with free education and greater equality, it is vital that the NUS shows fighting leadership by supporting and promoting causes such as this. As a reflection of the anger against the NUS leaders for their failure to support this demonstration, the NUS headquarters were spraypainted with the word “scabs” in advance of the protest.
This latest protest showed that students militantly and passionately demand change. The task now is to build a militant leadership, with the organisation of activists in every university and college around a socialist programme, in order to fight for the revolutionary transformation of society required by millions of students and workers in Britain and internationally.