In the early hours of Friday morning Warwick For Free Education took control of Warwick University’s new £5.3 million Slate building in protest against further attacks on both students and staff by the University. The three key demands are:
- For the university to oppose the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), which is a blatant attempt to increase already exorbitant tuition fees and continue attacks on teachers and staff
- To show solidarity with and raise awareness for Warwick’s Anti Casualisation Campaign
- Protest the draconian injunction on protests at the University which was put in place after an occupation on 3 December 2014 when protesters were sprayed with tear gas by the police
It is this third point in particular which has determined the timing of the occupation. Last Saturday was the two year anniversary of the University-sanctioned police brutality against legitimate student protest. That day it was clearly revealed that the University’s priorities lie with protecting its image and its private property, and not with engaging and protecting its students. Pursuing this aim further, University management have now constructed a magnificent £5.3 million conference centre, where rich businesses can discuss profit maximization without being bothered by the likes of students and staff who will never be allowed to enter the building. This conference centre is the site of the current occupation.
The occupation is a bold and courageous move by Warwick For Free Education to stand up to the increasing exploitation of both students and staff at Warwick and throughout the country as a whole. Since the financial crash the university has continually attacked students and staff in order to cut costs, implement government programmes of austerity and cosy up to corporate interests.
Warwick Marxists are enthusiastically participating in the struggle against TEF, against casualisation and for free speech. We need to build mass support for the demands of this occupation. This should be possible because so many people are in the same boat. These attacks are not just limited to Warwick but are being carried out nationally and around the world as the capitalist class seeks to make the working class, and young people in particular, pay for the ongoing economic crisis by rolling back free education, healthcare, and other basic rights and welfare protections. The occupation at Warwick should discuss this wider political context and establish a clear, anti-capitalist political programme around which to build support for its demands.
Already Warwick for Free Education is trying to work closely with staff, local union branches and the Warwick Anti-Casualisation campaign, and building links with staff and other workers in Coventry. This shows the way forward. A mass campaign of leafleting, postering and public meetings aimed at staff, students and local workers and trade unionists is the next step in building support for the occupation. The Student Union has backed the occupation’s demands but it must also back the occupation in full and Warwick for Free Education should make winning SU support part of their campaign. Approaches should be made to student unions at other universities, national trade unions and even the Labour party leadership to support the occupation.
Already 90 students and staff were prepared to walk in the cold and dark on Monday night’s demo to support the occupation. This has to be just the starting point. Without mass support among students, staff and broader layers of the working class, the occupation will struggle to continue through the winter holidays when the University is no doubt planning to strike to evict the occupiers as students vacate for Christmas.
Ultimately our fight has to be for a world in which universities are not in the hands of people who are only out to make a profit – educational institutions should be run by those who study, work and benefit from them. And if we are to achieve this for universities then we have to achieve it for all those corporate interests that dominate the economy and society. The biggest industries and employers, the banks, the land and so on should all be run democratically, for need not profit, by those of us who work for and rely on these things.
In short, as well as explaining what we’re against, we should use this occupation to articulate the kind of world – a socialist world – we want to fight for.
Down with TEF!
Down with Casulisation!
Down with the Ban on Protests !
Down with Capitalism!
In Solidarity with Warwick for Free Education and Warwick Anti-Casualisation!