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Student struggle inspires UK-wide fight against cuts

Youth and students in Britain have run an astonishing campaign against cuts to education funding, tuition fee increases and the withdrawal of central government funding for the Education Maintenance Allowance.

The month of high-intensity protest saw public opinion sway in favour of the student demonstrators, a political crisis in the Liberal Democrats, and most importantly, the dawn of a new era where cuts are not seen as inevitable, the coalition government’s weaknesses have been exposed to all, and millions of people have been inspired to fight back.

24 November

The occupation of Tory Party HQ on 10 November by thousands of students really kick started the movement, in fact it was the opening salvo in the battle against the cuts. The 24 November day of action, called by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts and REVOLUTION, unsupported by the NUS, showed the full anger of school, college and university students together, with 130,000 estimated to have taken part in protests all over the country. Activist networks and groups were established across the country as the apathetic label peeled away with a new generation of people struggling against injustice.

Tens of thousands of students walked out of schools and colleges, joined by passers-by and teachers. Many cities saw large demonstrations – 5,000 in Leeds, 4,000 in Manchester and Newcastle, with smaller towns such as Kingston and Bury also seeing thousands on the streets. Helen, a member of REVOLUTION from Bury College said “the mood was so angry – everyone was up for taking direct action, we are not going away, and are going to fight this one.”

30 November

Then on 30 November, despite severe weather conditions, thousands marched again all over the country. In London, protesters ran all over the city to avoid riot police and avoid kettling to successfully reach Trafalgar Square for a rally, dominated by calls to bring down the government and shouts of “one solution, revolution!”

9 December

The 9 December demonstration saw more than 25,000 people march on Parliament and occupy the square in the face of extreme police brutality. While protesters learned to defend themselves from baton charges with foam placards, police used every means of violence available: cavalry charges and kettling, putting lives as risk, often refusing to allow the injured medical attention. Riot police were heard saying “if you didn’t want violence, why did you come here? You knew what this would be like.”

Simon Hardy, from Workers Power and the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts told a press conference, “These are not acts of violence, these are acts of resistance… As far as I’m concerned, self-defence is no offence.”

Whilst the tuition fees vote passed that day, it was hardly a victory for the coalition government. Fatima, a REVOLUTION member from the Camden School for Girls, who led an overnight sit-in against fees, said “Just because they vote for something, it doesn’t make it final. Look what happened to the Poll Tax – people kept on fighting.”

The next big step will be the 29 January protest in London and broadening and deepening our connections with the working class and trade union movement.

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