The student revolt in the UK

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Alf
The student revolt in the UK
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I think that we need to talk about the current student revolt in the UK. It is of huge importance, and the section here is faced with enormous and often overwhelming tasks faced with the sheer scale and energy of the movement. We will publish a statement/leaflet very soon, but there's certainly enough going on to get a debate going here. - for example there has not been much discussion of our first leaflet. What did comrades think? What do they think is needed now? Have they seen the thread on assemblies on libcom, where we are accused of being fetishists of forms?

devoration1
Do you mean the leaflet from

Do you mean the leaflet from November 17th on ICCOnline?

If so it was very well written and on point. I think the language is accessible (no political lingo, or terms that may not be familiar to the average person), as is the content.

The libcom threads are pretty ridiculous- you've got everyone agreeing with everyone else about general assemblies and some people masking petty personal grudges or annoyances in convaluted political disagreements.

The problem with the occupation tactic in general is the isolation- both broken through and exemplified in May '68. Elsewhere (I think on Libcom) someone brought up a desire for the students to open up their auditoriums or cafeterias of the occupied buildings for discussion, debate, etc with other students and workers, and from there to be able to link up with other students currently demonstrating, occupying (sending representatives back and forth), workers on strike or fresh off a strike, political groups, etc.

Devrim
I think the leaflet is quite

I think the leaflet is quite good.

I disagree that this is of 'huge importance', and whilst there is work to be done, we shouldn't get over excited by it.

Perhaps some of the problems on the Libcom thread are based on us sounding a little like a broken record. I find it difficult to understand how somebody managed to wind up Joesph on their, who is such a nice man, to the point where he started throwing vulgar abuse at them.

Devrim

Alf
 I think JK's reaction was

 I think JK's reaction was deeply irrational. He wasn't provoked at all.  All kinds of accusations of us 'fetishising' assemblies were put forward without any real attempt to discuss the real experiences that have taken place recently in Greece, France, etc.  Perhaps more important was JK's undermining of any role for a political organisation-  a point noted in effect by Yorkie's post which could see the direction in which he was going. 

baboon
I think that the movement is

I think that the movement is important and all the reports on libcom, Manchester, Bristol, Edinburgh, London and elsewhere all attest to it. Locally, 15 and 16 year-olds reading and taking ICC leaflets and distributing them because they agreed with their content was positive. I don't see any expressions of over-excitement within the ICC.

These are not the student occupations of two years ago, which I understand JK was involved in, overwhelming composed of university students, mainly organised by leftism and defending one aspect of imperialism, Palestinian nationalism, against another, the USA. While there's some continuity with this particular "unrest", the widespread entry of college students and schoolchildren and their attempts, sometimes very successful, of self-organisation are a significant factor in events and give this outburst of anger and combativity a more working class content with potential.

On libcom there are the "anti-racketeers", individuals who have an ingrained hatred of the ICC and whose posts are all based on this. I would put JK - who hasn't been insulted - in the "headless chicken" school of thought in that he sees no need for any organised proletarian expression in this movement. This is a contrary postion to many other posters on these threads, best summed up in the clear post by Yorkie Bar mentioned above. JK's arguments are torturous and I think that he's suffering from what I see as the obvious contradictions of his own position: an obvious "politico" trying not to be one.

On the "broken record" mentioned by Devrim above; presumably he's talking about the need to propagandise the need for self-organisation and the wider questions of capitalism and the future - fundamental political questions raised by many of the participants themselves.

I do think we should start talking about meetings and not "assemblies" (the old French translation bug strikes again!).

Devrim
Over-excitement?

baboon wrote:
I think that the movement is important and all the reports on libcom, Manchester, Bristol, Edinburgh, London and elsewhere all attest to it. Locally, 15 and 16 year-olds reading and taking ICC leaflets and distributing them because they agreed with their content was positive. I don't see any expressions of over-excitement within the ICC.

I didn't say that I saw them. However, I don't think that this movement is 'hugely important'. I don't think in ten years we will be looking back and charecterise it in that way. Maybe I am wrong.

On the subject of winding people up to the point where they end up swearing at our members, I don't really think that describing his response as ' deeply irrational', or in the "'headless chicken' school of thought" is really adaquate. 

 

baboon wrote:
On the "broken record" mentioned by Devrim above; presumably he's talking about the need to propagandise the need for self-organisation and the wider questions of capitalism and the future - fundamental political questions raised by many of the participants themselves.

What I am talking about is just repeating the same thing without actually engaging with what people are saying.

Devrim

 

devoration1
Quote:What I am talking

Quote:

What I am talking about is just repeating the same thing without actually engaging with what people are saying.

Right- it seemed like annoyance rather than actual hostility, based on repetition.

Quote:
JK's arguments are torturous and I think that he's suffering from what I see as the obvious contradictions of his own position: an obvious "politico" trying not to be one.

There are a number of people on libcom, including him, that seem to have a very healthy attitude about politics. I don't think he doesn't see a role for organization (being a member of one is proof of that-SolFed), in general he along with everyone else is basically describing the voluntarism and opportunism of leftists- how they take over and divert meetings, speak only in slogans and political talking points, try to utilize worker-student self organization to gain new members and donations, etc. and the form vs content debate; not getting wrapped up in being in an assembly or mass meeting, struggle committee, and so on but rather acting as a 'dynamic force' in that movement.

Quote:
I don't think in ten years we will be looking back and charecterise it in that way.

Materialists can still have hope :)

baboon
The immediate concentration

The immediate concentration within this movement, from different quarters with some qualifications, seems to be a demonstration of students around parliament over the vote next Thursday. For me this seems something of a trap. What do comrades think?

Alf
 I would tend to agree. There

 I would tend to agree. There is a growing feeling that the Whitehall demos are in any case becoming a bit of trap, and this one has the added dimension of focusing on the parliamentary game. We will have to see whether there is a momentum to support it. The idea of using the weekends when others could join in also seems to be going out the window at the moment. 

The new leaflet is out, and we obviously encourage people to download the PDF and distribute it where they can:  https://en.internationalism.org/icconline/2010/12/education-revolt

 

Devoration, regarding JK's reaction. I think he was more than annoyed, he became abusive and had to be told not to flame (even though he was the moderator...). Then you had Red Marriot stirring the pot by calling our posts spam, which is a thinly veiled threat to ban us. Unfortunately Hieronymous in California joined in on the act, making no distinction between us and the Trotskyists. It seems he has had an unfortunate experience with a comrade, but I don't know anything about it - I have asked him to explain by PM. I really don't believe we have been fetishising assemblies (or mass meetings). We have been trying to relate what's happening in the UK to what's been going on in France, Greece, etc, ie the real movement.

I agree that JK is a 'healthy element' but I don't think his reaction on this thread was healthy at all. It shows the heavy weight of sectarianism and the lack of comradely relations in the 'milieu'.  And a real tendency to deny the specific role that revolutionaries can play. The almost instant abandonment of the idea of 'radical workers' blocs' - which we saw as a step forward - seems to me to have been based on a relapse into a kind of 'movementist' approach, where you just go along with the immediate consciousness of those around you.Anyway, it should be a discussion among comrades, not a reason for resorting to abuse. 

 

KT
GB

I agree with comrds who’ve argued that the demonstrations and occupations in GB are important. Because:

-          They are nationwide expressions of anger against the capitalist crisis in a country where, according to the bourgeoisie, ‘we’re all resigned to this necessary austerity’. With all their limitations, they are indeed an ‘inspiration’. They are two fingers up to respect for Parliamentary democracy, for ‘law and order’, for ‘the British way’.

-          They show strong tendencies of a willingness (if not an actual ability) to avoid some traps laid by the ruling class: a hostility to ‘official’ organisers, including leftists; a fearlessness in the face of repression, as well as a healthy instinct not to be caught in fruitless battles; minoritarian tendencies to control the direction of struggles

-          Despite dispersed instances of proletarian struggle (some London underground staff were on strike on Monday Nov 29), these ‘student’ protests are at present the ‘only game in town’ and the ruling class has not succeeded in turning ‘public opinion’ against them.

Students, in themselves, are not a class. But what’s changed in recent decades is the material conditions in which they exist: whereas in the past, ‘students’ – particularly university students - were en-route to either being either cogs in bourgeois society or members of the working class, today, the reality is that the vast majority are destined for unemployment and debt: they share already the conditions of the proletariat. They are obliged to share, on an immediate level, the pauperization of their families and communities.

The importance of these struggles will only be judged in hindsight, can only be truly gauged by what follows them. But in and of themselves they are worthy of the attention the comrds in GB have given them.

Re the ‘fetishization’ of assemblies’ (call them mass meetings; ‘mini-soviets’; expressions of real workers’ democracy’ – be inventive). It’s an essential element for directing the struggle; putting the struggle into perspective, planning future struggles; for drawing lessons, for drawing in wider layers of the class. The trick is to explain this ‘inteligently’, and not to counter pose it to the ‘actual movement’ but to show it as part and parcel of the global and historical proletarian experience. This is ‘militant’ speak. How to translate it into the actual situation – that’s the challenge.

Re Libcom: Let’s be clear. There’s a well orchestrated campaign by individuals who have an active loathing of the ICC. Who want to associate the Current with leftists. Who refer (consciously or otherwise) to the autonomist milieu (of Negri, amongst others, without understanding the link of this movement to its Stalinist origins) and others. Who use figures of Left Communism (ie Gorter, Pannekoek) and their fight against the degeneration of Bolshevism, to argue against all organised political minorities. Who want to rubbish and to a large extent sabotage the essential work of deepening of consciousness in the class and of reflection, opposing it to the immediate movement, to what is, not what ‘it’ is leading to. To this core is attracted local ‘matadors’ (ie JK). Problem is: none of these people are ‘enemies’. They have their insights and their contributions, no doubt. But what, at present, they are promoting is immediatism and sectarianism. ICC interventions need to be centralised to avoid multiple postings of the same leaflet (I’m guilty of being part of that). But there has been engagement of what is being argued on threads, which is not to say it can’t be done better. International examples are always powerful examples.

Re the current leaflet: at first reading, it’s good. For future interventions, we must stress the crisis – it’s the unifying factor. We must not forget the incredible rise in unemployment, and the job losses to come; attacks on the unemployed, and disabled (the ending of incapacity benefit).

As for the dynamic: immediate blockages are the weather (much of transport in GB is frozen – I have been snowbound in my unheated house for 4 days!!) and Xmas looms. But in the medium term, there is every reason to hope and agitate for a ‘winter of discontent’

baboon
The "headless chickens" will

The "headless chickens" will not inherit the Earth. Definitely. I know that all that you're liable to read in the Bible, it ain't necessarily so, but the book doesn't even give them a mention. It even puts the "meek" way above them and we know that they've got no chance whatsover.

 

In contrast to some "politicos", the present youth movement in the UK, showing similarities with other such movements in Europe, is demonstrating elements of self-organisation that belong on a proletarian terrain. Unencumbered by the divisions of the trade unions or the acceptance of bourgeois ideology, in fact despite the weight of bourgeois ideology on this sector, it has so far responded with aplomb. This is a movement of the working class that is already showing potential.

 

As to whether we remember these struggles in ten years time, it is just idle speculation at the moment. What we do know is that we remember the struggles of apprentices in the late 1800s; the anti-militarist movements of youth around the turn of that century in Europe; the struggles of youth, particularly against repression, in Russian in 1901 and 1910 in the revolutionary and counter-revolutionary conditions of the whole working class.

Alf
 Thanks MH. This is very

 Thanks MH. This is very positive - keep us informed.  I assume JK was there and probably played a part in organising this - which to me indicates that we do indeed have a lot in common, despite angry reactions to this or that. 

 

baboon
At a meeting of students and

At a meeting of students and others ("All welcome", organised by the university anarchists, I think) at Exeter university last night, there was a good response of maybe about a hundred. The driving force, energy and humour of the (mostly young women) college students was evident. What was also positive was that even the youngest elements saw this as a long term struggle with no fixation on Thursday's vote and a general understanding that this was part of a wider struggle. The sympathetic university academics put forward the ideas that "money could be found" from tax evaders and the like, a view echoed by the leftists present. The "anti-cuts alliance", dominated by Trotksyist and union elements were there in force and their danger was shown at the end of the meeting when they captured the much-abused university NUS guy into a cabal to decide on the next moves. But that doesn't at all detract from the openess and very positive nature of this meeting. The ICC leaflet was enthusiastically taken by nearly all.

I could provide a link to it but don't know if that's allowed on here.

zimmerwald1915
Why shouldn't it be?

Why shouldn't it be?

Alf
 That was baboonish humour.

 That was baboonish humour. See the furore on the vexed question of links on libcom: 

http://libcom.org/forums/organise/icc-leaflet-pupil-student-revolt-03122010

 

Hopefully this is calming down a bit. 

Zanthorus
My Experience and Form Fetishism

My experience here was not particularly enthusing. The protest was not well organised and managed to alienate most of the students here. It's sort of depressing to see things going well elsewhere, although it is also encouraging that some people are enthusiastically defending themselves against the onslaught.

I think I agree w/ Devrim that looking back we probably will not see these struggles as 'hugely important'.

On the whole 'fetishism of forms' thing, that's kinda ironic coming from anarchists and 'libertarian' communists, seeing as how the whole 'form fetish' critique was thought up by Paul Levi and the KPD Centre tendency to rubbish the ideas of the German left. I believe Trotsky and Lenin both liked to rub the point in, Bordiga was certainly a fan of quoting the slogan from the KPD resolution on the Left. I don't see what's wrong with preferring certain organisational forms to others. The logical conclusion of saying that organisational forms are not important is that it doesn't matter wether you have a one-party dictatorial state or a Soviet republic where all decisions are made by assemblies of workers, as long as the 'content' is a Communist one. Or to take things to a slightly lesser extreme, that it doesn't matter wether workers are represented by a highly bureaucratic union apparatus or by factory organisations created for the purpose of self-management of struggles, as long as the 'content' is communist. This is the use which the Bordigists put the 'form fetish' critique to. For the anarchists and 'libertarian' communists, 'form fetishism' is just a slogan which they've used to try to make themselves look superficially more revolutionary.

 

 

 

jk1921
The word in the U.S.

The word in the U.S. bourgeois press is that the "attack" on the royals will be the the turning point of the struggle. The students have begun to lose the working class' sympathy by pushing the "violence" too far. The claim is that the students are looked at by the working class as a privileged group crying about increased university fees when they can "afford to pay." Gee, where have we heard this before?

ernie
students and workers

 The "attack" on the royals is not going to turn the working class against the protests, the media may be going hysterical about it but it is not going to worry too many workers.

I don't think that this struggle is being seen as "well they could pay for it" by many workers, obviously some will not support the students, but rather as well about time people started to stand up for themselves. I heard a lady in her 80's say this at a buss stop during a demonstration. The violence makes some workers uneasy but the fact the students have taken to the streets has generated a sense of may be we can do something.

An aspect of this movement that is extremely important is that this is not just students but young people at school. I have heard of an 8 year old attending a demo with their parents, comrades have seen groups of children as young as 10 on demonstration and there have been widespread walked outs by 14 and 15 year olds in towns and cities across the country. There has also been a large movement amongst the 16-18 year old attending further education colleges, In fact, in many areas it was the college and school kids who took to the streets first and the university students joined later. From the demonstrations and meetings I have been too the collage students have been the most vibrant and made some of the most impassioned speeches. The university students have tagged along at the back.

These younger ones are in the great majority from the working class and are furious that their "future" are being taken from them. Of particular importance for these young workers is the ending of the EMA which is a payment of £30 a week to attend Further Education. This was brought in by the labour government to keep the unemployed figures down and to keep kids off the streets. 

This is giving this movement a deep working class nature and it is these young people who are at the vanguard of many of these demonstrations. It is also their involvement that is generating so much concern amongst the ruling class, these are the upcoming factory fodder and they are taking to the streets, organising themselves and are willing to stand up to state repression even before they enter the factories, offices or dole lines.

The fact that there is so much self-organisation going on, and that there are no political forces with the strength to contain the demonstrations etc leaves the ruling class and its forces of repression at a loss. Their only answer is ramping up the repression of the demonstrations. The repression is starting to take on an almost hysterical characteristic. A 12 year old boy (yes 12 years old!) was taken out of his class to be interviewed by anti-terrorist police for the truely terrifying crime of saying on Facebook that he was going to take part in a demonstration outside of David Camaron's constituency office in Oxfordshire. These very brave officers defending democracy with their last breaths told this child that he would be arrest if there was trouble and even made dark threats about armed officers being present. The police said in reply to the kid's mother's complaints about their intimidation of her son:

"A spokeswoman for Thames Valley police said: "We have dedicated officers who work in partnership with all the schools in our area to make sure young people remain in education and in a safe learning environment.

"On Tuesday 7 December, our schools officer for west Oxfordshire attended the school in Eynsham and spoke to a 12-year-old boy in the company of the pupil's head of year, about a planned protest. This was not with the intention of dissuading him from organising it, but to obtain information regarding the protest to ensure his and others' safety. As with any demonstration, we always aim to facilitate a peaceful protest."" www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/dec/10/schoolboy-quizzed-cameron-office-picket
 

Despite the police's facilitating of "a peaceful protest" and a "safe learning environment" this young guy is still going to be at the protest because he and his friends want to save their youth club. Well done son!

Such efforts at intimidation are absurd but they are showing a whole generation of young people that for all the talk of a free society and democracy, when they decide to stand up for themselves they are going to be meet with riot and even anti-terrorist, police, filmed, photographed and placed on databases for their terrible crime of not remaining passive under the iron heel of capital. Their parents are also learning this lessons as well.

 

 

radicalchains
A small criticism

 

Hi comrades,

I thought the leaflet could have been slightly more explicitly internationalist regarding repression in Turkey, Greece, Iran etc and a suggestion about showing solidarity/linking up with students and the wider working class in those countries practically - slogans, demands etc Other than that good solid leaflet.

red flag
Where now organisationally

Now with Christmas approaching the brilliant youth rebellion of the last few weeks may take a pause which will give space for the youth to work out how to take their struggle forward.  Hopefully they will be able to keep the movement relatively free from leftist groups and from the NUS and trade unions.  However this may not be possible as the leftists are already trying to draw in young militants to get them to be involved in organising demos such as the TUC demo next March.  Also here in the NE there are meetings organised by COR Coalition of Resistance which are also trying to attract students.  Now while the unity between students and workers is absolutely necessary it needs to be done as part of organising a general assembly outside the control of leftists.  Should communists become involved in these meetings?

Alf
assemblies

 We should be involved in all the meetings we can. In our experience, even meetings called by the leftist networks like EAN have to be organised in a different way from traditional leftist meetings - the strength of the movement is present there, even if the function of the leftists is to derail it. See also MH's description of the Brighton assembly, called by the SWP. The occupation mass meetings were something different again, and the tendency towards self-organisation was even stronger. So we have to push forward a tendency which is already present. 

Crisanto
student movement in the Philippines

The current student movement in UK and other parts of Europe is an inspiring thing. Thousand s of students also in the Philippines went out to the streets last November 2010 against education budget cuts of state colleges and universities.

Unfortunately, they are dragooned by the maoist student organizations that led them in reformism and parliamentary lobbying. The massive protests lasted only for 2-3 days then stopped by the maoist leaders to gave way to the negotiations in parliament.

Nevertheless, this is an indication that attacks on education as well as the living standards of the workers and the resistance are world-wide whether backward or advance countries.