The View from Garnet Hill – Student Walkout and Occupations

Yesterday, November 24th, was a national day of action against cuts in the education sector and the massive rise in fees faced by students in England and Wales. All across the country students walked out of their schools, colleges and universities and took to the streets or occupied buildings on their campuses.

Occupations, teach-ins and walk outs took place in Kent, Birmingham, Loughborough, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Essex, Hastings, Winchester, Dursley, Leominster, Bradford, Newcastle, Durham, Bristol, Leeds, Cardiff, London, Plymouth, Sheffield, Brighton, Oxford, Cambridge, Nottingham, Manchester, Lancaster, Warwick, Southampton and more. A full list and reports can be found on Indymedia.

The events of yesterday at the University of Glasgow will hopefully show two things. First, that there is palpable anger at these government plans and a genuine willingness to show solidarity with students in England and Wales who are going to be the first to feel the education cuts. Secondly, that the student movement has to be careful to resist attempts by certain factions to neuter and control the movement.

Students at Glasgow University had agreed to walk out of their lectures and classes at 11:45a.m. in order to rally at the main gates of the university. Some 350+ students including students from a local secondary school gathered in high spirits with the aim, agreed at a Glasgow-wide organising meeting last week, of marching into town to join with students from acrossimage of student demonstration the city at the Donald Dewar statue on Buchanan street at 3pm.

Once enough of us had gathered we headed off marching onto University Avenue and around campus. I must admit to feeling a bit baffled when we circled back to the main building but when we marched into the building itself spirits palpably started to rise even further when it appeared we were going to occupy the administrative section of the building. Sure enough we marched right up to the (locked) doors leading to the vice chancellor’s offices. Locked doors are no obstacle that cannot be overcome, however; people were soon pushing at the doors, which looked like they were easily going to give way and allow us to take control of the building.students enter the university main building

However unbelievably, or unsurprisingly depending on your perspective, members of the Socialist Workers Party(SWP) student group blocked the doors, preventing us from gaining access, doing the jobs of the cops. I’m sure they will try and justify this but their behaviour was despicable. A sizeable amount of people on the demonstration wanted to get into the building and, without a doubt, an occupation would have ensued. Laughably, the SWP reported this as:

“700 students fought police and security to get into the vice chancellor’s office. There is now a sit down occupation outside the office.”

SWP preventing people from breaking into vice chancellors offfice

No cops, just SWP stewards

This organisation’s disconnection from reality is ridiculous. I really don’t want to dwell on them too much but I feel they acted in an extremely uncomradely and damaging manner. Had they not done this there would certainly have been three occupations in Glasgow, both Strathclyde University and Glasgow School of Art students went into occupation as we were marching, and we certainly wouldn’t have lost the numbers that we did after this.

More SWP move in to prevent any chance of occupation

After a slight scuffle with the SWP at the doors of the Vice Chancellors office, not cops and security as they report, some students went to look for other ways into the building but were shocked to find self-appointed SWP stewards pointing out unlocked doors to the security.

Shortly after this we were treated to some ‘rousing’ speeches which saw many become bored and drift off. After the speeches the 250-300 of us that were left marched back to the front gates of the uni but were confronted with half a dozen police vans and accompanying cops who stopped us, with the assistance of the ‘stewards’, from marching onto the road. After 10 minutes or so a large groups got bored of waiting at the gate and headed to a second gate which was promptly blocked by cops. Within seconds the cops in hi vis vests stewards were there berating us for ‘splitting’ the march and telling us the cops were doing us a favour by closing the road. I know Glasgow drivers can be bad at times but I fail to see how even the most bewildered of drivers could miss hundreds of people blocking the road.Police and SWP "stewards" stop march from leaving Glasgow university campus

Eventually however we were away and onto University Avenue and from there we marched into town via Kelvin Way and Sauchiehall Street ready to meet our fellow students on Buchanan Street. Again the crowd that remained were very lively and the atmosphere was generally good. We marched into town to much support from passers by and when we arrived at the Glasgow School of Art we were greeted with the occupiers hanging banners out of the window as we cheered our support to them. Many more students from the GSoA joined us at this point swelling our numbers a great deal and in good spirits we marched on into the city centre and to the rally point at the Donald Dewar statue.

We arrived at the rally point early and had a sit down protest which went down well with people already on the street who seemed a bit bemused by the relatively large police presence for a group of students.

For some reason we left the Donald Dewar statue early and headed to Strathclyde university to show solidarity with the students occupying there. Well, I say “for some reason” but it does seem that it was in order to allow the cops in hi-vis vests stewards to maintain control of the demonstration. Whatever the reason, the result was that any students coming from other schools, colleges and universities – including Stow College students who walked out during a royal visit from Prince Edward – would have missed us.

Students occupying Strathclyde UniversitySo in numbers fewer than we should have been we headed down full of energy to George street and Strathclyde University. It was a heartening sight to see so many students behind the glass front of the building cheering us as we arrived. The pictures don’t really do it justice. Lines of police prevented us from entering the building to join those inside and the sit down protest outside was quickly surrounded by cops, where we remained for around an hour.Sit down protest outside Srtathclyde University

As there were gaps in the police line people were generally able to get out of the ‘kettle’. Except that is from when SWP stewards filled in the gaps. So a small group broke away from the kettle situation and occupied city chambers, literally round the corner form the sit down. Shortly after when groups of people attempted to leave to show support to them were ordered to sit back down by SWP cops in hi-vis vests stewards.

So what can we take away from the experience in Glasgow? I think the most important thing we can take away from the day’s experience is that the anger and energy people are feeling is palpable and potentially dangerous to those who seek to wreak havoc and destroy our future. If we, as students and workers, can work together then nothing can stop us.

Secondly, we need to be aware that there are those among us that will seek to control and deflate our anger and energy for their own gain. On future demonstrations we should pay no heed to the self-appointed stewards and if they won’t get out of our way in future we’ll have to go through them!

Solidarity to those students all around the country who are in occupation and here’s to building resistance to any and all attacks on our class and our communities!Anarchist banner on demonstration

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15 responses to “The View from Garnet Hill – Student Walkout and Occupations

  1. Pingback: The View from Garnet Hill « Occupy Everything!

  2. The more exposure to the swp I get, the more I’m convinced that the whole party is a state plant conceived to disillusion young people interested in politics with the left.

  3. why don’t you guys actually try building for a demo once rather than spending your time bitching about the SWP on the internet.

    I’m not in the SWP but they are the only people you every see leafleting and talking to people about anything.

    So guys just try up when the big things happen and then moan because the SWP ‘took over’.

  4. “unknown”, you’re not in the SWP but your email address is awfully similar to an SWP member who has been carping on about ‘sectarianism’ on the SSY blog. hmmmm

  5. yes Unknown… we anarchists have only been burning the candles at both ends doing direct local actions that were all over the global media. But unlike the useless gobshite SWP in-activists we have been doing the actions on a united platform *with* other (community) groups and not seizing every opportunity to try and make ourselves look like the leaders and messiahs of the great unwashed.

    You hand out any good leaflets lately? Talked any good fights?

  6. Pingback: Cautiously optimistic: Walkouts and occupations everywhere | Cautiously pessimistic

  7. We do loads, but if you only hang around with the SWP, thats all you’ll see.

  8. AberdeenAnarchists

    To be honest this doesn’t surprise me, this is at least the 6th example I have seen of SWP stewards collaborating with the police and/or preventing direct action on marches.

    -uaf at anti-fash demos (glasgow & edinburgh)
    -they prevented a sit down protest at the NATO demo in Edinburgh and stopped chants they saw as “overly confrontational.”
    -prevented people from entering M & S during the gaza demo
    – uaf helping cops arrest an AFed member at ant-fascist demo in England
    -stop the war march when going past te MOD.
    etc.

    I don’t want to play into the popular game of swp-bashing where it is uneccesary but we do need to learn the lessons of their passifying effect on protest movements. But in saying that they are always present at demos, have a weekely paper and a network of good speakers. We could do well to learn a few (of the less authoritarian/bandwagoning) organisational lessons from them, purely from a tactical standpoint. ( to a degree obviosuly)

    If we want anarchism to become a credible alternative among people we need to get out the activist ghetto a bit and engage with the wider public in a way that is accessable to them, which the swp are good at doing.

  9. Socialism is the yang of capitalism its what you find at the bottom of a beer glass after reading to much Engels and Marks. ( sly and reggae). SWP bawbags totally infiltrated,, rip there self appointed high vis from there backs. do what you want to do show your protest the way you want to protest. party free. SWP you are not my parent feck off. well done the students first round to you.

  10. leeds uni occupation is facing similar problems. there are some interesting reflections about this here:http://www.reallyopenuniversity.org/

    Also, I’m thinking about putting together a zine to reflect on the current student movement against the fees and cuts and especially about occupations.
    Please write to me if you would like to contribute something.

  11. I was there on the demo at glasgow, this article is delusional. Incedently, I know the people in the photos presented as swp ‘stewards’. They were at the last glasgow wide meeting a few days ago. They’re not in the swp. Some of them are quite annoyed that they have been identified as such.

    Why would swp acitivists lead the occupation at strathy (they had to argue for it against, amoungst others FRFI) but hold it back at glasgow? If they are intent on holding back militancy then why did they lead occupations over gaza at glasgow and strath? Why Milbank? etcetera, etcetera.

    By the way, refering to members of your movment as cops represents a serious accusation, I dare you to make a formal accusation at the next glasgow wide meeting.

    • I was there as well and I call it as I see it. If some of those people weren’t in the SWP, others most definitely were by the way, then they still acted in a reprehensible fashion on the day. I’m not surprised they are annoyed at having been misidentified as SWP, I would be too, but they acted like the SWP.
      SWP activists made a pigs ear of the Gaza occupation at Glasgow Uni. maybe the Swappies are a different breed at Strathy, I don’t know. All I know is that the SWP are extremely harmful to the left with their sectarianism and control freakish nature. I stand by everything I said in the article.

  12. Pingback: Scottish Universities in Occupation |

  13. You will stand by the accusation that members of the SWP are police agents?

    And regarless of what you think of their skill as leaders of the glasgow occupation (over gaza, since then they have led another occupation at glasgow), your argument that they intend to hold back militancy requires justification.

    Your case is looking pretty feeble. Number of occupations led by swp at glasgow – 2. Number of occupations led by glasgow anarchists at glasgow – 0.

    And yet the initial accusation stands. If you want to cry wolf about police agents then back it up with evidence. But you can’t. If you want to win young revolutionaries – for that is what the swp are in glasgow – to your ideas then you had better work at it, rather than moan.

    the swp’s record in glasgow, as agitators around class politics – whether you like their approach or not – is head and shoulders above all other groups in the city.

    I know enough of them to understand this – they believe in their politics, they are dedicated to the class struggle. They think, eat, sleep and breath their politics. If they are wrong you must convince/overcome them. they cannot be beaten by you complaints.

  14. Pingback: Stewards | Floaker

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