On Wednesday 24 November, tens of thousands of people across the country will walk out of our colleges, schools and universities.
After the police were taken by surprise at Millbank on the national demo on the 10th by thousands of students’ innovation and militancy, we can expect a return to more straightforwardly thuggish police tactics. For this reason, the Anarchist Federation encourages people to concentrate on building successful local actions around our own campuses, schools, etc. rather than joining the large protest outside the Lib Dems’ HQ or a similar target. We expect either a disempowering rally with speakers, which will take away the energy that the November 10th demonstration created, or if there are attacks on property, a violent police response.
After Millbank, over 50 people were arrested. Practical solidarity should continue to defend those who have been arrested and victimised in a condescending attempt to marginalise the movement as a whole from the militancy at Millbank. This can take many forms, from fundraising for travel costs to court to occupying a building in solidarity with those arrested. One recent example where practical solidarity got a concrete result was when the police tried to force the closure of the website Fitwatch, after it gave sensible advice to anyone who had been, or feared that they might be, arrested. Within hours the information had been reposted on first dozens, then hundreds of other websites. Having gotten far more people reading the information than if they had not interfered, the police quickly realised their tactic had failed and so Fitwatch was re-hosted!
This movement will not be sustained by the occasional union-led national demonstration, but by the daily action of people in our own communities and places of education and work. The momentum created by Millbank was just the beginning, something to inspire the struggle, not the struggle itself. It is direct action – strikes, occupations, sit-ins, walkouts – that sufficiently disrupt capitalism that will force the abandoning of the austerity program. This must be widespread and occurring up and down the country, not just at pre-meditated places and times.
If we are to be successful, we need to break out of seeing these attacks on education as isolated. We need to make this a mass movement that recognizes the nature of the attacks we as a class are facing. Already links are being made between university and college students, students and education workers. But the cuts are not just limited to the education sector, and we should recognise our common cause with workers in other sectors who are facing similar attacks. If we manage to defeat the cuts in one sector, they may just hit harder in another. The struggle against education cuts must become part of a wider struggle against the whole austerity program.
It is not anarchists alone who are pushing for these tactics. The press has condescendingly talked of students being ‘manipulated’ or ‘led’ by anarchists; this is rubbish. Never mind the fact that students can be anarchists too, it doesn’t take an anarchist to see what is being done to education, and that routine demos will fail as they have failed in the past.
Everything we have won so far, everything they are trying to take away from us, we won through solidarity and coordinated, militant action. We can defeat these cuts if we keep it up!