By Sofie Buckland, National Union of Students National Executive
On Sunday 29 October, NUS is holding a national demonstration in London under the slogan “Admission impossible”. This is something student activists should welcome. After last year’s decision to cancel the national demo, and the 2004 decision to move it to Cardiff with the result that no one turned up, a well-planned and publicised protest in London is a big step forward.
The current NUS leaders are essentially the same people who betrayed the struggle against top-up fees at the crucial moment in 2005; they are organising a demonstration primarily because of pressure from the left over the last year, and they cannot be trusted to organise a serious campaign. Nonetheless, 29 October is a massive opportunity for us to put the fight for free education back in the headlines, draw in new layers of activists and launch further action of a kind that can really defeat top-up fees.
The Education Not for Sale network believes that the only way to make top-up fees unworkable, now that they are in place, is mass campaigning at a grassroots level in universities and colleges, as well as throughout the labour movement and the wider community. That’s why, in the weeks on either side of the demonstration, activists at institutions across the country are taking direct action in protest at fees and to demand that our principals and VCs drop their demands for every more marketisation in education.
Every student union, every campaign against cuts and privatisation, every activist group should take some local action in the next month. Whether you can manage a mass occupation or just a series of street stalls and petitions, your activism can contribute to building a nation-wide movement. We can use the NUS demo to link up the struggles that have taken place over the last year, against course cuts and privatisation as well as for free education, and create a flourishing culture of activism among the tens of thousands eager to fight back.
We should take our example and inspiration from the French and Greek students and young workers who linked up with trade unions to take mass action for their rights earlier this year.
We need to build links at a national level. That’s why left-wing and radical students from across the country will be organising a distinct contingent on the 29 October, raising the demands that the NUS leaders are afraid to make. As well as opposing the lifting of the cap on top-up fees, we will be calling for free education and a living grant for every student, demanding that the government “Tax the rich to fund education” and linking our struggle with the broader left and labour movement through slogans like “Students and workers unite” and “People not profit”.
Take direct action against top-up fees! Whether you’re a student or not - march with us on 29 October!