Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Student Avant-Garde

There can be no apology for writing another post in support of the magnificent and brilliant campaign waged by students against the trebling of university student fees and proposed cuts to our children’s education in this country. This is a campaign that in three busy weeks has passed all expectations and won support in every nook, cranny, corner of these islands and mainland mass of Britain and far beyond.

Last week Greek students in a protest and show of solidarity with their comrades in Britain were attacked and set about by the riot police who fired teargas into them; in the clashes at least three demonstrators were injured. The example of one thousand Greek students who marched to the British embassy in Athens in solidarity with British students was indeed an outstanding occurrence of internatalism and a lesson of solidarity and unity in action that students’ have not only just been talking about but unlocked and raised to the surface as an effective weapon that should and must be employed and expanded upon at home and abroad.   

Just to deviate for a moment it’s important to highlight that in Europe workers are in flux the density of which can be appreciated by taking in to account some of the major recent and forthcoming protests in European countries:


May 4-5 - Public-sector workers staged a 48-hour nationwide strike. On May 5, a 50,000-strong protest in Athens led to violence in which demonstrators fought police and three people were killed in a petrol bomb attack on a bank.

June 29 - Police fired tear gas at rioters shouting "burn parliament" in Athens. About 12,000 people joined marches during a strike against raising the retirement age to 65 for all.

July 8 - About 12,000 people marched against pension reform in the unions' sixth 24-hour strike against austerity measures.

Nov. 22 - Greek private sector union GSEE called for a pan-European strike in 2011 to take joint action against austerity measures.

Dec. 2 - Police fired teargas in clashes with over 1,000 students who tried to break through a police cordon to march to the British embassy in Athens, in solidarity with British students who oppose plans to increase tuition fees, and against austerity and education reforms in Greece.

-- More protest rallies are planned on Dec. 6 to mark the anniversary of the police killing of a teenager, which triggered the country's worst riot in decades in 2008, and on Dec. 15 during a nationwide anti-austerity strike.


Nov. 8 - The main Czech labour union called a one-day strike of public sector workers for Dec. 8 to protest the government's planned wage cuts and layoffs. Such strikes are rare in the central European country, whose centre-right government has pledged to balance its budget by 2016.


Oct. 16 - Thousands of Italians marched in Rome in a rally organised by the FIOM metalworkers union and backed by the CGIL, Italy's biggest union with 6 million members, to protest the bleak outlook for jobs and demand more rights for workers.

Nov. 30 - Thousands of students streamed through Rome towards parliament, chanting and waving banners with slogans such as 'education is on its knees'. Students, who on Nov. 25 occupied key tourist sites including the leaning tower of Pisa and the Colosseum, vowed to block proposed changes by Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini.


Nov. 27 - Thousands of Irish took to the streets of Dublin to protest against the looming bailout. The EU approved an 85 billion euro ($115 billion) rescue for Ireland, a day later.


Nov. 24 - Portugal's biggest unions, the CGTP and the UGT, disrupted transport and halted services from healthcare to banking in protest against wage cuts and rising unemployment in the first joint general strike by the top two unions since 1988.


Sept 29 - Spain's first general strike in eight years, called to oppose spending cuts, disrupted transport and factories.


-- The pension reform was signed into law by President Nicolas Sarkozy on Nov. 9. The reform raised the minimum retirement age to 62 from 60 and the full retirement age to 67 from 65 to balance the loss-ridden pension system by 2018.

Fierce opposition by trade unions and the French public, who staged a sustained wave of protests over austerity measures, turned the reform into the biggest battle of Sarkozy's presidency. Unions mobilised nationwide street protests eight times since early September and rolling strikes at oil refineries caused serious fuel shortages at one stage, but the strikes are over and the turnout for protests slumped, for the time being.


Oct 3 - A 24-hour strike by workers on London's underground rail system disrupted much of the network. The strike forced millions of commuters to struggle to work in their third walkout since September in a dispute over 800 planned job cuts. Another 24-hour strike took place on Nov. 28.

Oct. 19 - Britain's trade unions took protests over spending cuts to parliament, promising to fight to protect public services.

Nov. 10 - About 55,000 students took part in a demonstration in London against the government plans to triple university tuition fees up to 9,000 pounds ($14,000). A small group took part in protests at Millbank Tower, home to the Conservative Party headquarters, which saw windows smashed and missiles hurled at police. Around 66 people were arrested.

Nov. 24 - Thousands of students staged walkouts and marches across Britain against planned rises in tuition fees.

Nov. 30 - More than 150 demonstrators in London were arrested during a student protest against planned rises in university tuition fees. Thousands of students and school pupils protested across Britain against the planned increases, disrupting central London and putting strains on the coalition government. -- Students and teenage school pupils are expected to hold further protests to coincide with a parliamentary vote on Dec. 9 on plans to raise tuition fees for university students.

I think that if we consider all of the above carefully we then must appreciate that our students at this moment in time are in the forefront if not leading the opposition to the austerity agenda of this Con Dem coalition government. This week with a vote due on Thursday in the House of Commons this may in its turn lead us to a new crossroads, what next and just where do we go from here?” 

That comrades will be under consideration in my next post!”

In the meantime and because they have had so much of a positive impact on many of us older comrades I thought it a good idea to post this wonderful video of the UCL occupation, and I have to say that when I first viewed it I was moved to tears, they are so inspiring, amazing and awesome!” 

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