Sunday, 9 January 2011


Originally this post was sent to us here at The Socialist Way by old valued friend and fellow blogger Chris H of Lansbury's Lido as a comment to our last post ‘The electromagnetism and level-headedness of the new generation!"

We invited Chris through the medium which is Twitter to develop his comment into a guest post for our blog as part of the discussion on the question of students and leadership, a discussion which has arisen and come into existence since the winding down at Christmas of many occupations that spontaneously came into being as a result of the Com-Dem governments assault on education and the increase of university tuition fees. We are grateful to Chris for finding time to develop his argument and sending it to us, many thanks comrade; so see what you think and if you have a view please post it we will publish all comments.

Our next post will look into this question of leadership and where these reckonings and ideas are emanating from in more contingent detail, and of course develop our argument further, and without saying in a comradely respectful fashion.


I have to say that I like many were so encouraged at the site of students coming out onto the streets of the capital and other towns. Coming out to protest, to make their voices heard and to deliver a shock to the authorities. The shock being that they were willing to go beyond what has proven to be the ineffective walk - protest - listen - disperse situation, and to take their anger and fury out upon buildings that house and represent those people and systems that have brought them out onto the streets.

It was typical of the media and authorities to play up the ‘violence’ against brick and steel whilst ignoring the violence inflicted upon the students from our paramilitary police force. The media had their job made harder for them because this wasn’t a series of marches hijacked by a group or sect. There wasn’t the ‘usual suspects’ that could be held up as the conspirators of this ‘orgy of violence’.

The problem for the media and the authorities was that the anger came from across the student population - young, old, rich, poor, university students and college students. Even secondary school students were amongst the marchers. These students were the sons and daughters of a cross representation of England and Wales.

The lack of a well defined leadership once certain of the NUS leadership proved irrelevant is also an issue that the authorities have to come to grips with. It causes problems with information and planning and leaves large gaps in their intelligence. It worries them.

For the present we have a situation where the state is on the back foot. But the continued effectiveness of the student protests and the anti-austerity movement in general is a concern. Although the lack of a defined leadership has benefits now, my feeling is that things may run out of steam. Whilst I applaud the actions of the students my feeling is that they have no political vision beyond what relates to them and their peers personally. Do they want to change the system or just tinker with it? I suspect that beyond the issue of fees the majority would be quite happy to live and earn within our current capitalist system.

Capitalism itself is too entrenched a system to be bothered by spontaneous and singular unrest such as what we have seen. There will need to be leadership if capitalism is to be hurt. But leadership doesn't have to mean a heroic figure standing as a vanguard of a movement. Leadership in the context we see has to involve direction of some sorts. 

Consider capitalism itself - we see no defined leader or committee but we know that the actions of capital aren't rudderless or made in vain. There is a direction being taken by capitalism. It isn't even according to the rules of the market or 'free will' but there is definitely something steering the ship.

What we see happening in this country isn't just the reaction of the economy to market forces but is being done to reclaim much of the ground that has been gained over the last century in terms of the working class. Calls to ‘let the market decide!’ don’t even get a look in with the current global or local crisis. Look at welfare, look at the NHS, look at wages, look at the blurring of class consciousness, look at the equality of opportunity, and look at the entitlement to affordable education. It's all being rolled back. The system is being rejigged and manipulated to ensure the maximum of profit. We are being put in our place. The place where capital owns the resources and means of production and we the workers sell our labour and the capitalists reap the profit.

And as capitalism doesn't need a publicly visible figurehead neither should that which seeks to bring capitalism down and to put in place a much, much better thing. Perhaps 'leader' is what needs to be redefined, but what is needed has to be 'leadership' however that is brought into being. 

I would love nothing better than to see our current system dismantled and trampled into the ground but it isn’t going to happen by accident.

Post by: Chris H

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