Editorial from the new edition of Megaphone, the magazine of Socialist Students
Fees tripled, EMA scrapped, youth unemployment skyrocketing. This government will
leave behind a legacy of brutality. For us, these attacks mean a future
snatched away. For them, it’s all in a day’s work. The cold cruelty dealt out
does not generate a sense of unease among the Con-Dem axe-men. On the contrary,
the House of Commons was filled with laughter, cheers and shouts of ‘more’ as
they announced plans to cut EMA, slash disability benefits and condemn thousands
of public sector workers to unemployment.
The government’s contempt for the lives of ordinary people is sickening to watch.
But it should not come as a surprise. These politicians aren’t really working
in the interests of ordinary people at all. They are a government by the rich,
for the rich. The real interests they serve are those of bankers and big
business – the 1% or the capitalist class.
In an attempt to distract people from the true nature of their agenda, one of the government’s favourite tactics is to attempt to turn ordinary people against each other. The young are ‘feral’, ‘lazy’ and have a sense of ‘entitlement’, so they should be
first to face cuts, is one argument.
But the people with the real ‘sense of entitlement’ are the banks and big business.
After their casino capitalism led us to disaster, not only did they expect a
bail out for their bad debts, but to be able to keep the profits in private
hands and enjoy huge bonuses, just as before!
Now the politicians attempt to twist history. They say unsustainably high spending
on public services created the deficit. But this is a lie. Under Labour public
services were already run on the cheap and under resourced. The deficit only
grew massively when billions were handed over in bank bailouts – bailouts for
As the crisis continues to deepen, the ruling elite, impotent in the face of the
deep flaws and contradictions in their system, offer bogus ‘cures’. The
‘remedy’ the Con-Dems prescribe, is to shift society’s wealth and resources
even further towards the richest in society. Brutal austerity is meted out to
this end. While wages are vastly reduced in comparison to living costs, rich
lists hit record heights.
Now they tell us the super-rich will offer salvation from the crisis. They are the
‘wealth creators’ and therefore we must ensure that Britain is ‘competitive’ in order
to be attractive to them. The rich can only be expected to invest if they can
pay workers next to nothing and enjoy miniscule tax bills. The ‘competition’ is
to see which capitalist government can allow the worst exploitation, admit the
biggest tax dodges and attempt to destroy workers’ hard won rights the fastest.
And even with the Con-Dems mercilessly endeavouring to fulfil these criteria, the
capitalists are continuing to hoard their cash like greedy misers. The depth of
their system’s crisis means they can see no way to make a quick profit on
investment, and therefore don’t invest. So while we face years of joblessness
or low paid insecure work, £800 billion lies idle in the vaults of the super
rich and big business. Far from being job or wealth creators as is claimed,
these people are holding production back, stunting humanity’s development,
sacrificing our futures at the altar of profit.
And why should they be allowed to hold us to ransom? Wealth is not created by
company chief executives, billionaire ‘entrepreneurs’ or bankers. It is
ordinary working people who turn the natural resources of the world into things
people can use. It is workers who mine the natural resources, man the factories
and distribute the goods around the world. And it is workers who provide the
services which keep society running.
The capitalists have accumulated the vast sums they refuse to invest not through
their own blood and sweat, but by that of working class people. They cream off
a large proportion of the wealth that we produce and take it for themselves as
profit. This is ‘justified’, we are told, because (generally by a happy
coincidence of birth) the capitalist happens to own the means of production -
the mine, factory or company.
But the fact that we create wealth is crucial. The forces at work in society are
not limited to movements at the top. Because we are the real ‘wealth creators’,
the working class has enormous potential power. And that power is not simply
lying idle. Throughout the last years its potential has been demonstrated spectacularly.
In the Middle East mass movements have brought down iron fisted dictators that have ruled for decades. In Greece more than 15 general strikes have shaken European capitalism. In Britain public sector workers took mass strike action on two occasions last year, dealing big blows to the government.
Around the world, and in Europe in particular, a swelling tide of resistance to austerity and capitalism is developing. The 99% are beginning to refuse to pay for a crisis
created by the 1%. Young people and students have an important role to play as
well as workers. In many of the huge movements that have taken place young
people have been at the forefront. Here in Britain, students were first to
break the silence on cuts, organising mass protests, walkouts and strikes
against fee hikes and EMA cuts.
This year the fight for our future will have to continue. The Con-Dems are coming
for our education. Uni fees being tripled mean the cost of a degree is now almost
equivalent to a small mortgage. A three year degree will set you back by
£50,000. Course fees for adults in further education (FE) are also being hiked.
But while prices are increased, quality is set to be hit. Thousands of teaching
and support jobs are threatened. This will leave students with overworked and
undervalued lecturers, increasingly unable to deliver education at its best.
In higher education a plan for privatisation and marketization is being
formulated. David Willetts, universities minister, has stated openly that he
wants HE institutions to stop thinking of themselves as part of the public
sector. Private companies are being brought in to run so called ‘back room’
services. In reality this means education on the cheap. At London Metropolitan
University, all services other than teaching and the Vice-Chancellor’s office have just been outsourced to the private sector. The approval of new private universities such as the ultra-elitist ‘New College of Humanities’ represent another strand of the
effort to create an American style system of education – a system where the
highest paying ‘customers’ get the best education.
These attacks must be fought. A mass movement of students and young people united
with workers can force the Con-Dems into retreat and save our education. This
autumn two key dates for young people who want to fight back will be the trade
union demonstration on 20 October and the NUS national demonstration on 21 November. We need to ensure that these demos are as big as possible with tens of
thousands of students attending.
But they can only be the start of the fightback. Further action will have to be
taken following these protests. NUS conference voted to call a national student
strike. We now have to fight to make this a reality. To be most effective this
kind of action would be called to coincide with strike action by workers, who,
unlike students, have economic power.
This should be the start of building a mass campaign organised around
the following demands:
the Con-Dem fee hike
the rich to fund free education
all cuts and closures – Defend every job, course and uni
to education run on the cheap, kick the profiteers out of schools, colleges,
and unis – no privatisation
rents, provide affordable accommodation for all, uni management must inspect
private landlords for quality
In order to secure a decent future, young people need to get organised to
fightback. And we need to ‘get political’, we need to fight for an alternative
to all the three main parties. All of them work in the interests of the 1%. Recent
elections in Greece, with the new left party Syriza taking 27% of the vote, have electrified Europe, raising the idea of a political alternative to
Socialists say we don’t have to have a society for the 1%. We stand for a society in which all the big monopolies (banks, companies and large businesses) are owned
publicly and controlled democratically by ordinary people. A society where,
rather than being left to the anarchy of the market, the economy is
democratically planned and resources used and distributed to meet the needs of
all humanity. Once freed from the constraints of capitalism and the parasitic
role of the bosses, unprecedented investment in public services, science and
education would be possible.
This isn’t a pipe dream. The fact that workers produce the world’s wealth gives the
working class the potential to transform society. Doing this would require a
mass revolutionary movement. A movement like those seen recently in Egypt and Tunisia. This happening in Europe might at first seem far fetched, but in countries like Greece things are already moving in that direction.
But, on its own, even a huge revolutionary movement wouldn’t be enough. Workers need to be organised. That means being organised industrially, with trade unions
through which workers can exercise their economic power, particularly through
strikes, but also with a political programme to represent their interests.
Students and young people have an important role to play in changing the world. On the basis of capitalism, our future looks bleak. That’s why for us, more than
anyone, changing the system is crucial. If you want to help build the
fightback, join Socialist Students today.