Two years after students were abandoned by their union at the height of the struggle against tuition fees, the NUS finally held a Central London protest today. Sadly offering too little much too late, the student union agreed to police demands to march the demonstration away from Parliament and out of Central London.
A demonstration is exactly what it says. At best this means a demonstration of power as people organise together to take direct action, strike, riot or generally fuck shit up. At worst it can be a demonstration of passivity – a signal to the state that should they continue along the same path then actually no-one will bother to do much about it.
When 2 million people marched placidly against the Iraq war it sent a clear message to Blair and his war mongering Government. That whilst lots of people disagreed with the war on Iraq, not enough people disagreed enough to make the planned invasion unworkable. Government’s need to be forced to make concessions, not asked nicely. Only the threat of an ungovernable country would have stopped Blair in his tracks. Instead the Stop the War Coalition called little more than a mass picnic in Hyde Park. Tens of thousands of people died as a result of this inaction.
Today around 10,000 students and supporters joined the march against education cuts where they were led away from Parliament by the NUS to listen to the wannabe MPs of tomorrow make speeches in a South London park. A lively feeder march called by the bolder National Coalition Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) also took place marching from the University of London Union.
NCAFC had hoped to march to Parliament Square but were thwarted by a heavy police presence and their unpaid helpers in the form of NUS stewards. A stand off at the edge of Parliament Square turned into more of a stand around. Eventually the large section of the march which opposed the NUS’ concessions to police diktats reluctantly headed south over the River Thames where a rally was being held in the remote Kennington Park.
According to reports on twitter the rally was closed with a stage invasion by rightly furious students who had been marched into the middle of nowhere to listen to a self-congratulatory love in from NUS stooges. The latest news is that current NUS president, Liam Burns, was egged by protesters who stormed the stage and brought the dismal affair to a close.
Students have every right to be angry and every reason to keep fighting. With the welfare state, the NHS and other social protections being swept away it is their futures that are being dismantled. Anger at the shabby response of the NUS to this onslaught is also well deserved. Not for the first time, a Union, which exists to demonstrate collective power, has instead buckled under cowardly leadership.
The student protests which took place shortly after this Government weren’t elected demonstrated exactly what can happen when these self-serving leaders are ignored. Whilst the storming of the Tory Party Headquarters was an inspiration to people across Europe fighting banker imposed austerity, the NUS condemned the action and refused to support further protests against tuition fees.
This caused the student movement to develop a life of its own, far stronger, tactically sharper and just fucking hipper than anything the NUS geeks could have dreamed of. The rage from many students at the spinelessness of the NUS today demonstrates what could still be possible. But it won’t happen if left to the likes of Liam Burns and other feeble careerists at the NUS.
NCAFC have already issued a call out for the 5th December. More info at: http://anticuts.com/2012/11/21/see-you-again-on-dec5-free-education-living-grants-abolish-the-debt/