yes we canada: the student movement in québec

Ollie Sutherland argues that students in the UK have much to learn from current anti-fees protests in Québec

One cannot help but contrast the current, powerful student movement in Québec, Canada, to its counterpart in the UK. It was considered a big deal when in November 2010 we had roughly 100,000 (who came from around the country) on the streets of London, whose population proper is roughly 8 million. In comparison, 200,000 turned out for recent protests in Montréal, whose population proper is roughly 1.6 million (and only 3 million in the wider urban area).

Both events were provoked by a hiking of tuition fees – in the UK a 200% increase to a whopping £9,000 a year, in Québec a 75% increase to £2,400 a year. This is not to mention Québec’s tuition fees were, and with the increase, are still lower than the North American average. This is in contrast to the UK, whose fees of £3,000, before the trebling, were already much higher than the European average. Continue reading “yes we canada: the student movement in québec”

the woolf that didn’t bark: the LSE-libya inquiry

Jack Staunton, a student at the London School of Economics (LSE) looks at Lord Woolf’s inquiry into the School’s ties to the Libyan state, and the nature of ‘corporate social responsibility’. 

In May this year the LSE’s Dr Satoshi Kanazawa posted a blog entry on the Psychology Today website, entitled “Why are black women less physically attractive than other women?”. Kanazawa offered an answer to this age-old question with a series of ‘scientific’ graphs and statistics. Such was the uproar that he was forced into an apology, taking a mere four months to put together a public statement.

Saif-al-Islam Gaddafi PhD, the first student ever to deliver LSE's Ralph Miliband lecture

But what did our hapless researcher retract: his racism? Objectification of women? No: he apologised for ‘causing controversy’ and ‘damage to the reputation of the School’ because he did not use ‘due consideration’ in his ‘use of language’. He was ‘not at all motivated by a desire to seek or cause controversy’, instead entirely motivated by ‘scientific curiosity’. For English readers, he meant: sorry you got upset, but I am so focused on my quest for scientific knowledge, I didn’t consider how my choice of words might hurt your sensitive feelings and the School’s ‘brand’.

Kanazawa’s promise to choose his words more carefully in future was enough for him to keep his job. What mattered to LSE was not the racist content of his outlook, but that his failure to use politically-correct language was bad for its reputation. And LSE takes its reputation very seriously. This, of course, is the same institution which, after championing the Libyan regime for eight years, abandoned it to the memory-hole in 2011 once Gaddafi’s own ‘brand’ became toxic. Media revelations as to the extent of LSE’s relations with the regime were such an embarrassment that the School felt moved to launch an investigation, the Woolf Inquiry. Continue reading “the woolf that didn’t bark: the LSE-libya inquiry”

there’s more to politics than westminster

Greg Brown asks what is the way forward for students’ struggles after last year’s defeat on fees and EMA

With the 9th November national demonstration rapidly approaching, apprehensions over the state of the ‘student movement’ naturally arise. To be sure, the planned march against fees, cuts, abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance, and the marketisation and privatisation of Higher Education will surely be the best measure of last year’s student mobilisations.

Millbank: winter 2010 saw militant student protests

The merits of a movement can only be judged in secondary terms by parliamentary manoeuvres, i.e. whether a particular bill passes or falls, a minister resigns or is promoted, etc. As libertarians we should understand that the true strength of a social movement is in its breadth (composition) and its sustainability (spanning multiple episodes of struggle): these qualities both feed and are fed by its potential to affect consciousness at large. Continue reading “there’s more to politics than westminster”

‘this could be heaven for everyone’

Public meeting on the student movement, hosted by the London Commune. From 7pm on Thursday 10th (the day after the NCAFC demo)

Last winter saw massive protests against the rise in tuition fees and cuts to EMA. We had the amazing riot at Millbank Tory HQ, school and college students marched and there were campus occupations and direct action up and down the country. But even all of this wasn’t enough to win.

The Lib Dems were wounded, the left groups picked up some new members, thousands of us could feel what solidarity means. But still students today face a harder position than ever. The cutters and privatisers are still on the offensive. Continue reading “‘this could be heaven for everyone’”

cleaning up the industry

Siobhan Breathnach writes on a fresh turn in cleaners’ fight for a living wage

Cleaners in two workplaces in London have been striking for better pay and conditions. Both strikes, in the Guildhall in the City of London, and Senate House, University of London, started over unpaid wages.

In the Guildhall, cleaners walked out twice over unpaid wages. After they received what was owed to them, they started a series of demonstrations demanding the London Living Wage (LLW) and an end to abusive treatment. In the middle of the campaign, the cleaning contractor changed from Ocean to Sodexho, who started bullying the cleaners straight away. After two days they suspended the union rep, which the cleaners responded to with a noisy emergency protest.

Continue reading “cleaning up the industry”

thoughts for a militant autumn…

Steve Ryan shares his ideas for another wave of struggle.

Many Communists would traditionally have ignored the TUC congress this week.

However this one may prove of more interest. Debates will be had about pensions and jobs against a background of escalating industrial unrest as PCS, FBU, Teaching unions etc move to ballot for coordinated action. McCluskey for UNITE calls for civil disobedience. The TUC is actually backing the march at the Tory and Lib Dem conferences – even Barber is talking.

we can do so much more ourselves

This is a real challenge to the libertarian-left.

This IS the biggest wave of strike action for decades, building on the March demo and June strike. Student activists are back and angry with the possibility of further action. The riots demonstrated that there is anger growing – albeit unfocused in many urban communities. Continue reading “thoughts for a militant autumn…”

glasgow: 200-day occupation delivers

Liam Turbett reports on a victorious conclusion to Glasgow’s seven-month university occupation

After over 200 days in occupation, the Free Hetherington occupation at Glasgow University finally ended on Wednesday 31st August. The decision to leave followed direct negotiations with senior management, who allowed the occupiers to declare victory by handing over several major concessions.

police tried in vain to evict the occupation

As previously reported in The Commune, the Free Hetherington was established in early February, when students and anti-cuts activists from across Glasgow took over a disused post-graduate social space at the heart of the Glasgow University campus, transforminglanguage teaching, anthropology and the entire department of adult education entirely. Continue reading “glasgow: 200-day occupation delivers”