report: occupation at london metropolitan university

by David Broder

At 4pm on the afternoon of Monday 11th May around thirty students began an occupation of the sixth floor canteen at the London Met building on Commercial Road in protest at sweeping cuts. Management plan to get rid of 550 posts – some 800 members of staff, one quarter of the indebted university – which will mean severe cutbacks in several subjects, such as the arts and languages.

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UCU members had staged strike action last Thursday (7th May) and although taken by surprise by the student action, several lecturers have joined the occupation. As yet management have refused to talk to the occupiers, but there seems to be strong solidarity between students, lecturers and other staff organised by UNISON, with course cuts and reduced student services the obvious outcome of attacks on the university workforce.

The nursery, key to allowing students with kids to attend London Met, as well as all but two of the libraries are also due to be slashed in order to make up for a purported £15 million budget deficit. Continue reading “report: occupation at london metropolitan university”

students occupy for gaza: activism goes back to university

Taimour Lay looks at the recent wave of university occupations across Britain in protest at the Israeli attack on Gaza

When students at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London shut down an on-campus MoD exhibition on January 13, the one-day occupation was seen as both a qualified success and a missed opportunity. But with the atrocities committed in Gaza creating a sense of outrage and urgency among thousands of people, what SOAS activists failed to carry through, other students resolved to achieve.

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Two days later the LSE’s Old Theatre was under occupation and a day later Essex University followed. The major ground and air offensive, Operation Cast Lead, ‘ended’ on January 18 but from January 20-22, the second wave of occupations in solidarity with Gaza had begun in earnest: Kings College London, Birmingham, Sussex, Warwick, the London College of Communication, Manchester Met, Oxford, Leeds and Cambridge were all under occupation, communicating formally and informally, sharing tactics, drawing up broadly similar demands and settling in for the long haul. The immediate context of Israeli military aggression had broadened into a critique of the education system’s financial links with Israel and the increasing commercialisation of all aspects of university life. Success in one place emboldened the rest; clampdowns by the authorities generated a discontent that may keep growing. Continue reading “students occupy for gaza: activism goes back to university”

more arrests in iran

by Sam Parsa

Following from last week’s offensive of the Iranian government against student activists, more  were arrested today. Four students, called Amirhosein Mohammadifar, Sanaz Allahyari, Nasim Roshanai and Maryam Sheikh were arrested, all of them members of the Freedom and Equality Seeking Students group, who have led protests and actions against the regime as well as against the war. This has brought great concern among our comrades in Iran.

photo report: national student demo against fees

Wednesday 25th saw around 700 students march through London in protest against top-up fees and demanding free university education for all. The demo, predominantly organised by the Socialist Workers’ Party and Education is Not for Sale (involving independent socialists and anarchists but also led to a significant degree by the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty), was the first such demo in the last couple of years, given the National Union of Students’ virtual abandonment of any commitment to free education and its Labourite leaders’ cosying-up to the state bureaucracy, meekly making pleas that the government ought not increase fees beyond £3,000 upon its 2010 review.

Activists from across the country attended the demonstration, but the bulk of those attending were either from Trotskyist groups and their peripheries or a bloc of people with anarchist flags. Although most of the speakers at both the start and end of the protest called for student-worker unity, and many of the slogans advocated support for trade union struggles, in fact there were very few workers on the demo, even from the ranks of the UCU or NUT, since there is in reality little integration between workers’ organisations and the student movement, even its left wing. Nor did working-class students from sixth form/FE colleges attend in strong numbers, although some are building a London School Students’ Union.

Unfortunately, the mobilisation was also weakened somewhat by the fact that there were two separate organising committees (one for each group)… such is sectarianism. Furthermore, the Socialist Party’s shallow front “Campaign to Defeat Fees”, who mobilised several dozen on their contingent but were not really involved in organising the demo itself, voiced the “line” that we ought to use this national demo against fees as a springboard for a… national demo against fees.

Students have of course mobilised en masse in opposition to the Gaza war – 27 faculties having been occupied in the last couple of months – but when asked to protest in defence of specifically university-centred concerns seem to be rather less effective, no doubt in part due to the transitory nature of their spell in higher education and the extreme difficulty of successfully resisting measures such as fees, which cannot be pushed back in any one institution. Of course, more blandly “bread and butter” concerns such as free education should be at the heart of the student movement’s struggles, but it is also the case that so-called “big politics” around such issues as ecology or imperialism are of equal or greater importance for many young people.

Below are some photos and comments on the day: Continue reading “photo report: national student demo against fees”

photo-report of ‘dancing on the grave of capitalism’ demo

by David Broder

Three weeks to the day after the SWP’s March on the City demonstration in the City of London, tonight saw the “Dancing on the grave of capitalism” action timed to coincide with Halloween and thus featuring lots of dressing up. This, the latest in a series of anti-capitalist demos organised in response to the financial crisis, took place in Canary Wharf.

The protest was apparently the brainchild of members of the Radical Anthropology Group and people formerly involved in campaigns such as Reclaim the Streets, but in fact the 200-strong crowd was largely composed of Socialist Workers’ Party students (‘SWSS’, banner depicted below). A sprinkling from the Socialist Party, Workers’ Power, Anarchist Federation and Class War were present, as well as some people holding a poppy-decked banner for an Army veterans’ union. The demonstrators stood outside Canary Wharf tube station shouting abstract anti-capitalist slogans as City types looked on, bemused.

The slogan “anti-anti-anti-capitalista” made another appearance, as did “one solution – revolution” although another slogan had been toned down somewhat since the October 10th March on the City demo: “they say bankers, we say wankers” had bizarrely morphed into “they say bankers, we say jobs”. Perhaps they were wary of swearing in the wake of the recent Russell Brand/Andrew Sachs affair.

The demo, which had no demands and no real politics to speak of, merely served as part of the SWP’s ongoing “activist” turn after the abandonment of its electoral fronts.