Fellow students, staff, and interested parties,
We know the cuts are bad, we know they are only the beginning (a few more million next year, and after the election – who can predict?). We know that they need to be stopped. We know that there is something wrong with the way this university is managed. We know that management are pursuing a project inimical to our education, that their vision of the university is very different from our vision of the university.
We know that we need to engage more students in the campaign if it is to have any hope of winning. We know that we need to get our strategies right – that we need to pose an alternative kind of education, whilst fighting the cuts in an effective way. We know that we need to build a larger coalition with staff, school students, and activists in order to win this thing.
The question is – how do we do this? No-one currently has an adequate answer to this question. We have reached out to our fellow students up to a point, but we have hit a wall: it is clear that our current tactics are failing to broaden out the fight against the cuts.
People are not stupid – they respond to facts, and they respond to arguments, they respond to possible visions of the future. We need to be ready to present all of these to each other, time and time again, and in constantly creative ways, if we are to change minds, and reverse the fatalistic view that cuts are inevitable. The time for slogans has ended – everyone this side of Moulsecoomb has heard our slogans and chants – the time for convincing argument is here. The time has arrived for an analysis that cuts through the logic of management.
We have occupied the university conference centre, and raised awareness of the tactic of the sit-in. But why do we sit-in, or why do we occupy? What is the difference? What is the point?
The aim of the occupation – whether the ‘flash occupation’ (sit-in) of a high-profile, high-impact target, or the long occupation of some large space in the university, has one primary aim – to make the university impossible to manage, to make it un-governable. This university produces a seemingly endless proliferation of management structures: its primary product is hierarchy – the best thing we can do to put pressure on management is to disrupt it. Whether we symbolically ‘take over’ a large physical space in the university, or whether we destroy institutional space by crossing boundaries, conducting ‘flash occupations’ in high-profile, strategic places, we need to demonstrate that we cannot be pinned down, we cannot be told what to do, and we cannot be told that cuts are ‘inevitable’ or ‘necessary’.
We have supported the UCU in their dispute thus far, and we have argued in favour of strike action with our fellow students, but we must be ready to explain why strike action is the correct tactic. Strike action does not directly loose the university money – we do not withhold our fees and the government does not withhold any (more) funding. Strike action shuts down the university it prevents the university from producing the ideology and hierarchy that are reproduced every day in a top-down, tightly managed institution.
We need to remember, that, though the university is a factory, the goods it produces are not immediately profitable. Management can deal with short interruptions in production – any strike must be all-out, and indefinite. It must involve all the campus unions; it must reach out to non-unionised workers. We must argue forcefully for this kind of action, with tutors, lecturers, trade unionists, and students.
I began this letter asking how we will achieve these things. So it’s time to get more concrete about solutions – what should we do? First, come to the debate this Thursday (look out for posters!) on tactics and alternatives. Be open to political discussion, be willing to sit in a room for a few hours, listening and responding to political and tactical points. Try and anchor every discussion in the concrete – what do we do? Why do we do it? Avoid slogans in all but the most heated, excitable situations.
Second, think about how we can support university staff. Should we spend our time collecting money from students for a strike fund, or will the UCU provide strike pay (as they did for the Tower Hamlets strike last summer). Should we take other actions in support during a possible strike? Should we help out on the picket lines, explaining to students and visitors why the strike is happening, and seeking their support?
Thirdly, and most importantly – write, discuss, and debate, in small groups in bars and cafes as well as in big formal meetings. Send opinion pieces to this newspaper, write for the blog (defendsussex.wordpress.com – email articles to firstname.lastname@example.org), write for the Stop the Cuts newsletter. Have an idea about the how future should be, spread and discuss the idea, then make it happen.