Why students should strike for free education
#StudentStrike: WTF is going on?
On the 10th of September the National Executive Council (NEC) of the National Union of Students (NUS), which represents around seven million students nationally, including all Sussex students, voted to advocate a yes vote if a national student strike ballot was mandated.
Every student at an NUS affiliated institution will get to vote on the strike, with activists already mobilizing up and down the country. It is likely the vote on the ballot will happen at the end of this term and all Sussex students will get to vote for student strike action, the first time in over 45 years!
But why would we strike?
Because, in short, this Government hates us: we are the generation leaving university with around £50,000 of debt; the generation with no job security due to crippling austerity policies; the generation maligned, bemoaned and sidelined.
We are supposedly the generation of ‘apathy’ – yet consider the London riots, the 2010 student movement and Corbyn’s election as Labour Leader: we are alienated almost unresolvedly from the main stream, but not apathetic about politics – merely the politics that we have been force-fed for years.
So we’re gonna fuck up this poor and immigrant bashing government and a strike is a spectacular way to do it.
But has it happened before? Will it do shit?
Yes, it has happened before. It was fucking great. The Quebec student movement is known for going particularly hard and they actually toppled their government in 2012; Brazil has had a recent very effective student strike and Britain had one back in 1971, where 500,000 students went on a 5 week strike against Margaret “the witch” Thatcher when she was education secretary.
Alright, but I pay loads for my classes; isn’t skipping them a bit self-defeating?
That’s why they raised the fees: the introduction of university fees has been an attempt to make us feel purely like consumers rather than collective members of our education institution.
While you may miss some classes during a strike, who can honestly say they haven’t skipped class before? Also we must try to get away from the notion that education exists purely in the lecture theatre and seminar rooms at an institution which charges ridiculous prices, and whose managers don’t give a shit about us or our wellbeing.
While you may miss out on class you may learn a lot more on a strike than you think.
I get workers striking, but we don’t produce anything – how would it work?
We produce a lot. Not only is it in the government’s interest that the education system continues to operate as normal, but university is a place of social reproduction and creation as much as pure academia.
An education system should be seen as a microcosm of wider society, rather than a system which charges thousands of pounds and uses immigrants for the money they represent rather than simply recognizing fellow human beings.
Catering to business interests over student well-being tells you a lot about the society in which we live.
We cannot be coy or defensive, we must create a radical democratic vision for education and we must create it now. We must bring it about by any means necessary, not simply for ourselves (though that is a motivator) but for all those not yet born who I hope will be able to take for granted life-long free education, and a richer society for it.
Get Angry, Get Organised and Win.
Max O’Donnell Savage