yes we canada: the student movement in québec

1 05 2012

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. Read the rest of this entry »





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

12 12 2011

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. Read the rest of this entry »





there’s more to politics than westminster

7 11 2011

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. Read the rest of this entry »





‘this could be heaven for everyone’

7 11 2011

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. Read the rest of this entry »





cleaning up the industry

10 10 2011

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.

Read the rest of this entry »





thoughts for a militant autumn…

11 09 2011

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. Read the rest of this entry »





glasgow: 200-day occupation delivers

31 08 2011

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. Read the rest of this entry »





grayling’s atrocity: what it means and what we’re going to do about it.

16 06 2011

Daniel Harvey looks at New College of the Humanities, AC Grayling’s private ‘university’

I remember a time, not very long ago, despite seeming it, when a young student stood up to give a speech at a debate on the necessity of the New Atheism at his college. The speech ranged through all the usual canards thrown at the religious, the cruelty of nature, the unnecessary suffering in the world, the emptiness of the universe.  Of course, this student devotee of Richard Dawkins, Grayling, PZ Myers, Christopher Hitchens (shoot me now), was myself, and in that vain, naïve enthusiasm even, remained until the day I discovered that this was about as intellectually fulfilling as squashing ants.

grayling: wipe the smile off his face

But this feature of the atheist calling has always been fascinating – why so much time and effort spent on continually stomping on the face of the religious phenomenon, when it is so easy to do? Of course, you ask any followers of Richard Dawkins who attended his ‘talk’ which I happily raided with some comrades the other day, and what will come back is a stream words about the threat of ‘accomodationism’, about the fact religion is so powerful, growing, spreading its tentacles into education, and practically undermining the entire Enlightenment.  But for one of the original founders of this movement H. L. Mencken, the great liberal journalist and commentator on the Scopes Trial, religion was more than this, it was the possession of the ‘immortal scum’ of human history, a whole layer of society that always threatened to overwhelm the elite, intelligent minority. In intellectual circles he said, all that “survives under the name of Christianity, above the stratum of that mob, is no more than a sort of Humanism, with a little more supernaturalism in it than you will find in mathematics or political economy.” Read the rest of this entry »





the free hetherington is invincible

7 04 2011

By Liam T of Scottish Socialist Youth – http://ssy.org.uk/.

Tuesday 22nd March was a day that will be remembered for sensational events at Glasgow University. Dozens of Police and security guards swooped on the Free Hetherington, in an attempt to clear students out of their 50-day occupation of the disused Research Club building. Following eviction, protesters went on to occupy the luxurious Senate building. Astonishingly, this resulted in a late-night capitulation from management, with an invitation for us to return to the Hetherington in exchange for vacating the Senate. Read the rest of this entry »





“we want to inspire other people to take a stand”: interview with a college student activist

23 01 2011

Joe Thorne spoke to a student at Leeds City College who has been involved in the protests around education cuts and in the new Really Open Student Union.  The interview is followed by statements from a number of other young people, some of which are featured in this bulletin which you can print off and distribute to support students walking out on Wednesday.


How are the cuts going to affect you?

I’m worrying about my future.  I don’t know if I can stay in college.  This has cancelled out my hope of going to uni.  I’m living with my parents.  They’re both disabled and we’re living off disability allowance.  I don’t know how we’re going to get through the next few years, and bills are going up, especially electricity and gas. Read the rest of this entry »





bulletin to build colleges walkout on 26 jan – print off and distribute

21 01 2011

On 26th January, college students around the country will walk out.  The student movement which made such an impact in November and December will begin again.  A number of students and supporters around the country have worked together to produce a bulletin, which can be printed out and distributed in order to build the walk-outs.  Click here to download and print!

Introductory text follows Read the rest of this entry »





student occupations pamphlet: a call for contributions

20 01 2011

The Commune is looking to produce a pamphlet about, and for, student occupations.  In our view, there are lessons to be learned, not only from the recent wave of occupations in November – December 2010, but from recent occupations at SOAS, Middlesex, Sussex, against the devastation of Gaza in Winter 2008-9, and many more besides.

We want the pamphlet to be based around contributions from occupiers recounting their experiences, and drawing some conclusions from them.  We therefore want to invite anyone with such experiences to get in touch with us and contribute something – be it a few paragraphs or a few pages.  Not all occupiers should have to begin at the beginning: there is a wealth of experience which future occupiers can learn from; it should not all be lost every three years as each generation of activists passes on. Read the rest of this entry »





the educator, issue 2

10 01 2011

Issue two of The Educator which is being distributed at Manchester Metropolitan University this week. Click below to see PDFs.

Print run = 850. More people are encouraged to get involved: ring 07976386737 or email manchestercommuniststudents(at)googlemail.com for details.





confidential occupations document – april 2009

16 12 2010

The following leaked document had disappeared from the public domain due to the website which it was previously hosted on going down.  It is a briefing for heads of university administrations on dealing with student occupations.  It may assist activists in gaining some idea of the perspective of senior university officials on occupations – although some of the material is more specifically about occupations around Palestinian issue.

Sign at the occupied Middlesex Philosophy Department, 2010

Original introductory note by an ‘Education Not for Sale’ activist

What follows is a briefing published by university administrators concerning student occupations . It outlines some of the tactics used by university authorities to deal with student protest, specifically occupations. It is not clear exactly who wrote the briefing, or who received it, but since it is addressed to members of the Association for Heads of University Administration (AHUA), we can reasonably assume that it has been received by a number of vice chancellors and others in positions of authority around the country. Read the rest of this entry »








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