Guest blog: Taking on the government’s assault on education & young people
By Fiona Edwards, Student Broad Left
Two years on from the enormous wave of student resistance in 2010, which saw tens of thousands of students protesting outside Parliament and occupying their campuses against the proposal to treble tuition fees, students are getting ready to take the streets of London once more in a national demonstration to defend education on Wednesday 21 November.
Over the past two years the government’s war on students has intensified – the top 1% are vandalising our education system and destroying our futures. As a result young people are being forced out of education, students are being plunged into poverty and the cuts are having a devastating impact our colleges and universities.
We are told by the Tory Chancellor George Osborne that “there is no alternative” to austerity and the slashing of the welfare state.
Yet, whilst our education and our public services are being destroyed, Britain still has the fourth largest military budget in the world – with over £33 billion per year being spent on weapons and wars. For just about a quarter of that it would be possible to abolish tuition fees altogether, as well as bringing back the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) which gave tens of thousands of the poorest young people in our society the opportunity to access further education before it was scrapped over a year ago.
A further £2 billion per year is spent on maintaining Trident nuclear weapons system – which has the capacity to kill nearly 300 million people. The British government should scrap these dangerous nukes designed to destroy lives and spend the money on saving lives instead, by tackling climate change as well as funding the NHS and public services for all.
Our fight against austerity is a global one. It is vital that we broaden our horizons and look for inspiration beyond the shores of Britain and Europe to places where the poor and the oppressed are winning in the fight against global capitalism and neo-liberalism.
In Latin America, many countries have left wing, radical government that are pursuing policies of 21st century socialism.
In Venezuela, for several decades prior to 1998, the majority of the population suffered at the hands of vicious neo-liberal policies, which saw poverty and inequality rise, and the oil wealth of the country used to enrich multinational companies and the Venezuelan elite.
With the election of Hugo Chavez in 1998 – catapulted to victory by enormous social movements -, a dramatic shift in priorities has followed. The vast resources of Venezuela are now being used to improve the lives of ordinary people, rather than be siphoned off to make the rich richer.
As a result, over 5 million Venezuelans have been lifted out of poverty and 3 millions from extreme poverty since 1998.
Alongside this, there has been a massive increase in spending on healthcare and education. Whilst our government is busy privatising the NHS and seeking to price the poorest students out of education with the trebling of tuition fees, in Venezuela the government is continuing to massively expand access to free healthcare whilst free education at all levels, including at university, is a constitutional right, with the numbers attending higher education trebling over the past decade as a result.
These advances inVenezuelashow that there is an alternative to neo-liberalism – and it’s these sorts of policies, which put people before profit, that we need to be fighting for inBritain.
The attacks on students are part of a wider assault on ordinary people inBritain– the biggest assault in generations. For the first time since the Second World War living standards for the majority of society are declining.
Our response to this must be to build a massive movement to resist austerity. Students, trade unionists, occupiers, pensioners, environmentalists, women, Black, LGBT and disabled people – everyone under attack must unite together and fight-back.
The next big opportunity we have to strike a blow against the Tory-led government and its vicious austerity agenda is on the NUS national demonstration against fees, cuts and austerity on Wednesday 21 November. Everyone who wants to see an end to this government, their cuts, their defence of bankers and the rich at the expense of the rest, needs to be in central London on the 21 November, joining students in demanding that education cuts must be stopped and the future our of society invested in instead.