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29 January demonstration in Manchester: Students and young workers unite
On 29 January a demonstration will take place in Manchester, bringing together young workers and students to fight for our future. The rally and demonstration on the day involve the Trades Union Congress, the National Union of Students, the lecturer's union UCU, the civil servants union PCS and others.
Ben Robinson, Youth Fight for Jobs chair
The huge energy of the mass student protests linking up with young workers, who are often to the fore of industrial struggle, has the potential to terrify the government. This could be a big step forward in fighting against all this government's brutal cuts, with both parts of the movement inspiring each other.
A whole generation has been thrown into political activity through the student movement, questioning everything and looking for a strategy to fight back. There is an ongoing discussion about the role of trade unions and whether they will take action or whether students will have to fight alone.
At the same time many workers and trade union members are fed up with half-hearted negotiations that lead nowhere and are campaigning for their unions to take up a more militant strategy. Fighting unions like the PCS have been to the fore of the struggle. The planned event on 29 January shows that it is possible for members in other unions to force their leaderships to act decisively.
At its annual conference in September the TUC passed a motion calling for a demonstration against youth unemployment. This, and subsequent campaigning, was led by young trade unionists from the PCS and Youth Fight for Jobs (YFJ) supporters.
When the TUC named the date of 29 January, we called on them to ensure there is a campaign for a big demonstration and that transport from around the country is organised.
This demonstration would not have been called without constant pressure, including from the student movement and from YFJ. It should be seen as a vital next step in the movement against cuts.
Although time is short, trade union branches, student unions and activist groups should be organising transport, funding them directly but also through fundraising events. Many workers and students are eager to link up and support each other's struggles, and the march will be an ideal way to do that on a national level.
Unfortunately the Socialist Workers Party and others have called a demonstration exclusively on education issues in London on the same day. This was in the full knowledge of the events in Manchester.
YFJ argued against this because it would cut across the message that ours is a united fight for all.
Having a separate education march in London, counterposed to the TUC one in Manchester, only serves to aid the grotesque media stereotype of the student movement as purely self-serving and middle class.
This is clearly miles from the truth as second year college students have fought to maintain the Education Maintenance Allowance even though they won't be affected by it being cut and university students have likewise fought higher fees.
Many students have built links with the trade unions on campus and the anti-cuts campaigns that are developing around the country. For those with doubts about the role and potential of the trade union movement this divisive action will cloud, rather than clear.
However, many students and workers, especially those in southern parts of the country will find it easier to get to London if the demonstration there goes ahead.
Youth Fight for Jobs and Education will be present at both and will argue for an escalation of the student movement and for strong links to be built with anti-cuts unions and workers in struggle.
In The Socialist 5 January 2011:
National Shop Stewards Network
Socialist Party youth and students
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news and analysis
Socialist Party review