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Campaign to defeat top-up fees
On Sunday 29 October, when around 15,000 students marched on the NUS demo, the chants were loud and clear: "Top-up fees, no way!" It was clear that this was a demo not just to keep the cap on top-up fees, but against all fees and for free education.
This protest gave an indication of the anger and frustration that exists amongst students facing increasing fees, debt and attacks on education. This energy and anger needs to be channelled into building a mass movement in universities, colleges and sixth forms. It's clear that the NUS has no plans to do so which is why Socialist Students is launching a Campaign to Defeat Fees.
We know that there are enough resources in society to fund and run a high-quality, free education system. We need a mass campaign involving all students and workers to get rid of fees. The inadequacy of the NUS leadership along with its political alignment with New Labour has meant that most student demos are just a way to let off steam - not part of a strategy to win free quality education for all. After the demo, the anger is dissipated. However, this year, with the introduction of top-up fees, a line had been crossed and there was more potential for mobilising students beyond an annual march through the streets of London.
Over the past few years there have been eruptions of this mood to fight back on a local basis, such as the occupations against cuts and closures in Swansea and Sussex universities and the canteen boycotts at Lambeth College and Exeter Uni. Socialist Students, who are part of the leadership of these campaigns, wants to work with everyone who is serious about fighting for free education.
The Campaign to Defeat Fees aims to pull together existing cuts and closures campaigns in the local areas with the thousands of students who are angry at the destruction of the right to free education.
Young people are criminalised by the media and a government that offers them nothing. We have seen the anger felt by young people in Greece, France and Chile erupt at a certain point on a certain issue but also reflecting the general opposition to the constant barrage from the pro-capitalist parties against the right for a decent future. Young people and students in Britain have been involved in the anti-war movement and hate New Labour. We have to do all we can to build a mass movement here based on the anger that exists.
We should start off by trying to meet up with anyone who wants to be an anti-fees activist and aim to build up support for mass actions such as regional demos and occupations such as we saw in Chile and Greece. Socialist Students is the only force on campuses capable of building successful campaigns but there are thousands of students we can work with, many of whom will join Socialist Students through working with us. Contact Socialist Students for new leaflets and petitions and motions.
In The Socialist 9 November 2006:
War and terrorism
International socialist news and analysis
Marxist analysis: history