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Students March Against Funding Nightmare
LAST WEDNESDAY thousands of students from around Britain marched through central London demanding an end to tuition fees, student loans and the reintroduction of the maintenance grant.
Paul Hunt , Coventry Socialist Party
Different sources say between 4,000 and 15,000 students marched from Malet Street to Trafalgar Square, where a rally took place to hear the likes of Ken Livingstone and National Union of Students (NUS) President Owain James address students on the nightmare that is the present student funding system.
The mood on the demonstration was upbeat and militant, with whistling, chanting and music. However, many student activists felt that once again an opportunity had been lost to build an effective fight back against Blair's fees.
The demonstration was around half the size of the previous year, with NUS in many areas failing to publicise the event.
Was this a deliberate ploy on behalf of the Labour Party dominated National Executive to play down the opposition to fees?
In many universities and colleges it was left to free education campaigners to build for the event, with the official NUS structures playing a minimum role to say the least.
The students who attended this demonstration, as well as the thousands who are facing a life time of debt and hardship, showed their willingness to fight the present finance arrangements. What is missing is a fighting NUS leadership, prepared to build a mass non-payment campaign linked with a rolling programme of actions to defend those who can't or won't pay tuition fees.
For example, there were 1,300 students at Coventry University (over 10% of the student population) who were excluded from their studies, and it was Coventry NUS who 'negotiated' our exclusion! No doubt situations like this will be replicated around the country.
The failure of the Blairite NUS leadership gives even greater importance to this year's NUS annual conference. Free education campaigners and socialists need to be elected to both the full-time and part-time sections of the NEC.
Socialist Students are standing two candidates, Amrita Huggins and Zena Awad, for the part-time positions on the NEC.
In The Socialist 1 March 2002: