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From: The Socialist issue 569, 4 March 2009: Bosses get pay-offs, workers get layoffs

Search site for keywords: Fees - NUS - Students - CDF - Education - Socialist Students - Campaign to Defeat Fees

Anti-fees demo success - despite NUS leaders' obstructions

Fighting fees  - student demonstration in central London, photo Rob Sutton

Fighting fees - student demonstration in central London, photo Rob Sutton

A LOUD and militant march of over a thousand students took place in central London on 25 February. It demanded free education and living grants for all. It further called for mass opposition to university vice-chancellors' calls for an increase in tuition fees and to continuing cuts and privatisation on university campuses.

Matt Dobson

The turnout represented only a part of the large-scale opposition to university fees and any plans to lift the cap. But given the obstacles faced by activists building for the demonstration, it represents a significant achievement.

Hundreds marched behind the banner of the Campaign to Defeat Fees (CDF) chanting: "They say fees will rise; we fight back and organise", "Bosses crisis; we won't pay" and, "Gordon Brown stop the rot, give us what the bankers got".

Students stopped during the march to show their anger at the headquarters of Universities UK (the vice-chancellors' lobbying group) and at St Martins College where cuts are being made.

Laura Fitzgerald from Socialist Youth (Socialist Students

Laura Fitzgerald from Socialist Youth (Socialist Students' sister organisation in Ireland) addresses student protest

Alongside other student activists, Laura Fitzgerald from Socialist Youth (Socialist Students' sister organisation in Ireland) and an activist in the 'Free Education for Everyone' (FEE) campaign, addressed the opening rally at SOAS.

Laura gave the examples of the mass protests across Ireland this winter in reaction to cuts in the welfare state and the threat of the introduction of third level (tuition) fees. FEE has organised successful protests and blockades on campuses against the visits of government ministers.

Laura got huge cheers from the crowd when she spoke about the trade union demonstration of over 100,000 workers in Dublin on 21 February against the crisis. She called for the struggle for free education to be linked to the struggle for a socialist society.

At the end of the demonstration Southampton CDF activist Rosie Isaac called for activists and fighting student unions to link together to build a mass campaign and an alternative to the right-wing leadership of the National Union of Students.

Campaign

Fighting fees  - student demonstration in central London, photo Rob Sutton

Fighting fees - student demonstration in central London, photo Rob Sutton

Socialist Students and CDF activists played a central role in mobilising hundreds of students for the demonstration. Coaches from Newcastle, Southampton, Sussex and across the country were organised.

Campaign to Defeat Fees supporter John McDonnell MP put down an 'early day' motion in parliament in support of the demonstration.

But rather than using this as an opportunity to mobilise its members, NUS leaders and right-wing local officials did everything they could to stop students coming on the demonstration. They refused to back the march and, in some cases, even refused to fund coaches when student councils had democratically voted to back and fund transport to the march.

The Metropolitan Police denied students the democratic right to march to parliament. By using New Labour's anti-terror laws they stopped students pressuring MPs on the issue while parliament was in session. Due to long, drawn out negotiations with the police the route was not finalised until very close to the day, affecting publicity for the march.

Socialist Students and the CDF called on all students present to build for the March for Jobs on 2 April and to join the Youth Fight for Jobs campaign.

This demonstration showed the potential for building a fight back among young people against attacks on education and unemployment. The CDF will continue to be to the fore in leading struggles in the universities.

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