The angry students of London: Harbingers of things to come?

In Britain, the university tuitions have been tripled, due to government austerity budgets and their version of the catfood commission and Obama/McConnell dealmaking deciding who has to pay for the bankers’ crimes (won’t be the bankers, you can bet). Students will be expected to make up the difference, basically introducing the American model of higher education where most opportunities are based on your ability to pay for them.

Last Thursday was the latest huge student action in London. There, as here, it’s the youth, the seniors and the most vulnerable who have to sacrifice so the masters of the universe can have their million dollar bonuses. But the students there don’t plan on taking this without a fight. Here’s a 15 year old who skipped class at the first action (in November) and went down to the demonstration and got himself a real education:

(transcript below)

reminds me a bit of this:

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(transcript below)

If the students respond as I hope they will, this coming decade will be very interesting.

Well, I might be in detention a week and the school might not be very happy but we sure showed something much bigger last Wednesday. K, sorry. You know, this was meant to be the first post-ideological generation, right? This was meant to be the generation that never thought of anything bigger than our Facebook profiles and our TV screens. This was meant to be the generation where the only thing that Saturday night meant was X-Factor.

I think now that claim is quite ridiculous. I think now that claim is quite repulsive. Now we’ve shown that we are an ideological as ever before. Now we’ve shown that solidarity and comradeship and all those things that used to be associated with students are as relevant now as they’ve ever been.

You know, the most incredible thing that happened on Wednesday — I went down, I thought I was gonna go down on lunch break and then get back in time for lessons. Perhaps I should have known they’d put the guy in charge of the G20 in charge. Perhaps I should have been more concerned for my life than whether I was gonna get down for lessons, but, ah, but when tried to get out and I was told it was a sterile? area by police officers standing and not letting anyone out, I thought well that’s why we need a university education. If we don’t get one we end up in police uniforms.

You know, when I was kettled in there I was with thousands and thousands of school students who’d come down with their ties around their heads and their school uniforms and yeah they were cold, who’d come down, who’d never been on a protest before, who’d never joined a political party or been involved in a political movement before, Who didn’t have any economic knowledge or political degree. But they were there because they believed in something. They were there because they believed in something bigger and they were there because they knew that either — you know there weren’t a million choices, there were two choices — either they laid down and took whatever the government threw at them or they stood up and fought back.

And so those school students who’d never been involved in anything before stood up and they fought back.

And when they were in that kettle, being kettled in by police, you know, the word went round as we were sitting huddling round fires sharing out what little food we had and the word went round, people said, we know what they’re up to. We know that they don’t think we’re a danger to the public. I’m fifteen-years old, people there were as young as thirteen. We know they don’t think we’re going to run riot though the streets of London. We know what they’re up to. They think that if they kettle us now we’re not going to come in a demonsration ever again.

Well let the word go out from today, people said, let the word go out about next Tuesday. Let the word go out about next Week, and next month and next year that they can’t stop us demonstrating. They can’t stop us fighting back. And however much they try to imprison us on the streets of London, those are our streets and we will always be there to demonstrate. We will always be there to fight.

People who had always thought that the police were just those people at the other end of the telephone line to help if there was a burglary, people who had always thought that the media were just those friendly newspaper men there to give them that unbalanced picture of the facts, people learned a lot last Wednesday. People learned a lot as they huddled round fires and then emerged from that kettle to see headlines like “Vandals” on the Evening Standard that afternoon. People learnt a lot when a police van was left in the middle of the road so that the police could tow it away and show the whole public that, look what vandals these people are. People learned a lot.

So the message that goes out from last Wednesday is very clear. We are no longer that post-ideological generation. We are no longer that generation that doesn’t care. We are no longer that generation that’s prepared to sit back and take whatever they give us. We are now the generation at the heart of the fight back. We are now the generation that will stand with everyone who’s fighting back.

The most inspiring thing, I think, was that just after Wednesday, hundreds of people joined a Facebook group, school students joined a Facebook group in solidarity with RMT members on strike. Those are people who previously thought Tubes [ subway ]strike was something annoying because it stopped them getting into school. Now they think they’ve got to link arms and fight back with everyone.

So we want to show solidarity with everyone who’s fighting back. We hope you’ll show solidarity with us and send a strong message to this government that they can’t throw their cuts at us. We’re gonna stand up and we’re gonna fight back.

Mario Savio:

We have an autocracy which runs this university. It’s managed. We asked the following: if President Kerr actually tried to get something more liberal out of the Regents in his telephone conversation, why didn’t he make some public statement to that effect? And the answer we received — from a well-meaning liberal — was the following: He said, “Would you ever imagine the manager of a firm making a statement publicly in opposition to his board of directors?” That’s the answer! Now, I ask you to consider: if this is a firm, and if the Board of Regents are the board of directors, and if President Kerr in fact is the manager, then I’ll tell you something: the faculty are a bunch of employees, and we’re the raw material! But we’re a bunch of raw material[s] that don’t mean to have any process upon us, don’t mean to be made into any product, don’t mean to end up being bought by some clients of the University, be they the government, be they industry, be they organized labor, be they anyone! We’re human beings!

There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!