Spartacist Canada No. 167

Winter 2010/2011


Britain: Hands Off Student Protesters!

On December 9, up to 30,000 protesters filled the streets of central London as the British parliament voted to massively increase university tuition and scrap the education allowance for low-income youth. Protesters were met with brutal police violence and 43 were injured. When the heir to the British throne, Prince Charles, and his wife arrogantly drove through the protests en route to a “royal” gala, their car received a broken window and a splash of white paint. Recalling the fate of Charles I, protesters chanted “off with their heads!” This minor challenge to royal prerogative has sparked hysteria and calls for a state crackdown. No reprisals! Abolish the monarchy!

The article below, by our comrades of the Spartacist League/Britain, is reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 969 (19 November).

LONDON, November 14—Britain’s capitalist rulers are baying for blood after their vicious attacks on education met with sharp protest on the streets of London on November 10. In the largest demonstration so far against the Tory-Liberal Democrat government, more than 50,000 students, together with lecturers and others, marched against plans to nearly triple the upper limit on university tuition fees, to £9,000 [$14,500] a year beginning in 2012, while slashing university budgets by 40 percent.

During the march, a sizable group of protesters split off to rally at the headquarters of the Tory party at Millbank Tower. Some windows were smashed, then a couple hundred demonstrators briefly occupied the building before being ejected by police. Over 50 were arrested and released on bail, another 250 were searched and photographed to face possible charges, and hundreds more could be snared in the police dragnet. Outrageously, a protester who allegedly threw a fire extinguisher (that hit no one) may be charged with “attempted murder.” The Spartacist League/Britain demands: Defend the Millbank protesters! Drop all charges! No reprisals!

Immediately after the protest, Tory prime minister David Cameron, in chorus with Labour Party Members of Parliament and the bourgeois press, began to howl about the “violence” of the protesters who scuffed up Millbank Tower. To the press’s anguished cries of “Why?”, one protester quipped, “Tory HQ, property of the capitalist state, mate!” All the clamour about “violence” is rich coming from Cameron, and from Labour: tell it to the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan who know the brutality of occupation by British and U.S. imperialist troops.

Ominously, the Metropolitan police are vowing to be better “prepared” next time. These are the same police who killed Ian Tomlinson during a bloody cop rampage against last year’s G20 protest; who executed Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes on the London Tube in 2005 in the name of the racist “war on terror”; and who daily assault black and Asian youth using “stop and search” powers. The cops are at the core of the capitalist state—which also comprises the courts, prisons and military—the purpose of which is to maintain through violence the system of exploitation of the working class by the bourgeoisie.

The coalition government’s massive budget cuts amount to an all-out assault on working people, the poor and elderly, as well as youth, on a breathtaking level. Members of David Cameron’s cabinet—stuffed with some 18 millionaires and assorted Eton graduates—sneer that “benefit cheats” are draining the British economy and label single mothers on welfare as “scroungers.” The unemployed are ordered to “get a job,” even as the government announces cuts that will wipe out half a million public sector jobs and many more in the private sector. Railing against the “dependency culture” and calling it a “sin” to refuse any miserable job on offer, work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith is hatching schemes to cut benefits for millions of people. The government is taking a budget axe to youth centres, social services, libraries, parks, the National Health Service, schools, programs for the elderly...anything that provides a lifeline to working people and the poor.

The student protest shows the depth of anger against Cameron’s Tories and not least against Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, who pledged not to raise student fees during the election campaign. Chanting “Tory scum!” and “Nick Clegg, we know you, you’re a f---ing Tory too!”, reformist organisations such as the Socialist Workers Party seek to channel this anger into support for a Labour government, under newly elected leader Ed Miliband. What an inspiration! Labour: which before the general election promised cuts “deeper and tougher” than Margaret Thatcher’s in the 1980s; which for 13 years carried out imperialist butchery abroad and union-busting and racist immigrant-bashing at home; and which in fact first brought in university tuition fees in 1998, and later tripled them.

Any capitalist government—whether Labour, Tory and/or Liberal Democrat—would try to gouge the working class to pay for the current economic crisis. What’s needed is class struggle to defend the working class and poor against these attacks. The Spartacist League/Britain, section of the International Communist League, fights to build a multiethnic revolutionary workers party that will lead the struggle for socialist revolution to uproot the capitalist order and put in power a workers government.