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“There is no other way now. Direct action. Civil disobedience….do it”

Simon Childs is a member of the Green Party and as well as writing on his own blog regularly contributes to Newcastle University newspaper, The Courier and the Fresh Politics blog. He also founded and edits the left-wing Newcastle newsletter; The Grey Matter.

I would recommend that everybody read John Pilger’s inspiring article in the New Statesman. Railing against the “fossilised spivs”, David Cameron and George Osborne, he encourages us to get angry and get active, declaring; “only one political course is left to those who are disenfranchised and whose ruin is announced on a government spreadsheet…There is no other way now. Direct action. Civil disobedience… do it”.

Compare this to the utter bilge of Polly Tonybee in the Guardian. On the student demo against cuts to higher education on the 10th of November, she implores protesters to ask themselves, “exactly how angry should we be about graduates paying more? Where on the indignation-o-meter does this belong?” explaining that, “There is a limit to how many protests can be heard as jobs, valued services and the whole public realm comes under mortal assault, the effects felt worst by those who make least noise.”

Essentially she’s asking students to hold back in case we are successful in defending our education, which in her view would simply mean more cuts for other public services.

While Pilger links the public spending cuts together, understanding that none of them are ‘necessary’ as the government suggests and declaring them the manifestation of “a vicious, antique ideology, albeit served as economic snake oil”, Tonybee completely caves to this vicious, antique ideology, telling us we are in “a world of scrimp and pinch”.

As chief apologist for the Labour Party, no matter how low it sinks, she showcases Labour’s total lack of a genuine answer to the Tories’ economic medicine. By buying in to neo-liberal economic ideology, they have no solutions to when that ideology is biting their own supporters in the arse. Or rather, they have no solution when the Tories are doing it and they want to mount something that looks like an opposition.

Cutting public services and turning a blind eye to an historic transfer of wealth from poor to rich is not an alternative to cutting public services and encouraging an historic transfer of wealth from poor to rich.

This is what happens when you fail to make arguments on your own terms, invoking your own values. If you try to make left-wing arguments on right-wing terms you inevitably lose the argument and shift further and further rightwards because right-wing arguments do tend to be more logical if the starting point to the debate is an economic system that puts a price on everything and a value on nothing.

So rather than marching for free education as a right not a privilege, to defend universities’ ability to continue their work as unique civilising institutions that enrich our society and to make them places where people from all backgrounds can have the opportunity to learn and better themselves, Tonybee suggests that we students who will march in our thousands should “demand back the right for everyone to have a second chance with a free level 2 course, and give back the free Train to Gain opportunity for the low-skilled to climb the ladder out of the minimum wage”.

If she could just look, as Pilger does, across the channel, she would see what can be achieved when people act together in solidarity with each other, where students occupy buildings to defend pensioners’ rights. What’s happening in France doesn’t come about by the disenfranchised refusing to stand up for themselves in case they make it worse for other disenfranchised people. It happens when people come together to fight as one against big business, the government, and those who would rather the poor suffer than give away a fraction of their billions.

What Tonybee is suggesting is exactly what the Tories want- divide and rule. Benefit claimants demanding students take the brunt of the cuts and students demanding that benefit claimants take the rap.

Instead, we need to fight not just for our own rights as individuals, but for the rights of others too. As Pilger says, “there is no other way now”.

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Filed under: Activism, Education, , , , , , , , , , ,

One Response

  1. I fail to detect any spending cuts in this budget. The government continues to spend more than it takes in: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/uk-budget-what-cuts/

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