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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”.

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

The fees disgrace – blame Labour

Councillor Dr. Rupert Read. Rupert Read has been a Green Party City Councillor in Norwich since 2004, to find out more about Rupert visit his blog and twitter.

Let’s be very clear. It was Labour who opened the floodgates to the university tuition fees debacle that is now being imposed on our country.

The LibDems have allowed it to happen; the Tories made it happen; but it was Labour who commissioned the Browne report, and it was Labour who set the whole thing up in the first place, by imposing top-up fees. As soon as the argument had been made by Charles Clarke that it was right for students to pay a substantial amount toward their higher education, and that higher education free at the point of delivery was going to be a thing of the past, then full-scale marketisation became inevitable. It was only a matter of time. I made this argument at the time, as did Ian Gibson. We have, sadly, been proven right by the news that the ConDems are going to bring in variable fees of up to £9k.

It is LABOUR who need to take the blame for having created the conditions for this dreadful outcome. (And it is only the Green Party (and the Nats, etc.) who come out of this with clean hands: see http://twitter.com/#!/TheGreenParty)
So: come the next election, let’s all be clear about that. If you want to punish the LibDems over this, then there is no point in voting Labour.

Filed under: Education, Green Party, Labour, , , , ,

The Undead Hand of New Labour Strikes Back….

The following article was cross-posted from the The Multicultural Politic with the kind permission of Justin Baidoo.

Just when you thought it was safe to turn on the TV without seeing a Blairite taking control of some part of government policy… the Coalition Government once again disappoint.

Prime Minister David Cameron has recently been playing a steady public relations game of trying to appear tough and Thatcherite on the deficit but also as reasonable and caring in regard to public servants. However the guile and PR wizardry shown in offsetting bribes to those who give their lives for an unnecessary war, against cutting £105 million in the regeneration of jobs in Sheffield this week, is already wearing thin. George Osborne not to be outdone by Cameron has performed even greater political sorcery by raising back from the political grave some of the worst elements of the late New Labour government. Arch-Blairite, the former Work and Pensions Secretary John Hutton, has been announced by the Chancellor today, as the head of a new public sector pensions commission, thereby showing once again New Labour’s efforts in helping to legitimise the Coalition Government’s attacks on British public sector workers and pensions.

In truth, there is a woeful disparity between private sector pensions and public sector ones. Osborne states that it is unacceptable for nurses, teachers, low paid workers in local government and in other sectors of the state enjoy their above meagre pensions whilst many low paid workers in the private sector workers don’t even get meagre pensions. His cunning solution is to resolve this imbalance is by further impoverishing public sector workers in their retirement, leaving it to Clegg to announce an ambiguous axe to Members of Parliament pensions though they will probably remain gold plated with their generous golden goodbyes in this parliament. We’re all in this together then.

The New Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair once said that his priorities were “Education, Education and Education”, from that espousal brought the UK’s answer to Charter Schools in America, the city academy. Publicly funded, but privately owned and controlled with a powerful budget involving virtually no regulation or external oversight, making it ripe for corruption (paying services to your mate’s businesses) and vulnerable to economic mismanagement. This was the previous Labour government’s flagship scheme, it involved almost 200 schools in England and had taken them out of control from local democratic institutions into private hands with less accountability and exemption from the Freedom of Information Act. In many cases it brought poor schools into exceptionally bad schools with nicer (but educationally inappropriate) buildings, coupled with a drive towards higher exclusion rates particularly for children on “free school meals” and a narrowing of the curriculum available for children.

With that in mind, we have just witnessed an unholy matrimony between another Conservative Education Minister, Michael Gove, and journalist Toby Young on unleashing “free schools” on English society. Every parent wants a good local school, even teaching unions are united on that aspect. Gove and Young put their faith in untrained middle class parents to run their own schools (it’s the big society, stupid). Though the unions, particularly the National Union of Teachers, advocate that all schools should be not just publicly funded, but also owned and controlled by the local community including parents and by trusting teaching professionals to take ownership of the curriculum. Trust teaching staff? That isn’t the New Labour or evidently the Conservative way, instead they trust business, middle class do-gooders, and teaching management as they can do no wrong.

The “Free schools” policy is the Blairite Academies policy with “rocket boosters on” to quote Gove, whilst academies were initially aimed at deprived communities and transforming struggling schools; free schools are state-funded academic institutions that like Academies, are also unaccountable to local authorities but are new schools, set-up by individuals that will compete for resources against existing schools. There is no new money planned to support these free schools and they must attempt to attract children from other schools if there are to be economically viable. Rather than giving parents and communities more power and control over existing schools, the Conservative Education Secretary wants to use the New Labour argument of  “parental choice” to generate oversupply of schools and school places to create a market system in Education. Meanwhile Toby Young wants “Classics” to be a defining feature of the free school he wants to setup, a school where 10% of the intake may be selected (he hasn’t decided yet) on their aptitude to Latin at the ripe old age of 11. Bolder than Ed Balls’ pumped up Academy programme yet still true to New Labour’s ideology of the marketisation of state education.

Elsewhere in Education, the Coalition government commitment to New Labour was reinforced with the trotting out of the David “Two Brains” Willetts, a Cabinet Minister with responsibility for Higher Education. Willetts attempted to bewitch the British public by advocating that a “fair” form of taxation to pay for Universities is to saddle mostly working class students with mounting and unsustainable debt; whilst arguing that it is definitely not fair to place higher taxation, especially on those with higher incomes, to provide higher education for all. Never-mind the hypocrisy of these politicians being the beneficiaries of not only free education but receiving maintenance grants whilst they were educated; the irony is that at least 75% of the Cabinet are millionaires and they could have paid for their own education but instead claimed the free money, like they did with their tax-funded expenses.

There is no refuge from New Labour in foreign policy either, whilst there is turmoil and injustice in the Middle East, Tony Blair is positioned as the saviour of the Palestinians, his broad appeal, honesty and plain speaking makes him the West’s best hope for peace in the Middle East. The free Gaza movement flotillas expose the hatred and contempt the Israeli government has for the Palestinian people and those who attempt to alleviate their grinding poverty, Tony receives millions of dollars a year to “jaw, jaw”. Though he moonlights as an Middle East peace envoy, according to the Syrian leader recently the Middle East is edging closer and closer to “war, war”.

Filed under: Education, Labour, , , , , , , , , ,

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