SocialistResistance Algiers, Cairo, London, Manchester
Let’s Go Tunisia Style!
On last week’s EMA demo in London, students were shouting: “Cameron wipe off that smile/ Let’s go Tunisia style!” In Britain and internationally, people have learnt from Tunisia that it is possible to change things. Two weeks ago, the Tunisian people sent their dictator, Ben Ali, into exile. But they’re not finished. They want the rest of the old, corrupt regime to go as well. The wave of revolt is now spreading across North Africa and the Middle East – Algeria, Egypt, Jordan. For decades, these countries have
been ruled by undemocratic elites which answer to the International Monetary Fund and Western imperialism rather than their own people, elites which have betrayed the Palestinians by accepting the domination of Israel. The hope is that the growing movements will give new strength to the Palestinian resistance, already angered by its own leaders’ sellouts. Youth unemployment, already high, is now soaring in these countries. Young people, especially, understand that for a better economic future, there has to be political change.
But to achieve real, long-term change, the social movement will have to become broad and powerful enough to challenge the state. In Tunisia, the state is in near-paralysis. Soldiers have already refused to fire on protestors. But to stop the state taking back the initiative, the people will need to build their own alternative power. Youth, workers and the poor will have to self-organise, seize the banks and industry and use them to shape their own future. The IMF and the imperialists won’t like that. We’ll have to do the same thing here.
“There is a revolution growing inside of us, an immense dissatisfaction and frustration that will destroy us unless we find a way of canalising this energy into something that can challenge the status quo and give us some kind of hope.” Gaza Youth Break Out Manifesto
Organise! Occupy! Fight Back! Student protests have given a shot in the arm to the wider anticuts movement. They have helped reduce Lib Dem support to a pitiful rump in most parts of the country. They have put pressure on Labour to be less cautious. They have forced the Government to partially withdraw its plan to cut sports funding to schools. But most of the measures have been voted through Parliament. The question is: what next? We have to decide first, what are our goals? First, we have to stop ConDem policies being carried out. Our other main demand should be: free education for all. If we want to build an alliance to defend education, we have to have an alternative, ie education that is free at the point of use, like the NHS, but paid for by taxing the rich, not the less well off. So, what methods can we use to achieve our goals? In every university, students will have to occupy in order to win. Our
aim should be to disrupt the normal functioning of the education system. We have to develop our links with school students and discuss with them how we can defend FE colleges and schools from the cuts. We need to build a broad alliance across society, not as an alternative to militant actions, but as a way of making our actions effective. The call for free education can unite university, college and school students with public and private sector workers facing cuts and job losses. We have already seen slogans like ‘Save the EMA, Save Pensions’. We need more of this kind of joined-up thinking. What kind of student movement is needed? The movement has to be self-organised, democratic and autonomous. It is only through self-organised, democratic structures that the movement can genuinely express itself and be inclusive. It can then learn from its mistakes and develop confidence in its own power. Autonomy follows from self-organisation. To take our own decisions,
we should be independence from the structures of the NUS and of the trade union movement. The London Student Assembly is a good example of this. Regional and local assemblies need to be built and co-ordinated at a national level. But that doesn’t mean we disengage from the NUS. We need to take the fight to the bureaucrats who have failed to support bold action against the cuts. We have to organise to put our arguments in every student union. The questions we pose are: who really wants to defend education?; who really wants democratic unions?. As part of the struggle for a decent education, we need to build a movement for a different kind of society, where the economy is run by the majority on the basis of need, not profit. But that doesn’t simply mean building narrow ‘party’ student societies. We should be trying to construct democratic anticapitalist groups in the colleges, so that we can develop our understanding of the capitalist society as a whole, where the real problems lie, and who our allies are.
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