> A former Frenchay occupier explains why they are protesting, and how he thinks the current government is failing its citizens
There is a myth that forms the basis for all arguments against the occupation. This same myth is also the precept for arguments against any protest action.
More specifically, it is the argument that seems to have been accepted without question by our Vice Chancellor and a number of students.
This was demonstrated at the AGM last Thursday (25th) when a student argued against a motion to defend arts and humanities. The motion called for UWE management to make their spending priorities known in light of the governments 100% cuts to this area. The opposing student based his argument on the myth that cuts have to happen because there is no money.
This seems to pull the rug out from under the protestor’s feet. It seems so obvious to some students that they are now convinced it is correct. In reality, government propaganda has won a major victory.
At the last election the myth gathered momentum; that there was no money was used by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to highlight Labours economic mismanagement. Yet the problem precedes this. During the last few months of the Labour government, ministers avoided talking about cuts. When they did, their argument was that they had put so much money into the public sector that they couldn’t possibly expand it any further. What actually happened was the privatisation of public assets under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). The public sector did not expand; it contracted, and continues to do so.
The myth is now being used to get rid of all kinds of non-profit public services, leaving these “new markets” open to private companies. It does not take much research to expose the government line. The government states that “There is no money” yet is able to sustain two costly wars. They are able to find an £850bn bailout for banks. They have even leant Ireland £7bn, to prop up their own economy. Still got no money?.
The answer is simple: These cuts are being made not out of necessity, but ideology. The fact that the UK is owed around £123bn in corporate tax, while the government cuts dial-a-ride buses for pensioners in Croydon, indicates this mode of thinking.
Don’t let anyone tell you there is no money. Not even me. Go and investigate. The purpose of education is to create people who can think for themselves. The people who deserve the least respect simply follow the leader, embracing the warmth of authority and majority.
Unfortunately these people are our elected representatives. That is why students all over the country have taken matters into their own hands and started occupying university campuses. That is why 2000 students marched in Bristol this month and were stopped by military police tactics. So much for the right to peaceful protest.
The scope for people to communicate through peaceful means is slowly being narrowed, hence the violence at Millbank. The government and the media won’t ever consider that these cuts are unnecessary. The spectrum has been restricted to “where” cuts should happen, not “if”. Consequentially those asking these questions are dubbed violent lunatics without PhD’s in economics.
At UWE we are occupying not only in protest of the governments plans to cut education, but of managements plans for this university. The price for a year of education at UWE will soon be £8000 a year. That’s £24,000 for a degree per “customer”.
The government gives this money to the university as your tuition fee loan. You then pay back the government. The argument that the re-payment plan is so liberal that some people will never even pay it back means that the government is essentially filtering free money to universities through students. The university has already been paid in your tuition fee loan. It is the taxpayer and the student who are left footing the bill.
So when management says they are only increasing tuition fees in response to government cuts they are lying. The board of governors wants to make a profit; UWE is the 6th largest university in the UK, and at £24,000 per head, that’s some profit.
At UWE we have used direct action to occupy a space which is now a forum for discussion on the nature of the problem and possible solutions. A place where students can participate in debates, meetings and activities, whatever their point of view. Decisions are made on a day to day basis and involve everyone. Core24 space is not occupied, but liberated.
By Anthony Killick