Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Student militants continue to lead the way

Today was Day X 2, the second nationwide day of action called in the wake of Demo 2010, and by all accounts it looks like the momentum is holding. Police repression seems to be radicalising, rather than scaring off, many protesters, and resistance continues to grow. This is a genuine revolt.

For those who weren't there, Indymedia has a helpful summary of the days events, whilst a more in-depth account, based on live updates, can be found at LibCom.

One of the most positive developments in this protest is that the police are now on the back foot. Mass outrage over police kettling translated into largely effective avoidance tactics on the ground. At the same time, the will for occupations continues to grow, despite Aaron Porter's inevitable back-peddling.

As Patrick Kingsley reports for the Guardian (9:56 entry);
National union of students (NUS) president Aaron Porter has already reneged on a promise made only on Sunday in which he pledged the NUS would "organise financial, legal and political aid for all current and future occupations."

The Cambridge university occupation – who were yesterday afternoon issued with a possession order by university authorities – asked Porter to provide them with specific NUS legal support. But Porter refused, arguing that NUS can only offer general legal advice about occupiers' rights, rather than legal support for individual occupations, in a declaration which seemed to contradict the promises he made on Sunday.

Porter did not respond to requests from the Guardian for comment last night but he did make the following statements on his Twitter account, @aaronporter:
Porter's apparent u-turn came only a day after promising students at the University College London (UCL) to organise financial, legal and political aid for all occupations and apologising for his "spineless" lack of prior support for university occupations.

The Cambridge occupation criticised Porter for only offering advice "which is already freely available on the internet."

The occupiers said the NUS had "failed" them. "We are being failed by institutions which are meant to be standing up for us - this is why we need to step up to act and resist."

A statement released by the UCL occupation yesterday also criticised Porter's actions: "The UCL occupation is disappointed it has taken just one day for Aaron Porter to renege on his promise to provide financial and legal support to occupations.

"The excuse that NUS cannot provide support to individual students is thin - as a national organisation it has unparalleled access to those willing to offer pro bono legal advice and representation. We urge Aaron to reconsider before he loses the goodwill and unity created yesterday, and hope that his acceptance of other proposals is not under threat."
This is significant because, ordinarily, such a U-Turn would usually serve as a way of demobilising radicalism. However, as I commented yesterday, Porter has lost all control of this movement. And nobody is willing to let him have control of the reins again.

As Rowan Rheingans wrote in the Guardian, the students "are busy organising, occupying and reimagining what we want education to be." Thus, they "have got more pressing things to do" than "dwell for any length of time on what could be more empty promises." In a few short days, students have done what the labour movement thus far cannot and relegated their bureaucracy to the sidelines.

The next days of action are set for Sunday 5th and Saturday 11th December, "so that parents, younger students, trade unionists and other supporters of the campaign who aren't able to join us on the walkouts can take part." Whilst they continue to hold the fort in occupied lecture theatres and university halls, those behind this momentous campaign realise that it has to go wider and are offering those supporting from the sidelines the chance to get stuck in.

It's an opportunity we cannot pass up. Indeed, if opposition to the government's austerity agenda is to have any success, it will be because the resistance is an organic, broad-based, and ever evolving.

Those who thrive on sterile meetings, front groups, and lofty rhetoric unmatched by action have had their day. What we are seeing now is a movement genuinely led from below, thriving without hierarchy or formal leadership. In short, it is exactly what we need in the fight ahead.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Quote of the day...

...goes, a day late, to NUS President Aaron Porter;
For too long the NUS has perhaps been too cautious and too spineless about being committed to supporting student activism. Perhaps I spent too long over the last few days doing the same.
This has to be the understatement of the century. Nonetheless, his declaration that "I just want to apologise for my dithering in the last few days" is to be welcomed. If only because the "leaders" of the left are waking up to the fact that we're no longer content to simply let off steam as they further their careers.

As Lenin's Tomb put it, this "eans the most militant students are setting the pace. They are leading, and the official leadership is trying to catch up." This is indeed a good thing.

But what's important now is that we don't let them. They can grovel all they like, and I implore them to forever to admit their spinelessness. But the second that they are back in front the concessions will disappear, militancy will be swallowed up, and momentum will cease in favour of a pressure-release that accomplishes nothing.

The student movement has put everybody else to shame, thus far in the campaign against ruling class austerity. If they fold to the moderates, then there really is no hope for any of us.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

No War but Class War - November 2010

This month, of course, was the month that class anger finally erupted in Britain. Where the trade unions have been talking big but not living up to their words, students defied the moderate noises of their leaders to make as much noise as possible in order to build momentum for a direct action campaign.

Despite desperate media attempts at vilification, Demo 2010 and Day X demonstrated the strength of numbers and militant resolve of those involved. Between and following the two events, a slew of occupations built upon that resolve in order to challenge the cuts through direct action. With two more days of action planned in the coming week, the hope has to be that the current momentum can be maintained, and that it can inspire other affected sectors to take up the fight with equal vigour.

One of the most telling events in the saga so far came when Fitwatch - a police watchdog and activist website - was taken down at the request of the police. Innumerable sites reposted their last blog, giving advice to students in the wake of Demo 2010, in defiance of this censorship.

Soon afterwards, Fitwatch returned, demonstrating that authorities still don't fully comprehend the power of social media. e-Solidarity is at least as powerful as its real-world counterpart.

According to LibCom, Italy has been hit by similar student actions;
Student protests literally exploded all over Italy to block the approval of the new infamous Gelmini reform, which aims at privatising the university and turning it into a profit-making machine. Thousands and thousands of students have held demonstrations all over the peninsula and occupied university buildings.
In Rome protests were held in front of the Senate and students tried to break into the building. Another group of hundreds of people broke into the Colosseum and hung a banner saying “No profit on our future“. In the ancient Roman monument that was originally used for gladiatorial contests involving predatory animals, the students sang “Today we are the lions!”

In Pisa the students targeted the train station and the airport, as you can see on this energising video. A group of a dozen of people also managed to breach security at the Leaning Tower and flew a massive banner from the top which said “No to the reform. General strike”.

Similarly, students occupied the port in Palermo, the Mole Antonelliana in Turin, the Ministry of Treasure in Milan, the Basilica of San Marco in Venice, and so on. The government’s response has been the same we all already know: charges, violence and arrests. This hasn’t stopped the protests though…

The key points of the Gelmini reform:

Grants and scholarships won’t be granted anymore according to the student’s family income, but merely on a “merit” basis, which is something completely new to the Italian education system. If you’re poor and you’re bad at school, get a job in a call centre and don’t even try to go to university! Another major criteria will be the university career students choose: students who pick practical subjects that create useful workforce (e.g. Engineering) will be much more likely to get a scholarship than students who would like to study Philosophy or History. In addition, loans will be introduced on the model of British and American universities. Students will be in debt before even graduating.

Postgradute researchers, already symbol of precarious work in Italy, will be hit even harder: the reform states that any researcher who hasn’t got a permanent contract after 6 years of working can and should be sacked by the same university who has been exploiting them…just like saying “If hunger is the problem, let’s get rid of the hungry!”
In Portugal, a one-day general strike shut down the country, with planes grounded, trains cancelled and rubbish going uncollected.

As I wrote the other day, this action clearly "showed off the power that the workers have over the economy," but failed to deploy that power to full effect. Like the general strike in Spain, it served only as "a safety valve against genuine radicalism." Our actions have to be maintained for as long as necessary to force the bosses onto the back foot.

In America,
Labor Notes tells us that, in Florida, "the Coalition of Immokalee Workers arrived at a far-reaching agreement with the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange."

After decades of struggle and a corporate campaign strategy, "targeting the well-known brands that purchase tomatoes from the growers," the agreement contains vital "safeguards against wage theft, including reconciling the pounds of tomatoes harvested with the pounds of tomatoes workers are paid for, and worker-operated time clocks to counter minimum-wage and overtime violations." Now, the union takes on responsibility "for worker’s rights education, for monitoring the code, and for helping organize effective health and safety committees."

CIW was also able to expose and bring to court a number of slavery cases. Workers "were locked in trucks at night and suffered brutal abuse." Some workers "escaped by breaking through the air vent in a truck," bringing the case to the CIW and making headway towards some measure of justice.

Meanwhile, the Seattle Solidarity Network continues to lead by example in terms of how communities need to organise in order to defend themselves and assert their interests as a class. In this instance, the strength of collective support helped a former tenant win her struggle against a vindictive landlord.

For three years, Gladys lived with her daughter in the King Way apartments, owned by Housing Resources Group (H.R.G). One day this summer, Gladys's daughter was in a car accident. Luckily, everyone was ok. But less than four days after the accident, management had the car towed out of Gladys's private parking spot. Apparently this was part of a crackdown on damaged vehicles. Rather than personally contact her to let her know she needed to move her car, management simply placed a sticker on the car itself, which Gladys didn’t happen to go anywhere near during those few days. As a result of this callous and arbitrary act, she suddenly faced an enormous towing fee. Even after the car was sold at auction and the sale price deducted, she found herself pursued by a collection agency for $547. As a low-wage worker, there was no way she could afford this.

Not long after this incident, Gladys moved out of the King Way, whereupon H.R.G. gave her yet another slap in the face: a letter saying they were taking her entire deposit, citing no reason except mysterious 'miscellaneous' expenses.

Gladys joined SeaSol. On October 1st, she and 27 others marched into H.R.G.'s headquarters and delivered a demand: settle the $547 towing bill, and return the deposit in full.

When the two-week deadline passed with no resolution, SeaSol started putting up "Don't Rent Here" posters around the King Way Apartments, warning prospective tenants about the abuses they might face from H.R.G. A few days later, we expanded this effort to cover more and more H.R.G. buildings, focusing on the largest ones which had vacancies to fill.

Soon after these actions got underway, H.R.G. mailed Gladys a response: a check for $300 in partial compensation for the towing, nothing for the deposit, and a letter arguing that she ought to accept this much and be satisfied. Gladys, furious at this, did not agree, and neither did SeaSol, so we stepped up the poster campaign and made plans to begin more serious actions soon.

At this point, an executive at H.R.G. called SeaSol and requested a meeting. Not wanting to be unreasonable, we agreed. Gladys and four other SeaSol'ers used the opportunity to explain to two H.R.G. executives (including the Director), in person, why we were standing by our original demand and would not be satisfied with less.

They went for the usual management tactic of trying to separate Gladys from the rest of SeaSol. The Director said, "Our goal is to satisfy Gladys, not SeaSol." We replied that it was the same thing. Gladys had co-signed the demand, which was for the minimum amount needed to fix the bad situation that H.R.G's actions had caused.

They asked, "How much time will you give us?". We replied that we had given them two weeks already, and that ought to be enough.

A few days later, Gladys received another check. It included her entire deposit, plus the remaining $247 in towing fees. 
I have cited Sea Sol's example previously. If we are going to be successful in any attempt to challenge capitalism, particularly in the age of austerity, building up community solidarity is integral.

It appears that the trade union movement in Britain has yet to learn this, or the examples of the students and international struggles. Mark Serwotka, general secretary of PCS, has called for solidarity with the students in occupation. However, whilst acknowledging the "inspiration," he fails to note that the labour movement needs to follow their lead in terms of militancy and direct action.

The People's Daily quotes Serwotka as saying that "strikes are inevitable - mass strikes are the best way." But in concrete terms all he can offer is "more demonstrations, more marches," which returns us to the question of passivity achieving nothing.

Likewise, new Unite leader Len McCluskey has said that "this resistance against the cuts is only the beginning. It is time to stand up and fight back." But, in an interview with the Guardian, he betrayed that he was clearly trying to walk a fine line - sounding militant to the point of challenging the idea "that the law is given down from Mount Sinai," only to back off with promises that "he was not going to be self-destructive."

We have seen a thousand times before that the labour movement bureaucracy is perfectly capable of sounding up for a fight when it needs to. But the pre-disposition towards compromise and sell-out that comes with the position all too often kicks in at the most crucial of times. Thus, workers who have stuck their necks out for a cause find that their "leaders" have let the guillotine drop for their own convenience. His eagerness to engage with Ed Miliband should be warning enough that there is no radicalism here.

There is plenty of potential for the kind of militant mass resistance that can directly challenge capitalism. Indeed, there are enough examples of people getting on with the business of fighting the class war. We now need to see that the rank-and-file continue to lead from below, without being subsumed and demobilised by the dead-weight of bureaucrats and vanguards.

Media hype and WikiLeaks

On Friday, via Twitter, WikiLeaks announced that the "UK Government has issued a ‘D-notice’ warning to all UK news editors, asking to be briefed on upcoming WikiLeaks stories." This comes after the United States briefed its allies, including Britain, on the potential fallout of the next leak.

This, of course, has sparked speculation in the media;
The Sunday papers all report on the imminent release of thousands of confidential US government cables by whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks. 

The Sunday Times says the UK fears the contents of the secret memos - penned by US diplomats - may affect the safety of UK citizens in Muslim countries.

It warns that those in Pakistan, Iraq, Iran and elsewhere could be targeted over the information that is released.

Now, I'm not going to dwell to long on this point, but I can't help wonder whether this speculation, fuelled by the US "briefing," is all just a way of dialing down the potential impact of revelations.

After all, if American diplomats have recorded events or actions that could impact upon foreign relations, then surely this fact alone affects relations without the detail being released? And "Islamic fury" could as well be ignited by the fact that we have information which would anger them as by that information itself.

Or, in a simple case of blinding by science, it could simply be the case that the flurry of speculation will be more exciting than the revelation itself.

What comes next from WikiLeaks will likely be either something that the government really doesn't want us to see or just so much hype. Either way, we need to judge it on its own merits. Not the media or government reaction to it.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

On austerity in Ireland

Today, tens of thousands of people marched through Dublin to protest the Irish government's austerity programme. Unfortunately, it is almost certain that their protests will fall on deaf ears. Despite the pattern of events across the world, the labour movement is simply not learning the lessons that this current struggle has to teach us.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is set to give Ireland an €85bn loan - as a return on it implementing a "recovery plan" which amounts to an outright attack on the working class. Across the next four years, it will take the equivalent of €20 per week off the average person, cut 25,000 jobs, slash €2.8bn off the welfare bill, reduce the minimum wage by a euro an hour, and raise VAT by 3%. All the while, the extremely low rate of corporation tax will remain in place, to spare the bosses a share of the burden.

There is, rightly, a lot of anger about this. One trade union leader has predicted civil unrest "the like of which has not been seen for decades." But the head of the ICTU says this is "unlikely," and so far the show of discontent has been overtly passive.

But even if it wasn't, that would be no guarantee of success. When the prospect of IMF-funded class war came to Greece, there were riots on the streets - and the measures still came to pass. In Portugal, this Wednesday, a one-day general strike brought the economy to a standstill - and in Friday the austerity budget was passed. Even after which, investors are still "bet[ting] on a Portuguese bailout."

If it appears as though I am suggesting that nothing can be done, that isn't the case. On the contrary, I am arguing that what needs to be done hasn't yet been done.

A protest, wether passive or riotous, is still just a display of anger, a letting off of steam. It is useful in getting a message to the public and building up a support base or a movement, but in and of itself it will change nothing. As I said of Greece, the main failure has been "the apparent inability to turn this riotous anger and willingness to rebel into an act of true revolution."

Likewise, a single-day strike - whether in a single business or across an entire nation - can never be more than a safety valve against genuine radicalism. The Portugese strike showed off the power that the workers have over the economy, but never deployed it to full effect.

As the CNT said of a similar general strike in Spain;
An indefinite general strike paralysing the country until the government withdraws anti-worker and anti-social actions would by contrast act as a binder for workers to recover their class consciousness and act together, with an eye to the destruction of the capitalist system through social revolution which is the only truly effective medicine against congenital diseases of the system.
Ultimately, it needs to be realised that we are not going to reason with those in power. Nor are we going to shame them. They stand by their ideology and not only believe that what they are doing is neccesary but that it is morally right.

If the working class, the vast bulk of people who are being forced to bear their brunt, want to see any change we shall have to force it. We need to strike, occupy, and sabotage. Indefinitely.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Media bury documents revealing Israel's policy of near-starvation for Gaza

The following alert was released by Medialens last week. I repost it here because the story it tells is one that needs to be heard - not only of the deliberate injustices being committed against the Palestinians, but of the media's silent complicity in the matter.

Israel has been forced to reveal what Palestinians and other observers on the ground have known for a long time: that the blockade of Gaza is state policy intended to inflict collective punishment, not to bolster Israeli “security”.

An Israeli human rights group has won a legal battle to compel the Israeli government to release three important documents. These outline state policy for permitting the transfer of goods into Gaza prior to the May 31 attack on the peace flotilla in which nine people were killed by Israeli forces. The group, Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, is demanding Israeli transparency. Meanwhile, Israel refuses to release documents on the current version of blockade policy which was “eased” after international condemnation following the flotilla attack.

The released documents, whose existence Israel had denied for eighteen months, reveal that the state approved “a policy of deliberate reduction” of basic goods, including food and fuel, in the Gaza Strip. Gisha Director Sari Bashi explains:
“Instead of considering security concerns, on the one hand, and the rights and needs of civilians living in Gaza, on the other, Israel banned glucose for biscuits and the fuel needed for regular supply of electricity – paralyzing normal life in Gaza and impairing the moral character of the State of Israel. I am sorry to say that major elements of this policy are still in place.” (Gisha: Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, ‘Due to Gisha's Petition: Israel Reveals Documents related to the Gaza Closure Policy’, October 21, 2010)
As Saeed Bannoura of the International Middle East Media Center reports, the Israeli government imposed a deliberate policy:

“in which the dietary needs for the population of Gaza are chillingly calculated, and the amounts of food let in by the Israeli government measured to remain just enough to keep the population alive at a near-starvation level. This documents the statement made by a number of Israeli officials that they are ‘putting the people of Gaza on a diet’.” (Saeed Bannoura, ‘Israeli government documents show deliberate policy to keep Gazans at near-starvation levels’, International Middle East Media Center, November 6, 2010 21:32)

Bannoura adds:
“This release of documents also severely undermines Israel's oft-made claim that the siege is ‘for security reasons’, as it documents a deliberate and systematic policy of collective punishment of the entire population of Gaza.”
When Israel and the United States were reacting to Hamas’s election victory in Gaza in January 2006, long-time Israeli government adviser Dov Weisglass stated:
“The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.” (‘Hamas readies for government, Israel prepares sanctions’, Agence France Presse, February 16, 2006)
The released documents contain actual equations used by the Israeli government to calculate the exact amounts of food, fuel and other necessities needed to do exactly that. (‘Submitted to Gisha in the framework of a Freedom of Information Act Petition, AP 2744/09 Gisha v. Defense Ministry’ [PDF], Appendices B, C and D)

The policy is all the more disturbing, indeed repellent, given that almost half the people of Gaza are children under the age of eighteen. One might reasonably conclude that Israel has deliberately forced the undernourishment of hundreds of thousands of children in direct violation of international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Media Response? A Polite Silence

Our searches of the Nexis newspaper database show that, as far as we could determine, not a single UK newspaper has reported the release of these damning Israeli documents. We widened our searches to include all English-language publications covered worldwide by Nexis. We found just two: one from the Palestine News Network on October 21 and one in Palestine Chronicle on November 6.

We were so surprised by the uniform silence across the English-language press that we asked US-based media analyst David Peterson to check our findings. He was able to do so, spelling out his search results as follows (email to Media Lens, November 11, 2010):

Major World Publications: zero

All News (English): two (the same two that we found, as mentioned above)

Broadcast Transcripts: zero

A search of the Factiva database (covering all major English-language newspapers and wire services) found the same results. Peterson commented:
“No mentions in any of the major English-language newspapers or wire services of the fact that someone had revealed the actual Israeli government policy towards the Gaza Palestinians is to force a ‘deliberate reduction’ in their access to the necessities of everyday survival.”
It takes a peculiar form of social malaise for this astonishing media silence to be maintained in ostensibly free societies.

The Fiercely “Independent” BBC

On November 11, an online BBC article reported on the Gaza blockade but made no mention of the released documents. (Jon Donnison, ‘UN: No change in Gaza despite easing of Israel blockade’ BBC news online, November 11, 2010 Last updated at 00:25)

Reporter Jon Donnison wrote:
“The UN says there has been ‘no material change” for people in Gaza since Israel announced it was ‘easing’ its economic blockade of the Palestinian territory.”
Jon Ging, the head of UN operations in Gaza, said few people had noticed any difference:
“There's been no material change for the people on the ground here in terms of their status, the aid dependency, the absence of any recovery or reconstruction, no economy.”
Ging continued:
“The easing, as it was described, has been nothing more than a political easing of the pressure on Israel and Egypt.”
The BBC gave the final word to Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry:
“Why is the border blockaded? Because the territory has been overtaken by a declared terror movement."
This assertion that the Gaza blockade is motivated by security concerns went unchallenged.

World News Today, presented by Zeinab Badawi on BBC4, broadcast a piece by Donnison along similar lines to his article. (BBC World News Today, BBC4, Thursday, November 11, 2010, 7pm)

We wrote to Jon Donnison and asked whether he was aware that the Israeli human rights group Gisha had obtained Israeli government documents confirming that the collective punishment of Gaza is based on politics, not security. We asked him:
“Have you reported the release of these documents?

“Will you be pursuing it in a new article?” (Email, November 11, 2010)
We emailed again on November 16 but have received no response to date.

Compare and contrast the BBC’s performance on this story with a new Foreign Office-sponsored piece on the BBC by news presenter Zeinab Badawi:
“Transparency, accountability of government actions is absolutely crucial. And frankly that’s the role of the media. You know, shining a harsh spotlight on truths and sunlight, after all, is a very strong antiseptic, isn’t it?” (‘Zeinab Badawi says freedom of expression is cornerstone of democracy in Britain’, November 5, 2010)
Badawi added that “the BBC’s constitution means that we absolutely, +absolutely+ cherish and protect and fight for our independence. We don't even have an arm's length relationship with the government, we just don’t deal with the government at all.”

Badawi continued the self-adulation:
“It [the BBC] really is a vital, vital tool for the dissemination of information in all sorts of ways. All these things have really served to underscore that freedom of speech that we have in this country. And I suppose the BBC best epitomises that tradition.”
She concluded:
“I'm very proud to be an employee of the BBC.”
Suggested action

The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. If you do write to journalists, we strongly urge you to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.

Write to Jon Donnison of the BBC
Email: jon.donnison@bbc.co.uk

Write to his editors:

Jeremy Bowen, BBC News Middle East editor
Email: jeremy.bowen@bbc.co.uk

Steve Herrmann, BBC News online editor
Email: steve.herrmann@bbc.co.uk

Write to Zeinab Badawi of the BBC
Email: zeinab.badawi@bbc.co.uk

Please blind-copy us in on any exchanges or forward them to us later at: editor@medialens.org 

Meanwhile, back in the classroom...

Whilst students and school pupils were out on the streets, Education Secretary Michael Gove was unveiling a white paper promising fundamental changes in the classroom.Unfortunately, all those changes do is underline the fact that there is nothing libertarian in the government's education policy.

The key point is that Gove has promised to restore "traditional educational values." This means giving teachers new powers to "discipline" children, including using "reasonable force." It means empowering heads to "maintain discipline beyond the school gates." It means increasing the age of compulsory education to 18. And it means increasing the autonomy of schools to control their pupils, a point I have dissected previously.

This isn't to say that there aren't positive measures in the white paper, of course. Improving how vocational education can progress to higher education and making behavious, safety, and bullying key areas of Ofsted inspections are just two examples.
But the problem is that in too many instances, some even where the right problem has been identified, the solution on offer is an authoritarian one. The paper comes from the perspective that children need to be controlled and directed, rather than educated, in order to turn out right. Hence why schools will be backed in introducing blazer and tie uniforms, and traditional prefect and house systems, but educational democracy and free thinking is off the menu.

The unions have attacked Gove's proposals, saying that the plans were a "vicious assault," and would create a two-tier education system. But even they come from the perspective that defending the present system is an end in itself rather than just a means to one.

As I said when the "free schools" idea kicked off;
The Summerhill model, - direct democracy, accountability, and community discipline, in which the children engage as much as the teachers - works. Hence why the case for the notice of complaint issued by authoritarian then-Home Secretary David Blunkett collapsed, and the subsequent Ofsted report (PDF) noted that "pupils’ personal development, including their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development, is outstanding and behaviour is good, mainly as a result of the good quality care, support and guidance they receive."

The liberal end of the spectrum only touches upon this. The ability of teachers and schools to set their own path is examined in-depth, but never that of the children to do the same. The fact that league tables pit schools against one another is criticised endlessly, and the fact that children are forced into the same competition is barely even mentioned. Questions of education being cooperative rather than competitive, or children being given scope to make decisions doesn't even come up.


There is too much invested in the idea that children need "discipline" and "control." They are "hoodies" and "feral youth," forming mobs and committing attrocities. Either we haven't beat the shit out of them enough, or we beat them too much rather than "moulding" them through less coercive methods. The point is the same - they're not doing what we want, therefore our preferred method of control isn't being enacted properly.

... The framework of debate is much narrower, and the liberty of children doesn't come into it. It should. Now is the time for the advocates of libertarian education and child-rearing to come out of the woodwork and to make themselves heard.
As the government pushes ahead with its "reforms" to education, that sentiment only becomes more urgent.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

The students revolt as the media hunts for demons

Today has seen protests, walkouts, sit-ins, and occupations by students all across the country. Some are still ongoing, and at least one occupation looks to be bedding in for the night. This was "Day X," and by all accounts it was a riotous success. Pun intended.

In Liverpool, there was a sit-down blockade of roads in the City Centre, whilst reports from the Solidarity Federation also suggest that there was a takeover of Liverpool Guild of Students - Liverpool University's student union. This latter is interesting because it follows LGoS President Josh Wright condemning those who occupied Millbank Tower two weeks ago, and demonstrates that many students are discontent with their so-called "leaders."

In London, the 10,000-strong student march - intended to finish outside Liberal Democrat headquarters - was kettled at Whitehall. Al-Jazeera reports that "after an hour of being "kettled", a containment tactic that has drawn criticism in the past, anger broke out within the crowd."

The Socialist Worker adds that  the police kettle was "aggressive," with "clashes" between the two sides. In the middle of the kettle, a police van was sprayed with graffiti and smashed up, whilst on the other side mounted police charged the trapped crowd, and attacked those outside their cage with batons. Clearly, the law was the main agitator in this instance.

The media, however, were most concerned about the poor, defenceless police van. It was, it seems, a horrendous act which far outweighs charging at students on horseback or randomly twatting people with a big stick because they're in your immediate vicinity.

Luckily, as the Telegraph reports, "student" Zoe Williams put herself between the van and the "anarchists" attacking it, saving the poor thing from further pain as it whimpered softly. She's now been declared a "hero," and may well receive a medal for "services to vehicles whose owners are beating the shit out of human beings."

Meanwhile, we should all thank the Torygraph for its juxtaposition of "student" and "anarchist." Without its less-than-subtle propaganda, how would we know that holding libertarian views makes you an incompatible "other," to be looked upon with suspicion and dread?

Back in the real world, the headline-grabbing moments have passed, and most of the students in London have been dispersed. But buildings and spaces have been occupied on a broad scale - following the occupations in Manchester and Sussex that maintained momentum between the last protest and today's. This is where the real flexing of muscle begins.

The flash and bang of a riot always gives the establishment a scare. But as its fire fades to glowing embers, it is our ability to enter and occupy the realm of private property with only our physical presence that is our real power. Everybody doing just that right now deserves our solidarity.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Support freedom of speech for trade unionists

The Rail Maritime and Transport union is set to ballot its members for industrial action over the victimisation of two of its reps. The case is, unfortunately, far from uncommon. However, a direct challenge is also long overdue, and everybody with libertarian inclinations should support it.

The case, as told by the RMT, is depressingly familiar;
Eamon Lynch, RMT Bakerloo Line drivers’ health and safety rep, has been sacked by LU and although he remains on full pay following the union’s victory on Eamon’s behalf at an “interim relief” Employment Tribunal hearing the company refuses to reinstate him. Interim relief is only ever granted by the Employment Tribunal where there is the clearest possible evidence that an employee has been dismissed on the grounds of their trade union activities.

Eamon has an unblemished 15 year service record on the Underground and has been very clearly victimized for his role as an RMT activist despite management’s bogus claims that they sacked him following an “operational incident.”

Drivers, instructors and station staff at both Elephant and Castle and Queens Park will be balloted for strike action and action short of a strike in defence of Eamon Lynch. The ballot closes on 7th December.

Arwyn Thomas, a long-standing RMT activist and driver at Morden is facing trumped-up disciplinary charges following unproven allegations made against him be strike breakers. Arwyn has been an RMT/NUR member for over 29 years and has held various positions in the union. RMT is in no doubt at all that he is being victimised for his trade union activities.

Drivers and instructors at Golders Green, East Finchley, High Barnet and Morden will be balloted for strike action and action short of a strike in defence of Arwyn Thomas. The ballot closes on 7th December.
The case follows on the heels of the suspension of Fire Brigades Union rep Sian Griffiths, two days after she received a medal from the Queen. As with the RMT case, Griffiths is facing charges of "bullying and harrasment" in the wake of industrial action.

There were similar cases during the British Airways dispute. The press glossed over bullying by management and made much of trumped up charges brought by bitter scabs angry at being called out over their actions. No doubt, across the organised labour movement both in Britain and worldwide, reps and activists will be able to give examples of countless similar situations.

The reason is, quite simply, that those making the accusations are beset by a moral cowardice and do not have the courage of their convictions. If they did, they could retaliate to words with words, and challenge the basic precept of the workers' movement that to break industrial action is to betray your colleagues and even your class. As they cannot do this, they are reduced to appealing to authority for the right not to continue scabbing but to do so without anybody calling them on it.

This is not how freedom of speech works. It is not a privilege for a few, but a universal right to give voice to your thoughts - no matter how grand or banal - as you see fit. Inevitably, this will mean disagreements and even offence. But you do not have the right to be shielded from disagreement.

The bosses, of course, are more than happy to comply with this. After all, organised workers are a challenge to their power and profits, and they will gladly seize upon the pretext to strike back.

The problem is that the law, and the privilege granted to the rights of private property over people, not only allows but encourages this. Especially since Thatcher and Tebbit's anti-strike laws, the odds have been heavily weighted against the worker in favour of the boss and the scab.

The plights of Eamon Lynch, Arwyn Thomas, and Sian Griffiths deserve support and solidarity. Not only from the organised working class, in defence of our right to combine and assert our interests, but from everybody who believes in freedom of thought and action. Victory in this instance is not only beneficial for the individuals concerned, but also sets a useful precedent for the future.

According to the principles of the Enlightenment, if a liberty is not universal then it cannot truly be said to exist. Thus, twice over, an injury to one is an injury to all.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Reflections on the past and hopes for the future

Via Enemies of Reason, I'm reminded of what happened 20 years ago today;

The sight of Margaret Thatcher crying on that day no doubt cheered those who had fought so vigorously against her in the previous decade. Seeing it today certainly gave me pause to smile - and may do the same for others.

But it's worth reflecting, especially now, where we've actually gotten to since then.

The trade union movement is immeasurably smaller and weaker, even if some portions of it retain a commendable willingness to fight. Permanent, secure employment has been steadily eroded by casualisation. New Labour rose from Thatcher's ashes to continue her legacy for thirteen years. Likewise, council tax took over when the poll tax was defeated.

And we once again face a Conservative administration, weilding the axe to make the working class pay for the crisis of the ruling class. Everything has changed, yet everything remains the same.

Ask any 20-year-old for a Thatcher slogan and they will tell you, "She said there's no such thing as society." We understand, and painfully so, that we now live in a country where community has been replaced with an image of community that can be broken up and sold back to us at a profit.

This is what the "big society" is all about: not cuddly One-Nation Toryism, but the logical conclusion of Thatcherism, with the corporate iconography of society replacing the social even as the welfare state is destroyed. It is no accident the Camerons have employed a stylist and a photographer at public expense, while it has been decided that "wasteful" quangos such as the Youth Justice Board ought to be axed. In personality politics, image is everything.

We may be too young to remember Thatcher high-heeling it out of No 10, but our leaders still dance to the rhythm of her politics and our aspirations are still dominated by her project. The mythology of Thatcherism is more than mortal. When Elton John is called upon to sing her eulogy, he will no doubt conclude that the country burned out long before her legend ever will.
I don't point this out simply to put a downer on the anniversary of a moment that can force a smile from the most cynical of working class activists. I'm not writing this with a feeling of despair or futility. Indeed, since Millbank I've been more optimistic than ever about our chances in this class war.

But we cannot be blind to the fact that, especially now, changing the government will not solve our problems. As long as the same ruling class are maintained in profit and property, and the same mechanisms givern how power is exercised, we can expect nothing more than different faces in front of the same programme. The last two decades should have taught us that.

They should also have taught us that the one thing those at the top genuinely fear is the anger and disobedience of the working class. Poll tax collapsed because 17 million people refused to pay it, and grassroots organisation and class solidarity remain our greatest weapons.

That's why Thatcher succeeded by picking off her adversaries one at a time - and why the universal attack in the form of poll tax was her greatest folly. It's why the present government, using their austerity budget and comprehensive spending review to go after everybody at once, has met with a level of anger after six months that it took the last Tory government a decade to stir up.

The task now is not to get Labour ready for a fight, or build a new workers' party. It is for the working class to build upon this explosion of anger and organise to fight for and defend ourselves.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

A travesty at the United Nations

On Thursday, the United Nations narrowly passed an amendment to a measure on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions. The amendment deleted just three words from the draft document. Unfortunately, it also immeasurably damaged the struggle for LGBTQ rights worldwide.

Before it was amended, the document urged investigation of all killings "committed for any discriminatory reason, including sexual orientation." The amendment, removing that reference to sexuality, was removed thanks to efforts by the African Group in the General Assembly and the Islamic Conference. Both claimed, according to the Huffington Post, that there was "no foundation for gays in international human rights instruments as there was in cases of race, gender and religious discrimination."

The consequences of this should not need spelling out. As British representative Nicola Freedman pointed out;
To accept this amendment would be to accept that this particularly vulnerable group of people do not deserve specific mention, perhaps even to suggest that they do not warrant the same protection from killings. To us this suggestion is an affront to equality and respect for human dignity.
And so it is. The fact that 30 of 50 African nations criminalise homosexuality and that homosexuality is a crime punishable by death in all Islamic nations, is no coincidence. Those countries which actively persecute queer people have united to defend that stance on an international level.

As Peter Tatchell noted, this "gives a de facto green light to the on-going murder of LGBT people by homophobic regimes, death squads and vigilantes," who "will take comfort from the fact that the UN does not endorse the protection of LGBT people against hate-motivated violence and murder." It also allows countries "to ensure that their anti-gay policies are not scrutinised or condemned."

This vote goes to show, beyond doubt, that cultural relativism is nothing more than a toleration of tyranny and bigotry in different cultures. Rights are, and should be, universal no matter how many despots wave culture or religion as a totem to ward off criticism.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Quote of the day...

...was a close call.

I was tempted to give it to the leader of the Green coalition in Catalonia, Joan Herrera, who said it would be "very difficult to reach orgasm voting for any of the candidates, myself included," in reference to an advert which has caused a furore during the Spanish elections. However, I have nothing substantial to say on that matter.

Instead, we turn to Joseph Ratzinger on contraception;
There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility.
The Pope made his comments in a book, Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times, due out on Tuesday. It comes from a series of interviews with journalist Peter Seewald, and claims to "tackle head-on some of the greatest issues facing the world of our time."

This particular issue, however, could hardly be seen as "great." In fact, it is only the intervention of religious beliefs - primarily those of Ratzinger and his predecessor Karol Wojtyła - which makes condoms or contraception in general at all "controversial" or "contentious." More than that, it has actively hindered efforts which save countless lives and address the problem of AIDs in places such as Africa.

Last month, Ben Goldacre made the point eloquently;
In May 2005, shortly after taking office, the pope made his first pronouncement on Aids, and came out against condoms. He was addressing bishops from South Africa, where somebody dies of Aids every two minutes; Botswana, where 23.9% of adults between 15 and 49 are HIV positive; Swaziland, where 26.1% of adults have HIV; Namibia (a trifling 15%); and Lesotho, 23%.

This is continuing. In March 2009, on his flight to Cameroon (where 540,000 people have HIV), Pope Benedict XVI explained that Aids is a tragedy "that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems". In May 2009, the Congolese bishops conference made a happy announcement: "In all truth, the pope's message which we received with joy has confirmed us in our fight against HIV/Aids. We say no to condoms!"

His stance has been supported, in the past year alone, by Cardinal George Pell of Sydney and Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster. "It is quite ridiculous to go on about Aids in Africa and condoms, and the Catholic Church," says O'Connor.

"I talk to priests who say, 'My diocese is flooded with condoms and there is more Aids because of them.'"

Some have been more imaginative in their quest to spread the message against condoms. In 2007, Archbishop Francisco Chimoio of Mozambique announced that European condom manufacturers are deliberately infecting condoms with HIV to spread Aids in Africa. Out of every 8 people in Mozambique, one has HIV.

It was Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo of Colombia who most famously claimed that the HIV virus can pass through tiny holes in the rubber of condoms. Again, he was not alone. "The condom is a cork," said Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Spain, "and not always effective."

In 2005 Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, explained that scientific research has never proven that condoms "immunise against infection".

He's right, they don't. They stop the virus which kills you from being transmitted during sex.

How effective are they? It's wise not to overstate your case. The current systematic review of the literature on this question published by Cochrane found 14 observational studies (because it's unethical to do a randomised trial where you actively stop people using condoms, since you know that they work but just want to find out how well).

These studies generally looked at HIV transmission in stable couples where one partner had HIV.

Many of them looked at transfusion patients and haemophiliacs. Overall, rates of HIV infection were 80% lower in the partners who reported always using a condom, compared to those who said they never did. 80% is pretty good.

There is no single perfect solution to the problem of Aids: if things were that easy, it wouldn't be killing 2 million people every year.

ABC is a widely used prevention acronym in Africa: abstain, be [faithful], [use a] condom. Picking out one effective measure and actively campaigning against it is plainly destructive, just as telling people to abstain doesn't make everyone abstain, and telling people to use condoms won't make everyone use them. But Ratzinger has proclaimed: "The most effective presence on the front in the battle against HIV/Aids is the Catholic church and her institutions."

This is ludicrous. You, the Catholic church, is the only major influential international political organisation that actively tells people not to do something that works – on a huge scale. Your own figures show that your numbers are growing in Africa, even faster than the population does.

I'm happy for you to suggest abstention. But sabotaging an effective intervention which prevents a disease that kills 2 million people a year makes you a serious global public health problem.
As such, it would seem that this new message marks a welcome change in direction.

Even if he still maintains that abstinence and marital fidelity is the best way to beat HIV, he at least acknowledges that condoms could be justified "in the intention of reducing the risk of infection." Given the influence he holds over some of the most high risk areas for AIDS and HIV, it's a start.

The only problem is that he is only able to accept this as "a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way of living sexuality," in the case of male prostitutes. For everyone else, the "sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalisation of sexuality," and sexuality becomes "a sort of drug that people administer to themselves." Because, you know, preventing the spread of disease and infection is exactly the same as taking crack cocaine.

He then asks: "How many children are killed who might one day have been geniuses, who could have given humanity something new, who could have given us a new Mozart or some new technical discovery?"

This may be an appropriately emotive, if extremely flawed, argument in the debate on abortion. When talking about contraception, it is absurd. One might as well mourn the mass genocide that occurs every time a teenager masturbates in his bedroom. Sperm are not people and, frankly, that is a sentence I should never have had to write.

If Ratzinger and his church were going to end their active opposition to condoms, I would welcome it. They can hold whatever views they like on them morally, as long as they don't put lives at risk by deliberately obfuscating the facts. But I don't think this is the case.

"He's not going to [fundamentally alter Church policy] in an offhand remark to a journalist in an interview," according to William Portier, a Catholic theologian at the University of Dayton. Cardinal Elio Sgreccia, a Vatican official on bioethics and sexuality, confirmed that this comment was "in the realm of exceptionality" and this exception "must be verified [as] the only way to save life." If there is going to be significant reform, then its pace is far too slow.

We are long past the stage where altering the Vatican's line on this matter is anything other than futile. Those Catholics who are in favour of reform and want their Church to make a positive difference in the world - and their are many - must actively circumvent their leadership in order toforce the change on the ground where it matters.

Presently, those who disagree with the Church's stance appear only to be preaching to the converted or to those largely unaffected. Where it counts, where people are at the highest risk of HIV and AIDS, the Pope's influence is still overwhelmingly strong. And people are dying as a result.

Friday, 19 November 2010

On the "so-called recession" and Lord Young's resignation

Lord Young, whom we last saw raging against Health and Safety, has quit the government after claiming that most Britons "had never had it so good" as during this "so-called recession." He has since retracted his comments as "inaccurate and insensitive." In reality, they were simply in line with the prevailing economic orthodoxy.

His remarks emerged from an interview with the Daily Telegraph;
For the vast majority of people in the country today they have never had it so good ever since this recession — this so-called recession — started, because anybody, most people with a mortgage who were paying a lot of money each month, suddenly started paying very little each month. That could make three, four, five, six hundred pounds a month difference, free of tax.
He also claimed that public sector job losses would be within "the margin of error" and that although "there will be people who complain," they "are people who think they have a right for the state to support them."

This last point, of course, is nothing more than an oft-repeated line of the right. Any and everybody who might rely on more than they can earn off their own backs is a "scrounger" and a "leech" who should be forced back into work or left to rot in the streets. Forget the heavy burden faced by disabled people, for example, if people can't support themselves that's just laziness.

As to job losses, sure - as Stumbling and Mumbling points out - "the ONS estimates that the sampling variability of its estimate of employment is 152,000 (p12 of this pdf)." So 100,000 is within that range.

Except that there is a significant difference between getting your employment figures wrong by that numeral and real people losing their means to support themselves. The former is a statistical matter, the latter a human one with significant effects in the real world - not least the knock-on effect of private sector job losses which adds up to a million unemployed.

With Young's claim about mortgages, again he's correct - on a superficial level. I was one of those who benefited from the dropping interest rates, my monthly payout dropping by about £230. But I, and many others, are not feeling it for the simple fact that the cost of living has skyrocketed across the board.

As PCS point out, in relation to civil service pay, "the cost of living has increased by 12.8%. Fuel and lighting rose by 35% last year, fares and travel went up by 10.2% and food costs rose by 10%." So, where mortgages may have gone down for some, other costs have increased to fill the gap.

But that is not all. Returning to Stumbling and Mumbling;
Only a minority of people have mortgages. Their gains, then, are offset by three groups of losers. First and most obviously, there are those who have lost their jobs; a net 876,000 full-time jobs have gone since the cyclical peak. Secondly, there are workers generally. Since December 2007, the average worker has suffered a cut in real wages: average earnings have risen 3.7% since then but the constant tax CPI has risen 7.6%. Within, this, though, millions would have done better. Thirdly, there are savers who have suffered lower interest income and higher prices.
Thus, what Young sees - as all Tories and even all capitalists tend to do - is the possibility of better fortunes for some (if they're lucky) equating to everybody having never had it so good. Hence, there's nothing wrong with going through with spending cuts and people are just whingeing for the sake of it.

His comments, in fact, are the myth of "the cuts that aren't cuts," recycled.

But there was no need for Young to resign his post over this. I, for one, am not "offended" by the sight of a Tory being a Tory, or a capitalist ideologue spouting capitalist ideology. I expect it.

The point should not be whether or not we are "insulted." The scalp of one old Lord speaking his mind means nothing - we need to challenge the lies and resist the institutions acting upon them in order to stop the administration he was part of from wreaking havoc upon our class.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Private prison industry behind Arizona’s new immigration law

Reposted from Tiresias Speaks, the following post underlines just one worrying aspect of the road down which privatising - rather than dismantling - the functions of state leads.

Arizona seized the international spotlight last April when Governor Jan Brewer signed immigration Bill 1070 into law. The new law requires police officers to arrest any person they stop who cannot immediately prove that they entered the country legally.

Immigrant communities, their sympathizers, and civil liberties advocates have violently condemned the bill as a blatant endorsement of racial profiling that does nothing to address the root causes of illegal immigration.

Anti-immigration advocates, meanwhile, have lauded the bill as being a positive step towards halting the flow of illegal immigrants into the United States and securing the nation’s border.

The full implementation of the law has been temporarily halted by court order as U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton waits to hear further arguments regarding the bill. In all of the considerable controversy surrounding this bill, however, one question seems to have fallen by the wayside: just whose idea was this bill anyways?

Like anything else in politics, all you have to do is follow the money. Ever since Governor Brewer signed the bill into law much of the country has been left holding their breath as they wait to see what will come of it- but perhaps no one is more blue in the face than those who stand to make additional millions from the law.

As it turns out, the bill was written in December of 2010 by representatives of the private prison industry at a meeting of a secretive group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in Washington, DC.

ALEC is composed of several representatives of powerful business interests including ExxonMobil, tobacco company Reynolds American Inc., the NRA, and most importantly in this case, the Corrections Corporation of America — the largest private prison company in the United States. 

The private prison industry has been successfully trying to keep people locked up for profit for years. The industry has done everything from lobbying for stricter drug laws too arguing for the expanded privatization of state and federal penitentiaries. In fact, thanks in large part to their success, the United States now boasts the highest rate of incarceration in the world.

The Corrections Corporation of America and other private prison companies have long known that locking up illegal immigrants is one of the most promising sectors for continued growth in the private prison industry. The implementation of the new Arizona law will likely send hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants to prison- generating hundred of millions of dollars worth of additional profits for the private prison industry- and possibly pave the way for other states to pass similar measures. 

Arizona State Senator and ALEC member Russell Pearce maintains that the bill was his own idea, but we now know that the bill was written almost word for word with the help of the Corrections Corporation of America in Washington, DC’s Grand Hyatt Hotel. In the privacy of a hotel conference room, members of ALEC designed the bill, debated the language, and finally voted unanimously to approve the model piece of legislation.

Of the unusual 36 State senators who rushed to co-sponsor the bill back in Arizona, at least 2/3 of them are reported to have attended the ALEC meeting in December, and thirty of them received donations over the following six months from prison lobbyists or prison companies. 

Once the bill got onto governor Jan Brewer’s desk it was a sure thing- she is a strong supporter of private prisons and both her spokesman Paul Senseman and her campaign manager Chuck Coughlin are former lobbyists for private prison companies. 

It is important to realize that none of this is illegal or even especially unusual. Legislation is regularly drafted with the help of organizations like ALEC and then passed into law by representatives who are receiving money from the same business interests who wrote the bill. 

It is well-known that keeping black and brown people in chains has been big business in the United States for hundreds of years. It appears that Arizona’s new immigration law is simply the latest niche for the exorbitantly wealthy few who benefit the most from keeping minorities in cages.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Confetti and class war

The big news of the day, or so the media would have it, is that William Windsor is to marry Kate Middleton. A royal wedding! And so we purr as our betters do something that happens all the time across Britain. Oh, and Vince Cable is to strut his stuff on Strictly Come Dancing - how exciting!

Relax, enjoy the spectacles, and - err - forget this vicious class war we're waging against you. That's not important.

Except, of course, that it is. In June's austerity budget and last month's Comprehensive Spending Review - not to mention the policies unveiled in the Coalition Agreement - the government have laid out plans to make working people suffer in order to reassert the power and privilege of the ruling class. No matter how many shiny things the media dangles before us to distract us, we shouldn't forget that.

Nor should we forget that we can, and should challenge the cuts agenda and the adverse impact it will have on our class. If we are passive and let them get away with it, it will not become easier but harder. Buoyed by success, they will only ramp up their attacks.

Instead, we need to stand up to them. Not only should we be making our voices heard, but we should be flexing our muscle. It is the working class who hold all of the power, and the mechanisms of government are designed to make us forget that fact. We ought to be rising up and demonstrating, pointedly, that we remember.

The students have shown us the way in this. Not only with their impressive and surprising takeover of Millbank tower on the 10th November, but with the occupations of Manchester and Sussex universities that followed it. Theirs is the first genuine expression of anger since the cuts began.

And anger, channelled into direct action and unleashed upon them, is what the ruling class truly fear. They can laugh off countless marches and demonstrations, ignore innumerable petitions, and simply pour scorn upon every rabble-rousing speech. It is only when the masses openly disobey, and they seem unable to control the streets that they consider backing off.

So, here's hoping that, with the students showing us the way, the working class is able to defend itself. The signs thus far are mixed, but I retain enough faith in humanity to think there is hope.

As Ian Bone said, "the next 4 weeks will be decisive." So, let's make sure that we act upon the anger and the fear that we are all feeling and turn it into something positive. If we can make enough of an impact to force Wills and Kate off the front pages, maybe we can get the government on the back foot.