Report from Oxford
November 3, 2011 Leave a comment
by Nathan Akehurst
The fire of the student revolt cooled and hardened into a united struggle against austerity that has spawned the Occupy movement, the strikes of June and November 30th, and half a million people on the streets to oppose the cuts on March 26th 2011. Now the student movement is back in the game.
At St. Edmund’s Hall in Oxford University this evening, a range of activists from groups including the Living Wage Campaign (fighting for the rights of under-unionised and underpaid workers), the Education Activist Network, and the student union came together to decide the next steps forward for the movement in Oxford. We heard Jim Wolfreys, King’s lecturer and author of ‘Universities for Hire’ which deconstructs the White Paper, President Martha Mackenzie of the Student Union, and activists from Oxford Save our Services and the trade union movement.
The discussions enabled people from all sub-sectors of education to understand the vast mosaic of stories and struggles that binds us together. The unionists informed us of the dirty tactics the government are resorting to in the pensions ‘negotiations’- including threatening union negotiators with legal action and getting the chair of a meeting to vote in favour of the government. We were reminded again of the wrecking ball that the White Paper will drive through education, and also the devastating impact that public service cuts, privatisation and the Lansley bill are having on the poorest in Oxfordshire. Lest we forget that only fifty years ago, the working classes were physically segregated into North Oxford by the Cottesloe Wall.
The Occupy movement brought inspiration to the table, along with the realisation that the tactic of occupation, previously considered the preserve of the so-called ‘hard left’, is now entering common consciousness. Ideas abounded around an Oxford town occupation-style action, amid the heartening news that Birmingham University had occupied earlier in the day. Media skills workshops and activism training also equipped activists with further tools.
The meeting was an evening of not merely anger, but resolve. We will be drowning Oxford in flyers, posters and other publicity material for November 9th and 30th. We will be supporting workers across the public sector when they come out on strike in whatever ways we can. We will be planning further actions and demonstrations, uniting new and old students, lecturers, university staff, and town workers as well as sixth form and school students. Such open education meetings remind us intensely of the need for universal solidarity, only together can we dig a grave wide enough to accommodate the Coalition Government and their attacks on the fabric of society.