“This is it then, this is the end.”

We began walking over a deserted Westminster bridge, the rain pouring down
hard on us. In front of us, thousands of students were making their way
through the streets of Lambeth, a borough with high levels of
impoverishment, to demand “Educate, Employ, Empower” to I'm not quite sure
who.

In many ways, this moment really did feel like the end of the student
movement. Those in power sat smugly and safely behind the police fortress
that had been set up along Whitehall and Parliament Square. The NUS could
lie to anyone still listening that it had represented its members as well
as bolstering their own chances for power in the Labour party. The majority
of people seemed to have no problem with parading straight past Parliament
and onwards to Kennington Park, seduced perhaps by that promise of
employment. Damp and despairing it felt as though this had been some sort
of last chance and we'd lost it – nothing had happened (although we can
take some comfort from the egging of Liam Burns and chants of 'NUS shame on
you, where the fuck have you brought us to').

2 years before marching from A to B was simply not an option. Instead we
targeted those who wanted to see us denied free education (both free as in
no price and where learning is free from the dictates of the state and the
market) and indebted for the rest of our lives. Students stormed and
smashed the Tory HQ creating a spectacle that inspired and galvanised
students here and in Quebec. With the NUS condemning our actions, we went
on to show how much more effective we are outside these sorts of
organisations. Another demonstration saw the windows of other government
buildings smashed in and protestors get close to breaking through police
lines around parliament. These experiences, these acts of fuck you and the
destruction of power, were a kind of empowerment beyond the NUS' wildest
dreams.

The NUS' march was purposely designed to kill off the lessons and
experiences that we had gathered from these times – to kill off the student
movement – as we creeped around backstreets and into a south London park
encircled by railings in the 1800s to prevent unrest. But whilst the slogan
and route were organised around demobilisation they provoked an angry
response that asserted our need for action, autonomy, and anger.

The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts counter march saw over 1,000
students (whilst the official march managed only a couple of thousand more)
gather at UCL with substantive demands and propositions illustrated by
banners proclaiming 'Smash the NUS', 'The Dead Bury the Dead – Never Work'
and '#Wrong to Work' and insurrectionary literature from the Imaginary
Party declaring 'Educate, Disempower, Destroy'. The march was for 'free
education' and for the freeing of society but also for the destruction of
the NUS which is a barrier to our practices and aims.

Plans for direct action were stopped by heavy policing (surely they don't
have the funds to keep this up?), with the NUS stewards relishing their new
found 'authority', and perhaps a lack of communication between ourselves.
Whilst energy had been high at the start, the longer we were funnelled down
the streets by the police, the wearier we grew. Our attempts to make a
break down the Strand rather than join the NUS march at Embankment were met
with lines of police and reinforcements arriving behind them. Our numbers
were simply not enough to overcome this total policing. And so we arrived
on the corner of Westminster bridge, Parliament square on our right blocked
by 2 barriers with lines of police and riot vans. We half-heartedly
discussed possible plans knowing they would come to nothing.

But there is still rage. Even though it did not manifest itself in
particularly obvious and compelling forms that day. We got to know each
others faces, or eyes, for those wearing masks. And that is the start of
something.

And perhaps we were looking in the wrong place for that rage at this
moment. Maybe the streets, blocked and lined with riot police, are not the
place to meet right now – although, of course, this is where the beauty is.
The other day I spoke with three women in the computer room of our Further
Education college about the introduction of fees for their courses that
will come in next year. This is where the rage is. They described their
anger at the government 'robbing' from them. They explained how they were
studying so that they could get a job to be an example to their children.
They were surviving on £30 a week.

*'I think education should be free – it shouldn't be like that [ever
increasing fees]'*

*'We don't know where we're going to stand with fees coming in, we've got
our kids to look after as well,'*

*'Don't try and rob from me to make yourself pppffff'*

*'It's ridiculous where money is – they let the rich off and f the poor,'*

*'they waste money on stupid sculptures, that new building, that point
thing, the Shard shit'*

*'You can't even have little treats, it is £30 a week on food. We can't go
out, we don't have a social life'.*

*'We're just surviving, just getting by, without this education now, where
am I going to be?'*

*'We're trying to help ourselves but we're just in debt.'*

*'I was watching This Morning and they were saying that if you live on less
than £400 a week you live below the poverty line. I'm poor but you're not
helping me,'*

*'They really categorised us now – we're poor. Categorise us, put us into a
little...'*

Listening to them, I did not even bother to mention the student demo. It
felt as if I would be somehow selling them out suggesting they come along
to something I had little hope in to start with. They were busy enough
looking after their children, studying, and surviving.

Clearly, then, this is not the end – there is a belief in free education
and the anger with which to obtain this and much more. NCAFC has called for
a National Day of Action on December 5th in all places of education.
Drawing as well from the Imaginary Party's literature, it is clear that the
struggle, having learnt from Quebec, should return to these places, where
we can listen to and organise with each other. Whilst never forgetting
Milbank.

N.B.
As we publish this post we are hearing news that
UCL has staged a sit in (with the possibility of it turning into an
occupation) over UCL management's involvement in the social cleansing of
Carpenters Estate. Elsewhere across London university campuses this
evening, there is a protest of cleaners and student supporters outside
University of London's Senate House for sick pay, holidays, and pensions.
Earlier on in the day, UCL academics lobbied the 'UCL council' against
reforms to Statue 18 which would give management powers to *fire at will*.
Now those words uttered as we crossed the bridge seem so laughable.

'Anonymous'- Radical writers collective
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2 thoughts on ““This is it then, this is the end.”

  1. Hey, liked the article and would be interested in publishing it in ‘Cracks in the Pavement’ – a yearly radical journal. Get in touch at ‘articlesubmissions@riseup.net’ if you’d be up for letting us put it in.

    Cheers.

    CitP

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