We send a message of solidarity to the students who demonstrated in London today against the Conservative government's elitist policy in further and higher education, among them many from the two universities which are jewels of our city. We send special greetings to the organizers, the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, and to demonstrators from the intermural student organizations that joined us in May for the Cambridge March Against Austerity: Cambridge Defend Education, Cambridge Marxist Society, Cambridge Universities Labour Club, and Cambridge Young Greens. We also congratulate Cambridge University Students' Union for its decision to organize free transport.
Students led the early opposition to austerity, before their fierce campaign was smothered for a time by fiercer repression in frightening police violence – joined to punitive containment or kettling tactics – and exemplary judicial sentences. Too often the judicial repression was imitated by university authorities, as in Cambridge where the old university tried to ban a student for two-and-a-half years for shouting down with others a lecture by the then higher education minister, David Willetts. For us, the students' action remains a more compelling example than any of their punishments.
Their demand is for free education. That this is realistic is shown by the abolition of tuition fees last year in Germany (and perhaps next in South Africa, where current student protest has already forced the government to revoke a planned increase). But the demand goes beyond fees, and the students in Britain have never refused its unfolding implications. Today, as tens of thousands of migrants are denied refuge in Europe, free education has to mean no borders; as remaining maintenance grants are abolished and further education funding cut by the new government, it has to mean no barriers; as we expect renewed attempts by that government to commodify education, it has to mean no business.
No borders, no barriers, no business! Free education and living grants for all!
Cambridge People's Assembly
4 November 2015