The Attack on Overseas Students in Britain

The overseas students in this country are being victimised and harassed by the British state. The massive increase in fees is perhaps the most devastating of the attacks on them. In many instances situations have arisen where students have not been able to cope with the fee increases and have had to leave without completing their courses. To wage a successful campaign against this victimisation it is important to have a correct understanding of its basis.

The presence of overseas students in this country — the vast majority of whom are from the underdeveloped world — is not something which is determined by the free will of these individuals. it is in fact a logical consequence of Britain's colonial relationship with these countries. It is important to emphasise at this point that the word 'past' which is frequently used in this context by sections of the so-called left in Britain is absolutely false and can only serve to demonstrate their ignorance of the workings of imperialism. Once colonial rule had been established — the means of which were always treacherous and brutal — the existing indigenous social and economic formations of these nations (some of which were comparable to those existing in Western Europe) were systematically and ruthlessly destroyed. For centuries all developments beneficial to the colonial masses were suppressed in order to maintain the relationship of exploitation which deprived these people of the benefits of their immense natural resources and labour. As a consequence of this plunder of natural resources and labour and the availability of the colonised nations as markets for the industrial goods of the colonial power great technological and scientific advances were made in the colonialists' camp.

To quote Frantz Fanon:

‘Europe has inordinately stuffed itself with gold and raw materials of the colonised countries: Latin America, Asia and Africa. From all these continents, under whose eyes Europe today raises up her tower of opulence, there has flowed out for centuries towards the same Europe diamonds and oil, silk and cotton, wood and exotic products. Europe is literally the creation of the third world. The wealth that smothers her is that which was stolen from the underdeveloped peoples'.

With this picture in mind it is quite easy to understand the present situation in which there are underdeveloped countries in need of modern science and technology necessary for their development but the facilities and institutions that can provide these are in the advanced capitalist nations.

This is the reason for the flow of students from the underdeveloped world to Britain and is analogous to the migration of labour from the impoverished colonies to the coloniser countries.

The attacks on the overseas students by the British state are not an isolated occurrence. They are part and parcel of a whole barrage of attacks on the working people of this country and should always be considered in that perspective. The attack on the living standards, the massive cuts in social expenditure and education in order to boost private capital are all symptoms of the same disease — the crisis of British capitalism. The onslaught of the British ruling class is of course not uniform. It isolates the weakest sections for the worst excesses. The vicious attacks on the immigrant community and the overseas students are a reflection of just that.

The movement against the racist increases in the fees of overseas students under the chauvinistic leadership of the National Union of Students has been bankrupt. The platform of the NUS has been that the presence of overseas students contrary to general belief benefits the British economy and is in its long term interest and hence the fees increase which endanger these interests should be stopped. If this didn't happen to be the case then of course the overseas students could go to hell, immigration laws permitting.

The Labour Party which itself introduced racist immigration laws and fees increases is most upset by the recent Tory excesses and vociferously champions the anti-Tory cause. Opportunism obviously knows no bounds, the depths to which it can fall are fathomless.

The movement as it stands today is totally bankrupt and an insult to overseas students. It can achieve nothing except maybe the demoralisation of the overseas student community.

The overseas students are aware of this and their awareness is increasing every day. They are refusing to be a tool in the hands of opportunists. They know that their fight is a fight for equality, a fight against racism. They know that they must be the leaders of their struggle which should be based on an anti-imperialist and anti-racist platform. They recognise British imperialism as the basis of their oppression. In this struggle they are one with their immigrant brothers and sisters in this country.

The mobilisation of overseas students for equality and justice could be the rallying point for all student struggles and serve to revitalise the impotent student body as a progressive political force.

Death to racism! Death to imperialism! Long live the revolutionary struggle of the oppressed!


Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No.2 - January/February 1980


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