Islington Labour Council sets police on anti-cuts protesters - 17 Feb 2011

On 17 February, around 200 demonstrators, including supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!, marched on Islington town hall in north London to demonstrate against the council's 2011/12 cuts budget. The budget will contain £52 million in cuts to jobs and local services, including 350 job losses and swingeing cuts to youth services, day centres, transport services and rises in tenant charges. Demonstrators made their presence felt on the steps of the town hall, before entering the public gallery to make their feelings felt.

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Students mobilise against attacks on education

Students across the country have continued to mobilise to defend the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA – the grant of up to £30 a week that enables many sixth-formers to stay in education) and the right to university education for all.

In doing so they have had to challenge the abject failure of the National Union of Students (NUS) to support their direct action (see FRFI 218), forming student councils in many universities to democratically guide the new movement, outside the control of the NUS. Labour apparatchik Aaron Porter, President of the NUS, who originally condemned students who occupied Millbank in November as ‘despicable’, was forced to apologise for his comments. However, students are clearly not fooled by this opportunist: at a demonstration against university fees called by the TUC in Manchester on 29 January he was jeered and heckled, eventually having to be escorted away by police ‘for his own protection’!

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Stop the cuts! Defend the protesters!

FRFI supporters around Britain have been participating in demonstrations against tuition fees, the cutting of EMA and the creeping privatisation of education. On 29 January FRFI joined the national anti-cuts march in London and the student and trade union march in Manchester, where sell-out NUS leader Aaron Porter needed a police escort to protect him from angry students.

Since the third national day of action against fees and cuts on 9 December, hundreds of people have continued to take to the streets to protest. Newcastle FRFI has been active with Students Against Cuts, whose members have been among the most militant and consistent activists, occupying shops that support the cuts such as Marks & Spencer, protesting against high-street chains including BHS and Topshop that are owned by Philip Green, millionaire tax evader and government adviser on the cuts, and targeting the Local Government Offices and Newcastle Civic Centre. This resistance has been met with political policing: the HSBC 3 – Mark Pearson, Patrick Reay and Toby Hobbs – were arrested following protests on 18 December. On 30 December over 30 people picketed Market Street Police station in protest at this criminalisation, before moving on to shut down a local branch of HSBC. HSBC has dodged an estimated £2 billion of tax since 1993, and is among the real criminals of the capitalist crisis. On 14 January, Prime Minister David Cameron was caught out in Newcastle as protesters learned of his ‘secret’ meeting with local primary school children at Newcastle’s Centre for Life. Protests quickly grew, leading to one arrest.

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No cuts – full stop!

Throughout Britain, Labour-run councils are preparing to implement savage cuts in local services and drive thousands of workers out of their jobs. Not one council is stepping out of line. Robert Clough reports.

It is a repeat of the 1980s when, under a Tory government, Labour council after Labour council accepted rate-capping and the consequent job losses, and then Labour leader Neil Kinnock hounded Liverpool city council leaders for trying to resist. This time however there is no chance that Liverpool Labour leaders will emulate their predecessors: the council is expected to cut over 1,500 jobs next year on top of 580 voluntary redundancies to date, in an effort to save £91m in 2011/12.

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Bankers get bonuses: poor have to pay

The arrogance and self-confidence of the ConDem government took a knock on 25 January, when growth figures for the economy unexpectedly showed a fall in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 0.5% in the last quarter of 2010. With the annual inflation rate (CPI) shooting up to 3.7% in the year to December 2010 and youth unemployment hitting record levels, the government’s austerity programme is seriously being called into question. Far from the British economy being ‘well placed for a return to sustained, balanced growth’,[1] the talk is of stagflation – recession and inflation combined. The pound fell to a two-and-half month low against the dollar. The chancellor’s attempt to put the poor figures down to freezing weather in December was laughed out of court. This was, after all, in a period of relatively strong growth in the global economy and with a 25% depreciation of the pound since 2007 boosting manufacturing exports and growth. David Yaffe reports.

A day before the growth figures came out, the departing head of the Confederation of British Industry, Richard Lambert, a friend of the Coalition, told the government that it had taken policy initiatives for political reasons that could damage the economy, and it still had no strategy for growth. Nouriel Roubini, one of the few economists who predicted the financial crisis, grouped the UK economy with the crisis-ridden parts of the eurozone, saying that there was a risk of a double-dip recession. And George Soros, the billionaire international speculator, said the government would push the economy into recession unless it modified its austerity programme.

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Labour council raises the axe in Islington - 4 Feb 2011

islington_council

Across the country, Labour and Con-Dem councils are sharpening their axes, ready to make massive cuts to jobs and services nationwide. Islington is no different. The borough is facing an estimated £335 million in cuts, with £52 million set for this year alone. On 2 February 2011, Islington’s Labour-run council published an official list of 200 cuts to be made to services across the borough, to be introduced from April this year.  Speaking at a press conference, Labour council leader Catherine West said ‘We’ve done our best to provide a battered shield to protect the vital ser­vices people rely on.’ The cuts budget that she and her Labour colleagues has drawn up says otherwise.

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Migrant workers and the fight against cuts

This article has been written for Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! by Juan Carlos Piedra, an activist with the Movement of Ecuadorians in the UK (MERU)

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In the face of an economic, political and social crisis, it is important to consider its effects on vulnerable groups such as ethnic minorities and workers on poverty pay. For example, at around £1,000 per month, the average salary of a cleaner in London will barely cover the rent.

It is vital that we challenge the discourse and actions of the Con-Dem government. They want to place responsibility for the economic crisis on the working class, when in fact it is the ruling class who is responsible. It is the final straw that thousands of pounds in bonuses are handed over to the ruling class, almost as a reward for their negligence, when in fact their property should be seized!

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David Yaffe speaks on the crisis and the cuts - 8 Dec 2010

Below is an edited version of the 45 minute speech given by David Yaffe, editor of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! and veteran of the 1968 occupation at London School of Economics (LSE), on 8 December at the ‘cuts and the crisis’ meeting organised by the FRFI student society at LSE. David explained how the cuts are linked to the crisis of the capitalist system and the demands of British imperialism.

The meeting was also addressed by Juan Carlos from the London Living Wage campaign and the Movement of Ecuadorians in the UK and a representative from the student occupation then underway in University College London. A detailed report of the meeting is available here.

See our analysis of the capitalist crisis and the cuts here.

Click here to see the full speech.

Higher education for sale

At the end of October 2010, Lord Browne gave a speech at BPP. He said of tuition fees, ‘if prices rise too high, there is room for new providers to enter the market and deliver higher education more efficiently’. Who these new providers would be is transparent: BPP is Britain’s largest private higher education provider. It was granted degree-awarding powers by the Labour government in September 2007. BPP sells professional legal and financial courses, owns four law schools, business schools and human resource training schools. It was bought by the US higher education company Apollo Global in the summer of 2007 for £368 million. Apollo Global operates in 40 US states, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Chile, Canada and the Netherlands, selling courses up to doctoral level. Apollo Global is a joint venture, set up in 2007, between Apollo Group Inc and The Carlyle Group.

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The ruling class has ‘never had it so good’

Austerity for the working class

On 20 October 2010, the ConDem government announced its Comprehensive Spending Review, confirming plans to cut public spending by £81bn over four years in order, they claim, to solve the economic crisis. The spending review followed on from the emergency budget in June which slashed welfare benefits by £11bn. It promised the loss of at least 500,000 public sector jobs, average cuts in government spending of 19%, a further £7bn cuts in welfare and an increased retirement age to 66 by 2020. Additional measures include an increase of VAT to 20% from January 2011 and further attacks on social housing and education. Put together these represent a massive attack on the standard of living of the working class.

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Class against class - Fight the cuts

The ruling class has declared class war. The resistance has started, with the huge student demonstration on 10 November and the subsequent walk-outs, marches and occupations on 24 November, this time involving both higher education and secondary school students. As sections of the working class are driven to defend themselves against the assault on state welfare and spending, socialists and communists need to send out a clear message: socialism has to be central to building a new movement. Robert Clough reports

From the outset we have to reject the ruling class lies about the crisis. Determined to deflect attention from the fact that this is a crisis of the system as a whole, the ConDem coalition and the Labour government before it have claimed the solution lies in cutting state spending. Chancellor Osborne has gone so far as to claim that public spending was so high that urgent action was needed because Britain was on the verge of national ‘bankruptcy’. The fact is that Britain’s total accumulated public debt as a percentage of national income is lower today than for much of the last 200 years. The average public debt from 1688-2010 was 112% of national income. In September 2010 it was 57.2%, below that of the US, France, Germany and Japan. So unless Britain has been in a constant state of national bankruptcy this is simple deceit. It is a deceit perpetuated by all the political parties and their media allies.

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Schools out: Students fight back against assault on state education

The students’ response to the ConDem government’s plans to increase university tuition fees and cut access to higher education has been fitting and inspiring. It has struck a chord with millions of people in Britain who also face attack from this government and are pleased to see that the fightback has begun. We can be sure that the occupation of the Conservative Party headquarters on Millbank will be looked back on as the day we said ‘enough’ and started to build our own future. TREVOR RAYNE and UCL student ROB BARRIE report.

On 10 November 2010, supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! were among over 50,000 students and education workers from colleges and universities from all over Britain in one of the biggest and most angry student protests in decades. The ruling class assault on higher education, with the tripling of tuition fees, fuelled the rage. This resulted in a much more radical and confident demonstration.

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Jody McIntyre BBC interview - 13 Dec 2010

Following the protests against education cuts on 9 December 2010, the BBC interviewed activist Jody McIntyre, who was dragged from his wheelchair by police on two separate occasions during the demonstration. The journalist attempts to blame Jody for this incident of blatant police brutality, implying that the police have a right to shut down protest as they see fit. Let us not forget the words of the BBC founder, Lord Reith, who said of the Government of his time,' They know they can trust us not to be really impartial'.

Jody McIntyre is an anti-imperialist activist who, among other issues, has written and campaigned extensively for justice for the Palestinian people. In the past Jody has spoken at FRFI meetings and supported our pickets of Marks & Spencer, Britain's biggest sponsor of Israel. FRFI pledges its support for Jody and all those who faced violence and repression for their part in the recent cuts protests.

Students take over Parliament Square to oppose cuts and tuition fees – London – 9 Dec 2010

FRFI student society members had contingents on yesterday’s protest, one starting at the London School of Economics and the other at University College Union. We joined forces to march into Parliament Square to oppose the government’s bill to raise university tuition fees up to £9,000 a year. Police had put up metal barricades to keep protesters out of the square, but as up to 30,000 school, college and university students poured into the surrounding road, the barriers were quickly flattened and the green taken over. Almost immediately police in riot gear, on horses and in vans blocked the entrances to the square ‘kettling’ the youth into the area. If you leave a kettle on it boils over.

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Day X2 – London students defy police to march against the cuts 30.11.2010

Student protests

On 30 November 2010, FRFI supporters were among over 4000 students demonstrating in central London against the increasing commodification of education and the brutal cuts being inflicted upon the working class to pay for capitalism’s crisis.

The National Campaign against Cuts and Fees (NCAFC) called the ‘Day X2’ protest to coincide with a parliament debate on the white paper discussing imminent tuition fee increases. The march assembled around Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square at 12.30pm and planned to take a short route to Parliament Square along a route agreed with the police.

A short way along the pre-planned route, the police formed a thick line across the road reinforced with metal barricades.  Fearful of being kettled again (kettling is the police tactic of containing protestors for hours at a time in small areas), the marchers turned around and sprinted through St James Park, attempted to reach Parliament Square. Flying squads of the Territorial Support Unit used violent tactics to try and re-apply the kettle and make arrests. A UCL student attempting to avoid a kettle was rugby-tackled by police into railings near Westminster Abbey and there are reports that police were armed with CS gas.

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School and college students step up the pace in Newcastle demonstrations

On Tuesday 30 November in Newcastle, hundreds of students from schools, colleges and universities made it through the snow to take action against cuts and rising fees. At the beginning of the demonstration, FRFI hosted an open mic against the cuts, including young people who had never spoken in public before, speaking out against the attacks on their future. Following a successful march coordinated by the occupiers of the Fine Arts Building at Newcastle University, hundreds went on to take further action against the banks and corporations whose interests are being served by the cuts. Over the next few hours protests took place inside local branches of Vodaphone, Lloyds TSB and HSBC. A large sit-down protest took place in the middle of Fenwicks, which hosts a Topshop department, owned by the billionaire, notorious tax-dodger and government adviser on the cuts, Philip Green. Police demonstrated once again the interests they serve, attempting unsuccessfully to prevent demonstrators from leaving the university campus to take action against banks in the city centre. But despite being harassed, pursued, threatened with arrest and at times kettled by the police, these demonstrators supported each other and refused to back down, and there were no arrests.

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