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Student strikes can win results
Young people face increasing attacks on their future. For the first time in decades a whole generation will be worse off than their parents - a damning indictment of a system that has failed to provide for working and middle class young people in one of the wealthiest countries in the world.
The onslaught of cuts to university courses and staff and increasing fees coupled with growing youth unemployment, cuts to benefits and cuts to training schemes will undoubtedly see an increase in young people looking for ways to fight back.
As young people search for the most effective tool to channel their anger, many different methods of struggle will be explored including occupations, protests, days of actions and strikes.
Historically student strikes have been one of the most effective ways for young people to fight back. Two of the most notable examples in the UK were when hundreds of thousands walked out internationally in the 2003 school students' strikes against the Iraq war and the successful 1985 student strikes against Thatcher's Youth Training Schemes (YTS).
The 1985 student strikes against the threat of conscription to the YTS, which involved 250,000 young people, won a massive victory against the government.
The YTS was essentially legalised slave labour with young people being used by employers to work for a low wage, then thrown back onto the scrapheap when the scheme ended. When the scheme was cancelled, a whole new generation learnt that if you fight, you can win!
Similarly in 2003 the Iraq war aroused a huge wave of anger across the country.
Young people were being told that there was not enough money for education, jobs and training - yet the government could afford to blow millions of pounds on the war in Iraq.
International Socialist Resistance (ISR), a youth organisation, distributed 60,000 leaflets on the two million strong 15 February demonstration in London, calling for school student strikes. Up and down the country young people organised and walked out of schools against the war.
Student strikes can take on a different character to other forms of action. They have to involve a mass of students to be successful.
Other useful methods, like occupations, are important but can sometimes involve a small number of experienced activists who, whilst attempting to further the campaign, can isolate themselves from the majority of students and staff.
Student strikes will need to be a vital tool used in anti-cuts campaigning in schools, colleges and universities.
Campaigns need to coordinate action that focuses on patiently building the confidence of students that struggle can be effective. They also need to propose demands that will take the movement forward.
Just as students can take inspiration from workers in struggle, mass student strikes could also play a role in inspiring the older generation of the trade union movement nationally.
This December, Youth Fight for Jobs and Socialist Students will meet to discuss strategies to defeat the cuts. There will be an opportunity at these conferences to vote on policies and elect people to national positions.
Join us, and help organise to fight cuts and fees and for a decent future for young people.
- 4 December - Youth Fight for Jobs conference.
- 5 December - Socialist Students conference.
Both at UCL, London (near Euston station).
See www.socialiststudents.org.uk for details.
On 20 October, the Chancellor, George Osborne, will announce the results of the spending review.
There is little doubt that he will announce even more cuts, including to education, jobs and young people's services.
Youth Fight for Jobs and Socialist Students are organising a day of action in protest at these attacks.
Get in touch to find out how to get involved in your area:
Call - 020 8558 7947
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
The Student Socialist
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Read about last year's anti-cuts campaigns and how to take them forwards, what the English Defence League (EDL) is and how to defeat it, international reports and what a socialist education system would look like.
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In The Socialist 15 September 2010:
Socialist Party editorial
Socialist Party youth and students
Feature: Socialist Party women
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party review