An explosive new period of mass action against the government and its cuts agenda has opened up. Students have protested in their thousands and have walked out and occupied colleges and universities up and down the country.
Jethro Waldron, YFJ colleges organiser
Despite the extreme weather, the Youth Fight for Jobs (YFJ) conference on Saturday 4 December was attended by students, young workers and trade unionists sharing their experiences and debating the way forward.
It was decided that our urgent priority is to unite the fightback at both local and national level.
The government has been stunned by recent actions of students and their supporters, and our movement has already won victories in Scotland and Wales where EMA has been saved.
But anger alone will not defeat this government. We need organisation, both at local and national level. United for education and for every job and service this government wants to slash, we can defeat the Con-Dems.
YFJ and its new initiative Youth Fight for Education (YFE), with the support of six national trade unions, and with the ideas we need to win, is uniquely placed to help give this organisation and lead the movement to victory.
There are almost one million people aged 16 to 24 who are out of work, and this figure looks set to grow. A lengthening dole queue, coupled with massive cuts in benefits, will mean condemnation to many years of poverty and joblessness.
As well as getting involved in the campaigns against education cuts, YFJ will continue its important work in the trade unions and amongst the unemployed to fight for a decent future for all young people.
After the opening discussion we broke into sessions on various aspects of the campaign (see reports below)
Are cuts necessary?
Time and time again YFJ activists are faces with the argument of the supposed necessity of the cuts. This discussion focussed on developing effective arguments against the practically unchallenged view of the mainstream media and politicians.
Topics included how the government justifies the cuts, how best to expose the lies and inconsistencies within their arguments and what counter-arguments are most effective in building a mass movement. For many, myself included, the discussion helped to inspire new ideas and build confidence for the long debate ahead.
Youth Democratic Rights Campaign (YDRC)
This session discussed the need to build the YDRC to defend our right to protest, which is under attack on several fronts. A legal defence is necessary for those who have been charged with offences on the various protests. The YDRC is working with a solicitor and we talked about the need to protest outside the courts when cases are heard.
In some schools and colleges we also need to campaign against people losing their Education Maintenance Allowance or being disciplined in other ways for missing lessons.
We also need a political campaign to highlight that the reason the police have been so heavy handed with some of the protests is to scare young people off from continuing to campaign.
The discussion on welfare reforms looked at campaigning against attacks on the unemployed and connecting this to the wider anti-cuts movement. It was said that welfare minister Iain Duncan Smith's plans to force the unemployed to work for benefits are an attack on the jobs and pay of all workers. Unemployed young people are not 'work-shy', but victims of the capitalist economic crisis. Matt Dobson gave good examples of campaigning by Dundee Youth Fight for Jobs which could be replicated across Britain.
Organising in schools, colleges and universities
This crucial discussion focussed on the role YFJ and YFE could play in coordinating and sustaining the movement against attacks on education.
It was agreed that we should support and build grassroots campaigns against fees and cuts and that these campaigns should be as democratic and open as possible. There was consensus that occupation can be a useful tactic but that to be effective it is essential that they be based on mass activity. Activists agreed to help build alliances with the trade unions and to connect student struggles to generalised campaigns against public sector cuts.