Student demonstration must be just the beginning

Claire Laker-Mansfield, Socialist Students national organiser

10 November 2010 saw more than 50,000 students take to the streets in protest. The government’s onslaught was just beginning, their plans to triple fees, cut EMA student payments and place a decent education firmly out of the reach of the ‘plebs’ had just been announced.

The demonstration was organised by the National Union of Students (NUS) and on the streets the anger was fresh and the mood determined.

But ordinary students’ enormous willingness to fight was not matched by their ‘leaders’ at NUS HQ. Though this demonstration sparked a mass movement, with hundreds of thousands participating in student strikes, walk outs and occupations, this was all organised without the backing of the ‘official’ structures.

The enormous resources and the potential authority of NUS were wasted while a movement took place in spite of its ‘leaders’.


Socialist Students played an important role in organising and building the movement against cuts and fees in 2010.

When £9,000 a year fees were approved by parliament on 9 December we argued that the fight was not over, that, under the pressure of mass movements, laws could be overturned. We argued that we needed an NUS leadership that was as determined as its membership.

This year, clearly facing pressure from below, NUS has called another national demonstration. It will take place in central London on 21 November.

This year’s first year students are bearing the brunt of the government’s worst attacks, so the need for action is clear.

To be a success the demonstration must be built for properly, with coaches booked from all over the country, mass leafleting, door-knocking and so on.

Socialist Students members should be doing everything they can to make sure the day is as large a show of anger at the government as possible.

But we must push for student unions to be using their resources to full potential – organising activity to build for the demonstrations, meetings to discuss why students should be participating and what should come next.


Socialist Students is also clear that one national demonstration isn’t going to be enough. What’s needed is a strategy for what comes next.

This means a plan to build for further student action and to escalate the struggle in the New Year.

We argue that it is vital that the fight to defend education is seen as part of the wider battle against austerity.

While student action can have a big effect, on its own, it won’t be enough to stop the onslaught. To do that, students will need to link up with workers and trade unions also fighting back.

When workers’ strike together, their economic power gives them the potential to force governments back, or even kick them out altogether.

For this reason, Socialist Students supports the demand for a 24-hour general strike. We argue that students can strike alongside workers to deal the maximum blow against the government.

Following 21 November Socialist Students will be going back to campuses and helping to organise the meetings and discussions that can plan action for the weeks and months ahead.

We’ll be helping to organise local protests against cuts, but also raising the need for further national action.

We’re calling on NUS and student unions locally to this year show themselves to be worthy of the task of defending education, for them to make sure 21 November is only the beginning.