Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/183/8004
Build mass non-payment
THE TURNOUT on the 15 November NUS demonstration showed very clearly that the anger over the government's introduction of tuition fees and abolition of the grant has not abated. More students are prepared to take to the streets against these attacks than before.
This growing anger is directly related to students' increasing impoverishment under New Labour. Many students said they'd come along because of their own experience of struggling to survive at university, particularly with paying their fees.
The size of the demo gives a huge boost to students' confidence in building a mass movement to force the government to scrap fees and reintroduce the grant.
However, students need to elaborate a strategy to build such a mass movement. On the NUS demonstration, the overwhelming majority of students, while keen to fight the fees, had little idea of how to do so successfully and win a victory against the government. None of the speakers on the platform at the rally, or the NUS, assisted the demonstrators in this respect.
The Socialist Party has been putting forward the strategy of mass non-payment of fees over the last three years. We believe that if enough students withhold their fees and organise action to defend their right to a free education, fees can be made unworkable.
We have seen the correctness of this strategy borne out - so far £21 million in fees remains unpaid. Clearly, thousands can't afford to pay them. The main tasks are to organise these students in a campaign to defend their right to stay on their courses and to spread non-payment. We must persuade thousands of other students who oppose fees, to refuse to pay and to take action too.
Organised mass non-payment could potentially develop at any time. Thousands of students who haven't paid their fees will face threats of sanctions over the next few months. They can draw the conclusion that it is necessary to take action to defend their education.
- Scrap tuition fees - build mass non-payment.
- Reinstate the student grant - free education for all.
- Fight all exclusions and disciplinary threats of non-payers and anti-fees campaigners.
"How can we afford to pay?"
ONE OF the liveliest groups on the march were a dozen or so students from Wembley High School. "We're here because we all want to go University next year or afterwards. How can we afford to pay? Our parents haven't got enough to pay these fees - education should be free!"
Paul and Louise from Barnsley college:
"The demonstration was really good. We don't have to pay fees but it's going to become relevant to us When we go to university, we'll be threatened with really expensive fees."
Natalie and Rachel (Sixth-form students from Southampton):
"We're against tuition fees. It's completely wrong that people with less money are denied the chances that people with more money have.
"We're here today to show solidarity and to show how society is based on wealth where people are denied opportunities because they don't have the money."
Adela from Valencia studying at Queen Mary college:
"I believe education is a right not a privilege. We should have a more equal society where people have the same rights for the same education with the same standards.
"I'm impressed by the size of today's demonstration. Although I'm only here for a few months I plan to get involved in the campaign against tuition fees."
Sara Mayo, third year English student at Swansea University:
"I feel very strongly about tuition fees and the lack of a grant; we need to take urgent action about it. I've only get £300 to live on for the next five weeks, the rest of the term.
"I think I'll leave university with debts of over £10,000 and my overdraft will push it over £11,000. I've had to pay fees for all three years.
"There's mow a stronger anger amongst students against fees. Over 300 came today from Swansea University. Last year only 30 came on the NUS demo.
"I've also got involved with SFE and Socialist Students to see what I could do and how I could contribute to change society."
Kevin Cullen, mature student Swansea University:
"People should have good education. It's been promised for years and Labour haven't delivered on their promises.
"After three years of higher education I'll be £10,000-£12,000 in debt. This is now happening to every student. And at my age and being a mature student that level of debt is off-putting. Before going to college. you have to weigh up the options and think of your financial situation.
"I've been very impressed with the demonstration. I think the government should listen to this protest that fees should be scrapped and grants reintroduced."
In The Socialist 24 November 2000: