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Sussex: Students gain a victory - but fight must go on!
A week of protests and activity at Sussex University started with a 700-strong protest of staff and students on Thursday 11 March and culminated in a one-day strike by lecturers and the reinstatement of six suspended students on Thursday 18 March.
Claire Laker-Mansfield, Sussex Socialist Students
The Stop the Cuts campaign (StC) organised the protest to oppose the 115 planned redundancies, in solidarity with the lecturers, and in response to management's attempts to silence peaceful protest on campus with riot police and suspensions of the 'Sussex Six' students. Management also obtained a high court injunction criminalising "occupational protest action" on campus.
The 700-strong protest demanded the unconditional reinstatement of the Sussex Six, and waited until a member of the vice chancellor's executive group came to collect 1,500 signatures on a petition. A call was then made to defy management's injunction and around 300 went on to occupy the largest lecture theatre on campus.
Inside the occupation, a meeting chaired by Sarah Wrack (Socialist Students) agreed the demands of the occupation, including the unconditional reinstatement of the Sussex Six. Socialist Students members argued that, while reinstatement was extremely important, an end to the cuts should also be demanded. Unfortunately, this was not taken up by the majority of people in the occupation.
Without word from management the occupation continued over the weekend, organising speakers to address students and staff. In total around 1,000 people probably passed through the lecture theatre, including a large number of campus workers, all defying the injunction.
An emergency general meeting (EGM) of the student union was called to discuss a motion of no confidence in the vice chancellor's executive group and to pass union policy supporting the Sussex Six. On Wednesday 17 March the EGM was attended by 850 students, with 100 turned away at the door. Both motions were passed.
On 18 March students left the occupation to join lecturers on the picket lines during a one-day strike. The UCU lecturers' union has taken this action to defend jobs at Sussex and is supported by students. This is likely to be the first of a number of days of strike action.
At around 2pm the 'Sussex Six' received emails detailing their reinstatement by management. A joint rally of around 300 staff and students took place at 4pm as the picket lines ended. Speakers celebrated the victory but warned that the campaign must not now lose focus on fighting the cuts.
In The Socialist 24 March 2010:
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
Marxist analysis: history
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news