Wednesday 24 November 2010

Youth anger, disillusionment and outrage at the coalition's announcements on cuts and fees have not come as a surprise.

A whole generation of young people are having their futures torn up in front of their eyes as policies they explicitly voted against are put into effect with the support of a party many of them voted for.

Is it a surprise that college and sixth-form students among many resorted to direct action and violence as an act of desperation against the government?

Over 50,000 students, teachers and lecturers travelled to London two weeks ago to protest against the increase in tuition fees and cuts to higher education spending, representing the majority who voted against the scale of the cuts we're now seeing across government. And thousands more demonstrated in the capital and around the country today.



Many students voted for the Lib Dems in May on the basis of their pledge to scrap tuition fees, but sadly Nick Clegg and others abandoned this at the first whiff of power.

Democracy has failed young people and many of them are increasingly desperate. This is why direct action has been and will continue to be a key tactic in the fight for their futures.

Direct action has always been used for fighting repression, from Gandhi and Martin Luther King to Emmeline Pankhurst.

It is disappointing that the media has shown little historical awareness in choosing to focus on a few broken windows rather than the more pressing breaking of British higher and further education.

University fees in England and Wales are already among the most expensive in Europe and if trebled to £9,000 will be among the most expensive in the world.

The average across all sectors in the US is around £7,000 and even private universities in Japan (£4,379 a year) and South Korea (£5,379 a year) will be cheaper than public universities here.

Sweden, Finland, Denmark and some others still charge no fees at all and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average is just £1,427 per year.

The Westminster government is effectively privatising universities. The whole burden of higher education is falling on individual students.

Why is this government so keen to saddle young people with debt when other nations continue to recognise the wider importance of education, especially in a recession?

Graduate debt has more wide-reaching effects than we realise. Not only do repayments make it difficult for graduates to set up a home, they are unable to pay into pensions and will generally spend less in the economy, further damaging chances of a lasting recovery.

This is just one ingredient in a toxic cocktail of cuts and privitisation being imposed on the nation for ideological reasons.

The Tory cuts are not an inevitable response to the financial crisis but an attack on the very idea of a socially conscious, good society.

We have to ask what kind of a socially destructive example are Tory and Lib Dem MPs setting for the current generation of young people?

And would it be surprising if this kind of behaviour by those in power were to leave millions questioning democracy?

However, protest on its own isn't enough to bring about serious, lasting change.

Protest might influence MPs or councillors into pursuing a different course of action this time round, but it doesn't replace them with MPs or councillors who will actually pursue alternative policies as a matter of principle.

Protest is often necessary, but so is change from within the system.