The National Campaign Against Fees & Cuts organised a speakers tour at student unions across the country, to share the experiences of the victories at Sussex. Last Wednesday the tour came to LUU…
The latest leg of the tour stopped in Leeds which recently saw a campaign by students and staff against £35million worth of cuts which could have seen 700 jobs and several departments go to the wall. The escalating campaign at Sussex was inspirational to the Leeds Uni Against Cuts group, so the chance to listen to and question a Sussex student about the finer points of their successes was not to be missed.
Tabitha from Sussex gave an excellent and detailed account of the build-up to the protests, and the various aspects of the campaign – ranging from organising solidarity directly with the Trade Union rank-and-file on campus and in Brighton, to co-ordinating a campaign that saw 800 students turn out in support of the Sussex 6 and force the Vice-chancellor to reverse their suspension.
Details about the methods and tactics of organising an occupation were debated, with a focus on the Sussex way of ‘flash occupations’ for 24 hours which were used to raise awareness. The heavy-handed crackdown by uni bosses which saw riot police used on campus and six occupiers suspended galvanised the Sussex campaign and drew wider layers of students into activity.
A question-and-answer session which followed expanded on the details of carrying out a successful campaign, and drew on the experiences of Sussex to draw conclusions about the successes and failures at Leeds. There was interest in the kind of campaigning that was most effective – whether there was a focus on demonstrations and occupations, or organising meetings.
A contribution from the floor by Jerry Hicks, a member of the trade union Unite, raised the beneficial prospects of making links with the trade union movement in media in order to attract more sustained, positive coverage with a higher profile.
Concerns were raised over the role of the NUS – the clear difference between Leeds and Sussex being that LUU have maintained an anti-strike, anti-lecturer attitude ever since launching Education First and are now trying to legitimise that position with Motion 1, while Sussex students enjoyed the support of a progressive students’ union.
The two issues that came our most strongly from the meeting was the growing need for a national, fighting students’ union that can generalise the experience of local victories and organise to unite a mass student resistance to billions of pounds of education cuts due to fall this autumn.
The second was the need for a student-led campaign on campus that can organise students to fight for education themselves, one that can challenge the managements and SU bureaucrats and careerists, to build a student movement that not only fights to defend education but raises the question of who controls our campuses – the students and staff or the over-paid under-worked vice-chancellors who take pay rises while condemning hundreds of staff to the dole queue.
This report appeared originally at worldrevolution.org.uk