Hey Really Free School, we have a proposal.
Get in touch if you’re interested combabes xoxoxox
Hey Really Free School, we have a proposal.
Get in touch if you’re interested combabes xoxoxox
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged education, occupations, The Free School
With Aaron Porter “doing a Mubarak” and promising not to stand for re-election following the leak of his plan to shaft the poor, DSG ask- Where next for the NUS?
Surely there’s only one real alternative? DSG endorse this proposal.
TEMPA T FOR NUS PRESIDENT!
BAX! PAXMAN STRAIGHT IN THE EYES!
JOIN THE FACEBOOK CAMPAIGN HERE
In the meantime, we would like to dedicate the following track to Porter for all his dedication and hard work. Enjoy your think-tank!
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged education, internet, NUS, student movement, UK
It was inevitable that, once the focusing date of the actual parliamentary vote on tuition fees passed, the ‘student movement’ in the UK would die down. It was equally inevitable that the banality-factories of liberal punditry would start wittering away, devoid of any meaningful analysis as to the extent to which it constitutes a significant change in youth organisation, or how it operates on the level of a spectacle. This media cannibalism, slowly devouring it’s own construction (do we recall the heady days of columnists asking us to ‘do a France?’) as the end point of the news cycle, is of little consequence to us.
For youth itself however, working-class youth starting to face down a year which will be defined by savage governance and social crisis, it’s probably a good time to look at how our critique of the education cuts is transforming into a critique of education itself, as it exists.
One of the Clarksonisms levelled at the student protestors was that they were, essentially, defending their own middle-class privilege. Leaving aside a much needed debate about class, as a facile criticism it nonetheless struck a chord with many of us, not because it was accurate but because it raised an important sub-question: just what are we fighting to defend? The inadequate education factories we attend, or are working towards, or have recently left? Many of us were out on the street defending an education system which we resent, for which we are full of animosity, which in no way embodies what we think education is for. We were out on the street to stop education becoming more what it already is. Banners such as ‘my students are not my clients’ are an expression of an almost utopian desire, not a statement in defence of the current situation. What did our banner, ‘WE WANT FREE EDUCATION’, really mean by free?
The problem in developing a radical critique (and hence an avenue out of the impasse of mere ‘resistance’) lies in the fact that, before these cuts and higher fees were imposed, there was an assumption on much of ‘the Left’ that the primary function of education in our society was as a public service. This illusion of further and higher education as a humanistic propagation of education for education’s sake bears little scrutiny. We see the failure of the student movement to really confront the role of higher education in the maintenance of the general intellect – that is, knowledge as the main productive force – as a very real problem in moving beyond the anti-cuts narrative and into a discussion on the creation of a society fit for humans. We say this not as a ultra-left whinge about every little bit of our life being turned into an exploitable commodity, but because it seems to us that understanding that education in our society is essentially training, is key to developing a powerful and incisive criticism of it.
So it is for this reason that we think ‘why can’t we just have learning for the love of learning’ is not an argument that cuts the mustard in a capitalist society. Of course, the Tories have been particularly tendentious and explicit in putting forward their idea that the state should only really pay for useful, profitable subjects like engineering, maths and the like. Such a position really highlights the complete stupidity of their argument, bent more by their Trumpton ideology of 1950’s Britain, with a bobby on every corner, high streets butchers with rosy-apple cheeks and the working class up t’mill or down t’pit; poor, yes, but happy in their labour, glad to know their place. The idea that our economy runs on those subjects, rather than on the service industries, media and advertising, research and development, and a cartload of other precarious ‘careers’ would be ludicrous if it weren’t so malign. It’s a policy designed to appeal to certain swing-constituencies, not to actually create a more efficient (by their standards) education system.
But for the same reason, we cannot claim that to study Art, or English Literature, or other humanities is to somehow opt out of the capitalist system for the pure love of knowledge. These educational programmes build and train workers in these industries that today provide economic flesh for the western world. We must acknowledge that those degrees are as vital in providing the skills needed for the reproduction of a capitalist economy based on immaterial and cognitive labour as engineering or modern foreign languages. Aspiration is not insignificant here. Few estate agents, call-centre managers or system designers actually get a degree in that area specifically – few would necessarily want to, such is the remaining power of aspiration over the university system. Rather, whilst they study arts and humanities, they accrue the necessary transferable skills that will subsequently become economically useful – this is where the real value lies. We barely need mention the proliferation of services and arrangements universities today offer to students to explicitly ready them for the labour market. These are the reasons the surface readings of “education should be free” are wrong- they are the calls of the established left wishing to return to the days of the social-democratic truce, days as romantic and reactionary as the Tories image of “Big Society”. Days of fordist industry, strong unions, men with big muscles using hammers and drinking tea somehow being the only path towards Good Old Socialism.
So the first step we must take is developing our critique is to make it explicit in terms of our relationship with the economy today. What the fees symbolise is a very real wage-cut in exchange for providing the economy with a higher skilled, more adaptable, less secure, more indentured workforce. We are being made to pay for our own training, with no guarantee, and often little chance, of a corresponding increase in pay. A university degree today is not a sign of becoming middle-class. It’s a way for the working class to make themselves suitable for the post-industrial workplace. This must be the basis of any class analysis of the current argument. A student movement without a radical discourse is trapped, stuck with it’s populist ‘radical’ rhetoric but without questioning capital directly, arguing only for a more humane management of capital: crumbs from the table of production.
Despite our own rhetoric, this shifting is happening not because the Tories are naturally bad people (they are, but that is just a coincidence). This position has arisen because for a variety of reasons, only one of which was the bank bailouts of the past 3 years. To claim the reason we cannot afford universal education is due to the banks confuses two concurrent symptoms with a cause and effect– it is populist left-wing grandstanding which appeals more to hearts than minds. The marketisation of higher education happened long before the current financial crisis. Both are the result of a tension, a crisis in capitalism developing from neoliberal market reforms – but a crisis that neoliberalism is ruthlessly exploiting in order to consolidate more rights, more wealth and more power. This was a blip, not a rupture, and if things go to plan, we’ll arrive the other side without even those basic social-democratic gains of the past century.
What we are building is another question entirely, but the alternative we work towards will have to contain the seeds of the disruption and destruction of that which already exists. Toni Negri asks whether ‘we might consider how the concept of general intellect can be used to define not capitalist development but its sabotage, the struggle against this development’. With the implementation of a tiny, costly and conservative education market that looks like the near future of education in Britain, we will have to build these spaces from sheer necessity, starting with models like the free school, the school-in-internal-exile and the online community and working out our models from there according to conditions and our needs.
We can wish our way back to a former society of paternalist leftism and social partnership, of a series of deals between state, capital and organised labour in order better to manage our disaffection, and then, perhaps this time, a few more working class kids can get into an inadequate education system and rise through the ranks of management, if they play their cards right. It looks unlikely, though – capital has changed too fast. Or we can find a new, slightly different educational compromise with capital, but without organised labour, and most likely a worse, less secure deal. Or we can push forward, exploit the cracks to live up to the promises on our placards in a truer sense than even we knew then. To us, this isn’t even a choice- we must confront the world we are presented with, and aim for a world we want. FREE EDUCATION.
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged education, occupations, student movement, UK
Our fellow humans in the Metropolitan Police Public Order Unit CO11 helpfully produced a leaflet for the ease and comfort of demonstrators on the streets of London yesterday (also a legally binding section 14 notice, according to this source.
Luckily for the proletariat DSG’s leaflet, distributed throughout the day, is a NON-LEGALLY BINDING form of TOTAL CONTESTATION! Click to enlarge, or download a printable pdf (A4) HERE.
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged education, Police, stewarding, student movement
DSG aims to publish posts and propaganda from various sources as provocation and stimulation. The following text was produced and disseminated at the “Demo 2010” protest on 10th November 2010. It is credited to “Luther Blissett”.
Education’s Napster Moment
As a result of the emergence of a virtual marketplace that encourages the forming of community and the sharing of ideas, we have inadvertently been equipped with the tools needed to undo the current rules of engagement.
Ours is the first generation to be given the toolset by which to produce, collectively organise and display our message/ideology/product to a global audience; an audience that, like you, has an equal opportunity to subvert the current trajectory of our education system.
Universities are collapsing. Not as a result of dramatic cuts but because they represent an outmoded model for their primary function, the exchange of knowledge and research. Like the music industry, the education industry is about to experience the same death blow to its infrastructure and profit model that Napster issued to the music industry back in 1999.
Everyone within our generation is aware that the construction of ideas and the execution of research has shifted its locality to a sprawling virtual space that is open to collective input.
Let us not draw out the death rattle of our institutions by allowing concessions to be made and minor battles to be fought and ultimately lost – instead let us accelerate the pace of their demise.
Abandon the institution and declare it’s death, the point at which our apathy for the current state of play is declared, the better. With this change we will be able to destabilise the mediated control of our social trajectory, causing a genuine crisis for those that stand to profit both politically and financially from our existing system. It is the institutions and those that control them that need us.
Create a real crisis, torrent your syllabus, duplicate your id cards and give them to strangers, scan your entire library and post it on AAARG, distribute maps of your university online, relocate your seminars to a space outside of the institution. Invalidate the universities existence, so that together we can begin to build fresh foundations on its grave.
Invite anyone and everyone to participate, saturate your institutions and make them a true open space. The path to knowledge does not end on the day of graduation.
This document was put together on the spur of the moment as a direct response to this situation, its ideas are not fixed. Instead it seeks to act as a provocation or suggestion that we should consider the complete reformation of what we currently have. More money/Less cuts cannot cure the decline of our institutions. We have now a unique opportunity to create something new, independently and autonomously.
Posted in Uncategorized
In three months we’ve seen an explosion of street activity that took us all by surprise. Whereas there’s always been a core of far-left activity in Britain that has, in rhetoric if not in action, stood as a public opposition to capital, it would be fair to say that for many years even the most effective action has been on a local scale, where hard-working activists have played King Canute to the tide of neo-liberalism. However, in an autumn, we have seen an afternoon of smashed windows turn into an almost hyperactive atmosphere where an attitude of social cynicism and apathy seems to have turned to anger. Whilst we can (probably) all agree that this offers an opportunity to challenge the logic of parliamentary-democracy and, in turn, capital, if the struggle can be spread from students to the wider social body. However, we must be honest with ourselves, both on the current parameters of the social crisis, and the fact that a social crisis does not amount to a crisis in capitalism.
Whilst “the movement” made a significant impact on the mainstream media, and raised direct action and extra-parliamentary politics as a spectre at the least, it’s important not to get too carried away. Even over the short Christmas break, issues around unity and sectarianism, carried over from earlier, pre-existing arguments, but also from new tactical and organisational divisions, have started to spread, ironically exacerbated by the social media which has proved such a vital organisational tool. Significant actions need to be taken in order to return to an atmosphere of class antagonism, if only on a media stage, in order to stimulate a sense of momentum and confidence in class antagonism proper.
The manifestations of the student “movement” have been two-fold, firstly, a wave of occupations that spread across university campuses towards the end of the year, and four major national demonstrations of increasing anger, intensity and violence that pushed the issue to the front of the national press, ending with a sight almost unthinkable just weeks before: major civil disorder by youths in Parliament Square whilst the coalition pushed through proposals on tuition fees with a much diminished majority. If you had predicted such a scenario just a month and a half before to even the most committed ultra-leftist activist you’d have been swatted away from conversation as a fantasist. Such a swift turn-around is what created such a hyperactive buzz, on parts of campuses and in the online student opinion press and personal blogs. It was also this rapid change, and the new potentials it seemed to offer, that precipitated the series of occupations.
The principles behind an occupation, especially at a university, are well laid out. It is the principle of direct action- to interrupt the functioning of the university, not as a symbolic protest but in an attempt to disrupt or halt the operations of the university as an economic entity. A sit-in is simply occupying a space in protest, or to provide that space as a resource, for education or debate, but an occupation is an attack on the functioning of the institution itself. To varying extents the 40+ occupations across the country succeeded in this, whether by occupying lecture halls, administration buildings or libraries. These occupations were really a huge political eye-opener to many of the participants. Unlike in many European countries, British universities are relative strangers to the occupation model, and reports have varied as to reactions and decisions made within different academic institutions. Whilst some operated effectively, others suffered from divisions. Whilst some managed to hold on to spaces for long periods, others were quickly evicted by management, often with the help of bailiffs and the police.
The occupation of the library at Goldsmiths College in South East London seemed to be an interesting case study with wider ramifications. Goldsmiths (both the management and the student body) sees itself as a radical institution- indeed, ironically, this radicality is a key recruitment tool for the university. The College went into occupation quite late in comparison to others, and pretty soon fractious divisions arose amongst occupying students regarding the nature of the action. Whilst many students and staff felt that a full closure of the library was the only action that could push beyond a symbolic protest, others felt that such a move, especially in the month leading up to key dissertation deadlines, would only turn the majority of the student body against the nascent “movement”. This division seems indicative of a wider divide within the student “movement”- the divide between those who were already politically active, and those who have been induced into action, or wider political awareness, by the implementation of massive cuts to public services as part of the “package of austerity measures”. Whilst certain arguments are well-rehearsed within political currents, their foundations and implications might not be so obvious to people new to direct action. And that’s not to suggest a hierarchy, that they’re necessarily right– certainly there is no bigger enemy of programmatism than fresh eyes, picking holes in often dry and tired dogmatism taken for granted by operating politicos. It was this division that was played out dramatically at Goldsmiths College.
There can be no denying that tensions in the space ran extremely high; meetings became tortured and laborious without offering many real tactical gains, and often a sense of personal antagonism poisoned the air. Whilst there was no doubt a kernel of difference which was the base of this atmosphere, it is important we do not overweight the significance of it- there was much agreement, discussion, solidarity and friendship within the room, even some sexy-time if management are to be believed. Small problems were exacerbated by fatigue and stress as well as procedural difficulties. However, we should not flinch from being self-critical here, but we should put the division into perspective. There was no fundamental schism, but rather a lack of communication between political positions, and a lack of understanding of others politics.
This highlighted a fundamental problem, however. How effective is occupation of an educational resource as a weapon? An occupation seems like a logical step for an educational institution, but is it the most effective use of our time, energy and resources? In the end at Goldsmiths there was not an occupation, but a sit in, but would an occupation have been any more effective, or would it have been counterproductive to the achievement at a time when the majority of the student body do not necessarily identify themselves with the student movement? Those engaged in occupations really must ask themselves, we feel, the degree of economic frustration caused by shutting down occupations.
It would seem to us that, whilst we shouldn’t write off occupation of the university as a tactic, it is not the most effective use of our time, and politically (with a small p) they often prove unnecessarily contentious and counter-productive. Much of this is an issue of political fluency- the occupation is not currently part of the political language in our country, whereas it might be better understood in other areas of the world. Whilst we hold a responsibility to change that misunderstanding, we can not act as immediatists, and blame others for not understanding the political and tactical objectives of the occupation. And once we hold directly-democratic student assemblies, we cannot then override that process because it starts slipping into reformism. In such a situation our task as radicals should be agitation, not cutting ourselves off.
This raises a more pertinent issue- what is the most effective extra-parliamentary direct action the student movement could take right now? Whilst we acknowledge the tactic of occupation on our campuses, and reserve the right to take that action which we deem necessary, perhaps we could push our energy into a more effective form of economic (and class) warfare.
The focus of the previous few month’s action has been squarely upon parliament. That action has been radical, often violent, but it betrays a fundamental falsehood– that the key to social change lies within Westminster, within the centralised power-structures of parliamentary democracy. The protests, whilst rejecting the slightly tragic leadership of the National Union of Students, has still focused it attentions on the same arena– by lobbying those in power, we might, somehow, persuade, threaten or guilt-trip them into doing the right thing. What that is, we’re not sure. Not implementing tuition fees, no doubt, but the analysis ends their; the popular accusation of “spoilt students defending their free education” might not be so far from the truth, if that were the case. As long as capital operates outside Parliament, we must operate outside Parliament. Politics is not a limited sphere of negotiations around lawmaking that exists solely within the limits of Westminster, politics is our everyday interaction.
Any more radical approach must focus not on the machinations of Parliament, but on the economic system Parliament is sworn to protect– the system of deregulated financial capital that created the social crisis in the first place, with it’s reckless gambling on markets and subsequent transference of the results of that failure onto the public pocket, in the form of public ownership of the banks. By refocusing the dissent against the financial industry, the struggle against austerity can start to seriously undermine the dominant “argument” for the massive attack on the working-class– that is, the language of “inevitablism”, that the cause of the social crisis is a deficit caused by reckless public spending. This, so far, has been a real problem with the student “movement” when it comes to engaging in dialogue with the wider public, a public so far relatively disengaged from the idea of opposing cuts.
The point of the economic blockade is two-fold, direct and political; firstly, to shut down the financial industry whose continued operation works against the interests of ordinary people, and secondly; to draw attention to the fact the students cause is not the protection of a mollycoddled middle-class elite but an attack on the financial scam that has put us all in this situation.
There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning. -Warren Buffett
We don’t perceive this to necessarily be a radical agenda in itself, but the start of a process of offering an alternative, intelligent and practical criticism of capitalism. It’s the start of asserting that the problem isn’t Labour’s sloppiness in book-keeping (as the coalition claims) or general Tory nastiness (as much of the student movement seems to be asserting). It’s to raise the role and effects of the financial system as the originator of the current austerity measures.
When it comes to direct action, every struggle must use the weight of their enemy against them, must take advantage of every weakness. In Greece, the sanctuary of the university and historical position of the students enables us to push against the state directly in the streets. In Britain, we learnt for the first time that the one weapon we can use most effectively in the face of police repression is improvisation- to turn quickly on our heels and bolt before the monolith of a militarised police line can react. Like that police line, the industrialisation of our education system, teamed with a paranoiac fear of bad publicity damaging their market stake, has turned our universities into a bureaucratic behemoth. If we take advantage of that, we can use the resources a campus offers to the best of our advantages. To hold a physical space for a week in London, a convergence space to be freely utilised to fight against austerity, to meet fellow students, to practice tactics and prepare tools, a place to come to rest together after an action- this is a massive practical achievement that is more than possible today.
Therefore, a proposal; we take what we learned from a hectic two months and dozens of nationwide university occupations and work together to step up the fight against austerity. In the week approaching the next national demonstration against fees and cuts we take control of physical space within our universities not with the aim of shutting down the education system, but with the aim of shutting down the financial sector which has engineered this crisis. We use those spaces, and social media, to launch a week of flash-mobs, sit-ins and shut-downs of the infrastructure that support the city- train stations, tube lines, city-boy pubs. Each action planned on the hoof, with hundreds of students throughout the week improvising take-overs of Canary Wharf, creative actions inside the Bank of England, a close-down of the stock-exchange, if only for an hour. A week where the students take the fight to those who started it- the financiers who are still in the clover as the public sector is closed down. A week of economic warfare.
Posted in Students, Uncategorized
Tagged economic blockade, education, Goldsmiths, NUS, occupations, protest, student movement, UK