Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Where Were You When.....?

I have been away from blogging for personal reasons, however to get me kickstarted again I thought I would have a go at one of these fun looking 'memes' that Phil at AVPS and others are so fond of. I saw this one over at The Daily (Maybe) and as I remember precisely where I was when most of these events happened, thought this would be a good one to do

So, this is where I was when.......

1) Princess Diana's death - August 31st 1997

I remember this well. I was living in Hove (actually) at the time in a shared house with fellow nursing students. We had been out for a few drinks and came back home and drank more, listening to music and chatting. One of the people we lived with had fallen asleep with his radio on and woke to the news that Diana and Dodi had been in a bad car crash. We turned on the TV and watched for a while before going to bed and waking up to the news that Diana had died.

I also remember the wave of mass hysteria that engulfed the country. The funeral that happened the following week seemed a voyeuristic affair and I remember the events around it for the way the royals showed how far out of touch they are with the public and Blairs sycophantic 'Peoples Princess' routine.

A friend and myself were in London around the time and were interviewed by Canadian TV - they asked us if we were upset or something similar and when they realised that we weren't, stopped the interview to try and find people who were.

2) Margaret Thatchers resignation - 22nd November 1990

Studying A-level politics at college, I remember watching her resignation sitting upstairs in my parents room. There must have been something else more exciting on at the time. Quite what I don't know. I do remember being very happy!

3) Attack on the Twin Towers - 11th September 2001

I was living in Perth, Australia at the time and when I found out I was in a local nightclub a little worse for wear! It was about 10.30pm when I was told, although it was pretty unclear at the time what had happened. As the night wore on, rumours were going around the club that the USA had been attacked and nuclear war was imminent! The DJ's announced that as we could all be dead pretty soon, we'd better get our cheap jugs of beer while we can.....

When I got back to my flat with friends we turned on the TV. It was about 4am and the second tower had collapsed. We all sobered up pretty quickly. It soon became pretty apparent that this was a world changing event and that the USA would respond with a violence of their own. The left response was marked by the SWP refusing to use the 'C' word when mentioning the attacks.

4) England's World Cup semi final - 4th July 1990

I remember the summer of 1990 with fond memories. It was a long, hot summer and one of many firsts for me. I smoked my first joint, drank my first pint in a pub, went on my first independent holiday, went to my first 'proper' rave and left school.

Most of my friends and myself were waiting for our exam results before deciding whether we were going to get a job, go to 6th form, retake exams or sign on the dole. In the midst of all this, there was a World Cup on. This was the World Cup that was famous for Nessun Dorma, Gazza's tears, Toto Schillaci and England actually doing reasonably well!

England had not been convincing in their previous matches, scraping through against Belgium and needing 2 Gary Lineker penalties to beat Cameroon. The semi final v Germany was arguably their best performance of the tournament, and although falling behind to a deflected free kick, equalised through Lineker in the 2nd half.

I was working at the local superstore at the time and finished minutes before kick off. I ran to the local pub and got a beer - despite being 16! - just in time. I remember Linekers goal as the pub erupted and the table that I was sitting at was turned over emptying glasses and the ashtray on to my nice white jeans.....they were fashionable in 1990!

After that came a scene that is incredibly familiar now. Despite playing well, England were to tumble out of a tournament on penalties. And this is the last World Cup that I remember enjoying.

5) President Kennedy's Assassination - 22 November 1963

Mmmmm, I'm not quite that old!!!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Tuition Fees : Fightback in Germany

This article is from and it shows that the NUS strategy of drinking champagne with government ministers is not an effective way of campaigning to defeat fees.

With the cap on fees up for review next year, the resistance shown in Germany is an example of what can be achieved with a strong campaign and a willingness to fightback.

The tuition fees disaster
Hessen federal state forced to promise to abolish student financial burden

Interview with Sebastian Förster, student activist

In Germany universities tuition fees were introduced federal state by federal state. The highest charge is 500 euro per semester, plus administrative and travel costs of about 250 euro. So far, half of the federal states have introduced the new fees. However, after mass student protests, Hessen is now the first federal state that intends to abolish tuition fees, although recently the federal supreme court decided by a close vote (5:6) that the fees are justified.

After last January’s state elections, the Left party (die LINKE), entered Hessen parliament. A result of this was that, so far, no coalition government has been agreed that could provide a stable government. Now the issue of tuition fees has become a focal point of the Hessen government crisis. Although the Hessen parliament voted to abolish the fees, Roland Koch (CDU – Christian Democrats), the outgoing state premier, who is now acting as a caretaker leader, refused to sign the fees legislation.

We spoke to Sebastian Förster, a student who helped to lead the university protests in the Hessian city, Fulda, in 2006/07, and who, at the moment, actively supports the ‘Tear down the Education Blockade’ school students’ strike committee in Berlin

Anne Engelhardt (AE):
In 2006, Hessens’ premier, Ronald Koch, announced the introduction of tuition fees from winter 2007. What was the reaction in the universities and colleges?
Sebastian Förster (SF):
Koch is, mainly amongst young people in Hessen, a hated politician. He carried out social cuts, especially in the education sector, and during election campaigns he used racism as a political football, time and time again. With the announcement of the introduction of general tuition fees, he provoked massive resistance on universities and colleges.

In many places, spontaneous demonstrations and occupations took place. Everywhere, general assemblies were held, to discuss further steps. In my university, we organised a one week strike. Strike committees were built, in which many students could play a part in. For many, it was the first time that they went to a demonstration. The protest gained a high level of militancy within a short time. Over ten thousands students went on the streets for one semester. Later, over fifty thousand people in Hessen took part in a petition campaign against study fees.

What were the most outstanding protests?
Perhaps most spectacular action was the occupation of the motorways and stations. The police used massive violence against these blockades. There was a demonstration at the end of the semester in Frankfurt, where 300 students and school students were brought into custody and were maltreated.

The outstanding feature of these education protests in Hessen was that many students saw the tuition fees in connection to the general social cuts and tried to bring the protests to a broader level. Their idols were the protests by youth in France, which, together with working people, could build a movement against the proposal removal of young workers’ protection from dismissal.

"Tous ensemble – all together!" and "For solidarity and free education", were the slogans on many protests in Hessen.

Were there links made with workers’ struggles? Were the student protests supported by the trade unions?
For one section of the students it was clear that to resist successfully against tuition fees a joint fight with workers was necessary. We also tried to connect to the unions.

The union for teachers and education, GEW, which in Hessen is further to the left, organised a strike against the employees attacks in the education sector and organised a joint demonstration with the students. Other unions were felt under pressure and supported our campaigns, but they did not mobilise their members for demonstrations. United strikes, like those we saw in France, took place seldomly and then only as initiatives from below.

The SAV (Socialist Alternative - CWI in Germany) played a decisive role in some cities, by organising such struggles. There were a few united strikes and protest days with public sector workers and workers from Telekom - against outsourcing, privatising and tuition fees. We also took the initiative to organise a big student demonstration on a national trade union action day, where we demonstrated together with union members and unemployed.

How do you judge the possible abolishment of tuition fees in Hessen? Why do the Greens and the Social Democrats speak against tuition fees, while, at the same time, demand them in other federal states?
The neo-liberal parties in Hessen are in a big crisis. Currently, they cannot form a state government. First and foremost, tuition fees play a decisive role. Koch’s party, the CDU, has been badly shaken because of the continual student protests and the big blow of losing over a quarter of their votes in last January’s state election. Now, the CDU cannot govern on its own, anymore.

However, the SPD and the Greens cannot create a new government. The reason for this is because the new party, the Left party (DIE LINKE), has deeply shaken the political system in Hessen, as in other parts of Germany.

Despite Hessen not having a properly constituted government, the newly elected Left party, spoke together with SPD and Greens, argued against the fees and the Hessen parliament voted to end them. On a national level, the former SPD and Green coalition government paved the way for tuition fees and supported the enabling law. To get votes in the last Hessen election they were forced to act against their own usual policy and promised the abolishment of tuition fees. While the Left party in Hessen is seen in clear opposition to social cuts and cuts in education, the SPD’s repeated changes of policy, often just for elections, shows that it is not an alternative.

Many students at colleges and universities celebrate with the certainty: The abolishment of tuition fees is a success for our resistance!

On 22 May, 8,000 school students went on strike in Berlin and on 12 June, in several other cities, school student strikes took place. Now, the German chancellor Angela Merkel, states she wants to make education to a “key issue”. How do you judge the current school student protests in Germany? What do the students demand and how can they achieve their aims?
The school students in Berlin and Germany, in general, faced a massive decline in the quality of their education. Even before the latest attacks, the German school system has been the most selective in Europe. Thousands of school students went onto the streets in the last days, demanding the restoration of the 13th school year that was cut recently. They fight for smaller classes and more teachers (an average class size of 32 is not acceptable anymore). The abolishment of the unjust ‘three-tiered school system’, which selects all pupils for economic ‘suitability’, after the fourth or sixth class, is also an important demand of the school students.
Essential for the success of the struggle, is that as many people as possible get active and play a role. The building of strike committees, like in Berlin, but also in other cities, will be increased – so, in autumn, this could lead to a new, bigger strike. This time, hopefully, on a bigger, national level.

To create decisive pressure, to achieve our demands, it is necessary to get employees and workers involved in the protests. With a strike, á la France, school students, HE students and workers united – this will be possible

Monday, 16 June 2008

U's Lose Manager

Cambridge United manager Jimmy Quinn has left the club by 'mutual consent' according to a statement from the club.
Quinn is currently on holiday with his family and a further statement is expected on Friday 20th June. Quinn took over from Rob Newman in 2006 and saved the U's from relegation. His second season saw United finish 2nd, with a 1-0 play-off final defeat by Exeter City at Wembley.
The rumour mill is in full flow with talks of behind the scenes clashes and that Quinn was pushed out of the club. Ex players Liam Daish and Alan Kimble, both at Ebbsfleet, are being touted as potential successors

Cambridge Student Arrested at Stop the War Demo

The first demonstration under the Mayoralty of Boris Johnson saw heavy handed policing of the Stop the War event called to protest at visiting war criminal George Bush. A 20 year old student from Cambridge, Joe Wilson, was among those arrested as riot squad were deployed to police between 1,000 and 2,000 peaceful protestors.

Demonstrators reported being goaded by police in an attempt to intimidate and stoke things up. It seems that they were well organised and pushing for a ruck. One of the reasons they were able to do this is the size of the demonstration. Partly this couldn't be helped as the Bush contingent changed the time of his visit. It is also noticable that the event had not been built for as well as previous demo's.

In Cambridge for example, the StWC did not run transport for the first time I can remember. The local CND group did however book a coach to their credit, although I didn't find out until an e-mail landed in my inbox on Friday afternoon. It just seems that for some, the demo was not deemed a high priority.

Another reason could be that people are fed up with the same people, saying the same things, marching the same route with diminishing numbers of people. The StWC had 2 million people on the streets on February 15th and could end up being the biggest mass movement not to punch its weight.

I think there needs to be a sober and honest reflection on the StWC. By this I mean it has to be realistic and without certain groups thinking that constructive criticism amounts to an 'attack'. I am aware that there are concrete, material conditions that account for the state of the movement, and that peaks and troughs are natural, however the StWC has failed to permeate into the mainstream consciousness, politically and culturally in the same way that the anti-Vietnam campaign did.

George Galloway has written to Ian Blair and Boris Johnson demanding an inquiry into the policing of the event.

Hat Tip : Andy at Socialist Unity

Letter to Boris Johnson

15 June 2008

Dear Mayor Johnson,

I enclose a letter I have today sent to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Ian Blair, and ask you to require the Metropolitan Police Authority to conduct an investigation into the policing of the demonstration today. I know you were a supporter of President Bush and his war on Iraq . But I cannot believe that as Mayor of London - after a closely fought and emotionally charged contest - can be sanguine about the police strategy and tactics and the violence they meted out. To borrow a phrase I can imagine you using yourself it’s just not British to deploy paramilitary riot police against such a small number of peace protesters in full view of the national and international media, and hundreds of tourists visiting central London

.It was Juvenal, I believe, who asked, “Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodes”. The answer that question is surely you as a directly elected politician and I ask you to take up your responsibility.

I look forward to hearing from you swiftly, there are, of course, other bodies which may have a locus on this matter - such as theIndependent Police Complaints Commission.

Yours sincerely,George Galloway MP

Letter to Ian Blair

15 June 2008

Dear Sir Ian,

I write in connection with the police operation surrounding the President George W Bush to Downing Street today.

I am not a habitual complainer about the police, as a scan of the public record and my history of cooperation with Tower Hamlets police and the Muslim Support Unit will quickly show. But I must say I witnessed scenes today, some of them inches from my face, which were both deeply shocking and completely unnecessary.

I was asked by the chairman of the Stop the War Coalition as the only member of parliament present at the demonstration in Parliament Squareto march to the police barricade in Whitehall symbolically to demonstrate the outrageousness of the government’s decision to forbid marchers to enter Whitehall . As one of the leaders of the Stop the War Coalition I felt it was my duty to comply with his request, although it was Fathers Day, I had my children with me and had intended to leave Parliament Square shortly after my speech.

I made my way to the front of the putative march and purely by chance found myself in the hottest spot of the confrontation which followed. I was trapped there for the best part of an hour and a half, unable to move forward, back or sideways. Consquently, I was both closer to and for longer exposed to the events as they unfolded.

A considerable line of uniformed officers were in full control of the situation for a substantial part of this time. Most of the officers were impassive throughout. Some did their best to defuse the situation, which was clearly the proper tactic in the circumstances. But a number of your officers behaved with a viciousness and lack of control such as I have not witnessed since the miners strike of 1984-85. Batons were drawn at least prematurely and were used with a level of aggression which frankly took my breath away.

These were not hardened trouble-makers they were facing who’d come for a fight with the police. They were young, peaceful, allbeit frustrated and angry anti-war protesters. You will know that there has never been any trouble on the score of Stop the War marches that London has scene hitherto. One particular officer, I will not give his number at this stage as I intend to make a formal complaint about his conduct and I am releasing this letter to the press, was quite simply out of control. He assaulted a young woman; he deployed his metal baton in a frenzied way; he ripped placards from the hands of several demonstrators when I can assure you the demonstrators in question were not using these cardboard placards in any improper way. He was standing next to a sergeant, whose number I also have, who if he tesitfies truthfully will bear out what I am saying.

A senior officer - I could see no identifying number, but I know he was senior because he was giving out orders - was actually taunting the demonstrators, including me in a display of political partiality such as I have never witnessed

.But the most serious mistake is one I believe you have a duty toinvestigate, and that was the tactical decision to deploy the black-boiler-suited riot squad - when there was clearly no riot. This decision, however, was one which appeared designed to start one. Given the small number of demonstrators involved - far less than the number of revellers on an ordinary Friday night in Romford - it was an unnecessary and provocative overreaction and served as nothing other than a provocation compounding the protesters’ feelings about the denial of what they and I regard as their rights as citizens in a free country.

This squad behaved intolerably. It was as if they were facing a dangerous crowd of molotov cocktail throwing, pike wielding insurrectionists. It was a scene redolent of the Troubles in Northern Ireland and cannot possibly be justified by the scale of this incident. This squad proceeded to deal out a shocking level of violence against unarmed civilan protesters, overwhelmingly young and many of them female. I have no doubt the large number of press photographers present and taking pictures of the scenes will bear this out.

This was not the Metropolitan Police’s finest hour, Commissioner. It was a sledgehammer to crack a nut and did harm to the reputation of your officers and their commanders, and I believe you have a duty to investigate it.

I look forward to a swift reply,

Yours sincerely,George Galloway MP

Monday, 9 June 2008

Stop the War : Time Change for Bush Demo

Just had this info about the demo on Sunday


George Bush's itinery for his visit on Sunday 15 June is now confirmed. He is going to Downing Street for dinner and the Stop the War/CND demonstration has therefore been changed.

The protest now assembles at 5.00pm in Parliament Square. Please publicise the changed time as widely as you can and encourage everyone you know who opposes George Bush's endless warmongering, and the servile support he receives from the British government, to join us.

We have applied to demonstrate down Whitehall but so far the police, presumably under instructions from US security, are banning us. We are challenging the ban.

Please send messages of complaint to the Home Secretary:
* Telephone: 020 7035 0198
* Fax: 020 7035 0900

You can also complain to the Metropolitan Police about the proposed ban:
Telephone: 020 7230 1212.

Stop the War will also be organising a protest when George Bush goes to Windsor for tea with the Queen at 3.00pm.

GEORGE BUSH NOT WELCOME HERE DEMONSTRATE SUNDAY 15 JUNE, 5.00PM PARLIAMENT SQUARE, LONDON Called by Stop the War Coalition and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

I'm Back

Well, after a brief period away from the blogosphere I'm back. Exams out of the way and essays all done, I am looking forward to a summer of discontent.

The next post that I publish will be my socialist guide to the European Championships. Although they are well underway, this is a post I had written some time ago. Inspired by pub conversations and a similar posting over at Platitudes, just needs a few minor alterations to update it.

In the meantime I will plug some forthcoming events :

1. Stop the War demonstration on 15th June in London to protest at the visit of George Bush

2. Cambridge Stop the War Coalition public meeting on Wednesday 18th June, 7.30pm, Friends Meeting House with Moazzam Begg, Rose Gentle and Anas al-Tikriti

3. LMHR/UAF demonstration against the BNP on 21st June in London

Hope to see you there

Monday, 12 May 2008

Bosses to Use Lie Detectors!

Unbelievable! Found this little gem on MSN news. Looks like the bosses are lining up for some major assaults on workers rights with this and also the employers blacklist which Jim Jay has blogged about

Lie detectors to spot fake sickies

Lie detectors could one day be used to spot people who are "pulling a sickie" from work.
The technology is already being used to identify people making fraudulent benefit claims.
After successful trials at seven councils, anti-fraud minister James Plaskitt announced last week that the scheme would be extended.

Now employers have given a cautious welcome to the idea of using the Voice Risk Analysis (VRA) system to identify people who may be lying when they phone in sick.
Susan Anderson, director of human resources policy at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said the technology could be very useful.

She said research from the CBI and insurance firm AXA showed that employers believe 12% of absence was not genuine and that these 'sickies' amounted to 21 million lost days every year, costing businesses £1.6 billion.

But she added that employers did not want to behave like Big Brother so the technology would be best used as part of a range of incentives and penalties.

The technology works by identifying changes in a caller's voice which may indicate they are not telling the truth.

Lawrence Knowles, managing director of software and outsourcing firm Midland HR, told Personnel Today that VRA would soon be a useful tool in reducing sickness absence.
"If lie detectors can detect benefit fraud, then why not look at the application of the technology in absence management?" he said.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Alec Douglas-Who?

I found this piece in my draft items which for some reason had not been published

I was amused by a piece in last nights Cambridge Evening News regarding a 1964 student plot to kidnap then Prime Minister Alec Douglas-Home.

The plot was uncovered with the release of the diaries of former Lord Chancellor, Lord Hailsham which have been donated to the Churchill Archives Centre at Cambridge University.

It describes how the students managed to enter the home in Aberdeen that Douglas-Home was staying in, which was unguarded as there was no room for is bodyguard. It was there that the PM entertained them with beer and sandwiched before the students left.

It drew a hysterical response from Chris Collins of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation who seems to have a limited recollection of other security breaches when he says

It was one of the worst breaches of a Prime Minister’s personal security in the 20th Century…… If Home’s assailants had been darker in purpose he could have died that night.’

Obviously this ranks as worse than the phone tapping and planned military coup against Prime Minister Harold Wilson who was to beat Home in the 1964 General Election.

Anyway, if the students had been successful in their kidnap plot, would anyone have noticed?

Monday, 14 April 2008

UCU and NUT to Strike on 24th April

Further Education College lecturers vote to strike on pay

College lecturers in England have voted to strike on Thursday 24 April in support of a demand to bring their pay up to that of schoolteachers.

Lecturers in over 250 colleges were balloted by the University and College Union (UCU). The result shows solid support for industrial action: 65.5% of those voting supported strike action and 86.2% also supported other forms of industrial action short of a strike.

UCU, with other FE unions, submitted a joint pay claim for a 6% increase or £1500, whichever is the greater, for 2008-9. FE unions will meet employers on 1 May.

Thousands of FE lecturers, including large numbers who are part-time and hourly paid, can't reach the higher pay levels enjoyed by schoolteachers. And no FE lecturers get the allowances enjoyed by 50% of schoolteachers worth between £2,364 to £11,557 p.a. on top of the pay scales.
Growing workload are also a major concern. As well as teaching, lecturers carry out course development, lesson preparation, marking, professional development and administration. A quarter of lecturers already teach more than 850 hours a year, jeopardising quality in UCU’s view. The lecturers want negotiations on common conditions of service across all colleges.

A major independent study, soon to be published by UCU, reveals high levels of staff dissatisfaction and low morale throughout colleges in England, a serious challenge to both employers and the government.

Members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), who teach in schools, are also striking on Thursday 24 April over a separate pay claim.

In both schools and colleges, many teaching professionals believe their employers are ignoring their professional status and serving business interests at the expense of community needs. NUT and UCU and the National Union of Students, NUS recently launched a joint campaign ‘Our schools, our colleges, our communities’ to draw attention to threats to the quality of local, public education from college marketisation, ‘city academies’ and cuts in public services.

On Thursday 24 April, the two unions are likely to hold joint events in many locations.
Sally Hunt, general secretary of UCU, said

College lecturers feel undervalued, despite their successes, which the government has recognised. 'The considerable difference in the average pay of lecturers and teachers doing the same work is grossly unfair.
“It is more than four years since FE employers agreed to move lecturers to the same length pay scales as school teachers but 47% of colleges still haven’t done that. The treatment of FE staff is a scandal. Pay has been further eroded by below-inflation pay awards.
“Further Education is central to the government’s plans for reskilling the nation but colleges must also serve their communities, not simply be factories for qualifications. Lecturers are delivering. Now college employers must tackle the deep dissatisfaction amongst their staff

There will be a rally at the Guildhall in Cambridge at 12pm on Thursday 24th held with the NUT. Come along and support the rally. Picket line details to follow.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

More Bloody Repeats!!!

So, in a repeat of last seasons Champions League Semi Final either Chelsea or Liverpool could face Manure in the final.

Surely it will be the turn of Chelsea to triumph over Liverpool, although this largely depends on Avram Grant's approach to the game. The major advantage is the second leg is at Stamford Bridge. Disadvantages are 1) Avram Grant will probably play a bizarre formation with Cudicini and Cech playing up front 2) Liverpool may have a psychological edge 3) referees seem to like awarding dubious penalties to Liverpool and not giving them against!

That leaves Manure v Barca. Manure seem to bottle it in Europe and on the whole R****y and Ronaldo don't seem to perform enough at this level. I may be proven wrong but I hope not. I think Barca will triumph in this game and also the final whoever they face.

UNITE Hunger Strikers Hospitalised

Sacked airport shop stewards hunger strike for justice Workers’ health deteriorates dangerously – Urgent protests needed!

Socialist Party reporters, BelfastThree sacked airport shop stewards, Gordon McNeill, Madan Gupta and Chris Bowyer, began a hunger strike at Transport House Belfast on Monday 7 April demanding justice from their union, Unite. Rather than attempt to resolve this issue through direct dialogue with the shop stewards, the union’s answer has been coercion – in the form of instructions to the police to forcibly remove them from the building – and misinformation – in the form of a Unite public statement that completely falsifies what has happened in this dispute and misrepresents what the protesting shop stewards are demanding.

Six years on from the decision by their employer, airport security firm, ICTS, to sack them for striking for a pay increase, the shop stewards who led this dispute are still campaigning for justice.Two of the shop stewards, Gordon McNeill and Madan Gupta, have decided to begin a hunger strike at Transport House demanding that commitments given to them last September by UNITE General Secretary Tony Woodley and other senior officials of the union, including Irish Regional Secretary, Jimmy Kelly, be honoured in full.

Today, both Gordon McNeill and Madan Gupta have been rushed to Belfast City Hospital in a critical condition. This is the second time today that Mr McNeill has been hospitalised. Quickly after returning to Transport House, Mr McNeill took ill and was joined by 72 year-old diabetic Madan Gupta back to Belfast City Hospital. UNITE still refuse to meet with the workers who have been fighting for over 6 years for justice.Protests to Unite are urgently needed!

Please send email letters of protest to & Fax letters to Belfast: 02890 240 133. You can also phone protests to the Belfast union offices: 02890 232 381.For more details see

Monday, 7 April 2008

ID Cards to be Tested on Students

From an article in this weeks issue of 'The Socialist'

If the mainstream media are to be believed, it would seem as thought the government have backtracked on their controversial plans to introduce ID cards. Things, however, are not quite what they seem. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith recently announced plans for ID cards to be introduced on a voluntary basis for certain groups, including students.

Smith clearly sees students as an ideal and willing testing ground for the wide scale introduction of the scheme. This is hardly surprising considering the lack of fight from the NUS leadership against New Labour’s attacks on education in the past. Due to the relationship between the NUS bureaucrats and New Labour, serious grassroots campaigning has given way to lobbying and talks with ministers over canapés and champagne. This was seen to devastating effect with the lack of effective campaigning over top-up fees.

Any sense of voluntarism dissipates when it becomes clear that students would need an ID card to access student loans and to open a bank account. Thanks to the governments education policy, both of these are an absolute necessity for anybody wishing to enter full-time education. This is coercion of students, who are already faced with spiralling debts. Now they are to be faced with an erosion of their civil liberties and an invasion of privacy. ID cards are yet another hurdle that working class students would have to face in order to gain a university education.

With the Student Loan Company privatised, and huge subsidies offered to companies instead of that money given to students it opens up what NUS VP for Welfare, Ama Uzowuru, describes as being ‘…completely impractical. The student loan system is complicated enough as it is, without introducing yet another layer of bureaucracy to the process. Many students change address at least once a year and would be obliged to report such changes in their personal circumstances or face a £1,000 fine’

It is also the private sector who are to be trusted with the introduction of ID cards. The thing is, they can’t be trusted with our information. We have seen the debacle of the Home Office losing CD’s containing sensitive personal information.

ID cards do not offer protection from ‘terrorist attack’ or make the country any safer. ID cards did not prevent the Madrid bombings or the 9/11 attacks. The 7/7 attacks in London were carried out by those born in Britain.

The introduction of ID cards is not going to change the material conditions that breed anger and terrorism. Instead of spending millions on wars and ID cards, the government should be investing in hospitals, education and public sector pay

Despite the criticism of the plans from NUS leaders, there appears to be nothing concrete in the way of organising a campaign involving the mass body of students. Despite outgoing NUS President Gemma Tumelty stating she is ‘extremely concerned at the Government’s plan to use young people and students as guinea pigs for their ID card scheme’, the only plans she has to fight this are summed up when she says ‘We look forward to engaging in the consultation on this issue, and will make sure the Government is aware of students’ concerns.”

This approach points to the sterility of the NUS in terms of taking on the government. If the undemocratic ‘Governance Review’ is passed at NUS Conference then the union will become merely a charity that lobbies on behalf of its members. It will alter the way in which the NUS operates, taking power away from ordinary students and giving it to unelected, unaccountable business people. Lobbying a government that doesn’t listen is not an effective way of mounting a campaign.

Successful campaigns require the involvement of the rank and file student movement. Where action as been taken such as in France and in Greece, victories have been attained. Socialist Students have played a major role in grassroots campaigning, through the widely supported Campaign to Defeat Fees. In order to defeat this attack on the civil liberties of students a strong, united campaign involving ordinary students is necessary. Socialist Students will be organising on campuses around the country to say ’No to ID cards, no to fees. For free education for all.’

Tuesday, 18 March 2008


It's always a difficult one, to know what to publish as your first post. I could have taken my pick from many, including an assessment of the weekends World Against War demo in London called by Stop the War, CND and BMI (although will have something on this in a later post), the GLA elections, the forthcoming NHS demo in Cambridge or the DWP strikes.

I thought I'd start with a piece written not by me, but by someone else - a cop out maybe! It does however hold some resonance for today, despite the fact that it was written some 130 odd years ago. On 18th March 1871, troops were sent into Paris to gain control of the city and to remove the cannons from Montmatre. They were unsuccessful in their efforts as they were surrounded by ordinary people, who quickly set up barricades and defended their city. Troops refused to fire on the people and revolted against their orders. It was here that saw the beginnings of what was to become the Paris Commune.

Although the Commune itself was only to last until 28th May, it is an event of huge significance for socialists. It gave a glimpse of what can happen when workers take power into their own hands. The ideas of socialism were evident and were expressed in street posters, pamphlets and newspapers. The following piece is taken from an article which appeared in Le Drapeau on March 18th 1871. Le Drapeau was the temporary name for the widely circulated Cri de Peuple which had been banned by General Vinoy

Casimir Bouis 'SOCIALISM'
....Yes, for eighty-two years we have struggled for nothing; we have taken the wrong route and brought ourselves to disaster. How ridiculous to have smashed the power of kings without destroying monarchy; to have abolished privileges without eliminating privileged classes; removed symbols while leaving intact the reality they represented! We have foolishly rid ourselves of the men and retained the institutions; killed the animal without destroying the poison!......
Let's do the job properly this time!
Socialism, citizens, socialism!
Let's be socialist, at last; that is, let's change the foundations of social order, its machinery, its institutions, its laws, its needs, its functioning. Let's build a new world. Let's sow the seeds of freedom; let's emancipate labour; lets establish equality......War upon privilege! War upon exploitation! War upon ignorance, misery, servitude! Instead of removing the thorns of the brambles, workers, remove their roots.......
Socialism! In other words, once again change the old social order; but this time entirely, absolutely, radically-
That's where the future lies - if there still remains a future.