Posted on Tue 09 Oct 2012 at 15:13 by Aaron Kiely
As the Tories opened their party conference on Sunday I was proudly protesting outside alongside thousands of students and trade unionists.
We had plenty to protest about. In the past week alone we have seen announcements for £10 billion of extra cuts to welfare which will hurt the poorest and most vulnerable in society, proposals that women’s abortion rights should be driven backwards – rights which have been instrumental in advancing women’s equality over the past decades, whilst the party’s grassroots have been putting their homophobia on full display with attacks on gay marriage.
Meanwhile the government’s war on students is hitting home: new university students are facing £9,000 fees, the poorest college students are struggling to make ends meet without the EMA and deep cuts are devastating the whole education system.
The Tories are driving through the biggest attack on students and wider society for generations. Meekly conceding defeat and accepting this onslaught is not an option for the student movement. That’s why we’ll be taking on this reactionary government throughout the Autumn, starting on the TUC march against austerity on 20th October and culminating in the national student demo against cuts and fees on Wednesday 21st November.
Student Fightback 2012 – taking place this coming Saturday on 13th October at the University College London – will be a key opportunity to rally our opposition to austerity, fees, racism, inequality and war and prepare for the many battles to defend education ahead.
Speakers include Diane Abbott MP and Owen Jones, fresh from their trip to Venezuela where they witnessed the re-election of Hugo Chavez – catapulted to victory by millions of Venezuelan youth that are benefiting from free education, massively improved healthcare and jobs in a growing economy. We will be hearing from Latin American speakers too, who will give first hand insights into how Latin America is leading the way with policies for ‘twenty first century socialism’ - proving another world is possible.
Opposing the growing attacks on Black and international students will be a central theme of the conference. Ayoola Onifade, President of London Met SU, Sabby Dhalu from Unite Against Fascism, Kanja Sesay of the National Black Students’ Alliance and Malia Bouattia, NUS NEC will be discussing the importance of uniting against racism, Islamophobia, the far right and championing multiculturalism on our campuses and in wider society.
Austerity is wreaking havoc across Europe – but we have seen some resistance to these mounting attacks. Speakers from Sinn Fein and Front de Gauche will be joining student leaders and economists to discuss the alternative to cuts and the need for investment to provide social justice, growth and jobs for all.
When the Tories and others claim that there isn’t enough money to fund free education or to keep the NHS public they are lying. Billions are being spent on war and nuclear weapons. Discussions on peace and international justice will be another central theme of the conference. The student movement has a critical role to play in challenging war on Syria and threats against Iran as well as building solidarity with the Palestinians, suffering under illegal occupation and the siege on Gaza.
In the coming weeks the student movement will be taking to the streets once more to take on the Tories – in our first major protests since 2010. Ahead of the two major demos organised by the TUC on 20th October and NUS on 21st November, we need to arm ourselves up with the arguments and ideas the movement needs to defeat their case for austerity, fees, racism, inequality and war. We also need to say what our alternative is: investment in free education, growth and jobs; a diverse, multicultural, equal society; peace instead war; and learning from the inspiring example of Latin America’s twenty first century socialism. Student Fightback 2012 on Saturday 13th October will be an important opportunity to discuss these ideas and get ready to fight for our future this autumn.
You can register for Student Fightback in advance or on the day. To register in advance visit the website: http://studentfightback.org.uk/register/