Thursday, 11 November 2010

Buck and Bury


So spoke The DAILY MAIL and thus it was so, and thus it ever was. 52,000 students woke up before daybreak, on a freezing November morning. We packed into coaches from all corners of our pointy and many cornered island to exercise our democratic rights. We're all fucking terrified. This does not look like normal politics. This does not look like an economic debate between the Keyensians and the Neo-Liberals. This looks like an attack on all things good about our country. Without a word in anyone's manifesto, the NHS's finances are to be given to a bunch of doctors with as much clue on the running of budgets as I have on open-heart surgery. Backdoor privatization. Changes in housing benefit mean that soon London, and not long after the rest of the South, will be a "No poor people" zone. A Britain of Comptons and Beverly Hills. EMA, which insured many hundreds of thousands of students could stay in school where they previously had to have quit at 16 to get a job: Cut. Disability benefits: Cut. Child support for the working class: Cut. And University, the furnace room of social mobility, degrees, the ticket to a reasonable wage, is to cost £9,000 a year. Nine Fucking Thousand Pounds A Fucking Year. Fuck.

We're all fucking terrified, we're all angry, and we want somebody to listen. We want somebody to make this stop. 52,000 students arrived in London with a message: Make this stop.


The protest started slowly. Are we marching yet? It was slow because so many more people than expected showed up. 52,000, the single biggest demonstration in the country since the Stop the War March of 2003. Who were these people? To be sure the usual lot were here. Socialists of all different flavors were out in force, giving out placards and selling Lenin's critique of the German Social Democratic Party and soliciting signatures for causes and stuff. There were undoubtedly more socialist placards than socialists. But what about the lovies? Why won't the media mention the lovies? British protests are meant to be full of students in £1 German khaki jackets and rainbow beanies. Of course, the protest was full of students in £1 German khaki jackets and rainbow beanies. But what was notable was that they were accompanied by pretty fresh-face girls in (faux?) fir jackets and vintage skirts. Pretty fresh-faced boys in skinny jeans and pointy shoes. And they giggled. And then they shouted. They would try to start a shout, but would end up giggling. But they'd join in the chorus of shouts all the same. They shouted and the students in £1 German Jackets and rainbow beanies, and the kids in trackies and hoodies, and the kids from universities you've never heard of, and the 60 year old mature students, and the parents with their sons and daughters all shouted. We all shouted and giggled, because calls of "WHEN I SAY NICK CLEGG YOU SAY DICKHEAD - NICK CLEGG - DICKHEAD - NICK CLEGG - DICKHEAD - NICK NICK NICK CLEGG - DICK DICK DICKHEAD" were meant to be shouted and were funny.

Parents and children aside, the majority had little to personally gain from being here. We're in uni already. We're sorted. This was altruism in action. And this was the single thing that connected the most diverse and motley crew of bodies to descend upon the capital in an age: We were all better than the people sat at home eating crisps and disapproving of us. We all woke up early and marched in the cold (the beautiful, sunny cold, it must be said) because we care about our younger brothers and sisters, and the young we don't even know.

AH WE'RE MOVING WE'VE MOVING THANK FUCK I'M COLD. There's only so much that shouting DICKHEAD can warm you up after all. So we got going. We bantered with the police along the way. Cars and Lorries honked their horns in approval of people doing something. The builders applauded from the scaffolding and bid us to cheer, and we cheered.The guys in morph suits baffled. Girls in quiche school uniforms recycled their Halloween blood (the death of education - geddit?). We posed for tourists' cameras. Brass bands played. As did the bagpipes. It was a festival of political passion. It was a truly 21st century protest - with our phones and cameras we were the participants and the journalists. Me and a friend once argued about the soul of our age. I said we were an apathetic lot, we were too ironic to be passionate about anything, too detached to call for change. He said I aught to reserve judgment and there was revolutionary potential, threads of radicalism within the culture of these times. But I finally caught a glimpse of what it means to be a revolutionary - scrap that - a human in 2010. We are the generation holding signs saying "Down with this sort of thing" and "Can't we all just get along?" while shouting "NO IFS NO BUTS NO EDUCATION CUTS".

We passed by Parliament - turn and face them, nicely nicely, two fingers up - "NICK CLEGG DICKHEAD", "NO EDUCATION CUTS", "TORY SCUM", all very good, moving along now. We passed by a lot of buildings. Millibank, what's this one? "It's the place where politicians have their lunch I think?" "No no, it's the Tory Party HQ". Turn and face them, nicely nicely, two fingers up "TORY SCUM" "WHEN I SAY CUT BACK YOU SAY FIGHT BACK - CUT BACK - FIGHT BACK - CUT BA-". And then there was a commotion. You hear cheers, so you cheer, you see people rushing in one direction, so you rush. Some students had pushed through into the Lobby and were having a sit-in.


It began with a sit-in. The majority of us were outside, cheering the sitters on, because sit-ins are a good thing, are a part of the tradition of non-violent direct action. If anyone tells you the majority of student who could make out what was going on (and you must never underestimate the numbers of people who did not, who's presence was an act of inquiry) did not support the sit-in, they'd be lying. So we waited outside. When the police rushed in and overstepped the mark as they had done against anti-fascists at EDL marches, as they had done at the G20, were were going to be their outside, supporting those sitting inside. We waited outside because this is where action seemed to be, and because we all expected that there was safety in numbers. We built a bonfire, because we could, and we were excited, and it was fucking cold. We shouted at the windows. Why? Sure enough, the good vibes, the message of passion for protecting the futures of the young, changed when we entered the citadel, the epicentre of this destructive force of "cuts' that is killing our institutions and the social fabric of this nation. What had been a message of "Fuck These Cuts" had soured, curdled by that strange decades-old toxin that lurks in the air of the Left that says "Fuck Tories. This was regrettable, we should have restrained our impulses and kept on message, we shouldn't have forgotten the good vibes of solidarity and altruism that brought us all there in the cold in the first place. But this was not the only reason we stood outside, burning things and shouting. Deep in the back of our minds, deep in the back of our minds, their was still that mixture of fear and frustration and sadness that called out "BUT WHY? BUT WHY?"

They are so patently wrong and we are so patently right. Cutting the deficit in the midst of economic uncertainty, with no international export market and the lowest inflation rates in God knows how long is so patently wrong, while supporting the economy by investing in infrastructure, education and research is so patently right. Cutting rates of business taxes, and allowing giant multi-nationals to get away with not paying their taxes, allowing bankers in charge of an unprofitable business to give themselves FUCKPENDOUS bonuses is so patently wrong, while taxing our untaxed rich to pay for public services is so patently right. The idea that doubling, tripling university fees will not stop poor students from going to university is so patently wrong, whereas our fear that class divides will undoubtedly worsen and harden are so patently right. So we stood outside, waiting, because deep down we were hoping that somebody would come out of that building and go

- "Actually, I'm so sorry, what the fuck were we thinking? We'll sort this out right away, don't worry about the mess, and would you like a cup of tea for your troubles?"-

Because when we are so right, what else could we hope for?

So the NUS told us to move on, and we ignored them. And then we got bored and left of our own accord and checked out the ending rally. Seriously, who the fuck is Aaron Porter, or any of these NUS bureaucrats, and why do they think we want to hear them talk? If you want people to come you've got to have some star names. I'm sure Tony Benn would have been up for it. Where was Ed Milliband? So we quickly grew bored of the shout-outs over the loudspeakers "Thanks to all you guys from Reading University coming down, you've been faaaab! And a big thank to all of those who made it from Brighton University, you've been..." and would wander back to the Millibank to see what was happening. And there were drums and there was dancing and there was shouting and there were many students seeing what was happening, and there were some dickheads throwing stuff and getting booed and a window had been smashed.


We get the bus and leave. Ish. The bus is of course and hour and a half late and we were of course an hour and a half cold. On the bus I check the news on my phone. Student Riots. Violence Overshadows Protest. Tory HQ Stormed. Of fucking course that's what the media would take from all of this. 52,000 people get off their arses and come to London to make their voices heard. "This isn't going to win public support" the papers say. I've got a joke: What do we you call 52,000 diverse and passionate people who march on London to protest in favor of a vital public service? Not "the public" that's for sure. That honorable title goes to those at home, complaining. It's a crying shame that some police officers got hurt. It's a crying shame that a minority within a minority within the protest threw things at the police. The TWAT who threw a fire extinguisher from the roof deserves jail time for endangering lives and the cause. It's also a crying shame that all this gets the headlines, while the sheer numbers, the sheer diversity, normality of the protesters, and the protesters' cause and arguments get shafted aside. But then, thus it was so, and thus it ever was, The protest would either go down as violent rampage, or it would go down as a page 7 filler piece. The urge to appease the right wing media proved the down fall of Labour, and is an urge that must be fought all the way.

I won't shed tears for a broken window and the employment opportunities it provides for window repairers, but I truly fear what will happen to our country if this government does not heed yesterday's message.