Thank you. You are an inspiration. You have lit the blue touch paper. But now is not the time to stand back.
I was proud to be part of the tremendously successful Edinburgh University-led protest and occupation yesterday. There was a huge turn-out for an Edinburgh protest, and the sudden occupation of the university took everyone by surprise. I am not a student: I’m currently a benefits claimant, and was marching with the Edinburgh Campaign Against Poverty. One of the reasons I am most proud of the Edinburgh protest is that it made an active effort to work in solidarity with workers, benefits claimants, and all others affected by the cuts. As in London, we were all also delighted and impressed by the number of school students who came too. This is an aspect a number of the University anti-cuts campaigns are missing, and that’s what I’m writing to you about now.
Your struggle is not isolated. You are not alone. All those affected by the cuts – workers, claimants, families, everyone – should be proud of you and impressed by you, because you have with rage and love and energy led the charge against these repressive and unnecessary cuts. Workers are being betrayed by the TUC just as students are being betrayed by the NUS: currently so many in Britain are waiting and hoping for organisations to work for cross-class struggle against the cuts. You can contribute to that.
This government, for all its flimsy rhetoric, is incredibly powerful. States are powerful. You do not win a fight against a state, with all its apparatus of power – from police who beat us up to teachers who punish schoolchildren for their brave protest “truancy” – unless you work across social groups, across classes, in solidarity with the huge diversity of people who are struggling with this government.
University student protesters, you are privileged. Many, if not most you, have far more financial freedom and time than many affected by the cuts (though certainly you will suffer terribly from them); many of you are white, or male, or have other markers of privilege. It is easier for you to protest and occupy than it is for many, because you will face less repression and have more freedom, and so you have a responsibility to use that power for others.
So do not let your struggle against fees be compartmentalised. Do not let the anti-cuts fight be divided. Go out and meet with trade unions, with workers and their councils, with disability and LGBTQ rights groups, with women’s groups, with those fighting for their benefits, with everyone who is affected by the cuts. None of us will win alone. Together, we can. Do not be parochial. Do not let your struggle be the only reported struggle, and do not waste the power you have.
This is not to say that you must come and rescue the struggling poor or oppressed minorities. That would perpetuate structures of privilege and oppression. What I am saying is that you are organised, and that you are starting to be heard, and that all the other organised groups who have to struggle harder to be heard need you to work for them.
Be strong. Use your privilege. Extend your fight. Make it stronger. Show solidarity – but also be active in your solidarity. I say this without pretension or apology for sincerity: your country needs you.
This letter has been written quickly and not gracefully. It is propaganda. It is flawed. I am currently too busy working and fighting to spend much time writing the philosophical arguments and journalistic analyses. But you can find those elsewhere and I will link to as many as I can find as soon as I can; there are people struggling and writing on all fronts. I am not the only voice telling you this. I am not the only voice asking for your help.
We are already together. We are already strong. Onwards!