The Metropolitan Police are making it abundantly clear that, as ever, the state’s will will be enforced by force. The violence at the entirely peaceful climate camp protest at the G20 demonstration last year was not an aberration, and they’re now no longer afraid of admitting it: rebel against the state and there’ll be a price to pay. Check out the police’s response to today’s peaceful #ukuncut protest against Top Shop’s Sir Philip Green:
Suzanne Moore criticises the media’s narrative about the student protests:
It is fantastic that these young people, who we have been told have been blinded by celebrity culture and are mainly Facebook narcissists, soon made contact with other causes. Students at UCL also campaigned for a living wage for their cleaning staff. When I was there union leaders were talking solidarity with them. These kids, unlike their elders, are not scared of the word “class”. Into this hub of activity come other, younger students wanting to see how its done: polite, well-spoken boys who want to stage occupations in their sixth forms about the removal of the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA).
The media of course has banged on about tuition fees as the children of media people go to university. Little has been said about EMA, a means-tested benefit, possibly because those who live on less than £20,000 a year are not in the middle-class bubble. To remove this in effect prohibits a whole sector of society even getting the qualifications they need to get university.
It baffles me when I’m told that the students don’t understand what they’re protesting about, equally so when students from middle class backgrounds, less likely to be adversely affected by the huge hike in tuition fees and (the dreaded word) the debt arising from them, are criticised for protesting on behalf of those less well off than them. Is it somehow a betrayal of their class to want the world to be less polarised and divided by wealth than it already is? And why is there not a national explosion of rebellion in response to the state’s treatment of these kids? The answer is clear: it’s not just an ideological battle which is being waged, but a generational one. We complain that children and young people are supine, uncritical and apathetic, yet the moment that’s proven wrong we respond with violence. We don’t want young people to actually take action against tax avoiders who, if they paid their fair share, could contribute to lowering the severity of key cuts in public services.
Laurie Penny elaborates on the students’ position, well, more than she already has:
What has been taken from them to make them so angry? Hope, that’s what. Hope, and the fragile bubble of social aspiration that sustained us through decades of mounting inequality; hope and the belief that if we worked hard and did as we were told and bought the right things, some of us at least would get the good jobs and safe places to live that we’d been promised.
Hope was the emotional engine of a decade of dizzying economic growth. Now it’s gone. Thatcher and Reagan knew you couldn’t take away hope altogther, which is why they replaced the politics of collective bargaining with a cynical, but seductive, politics of aspiration and individualism. The coalition has forgotten that it’s not enough for millionaire politicians to preach the politics of austerity when all they have to offer is more austerity.
Back on Oxford Street, as the police vans scream into view, the children’s crusade stands firm. “They want to marketise our education,” says Ben, 21, his breath clouding in the bitter air. “So we’re going to educate their market.”
I don’t think it will, but this rebellion, and the state’s ruthlessness in trying to crush it, should bring down the ConDem coalition. Either way the student movement is only going to grow and grow, and we should all start supporting it. The next generation is taking the lead in aiming for the good society, not the Big Society – the media in turn should be celebrating their achievements.
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