Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Luk√°cs

Saturday, November 27, 2010

We Shall Fight, We Shall Win - Paris, London, Athens, Dublin

It is not everyday one gets the honour and privilege of being invited to do a Socialist Worker Student Society meeting on 'May 1968 - The Fire Last Time' amidst an actual student occupation (see also here), still less one amidst one of the largest and most significant waves of student revolt to hit University and College campuses in Britain in my living memory - see here and here. Admittedly, it would have been nice to have had more than 10 minutes notice before being asked to do the aforementioned meeting - and it would have been a bonus if the meeting had then happened at the time agreed (10pm) rather than er, just after midnight - but I guess this is the glorious messiness of real life struggle - and if twenty or so students after about 30 hours of maintaining an occupation are still up for a discussion about revolutionary politics from about half twelve until half one in the morning then who am I to refuse them such an opportunity?

Whether the student revolt in Britain has had its 'Grosvenor Square' moment - when 80,000 students protesting against the Vietnam War in March 1968 clashed with riot police outside the US Embassy yet or not is debatable, but certainly the demonstration of 50,000 students which ended with the trashing of the Tory HQ at Millbank - followed up with Day X's display of civil disobedience and mass direct action in which students were charged by the London Met's mounted police division has certainly brought student protest to the attention of the mass media - and their revolutionary spirit has acted as a beacon of inspiration and hope to millions of working people up and down the country in the face of the Tory onslaught of cuts and attacks. Britain is now well and truly part of the wave of resistance to austerity that has already been witnessed across the rest of Europe.

Theoretically, according to bourgeois social science, at least in its postmodern forms - the student revolt just shouldn't be happening. The marketisation and commodification of higher education that tuition fees represents should mean that students have lost any sense of collective identity and are now just individual consumers, buying a 'product' from The University Plc. The revolt shows students aren't prepared to just accept commodification passively, but are active agents of their own destiny - capable of raising the argument that 'another education and another world is possible'.

Just as the student revolt in 1968 detonated a wave of working class struggle, so the student revolt in Britain today is already making a political impact - what with the National Union of Teachers and the UCU lecturers union balloting for strike action in the new year, and public sector trade union leaders are making increasingly militant and fiery speeches against the government at a mushrooming number of anti-cuts meetings. Even Labour leader Ed Miliband is now, wait for it, 'listening' to the students sympathetically and, get this, is ''tempted' to maybe, possibly, even one day actually support them. The students are set to walk about again next Tuesday and again on the day the proposed massacre of higher education is voted on in Parliament. The task for socialists is to make sure that the students are not now left to fight on alone - which would see their struggle rise heroically and spectacularly like a rocket but then come down miserably like a little stick - but that when they next walk out, increasing numbers of workers are encouraged to also walk out, and stand and fight alongside the students - and ever growing numbers of networks of solidarity between students and workers are built. Building such networks would not only begin to encourage the kind of mass strike action British society so desperately needs if the Con-Dem led capitalist juggernaut is to be stopped in its tracks and British society shifted to the left politically - but such direct action by workers at the point of production can also begin to paralyse and undermine capital itself. As the great revolutionary Marxist Rosa Luxemburg put it - 'where the chains of capitalism are forged, there they must be broken'.

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At 4:34 pm, Anonymous Grim and Dim said...

The March 1968 demo was 20,000 at most, and not all of us were students. The big demo (up to 100,000) was in October, and didn't go to Grosvenor Square (just a few Maoist nutters and Mick Jagger went there).
This is not pedantry - well it is pedantry but it's also making the point that some recent demos have been considerably bigger than anything in the annus mirabilis of 1968. Grounds for hope.

At 2:43 pm, Blogger Snowball said...

Cheers for the clarification - grounds for hope indeed comrade...


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