Article by Federico Guerrieri
Translation by Olga Vukovic
Almost a year after the increase in university taxes imposed by the coalition government lead by David Cameron, British students return to make their dissent heard in the streets of London.
The demonstration of November 9 gained the support of the National Students Union, which not only represents more than 7 million students but also has the support of various academics from various UK university institutions, among whom those which are traditionally conservative such as Oxford and Cambridge.
Last November the conservative government decided to triple the university tuition which in September of 2012 will go from the current £3000 to £9000. In a society in which the divide between the rich and poor is the highest in Europe, such measures will have the effect of rendering universities inaccessible to youth coming from families with fewer opportunities and accessible only to those whose families belong to the well-off elite.
The demands of student organisations are obvious and just: blocking the foreseen increase in university taxes while at the same time increasing the number of available scholarships for the most deserving students and for those who are socially disadvantaged. The difficulty will be to maintain the movement which last year succeeded in making its voice heard only during the two demonstrations organised on the streets of London, only to be ensorbed by the bustle of London’s consumerism.
In December of 2010 the protests provoked chaos in the city. Everyone remembers the rock thrown at the car in which Prince Charles and Camilla were travelling in. Following this episode, the English police became known for their brutal methods and tactics used when confronting the protesters.
More concerning is the fact that Scotland Yard authorised the use of rubber bullets for the 9 November protest, which can be used by policemen in case of complete disorder. The fact that such a measure was largely publicised is furthermore deplorable since it has the clear goal of invoking terror among the protesters, and thus harms the sacred right to protest.
Preventing youth of less advantaged families from attending university would risk causing a collapse of the entire English society, as was evident with the riots that devastated the entire nation last summer. The neo-conservatism of most current leaders in Europe, among whom Cameron and Sarkozy, does not only aim to eliminate that what remains of the welfare state, but also the fundamental rights won by the people with years of struggles, as well as destroying the critical sense of their own citizens.
Students throughout Europe should unite in the battle to revendicate their rights. If it is true that every nation has its own specific situation, it is even more true that the ultimate aim of these protests should be to guarantee a free and accessible education to all, regardless of their social conditions. A European students’ movement would mark the beginning of the liberation for a generation which cannot accept the current model of society imposed by the ruling elite; a model which enriches 1% of the population by exploiting the rest of the population; a model which all of us have the obligation to rebel against. Not by shattering the city, but by proposing models, solutions and above all alternatives.