Why Trafalgar? #19

Posted: March 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

Tom Henry is the prinicipal admin of the 15k-strong facebook group Students against tuition fees

Following the scandalous announcement of a trebling in university fees there are now some very angry young people out there that have been told by the goverrnment ‘you’re alone, your education is worth nothing to us’. Many of these young people – children – who could have been doctors, engineers, lawyers are now, at a time of record youth unemployment, forced to try to find work in dead end jobs which will seriously harm their academic prospects. Many will give in and cost the taxpayer far more throughout their lifetimes.

These very young people must rise up and help to change our country for the better. Michael Gove tells us ‘there’s no money left’. But NHS funding is up, pensions are up. Share prices are back up and shares in the nationalised banks have quadrupled.

The government is in the midst of an assault on young people and young, poor people in particular. The 100% cut to EMA, 80% cut to university teaching and 45% marginal tax premium for graduates is completely out of sync with ridiculous claims that ‘we’re all in this together’. The result will be a generation that is forced to take what it can, that has been taught nothing of the values of interdependence and respects no society. 20 years down the line it will not be a good time to be old and dependant on the kindness of others, especially not those so cruelly shunned whilst still children.

The ‘big society’ is in fact no society. It is a big lie.

There are upcoming protests planned. We urge all youngsters and their families and friends to stand up and be counted, protest and resist the devastation being wrought upon our futures. To fight for what is right and what is fair.

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Why Trafalgar? #18

Posted: March 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

Hanif Leylabi is an anti-fascist activist and is on the NUS LGBT Committee

 

“The magnificent uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt put paid to the myth that Arabs are not ‘ready for’ democracy. By turning Trafalgar Square into Tahrir Square we can send a message to the ConDem government that people in this country will not stand idly by as the millionaire cabinet cuts the lives of ordinary people to sustain the profits of the super rich.”

Why Trafalgar? #17

Posted: March 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

Nathan Bolton is the Campaigns Officer of Essex Students' Union

We are in the midst of a period of widespread popular rebellion on a scale not seen in a generation. Despite the geographical distance between the flashpoints of struggle, a single thread links all these points. Austerity acts as a common reference point for resistance, whether it’s centred in Cairo, London or Wisconsin. This thread has meant that the different struggles have played off one another and driven up the pressure; one of the most striking examples of this was the reciprocal relationship between the Tunisian and Egyptian Revolutions and the calls for a ‘Day of Rage’ in Tunisia after the mass protests in Egypt.

 Trade Unionists in Wisconsin and workers in Tahrir Square made reference to the student resistance to the Con-Dems attack on Education in November and December, 2010. Now we must take the lead from the people of Egypt. On the 26th of March, we should occupy Trafalgar Square to act as a focus point for our struggle against austerity. Our movement needs a place to organise, to discuss, to debate and crucially to bring all the sections of the resistance together in order to co-ordinate further activity.

 The most important lesson we can draw from the people of Egypt is that strikes, occupations and direct action can topple even the most repressive regime. The 26th of March should be our ‘Day of Rage’. An occupied Trafalgar Square could act as a reference point for those workers who don’t yet have the confidence to resist.

Why Trafalgar? #16

Posted: March 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

Max Pettigrew is a student and worker

The revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa have illustrated that it is possible for ordinary people to change the world when we lose our fear of doing so. Workers, farmers, students and the unemployed of Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Morroco, Algeria, and Syria have risen up against the corrupt, autocratic and brutal dictators that have been in power for decades and decades. Hundreds have been killed by the police and armies of these regimes during these struggles for emancipation.

Whilst 2011 will already go down in history as one of the most important years of revolutionary struggle, many of these revolutions are still in the balance and brutal counter-revolutions are being waged as all eyes are directed towards Libya. In Yemen, for example, on Friday 18th March, at least 50 unarmed protesters were shot dead by police and snipers on rooftops. In Bahrain, the Saudi armed forces continue to defend the hated monarchy by beating and shooting Bahrainis who continue to protest against the King.

The more this happens the more it is possible to see that the small wealthy elites that rule the world have more in common with each other than with the ordinary people of the world. In Britain, there are many injustices, which we cannot lose sight of. The Con-Dem cabinet of millionaires are unleashing savage cuts to public services, pensions and benefits. The Education Maintenance Allowance has been scrapped as university fees are trebled, which will make it impossible for many young people to go to university.

The fight back against these cuts began in Britain in October 2010. It was inspired by the rebellions against the attacks on living standards in Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Belgium and other European countries. A few weeks later, over 50,000 students and teachers hit the streets of London to protest against the Con-Dem attacks on the education system. On Saturday 26th March, hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of workers, students and unemployed people of Britain will converge in London to demonstrate against the British government for making ordinary people pay for a crisis we did not create. Our taxes bailed out the banks, yet bankers continue to get obscene bonuses and corporations evade and avoid paying tax without fear of punishment.

Rock Against Racism festival in Trafalgar Square in 1978

We need to make Trafalgar Square the centre of resistance on the 26th March just as Tahrir Square was in Cairo during the Egyptian Revolution. Trafalgar Square is a major artery of London, the entrance to Whitehall and Parliament where the decisions that impact our lives are made and it has been the location where campaigns and struggles of the 20th century met to hold mass rallies against Apartheid in South Africa, Rock Against Racism concerts against the National Front, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament protests against nuclear weapons, and it was Trafalgar Square, which became the battleground for the uprising against Margaret Thatcher’s Poll Tax.

Trafalgar Square has continued to be a crucial platform for struggles in the 21st century with mass rallies against the attacks on Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine as well as Love Music Hate Racism gigs against the BNP. On the 26th March, we need to take courage from those struggling throughout the Middle East and North Africa and take inspiration from their tactics. That means rather than just marching for one afternoon, we set up camp in Trafalgar Square for as long as it takes for the government, banks and corporations to realise we’re not paying for their crisis!

Why Trafalgar? #15

Posted: March 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

The past few weeks have shown the power of taking over very public, visible and symbolic places.

Hero Austin is Sabbatical Officer at LSE Students’ Union and a Community activist

Part of the reason that the occupations of the Capitol in Wisconsin and Tarir Sq are/were so powerful, is because they are naturally places which people gravitate towards. They can be taken over  and converted into a central rallying point and space for organising.  But it is more than that- they are not just alternative spaces, they are overtly public place; central to the city, encountered by thousands of people in the course of everyday life, and importantly part of the city, not surrounded by fences.

An occupation of Trafalgar Sq would bea  similarly powerful and confrontational gesture. It would echo the occupation of squares all round the world by people who are standing up for equality and freedom, and in so doing would be an immensely strong statement of our commitment to equality in our country.

So when you March on the 26th, bring a tent, a sleeping bag and come and join us in Trafalgar Sq

Why Trafalgar? #14

Posted: March 21, 2011 in Uncategorized
Corinne Dhondee is a film maker and a health activist

On March 26th Trafalgar Square is the closest we will get to our house. The house is how MPs refer to Parliament. That house is our house and Trafalgar Square is part of its back garden and yes it’s our back garden. When we re-claim our back garden we begin to reclaim our house and we give a very clear political message to the government, ‘you are servants of the people. What you are doing to the people is not ‘for the people’ in its true political sense but against them and we want you out’.
 
Privatization of the NHS has not yet been voted on. Yet A&Es, clinics, maternity wards are fighting closure. Mental health hospitals have closed. Whilst the government sells off the NHS to its private health care friends, midwives and district nurses are sacked. NHS staff have been warned not to speak out about cuts to services and jobs.
 
Government health officials have told student nurses that their future training will be in the community. When boroughs are making massive cuts that affect child services, health services and old people’s services what community are they talking about? Where will our future nurses get their specialist training when everything is closed?
 
The housing bill will see rent increase in social housing of eighty percent. This will affect fifteen million people. If this bill is passed, London will experience a mass exodus of working class people.
 
Working class children cannot afford to go to university. Speaking to a Lib Dem recently she seemed to think that education was now free. Debt of £26,000 + is not free education. One of the reasons we are in a crisis is because of bankers doing dodgy deals; debt is also a dodgy deal.
 
Fourty years after women went on strike for equal pay, the government did not legislate it. Today women do not have equal pay rights. On a different note many women’s organizations have closed.
 
At a meeting at Andover Estate, a pensioner said, ‘today is the day the Blitz started. Today we face a different enemy, our own government, who is trying to wipe us out be wiping out the welfare state’. The pensioner, one of many who helped to rebuild the country cannot afford a pint of milk at his local shop, neither can a lot of his friends. Yet the government is mugging their pensions. And of course there is more. How much more are we willing to take?
 
We can watch the government willfully push through the plan it had before being elected or we can continue to stand up to them. In the UK direct action has resulted in many rights such as the right to vote and the right to education. Nothing we have has been given to us. People’s rights have been fought hard for and many sacrifices have been made.
 
Trafalgar Square is where we tell the government, as many have successfully done before us, ‘our demands, and the future dreams of the people and young people are not up for negotiation’.

Corine Dhondee is a film student who has been documenting the SOAS occupation and other anti-cuts campaigns through film, photography and writing. She is an LSE alumni, a member of Save the NHS, and Islington hands off our public services.
 

Why Trafalgar? #13

Posted: March 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

Rachel Harger is an activist in East London

The English translation of Tahrir is ‘liberation’, and this is one of the most inspiring things to see across the Middle East. Mass movements united, fighting for liberation from the brutal chains of an economic crisis, as well as from dictatorships which have for so long sought to divide people along lines of gender, race, class, religion and sexuality.
 
In 2009, the homophobic murder of Ian Baynham in Trafalgar Square sent shockwaves through the LGBT community. His murder came two weeks after Nick Griffin had cited he found, “two men kissing in public creepy” on BBC Question time. However it is not just the Nazi BNP which has sought to divide people along lines of race and sexuality amongst other things. David Cameron’s recent attack on multiculturalism, on the day of an EDL march, in Luton this year, reminds us that all political elites play the similar tactic of ‘divide and rule’. This is a tactic which has been well utilised in economic crises and one which carries a heightened threat for the most vulnerable in our societies, when used at such times. Not only does our government use such tactics but they are hammering cuts which will disproportionately affect the same people. Just one example of many is the LGBT community. Galop, PACE, Stonewall Housing, LGBT Consortium, Albert Kennedy Trust, London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard, Broken Rainbow and Kairos in Soho are all LGBT organizations at risk of cuts and possible closure.
 
Furthermore, many of the LGBT community have experienced recent incidents of homophobia in Tower Hamlets, exploited by fascist organizations like the EDL. They, along with some journalists have wrongly cited that LGBT oppression in Tower Hamlets is caused by the presence of another oppressed group in society, Muslims. Both fail to mention or recognise the impact of public cuts on either groups. We simply cannot afford to be divided on such fictitious grounds, when our real and common enemy today is the government and its savage public cuts.
 
It’s on this that we can really take inspiration from Tahrir Square. The scenes of Coptic Christians protecting Muslims as they prayed, shows us it is entirely possible to be united even after the most brutal history of division.
 
On the 26th March let’s transform Trafalgar into our Tahrir Square. This way, we can really pay tribute to people like Ian Baynham, who have paid the ultimate cost of living in a society economically and socially divided. Whilst showing solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Tahrir Square and their continuing struggle for real liberation.
 
In the words of those occupying Wisconsin “Gay, straight, black, white! All unite for workers’ rights!”