In the build-up to demo 2012, people were continually asking me what my reasons were for attending the demo, and they were constantly greeted with a barrage of anger directed towards the Government’s programme of cuts to education on both a national and local level.
I’ve never needed much convincing to go on a protest, and despite the disappointing and typically NUS slogan of “educate, employ, empower”, I was still excited to see how the student movement had evolved since the spontaneity of the 50,000 strong student demo in November 2010.
If a nice walk through Zone 2 London with your friends is a success, then the demo was certainly a victory. If your idea of a successful demonstration is one that results in political change, then I’d start looking elsewhere.
With this demonstration, the NUS seemed to have set out to completely avoid all of the centres of power that are actually enforcing the cuts to education that the student movement is meant to be fighting against.
Even upon reaching the Houses of Parliament, the NUS tried to sneak students past as quickly as possible, with NUS stewards trying to move us along like we were some kind of hybrid cross between a herd of cattle and a rowdy hen night.
By the end of the march, I too was echoing the sentiments of “NUS, shame on you, where the fuck have you brought us to?”
In the aftermath of demo 2012, I have been left feeling irate not only at the Government, but also at the leadership of the NUS.
Liam Burns’ claim that the NUS has “shaped the narrative of the coalition” in regards to higher education simply proves how out of touch he is with the student movement.
Last time I checked, getting Nick Clegg to sign a pledge about tuition fees, only to idly stand by and watch him take a giant shit on it, does not prove your ability as a representative of students across the country.
Whilst the inevitable calls to VNC Liam Burns will attempt to fire fight growing resentment towards the NUS, it will make little difference. We can no longer rely on the NUS’ out of touch, overly bureaucratic guidance if we want a real fight, and proper results.
The failures of the NUS nationally should not take away from the fact that Students’ Unions across the country, including the sabbatical officers at UPSU, did well in creating momentum in the build-up to the demo and in encouraging students to attend.
However, the student movement itself still feels to be lacking a consistent level of anger and desire to fight against cuts on both local and national levels. Having people sign up with a “might as well” attitude to the demonstration, and seeing them leave with a collective sigh of “oh well” in response to the disgraceful failures that plagued this demonstration, is hardly a mandate for a continuing resistance to education cuts.
If the NUS is not going to step up the fight against education cuts, we as a Students’ Union need to restart the fight on campus, get apathetic students angry and involved, and inconvenience decision makers to force change on Government education stances both in Portsmouth and nationwide.
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