Before the NUS demo in London on the 21st of November, across the internet, people popped up on basically every media outlet, describing why they wouldn’t march/didn’t think we should. Among the most wide-spread of these was the parody twitter hashtag #Deluded2012 (as supposed to the NUS official hashtag #demo2012). This succinctly tells us the most prominent reasons that people of my age group, those most affected by Cameron’s tripling of tuition fees, didn’t go: that there was no point to it because the protest wasn’t going to change anything.
I decided to march despite this predicted futility, which I find absolutely ridiculous. Whoever chooses only to do something only when the desired outcome is highly probable is devoid of reasoning. In all likelihood, according to the statistics, I won’t get a job relating to my degree. Oh well then, I had better just pack it in now, move back home and work in Primark folding jumpers for the rest of my life.
It is important, I think, to express your opinions and ideas, whether they are likely to be realised in the future or not. What use are they in that case? Those that called the protest useless were, for the large part, basing their opinions on the fact that the 2012 protests didn’t achieve their goal either, unless that was to reinforce the idea that youth equates to violence. I thank you for giving the government and, indirectly, the country, two years to turn the education system around. It seems like a reasonable time to change things, no? I mean, every political movement in history has achieved their goals in twenty-four months.
And even if protesting against education cuts is futile – it is only so in the sense that we haven’t actively caused the lowering of them. What the demo did cause was awareness about our feelings against the cuts, not just through the impersonal writing of letters or through a sarcastic tweet, but by showing anger, and the depth of it through our commitment to walk for three hours through the pouring rain. People that saw us know our dissatisfaction, and that is justification of its own. We never know – one of the businessmen who stood outside watching us might change his vote in the 2014 elections.
Where this communicative victory begins to fail however, and where I begin to doubt my participation, is the presence of various socialist organisations. I was shocked and instantly suspicious when free pickets bearing various socialist logos where given out, and even more appalled when the focus of the protest turned radical. Other students took up the pickets, perhaps not seeing the small sly socialists’ sign. Then there were the few who decided to chant, the most notable of them being “They say Tory, we say scum” or “What’s the solution? Revolution!”
Part of me guesses that the ill-informed minority were just caught up by the pounding drums and aggressive, numerous chants of the socialist leaders. But I and many others cannot fathom why the message of “Please don’t put us into more debt, it’s not fair,” or even the more off-topic yet legitimate ones, such as “Free Palestine,” morphed into a woman screaming through a microphone “WOULD YOU RATHER DIE ON YOUR FEET OR LIVE ON YOUR KNEES?”
Forgive me if I don’t want to take up socialism on the whim and be papped by some website I’ll never find calling for the Tory’s immediate barbecuing I don’t know my political allegiances anymore than I would expect any other people at my age to do so – especially those who haven’t even been through various systems like taxation such as I. Because of this I am not going to label myself a socialist, as I wouldn’t label myself a capitalist or even attribute myself to Labour, Conservative or the Lib Dems. I’m not saying people my age can’t know this either, but only as long as they have sufficient reasons why.
I hope that those who did partake in the cheering, when asked whether they want to live or die, actually do think that tuition fees are a matter of life or death. Otherwise the message of the march became tainted, which is what I suspect happened. Equally, I hope those who called for revolution genuinely believe in it.
I, and many others, stuck to the chants which actually addressed to my reasons for being there, like “No ifs, no buts; no education cuts.” It is no wonder why there is such a prejudice against students being misinformed, if a national protest like this can be turned into something that it was not intended to be, and with the loudest voice at that. Worries were heard among the crowd that the talk of revolution would even be focused on more by the media than the actual messages against the cuts.
All being said and done, I would march again, perhaps dipping out if I felt it lost its focus and momentum. Within my own conscience I know that I marched for the right reasons, but I can’t help but think that others did not.