Springtime: The New Student Rebellions
Edited by Claire Solomon and Tania Palmieri
Verso 2011 283 pages,
In years to come, when people look back at 2010-11 and try to identify the moment the fightback against the British Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition really got under way, many will select the huge March 26 TUC-sponsored demonstration in London.
Magnificent and inspiring as March 26 was, however, November 10, 2010 has perhaps a greater claim to be recorded as the moment the fightback began in earnest.
On that day, Britain’s allegedly apathetic and apolitical youth and students took most of us completely by surprise and struck fear into the heart of the establishment.
About 70,000 angry students, parents, teachers and lecturers marched through London to protest at the neoliberal assault on public education. In particular, they marched against the Browne Review’s proposal to treble tuition fees and in effect privatise higher education in England.
En route, the headquarters of the Conservative Party were occupied.
Further demonstrations took place in November and December. On December 9, the day parliament approved the proposal to raise tuition fees, protesting students and schoolchildren were subjected to shocking levels of police brutality.
This excellent and attractively produced volume is a collection of mainly short pieces on the wave of student radicalism that began to surge through Britain in late 2010.
It contains illuminating eyewitness testimony from the London demonstrations, including a piece by Jody McIntyre, a disabled activist thrown out of his wheelchair by police, and many useful and informative pieces exposing the utter hollowness of the neo-liberal rationale for attacking publicly funded education.
It also contains writings on recent student uprisings and occupations in Italy, California, France and Greece ending in early 2011 with the overthrow of the despotic Ben Ali regime in Tunisia and the anti-Mubarak “Days of Rage”
One of the most potent symbols of resistance to neo-liberalism is the “Book Bloc” a home made shield against police brutality, fashioned in the shape of a famous work of literature or philosophy.
These are well-represented among the many inspiring illustrations in the volume: and police batons aimed at Goethe’s Faust, and Spinoza’s Ethics just about sums up the vandalism visited on our culture by the likes of Cameron, Clegg, Berlusconi and Sarkozy.
As student movement leader Claire Solomon puts it in the opening essay, instead of the death of education, we have seen the birth of a movement. This volume is a fitting tribute to its early days.