23 December 2010


It’s all gone quiet on the student revolt over the past week – for one simple reason: it’s vacation time, and the kids have gone home to rest. OK, parliament has also approved the tuition fees hike, so the immediate cause for mobilisation ain’t there no more, but that’s a technicality.

I’ve no idea whether student protests will spring up again after the holidays: hunch says they will, but it’s not down to me. What I do know is that the whole show will be scuppered if the students allow the traditional left – Leninist or Labour – to seize the controls.

The great strength of the student movement of the past couple of months is that it is self-organised and self-managed. It has done its business without leaders. It has made the New Labourite president of the National Union of Students, Aaron Porter, look a prat, and it has done so with minimal use of demo placards supplied by the Socialist Workers Party. Now it must ensure it protects its autonomy.

The hiatus of the winter vacation is being used by the SWP and the other 57 varieties of Leninist no-hopers to attempt to recruit the movement's militants. Meanwhile, the NUS bureaucrats who’d like careers in grown-up politics are doing their best to co-opt its anger and channel it into respectability.

But remember, kids – you’re better-off without self-appointed leaders. Do it yourselves. Develop your own ways of practising politics. Forget the trad left. And please occupy my university, any old way you choose.

  • Laurie Penny has a piece here on the Guardian's Comment is Free that makes some salient points. I don't agree with her about Labour: in the long run, under the electoral system we have, Labour is still the only place democratic left politics can have serious electoral purchase; and old-fashioned electoral politics matters as much as it ever did. But she's right about the Leninists and their entirely parasitic relationship with the student movement.

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