If anyone still
had any illusions that “we are all in this together”, the Browne Report and the
Comprehensive Spending Review quickly shattered them. By their actions this
Coalition has shown it is a government of the rich, by the rich, for the rich.
Nowhere is this
more obvious than in education. In Higher Education (HE) Browne lopped 80% off
teaching budgets of £4.2bn and £1bn off research, a cut called the “valley of
death” by Steve Smith, Head of Universities UK.
And how is the consequential shortfall in funding to be paid for? By
tuition fees paid by students of up to £9,000 for the “elite” universities. If
these plans go through, students will leave university with debts of £40,000 to
And the end
result? The costs of education are transferred from the state to individual
students and their families thereby penalising poor and working class families.
In addition, there will be a narrowing of the curriculum with many subject areas
like English or Philosophy under threat as they will not be funded, as well as many
learning institutions at risk of closure and HE becoming even more a preserve
of a privileged elite. This means a loss of choice, a loss of opportunity and a
massive loss of jobs of up to 22,000. It is no wonder that the UCU trade union has
labelled these plans all out war on
Education (FE) too the picture is just as bleak. FE educates and trains more
post-16 students than Sixth Forms and universities put together. Two thirds of
all 16 to 19 year olds who study do so in an FE College. They are often “second
chance” institutions. And they are needed! Some 1 million 16 to 24 year olds
are called NEETS – Not in Education, Employment nor Training! NIACE estimates
that 5m adults lack the literacy skills for the 21st century. 17m
adults lack the basic numeracy skills for adult life such as calculating
household budgets, understanding change from shopping, helping kids with
homework or working out credit card interest rates.
How many times
does it have to be proved that poor literacy and numeracy reinforces the cycle
of unemployment, poor health and poverty from generation to generation? People are excluded from full participation
in ordinary life as citizens. And what is the Coalition response? Educations
Maintenance Allowances (EMAs) of up to £30 per week for poor families are to be
scrapped. Nationally 46% of FE students get EMAs. In poorer areas like Knowsley,
Birmingham and Leicester the figure is 80%.
The National Union
of Students (NUS) has shown that 91% of young people who are entitled to free
school meals at Year 11 get an EMA, 83% of young people from single-parent
households get it as well as 76% of the lowest achieving 16 year olds who carry
on with education. The scrapping of EMAs will hit these people hard. The OECD
says that the UK has one of the worst records for 15 – 19 year olds in
education. It will be even worse if these plans go through.
These cuts will
mean fewer students, lower attendances on courses, course closures as course
income is dependent on student numbers and massive job losses of up to 20,000
lecturers. Since 2005 some 1.4m adult education places have already been lost.
Now up to 800,000 more are under threat. In addition, the FE budget is to be
cut by 25%, some £1,1bn. In reality war
has been declared on education for working class people.
And what is
happening in education is being repeated across all of the public sector. Over
4 years there will be cuts of 30% in local council spending where workers are
slammed by the mass media as being on “gold plated pensions” yet the median
pension paid to 900,000 retired local government workers is £3,048 per year or
£58 per week. The 670,000 retired NHS workers pick up on average £4,087 per
year or £78 per week while retired judges get on average £52,565 per year or
£1,011 per week. And top bankers? They get £multimillion pensions and bonuses
and these are considered acceptable by the Tories and their Lib Dem cronies!
The plans of the
Coalition are clear. They are not driven by ideology as some claim. All
ideologies reflect material interests. The Coalition contains the naked
political representatives of a capitalist system that is in crisis. They are
not content that over the past 30 years the share of national wealth, as
measured by the GDP, which goes to wages has fallen from 65% to 53%. At the
same time the share that goes to profits has risen from 13% to 21%. But this is
not enough. The rich want more. They want to cut state spending so they pay
lower taxes. They want the state to give the private sector even more contracts
to provide services that will be cut. In effect they want taxpayers’ money to
be used not for services but to subsidise so-called private enterprise, to bail
them out yet again, to act as a milch cow. Without state handouts the
capitalist system would be in even more of a crisis!
And it does not
have to be like this. The UK is still the 6th richest country in the
world. We have a large government debt at the moment because of the economic
fallout from the financial crisis of the banks. The banks loaned out money they
did not have to people who could not pay it back. Bank debts became toxic. They
were on the brink of collapse. They came cap in hand to the Labour government
for handouts to save themselves. They got £850bn of our money.
And still they
refused to lend so we had the “credit crunch”. Banks were awash with public
money that remained in their vaults. Businesses have gone under as they could not
borrow. And now we are “back to normal” with huge bonuses being paid to top
bankers and the reappearance of banks offering “subprime” mortgages, the very
practice that sparked the present financial and economic crisis.
Let us be in no
doubt. Capitalism is in crisis and to save itself it wants to demolish all of
the gains in social reforms that have been won through the struggle of working
people over the past 60 years. Just imagine the scenario. In 4 years time local
authorities will be providing 30% less services with 30% less staff! We need to
say loud and clear that we did not cause this crisis so we will not pay for
Yesterday we in UCU and NUS demonstrated against cuts
in education. But we are not alone. Public sector trade unions are gearing up
for strikes and demonstrations. Even before the planned TUC action in March
2011 individual unions like PCS will be organising national action. So will
To defend what we
have won, students and workers in education must link up with other workers
locally and nationally. WE ARE ALL IN THIS FIGHT TOGETHER. Separately, we may
be beaten but together we have a chance of success. So we will march,
demonstrate and strike to defend what we have.
And as we do that
we must remember that this is a crisis of the very economic system of
capitalism. We will not pay the price of their failure so the fight is also
political. And one of our demands must be the taking into public ownership of
the banks and finance houses. This will be the first step in the transformation
of society to one where wealth that is created by the labour of working people
will be used for the benefit of all.
NO TO FEES! NO TO CUTS!
MAKE THE BANKERS PAY! NATIONALISE
IF WE DO NOT END
CAPITALISM, IT WILL END US AND TAKE BACK ALL WE HAVE WON
JOIN US IN THE
FIGHT FOR A BETTER FUTURE. JOIN US IN THE FIGHT FOR SOCIALISM.