Hart, who attends Abbey Grange high school, has been involved with the
recent wave of political activity by school students in Leeds and the
surrounding area. Joby is part of a layer of young people radicalised by
the attacks of the Tory government and its Lib Dem stooges, and brought
into activity by the occupation at Leeds University last year. While
Militant Student is not in full agreement with everything that is said,
Joby is all too aware of the wider implications of the struggle, and the
need for the working class as a whole to come together and defeat this
government. Luke Wilson from the Leeds Trades Council spoke to him.
Joby Hart, who attends Abbey Grange
high school, has been involved with the recent wave of political
activity by school students in Leeds and the surrounding area. Joby is
part of a layer of young people radicalised by the attacks of the Tory
government and its Lib Dem stooges, and brought into activity by the
occupation at Leeds University last year. While Militant Student is not
in full agreement with everything that is said, Joby is all too aware of
the wider implications of the struggle, and the need for the working
class as a whole to come together and defeat this government. Luke Wilson from the Leeds Trades Council spoke to him.
Luke Wilson: How important is the EMA to you and the others at your school? What will happen if it’s scrapped?
Joby Hart: The EMA is our independence. It’s our ability to
pay for our bus fairs, to buy equipment that we need for school. It
levels the playing-field for working-class students, who would otherwise
be at a disadvantage.
For many, the EMA is a lifeline, and it encourages them to stay on in
education. I’ve seen research that said 60-70% in some schools wouldn’t
have stayed on without EMA, so you can imagine what will happen if the
government scraps it.
Like many of my friends, I have a part-time job. Even with the EMA,
it’s usual for people to work in shops etc. Well, the middle-class
students often don’t, but the working-class ones do. I’m lucky, because I
have a good part-time job.
LW: What sparked off these protests? What made you think you had a chance of making a difference?
JH: The Tories are slashing everything, and it’s going to be
really hard for young people. We don’t have a voice, we can’t vote and
the government doesn’t listen to our opinions. It’s time for us to shout
out that we won’t stand for it any more.
LW: For many school-students, this will be the first political
activity they’ve been involved in. University and college students have
the NUS, with all its faults, and workers like me have trade unions. Do
you see the need for something similar for school students?
JH: Yes, I think we need to link up all the schools in the
country into a big network, which can provide support and organise
activities. For example, if a head teacher tries to block a
demonstration or walk-out, the students would have somewhere to look to
We don’t want it to be too formal – we need to link up the existing
school students’ groups that are forming, but leave it up to them to
decide how best to organise in their own schools. We don’t want to
replicate the bureaucracy of the trade unions or the NUS – it’s not
about who’s leader, it’s about making it as democratic as possible and
trying to get everyone involved.
LW: The Tories are saying that they have to implement the
cuts, that there’s no alternative, that Labour spent too much and now
there’s no money left. How do you respond to this, and what alternative
do you have to the cuts?
JH: The main thing is that this is a bankers’ crisis, and the
bankers and rich who got us into this mess should pay for it. We’re
being asked to pay for the mess made by someone else, and we’re not
prepared to do that.
They get away with tax avoidance on a huge scale – if the government
actually cracked down on tax avoidance and got them to pay their taxes,
we could use the money to pay for the NHS, education and other public
services which are being cut.*
I’m a Marxist, so personally I’d like to see these companies nationalised if they still refuse to pay their taxes.
The cuts are an ideological attack on the working class, and an
attempt to take away the rights that we won through decades of struggle.
My Grandad was a Communist, and he and many others fought for the
rights we have today. The Tories want to claw back these rights, so we
have to fight for them.
LW: So, what have you done so far, and what do you have planned for the coming months?
JH: Well, we’re already organising and bringing groups together. A Northern Schools Against Cuts group
has been formed, and meets every week in Leeds. Schools in Leeds and
Bradford send representatives, who discuss what we’re planning to do.
We’re looking to expand this group to cover as many schools as possible
in the area.
During the occupation at Leeds University, some schools organised
walk-outs, whilst others had protests at the school. We’ll try to
organise similar things in the future. We’re looking at having anti-cuts
days of action which can bring students and workers together to fight
the cuts. We also want to get involved in the anti-EDL protests.
LW: Thankyou for your time, and the labour movement as a whole offers our solidarity and support for what you’re doing.
*Editors Note: Militant Student is in favour of a mass, trade union
led campaign to make the rich pay for the crisis. However, we also point
out that the crisis in state financing was caused by a capitalist
economic crisis, rather than tax avoidance, which happens all the time
under capitalism. Regardless of the Tory Party’s ideological opposition
to the public sector, any government that accepts capitalism must serve
the rich and past the cost of the crisis onto working people.
Ultimately, the only way to make the rich pay for the crisis is to
expropriate them and introduce a plan of production. For further reading
see: Are the Cuts Ideological?