last wrote to you all in the early hours of Tuesday evening when the members
of the Cambridge student occupation were feeling particularly low and
optimism was almost non-existent.
On Wednesday morning, however, after a good night’s sleep and a couple of
rousing speeches from the Marxists within the movement, hopes were rejuvenated,
and optimism was reinstalled. This was partly due to hearing that Sussex Uni
had managed to get all their demands met after a week of occupation. This made
us realise that we could not leave after only 5 days, and that we must wait
longer and make harsher demands from the University.
We decided that the way to pressure the University was to built up a solid base
of support from the students, staff, and academics of Cambridge University, and
other locally important figures. We managed to do this well, receiving messages
of solidarity and support from a number of academics, and receiving a message
of endorsement from David Howarth, the Lib Dem MP for Cambridge. We also managed
to get 29 academics to sign an open letter to the University that condemned the
University’s lack of movement on our demands, their stifling of an important
debate, and heavy handed treatment of the protesters.
The University were also scared that we would win a large amount of support at
the Emergency Student Union Meeting, which we had managed to arrange for the
Wednesday night. If the Student Union were seen to support our demands and our
occupation, then this would put serious pressure on the University to actual
In light of this increased pressure, the University issued a statement to the
protestors at 7.10pm on Wednesday night, just after our delegates had left for
the student union meeting, which said that we were officially trespassing and
that we would be prosecuted if still in the building by 11am the following
morning. They also threw away all our food and prevented any of the protestors
from re-entering the building if we left. This was a dirty tactic on behalf of
the University. Not only were they essentially starving-out the protestors, but
they had also managed to divide the movement, since 10 of us were at the
Student Union, with a further 40 inside the occupied building.
Most importantly, this completely undermined the democratic processes that are
available to students, as it showed that they were unwilling to wait for the
outcome of our motion for support from the Student Union.
Unfortunately, our motion for support did not pass at the Student Union
meeting. However, this was not because people disagreed with our principles or
methods, but rather it was said that "the Student Union cannot make any
political statements" and that the Student Union "is not a forum for
political discussion". This just further vindicated our belief that direct
action was the only method available to us, since the "democratic"
means of political expression were openly stifling political debate, and were
unable to actually take a political stance.
With the threat of prosecution, members unable to re-enter the building, and no
food, the decision was made by the occupiers that we would leave the Law
Faculty at 11am on Thurs morning. The group exited the building with heads held
high and we created a large gathering outside the building, issuing our leaving
statement that: "we did not fail; the University failed us".
Whilst we did not have any of our demands met completely, with only small
concessions on a couple of issues, we are happy with what we have achieved. The
University and the Student Union have been exposed for what they really are:
tools and institutions for a bourgeoisie elite that aim to conserve the status
quo. Meanwhile, the political consciousness has increased throughout the
student body, and students who wish to make a change now know that there is a
group of dedicated, active, left-wing students who share their views. The idea
of the University as a place for progressive thought and political debate have
been proved false, and everyone can see that the debate will only ever be
allowed within a narrow spectrum of thought.
info about the Cambridge Occupation can be seen here: