Student protests and alliance of resistance?

This is from the UNISON Active blog

As a parent and a UNISON member I took part in the student protests in Liverpool yesterday. What I witnessed was a vibrant, fresh wave of anger organised ‘from below’ via Facebook and without the trappings and miserablism of recent trade union events I have attended.

Thousands of young people, including many school students, ran the Police ragged and delivered an incredibly effective protest by approximately 3,000 people. No speeches and rallies, just music, mobiles and good natured ‘roaming marches’ that avoided physical confrontations with Police and drew support and even applause from passers by.

Police looked ready for a Miners Strike push and shove – but instead got lots of young people bouncing up and down to Rage Against the Machine. No sectarian group were able to claim this – 90% of the banners were home made, angry and witty. ‘FTC’ was explained to me, Hogwarts references were widespread and some banners read ‘Now I’ll never find my Prince at Uni’ and ‘I’m looking forward to Uni – oh no I’m not I’m working class’.

I compared it with what had been a deadly sombre and much less well supported NW TUC ‘lobby’ of the Liberal Democrat Conference in Liverpool September this year. It was sealed off, get well away from the lib Dems and lacked any genuine ‘grass roots’ feel – very much what the Americans call an ‘astro turf’ event, attended by activists only.

There is a disconnection between the trade unions and civil disobedience, which could be fatal for the unions in this time of unrest. Decades of social partnership policies and adherence to the law could well have robbed the movement of its spirit of rebellion. That’s why Len McCluskey’s call for an ‘alliance of resistance’ is to be welcomed.

The TUC march organised for next year – will we be plodding around London as usual or will it be an event that properly represents the anger and bitterness of all our people against what is going to be done to us? As Len McCluskey tells the Guardian “Do I believe the law is sacrosanct? Absolutely I do not. If there are bad laws not only is it right to oppose them but your duty to do so”.

Let’s hope that the spirit of the young people protesting all over the UK this week is the spirit of an alliance of resistance.

Patrick F

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