5 Student Strikes That Show How Students Can Win
By Josh Berlyne and Callum Cant / wire.novaramedia.com
Sep 29, 2015

Why does anyone care if students don’t go to class?

When talking about the potential of a student strike, people come back with this question again and again. We’ve tried to explain the reasons elsewhere and argue why a strike is necessary.

But the clearest indication we have that student strikes work is that they have worked before. Across the world, time after time student strikes have won their demands. Whilst there are obviously very important local specifics, the general trend is clear: a democratic stoppage of the education system can exert huge collective power.

To this inexhaustive list we could add many other examples – from the very recent strike victory in Bangladesh for the#NoVATonEducation campaign to older examples such as the UK’s own strike victory against the Conservatives in 1971, when Margaret Thatcher was education secretary. Just because we aren’t so familiar with the idea, it doesn’t mean the student strike isn’t a well established tactic in the strategic handbook of confrontational politics.

1. Mexico, 1999.

In 1999, the president of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) announced tuition fees would rise from the equivalent of two cents to 150 US dollars per semester. The rise in fees threatened to seriously disrupt the studies of thousands of students. In response, students organised disruption of another kind: a student strike.

Close to 25k students went on strike. Decisions were taken collectively, through discussions in faculty or college assemblies which involved all striking students. The UNAM campuses were occupied to enforce the picket, stopping the classes of 270k students.

After seven weeks of strike action, the UNAM administration offered a compromise: voluntary tuition fees for all students. The strikers didn’t accept this, instead demanded institutional change rather than small changes in policy. They did not succeed with these demands, but their struggle became a symbol of resistance to a wider government agenda of privatisation and repression, galvanising the public to take to the streets and demand change.

2. Colombia, 2011.

2011 saw the Colombian government propose the extensive marketisation of the Colombian higher education system. Students called a national meeting at the beginning of 2011 to discuss how to expand the student movement into a mass movement which could include different parts of Colombian society: sports teams, artists, academics, and so on. The meeting gave birth to MANE (National Student Wide Table).

MANE’s strategy had two main components: first, national days of strike action. Second, a positive vision of what higher education should be. This was a six-point list of demands covering student needs, democracy and social engagement in academia, and demands for democratic freedoms. These demands resonated with the people of Colombia, expanding the movement beyond students. There was so much pressure from MANE and the public that by the end of 2011 the government was forced to scrap its plans for marketisation.

3. Quebec, 2012.

Quebecois students opposed an attempt to increase tuition fees to the level they would have been at had they risen with inflation since 1968. The most militant union, ASSE (Association for Student Union Solidarity), opened up its membership to for a coalition group, CLASSE (Broad Coalition of ASSE), and began mobilising. After a huge campaign of political education and a slow escalation of pressure tactics, they began to call strike votes.

What followed was the largest general unlimited student strike in Quebec’s history. 250k students went on strike for six months. Their campaign of economic disruption, huge demonstrations and closed down campuses threw the government into such a crisis that the situation led to early elections and the halting of the tuition fee hike.

4. Brazil, 2015.

In Brazil in recent years the ruling Workers’ Party (PT) has lurched to the right, implementing an agenda of cuts to public services while cosying up to banks. In response to savage cuts to the universities budget, students, lecturers and in-house staff at many of Brazil’s universities have chosen to take coordinated strike action. Around 100 days ago lecturers and in-house staff chose to go on strike, with one demand: repeal the cuts. This mobilisation has now reached fifty universities, and students have formed their own strike committees to support and extend the strike action. Right now in Brazil, students are on the frontline of resistance to neoliberalism.

5. UK, 2016?

The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts has released a call outto the UK student movement, arguing that in order to beat the Tories, we need a student strike.

Strategic innovation, and a change from the stale cycle of national demonstrations and days of action which threatens to bog down our movement, is essential. But more than that – the student movement now faces an historic opportunity.

The change of maintenance grants into maintenance loans is a huge mobilising issue. But it’s not the only one – the government is simultaneously going after graduates, academics, further education students, disabled students, international students, and Muslim students. If the Tories succeed, this will be a bigger change to education than £9k fees. If we can articulate a collective response, it could be the first defeat of this new Conservative majority.

With Jeremy Corbyn storming to victory in the Labour leadership election, a sense of political possibility, audacity and confidence is spreading amongst young people. Now is the time to be ambitious.

As students return to campuses over the coming weeks we will see how strong the anger is – and more importantly, how willing students will be to fight the government. But if the reaction is anything like we expect, we need to get ready for the biggest opportunity for collective action we have seen in the UK since 2010.

0.0 ·
0
Trending Today
Globalization Makes No Sense
Chris Agnos · 17,425 views today · When I lived in San Francisco, I often would marvel at the movement of goods through the ports across the bay in Oakland. Full container ships would enter the bay one after...
How Norway Avoided Becoming a Fascist State
George Lakey · 9,607 views today · Instead of falling to the Nazi party, Norway broke through to a social democracy. Their history shows us polarization is nothing to despair over.
Stunning Small Homes Form Part of a Communal Compound for Best Friends
Lighter Side · 8,813 views today · If you’re lucky enough to have longtime friends even as an adult, then you know probably already know how much it means to be able to spend time together. Maybe you even have a...
Proof of Evolution That You Can Find on Your Body
4 min · 7,545 views today · Vestigial structures are evolution's leftovers — body parts that, through inheritance, have outlived the context in which they arose. Some of the most delightful reminders of...
The Most Astounding Fact about the Universe
3 min · 5,811 views today · This is Neil Degrasse Tyson's response when asked to describe the most astounding fact about the universe. Background music is the cinematic orchestra - To build a home.
Where the Term "Redneck" Came From
15 min · 5,412 views today · If you don't know this story, you'll never look at the word the same again.  This is just a window into the sometimes shocking, subversive and untold history of the United...
The Fire Within
Words by Sophie Scholl - Illustrations by Gavin Aung Than · 4,951 views today · Sophie Scholl (1921-1943) was a German activist who is famous for speaking out against the Nazi regime. Scholl was a member of a protest group called The White Rose, which...
The London Anarchist Group Squatting Mansions to Fight Homelessness
6 min · 4,691 views today · London squatting activists ANAL (Autonomous Nation of Anarchist Libertarians) are squatting empty multi-million pound buildings and opening them up to the homeless.
Without Saying a Word This 6 Minute Clip From Samsara Will Make You Speechless
6 min · 3,722 views today · Can you put this video into words? It's a clip from the phenomenal documentary Samsara, directed by Ron Fricke, who also made Baraka.  If you're interested in watching...
The Foiled Bomb Plot in Kansas That Didn't Make Trump's Terror List
5 min · 3,550 views today · When a plot by a pro-white militia to bomb a Somali mosque in Kansas was foiled by the FBI last October, the aborted conspiracy received little national coverage - nor did it...
Voices of Standing Rock
49 min · 2,506 views today · Short stories told by water protectors at Standing Rock, North Dakota. Part 1 - Introduction: Since mid-August 2016, thousands have set up camp near the Standing Rock Sioux...
Redneck Revolt Presents: A Message to the Patriot Movement
6 min · 2,310 views today · Over the past few weeks, Redneck Revolt has been communicating with a former member of a III% Patriot Militia based out of Ohio. Peter made contact with our organization after...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 2,306 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
To Change Everything, Start Everywhere
8 min · 2,074 views today · To Change Everything, Start Everywhere! The case for complete self-determination—a guide for the furious, the curious, and the pure of heart. To Change Everything: An...
From Sanctuary City to Liberated City
Frank Lara · 1,572 views today · In just one week, with several strokes of a pen, Trump unleashed upon the working class in the U.S. an attack not seen in decades. From his attack on the flawed Affordable Care...
10 Words Every Girl Should Learn
Soraya Chemaly · 1,550 views today · "Stop interrupting me."  "I just said that." "No explanation needed." In fifth grade, I won the school courtesy prize. In other words, I won an award for being polite. My...
Transition From Caterpillar to Butterfly as Analogy for Social Change
4 min · 1,477 views today · An exceprt from Crossroads: Labor Pains of a New Worldview in which Dr. Bruce Lipton talks about the fractal nature of reality and compares the current global awakening and the...
The Lessons of Standing Rock
Michael Emero · 1,384 views today · In mid-November of 2016, I was a Water Protector at Standing Rock. At first my goal was to play investigative journalist; documenting then writing about every detail for my...
How a Lack of Touch Is Destroying Men
Mark Green · 1,159 views today · Why Men Need More Platonic Touch in their Lives
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 920 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Load More
What's Next
Like us on Facebook?
5 Student Strikes That Show How Students Can Win