Jean Shaoul, explaining the economic roots of the crisis, said, “It is extremely important to understand the financial and economic crisis and why the right to education for the next generation is under attack.”
“It’s not just tuition fees that are going up and all the debts that is going to mean. There are cuts in the teaching budget that are going to mean closure of whole universities departments, particularly the humanities
“It really signifies the approach and the attitude that the ruling elite has to education. Students will be facing really bad job prospects. Already of the 2009 graduates, 10 percent are unemployed six months after graduating.
“The ruling elite has absolutely no conception of education to develop culture as a whole and to develop the intellectual and other talents of young people for the good of society. And above all, the right to education and for an educated population is really bound up with the growth of democracy.
“There is no way that you can have really democracy, as opposed to voting for political parties that largely all look the same, unless you have the active participation of workers, young people and for that you need a very educated citizenry.
“It is important that you understand what is coming as it’s absolutely clear from the way the government, the police and the media have responded to the demonstration, that in future it’s going to be a gloves off approach. Kettling on the streets mean that in effect you have mass imprisonment of the streets. And this isn’t just a British question. You have seen the same in Greece with the Acropolis workers, and in Ireland.
“And what they are defending is of course very real class interests, the interests of very narrow financial elite, the super-rich. And they are going to throw absolutely everything against young people who oppose their policies, using every piece of legislation that has been written and introduced by Labour in the last 10 years, under the guise of this phoney war on terrorism.
“The real ‘terror’ that they fear is the response from ordinary workers and young people. It has got nothing to do with terrorism in the way they mean it. And that legislation is going to be used against those of us who that oppose it. So it is crucial that we understand what is at stake.
“So I want to talk a little bit about the history of the crisis and draw some lessons from the austerity resistance campaign that are talking place in Greece France and Ireland. d I would like to explain an alternative to the austerity programme, the socialist and internationalist perspective and programme, which I feel is absolutely vital if these cuts are to be defeated and the whole situation reversed.
“What we have seen over the last 35 years is a huge attack on living standards with privatisation, liberalisation and deregulation of the economy.
“It is important to understand that none of these measures have ever been popular with the broad mass of the population. They haven’t come up through the bottom, through party conferences. They have been imposed by the financial elite, driven by financial consultants on secondment to governments.
“The governments act as the political representatives of the financial elites, never mind their political colouration. Britain in particular has sought to export these policies around the world. The winners have been the bankers and it has brought ever greater social inequality in the broad mass of the population.
“The economic crisis of today is bound up with very big changes in the world economy itself. The shift to market based policies in the late 1970 was not simply a shift in policy. It was more than that. It was a response to deeper economic changes taking place. Above all in the decline in the rate of profit. As industries became more capital intensive, the amount of profit, relative to capital employed, declined.
“And their solution was to seek low wage platforms across the globe, with the integration of production, of globalisation. Goods were now being made all over the world. Goods were assembled somewhere for selling all over the world, so this was something new.
“That signified, for each individual country, the end of the attempt for national regulation and the ability to tax the big corporations, to fund a welfare state, the right to education and all the rest of it.
“Increasingly the ruling elite turned to making a profit out of “financialisation”. Not able to secure the required profit levels from production, they turned to “making money out of money, out of the credit system.
“This was entirely unsustainable. If you look at the banks today, just the four big UK high streets, their assets, their loan books, are worth four times the UK’s GDP. So in other words where are going to get their money back? It cannot be sustained and if these banks go under, it would bankrupt the British government.
“In 2008, Lehman Brothers was allowed to go to the wall. And that created the possibility for the banks to stampede the government to bail them out and controlling directly the treasury in each and every country. In Britain Gordon Brown, the prime minister said “we will do whatever it takes” and they pumped nearly a trillion pounds and has pledged 1.2 trillion to prop up the banks. But as the IMF said, near a year ago, only 40 percent of Britain’s bad debts from the banks have actually been shown. In other words, there is worse to come.
“And the banks everywhere have demanded austerity programmes to pay for it and when they get it they come back for more, as we have seen with Ireland.
“There is widespread opposition to all of this and it’s not just in Britain and its not just tuition fees. The real question that all us face is which social class is going to control the economy. In whose interests is it going to be ruin? And this is where we have to address the question of what do we do? What lessons can we learn from the big mass movements that we’ve seen in the last period? Whether it’s against the WTO or seven years ago against the war in Iraq, when nearly two million people in Britain went out on the streets to oppose it.
“The point is that movement fizzled out and the war went ahead and similarly you can look at what has happened in France. These were very big movements but the trade unions, the leaderships, put forward absolutely no policies to take the movement forward.
In fact they embarked on those strikes only in order to stifle those movements and to head it off.
“In all these cases the leadership of these movements are absolutely tied to a capitalist perspective, to the existing political set-up. These unions have collaborated for decades with this neo-liberal free market agenda. In Britain the trade unions refuse to organise anything and all accept the need for cuts”.
“I would like to say to students you cannot do it on your own. We can’t do it together just as university teachers and students. It means building a campaign with public sector workers, across education, across the health services, social services and the rest.
“But we can’t leave it to public sector workers either. It means campaigning in unity with private sector workers who face whole sale redundancies like the 350 British Aerospace workers who were laid off in the North West last week.
“And it’s not a question of a British solution, at the expense of Ireland or Greece or wherever. It’s a question of uniting workers and young people across the board and by workers I mean 90 percent of the population: those of us who exists by the means our pay cheques at the end of the month.
“The struggle is one against international capitalism, against the owners of the means of production and what we are calling for on the World Socialists Web Site is the reorganisation of society for economic need, not for profit. What is required is an international perspective, a socialist perspective: for the banks and very big industries to be taken over under workers control.
“It means the bringing down of the coalition government and the fight for a workers government pledged to socialist policies. If you look at France, not one of the trade union leaders was calling for the resignation of the French President. The legislation went through. Then within a couple days, Nicolas Sarkosy cleared out his government and brought in a more right wing one because he realised he had defeated that movement.
“It means therefore that we cannot leave this opposition movement that will build up, to the trade unions and the existing political parties. It means building new parties based on understanding what has taken place during the 20th century. A party that puts forward an internationalist and socialist perspective. We are not talking about a return to the Old Labour Party of the post-war period. We are talking about taking over the major corporations and banks and running them in the interests of the broad mass of the population and putting an end to poverty and social inequality.
Shaoul encouraged students to read the World Socialist Web Site and for students to join the International Students for Social Equality at the University of Manchester and to attend its regular meetings. She also called on students to attend the meeting being held by the Socialist Equality Party in the city on December 6 under the heading “For a mass movement against austerity! For a workers government and socialist policies!
She concluded by calling for students to help build the international party of which the Socialist Equality Party is the British section. She called on students to establish ISSE societies to “campaign for an internationalist and socialist perspective in every university and to help build this broad mass movement that will put an end to capitalism, social inequality, war and ignorance.”