On Wednesday, the voice of British students will resonate again in the streets of London. A national march against fees, cuts and privatisation has been called for next Wednesday 9 November, by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, with the support of NUS, UCU and UK Uncut. Starting from Malet Street, this time the students will march not to Parliament, but on the City of London, to join the Occupy LSX protesters. The march will then end at Moorgate Junction, next to London Metropolitan University—one of the university which is suffering most from the public spending cuts as well as having more black and ethnic minority students than all the universities of the Russell group.
The British student movement rose exactly one year ago, with the occupation of Millbank, as is chronicled by the Verso anthology Springtime: The New Student Rebellions, edited by the former ULU President Clare Solomon and Tania Palmieri. As Matt McGregor has written in a review for Bookslut, the book, with its "impressionistic accounts of protests and occupations, compelling radicalism, and excellent historical backgrounds, is a success". Reading the svelte, brisk contributions collected in Springtime —"more a series of clicked links than a typical academic anthology"—one year later, one is under the impression that the student movement has opened a season of change:
Springtime: The New Student Rebellions covers student revolts beginning in the autumn of 2009, jumping from the UK to Italy to California to France to Greece to Tunisia. But as Verso reader Miroslav Andjelic points out, Croatia was already in the midst of its own revolt over the imposition of tuition fees in higher education.
And here’s the proof:
The incredulity of media and government at the recent London riots indicates a remarkably short historical memory. If they had a copy of Springtime: The New Student Rebellions at hand, they would have had a textual reference for both the horrors of police brutality and the simmering anger of students, workers and the poor. But unlike the London rioters, the student protesters of Springtime have introduced, what an Inside Higher Ed review calls "a new vocabulary of protest." The review refers to the "book bloc" phenomenon as one such example:
By the time an enormous anti-Berlusconi protest took place in Rome on December 14, a group of Italian faculty members had decided on a syllabus of 20 titles worth carrying into battle. It's all over the place: The Odyssey and Fahrenheit 451, Spinoza's Ethics and Donna Haraway's Cyborg Manifesto, Foucault and Fight Club. And so when the forces of law and order descended on the protesters, swinging, it was a visual allegory of culture in the age of austerity—budget-cutting raining blows on the life of the mind, though also, perhaps, the canon as defensive weapon.