I walked in the largest “student” protest in generations yesterday. Around 50,000 people walked through central London. Although we walked peacefully, I suspect that many people carrying signs and filling the streets were angry. Some were angry about having to go into debt to get a university degree, some were angry at having voted for an unbreakable promise that was broken, and some, like me, were angry because government, the one we voted for, has starved the future.
Cutting core funding to education eliminates one of the key investments in future innovation and economic growth. Like funding to the arts, in the short term education funding creates jobs and promotes sectoral growth, but in the long term it also contributes to better decisionmaking, governance, and economic and political strategy.
The anger shared by the thousands of protesters and perhaps even the hundreds that engaged in civil disobedience can be generalized as anger at starving the future. ‘Austerity’ measures suffered more by the vulnerable are saddening, but even more so when presented with the government’s seeming lack of hope or enthusiasm for the future. Without investment in education, who will think? Who will lead? Who will decide? Will these core social values be privileges accorded only to the financial and social elite?
If not, social action might be necessary — as K-Punk notes,
“This is definitely not the time to recline into the leftist version of capitalist realism, the defeatist counterpart to the Bullingdon club’s bullishness. Now is the time to organise and agitate. The cuts can provide a galvanising focus for an anti-capitalist campaign that can succeed. Protests in these conditions won’t have the hubristic impotence of anti-capitalist ‘feelgood feelbad’ carnivals and kettles. This is shaping up to be a bitter struggle, but there are specific, determinate and winnable goals that can be achieved here: it isn’t a question of taking a peashooter to the juggernaut of capital.”
In other words, it’s time to fight for the future.