10,000 students protest tuition fees, skyrocketing debt in London
November 19, 2014

A student protest that attracted thousands of people on to the streets of London has ended with a series of scuffles and accusations of police violence.

Organisers said the demonstration against tuition fees and wider cuts to education was the biggest mobilisation of students since 2010 when demonstrators occupied Tory party offices at Millbank.

Wednesday’s protest saw the National Union of Students (NUS) headquarters in London daubed with paint after it decided not to back the demonstration due to “an unacceptable level of risk” to its members. That provoked anger among those who took part in the march. “We did not organise what happened at the NUS but we do know students are very angry about being let down by the NUS,” said Beth Redmond from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, one of the groups that organised the demonstration. “When you see the numbers here today, they are in danger of becoming an irrelevance.”

Organisers claimed that up to 10,000 protesters took part in the march with university students joining those from further education colleges and sixth forms.

The protest passed off peacefully until demonstrators arrived at Parliament Square. A breakaway group of several hundred, including many who were wearing masks, pulled down fences blocking off the square, provoking minor scuffles with the police.

They then occupied the area in front of parliament as the main body of the march continued to the final rally point.

For the next two hours smaller groups of a few hundred protesters played cat and mouse with police, staging impromptu protests outside government departments, high street chains accused of not paying their tax and Conservative party headquarters, where at least one arrest was made.

Police officers tried to keep up with the fluid groups of demonstrators as they wound their way through backstreets between Westminster and Victoria. Paint bombs were thrown at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and a nearby Starbucks. Later police “snatch squads” picked out people in the crowd and made several arrests, provoking an angry reaction from the crowd.

At one point a protester was wrestled to the ground and dragged away. His friends said he was a Turkish Kurdish student in his late 20s studying at Birkbeck University.

“He was just walking outside John Lewis and they attacked him,” said a fellow student who did not want to be named. “He hadn’t done anything. We were just here to protest … It was really violent and he looked like he was unconscious for a while.”

The Metropolitan police said three officers had suffered minor injuries and 11 arrests were made.

“Various missiles were thrown at the officers and protesters pulled down protective fencing around the grass area in Parliament Square,” the force said in a statement.

Students from as far afield as Glasgow and Cornwall travelled to London for the demonstration, which organisers hope will kickstart a wider campaign in favour of free education.

Jacob Furedi, a student at University College London, said: “We’re marching for free education. We think it’s unreasonable to pay for something which is a right. The atmosphere is buzzing. I’ve been speaking to people from Aberdeen and Stirling – it’s not just London students but students from all around the UK.”

Aaron Kiely, from the Student Assembly Against Austerity and a member of the NUS national executive, said their message was very simple: a return to free education and an alternative to tuition fees.

He added: “We want to end the lifetime of debt which is a massive burden for students.

“Students are really angry because we go to university and then at the end of it we get an average of £40,000-worth of debt. That puts you in a hell of a difficult position when you start to think about a mortgage and a family. We need an alternative.”

Student organisers said the protest marked the start of a wave of action that will run up to next year’s general election.

Deborah Hermanns, from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, said organisers were delighted with the scale of Wednesday’s demonstration. “I really do think today was the start of a wider movement calling for free education rather than against something. There were lots of people here on their first demonstration and I think they were inspired and will be back.”


Student loans are destroying the imagination of youth. If there’s a way of a society committing mass suicide, what better way than to take all the youngest, most energetic, creative, joyous people in your society and saddle them with, like $50,000 of debt so they have to be slaves? There goes your music. There goes your culture. There goes everything new that would pop out. And in a way, this is what’s happened to our society. We’re a society that has lost any ability to incorporate the interesting, creative and eccentric people.
—  David Graeber

Please fire me. I had a customer tell me that his deceased wife’s bill should have been paid off by God when she died. My response? “I apologize sir but we do not receive payments from God.” He did not believe me.

Why going into debt for (art) school is a terrible idea

In Steal Like An Artist, I wrote: “Get the education you need for as cheap as you can get it.” As anybody who’s followed my “you don’t have to go to college” tag knows, going into soaking debt for a degree is a bad idea, but even more so for artists. This graphic is from a recently published report, “Artists Report Back: A National Study on the Lives of Arts Graduates and Working Artists” by BFAMFAPhD:

In the United States, 40 percent of working artists do not have a bachelors degree in any field. Only 16 percent of working artists have arts related bachelors degrees. Though arts graduates may acquire additional opportunities and skills from attending art school, arts graduates are likely to graduate with significant student loan debt, which makes working as an artist difficult, if not impossible. We acknowledge that some arts graduates are satisfied with work in other fields, but the fantasy of arts graduates’ future earnings in the arts should be discredited.

Emphasis mine. Hyperallergic has an in-depth look at the report, and points out that it’s not just applicable to art students, either:

While this report focuses specifically on the arts, I couldn’t help but notice that it’s a part of a much larger conversation that’s been roiling across fields recently, particularly when it comes to graduate degrees. Our higher education system is producing a vast quantity of workers with educations and expectations for high-level and high-paying jobs that simply do not exist in the quantity needed to employ all these people.

…this is not an isolated issue in the arts — we’re training hundreds of thousands of young people who dream of gaining lucrative, or at least sustaining, long-term employment in a job market that is over-saturated with precisely those people and has been steadily losing good jobs.

To quote Steve Albini: “Some of your friends are already this fucked.”

The only decent argument I’ve heard for getting an MFA or teaching at an MFA program came from George Saunders:

I would feel weird if my students were going into mad debt to study with me. At Syracuse, we give 100 percent remitted tuition and about 15K a year, which a person can (sort of, approximately) live on in Syracuse. In any event, nobody’s leaving here with, you know, 80K in student loans. So this changes the dynamic dramatically. I feel good about teaching here, I feel like it’s honest. If we can help someone along their personal trajectory, great. If not, well, the person is only three years older than he/she was.

Via BoingBoing: It’s all but impossible to earn a living as a working artist, new report shows

Filed under: you don’t have to go to college

The capitalists themselves live lives of great luxury. They spend enormous amounts on fancy houses, cars, yachts, servants and so forth. But the level of surplus value soon becomes so great that even the most extravagant capitalists have no need for further luxuries. (How many multi-million dollar yachts does anybody want or ―”need”?) So what to do with all this loot that comes from the workers? Build more factories!

The capitalists don’t really know what to do with all the wealth they already have when it comes to personal consumption, but they always do want more and more. (Here’s your insatiable greed at work.) Why? Well, for one thing massive piles of wealth also bring political power and the respect (and fear!) of other capitalists. Think of all the politicians they need to buy, for example! So, the capitalists keep expanding production, building more and more factories, which in turn piles up ever bigger amounts of surplus value.

But now the embarrassing question: Who is going to buy all the commodities produced by all these factories? It can’t be the workers, because the workers are only paid a fraction of the value that they produce. They can therefore only buy a fraction of what they produce. But it won’t be the capitalists either, since they are already drowning in luxuries, and their chief goal in life has become greed—piling up ever more wealth. In short, as Engels put it, under capitalism the growth of production far outstrips the growth of market demand.

In this situation there are really only two basic things that can be done, and both of them involve the creation of ever more debt. The first is to loan money to the workers themselves, so they can buy what their wages do not allow them to buy. This is why consumer debt, and ever increasing levels of consumer debt, are absolutely necessary to capitalism.

The other thing that can be done, especially if consumer debt is reaching its limits, is to have the government buy more and more commodities. (Of course production then shifts to the sorts of things the government wants to buy, especially weapons and war supplies.) But if the government gets the money from taxes from the workers (which is where most tax money comes from) then the workers just have that much less money to spend. So there is no net boost to the economy. Only if the government gets its money through deficit financing (i.e. either by building up government debt or by simply printing up more money) will there be any net boost to the market. The trouble, of course, is that inflating the currency ultimately leads to disaster, as does ever increasing government debt.

Anyway, this in short, is why capitalism requires the constant increase in debt in order even to exist. The debt is in two main forms—consumer debt and government debt. Not only must this debt constantly increase, but taken as a whole, it must constantly increase at an ever-greater speed! (i.e., it is an exponential sort of situation.) Can this continue forever? Think of the growth of bacteria in a Petri dish: exponential growth always leads to disaster in the end.

If People Understood This One Thing, We Would Have Revolution Overnight

In case you might skip this post as uninteresting or irrelevant, let me just highlight the main point here:

"For example, it would only cost 0.5% of the 1%’s wealth to eliminate poverty nationwide.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. was working towards a guaranteed basic income for allwhen he was killed. Wealth inequality, neoliberalism, the actions of the Federal Reserve, along with the greed and theft of the global elite have made the call for a guaranteed basic income for all even more urgent in 2014 than in the 1960s.

David DeGraw, interviewed here by Dennis Trainor, Jr. of Acronym TV claims the alternative is a violent revolution.

In his new book, The Economics of Revolution, DeGraw writes:

“Having that much wealth consolidated within a mere 1% of the population, while a record number of people toil in poverty and debt, is a crime against humanity.  For example, it would only cost 0.5% of the 1%’s wealth to eliminate poverty nationwide.  Also consider that at least 40% of the 1%’s accounted for wealth is sitting idle. That’s an astonishing $13 trillion in wealth hoarded away, unused.”

In this clip from the full 30-minute interview, DeGraw points out that the Federal Reserve is already printing money and giving it away to the financial elite.