Celebrating victories

Waving from the senate balconyI think this is an important post to make.  And I’m going to try and make it without sliding into depressing caveats about how small the victories are compared to the size of the problem.  Because yes, in the UK we are facing a huge assault on public services and the welfare state.  And yes, the cuts at Glasgow Uni are just a tiny microcosm of right-wing pro capitalist ideology that is still further funnelling resources towards the privileged.  But a cake is made of individual crumbs.  A forest is made from the growth of thousands of trees.  A sustainable, just, peaceful, free world is made from millions of incidences of individuals, communities, workplaces coming together and reclaiming power over themselves.

In the past few weeks at Glasgow University anticuts activists have started to make headway against a seemingly all powerful Senior Management who are determined to push our institution further away from learning and into making profit for private individuals and companies.

On February 1st a number of anticuts activists from a diversity of politics, began an occupation of a now disused Glasgow University student social club which senior management had decided to keep closed in order to turn it into yet more offices.  The loosely knit group had grown in cohesiveness and confidence after working together across the campus and city including UK UnCut days of action, anticuts bank occupations, local newssheets and antifascist actions.

The remit of the occupation was to both regain the use of the building as a social space, but also to protest against the cuts both at the University and nationally.  While it was understood that a small student occupation in Glasgow was unlikely to force the UK Government to change its mind, we do see it as part of a wider picture – that if we take responsibility for our small part of UK, and everyone else does the same, and challenges the functioning of the economy and power in our localities, we can force change.

We ran the Free Hetherington as an ongoing protest, but also as a place where we could put into action our dreams for the wider University and world.  We have free, open lectures and discussions where everyone can come to learn and engage, rather than learning being narrowly confined to a single academic discipline for a brief period of life.  We collectively cook, clean and run the space with everybody eating together, no matter what their financial circumstances.  And best of all we have a welcoming, friendly, stimulating environment where the most valued contributions are those that are not financial.

On 22nd March University Senior Management tried to physically end the protest, with no warning or attempt at negotiation, by sending in security guards and police.  After several hours they had finally dragged everybody out, but instead of burying our tail between our legs we marched on Senior Management’s own building and occupied that instead!  Within a few hours of escalating our protest we achieved:

  • The long requested mass meeting with management
  • Agreement that the Uni Principal would also hold a mass meeting with students
  • The return of the Hetherington building!

Today, 14th April the Herald is reporting that “University bows to pressure and puts cuts plans on hold

This is incredible news.  A concerted campaign has forced another concession from Senior Management.  This has not come easily, but due to determined, ongoing, organized and creative action.

These victories are wins in themselves, but I think the most important effect is for our potential to grow as each one of us experientially learns how much power lies within us.  In this way a movement can grow in strength both numerically and in the hope and confidence each one of us has.  In this way we can look more boldly than only defending against the cuts to the welfare state that our grandparents achieved during their the post world war 2 sense of community and entitlement, but to achieve a society that facilitates communities and lives worth living.

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  1. Jamie
    April 15, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    Not many things bring a big smile to my face, this one did :-)

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