Part 2 of an epic account of the student uprising – by Efa Supertramp

And so, as of around half past five yesterday evening the decision has been made.

Tuition fees in English Universities will rise to up to nine thousand pounds a year. We were watching the news together in my house yesterday. It was pretty predictable really, but we still watched, with our fingers crossed, hoping for some sort of miracle.

I respect Cardiff’s MP, Lib Dem, Jenny Willott for resigning, sticking to her guns, and opposing the rise in tuition fees. Sticking to your word will always get you respect and I hope that our little protest outside her office last week swayed her. That took guts. Cardiff, particularly the students, may not feel let down for voting in a Lib Dem because of her, I know a lot of the rest of the country will.

Scenes of huge fires and cops on horses stampeding into the crowd of protesters on BBC News contrasted completely with the silence in Parliament that was on the live House of Commons debate on the other BBC channel. They had no idea what was going on outside, but they knew we cared, they knew we’d been protesting for weeks and judging by the result, some of them may have actually listened to us. The majority was a mere 21. 302-323 votes. So close. Gutted.

This is not the end. I believe that now we have to look back to 1988, when poll tax was voted through in Parliament. The Poll Tax was defeated by working class resistance between 1989 and 1990 and was finally abandoned by Majority in 1991. The protests will not stop; this fight is a part of us now. Just because they’ve passed it, doesn’t mean we will give up.

I hope people don’t think that all students who have participated in these protests are violent and mindless because we’re not. I have listened to the Conservatives’ points.  Of course, there are some good things, I suppose ”“ after the rise in tuition fees, students won’t have to start paying it back until they are earning over £21,000 (at the moment it is £15,000) and it will be written off within 35 years. However, what the MP’s haven’t pressed forward as much in their interviews is the fact that it’s not only inflation that will be affecting how much you pay back, there will actually now be added interest. So if you’re lucky enough to get a job earning £21,000 a year after getting your degree and you start paying off your loan, you will actually pay around £40,000 for your education, not £27,000 ”“ and that doesn’t even include your maintenance loan! If you are rich and can pay the £27,000 up front for your course, that’s all you will pay, so basically, rich kids get a cheaper education than poor kids. Yeah, because that makes sense.

I can’t actually think of anything else I think is even slightly good about the rise in tuition fees. I have heard people saying that tax payers shouldn’t be expected to pay for students to go to university, and that the rise in numbers of students in the past 30 years or so is too much. Their argument is that the personal benefits to the individual that goes to university, far outweighs the benefits there are to society and so the individual should make that investment.

If cuts were inevitable I would believe this. However, our country is currently part of an illegal war, which is costing us billions of pounds. Every year there is a £120 billion tax gap of evaded, avoided and uncollected tax – Vodafone have just dodged a tax bill of £6billion, enough to cover the education budget. We could also free up billions of pounds by not renewing Trident. If you’re too scared and intimidated by these ideas, maybe one closer to home ”“ if you capped all administrative salaries over a £100,000 at Cardiff University you’d save over £20million. How can war and nuclear weapons be paid for but not education? How can companies get away with dodging huge tax bills but as individuals we would be sent to jail for doing the same?

I don’t agree with the violence that happened at the protests, however the media have completely overplayed the story and failed completely in their duty to inform the public of true events. Not only were there peaceful protests held all over the country, including in London, the amount of police brutality is disgusting and unjustified. Yesterday a disabled student protesting was pulled from his wheelchair, the police beat protesters attending to an unconscious man and 20 year old Alfie Meadows was hit by a police truncheon, fell unconscious and suffered bleeding to the brain. This is not on; we have a right to protest. Of course the police have a duty, but that duty is not violence, just as we as protestors should not be violent either. Hurting people however, like the police were doing, is a much more unjust action, than damaging property like the protestors were doing yesterday.

Martin Luther King once said, ‘a riot is at bottom the language of the unheard’ and so, now that the MP’s have not listened to the students there probably will be riots. Looking back to 1988 again, this could be a good thing if it changes things. We need to be out on the streets, but we also need to keep our wits about us, we need to be bigger than the politicians, and bigger than the police.

Art is a most powerful tool, a beautiful way to capture people and educate people without having to organise discussions or meetings. If you paint a picture or a wall, or write a song that says something and you capture people, even just one person, you are a teacher and you are giving that person inspiration and power. One good thing that comes out of bleak periods in history is amazing politically motivated art, and that is one thing I must admit I’m excited for. To see how we react to this shit with our creativity.

I have loved 70’s punk music for a long time now, I can just tell how much it meant. You can feel the passion on that rough, barely in time records, and I love it.

This is our time to react. It is our duty as artists, musicians and poets to react to the injustices of our time. To paint, play and shout “FUCK YOU” ”“ they will not get away with this. This is a serious matter, but we won’t let them bring us down whilst we battle and try and change things. So many of us care, we CAN make a difference. Pick up your paint brushes, your guitars, your spray cans, your decks, your microphone, your camera and say something, do something that means something. Because, we are something!

There are so many distractions in the modern world, Facebook and iPhones and everything else. We need to learn not to spend so many hours wasting time with these distracting things in life, and rather, to use them as tools. We have the power to connect with people all over the world, to share ideas, to share our music and art and problems. We can unite with all those who feel the same as us. Viva La Revolution!

Art is a way of making your voice heard, so do it, and share it with the world.

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


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