The obvious news for this week is the riots by British students on the day of the tuition fee vote. The Bill to raise the cap on university fees from £3,000 to £6,000 a year passed.....just. Yet the day was marked by a series of "protests" by left wing students determined to present themselves as socialists who are "protesting for the common man." By the end of the day the protests looked less and less like protests and more and more like a full blown riot. It was a riot that ended with enormous amounts of damage to the city of London, and even in the royal car carrying Prince Charles and Camilla being attacked.
There are some great articles out there covering the story, and I wouldn't want to retread some of the old points that so many good writers have made. However, I did want to look at this claim by these students that they are somehow taking part in a socialist revolution on behalf of the working man.
That they are socialists is not up for debate. The way such student bodies almost always end up paying lip service to Marx, Trostsky, Chomsky et al, and wear Che Guevara T-shirts and wave communist flags prove as much. However, the idea that they are standing up for the "worker" or the "common man" is completely nonsensical, and the opposite is actually true.
The debate has been caught up in soundbites about "free education" and the "right to higher education." However, the debate is not about that at all, but instead it is about one question (so important that I will highlight it in bold...)
Who should bear the brunt of the cost for a student's university education?
The socialist, if forced to answer this question, will answer that it should be the State. Yet this answer is erroneous. The State does not pay for anything, it only channels funds that it has already received. It has received those funds from the taxpayer. Now, while some of those taxpayers are the "evil bankers" and the "exploitative rich corporations", many taxpayers are normal, working class people trying to make ends meet on a a daily basis - workers who the socialist students claim to be fighting for.
Therefore by arguing for "free" (by which they mean subsidised) education, the student left are simply insisting that other people, many of whom will earn less than the majority of students will eventually earn, pay for their education. Therefore, they are arguing for a situation in which milkmen, farmers, dinner ladies and plumbers bear the cost of the university education of future lawyers, bankers and executives. How this is "fair" is beyond me, and how it is "fighting for workers" is even harder for me to understand!
Lifting the cap is a basic statement that says that students should bear a greater share of the cost of their own higher education, an education from which it is they who will primarily benefit. If students are unable to pay immediately, then it is important to have an accompanying loan system that works and does not add interests to their debt. However, forcing people (most of whom are struggling to make ends meet as it is) to pay for the higher education of others is not fair, is not just, and it is certainly not in in the interest of the "working masses."
If students wants to try and convince the public to subsidise their educations then fair play to them, but they should not pretend that it is done for anyone's interests other than their own.