Brighton Rejects the March for England

Copyright Guy Smallman, 2012.Brighton’s local residents and anti-fascists made the fifth St. George’s Day march in Brighton resoundingly unwelcome, seriously disrupting the parade on Sunday 22nd April, 2012. The Portsmouth-based organisers, March for England (MfE), promote the event as a “family day out”, and bring together die-hard nationalists, fascists, and football casuals from across the country to stir up English nationalist sentiments and vilify Muslim communities.

After assembling at Brighton station at noon, the march was greeted with booing and chants of “Nazi scum off our streets!” from locals who lined Queen Street, which must have made punters feel they were on more of a walk of shame than a march for England. At the peak there were somewhere upward of 800 counter-demonstrators – the figure could have been as high as 1,000 – but the mobility of anti-fascists throughout the day made an accurate estimation difficult. Considering the scale of opposition it should be of little surprise that the MfE reacted almost immediately by projecting coins, bottles, and rubbish into the crowds – some of which was returned.

According to the weak BBC report (seemingly compiled almost entirely from police press releases), around 140 people attended the march. First-hand accounts suggest this could be a generous count, although small numbers of supporters were to be found in pubs across the city and on the seafront on the day, presumably anticipating an opportunity to join the march at a later time.

Compared to previous years the turnout was both notably lower and it was even more obvious that the group is predominately constituted by middle-aged men, with some women and teenagers joining them. A small handful of children were brought on the march by their parents. The march appeared to be an exclusively white working-class affair, many of whom can be assumed not to be Brighton residents, having arrived on intercity trains.

Importantly, those who came to drown out MfE’s vicious ethnotribal politics were visibly not just the usual anti-fascist faces: Brightonians young and old came with home-made placards, and the relative absence of socialist newspaper-sellers and Unite Against Fascism banners made for a stringently non-sectarian atmosphere. Trotskyists stood alongside Antifa militants, and Greens with Labourites and even Lib Dems, but overwhelmingly the face of anti-fascism on the day was that of a united Brighton which reflected the local demographic.

The march quickly met a loud Antifa blockade and was redirected by police down Church Street. Opponents of the march were pepper-sprayed, while the unwelcome visitors were left untouched by the police despite continuing to hurl projectiles out of the cordon. Some 150-200 further anti-fascist militants immediately rerouted to attempt to stop the march again, building a make-shift barricade from bins and fences assembled from nearby road-works.

Tension was highest here, with Brightonians continuing to chant against the nationalist march and clashing with police. Without issuing any kind of warning, officers violently lashed out against the anti-fascist crowd with truncheons and shields, even using riding crops against those who – intentionally or not – found themselves at the front of the barricade. Mounted officers grabbed counter-demonstrators by their clothes, lifting them from the ground, and some attempted to manoeuvre horses out of the way by the reins. A number of anti-fascists were injured by the police, and the window of a barber shop was damaged. A bin was overturned, and glass bottles scattered the road – some of which were thrown over police into the march, and broken glass was returned. Nationalists have claimed on Facebook that a 9-year old girl who was irresponsibly taken to the march was injured by a bottle, although this has not been reported elsewhere.

When the march reached Victoria Gardens, the 100 or so marchers allowed themselves to be cordoned by heavy police lines – three officers deep – and were silent as a group for around one and a half hours until they sensed they were to be ushered on by their protectors. When they finally got the nerve to sound themselves – after being goaded on by persistent booing, and chants of “Boring!” and “Get the fuck out of Brighton!” – the chants seemed to be “Let’s go fucking mental!” and “We’re not racist/We’re not racist/We’re not racist anymore!”

MfE members have alleged that “bottles, needles, plates, bags of urine” were hurled at the marchers; to be sure there was certainly an exchange of missiles, but the level of exaggeration suggests that the nationalists felt suitably out of place.

Copyright Guy Smallman, 2012.Police numbers were extraordinarily high, with officers being drafted in from Kent, Surrey, and as far as Essex. From the very beginning of the march police horses were present (emblazoned with sponsors for Southend’s Adventure Island) and many officers were equipped with riot shields and helmets. As the march left the station in a moving kettle, early gaps between police officers were not breached by nationalists who were presumably too intimidated, aware that they were heavily outnumbered. Police ignored the marchers, reacting aggressively to anti-fascists who sought to exploit weaknesses in the lines.

Police violence against anti-fascists in defence of nationalists and fascists should not come as a surprise. It was clear from the beginning that the police had been briefed for a fight, expected one, and eventually instigated one by allowing the march to proceed virtually without condition. More than this, it should be clear from the behaviour of police at most “left-wing” protests that the intensity and direction of their violence is not informed by an impartial calculation of the likelihood of any clash. Instead there appears, more logically, to be a political understanding driving the policing of demonstrations.

Put simply, fascists and nationalists do not pose the threat to establishment which left-wing activity does: English nationalism and British fascism feed almost entirely on mainstream political positions (e.g. with regard to immigration) and do not seriously seek to undermine the state or governmental policy but strengthen it, envisaging themselves as protectors or “defenders” of the state from a status quo of mismanagement rather than attempting to agitate and organise towards total social re-organisation.

It is clear why Brighton is the chosen annual location for MfE. The event was publicised as an expression of English “pride” and “celebration” in direct opposition to the left-wing “Morons  That Oppose, Hate, And Vilify You For Taking Pride In Your Nationality [sic]”: Brighton is known to be home to a high concentration of anti-fascists. It is clear that the march is a very intentional provocation and is designed to politicise attendees against socialist, communist, and anarchist organisers – part of a project to make fascism seem palatable and rational.

There can be no doubt that the MfE is a far-right group which transplants nationalist and specifically anti-“left” sentiments onto a logical feeling of disaffection with our society. Recent posts by the group’s Facebook page evoke the housing crisis and abandonment of working-class interests by mainstream politics and employ the classic fascist, Mailesque method of fusing real, material grievances with immigrant-baiting, Islamophobic, strawman rhetoric.

This should be obvious given that MfE’s allegiances are already known:  e.g., the English Defence League (EDL) – which publically supported the event, Stop the Islamification of Europe, English Nationalist Alliance, and the football hooligan group Casuals United. Their website proudly hosts numerous images of men in EDL uniforms, St. George’s Cross flags daubed with EDL insignia, Islamophobic slogans, and occasionally the BNP slogan “the silent majority”.  Sympathies with the small English Democrats Party are also evident, as well as ties to Ulster unionists. Some on the march itself were noted to be wearing clothing which bore explicitly far-right symbols, e.g. the fascist eagle.

In summary, the poignant points to be taken from the nationalist march are:

  • MfE now appears indubitably to be constituted exclusively by white working-class men and women. Organisation must obviously continue apace between moments of tension to foreclose the chances of success of such events. MfE is not only an expression of hatred or patriotism, but exploits class issues: especially housing.
  • Brightonians are increasingly prepared to take a stance against racist jingoism in their town – either anti-fascist activity is succeeding, the presence of the St. George’s Day march is better known, or hopefully both. Brighton racists evidently have close ties to those in Portsmouth; Brighton anti-fascists clearly must work at cross-purposes to this by giving as much support to Portsmouth anti-fascists as possible.
  • The low turnout for MfE may be linked to the decreasing importance of the EDL in the media, and the divides which have become apparent in both the EDL and other far-right groups.
  • The march may be a misdirection of genuine grievances by far-right organisers, but the very manifestation of such sentiments must be physically opposed. A dialogue with oppressive ideas is impossible once it poses a physical threat, but if anti-fascist organising depends on a street presence on days like yesterday alone it will never be truly successful. Fascism must be dismantled at its social root.
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Theses on the Occupy movement

It has been the best part of a year since I prepared anything to share here, but this time I have forced myself to turn my (largely germinal) thoughts into something which might be communicable. We face a situation today which feels even less certain to me (and to many of my friends with whom I have discussed this) than it did a year ago. If we are staring into the abyss, we might as well talk about it and attempt to work out a way of avoiding the terror it holds without closing our eyes.

As the most important social movement in most Western societies in around a decade, more should be written, read, and discussed on the Occupy movement. By writing these short theses, I don’t mean to denigrate that movement or wish to disempower anyone who put so much of their life and energy into the occupations as many of my own friends. Among other things, Occupy has come impressively close in the UK to really challenging the absence of public space in our world. On the contrary, it is precisely to rescue Occupy’s central goal (or at least the goal of those who I know in the occupations) that I have attempted a critique of the movement. Praise is, after all, fundamentally useless while we remain under the same conditions Occupy has rallied against. Moreover, I have intended to use Occupy to some extent only as a means through which we can continue to theorise and elucidate the situation we find ourselves in, although I stand by all that is written below – at least for now.

  1. Most people agree that the tandem strength and weakness of the “Occupy movement” is its intentional ambiguity in content. Inspired by a mere notion of injustice it is freed from the baggage of theory: agreement on analysis and thus on a programme of action is impossible within its strict boundaries, and therefore it also becomes virtually impossible to oppose the movement: there is too little to oppose. For as long as a sense of suffering exists in the world, it could notionally sustain itself indefinitely.
  1. The slogan “Occupy Everything!” quite largely takes its cue from the student protests of 2009-2010 in the US, especially in California where the students raised banners reading “Occupy Everything! Demand Nothing!” Such a cry shows a movement for social justice stripped to its lowest common denominator – deliberately emaciated. The Occupy movement has carried on in this tradition, but has concealed even its own intention to avoid substantive content. Rather than achieving dynamism, it sacrifices it. Its slogan may as well be “All Form, No Content!” Or, in other words: we will create forums in which we might discuss our growing list of grievances with the world, but we will have no shared language with which to articulate them.
  1. A movement furnished absolutely with form and absolutely without content in fact does not, cannot, move – but is static. It can grow, but it will go nowhere. For as long as there is no theory, there can be no effective practice. The occupations are closed loops, perfect circles, and therefore in themselves have no prospect of reaching beyond their first word, the constitutive moment which both brings together members can keeps them apart: this simple imperative to act silently, to occupy everything and to demand nothing. The Occupy movement thus unconsciously recreates the very parliamentarian system against which it protests – the systematised peaceful coexistence of truth and lie which conceals its ideological persuasion and function by claiming to accept all viewpoints as equal.
  1. Having denied itself sufficient content, the constituting relationship between content and form is forgotten. It is neglected that the substance of a movement determines the actions that it takes: making itself substantially as empty as possible, the occupations manifest themselves to be in the immediate, practical sense fruitless. Occupation locations are chosen which are minimally controversial. Occupy London Stock Exchange avoids the London Stock Exchange because it cannot bear an antagonism which cannot be theoretically justified; Occupy Wall Street occupies the literal street rather than the powerful institutions which give its name such profile. Rather than occupying everything, the movement consequently occupies nothing. Occupations may spread and encompass new spaces, but all that is achieved is a change of scenery. The occupations create a space of minor political struggle in which camps challenge local authorities only for the temporary re-appropriation of those very spaces they occupy.
  1. Without being able to articulate exactly what is protested against, the occupations have a simple spectral quality – they float around the centre of a city, as if hanging in the air, in suspension from the concrete social world from whence they came, like a bad memory whose guilt or remorse lingers but whose particular images have been erased. The command to “occupy everything” cannot apprehend its own radicality. Instead of imagining power to be situated in and emanating from a world external to our own, in a space of exception which simply needs to be identified and invaded in order to affect its operation, it must be recognised that power only has a circumstantial geographic centre. Rather than descending onto the designated rallying place, the perfect response to Occupy’s rallying cry would be: “but we already occupy everywhere.” We already occupy the houses that are repossessed, the workplaces that are closed, and the schools and hospitals that are sold for timber. And we occupy them in a more significant sense than we can hope to occupy a pavement.
  1. The fetish for public camp-style occupations indicates a belief in the scientificity of method. The believed purchase of the command to occupy “everywhere” is that it is held to be an effective weapon in contemporary struggle. The methodological efficiency is meant to suffice as an appeal. People must flock to the occupations for they are the best hope they have. But here the means and the end are synthesised – the need to occupy becomes an imperative independent of all else. The over-emphasis most mainstream media placed on the Tahrir Square occupation thus reaps its reward. That Tahrir Square was foremost a symbol, (no matter how important) of resistance to Hosni Mubarak’s regime was successfully erased from history before it had even been written. The real history of the Egyptian revolution says: Tahrir, yes, but mass refusal too.
  2. Occupy has managed to put social justice on the political agenda, but only in a superficial way. It has only pushed itself into column inches which remain otherwise steadfastly locked, privately censored, and exclusive. Significantly, much of what is said about Occupy in the UK media is in debate over the extent to which it can be tolerated as it challenges individual laws and individual institutions. While it would be a travesty to deny this as progressive, it has to be acknowledged that it is also insufficient. Nothing will be sufficient until it is asserted that social justice, that is emancipation, is the agenda upon which all else is written.
  3. The occupations of the last year have served one purpose poignantly and successfully: they have reinvigorated the debate as to how self-defining “anti-capitalists” should organise – a debate which is of utmost importance and will only reach a conclusion with the emancipation of all humanity from suffering and scarcity. It is clear that the present option available to us, that of the Occupy movement, will mean atomism and stagnation It appears to be exhausted. The history of the 19th and 20th centuries also offers us options – to resurrect the mass-party in the hope that a large enough roster can cause the edifice to crumble, or likewise to amass in some other organisation (formal or otherwise) which claims to bear the torch of liberty. This appears to mean re-enacting battles from lost wars. To go forward, then, we must take the spirit of occupy and appeal for new, thoughtful strategies, tactics, and modes of organising. The task ahead of us is both theoretical and practical: to establish precisely what it means to refuse.
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Stuff your ballot boxes

In the UK’s second ever referendum, voters will be asked tomorrow whether they want to adopt the Alternative Vote (AV) electoral system. It is on the one hand touching to see people so emotional about the way they pencil marks onto a slip of paper. On the other hand, it is truly devastating that so many seem to have the idea that the referendum is especially meaningful.

People are being encouraged to use their votes wisely by the usual pandemonium of blog-posts that emerges around noteworthy political events. But all these bloggers have all successfully failed to remind readers of one thing: you could vote yes, you could vote no, or you could exercise your third option – don’t vote at all.* To me, this final option is far and away the most preferable.

You might be persuaded to exercise your freedom not to vote by one of two principle arguments. I find the first line of argument much less convincing: quite simply, neither of the options on the table are desirable electoral systems, so we should not partake in the decision to amputate either left or right arm out of principle. This argument is based on the assumption that a more proportionate representative system is 1) possible, and 2) desirable. If we actually scrutinise the parliamentary system, it is easily shown that both of these premisses are false.

Of course, there can never be such a thing as a truly “proportionate” representation in any parliament. Logistically speaking, it is virtually impossible for large groups of people to be represented by individuals in exact proportion to each other group’s relative size. This is why there are a number of different types of PR system in effect in different places – different people believe different formulas will aid their quest for political hegemony. This is why the Conservatives refused to even debate AV+.

Politically speaking, it is entirely impossible for groups of people to have the totality of their individual interests and views voiced by singular persons – especially when their interests and views are in competition with other individuals within that same group, individuals who may just be louder and more forceful. To put this more simply, representation can only ever mean exclusivity: the prerogative lies with the representative (the MP) to choose which views she (or more often he) wishes to acknowledge or even pursue. Most people never get a look in.

In this context, it should be clear that voting within a parliamentary system is not a political gesture, but an overtly anti-political one. By casting of our ballots, we are not engaging in actually-existing democracy but rather relinquishing all prospect of it. The very act itself is a symbolic resignation. True participation can never mean gambling that careerists will share our concerns and material needs. Contrary to the popular mantra of “if you don’t vote, don’t moan”, we should insist that the moaning voters themselves are the high-priests of hypocrisy. If you want democracy on 5th May, spend your time organising for it rather than pushing paper-thin promises back into hollow ballot boxes.

It is telling that on the left, those who are backing a line (either way) are typically encouraging their supporters to do so in order to punish either the Tories or Lib Dems. They implicitly see “participation” for what it really is – mere manoeuvring, a half-opportunity to send a message to the governing parties by default. But whether we wish to punish the Conservative party or the Liberal Democrats more is really a misleading proposition. If we truly wished to punish the coalition, we would organise from below to render parliamentary politics irrelevant and end our utopian fantasies of real change coming about because we’ve asked for it. If we truly wished to punish the coalition, we would stop instilling in others the delusion that the messianic moment will come about by placing a cross on the right spot.

But of course the mistake here is twofold. It is not simply fantasy that a “yes” or “no” vote will shatter the coalition and lead us into a brighter future, but a sheer misunderstanding of where power really lies. It is a shame that self-described Marxists parties can wilfully ignore the primacy of the economic over the political. The “coalition cuts” are not a matter of mere “ideology”, but in fact the only political programme which is supported by “the market.” If we’re going to talk about democratisation, let’s talk about workplaces.

Electoral reform therefore cannot even amount to rearranging the deckchairs on a sinking ship. The market sails full steam ahead safe in the knowledge that the tweaking of political institutionals cannot hope to challenge its hegemonic power. Under such a status quo – where politics is not just removed from the public sphere but subordinated to market economics – voting can only ever be ritualised obedience: whether you vote yes or no, what you are really saying is “go ahead.” A real challenge to this system begins with abstention from it.

* You might also choose to spoil your ballot. If encouraged widely enough this could be interpreted as principled objection to the question itself but support for referenda in principle. Alternatively you might be considered to be too thick to know how to vote properly. Good luck.

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The boys in blue will be the boys in blue

If you’re reading this, you’re probably aware of today’s real news story: the United Kingdom is a police state. Squats – social centres as well as homes – have been raided across London by the Metropolitan police ahead of tomorrow’s inane festival of jingoism. I was sadly tied up with far too much to go down and show solidarity outside any of the squats earlier, so I hope offering my analysis here could help in some small and peculiar way.

I don’t like to bandy around the term “police state”. Like Godwin‘s law, it surfaces all too quickly whenever the state acts in a particular way which someone feels to be too gross an encroachment into their daily life. For me it mostly conjures mental images of Daily Mail readers cursing a new “health and safety” ruling over their breakfast. And besides, every state necessarily polices – otherwise it would not be a state at all.

According to the Met, arrests in the “proactive raids” tallied 20 between three addresses – 19 of whom are to be charged with “abstracting electricity.” We know this to be false. A second wave of arrests occurred this evening (this time, it seems, perhaps not even against squatted buildings). And contrary to the Met’s announcement, sources have indicated that a number of those arrested are being charged with various public order offences, unrelated to the warrants to search for “stolen goods” apparently obtained against some of the centres.

In reality the number of arrestees is likely to be much higher and the grounds for arrest much more serious than what the police would have us believe. At least a significant number of arrestees from one squat have been, I am told, detained under counter-terrorism legislation which permits the detention of suspects for up to 28 days without trial. Presumably the intention is to spoil the victims’ Mayday weekends and kill two birds with one stone, as the state sees it.

This is not anomalous. Today’s raids follow on the invasion of two Brighton squats yesterday. Last week the police provoked a riot in Bristol when they raided a squat. On Tuesday six “anarchists” were arrested for public order offences allegedly committed on March 26th – on this occasion the police admitted they were motivated by “fear” that the group could be planning to disrupt the royal wedding.

On the same day it emerged that Alfie Meadows, a student who required emergency brain surgery after being struck by a police baton on the December 9th tuition fees protest, was among a number of young men being suddenly charged with violent disorder. Of course the fallout from this will likely deter all eleven from participating in any political action for quite some time beyond just this week. Most importantly of all, we see in this that the judicial and executive arms of the start are beginning to move in tandem, openly, to strike against the state’s perceived enemies.

The developments this week have truly merited the term “police state”. Without so much of a hint that any sizeable protest or “disruption” would take place tomorrow, the police have all but completed the narrative that they began to write for the royal wedding quite some time ago. As North London Solidarity Federation have pointed out, most anarchists have been planning on taking “a nice day off and avoiding the telly.”

Assistant Commissioner Lynne Owens gave the game away today, saying: “We want to make this a celebration of joy and pageantry.” What she really meant to say was: “We will banish The Other so that everyone can intoxicate themselves with their most unsettling delusions of social peace and class harmony. We want to make this a spectacle of anaesthesia and obedience.”

Truthfully, the police probably knew no “disruption” was in the offing, but in rounding up the bad and the ugly (as the media invariably sees them through their lens of blood and soil) a day beforehand, they can only benefit. If the day goes smoothly, the police will be praised and their tactics will appear vindicated. If there is some level of disruption, the police will plead for more money and more power to curb the threat to “public order”. Either way, the police’s discretionary violence against could-be-criminals is extended and normalised. All in the name of the state, and all for its stability.

Is this political policing? Well, yes. But then to the definition all policing is political. The modern police force was founded as a political force of sorts – to protect private property from the hungry masses. Sustaining “law and order” will always ultimately amount to keeping people in their places: protecting the formal “equality” of the law which demands that the exploiter takes no more than he extracts, and the exploited no more than she is given. The most accurate of the police’s claims today must surely be the one that the raids are “routine”.

What has occurred today is one step beyond even this. The theorist Walter Benjamin wrote in his Critique of Violence 90 years ago that “the ‘law’ of the police really marks the point at which the state … can no longer guarantee through the legal system the empirical ends that it desires at any price to attain”. Therefore, the police will “intervene ‘for security reasons’ in countless cases where no clear legal situation exists”. It is ultimately irrelevant to dwell on whether what happened today was strictly lawful or not. The chicanery is clear, and it seems certain that it was no strict legal basis or judicial need for the raids. The police, with their autonomy to conflate lawmaking and law-preserving power, have not so much infringed the rules of the game but abided by them properly.

We have arrived in the territory of thoughtcrime. This is especially highlighted by the simple fact that even those arrested are not being charged with any kind of conspiracy. They are potential threats of disorder, potential denuders of the spectacle. Potential signposts to the world as it should be, reminding us all of the world as it is.

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Universities face threat of private takeovers – The Times, April 25, 2011

This news story appears only to have been properly reported in yesterday’s Times. Since News International decided to install a pay-wall a year or more ago to prevent people from hearing about things affecting their lives, most students won’t have stumbled across this article. I am reproducing it here in full for the benefit of all who would like to see how their university is going to be shafted.

Universities face threat of private takeovers
Costs and courses would be cut at failing colleges Failing colleges face threat of takeover by private companies
Greg Hurst

Private companies are to step in to run failing universities as the Government abandons direct help for colleges in financial trouble.

Unprofitable courses will be scrapped and running costs drastically cut back under the plan, which will prompt vice-chancellors to pay private providers to take day-to-day control under contracts lasting ten years or more.

The approach marks a dramatic reversal of policy because the Government has supported universities in financial trouble, or taken the lead in brokering mergers with stronger institutions. But the combination of severe cuts in grants for teaching and higher tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year from 2012 will introduce new market pressures on weaker universities.

David Willetts, the Universities Minister, confirmed the plan to The Times. He said: “Our forthcoming White Paper will look at a variety of ways of delivering higher education. This is one possible way in which a failing institution could be turned around in the interests of students.”

The new policy seeks to protect students but not universities, many of whose vice-chancellors have angered ministers by rejecting pleas for restraint in setting fees, intensifying the controversy over the coalition’s higher education reforms. Privately ministers have attacked some universities as “oligarchies”.

BPP, one of the private providers approved by ministers for such work, told The Times that it was interested in running several universities and believed it could cut their costs by a quarter in some areas. The company, which was granted university college status last year, is already in talks with struggling establishments.

Carl Lygo, BPP’s chief executive, said: “One option is that the private provider would have a contract to run the university on behalf of the university governing body.”

A private university might also cut courses to control costs, he said. “You have to determine whether, having reduced the operating costs of the university, [some] programmes still remain viable.”

Since universities are autonomous, ministers and the higher education funding council cannot order a failing university to contract out its management.

But they could force the issue by refusing to sanction a bailout as they have done in the past.

Fees are expected to be based on comparable management charges, although a university council could introduce performance-related pay based on targets such as savings. Alternatively, private providers could set up a joint trust with a university council to run its campus, or allow it to appoint a proportion of the governors. Vince Cable, the Business Secretary and architect of the new hands-off approach to failing universities, warned vice-chancellors earlier this month that some “may find themselves in trouble” if students balk at their fees.

Students will be offered loans of up to £6,000 a year to study at private universities from next year and further steps to enable private providers to expand are expected in the higher education White Paper.

Mr Lygo said that the first step for anyone taking over the management of a university would be to cut or merge functions already covered by its head office, such as finance team, marketing or public relations. He said: “I have looked through some of the university cost base and I think we could probably save them, just on procurement savings alone, 25 per cent of their cost base, which is obviously very interesting to government.” He added: “Universities are not good at squeezing the last ounce of value for money out of their spending, which the private sector is.”

Crucially, BPP would review tuition fees at any campus it took over. “There is definitely an opportunity to have a lower price than the £9,000 headline figure some universities might want to charge,” Mr Lygo said.

Malcolm McVicar, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Central Lancashire in Preston, told The Times in February that several universities could fail as a result of lost teaching grants and visa restrictions on international students. His university, which will lose 90 per cent of its public funding, has set fees at £9,000.

About seven universities are said to be on a secret list of “higher risk” institutions held by the Higher Education Funding Council for England. These include the University of Cumbria, which was advanced several monthly payments last year to overcome a cash flow problem.

The University and College Union, which represents lecturers, has published research suggesting that 49 of 130 English institutions were at risk from funding cuts, owing to their mix of courses and students. Most were post-1992 universities. It named four as at high risk: Bishop Grosseteste University College Lincoln, which has set fees at £7,500, Edge Hill University, which will charge £9,000, Newman University College and Norwich University College of the Arts.

Although universities disputed its analysis, vice-chancellors admit privately that they expect the coalition’s higher education reforms to trigger management changes and mergers.
See more

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In defence of long words

I’m not on Twitter so I normally miss this kind of crap. As an increasing number of friends are coming to the conclusion that having more single-sentence conversations on their smart phones will significantly improve their daily lives, however, I am starting to catch wind of some of the faecal matter that gets flung between TweetDeck, Co-Tweet, and whatever.

This week saw the so-called Escalate Collective publish their second communiqué, a critical analysis of the TUC march on the 26th last month. I don’t really want to go into what that piece says (Escalate speak for themselves) as much as I want to retort some of the criticisms I’ve heard against it. In particular, Labourite member of the Twitterati Owen Jones levelled some accusations against the piece which I find quite troubling, and yet simultaneously pretty insightful; as a well-connected member, Owen is someone whose views I take to be emblematic of attitudes in the Labour party (or at least its “left-wing”) at large.

I have a lot of respect for Owen despite disagreeing with his politics. I think he is certainly sincere about his beliefs, and he is an intelligent guy. It is for this reason that I’m disappointed to find him slating Escalate for not being “accessible” to ordinary working-class folk. He steers well clear of engaging with any of the collective’s arguments, laying his focus solely on the form in which they are presented – a mixture of academic and aphoristic language. Strange behaviour from a PhD candidate.

Owen’s objections are grounded in an assumption that Escalate are writing “for the masses” rather than for more seasoned activists. As far as I can tell, Escalate have no pretension to replace the Daily Mirror. In fact, in their description, Escalate state outright that they are from the University of London. They might even be workers, but they certainly don’t hide the academic envrionment from which they write.

Just because something is not populist does not mean it is not accessible. Articulating yourself well doesn’t mean that you are necessarily difficult for everyone to understand. Long words do not necessitate inaccessibility. I would say that the Escalate piece on the whole is actually pretty masterfully glued together – virtually every sentence is saturated with thought and does not take long to deliver its point.

The basic belief underpinning Owen’s argument is that “the working-class” (rather than sections of it) are too under-educated to follow the arguments. This is chiefly classist nonsense. (Workerism proves itself to be its own opposite.) While there are no doubt too many workers who would not care for the language Escalate use, or who do not have the sufficient “cultural capital” to access it, to outright deny their potential to understand is problematic and means that ultimately under-educated workers may never be offered the opportunity to access such culture – or not by Owen’s Labour party at any rate. Besides, I’m certain there are a whole lot of upper-class people whose eyes would also glaze over if you read them some Escalate, Tiqqun, or similar. This isn’t about the working-class vs. the intelligentsia.

This kind of lowest common denominator politics which Owen propounds seems to underwrite his entire party: from Labour’s apparent relationship with the working-class,* to the arid politics of its leadership. If Ed Miliband were a word, he would certainly be a short one. He might not even be a four-letter word. When opposition to public sector spending cuts is boiled down to a non-assertive appeal for “growth” – rather than a principled defence of public services as such – it is scarcely oppositional at all; but the lowest common denominator trumps, and working within a capitalist framework, that common denominator will always be capital itself.

* And yet when was the last time anyone read a Labour party manifesto? In Owen’s opinion, should his party save their energy and distribute free lollipops to working-class voters instead? It might prove to be a better tactic to win back lost votes from workers than Ed** Balls’ promises to shaft them slightly less hard over a longer period of time.

** Why the fuck are they all called “Ed”?

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I’ve started a blog because almost everybody else is wrong.

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