No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

What's next - call for a cultural struggle

Despite mass protest all across the country, last Thursday the Parliament has approved the rise in tuition fees and the cuts on university funding. Despite the mobilization of thousands of students, workers and citizens, 28 Lib-Dems MPs have contributed to approving a bill they had no mandate to vote for. In Westminster Square, the police kettled and charged thousands of protesters for hours, some even till 11 pm. A young protester, Alfie Meadows, was severely injured and risked his life.

A sense of anger, if not disheartenment, arises naturally under these circumstances. Nevertheless, the movement was not defeated – actually, it won on several different points. First, the vote was much closer than it should have been. The parliamentary majority shrunk from 84 to 21 MPs – a very thin edge. This would have never happened without mass protest in the previous month. The most important, education has become a central issue in the public agenda. The ideas that cuts in education and a rise in tuition fees are inevitable and have to be accepted passively have been effectively challenged. Of course, one can still argue in favor of a rise in tuition fees. Differently from when the Browne report was issued a couple of months ago, however, one can no longer stifle the discussion by saying that this is necessarily how things must go. There has been too much opposition to these measures, and too many good points against them have been raised, to maintain the credibility of such a biased, surreptitious, ideological view.

As has been noted, the parliamentary battle is still not over. We can still ask those MPs who are more sensitive to our cause to present amendments in the next months. This, however, is not the main way out of this situation. We have to be aware that the fee rise has been possible because it is consistent with a greedy, individualistic, merciless view of society, for which education is considered a commodity rather than a right. This neoliberal “narrative” has brutalized Western societies in the last 30 years, bringing about increasing social inequality and undermining the fabric of society itself. We will not go anywhere if we do not challenge this narrative.

To do this, we have to keep asserting our presence, and our dissent, in the public space. We have to keep demonstrating and saying that this is happening “not in our name”. The march called in London on 20 December Is a good starting point.

The most important, we have to undermine the neoliberal narrative as such. To do this, we need to carry on our battle in the cultural field. We have to turn our anger and dissatisfaction in cultural forms – songs, videos, tales, writings, whatever can be disseminated among the general public – that give vent to and symbolize our dissent. Most of us are young, creative and are very familiar with the new media – we have to use these youthful skills in a revolutionary way. We have to be at the same time radical and trendy – this would help massively to gather consensus among other groups of society, and win our struggle.

In the cultural field, we have a huge advantage on our opponents. We have the skills to produce catchy cultural items and to spread them as widely as possible. We have the Internet, something that the previous generations of protesters did not have. As we have seen, Internet can help organize protest. It can also help massively to get our message through. Potentially, whatever we publish in the Internet is accessible to anyone, anywhere - without any need for formal politics or organizations. The web can help to build an alternative narrative in a spontaneous way, from the grassroots. We have to be original, catchy, subversive, and use this unvaluable resource in the most appealing way as possible to overcome the neoliberal discourse.

We need an alternative narrative. We can build it, both individually and collectively, and win our struggle – our struggle for cultural hegemony!

"One must speak for a struggle for a new culture, that is, for a new moral life that cannot but be intimately connected to a new intuition of life, until it becomes a new way of feeling and seeing reality"
Antonio Gramsci, Selections from cultural writings (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1985), p. 98

Thursday, 9 December 2010


today is the day-X.
what is at stake here is actually much more than the increase of tuition fees - a very relevant issue itself, indeed.
what is at stake here is the kind of society we want to live in in the next decades.
it is time to say stop to an idea of society based only on greed and unrestrained individualism.
it is time to say stop to this institutional politics that systematically betrays the interests of the majority of the citizens.
it is time to say stop to a world in which an elite of white, male, adult people educated at Eton and working in the City of London ask - better, try to force - the middle and the working class to pay the price of THEIR crisis.
this is not the kind of place I want to live but mainly...
... this is not the kind of society I want my children to grow up in!
it is for them, for the generations to come, that tomorrow I will stand up - peacefully, but firmly and loudly!
someone said that he would think twice before going to protest today.
if I were you, people of Britain, i would think twice before NOT going to protest today. it is time to take our future back!!!!

Friday, 3 December 2010

Open letter - against La Trahison des Clercs

This letter is for you, my dear academic colleague who are reluctant to support the student campaign against the rise in tuition fees and the attack on public university by the government of our country.

You think that many academics are not keen on seeing themselves as part of a Union;

you believe that many of us do not sympathize with the struggles of other groups;

you find that the anti-cuts movement is somewhat ideological and refers also to issues which are ‘ephemeral’.

In a sense, I am very grateful to you. In fact, I think that in the present situation these are exactly the issues that have to be addressed.

First, I am afraid that we academics are not going to go anywhere if we do not start questioning our middle-class, intellectual snobbery. We – and especially those who work in Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – are one of the groups which will be hit most by the policies of this government. For several different reasons, linked to the devastating impact of the Browne review: because of job cuts; because students paying higher fees will be much more likely to behave as customers (with all the expectations on the staff that this implies); because our middle-class daughters and sons will be deeply affected by the rise in tuition fees. We are also one of the groups who have less societal sympathy surrounding us (exactly because of our tendency to live in a sort of snotty Ivory tower) and will be easily portrayed as a bunch of idle scroungers.

It is also time to question the lack of solidarity that academics share. The inability of sympathizing with other groups of workers is nothing but the result of widespread careerism, misconceived meritocracy (for which any of us in the end thinks that himself or herself is actually the main person entitled to benefit from it), unrestrained individualism. What kind of working conditions this mindset leads to is under the eyes of everyone, and one of the main reasons of this crisis. It is quite funny that those who believe to be the most critical minds within society are not able to be critical of the neoliberal propaganda they have been brainwashed with.

It is here that neoliberalism celebrates its own triumph. Its hegemonic rhetoric has been able to take over also those institutions and individuals who in principle should have worked as to undermine its power and build up a counter-hegemony. It is time to advocate again our role as critical thinkers, to put our critical thought into dissenting practice – and fight back!

The only way to deal with the present on public university to recognize that what is happening within university is part of a wider picture, which sees the crisis of post-war consensus and a massive attack on the middle and the working-class. Those academics who do not recognize this now will probably discover it brutally later, when it will be too late. I will not empathize with them, once they will have sunk with the whole boat without saying a word just because they were too busy looking at the distant skies of the Empyrean.

With very best wishes,

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Youth radicalism 2010

In 1930, the Communist thinker Antonio Gramsci wrote in his Prisons Notebooks that ‘the crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying, and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.’

The mass, radical demonstrations of young people in the last months have caught many by surprise. From Greece to France, from Italy to Britain, crowds of young women and men, often teenagers, have taken to the streets and protested against their governments. This protest has been mostly characterized by direct action and the refusal of political affiliation. In addition, young protesters have shot thousands of photos and videos to visualize their protest. By disseminating these images in the internet, young people have been able to tackle the official media representations of the protest and recount their stories by themselves. Unexpectedly, youth radicalism has become again one of the main issues in the political agenda. Reactions from politics and the public opinion have ranged from stereotypical scaremongering to open support. What has become clear very rapidly, however, is that the demands of young people can no longer be ignored.

What these protests tell us is that the new generations are not necessarily distant from politics, as generally argued. The real point here, is what we mean by politics. If politics is a party game played by a limited elite of white male adult upper class lads, young people are effectively distant from politics. If politics is the process of conflict and negotiation between different groups of society, the protest of young people is the most political act, for it is the way in which young people assert their public presence as a collective group. In this sense, the protest of young people is not simply occupation, but repossession of the public space by a "subaltern group" (subaltern for young people are not a constitutive part of the ruling class that decides upon their lives - the protest of schoolgirls and schoolboys who cannot vote and stand up against the rise of the tuition fees that the government wants them to pay is a case in point),

What students protest tells us is also that the narcotizing representation of society promoted by mainstream media, however hegemonial it is, cannot completely stifle conflict where the rifts between different groups of society become too evident (as in the case of tuition fees). In addition, the skill of young people in using the new commercial media (e.g. Facebook) and consumption object (e.g. iPhones) as a means to protest shows us how subaltern groups are never passive targets, but agents able at using the new consumption items to their own ends.

Of course, young people by themselves cannot save the world (differently from what the Italian writer Elsa Morante wrote on the spur of 1968 in her book Il mondo salvato dai ragazzini). First, they are far from being a homogeneous group. The most important rift is between those who are in education and those who are outside education, which is intertwined (but does not coincide) with class divisions. Among students, those who seem most militant seem to come from a middle-class background (especially where the parents work in the public administration) or from a working-class background. These young people are those who experience more directly the collapse of the post-war consensus – and of its “meritocratic” rhetoric based on personal improvement through education. Many students coming from a middle class background know that they will be asked to work more, in more insecure conditions, and with less (or no) welfare insurances as compared to their parents. Students coming from a working-class background are aware that the reform of the school and university system will thwart the possibility for working-class teenagers (e.g. their siblings) to improve their social condition through education (as themselves are trying to do).

A new “political generation” arises when a group of young people enter collectively the public arena on the basis of a new, pervasive and urgent issue. This issue becomes the defining trait of the political identity of those young people. For the 1917 generation of Communists, for example, that issue was revolution; for the 1945 generation of resistance fighters, that issue was Antifascism; for the 1968 generation, that issue was the Vietnam war and anti-authoritarism. It is too early to say whether we can speak of a 2008-2010 generation. In case, we might probably speak of a “generation of the crisis”. The real point, here, is what the term crisis refers to. So far, the Western governments have tried to turn a crisis of the financial economy into a crisis of the welfare state, of public education, of all the remnants of social justice inherited from the Keynesian era. If young people and all the other groups who are affected by these policies are able to form a new “historical bloc” and fight back, however, the meaning of the term might shift into “crisis of neoliberalism”. This would be the best legacy that the 2008-2010 generation might bequeath to the generations to come.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Support Sussex and fight back on 24 November!

We support the student occupation of the Fulton building in Sussex campus: education is a right, not a privilege!

We encourage peaceful, colourful and loud protest against cuts in education spending on all UK university campuses on 24 November!

Saturday, 13 November 2010

why I side with the Millbank protesters

I am a non-violent person. The idea of physically harming someone else is deeply alien to both my personality and beliefs. From my experience of radical left-wing militancy, I have reached the conclusion that often young male militants see in violent behavior something heroic and intimately manly – somehow, a way to stress their virility. I do not share this attitude, as well as I do not share simplistic “fuck-the-police” views, for they do not contribute to anything but ghettoizing the movement.

And still, on Wednesday I sided with the women and men who have participated in the Millbank protest (aside from the idiot who threw the fire extinguisher, of course). For a very simple, and sound reason: they are defending, and asserting, democratic values. They are asserting these values not only for themselves, but for the generations to come – their younger siblings, their children, their nephews and nieces. They are asserting these values not only for students, but for all those groups - women, ethnic minorities, unemployed people, disabled people, and many others - whose rights are now under threat. They are asserting these values not only for the sake of Britain, but of democracy itself, beyond any national border.

Democracy means much more than going once every four year to the polling booths. Democracy means having an open, creative, fair society, where all of us have the right to fully express themselves, to improve themselves, and to dissent. Democracy means providing everyone with free education, free health care, and everything we might need for our well-being.

Nowadays, in Britain, and more generally in Europe, democracy is under serious threat. Selected elite of white, adult, male, upper-class people are making any effort to recast the fabric of society, replacing all democratic values with one watchword: unrestrained profit.

How democratic is a society where the new generations are burdened with scores of thousands pounds of debt without having any voice in the decisional process?
How democratic is a society where hundreds of thousands of working class people will be forced to move out of their neighborhood by the government?
How democratic is a society where unemployed people are dubbed by a Secretary of State as “sinners”, while bankers without any kind social conscience are supposed to be the benefactors?

The psychological and moral strain that these policies exert on young people is intolerable. Young people are asked to passively accept the perspective of living in a future world which looks less and less democratic, less and less fair, more and more unhappy. Anxiety, uncertainty, if not proper dejection, are widespread feelings among the new generations. The only answer to this is radical, collective action for change – as happened last Wednesday.

This is why I side with the protest at Millbank on Wednesday. At the moment, institutional politics is utterly unable to provide an answer to the just, democratic demands of young people. On the contrary, institutional politics can be perceived as a source of oppression for the younger generations. The only answer to this situation can come through grassroots, direct action from civil society.

The Millbank protest was nothing but a way for young people who do not feel represented by politics to assert their presence in the public space. It was not occupation, but repossession of a political space to which the majority of young people (unless they are white, male, upper class) are denied access to. It was not an irrational gesture, but a way to protest collectively without abiding by the rules that the political elite want to impose from above. It was a truly democratic act, in line with a tradition of British dissent that stretches back to the age of Ned Ludd.

Nowadays, true democracy lies not within, but outside Parliament. We have to say this clearly, we have to say this loudly, we have to say this collectively. If this generation of young people will be able to turn individual, impotent anger into collective action for democracy, radical change can come about. This can be a historical turn after three decades of neoliberal attack on people’s rights, on the idea of a fair society. Another world is not only possible, but urgently necessary!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

March and vote!

We hope to see many of you tomorrow at the national demonstration against the cuts in London... meanwhile you can vote for protest in this survey!


Saturday, 30 October 2010

National demo on 10 November

On 10 November the National Union of Students and the Union of College and Universities have called a national demonstration against the cuts in public spending in education in London.

We invite all students, and particularly postgraduate, to JOIN THE PROTEST!

King's College Students explain you why!

More info at:

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Time for action!

Wednesday the 20th, University of London Union, Malet Street, 4pm JOIN US FOR THE FIRST DEMONSTRATION AGAINST THE CUTS!

We will bring flyers, t-shirts, peaceful protest and... fun!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Our (first) three open questions on Lord Browne's report (send us your questions to add!)

1) What kind of qualifications or merits has Lord Baron Browne of Madingley to carry out an allegedly “independent” review of the university tuition fees system?
We acknowledge that someone who:
a) was the Chief Executive of BP;
b) had never spent one day of his professional life dealing with educational issues before;
c) earned about 5 million pounds a year;
is the most appropriate person to understand the problems faced by girls and boys coming from “ethnic minorities” and working-class background who want to enter universities with 10,000-pound-a-year fees

2) What criteria will implement Lord Browne (or whoever else) to decide what courses "are important to the wellbeing of our society and to our economy” and then have to be publicly funded?
We assume that the priority will be to fund courses
a) explaining how to make the bankers of the City of London pay back those 800 billion pounds that the government gave them in 2008;
b) teaching the managers of BP how to prevent accidents such as the Texas City refinery explosion (2005) or the Deeper Water explosion (2010).

3) How is possible that in continental Europe university fees are much lower than in England (and that in some parts of Germany, for example in Berlin, students pay no fees at all)?
Why are people in England much more class-aware than in continental Europe?
Is there any linkage between the two phenomena?
We recognize that Lord Browne’s review would bring about the marvelous result of reinforcing once more the prestigious “old school ties” of the English aristocracy, preventing the coarse mob of the working-class suburbs from mingling with it.

Monday, 11 October 2010

20 October: unite against the cuts!

first event to take part in: students' protest against the cuts, on 20 October at 4pm! Meeting point at the Univeristy of London Union, Malet Street. You cannot miss it! :-)

Together with the Coalition of Resistance!

If we unite, we can make a difference! (opening statement)

You are a PhD student, or you have recently become a Dr., and you would like to carry on with your research activity in your field of expertise. Is it maybe just a dream?

Well, you are probably aware that gloomy times are ahead. The budget which is going to be unveiled by George Osborne on 20 October will foresee cuts in the public spending for education of at least 25%. This will massively affect you both as a student, and as a researcher. Your chance of getting a post-doc, or a job as a lecturer, will shrink dramatically. Sad, but true. But do not despair: you are NOT ALONE.

There are several thousands of us spread across the whole country. As PhD students working in different fields, it can be difficult to get to know each other. But we are all experiencing the same condition of uncertainty, if not dejection. Things might look depressing indeed, but there is a way to change them. This way is to say, to shout together, collectively, that WE DO NOT AGREE with these cuts.

The cuts are not “inevitable”, as the government and the media want you to believe. The overall cost of bank bailouts between 2008 and 2009 was of about 850bn pounds: public money which has been injected in private banks. (1)According to some sources, next year British banks might ask for another bailout worth up to 156bn. pounds.(2)The OVERALL yearly budget for higher education in the United Kingdom in 2010 was 7.4bn pounds. This is to say, LESS THAN ONE PERCENT of the money that the government has paid to PRIVATE banks to solve the crisis of 2008-2009. (3)

Any further doubt about how unfair these cuts are?

There is something we can do about this. We can, must and need to SAY NO to the cuts. And we have to do it together with all the other groups which will be hit most by the cuts – women, ethnic minorities, disabled people, workers in the public administration, undergraduate students. The more of us will express their dissent, the more effective our protest will be.

We reject the logic which sets education against health care; science against humanities; intellectuals against the working class. The real choice is between a fair and safe society, which values culture, solidarity and variety, and a greedy and unsafe world, in which no real space for free education and research is given.

We are for more public spending in research, tuition-free universities, freedom of thought and research, public welfare and more social fairness.


To this aim, we have set up this group. We will post regularly news on the local and national mobilization against the cuts. We will focus specifically on higher education, as part of a broader attack on public welfare.

Please, join us, and ask other PhDs and Drs. to join! We need ALL OF YOU! And do not forget:

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself." John Dewey