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,