Solidarity with students and youth in the struggle against commercialization and the imperialist onslaught on education and the future of the youth
By Prof. JOSE MARIA SISON
Chairperson, International League of Peoples’ Struggle
We, the International League of Peoples’ Struggle, extend our fervent solidarity with the students and youth of the world as they raise the banner of struggle against the rapacious commercialization of education and against the vicious onslaught of imperialism and the depredations of the global capitalist crisis on the education rights, the living and study conditions and future of the youth.
On this day November 17 declared as the International Students Day, we commemorate the valiant role of students and youth who fought alongside the people and made sacrifices against the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939 and against the scourge of fascism in various countries. The significance and relevance of this historic day inspire the students and youth to fight the parasitism, exploitativeness and violence of the imperialist powers and their reactionary agents, especially their attack on the education and future of the youth.
We suffer today the worsening social conditions as a consequence of the global capitalist crisis and the misuse of public funds to bail out the big banks and corporations. The funneling of public money to the vultures, who in the first place were responsible for the crisis, has only served to aggravate and deepen this worst ever world capitalist crisis since the Great Depression. It has not revived production and employment but has only made worse the living and working conditions of the people. Social unrest has therefore spread and intensified in both capitalist and underdeveloped countries.
The workers and people have risen up in millions to protest unemployment and the austerity measures undertaken against them by governments that have enlarged public deficits and the public debt by giving bail-out money and tax exemptions to the corporations and the wealthy. The austerity measures involve huge cut-backs on social spending for education, health and pension.
Education budget cuts in industrial capitalist countries have been met with resounding protests, unifying the students and youth with the teachers, researchers and the working class and migrant communities. Recently, the United Kingdom has been rocked by big protests due to the government’s scheme to double and triple the tuition fees for tertiary education, from the existing level of £3290 or $5264. In Italy, state budget cuts to education and the so-called education reform reducing teaching and research time and local subsidies have resulted in protest rallies and marches.
In the United States, nationwide demonstrations have been held, such as those of March 4 and October 7 National Day of Action to Defend Education, to demand the redirection of public money from bailouts, wars and the military to education and other social services and against the sharp increases in tuition. In countries like France, Greece, Portugal, students and youth have poured out to the streets and joined the working class and people in the clamor against the obscenity of so-called “crisis mitigation measures” like bail-outs for the banks and corporations and impoverishment for the workers and people on the other hand.
General strikes have been called as a collective statement of the workers, youth and people to defeat the anti-worker and anti-people policies prescribed by IMF, WB and European Union through the governments’ imposition of cut-backs in wages and pension, social services, unjust taxes, increase in retirement age and other infringements on social rights and benefits.
The policy of neoliberal globalization and current global economic crisis are further devastating the economic and social conditions in the underdeveloped countries in Asia Pacific, Africa and Latin America. Liberalization of investments and trade, privatization of state assets and social services and deregulation of all previous restrictions on foreign monopoly capital have resulted in greater poverty, unemployment, abandonment of social services by governments and attacks on the hard-won rights of the people. Education like other social services is treated as a commodity, not as a basic need and a basic right.
In Sri Lanka and other South Asian countries, the students and youth are struggling against foreign incursions in the school curriculla and in plans of commercializing and raising private profits from educational institutions. Particularly in Sri Lanka, protests have broken out in 20 state universities against a legislation to set up private universities in the country and to allow foreign educator-capitalists. The government has reacted violently with the curtailment of the democratic rights to assembly. But the student masses have intensified their protests, undeterred by arrests and detention and suspension of student leaders.
In Bangladesh, the introduction of tuition hikes in University of Dhaka, Chittagong University and other state universities has resulted in student protests. Police have been deployed inside the Chittagong University to quell the growing protests of students demanding the abolition of the tuition hikes imposed since July 2010. Police have violently dispersed rallies, and subsequently raided student dormitories. The government detained student leaders and closed down the Chittagong University for almost two months until September 16.
In Southeast Asia, the student and youth movements have galvanized the people to act against the misallocation of government’s budget to the military and foreign debt servicing at the expense of budget allocations to social services, especially the cuts on state universities and colleges. In the Philippines, students and youth and their teachers are developing a nationwide strike due to the P1.1 billion slash to the operations budget of state universities and colleges. In Indonesia, students and youth groups are preparing for massive protests in 22 cities to protest increasing commercialization of education and the government allocation of only around 15% of the total budget requirement of state universities and colleges.
Since the plunge of the crisis to a deeper level in 2008, widespread protest actions against state budget cuts and privatization have also occurred in Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Chile, Benin, Nigeria, South Africa, Pakistan, India, New Zealand, Ireland, Germany, Spain and more. A great number of the youth are systematically prevented from getting education in order to maintain a huge reserve of cheap labor which the monopoly capitalists and governments use as a buffer to contain the clamor for higher wages, social services and benefits.
The United Nations has declared this year as the World Year of the Youth, supposedly in line with the projected push for the realization of the so-called Millennium Development Goals. But such declaration amounts to mere gimmickry because it does not offer anything to realize a brighter future for the youth who continue to be victimized by the imperialist impositions of liberalization, privatization and deregulation. The imperialists continue to generate and shift the burden of crisis to the working people and the underdeveloped countries that they dominate.
The current crisis is driving more and more youth, workers and the people to unite and fight the oppressive measures that the imperialists and their reactionary allies impose on them. Resistance has taken various forms, including mass protests, walk-outs, and strikes. The students and youth involve themselves in campaigns to defend their education right and future. They realize and increase their strength through unity of will and militant collective actions. And they link arms with the rest of the people, especially the working people whose rights are violated by the imperialists and their reactionary puppets.