How the student movement of 2010 may well have paved the way for Jeremy Corbyn’s success in 2017

Support us and go ad-free

A book from Pluto Press written by Matt Myers tells the story of the student revolt of 2010. And how it may well have paved the way for Jeremy Corbyn to become the leader of the Labour Party in 2017.

In 2010, young people protested against a wave of government cuts to education. Increases in tuition fees and cuts to Education Maintenance Allowance made education seem less accessible and this spurred revolt. This started with the Milbank occupation – a protest against the new coalition government’s policy to allow substantial increases to tuition fees, which turned into an occupation of Conservative headquarters.

The movement was, however, deemed a failure. But Myers’ book, Student Revolt: Voices of the Austerity Generation explores why. And it explores what we can actually learn from the movement. Myers speaks to activists, students, university staff and politicians to put together the narrative.

Paving the way

Guardian journalist Paul Mason argues, in the introduction, that the student movement spurred a broader critique of neoliberalism (p.xvi-xvii):

The British student protests of 2010 were part of a wider global upswing which coalesced into a systemic critique of neoliberal capitalism. The most striking aspect of this wider movement was its conscious deployment of horizontal structures to prevent the emergence of hierarchy and patriarchy along the lines twentieth-century revolutionaries had assumed were natural.

Participants in the 2010 movement were then seen participating in events of the Arab Spring for instance. Mason also notes [p.xvi]:

It was the core group of thinkers and protesters from late 2010 that went on to stage anti-government riots in 2011, the UK Uncut movement and the Occupy London Stock Exchange camp, which became part of the global Occupy movement in 2011.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

This all led, Mason argues, to Corbyn becoming leader of the Labour party.

The Liberal Democrats

Myers describes Milbank through the voices of those who were there. And he says that while the protests were depicted as violent and the protesters vilified, they did get public support and people were energisd to organise further.

Another factor that spurred many of those involved was feeling betrayed by the Liberal Democrats when they joined the Conservatives to form a coalition government. As one activist tells Myers  [p.63-64]:

Something that greatly impacted me was the Iraq War. After that, if you were young and left-leaning, you didn’t like the Tories but you didn’t like Labour either; meaning that 2010 led people towards the Liberal Democrats. The ‘stab-in-the-back’ of that betrayal meant the bottom just dropped out of politics. After that, everyone thought: ‘well f- this then, we’re going to have to do it ourselves’.

No alternative to austerity

Many, including Myers, acknowledge that the student movement failed. And this is partly down to the unrelenting language of the government stating that there was no alternative to austerity [p.140]:

The public debt incurred through the bail-out of the private banking system in 2008 needed to be paid off, even if this was by future generations of students with no culpability for the crisis. What made the 2010 student revolt so dangerous for the government was that a policy that was framed as necessary and inevitable was shown to be contingent. The government realised that if it didn’t defeat the challenge from the students, the whole project of austerity, marketisation and privatisation over the next five years would be called into question.

The book argues the movement therefore didn’t fail, it was crushed. And the key lesson is that from every movement is born a new one which may well continue the struggle.

Myers’ book highlights a key part of the context since the economic downturn that has led to the rise of the left against the neoliberal agenda. Others have undoubtedly argued the same. But the book presents an opportunity to look at this cornerstone movement in more depth and to understand the energy behind it. It then becomes clear just how Corbyn could rise against apparent odds.

Get Involved!

Order Student Revolt: Voices of the Austerity Generation by Matt Mayers.

– Read more arts reviews from The Canary.

Featured image via David Mirzoeff

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed