Cambridge Defend Education presents: Striking 101

All the information you need for // TOMORROW (6 FEB), ALL-DAY STRIKE // in CDE’s Striking 101. Please share widely!

*If you support the strike, DON’T go into university tomorrow UNLESS you are joining a picket line*


Also, check out this great blog post on Dons Speak Out, ‘Industrial Action: A Student Guide‘, where our lecturers respond to the the top five comments from students crossing picket lines at the last day-long strike.






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130 Cambridge academics raise concerns about police spying

A letter has been sent to Vice-Chancellor of the University, urging him to clarify the University’s position after it was revealed that Cambridgeshire constabulary had approached an undergraduate to become an informer on the political activities of students. The letter has been signed by 130 senior members of the University, and can be read below:

November 18, 2013

Dear Vice-Chancellor,

We are writing to you with regard to the story published on the Guardian’s website on November 14, 2013 entitled “Police tried to spy on Cambridge students, footage shows.” (The link is available at [1]). Based on secret filming, the story indicates that Cambridgeshire Constabulary has engaged in covert surveillance of what one of its members terms “student-union type stuff.” Cambridge Defend Education, environmental groups and UK Uncut appear to have been among the groups targeted for highly invasive practices.

We know that as the head of an institution which is committed to protecting a diversity of legitimate and peaceful student activities, including political and social campaigning, you will share our grave concern at the level of intrusion that appears to be intended in such covert monitoring of legitimate activities. We cannot help but feel that the very threat of such unjustifiable surveillance will have a chilling effect on students involved in or hoping to join campaigning organisations. As teachers and researchers at this university committed to the highest standards of academic and personal freedom, we ask that you issue an official statement condemning such covert practices, which infringe the traditional boundaries of University self-governance, and call for an official explanation and apology from both the Home Office and from Cambridgeshire Constabulary.

We hope that you will make it clear that the University is in no way involved in supporting such practices.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Anne Alexander
Dr Anna Alexandrova
Dr Salim Al-Gilani
Dr Lori Allen
Dr Mete Atature
Dr Hugues Azerad
Dr Debby Banham
Professor Basim Musallam
Mr Bruce Beckles
Dr Andrew Bell
Dr Duncan Bell
Dr Patricia Pires Boulhosa
Dr Adrian Boutel
Dr Deborah Bowman
Dr Siobhan Braybrook
Dr Brendan Burchell
Professor Bill Burgwinkle
Dr Catherine Burke
Dr Christopher Burlinson
Dr Sarah Cain
Dr Adam Caulton
Dr Jean Chothia
Dr Mike Clark
Dr David Clifford
Dr Philip Connell
Professor Helen Cooper
Mr Tim Cribb
Dr Jon Crowcroft
Dr PJ Cunningham
Dr Mark Darlow
Dr Susan Daruvala
Dr Christine Doddington
Professor Brad Epps
Dr Katrina Forrester
Professor Alison Finch
Dr Lorna Finlayson
Dr Christophe Gagne
Dr Sinead Garrigan-Mattar
Professor Vic Gatrell
Professor Raymond Geuss
Dr Martin Golding
Mr David Goode
Professor Raymond Goldstein
Dr Caroline Gonda
Dr Priyamvada Gopal
Professor Robert Gordon
Professor Nicholas Hammond
Dr Fride Haugen
Mr Ronald Haynes
Dr Anita Herle
Dr Adam Higazi
Dr David Hillman
Dr Edward Holberton
Dr Alex Houen
Dr Sarah Houghton-Walker
Dr Sarah Howe
Dr Jana Howlett
Dr Michael Hrebeniak
Dr MEJ Hughes
Dr Joel Isaac
Professor Mary Jacobus
Dr Hubertus Jahn
Dr Ian James
Professor Simon Jarvis
Dr Charles Jones
Dr Ewan James Jones
Professor Martin Jones
Dr Alexandre Kabla
Mrs Anny King
Professor John Kinsella
Professor Peter Kornicki
Dr Mary Laven
Dr Sian Lazar
Professor Angela Leighton
Dr Elisabeth Leedham-Green
Dr Malachi Macintosh
Professor Maria Manuel Lisboa
Dr Raphael Lyne
Dr Maryon McDonald
Dr Robert Macfarlane
Dr Jane McLarty
Dr Laura McMahon
Dr Leo Mellor
Dr Roderick Mengham
Dr Renaud Morieux
Prof Clément Mouhot
Dr Drew Milne
Dr Subha Mukherji
Professor Basim Musallam
Dr Eva Nanopoulos
Dr Mary Newbould
Dr Sebastian Nye
Dr Rory O’Bryen
Dr Roger O’Keefe
Dr George Oppitz-Trotman
Dr Fred Parker
Dr Ian Patterson
Dr Adriana Pesci
Dr Brechtje Post
Dr Robert Priest
Dr James Purdon
Dr Judy Quinn
Dr Surabhi Ranganathan
Dr Lucy Razzall
Dr Nicky Reeves
Dr John Regan
Dr James Riley
Dr John Robb
Professor Ulinka Rublack
Professor Simon Schaffer
Dr Jason Scott-Warren
Dr Sharath Srinivasan
Dr Zoe Svendsen
Dr Trudi Tate
Dr Deborah Thom
Professor David Trotter
Dr Eva Urban
Ms Isobel Urquhart
Dr Vincenzo Vergiani
Dr James Wade
Dr Christopher Warnes
Dr Ruth Watson
Mr Steve Watts
Dr Teresa Webber
Dr Flora Willson
Dr Ross Wilson
Dr Hope Wolf
Dr Oliver Wort
Dr Nicky Zeeman
Dr Andrew Zurcher

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Cambridge Defend Education statement on police surveillance revelations.

Cambridge Defend Education is not surprised to find itself the subject of police surveillance. As we have seen, the police will go to any lengths to gain ‘intelligence’ on activist groups, including deceiving women into long-term intimate relationships. It is telling that the police regard their activities as completely legitimate and legal, reflecting their crucial role in enforcing austerity policies through both violent and covert repression of those who oppose them.

This constitutes part of a wider attempt by the police, university management and the government to criminalise and suppress dissent within universities across the country. This can be seen in the police violence experienced by students in 2010 and beyond, the increasing use of injunctions by universities against their students, the arrest of ULU president Michael Chessum today, and now in these revelations about surveillance.

As staff salaries are cut and tuition fees rise, Cambridge Defend Education stand against the marketisation of education, against the brutal austerity measures of the Coalition government, and against the surveillance and criminalisation of activist groups who oppose them. We refuse to be intimidated by these coercive and underhand tactics, and will continue to resist – in our universities and on the streets.

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Annual Cost of Educating Undergraduates

from the Eighteenth Report of the Board of Scrutiny, published in the Cambridge University Reporter on 17 July 2013:

Cost of undergraduate education

37. The Board views with concern the substantial downward revision (from £17.1k to £14.8k per capita) of the University’s estimate of the annual cost of educating undergraduates. This is a figure with a high visibility nationally: it is widely used to justify the level of undergraduate fees and bursaries, and fundraising in support of the latter. It must command confidence, and so needs to be supported by a robust and clearly explained calculation methodology.

38. The Board recommends that the University publishes details of how the cost of an undergraduate education is calculated.

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An open letter to Cornel West

Dear Brother Cornel West,

We are writing to you as student and faculty members of Cambridge Defend Education, a group which has, over the last three years taken a principled stance to defend the university against privatisation and increasing social exclusion, the retrograde forces about which you spoke so eloquently last week. Our vision of the university is that of a place of critical thinking and contestation; we have fought for this vision at some personal and collective cost—in the case of some individuals, a very great cost.  We were, therefore, heartened and reinvigorated by your inspirational fighting words last week.

In November 2011, after months of struggle in which we had joined our fellow students and teachers across Britain to resist the Coalition government’s swingeing cuts to publicly-funded higher education and the tripling of tuition fees to unaffordable levels for many, we were impelled to undertake a form of nonviolent direct action.  Over the many months leading up to this action, large numbers of us had been part of a year of protest which included the ‘Occupation’ of the university’s Senior Combination Room, petitions, letters, peaceful blockades, national and local demonstrations, and strikes. We had elicited no response from those in power; they continued undeterred on their destructive path.

The Universities minister, David Willetts, who was responsible for the most destructive and ideological changes to the public university in Britain, had been invited to speak on the same platform you are now occupying under the aegis of CRASSH.  We decided to use the only resource we had to hand as we faced the monolith of the neoliberal decimation of the public university: the spoken word. As Willetts took the stage, thirty of us, both students and lecturers, used the ‘people’s microphone’ technique to perform a poem containing our message to the government about the policies that Mr Willetts was implementing at the time.  Following the example set by so many student sit-ins and anti-war protests over the last century, we then ‘occupied’ the stage as a symbolic act of recovering our university.  Mr Willetts chose at that point to leave.

It is what followed next that we feel you will wish to know about.  One of our number was singled out for prosecution and punishment by the University authorities even as scores of faculty members and students turned themselves in noting that the action had been collective. As it happened, only one academic not acting as a Court official was prepared to collude in this patently unfair process and testify against this lone student, made even more vulnerable by being singled out thus: the director of CRASSH, Professor Simon Goldhill.  To our regret, he did so zealously.

The subsequent ‘exemplary’ punishment awarded to this student made national and international news for its severity: he was suspended for a staggering seven terms (two and a half years) and debarred from entering the university premises during that period. After a sustained campaign and enormous support from across the university and nation (including a petition signed by 3000 people), the student’s punishment was reduced to one term with a warning attached to this sentence that the judges would not be this ‘lenient’ to future protesters.  This whole process did indeed have an immensely chilling effect across the campus: it has helped create a culture of fear and silencing that few are now prepared to face down. Appearances notwithstanding and outside the smart seminar room environment, official hostility towards critical thought and activism has been intensified and consolidated.

As we continue the struggle despite diminished numbers and in the face of difficulty, we draw courage from comrades such as you. We look forward to hearing you in the coming weeks but we felt that you would wish to know more about the platform on which you stand.  You will be alert, we know, to the ways in which an institution can act as a very real victimiser in one aspect and attempt, very deliberately, to project a more progressive image in another. We have been pilloried as opposers of free speech and ‘totalitarians’, as those who protest and challenge the status quo often are.  As you yourself say of political struggle, it is ’a beautiful thing because there is joy in it but there are huge burdens.’

When you speak to us in the coming days, perhaps you can guide us by addressing the question which you yourself posed last week; it is one that has troubled us in the face of our own struggles: ‘What does integrity do in the face of oppression?’

Yours in solidarity,

Students and academics of Cambridge Defend Education


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Five Reasons to Protest Against Marine Le Pen

1.The Front National (FN) is a modern fascist party. It was formed in 1972 by Jean-Marie Le Pen, who was backed by wartime fascists, including ex-SS officers and supporters of the pro-Nazi Vichy government, and a new generation of fascists, or self-styled ‘revolutionary nationalists.’ Their strategy was to seek respectability to win wider support and then transform these supporters ‘in our image.’
2.The FN is deeply racist. It has tried to use its electoral success and media profile to bring anti-semitism and Holocaust revisionism into the mainstream, and to make racism respectable. In 1987 Le Pen described the gas chambers as a ‘point of detail’ of the Second World War. In 1996 he argued that racial inequality was a fact. In 2010 his daughter, Marine Le Pen, compared Muslims praying in the street to the wartime occupation of France. She wants the wearing of the hijab (and the kippa) banned in public. Following a series of murders by Mohamed Merah in southern France last year, she argued that all North African immigrants were potential killers: ‘How many Mohamed Merahs in the boats and planes that arrive full of immigrants every day in France? How many Mohamed Merahs among the children of these non-assimilated immigrants?’
3.The FN is not more moderate under Marine Le Pen.  ‘I passed her the baton,’ said Jean-Marie Le Pen after she took over from him in 2011. ‘If she runs faster than me, then so much the better.’ He remains the party’s honorary president and made a speech to members last year in which he quoted the anti-semitic writer Robert Brasillach, executed for collaboration with the Nazis. The FN continues to cultivate links with fascist groups and parties. Although older generations of Nazi collaborators are dying out, many FN leaders and election candidates are veterans of ‘revolutionary nationalist’ groups and retain links to white supremacist and organisations promoting Holocaust denial. In 2012, on Holocaust Memorial Day, Marine Le Pen was a guest of the Austrian Freedom Party at a ball in Vienna organized by the neo-Nazi Olympia society. Olympia bans Jews or women from its membership, once proposed that the Nobel Peace Prize be awarded to Nazi Rudolf Hess, and organizes celebrations of Holocaust denial featuring prominent revisionists like David Irving.
4.The FN is a threat to democracy. FN run towns have been characterized by authoritarianism and intolerance, banning halal meat in school canteens, censoring library provision and clamping down on the ‘promotion of homosexuality’. Like her father, Marine Le Pen seeks to organize a capacity for extra-parliamentary activity through rallies, street demonstrations a nd links to openly ‘revolutionary nationalist’ groups. The FN has a track record of violence against its opponents.
5.Legitimising the FN breeds racist discrimination. Acceptance of the FN as a legitimate party has helped make racism respectable in France. The hijab is banned in schools. The wearing of the niqab and the burka is banned in public. One survey identified a 33.6% rise in racist acts towards Muslims in 2011 compared to the previous year. More French Muslims claim to have had negative encounters due to their religious or ethnic background (37%) than those in Britain (28%) or Germany (19%).
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Fascism: What it is and how to fight it

The Golden Dawn, an unapologetic neo-Nazi political organisation with a history of political violence, intimidation, hate crimes and even involvement in genocide during the Bosnian war today holds 18 seats in the Greek parliament. On 22 July 2011, gunman Anders Breivik murdered 69 people at a Youth Labour Camp on the island of Utøya, Norway. In France, Hungary, Austria and all over Europe, far-right parties are enjoying a surge in electoral support and are becoming bolder and more outspoken. As economic and social conditions continue to decline, fascist groups are capturing support with their vision of the immigrant, the foreigner or the Jew as the perfect scapegoat and the source of all their countries’ problems.

It is in the context of this international situation that we face the news that the ‘English Defence League’ plan to hold another demonstration in Cambridge on Saturday 23rd February.

The EDL is a violent street-based organisation who have proved time and time again that they have no interest in peaceful methods. Their demonstrations are provocative, violent, and fuelled by hatred, and everywhere they have marched they have been met with opposition. Not content with targeting Muslims and immigrants with threats of violence, the EDL have also threatened students as a single homogenous group. Cambridge Unite Against Fascism will be leading a counter-demonstration to show the EDL that they are not welcome in Cambridge.

Ahead of this event, it is important to spread awareness of the danger of fascism, how it has manifested itself in the past and the present, and what can be done to combat it. With this in mind, local anti-fascist activists and academic specialists are organising a teach-in on Sunday 17th February in the Keynes Room at King’s College.

Topics of discussion will include the history of fascism throughout the 20th century (with the examples of Italy, Germany, and the UK), the politics of fascism and anti-fascism, and what can be done to combat fascism today, including first-hand activist experiences from the UK, Greece and France. Speakers include academics from Cambridge and elsewhere, including worldwide authorities on historical cases of fascism, as well as activists from a number of European countries. There will be opportunity for discussion and debate throughout the day.

This is an important step in building momentum to oppose the EDL in Cambridge and fascists everywhere to ensure that our society remains open, diverse and peaceful.

It is now all the more urgent that the teach-in is a success in light of the Union Society’s last-minute announcement that they will be hosting French fascist Marine Le Pen (the leader of the Front Nationale) next Tuesday 19th at 4pm. The last session of Sunday’s teach-in will be discuss the politics of the FN.

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Sussex University is occupied

Students at Sussex University have occupied the conference centre on the top floor of Bramber House against university managers’ plans to outsource campus services.

Their occupation has received national media attention in the Guardian, Independent (as well as here and here) and THES.

Rush message of solidarity to the students at and

In their statement, the occupying students say the following:

“After continually being ignored by university management and left out of all negotiations regarding the proposed privatisation plans, Sussex students have occupied the University’s conference centre.

Over the last few days the campaign has picked up widespread national press coverage and messages of support have been pouring in from Students’ Unions, organisations and influential individuals.

The management at Sussex have shown a blatant disregard for the views and wishes of the campus community in the way that they have instigated these proposals. The lack of transparency, and openness from a University that has a reputation as a ‘radical’ institution, is tantamount to a management position which is eroding the spirit of Sussex. All methods used by staff and students to engage with management in discussion are being ignored.

As a result of this top-down decision, and many others which have not involved adequate consultation with this vibrant and close-knit campus community, people are feeling indignant and feel as though all routes to ask management to listen to and act on our concerns are dwindling.

We call on the management of the University to immediately halt their plans; to undertake a full and proper democratic negotiation with staff and students about the future of campus services; and to ensure that student and trade union representatives are fully represented and informed during all stages of future processes and decision making.”

Regular updates here:

Similar outsourcing plans have already been implemented in Cambridge: the University Library tea room is now run by the same company that owns Costa coffee, which is you might have noticed their prices going up.

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Anti-fascist teach-in, King’s College, Sunday February 17th

A teach-in, hosted by Cambridge Defend Education, with talks and discussion on historical and contemporary fascism will take place in King’s College on Sunday February 17th, between 10am and 5pm.

Given the alarming rise of the Golden Dawn in Greece, the politically-motivated massacre on Utoya in Norway and marches by the English Defence League in the UK, the resurgence of far-right sentiment has become one of the most pressing issues in contemporary national and international politics. In advance of the EDL march in Cambridge on 23rd February, this event brings together anti-fascist activists and academic specialists to discuss three important topics:

- Fascism in History (10:00 – 12:30)
- The Politics of Fascism and Anti-Fascism (1.30 – 3:00)
- Fighting Fascism Today (3.10 – 5.10)

Speakers include John Pollard (Trinity Hall), Martin Ruehl (Trinity Hall), David Renton (author, Struck Out: Why Employment Tribunals Fail Workers and What Can Be Done (Pluto, 2o12) , as well as activists from Greece, France and the UK.



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On the coalition’s reforms to science publishing

Under new government plans, scientists in the UK will have to pay £2,000 per article to have their research published in privately-owned academic journals.

These plans, spearheaded by universities and science minister David Willetts, are in response to a report by Dame Janet Finch which recommended “gold open access” for all scientific research published in this country. The idea is that publicly-funded research should be freely available for anyone to view, but the large subscription fees demanded by the journals place scholarly work behind an insurmountable pay-wall. Journals charge extortionate fees given what they actually do; services like typesetting, formatting and peer-review are all handled by the academic community itself, with the journals acting merely as third parties that facilitate these services. Many academics have already taken action against the hefty profits that the major journals extract out of universities; as of January 2013 a global boycott of publishing company Elsevier had 13,000 signatories. Despite this, British universities currently pay £200m a year in subscription fees to journals.

Given this, the prospect of open access looks attractive. But this is where the Finch Report comes in. “Gold” open access proposes to keep the publishing industry satisfied whilst simultaneously providing free access to scholarly articles. How? By taking the money out of the UK research budget and making the academics pay. Specifically, a researcher wishing to have their work peer-reviewed and made open-access will have to fork out “article processing charges” of £2,000 per article, to be paid out of the science research budget.

The plans disregard the alternative “green open access” favoured by many academics. In this model, articles are submitted to journals the same way as they are now, but in addition are also published on a free open access website. Such a model has already proved highly successful in several branches of science, and is an attractive low-cost solution to the open access problem.

The proposed plans put the interests of the publishing industry before those of UK scientific research. The government has shown a clear bias to the needs of large for-profit private companies, a bias in keeping with the current climate of increasing private influence in higher education and research, and a bias that can only be countered by local, organized resistance.

Posted in Comment & Analysis | 8 Comments