Students all over Europe — and, indeed, the world — are planning a wave of high-level direct action as part of the Global Week of Action, called by the “International Students Movement”.
This movement, while originating as the initiative of a small number of activists based in Germany, has used the internet and social networking sites to create an impressive worldwide network of contacts that have responded to its calls for international action for free education.
The upcoming week of action (actually ten days) is scheduled for 9-18 November, with a “warm-up day” on 5 November. The supporters’ list includes UK organisations such as Education Not for Sale, as well as a huge range of organisations from across the globe. Germany, France and Italy are all traditional centres of student activism, but the list also includes organisations from Morocco, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Bosnia, Poland, America and Canada.
The last week of action, which took place in April, saw protests, rallies and occupations in a wide range of countries. Finnish students coordinated a banner drop from the roof of their university in Tampere, while students at the university of Zagreb in Croatia occupied the Faculty of Philosophy. Moroccan students organised public exhibitions putting the case for free education, and students in Catalonia occupied Sabadell's Escola Industrial. Thousands of students took part in various actions across Austria, and in the UK students at the University of Sheffield used the week to disrupt a university-run careers fair that was attended by several arms manufacturers with whom the university has substantial financial links.
Radical student struggles also took place across Europe in countries like Italy in September and October 2009. Thousands of students sparked a wave of occupations against cuts — including significant redundancies — at various universities and colleges throughout the country, culminating in a mass national demonstration in Rome on 3 October.
Against the backdrop of such struggles, and of course an ongoing and thousands-strong occupation in Vienna, the upcoming Week of Action has the potential to be even bigger. In France, high-school and sixth-form students are leading the way with a call for a national mobilisation on 17 November. This is intended to build up to united action with education sector workers, whose unions have called a day of action on 24 November. German student activists based in Stuttgart have called for demonstrations on 17 November, and are planning a state-wide demonstration on 21 November in support of strikes taking place in the education sector. Bosnian students are planning coordinated actions across several universities, including Sarajevo and Zenica, for Sunday 1 November. Students in Nepal are also planning activity.
The global nature of the protests is significant precisely because of the global nature of the attacks faced. Governments and education sector bosses right across the globe are united in their project to create education systems where learning is a commodity and in which schools, colleges and universities are training grounds for the obedient workers of tomorrow. While it might be difficult to coordinate joint action between students in Europe and, say, Nepal, any group of activists taking on their university management can only be emboldened by the knowledge that there are thousands of others like them doing the same thing across the world. The bosses have built their global consensus around their vision of education; it's time for us to start building ours.