Around 80 people attended a meeting in Falmouth on Acadamies hosted by the NUT on Monday this week. Speakers included the Liberal Democrat education spokesman (the politician), the head of the local education authority (the bureaucrat), the Headteacher of Helston College (the teacher) and the General-Secretary of the NUT (the union leader).
The meeting was billed as a 'debate' but all the speakers on the platform were against academies. Everyone the NUT invited to speak in favour of academies (the local Tory Party and the Headteachers of all the schools that are either have are interested in becoming academies) declined to come. Presumably they feared a lynch mob.
The Liberal Democrat spokesman was fairly weak. He said he started off in favour of academies and one couldn't help wondering what changed his mind and what his position would be if the Lib Dems still ran the council. The LEA head was slightly better but then, of course, if enough schools leave LEA control his organisation might become untenable. Christine Blower of the NUT was, predictably, quite good. She spoke quite well about how the Tories 'reforms' were ideological and unnecessary. The surprise of the evening was, perhaps, the Headteacher. He spoke eloquently about how much schools depend on the LEA and how becoming an academy is not so much about parents, children and teachers being 'free' of state control, but being under the control of private companies.
However, the weakness of all four speakers was shown up when someone in the audience asked what Michael Gove's 'ulterior motive' was. The responses ranged from cost-cutting to pointless tinkering. The real reason, however, is much more dark.
This government is a government of millionaires that exists to help their millionaire friends. They want us, ordinary working class people (and to some extent the middle class too) to pay for their (the bankers, capitalists and bureaucrats) crisis. David Cameron, George Gideon Osborne and Michael Gove are the heirs of Thatcher, as to some extent also was Blair.
From the late 1960s, the long post-war economic boom was starting to come to an end. The '74-'79 Labour Government responded to the decline in the profitability of British Capitalism with Monetarism and a bail-out from the International Monetary Fund. Thatcher sped up the process with the privatisation of gas, electricity, telecoms, the rail network and so on. In the past, the British Empire would have just invaded a country and either stolen its raw materials (such as in Africa) or forced it into unequal trade deals (such as forcing China to buy opium). But these days Britain isn't a world power and so it either has to hang on to America's coat tails (such as hoping a few oil deals might come our way in Iraq) or it has to open up markets within its own borders.
Thatcher privatised everything she thought she could get away with and New Labour tried to privatise Royal Mail, introduced deregulation in the postal market, the NHS and the education system with their Academy status for 'failing' schools. So Gove et al are using the 'defcit' as an excuse to take this process to its logical conclusion. They are using the concept of the 'Big Society' to mask what Academies and 'Free Schools' really are, the breaking up and privatisation of the comprehensive school system.
Thatcher talked about 'rolling back the state' meaning taxing people less and providing less public services. The rich will obviously do very well out of this because they will pay less tax and just buy whatever services they need. The poor, by contrast, will suffer because they will not be able to afford healthcare and so on. So it was effectively a redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich. It is no longer acceptable to talk in these terms, however, so instead of focusing on the small state, they are now focusing on the big society.
If the Tories are allowed to get away with this we will have to work hard, pay our taxes and then volunteer in our 'spare' time to provide our own services. Alternatively we will be out of work and living on slightly-above-starvation-level benefits. Dickens would have recognised this situation well.
However, the movement against the cuts and privatisation is growing. This meeting, a good turnout considering, is just the beginning. Tomorrow's demonstration looks as though it will be the biggest for eight years and promises to be more radical too. This should provide the springboard for co-ordinated strike action, possibly leading to a general strike. Bring it on!