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LondonStudent · 1st March 2010

No ifs, no buts: unite against the cuts

JackWhite calls for united action to stop cuts sweeping HE nationally

The National Convention Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) gathered at University College London on 6th February to discuss theGovernment’s aggressive policies on Higher Educa- tion and to formulate a response from the student population.

The goal of the conference was to

create a democratic organisation of stu- dents, to fight at a national and interna- tional level against the raising of fees and against the cuts to university fund-

ing that Governments have proposed here and across Europe. Taking a cue from regional groups,

an open national steering committee for the new National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts has been convened to co- ordinate the student response to Gov- ernment attacks. A statement of intent has been published (ncafclondon.word-, condemning the Govern- ment and calling for action “including occupations, direct action and walk-

outs” to save Britain’s first-rate educa- tion system. An initial plenary session featured

representatives of students, university staff and the conference organisers, and workshops covered key topics fromthe Bologna Process and the international student movement to forgotten or op- pressed groups in education – BME, disabled, LGBT and female students, who will be disproportionately affected by cuts. A workshop was convened on the

basis that student unions have lost their political fire – the thing thatmade them unions in the first place. Often the model union is a service-based organi- sation, offering food and societies. The view emerged that the partnership ap- proach to government, pioneered by the Tories and continued by New Labour, resulted only in crippled training grounds for career politicians. This does not mean however that political debate and action cannot take place out- side the union and havemore impact. University students are not the only

group to be ravaged byTory andLabour policies onHigherEducation. The pro- posed cuts in funding will also mean large numbers of staff redundancies. Trade union actions, including strikes and occupations, are inevitable, and stu- dents agreed to support the staff whose struggle is our own. With very low levels of union activ- ity over the past 20 years, many staff

and students are unaware of the poten- tial that strikes, occupations and man- agement lock-outs give to exert pressure on Government and university hierar- chies.

‘Many staff and students are unaware of the

potential of strikes, occupations, and management lock-outs’

Since most students start university

aged around 18, it can be difficult for some to relate to staff. Only a year ago, theymay have been required to call ac- ademics “Sir” or “Miss”. But students must become adultswhen they leave the protection of school, and must recog- nise their common ground with staff. Many of the fundamental freedoms

we take for granted – e.g. the eight-hour day and the right to vote – have been won by those willing to strike, or sup- port strikes and simply go beyond the protest and the petition as means to make their voices heard. That time in Higher Education is upon us.

Chile’s left-wing left out in the cold

Gabi Garbutt says Sebastian Pinera’s election is bad butmight have beenmuch worse

On the 11th ofMarch, the right-wing billionaire Sebastian Pinera will be- come president of Chile, and will thus succeed Michelle Bachelet’s left-wing alliance with his Conser- vative government. Itwill be the first right-wing government in Chile since Pinochet, the fascist dictator who was responsible for the death of 30,000 civilians and sent thousands more to concentration camps, was

‘The success of a right-wing

government is a difficult pill to swallowfor many Chileans’

ousted in 1990 by La Concertacion, the centre-left alliance.

Bachelet, Chile’s first female presi-

dent, has retained her 81% approval rating, though in Chile a president cannot rule for more than one term, which meant she was not allowed to stand. Eduardo Frei replaced Bachelet as the candidate representing La Con- certacion. He was not however a pop- ular figure, whichmeant that support was divided, as many left-wing citi- zens who would usually vote for La Concertacion voted for Jorge Arrate, leader of the Communist party in Chile. Pinera takes over the rule of a country that was not hit too hard by the recession, unlike neighbouring Argentina, thanks to La Concerta- cion’s foresight to keep money raised from copper supplies in reserve. Pinera owns the terrestrial televi-

sion channel Chilevision, and owns 27% of LAN airlines, and has many other investments besides. There is


rule, America supported and funded the army that was used to torture and kill civilians. The incumbency of the more liberal Obama should hopefully safeguard against the possibility of a similar situation happening again. Even if Pinera was tempted to or-

pressure for himto sell off his asset to avoid association with Pinochet, who used his hold on the economy to favour his own business interests. The success of a right-wing party is a diffi- cult pill to swallow formany Chileans, particularly those directly affected by Pinochet’s rule. However, Pinera was one of the

first right-wing politicians to criticise Pinochet, and he has promised not to appoint any of Pinochet’s former cab- inet members. During Pinochet’s

ganise a right-wing dictatorship, he would not have the support necessary, and the fact that Michelle Bachalet can stand again in five years’ time means that he will still want his party to look attractive when the elections come about to be a viable contender. The widespread confidence that

Pinera will not pose the same threat to justice as Pinochet did because of world powers’ influence and people’s expectations show how far we have come since the seventies. While it is disappointing that a right-wing gov- ernment has been appointed, the fact it does not resemble a government parallel to twenty years ago is a posi- tive sign.

Comment ·21

VictoriaYates on

the phenomenon of ‘seasonal eating’

If Heston Blumenthal’s feasts have taught us anything it is that food has always been, and continues to be,

of mankind’s greatest love affairs. But the lesson learnt from a trip to the local is thatwe don’t viewit in the same way anymore. High street brands better convey seasonality than any chain supermarket’s fresh produce aisle. A movement, long advocated by many chefs, is however gaining ground in convinc- ing people that seasonal eating is the only kind worth doing.

We are a generation fur-

ther detached from the pro- duction of our food than any before. Most of us raised within a supermarket catch- ment area have never felt the concept of seasonal availabil- ity impacting our menu choices.Pudgy faced children of today can pester their mother for blackberry

crumble in the dead of winter without being facedwith a ‘facts of life’ discussion thatmother nature delivers in her own sweet time. What is it about this lifestyle that is

inspiring people to turn back the con- sumerist clock? Not merely nostalgia. People are stripping food down to its natural components, similarly shown by the organicmovement and the fight against additives. As Alfred Newman said, “we are living in a world today where lemonade ismade fromartificial flavors and furniture polish is made fromreal lemons”. It is this artificiality that seasonal eaters seek to curb.Added to this is the emphasis on local produce, equally beneficial in reducing the car- bon footprint of yourmeal. And it isn’t simply amatter of fruit

and veg.Meat and eggs are seasonal too. Theymight be available all year round but chickens are predisposed to lay more in the summer and less in the winter. Equally, beef is best when it’s winter; cooler temperaturesmeanfewer flies andmore eating.At its core, living by nature’s timetable makes food taste better. The nutritional value alone is worth the dietary calendar, with sea- sonal produce providing proven bene- fits.

Society is changing; the simple fact

is that picking up the foods you want when youwant themis a habitwe have never needed to question. It might seem like a limiting way to live, a step back in the commercial progress of which we are so proud, but maybe in this instance nature might just know best. To see what’s on themenu, check outt

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