Mark Bergfeld

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New struggles, new unions? On the Pop-Up Union at Sussex University

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This article was first published in Ceasefire Magazine

April 18, 2013

A piece on an innovative trade union tactic pioneered by workers fighting privatisation at Sussex University

The struggle at Sussex University is the latest in a series of student rebellions against austerity and neoliberalism in our universities. Occupy Sussex held Bramber House for 55 days and called a successful 2,000-strong demonstration against the outsourcing of 235 non-academic jobs. It has shown us how students can resist university managers implementing their new fees regime.

The response by trade unions at Sussex University has, in contrast, lagged behind. The three campus unions – Unison, Unite and UCU – have finally called a membership consultation ballot nearly a year after the campaign began. But this welcome step forward would not have happened without a new factor: the Pop-Up Union recently founded by Sussex workers, which has pushed for ballots, built and supported Occupy Sussex, and argued for escalating the battle against Sussex management. (more…)

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Millbank protests, occupations, solidarity, strikes: Interview with ‘Freedom’

Students demonstrate at the Tory Party Conference, Manchester in Manchester in 2011

Students demonstrate at the Tory Party Conference, Manchester in Manchester in 2011

Recently, I rediscovered this interview from 2011. It is well worth a read given that NUS Conference is only a few days away. Special thanks to Ché and Al.

Published July 2, 2011 – Originally appeared in Freedom #7213 – Online version here

Mark Bergfeld is an education activist who has played a vital part in mobilizing – and being a part of – the student movement in London, which took every political radical by surprise last November, and ignited the anti-cuts movement here in general. In this interview Mark shares with Freedom his thoughts on the subject, the current state of the movement, as well as the coming big action on J30.

  • Can you speak about the inception of the Education Activist Network (EAN) and your involvement in it? (more…)

You’re either a flower in a dustbin or that spark that lights a fire

sidi_bouzid_01I was asked to write “a populist piece” for some book that never appeared. I wrote it in May 2011 so it bears all the marks of a generation in revolt.  Forgive me! 

If I were to ask a call centre worker in Glasgow, a cab driver in Berlin and a bar worker in London what Johnny Rotten and Bruce Springsteen have in common they would probably give some half-hearted half-guessed answer containing the words punk and no future. Then all of them would rant about how shit The Boss is, and that they don’t understand what Springsteen finds so great about New Jersey.

If I were to ask a vegetable vendor in Tunis and a computer programming student in Alexandria the same question, they would light a cigarette, probably shrug their shoulders and continue to make ends meet.   (more…)

Where next for the student movement?

students-carrying-placard-007First published in Socialist Worker (UK)7 Dec 2010

We have seen another huge outpouring of student anger onto the streets of Britain this week.

School, college and university students are once again coming out in their thousands to oppose the coalition’s plans to triple tuition fees and scrap the Education Maintenance Allowance. And this week is by no means the end of it.

The vibrancy and energy behind the university occupations, school walkouts and local and national protests will not be halted by warm words—or by any parliamentary vote.
(more…)

Review: Stefan Collini – What our universities for?

Book Review by Mark Bergfeld, April 2012 (first published here

images (1)With the indefinite postponement of the Higher Education Bill Stefan Collini’s latest book is timely. It lies somewhere between the various manifestos of the movement and the white papers of the government. Collini sets out to defend the notion of the “public university” while at the same time accusing the government of a “reductionist consumerist” higher education policy. This makes it a must read for students, activists and trade unionists in higher education and all those interested in defending it.

Collini celebrates the inherent worth of intellectual inquiry. His writing is accessible and interesting. Ultimately however there must be an acknowledgement that the ideas of the ruling class have always reproduced themselves in universities. They are part of what Gramsci called the “hegemonic apparatus” through which the ruling class legitimises its own rule. The ideological function that churches fulfilled under feudalism, for example, is now fulfilled by universities under capitalism. (more…)

Education Demolition

Demolition.10.11.10November 2010

Lord Browne’s recommendation of unlimited tuition fees and the introduction of the free market into universities constitutes a devastating assault on access to education by working class people. Here, I consider the effects of the proposals and how they can be stopped.

The article was first published here

Lord Browne’s proposals of lifting the cap from tuition fees and installing a free market in university funding is the largest attack on higher education (HE) we have seen to date. The spending review has twisted the knife further, by cutting central funding to all but the “priority” subjects. The signals are alarming.

Nick Clegg, once the favourite politician of many students, has abandoned his pledge to oppose the rise in tuition fees and calls the day of the comprehensive spending review “the beginning of the story”. Despite his soothing words that the cuts in education will not take us back into the 1930s, it has become clear that the Con-Dem coalition will take us back into the Stone Age with plans to cut up to 80 percent (£3.9 billion) of the annual teaching budget on 20 October. (more…)

Victory for Quebec students

It's a student strike but a popular struggle

It’s a student strike but a popular struggle

September 2012

I wrote this article on the morning after the Parti Quebecoise had won the snap-elections. It was first published on Education Activist Network and then taken up by a number of blogs including Adbusters, magazines, papers in abridged or longer forms.  

Students and their supporters throughout the Canadian province of Quebec are celebrating the ousting of Liberal Premier Jean Charest, the promise of the withdrawal of Bill 78 and most importantly the freeze in tuition fees. This victory comes after six months of student strike involving more than 190 000 students. (more…)

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