Netherlands: Wave of student protests

For democratic reforms and end to budget cuts

Recent weeks have seen student protests in Amsterdam, followed, on Wednesday 4 March, by protests in several other cities. These protests were the result of a call for solidarity by students in Amsterdam in their struggle for democratic reforms in the administration of universities and a moratorium on further budget cuts in education. It is a struggle against the consequences of anti-democratic ‘reforms’ in the past decades and budget cuts that are hitting universities (and other institutions for higher learning) throughout the country.

Last week, students in Amsterdam occupied ‘Het Maagdenhuis’, which is a symbolic part of the campus of the University of Amsterdam (UvA). It was also occupied during the student protest movement at the end of the 1960s and the early 1970s. This movement was inspired by the protests in May 68 that originated in France and swept like a haunting spectre across Europe (and also other parts of the world).

Protests spread

Recently students in several other Dutch cities, such as Groningen, Nijmegen and Utrecht, also organised small protests and/or meetings, mostly in the form of discussion sessions in order to inform other students and members of the university staff and discuss with them about the future of the system for higher education in the Netherlands. At the institute for higher learning in Tilburg, the College for Economics – which was renamed ‘Karl Marx University’ by protesting students in 1969 – leaflets written by Jan Blommaert, Professor of Language and Culture Studies, were handed out prior to a meeting of students and staff.

The new wave of student protests is a very welcome step forward that needs solidarity from working people. But the fact that every generation of students needs to wage the same struggle over and over again, albeit in a different situation and fashion, shows the weakness in political organisation and consciousness within the student movement. That is something that needs to change in order for the results of the current protests to be built on for the future. In order to make concrete gains the student protests need to link up students, lecturers and all university staff with workers in wider society.

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