"The Condem government’s mantra that we’re all in this together belies any serious examination of how their cuts will impact on young people" said Ben Stevenson, CP executive committee member, in Cambridge last week. 
Despite assurances, first of all in the Comprehensive Spending Review and now in the budget, that primary and secondary education in England would be protected from swingeing cuts and ‘reforms’, the programme of marketisation, privatisation and de-regulation of education that began in earnest under New Labour is being intensified by the coalition government.
 
Cuts in primary and secondary education can generally be categorised into three distinct areas, unsurprisingly all of which will disproportionally affect schools in the most deprived areas of the country. Firstly there are significant cuts being made to grants for schools for additional schemes, introduced under New Labour, which are funded by the Local Education Authority and central government. These include funding for after school activities, the extra financing provided for additional support staff in the core subjects of English, Maths & the Sciences as well as funding for other national initiatives in educational psychology and a slew of ancillary initiatives which schools in deprived areas rely on where there is a much greater need to provide functions over and above basic education from 9 to 3.30.
 
Secondly, there are cuts to services and funding provided by the LEA amounting to a total of 28% over the course of the next four years. This will mean year-on-year savage cuts to the services Local Authorities provide directly to schools – for example Education Advisory services, support for children with behaviour problems and schemes for children with special educational needs. The effects of these cuts are already being felt, for example the closing shortly of the `Education Other than at School’ programme in Cambridgeshire, which provides education for children who have left mainstream education due to serious illness, or - as was mostly the case - due to depression or anxiety. 10 schools in Cambridgeshire will be affected but this is just a small example of a pattern that is being repeated across the county and the country as a whole. 
 
In addition to cuts to these services, school budgets themselves have of course been frozen, which of course with inflation currently running at 5 and a half per cent represent a significant cut in real terms. A confidential projection from Department for Education officials, suggests that at least 40,000 teachers and many more support staff will lose their jobs due to freezing of school budgets and additional cuts over the next four years. Whilst a derisory 0.1% increase or of course in real terms a 5.4% cut, is meant to ameliorate these savage cuts in the worst hit primary schools.
 
Thirdly, spending planned under New Labour to rebuild and refurbish crumbling state school buildings, admittedly all being run under PFI schemes, is to be slashed; projects to build new schools and to improve existing schools are to be cut by 60% overall, with over 700 priority school building projects having already being cancelled as a result.
 
Of course under capitalism, education does not serve a role in and of itself. And the ConDem government is not confining itself to making changes to funding in Education. Educational institutions provide a vital role in the ideological sphere as well and it should come as little surprise that a government which at less than a year old has already engaged in imperialist adventurism, is employing some of the most reactionary historians like Niall Ferguson to rewrite the history curriculum to rehabilitate the notion of the supposedly civilising effect of the British Empire. 
 
We are also seeing an assault against the notion that education itself is a skill that requires analysis and an assessment of the effectiveness of different methods. Already the government has scrapped the commitment to using play techniques to educate young children under 5. The notion that you require skilled professionals to deliver education is also subject to an ideological assault as we see programmes like Jamie Oliver’s dream school assert that all you need is celebrities who are experts in their particular field. This is a deliberate attack against the teaching profession but its purpose is much more sweeping than trying to break the power of the teaching unions, especially when you consider that the government has also removed the necessity for a qualified teacher to be employed at Children’s centres. This is part of a concerted effort to break up the education sector making it easier for private companies to take over the running of it. This is a model which has already been successfully employed in other public sectors, gradually changing the nature of the service to make it easier for capital to take over the most profitable sections. 
 
So the marketisation and privatisation of education will continue to intensify over the next few years with the introduction of the ‘Free Schools’ programme which will allow private companies to take on all aspects of running a school and the acceleration of the academies programme. Education will become even more stratified and class divided than it is already. 
 
Of course it is in Higher and Further Education where the most pernicious changes are being made. The abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance, an essential for the poorest pupils to access further education as a right, exposes the government’s claim of concern for disadvantaged young people. And of course the lifting of the cap on tuition fees will see hundreds of thousands of working class children excluded from the prospect of attending University. Indeed Cambridge University has already indicated that it will be charging the maximum £9,000 per year for tuition from 2012, ensuring that it’ll become an even more elitist institution than it is already. This is all supposed to make up for the £940 million cut in university funding in the next academic year and other cuts totalling 23% over the next four years. Never before have we seen such a fundamental attack on higher and further education and there is not a single institution in England that won’t be affected.
 
With rising unemployment, wage cuts across the board and the prospect of running up a level of debt which they can never hope to emerge from, how many young people will quite rightly under these circumstances ask what is education for? Not only do we have to fight to defend jobs and pensions in the education sector, oppose the marketisation and privatisation of education by drawing together trade unions and the student movement, which has been reinvigorated by the anti-fees campaign last year. But we must also win the ideological battle of education for education’s sake.
 
The situation for young people not in education is arguably even worse. Even going by the governments massaged figures we have record levels of youth unemployment. Nearly a quarter of 16-24 year olds are currently claiming job seekers allowance. The rest if they’re lucky are in the main employed in part-time, temporary, insecure and precarious work of all forms. Over the last decade the labour market has substantially changed, now a commonplace idea, but it’s something that as Communists we recognised long before others. The nature of employment for those entering the labour market now is substantially different from previous generations, there is no longer a distinction between unemployment and precarious work and rather than being a fringe phenomenon this is the mainstay. 
 
That’s why the Communist Party is working with our allies in the labour movement to defend young people and their right to decent work by planning and organising major public initiatives in September this year. This is an area of struggle that must be placed at the heart of the labour movement drawing together unions, trades councils, community bodies, social and religious organisations, the NUS and other student bodies, youth workers, and others, in what will develop into a “People’s Campaign for Decent Work for All.” 
 
We envisage traditional labour movement marches to major venues preceding a Peoples’ Festival for Decent Work with music, bands, comedians, singers and other entertainment.
 
Such a wide ranging, community based and national campaign involving imaginative and militant efforts to defend and create millions of jobs should inspire a new generation of activists and encourage wider participation and engagement with the traditional labour movement.
 
Even before all of these cuts start to bite, Britain continues to be damned internationally as one of the worst places in the industrialised world to be young. The commitment to completely eliminating child poverty in Britain by 2020 has already fallen by the wayside, with more than 4 million, that’s a third of all children in Britain living in poverty whilst in inner city areas of London, Manchester and Birmingham this increases to more than half of all children. The planned cuts to youth services, such as Connexions, and youth centres will only exasperate this further. Excluding plagues and world wars this is the first time in history, that a generation of young people in Britain will die at a younger age than their parents.
 
Young people are not just affected by cuts to services and sectors specific to them, they will suffer just as most senior citizens and car-less poor people will do when Cambridgeshire county council finishes with its £2.7million cuts to subsidised bus services. In one fell swoop, most evening, weekend, hospital and rural services are now at risk. Yet it is supposed to be common ground that at a time in the world of severe environmental challenge, spending on public transport should be increasing not becoming extinct. But I understand that even the City Centre Shuttle bus is being axed, no doubt a service heavily used by shoppers and Stagecoach has deregistered 50 bus services, seemingly - and bizarrely- an action forced by the Tory controlled council that has been contradictorily denounced by local Lib Dems! All this can only result in loss of work for highly unionised local bus drivers, but then should we expect those who openly oppose the existence of the trade union movement to do otherwise!  The unity between trades unions passengers, and anti-cuts campaigners that has been forged locally is a model for all to follow. Opposition to the cuts cannot be left to isolated protest however, a whole new strategy is needed. 
 
Indeed, industrial action cannot ultimately be restricted to opposition to the proposed reforms to public sector pensions, although this is obviously the first step since it is the area most likely to garner unity and determined action from public sector unions and workers. But the assault is far wider than this and so ultimately our response must be so also. The prospect of encouraging workers to take illegal solidarity and political industrial action, is an understandably serious one and it is not something that will spring sporadically out of the ether. Yet Communists have never shirked from calling for and working for politically necessary actions by the working class just because it is difficult or dare I say illegal, and we cannot and will not shirk that responsibility now. We have long understood that the anti-trade union laws installed and strengthened by successive Tory and New Labour governments over the last 30 years would not be defeated by an act of parliament. As with every other attempt to shackle the trade union movement and working class militancy, it will be defeated by workers making inhuman legislation unworkable and unpracticable. Despite all of the shifts in the balance of forces over the last 30 years the power of labour still remains unchallengeable by the ruling class under the right conditions.
 
There can be no doubt therefore that taken together it is working class youth that will disproportionally be worst affected by the ConDems cuts. However we should remember that this government is not, as was the case in the 1980s, conducting an assault targeted solely at one particular section of our class, but rather it is an assault on our class as a whole. The only way that we can possibly defeat it is to successfully mobilise every section of our movement, be they students, children, public or private sector workers, pensioners, the unemployed, community groups and service users against these measures. But we must also remember that inside the House of Commons the only alternative being presented to the government is one that would deliver practically the same programme, albeit at a slower pace over a longer period of time. So not only do we have to mobilise and organise millions of people in a defensive battle against one of the widest ranging assaults by the ruling class in more than half a century, but we must also translate this into a struggle that challenges the neo-liberal consensus that has dominated British politics for the last three decades and ultimately build alliances and a movement that will fundamentally challenge the power of state monopoly capitalism.
 
It’s absolutely vital that we don’t lose this perspective in the wake of the scale of this offensive. Our response to the capitalist crisis recognises that this crisis is systemic and endemic to the capitalist system itself. Many will question whether or not, now is the correct time for us to be reviewing and debating our long term political programme, but if Britain’s Road to Socialism is to have any value then now is precisely the time when we should be engaging in a debate across the labour movement and the working class about the necessity for a new form of society in Britain. One based on the needs of the many not the greed of a few. To quote from the new draft “Capitalism is the problem and socialism is the solution.”