Saturday 19 November saw 15,000 students and lecturers join together to march in defence of education and rally to speeches from student leaders, academics, union activists and journalists queueing up to tell us why we should tell our government to "TEF Off!" I'm proud to say that I was there, standing shoulder to shoulder with my brothers, sisters and what Malia Bouattia, president of the NUS, called our "non-binary siblings".
I have some temporary Jeremy Corbyn tattoos that I won on a raffle - yes I mix in circles where temporary Corbyn tattoos are raffled off. On Saturday morning I tattooed up and headed to the pub to meet my comrades - Northampton staff and students, past and present - and prepared to march. I can report that while temporary Corbyn tattoos make your skin itch, they don't make it crawl in the way Theresa May does.
Marching banner unfurled we joined the procession from Marble Arch to the Houses of Parliament and ended up in front of Students for Socialism, who had a megaphone and some pithy chants, but the one they kept coming back to was:
"Revolution... Fuck the System, What we want is Socialism"
. Now it's not really fair to dissect a marching chant as if it is an academic treatise and it's certainly not the place to discuss the nuances of political belief, armed with megaphones in the midst of a protest march while wrestling a marching banner in November squalls, so I sang along. Yes I want socialism, but I want socialism in the same way that if you took me to McDonalds I'd want fries and a vanilla thick shake. What I really want is sea bass with some Asian flavours, a chilli kick and a decent glass of red to wash it all down with. What is the point of overthrowing the system and then ordering off the menu?
The system is capitalism and I agree that socialism is one of the best forms of capitalism out there, it is certainly the best choice I can hope to be offered on the menu I get in a Polling Station, but it is fries and vanilla thick shake when I want sea bass and Chianti. Any form of capitalism necessarily equals everything being valued in capital, if you're not sure check the name. 'Sir' Phillip Green and Donald Trump show you what winning looks like when the rules of the game are capitalism - if success is wealth measured as capital then they're doing better than most, but I don't like a game that rewards the traits these two embody.
Education was inevitably going to become marketised provided that it existed in a capitalist system; that it needs to be measured so that it can be compared to allow it to be packaged, priced up and sold are a necessary outcome of a system that requires everything to be measured in terms of capital. Many of us resist calling our students customers and see the danger of allying all educational outcomes with employability but most of us still talk of investing in our children's future, we see education as empowering because empowerment comes through the economic success of getting a decent job.
So yes, while the menu is so limited I'll settle for wanting socialism but if we do succeed in fucking the system please can we be more imaginative than replacing it with a slightly better version of itself, otherwise we are over-throwing McDonalds to get Burger King and my spicy fish is just as unobtainable.