What was the meaning of Millbank? What is the meaning of Millbank? What will the meaning of Millbank be?
At the time I was working in a small group of dissenting postgraduate teaching assistants. We felt utterly isolated. The student movement under the NUS was floundering, pathetic, far too close to the bosses for comfort. Our fellow academics and students seemed like sleep-walkers, hypnotised. So we organised by conspiracy. Paranoia saturated everything, along with a certain hopelessness.
Then everything changed. We were overtaken. We became redundant, a relic of a past that, moments before, had seemed perpetual, monolithic, immovable. That very understanding was shattered – in the course of hours. The student uprising at Millbank – the coup, the rebellion – appeared as if from nowhere. We were euphoric: at last, a signal flare, a point of light in dark times.
Here is a beautiful image from that moment, taken by a friend.
Some may argue, of course, that Millbank represented a turning point to the extent that it damaged the credibility of the student movement and scared off many students. This theory is, frankly, bollocks. Millbank was a rebellion against the NUS’s failure to provide adequate leadership and against a political class who, to put it simply, did not even recognise us as political agents. It was right to rebel against these reactionaries. More, Millbank was an expression of popular feeling – not of ‘violent minorities’. Beyond anything, it was an expression of the irreverant, overflowing joy of youth; this was the real force behind the 2009-11 student movement.