When Non-Violent Pigs Fly

January 14, 2012

This piece is in response to an unfolding argument regarding an otherwise lovely livestreamer who shouted down and threatened to identify individuals throwing bottles and antagonizing police during the Fuck the Police march in Oakland on the 7th of January, 2012.

The debate over non-violence (NV) and diversity of tactics (DT) becomes trivial when solidarity becomes a muddled and confused concept. Those of us passionate about DT rightly attribute those who follow NV as seriously lacking an understanding of the history of political movements and repression. The problem is that just saying that to someone who also passionately follows NV won’t get the point across and can come off as patronizing. Telling the NV camp that they need to look at history more carefully is meant less as an insult and more as a frustrated plea to take a step back and mull things over.

Arguing NV on a moral basis is impractical because morals themselves are impractical. Making decisions that may actually hurt comrades can fall in line with NV ideology rather frequently when matters that involve police are concerned. It’s a heartbreaking moment when it becomes clear that many people in the NV camp would prefer indirectly supporting violence via cooperating or passively interacting with police, rather than resist police force. Understanding how the state or patriarchy or racism or capitalism oppresses you through bank bailouts or home foreclosures only scratches the surface of the face of oppression. Oppression necessarily includes the forces that actually defend and carry out those orders; in other words, the police and prison, rape and police fraternity, physical and emotional abuse to name a few; these things are faces which seem less tangible, or even hidden to people who have not had to deal with them.

The defense of NV ideology leads some to also directly interfere with what they deem as “violent” tactics. This is perhaps the most dangerous aspect of NV ideology, that is, not so much the ineffectiveness of dogmatic, resolute non-violence, but the potential violence they impose on others through their actions. (Sidebar: these actions typically originate from their own unchecked privilege.) Notable examples include physically restraining or sometimes assaulting “violent” individuals that may be, for instance, smashing windows; videotaping intentionally or with no regard to the (legal) safety of “violent” individuals; or involving police directly. This precisely returns to the original purpose of this piece, solidarity. It must be explicitly understood that involving oppressive forces such as the police or the judicial system necessarily imposes violence upon “violent” individuals. Debates about NV versus DT ad nauseum mean nothing if anyone continues to hold the threat of state violence through their cooperation with oppressive forces over someone’s head. It is worth repeating and emphasizing that the police and the judicial system are unbelievably violent (in order to carry out the agendas you protest). Above all other ethics in the journey through protest and resistance, the idea of solidarity is the most valuable and important.

Solidarity

Solidarity is not a monolithic, unchangeable, or all encompassing concept. It is completely fair to place boundaries at some point or another in order to prevent obtuse actions to hurt your person. With that said, it takes a certain degree of experience with oppression to demarcate those points; when in doubt it’s probably best to simply remove yourself from any questionable situation or simply trust that your comrade has your back.

More concretely, solidarity is understanding that we all disagree at some level on issues, even profound, life-changing topics like the role of violence in movements, or lack thereof. Solidarity is not a blank check, and accountability is an important thread in its fabric. However, accountability is something that must be formed through time and trust, and an understanding that we have to create accountability through our own devices, and not through the state’s courts. If you can’t trust a movement to hold folks accountable to their actions, or at least bring a much needed issue to the foreground to be worked through, then you shouldn’t continue to engage in it.

Solidarity places political differences below camaraderie. Solidarity means being able to recognize who your friends and comrades are because they stand against oppression in its many and varied forms; and in doing so, place trust in your friends and comrades to hold a strong critique of oppression that may differ than your own, that may be weaker in some areas than your own, and trust that they may even have some insights you don’t have about the nature of oppression.

Solidarity means never cooperating with oppressive forces – the structures that crush you and me. Solidarity also means moving forward with resistance while supporting your comrades, your friends, hopefully, your new family. Solidarity with individuals or groups should end, however, when these individuals threaten to unleash oppressive forces upon you, either directly or indirectly, or manifest or reconstitute oppression directly upon you (such as sexual assault). All bets are off at this point, in order to maintain your mental and physical health.

Smashing windows or throwing bottles at cops, lighting some trash cans, or whatever crops up during the course of a string of “violent” demonstrations may insult your sense of ethics or contradict the public opinion you’ve been trying to cultivate, but they do not reconstitute oppressive forces on you, nor do they cooperate with oppressors to intimidate, arrest, or kill you. It’s fair to argue that certain actions may not reconstitute or cooperate with oppression, but place you in danger or take on certain privileges you don’t have (such as bail money, or skin color). This should not be mistaken as oppression reconstituted through these individuals, but as the consequence of resistance: in other words, repression. In this case, solidarity means criticizing tactical errors and mistakes that put you in danger. Solidarity sometimes means that things you disagree upon still happen simply because you trust your friends, your comrades, your companer@s enough to allow them to make mistakes.

Solidarity means never snitching or cooperating with oppressive forces.

Solidarity means attack.

Solidarity means we are your friends.

Solidarity means that you’ll never be alone again.

A Small Critique on Rhetoric: Notes on the Tolman Occupation

September 25, 2011

This is a brief response to the communique, Notes on the Tolman Occupation, posted on Indybay, occupyCA, and reclaimUC.

Perhaps it’s just rhetorical poisoning that my mind has suffered through the years by the media and the movement police, but it seems reckless to say, carte blanche, that “violence works.” This is not an ethical criticism of the argument, but rather a concern for the lack of clarity portrayed by this rather brief statement. I would take it, the “critical lesson” is that given the imminent political force of the crowd outside, and the aggressiveness of the police, the use of violent force to circumvent further atrociousness from the police was effective, worth the risk, and justified. Perhaps more importantly, that as a tactic, it’s easily justifiable to a community critical of police brutality against students who were merely demonstrating, and was thus something that might help bring a community together. I bring this up only to say that this argument isn’t given a fair chance by the brevity of the original statement (i.e. violence works) or by the dramatic and defiance-infused description of events that took place. In short, does all “violence work?” No of course not, it depends on the situation. It’s clear that this statement is a reaction to the moral condemnation of what happened, but as you realize, the problem with moral condemnation is its outright ignorance of how nuanced the issue is; and how general sweeping statements (i.e. moralisms) are aggravating excuses for failing to think critically. The approach of this argument falls under that same trap of being too general.

Similarly, stating “the police are the enemy,” seems a little extravagant. Certainly they often hold the role as the enemy, and are physically present to disable you from being effective. But the police are not the capitalists. The police are (massive) obstacles that must be dealt with. They are often the racist fuckers that shoot unarmed black men face down on the platform, but they are not the ones that solely perpetuate the system of oppression. If you’re purpose is to explain to the uninitiated that the police are not our friends, then you’re a folly of your own third lesson: failing to engage a diverse crowd the right way. An argument like this won’t reach folks. This kind of message, by far, is a lesson best learned through direct action: through the realization that your attempts to make the world better (and thus by extension communize) will be struck down with a baton every time if you fail to organize yourself to resist. This statement does help justify the event for those who were present, but it stops short of contextualizing the power structure thats at fault. It’s most certainly frustrating to have people constantly defend the police and absolve them of any wrongdoing, but the medium to change that won’t be in a brief communique.

I think generally, insurrectionary rhetoric like this overuses hyperbolic language and exaggeration. It usually comes off as grating rather than evocative of romantic adventurism and adrenaline-infused, humbled righteousness. I really appreciate the perspective and analysis though — for which y’all should be much lauded.

no more begging.

October 30, 2010

(fixed)

March 4 the Regents! or How and Why a Movement gets Co-opted

February 27, 2010

March 1st


The regents think it’s a great idea. Blumenthal is beside himself. It’s so great that the students are mobilizing to go to Sacramento. Student leaders are excited: the regents are with us! Sacramento must listen!

On the regents’ side, it’s perfect. The shift to Sacramento solves two problems that the student movement poses. First, it gets the students off of their backs, displacing the anger further up – an age-old tactic of bureaucrats. The removal of antagonism between students and regents allows them to declare themselves on our side, which they of course could not do with the occupations or campus blockades, or when they needed busloads of riot cops with tear gas guns just to hold a “public” meeting. Second, it incorporates the movement, keeping it confined to sanctioned action. As soon as a coalition of student leaders, faculty, unions, and (oh how wonderful) administrators unites in Sacramento, the path is clear: lobbying, symbolic demonstrations, cliché-as-fuck chants and picket signs: in short, a managed movement.

Just as the university pits students against workers, making them compete for limited resources, so the state is now pitting all university stakeholders against prisoners and potentially against all other public programs. UCSA, the system-wide student government, is perfectly content to play this game, calling for a “March for Higher Education” starting with March 1st in Sacramento. Yes, the title is annoyingly snappy, but notice too that their version of the movement is reduced entirely to fighting for “higher education.” A mobilization that grew from a statewide conference of students, teachers, etc. from all levels of public education — an effort to build solidarity in order to combat the state’s divide-and-conquer techniques — is now being commandeered to push for a slightly larger share of the pie for our little divided-and-conquered sector. UCSA accepts and promotes the “we all have to compete for ever-decreasing resources, so we should do our best to get ours” logic. Most of the media does not even mention the component of the movement that is outside of “higher education” or outside of education entirely. But as long as this remains a student movement, it will do nothing more than what student movements invariably do: try to make the educational system marginally better for a little while. Those in power can use this tactic to the extent that we are divided: as long as there is only a student movement, no matter how strong it may be, it can easily be displaced, appeased, and absorbed.

The question, then, is whether we need/want fundamental change or just the reactionary reform that will get us partway back to the greatness of the UC in the 80s or the 60s. Another aspect of the same question is whether the administrators and politicians are with us – that is, benevolent, well-intentioned (if misguided in their policy decisions) workers who, with our constructive input and a lot of compromise, can help us improve things — or whether they are objectively opposed to us and our interests, inevitably an obstacle to any worthwhile goals (free education, free society, etc.).

It is becoming increasingly clear to most students that their education is going into the shitter, yet many still cling to the idea that the regents, as well as state legislators, are doing their best in a bad situation. They call us cynical for acknowledging that these powerful men can never give us what we need, but really they are the cynics, for it follows from their logic that education could not get much better than it is now: despite the best effort of so many intelligent, good people, nothing can be fixed.

It’s not difficult, however, to see that power serves itself — that those in power (and their representatives) will tend to make decisions that reinforce their own power — and that their very position opposes them to us. All one needs to do is listen to their words.

The Regents

“Students are a legitimate voice. [Students] are there as a consumer, and we are seeing if our product is fulfilling your needs,” said chairman of the board of Regents Russel Gould (emphasis added). Rarely do we see such a blatant expression of the market logic with which they govern the university. Of course it shouldn’t be surprising — Gould, like most regents, has years of experience as a CEO (Wachovia is his most recent gig, and he’s made millions from the bailouts — see the 2009 Disorientation Guide). And nobody can deny the capitalistic nature of the modern university system: he runs it like a business because it is a business. However, he does not admit the flip side of the knowledge-market game: we are not just consumers, but also producers in this all-encompassing system. Like workers in 19th century factory towns owned entirely by the capitalists – where employees work in the company factory, live in company housing, shop at the company store, etc. – our lives are entirely monopolized by the university system.

We are paying to receive knowledge, while at the same time we are the producers of knowledge. Maybe professors do more of the ‘production’ while undergrads do more of the ‘consumption,’ but before one can teach or research or write one must pay to study for 4 or 5 or 10 years. In any case, it’s not as if students simply pay professors to teach them. Rather, there is a whole array of mediations, allowing a massive university bureaucracy to arise, allowing funding bodies to control research, allowing profits to be made at every level — from books to loans to standardized testing. The university employs an integrating strategy: all production and circulation of knowledge must pass through it; our desires to learn and to teach are forced into an increasingly privatized (that is, profitable) system.

Many students recognize that they could learn just as much by simply reading and discussing with their peers. Programs like the community studies field study program, which give credit for basically doing non-academic work independently, are praised as innovative. We recognize independent study as “a good deal” compared to traditional classes – less work, more flexibility, taking the classroom out of learning. Thus the tendency toward providing nothing. We know that self-directed learning is more effective and enjoyable than passive receipt of information, but then why do we need the university at all? Despite their talk, anyone who is a student (myself included) is unwilling to give the decisive “fuck you” to the university and drop out. Of course this is because what they want to do, what they want to be, does not depend primarily on knowledge, experience, etc. but on the degree. Academia is a closed system. It exists as a complex spreading out from universities into industry, government, and even social life. Knowledge without the degree gets you nothing; all paths lead through them.

The university system has monopolized knowledge, enlightenment, and even social advancement. Like the rest of the private (and public!) spheres, they have isolated a realm of desire and capitalized on it. The rulers of education are simply knowledge profiteers…

Schwarzenegger

What does it say about any state that focuses more on prison uniforms than on caps and gowns?” asked Schwarzenegger recently. “It simply is not healthy.”

He takes his rhetoric directly from the movement. And activists can pat themselves on the back since, according to his chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, “Those protests on the UC campuses were the tipping point.” Never mind that the budget increase will never make it through the Legislature, as ex-chairman of the Board of Regents Richard Blum (among others) has confirmed. The significant thing here is that state politicians, just like the regents, are able to win popularity and de-escalate the movement by simply affirming its rhetoric and making empty promises. The fact that it’s working shows that all the movement is looking for right now is a policymaker who will “actually listen” (and make empty promises).

Choosing universities over prisons . . . is a historic and transforming realignment of California’s priorities.”

Here he attempts to appease a group that has recently gained some political influence and public sympathy — students — by fucking over a politically powerless (and sympathy-less) group — prisoners. But in reality he’s not choosing education over incarceration, he’s simply choosing to capitalize more on both. The word realignment is a misleading appeal to the widespread sense of the UC’s lost greatness. Yet he doesn’t suggest reducing tuition to even the ballpark that it used to be in. There is no hope of tuition being reduced at all, nor even of preventing the increase (and future increases, to be sure). All he is doing here is making the rhetoric of “money for education, not incarceration,” fit with a neoliberal agenda — i.e. privatize everything.

But as always, only the profits are privatized — the costs are still socialized. Perhaps taxpayers will spend less on prisons, but that money will simply be invested in the university system, which has proven to be extremely profitable for private capital, especially in recent years. As professor Bob Meister’s excellent letter to students, “They Pledged Your Tuition,” explains, the tendency of the university in recent years has been to spend more on construction, development, and other investor-friendly activities (see http://www.cucfa.org/news/tuition_bonds.php). More than the scandalous amount paid to execs, the real drain on university funds is the constant flow of capital out into the private sphere. The regents vote to build more shit, the university sells bonds (backed by your tuition) to private investors to raise capital, transfers that capital to whatever company is contracted, and then pays back the bonds with state and/or tuition money. This is happening as we speak, as we struggle. The SF Chronicle has reported on the outrage that the regents voted to increase executive salaries during the same meetings in which they cut key programs and implemented furloughs. What they neglected to report was that at those same meetings they also approved new multi-million dollar construction projects funded by selling bonds. But putting a stop to expansion, of course, is not on the table, for no matter how tough things get, the university must remain profitable (if it weren’t, they would have a real crisis!). Schwarzenegger’s plan simply ensures this profitability and ensures investor confidence, while at the same time paving the way for increased profits in the prison industry.

A line from his State of the State address pretty well sums up how he sees us:

“The number of high technology companies that we have in California is related to how many brilliant scientists we have in our universities… which in turn relates to how many smart undergraduates we have… which is related to the number of high school students who graduate… and it goes down through the grades. That small child with the sticky hands starting the first day in kindergarten is the foundation of California’s economic power and leadership. We must invest in education.”

From the moment we enter the public sphere as snot-nosed little kindergartners, our masters see us as one thing, and one thing only: human capital.

Co-optation

Gould: “[Students and regents] have a lot of common ground.” That ground is exactly the terrain of co-optability.

One criterion to judge any struggle by is the extent to which it gets co-opted by those in power. Student regent Jesse Cheng explains the process like this: “What has happened with recent student actions has made student activism part of the equation. Regents are now saying, ‘We recognize your force, and want to be part of it.'”(emphasis added). Cheng thinks this indicates the movement’s strength, but in reality it shows its weakness.

Our revolutionary potential will be co-opted to the extent that its content is co-optable (i.e. symbolic actions, reformist demands…). It will remain unauthorized and potentially effective to the extent that its content is truly threatening. It may seem obvious (and tautological) that we will remain hostile to them as long as we take hostile action… But there is nothing else to it. Activists and revolutionaries use moralistic language to express their outrage when their movements are co-opted, whether by political parties, unions, or, in this case, by the management itself (that is, by those who are objectively opposed to us but whose power relies on the myth of their benevolence): “How could they steal our movement like that?!” “How could our comrades sell us out like that?!” Etc. The only thing that co-optation shows, however, is that our actions have failed to truly oppose the opposition. And all the more so if they ignore us — they will tend to choose whichever strategy works best for them. But when we take action that truly threatens them, they can neither ignore us nor co-opt us.

In the case of student struggles, this means strategic disruptive action. It means absolutely not respecting the authority of the administration nor the proceduralism they prescribe. The procedures that they claim must be followed if you really want to change things, are simply dams and dikes that channel oppositional potential into controlled, harmless forms. Beyond simply disrespecting the regents, chancellor, student government, etc., we must recognize them as adversaries, as would-be co-opters, and we must actively oppose them. And for our struggles to have any chance of precipitating real change, action must go beyond the university, taking on forms that counter their pathetic attempts at displacing the burden onto less organized, less powerful parts of society.

The Crisis

We are not interested in questions of responsibility, of who is to blame — at the university, state, national, or world level — for the current crisis. Technically, we have as much responsibility as anyone else, just by virtue of having desires. We should be proud. Just by living and breathing and having human needs, we threaten the system that idealizes mindless production and consumption.

Capitalism cannot solve the problem of our existence. What has transpired is neither poor management by benevolent policy-makers nor the unchecked greed of so many bad men. Rather, it is the inevitable manifestation of a fundamental insolvency. We are not interested in how to manage the crisis, nor do we care whose fault it is, nor can we accept any partial solutions. There is no solution without removing the contradiction at the heart of the crisis. From the point of view of those in power, resolving the contradiction would require learning how to dehumanize humans – to fully mechanize and atomize production and the producers themselves. From our perspective, overcoming the contradiction requires not only making education free, but overcoming capitalist relations as a whole. We cannot solve the crisis within the current system because we are the crisis of the current system.

Thus we should move from questions of should we fight? to how do we fight? We have seen that the most tempting routes — those that will attract the most media attention, win the widest public support, and feel the most inspiring — will end up working to the advantage of our enemies. We should remember some of Marx’s words on the subject of creating lasting change:

Bourgeois revolutions . . . storm swiftly from success to success; their dramatic effects outdo each other; men and things seem set in sparkling brilliants; ecstasy is the everyday spirit; but they are short-lived; soon they have attained their zenith, and a long crapulent depression lays hold of society before it learns soberly to assimilate the results of its storm-and-stress period. On the other hand, proletarian revolutions . . . criticize themselves constantly, interrupt themselves continually in their own course, come back to the apparently accomplished in order to begin it afresh, deride with unmerciful thoroughness the inadequacies, weaknesses, and paltriness of their first attempts, seem to throw down their adversary only in order that he may draw new strength from the earth and rise again, more gigantic, before them, recoil ever and anon from the indefinite prodigiousness of their own aims, until a situation has been created which makes all turning back impossible…” (from The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte; emphasis added).

I am not trying to argue that we should model a movement around any supposedly proletarian or Marxist revolution in history, nor am I saying that we need to be more proletarian and less bourgeois. But what characterizes the great bourgeois revolutions for Marx is the co-optation of revolutionary desire, action, and organizational structure by those who want only to increase their own power and to create and protect the conditions of efficient exploitation. This strategy succeeds where the revolutionaries are unwilling to destroy the old world and the new world, to destroy even what they create. We do not need to build a large, hardened organizational apparatus that can push for gradual, slow, strategic change. Our action must be immediate, radical, and collectively organized. What does need to be changed is our desire for immediate, spectacular victory. Many of us are accustomed to working with activist organizations whose particular campaigns can indeed be won in the short term. We need to untrain ourselves from this tendency and set our sights on long-term liberation. The spectacular wins of the 60s were all well and good, but they were simply rolled back and chiseled away when the political and economic climate changed.

Marching to Sacramento with the regents and the student government will certainly be well-covered in the media. It will be celebrated as historic. And that’s all it will be, and that’s all it will do.

PERFECT STORM: The general strike and the eclipse of unionism

December 12, 2009

A radical critique of the principles and outcomes of capitalism, its inefficiencies and instabilities, and its exploitative reliance on unequal distribution of wealth, needs no further contextualization; the current economic situation and its effects on working class people speaks for itself. The ground has been set for mass social upheaval. Our current economic catastrophe has all the elements of a perfect storm, bringing to surface the latent possibility for revolution. It seems that the student movement at the UC campuses is becoming cognizant of this potential.

Spreading the Rebellion: Student Agitation

The wave of occupations that spread across the UC campuses from this fall and the outpouring of support from students, workers, and faculty demonstrated an increasingly shared sense that mounting militancy to fight the budget cuts is required of us. So far, however, this emerging militant consciousness has failed to transcend the education sector. The U.S. working-class has gone so long without mass struggle that they lack the fruits that struggle produces: theory, organization, and confidence.

Student radicals and those versed in the history of working-class struggles can play a catalytic role in movement building by approaching the working-class with traditional forms of political propaganda (direct agitation).  Their agitation can start in spaces they’re already familiar with, such as their respective work places and school campuses, but should extend outward into the community at large.

Agitation should center on building class-consciousness generally, and building for a mass strike on March 4th specifically. It is clear that the conditions exist for every school and perhaps every public institution to form political committees composed of workers, students and teachers that attempt to organize their workplaces and schools for militant struggle and a general strike. Unions will pass watered down resolutions for March 4th, but rank-and-file militants — if such a thing exists at all — are perhaps the key link in motivating their coworkers to take political responsibility for the strike building process to reach its radical potential.  Paid staff organizers and/or the union more broadly cannot do this work for the rank-and-file.

Left groups commonly allege that the problems with unions can be traced back to flawed union leadership, conveniently ignoring how the political structure of unions have been vertically integrated into the state apparatus since the 1947 passing of the Taft-Hartley act. If the union model is to be salvaged, the rank-and-file, or at the very least, militant individuals within the rank-and-file must be able to think and act beyond legalistic unionism. With that said, budget cut “organizing” can mean many things, but the politics of such organizing should have a clear vision, avoiding both centrism and adventurism, in order to advance the struggle

The UC budget cuts and the economic crisis at large cannot be separated. Both are intertwined in this general crisis of capitalism. The young people who are rejected from California’s public higher education system due to budget cuts will find their reflection in the swelling ranks of the unemployed, high-school dropouts, and highly oppressed section of the working class. Class-consciousness transcends immediate self-interest; solidarity is not sympathy – it is unity in a common struggle. Students have a responsibility to spread news of their own rebellion, to encourage workers to rebel, and to help build the proletarian struggle wherever it erupts.

Building toward March 4th:

While a general strike may indeed be the most legitimate course of action to combat university privatization and neoliberal policies, I have some very real concerns about the actualization of this process.  My concerns are twofold; one stems from the very real fact that striking is illegal according to union contract. Moving beyond the general weaknesses of the contract’s terms and conditions,  which prohibits workers from striking within a given time period following the ratification of the contract agreement, my concern is that workers will view this said illegality as a concrete reason to distance themselves from strike activity.  My other concern which works in tandem with the first is that workers at the UC lack the sort of autonomy, self-organization, militancy and, more importantly, a collective class identity, all of which are necessary preconditions to successfully organize a general strike at the UC.

It is precisely because the union has systematically positioned itself as the sole legitimate voice of the working class at the UC that workers appear incapable (certainly not to their own fault) of separating themselves from the union apparatus for purposes of escalation or otherwise.  It is becoming increasingly clear is that the union’s hierarchal organizing structure inadvertently -or perhaps intentionally- takes power away from its members by denying them legitimate participation in union activity and movement building, and instead allocates responsibility to staff organizers who speak on behalf of workers. Indeed, the union structure denies workers equal participation in decision-making processes about the shape and trajectory of the labor movement.  Individual voices are channeled through representative union liaisons and therefore worker autonomy is essentially nullified.

Moving beyond the concrete problems of representation, it seems that the union has morphed into something that actually and perhaps intentionally deescalates and dilutes potentially radicalizing moments or radical behaviors.  The union functions like an extension of the state, effectively suppressing dissent and squashing radicalism as a means of control. This is not an issue of ill intent or willful betrayal on the part of union leaders: it is the consequence of a long-term trend in the eclipse of working-class resistance.  However, it cannot be excused and must be combated at every turn.

So what is to be done?

Recognizing the pathetic language of the contract, workers must declare the contract agreement illegitimate. As such, we must strike.  Recognizing the diversionary nature of the union structure as it exists now, workers must deny its role as the effective voice of the movement.  Workers must reclaim responsibility, determine their collective voice, and redefine class consciousness according to a shared identity. Workers must construct a counter-narrative to the dominant explanation of economic crisis, denaturalizing the accepted story of recession as explanation of injustices.  What we need is a re-articulation of the working-class identity.

On the university’s perversion.

December 1, 2009

On Thursday, November 19th the University of California Board of Regents approved a 32% fee increase in undergraduate fees, pushing fees to over $10,000. Student Regent Jesse Bernal was the only vote in opposition. Protests, sit-ins and occupations took place at UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis, CSU Fresno, San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. Students occupied Campbell Hall at UCLA, Kresge Town Hall and Kerr Hall at UC Santa Cruz, Mrak Hall at UC Davis, Wheeler Hall at UCB, and the library at CSU Fresno.  Students at the Academy of Arts in Vienna marched on the U.S. embassy. At NYU and at the New School in NYC students marched in solidarity with protestors at the UC’s.

Across the state, protestors were victims of police violence.  At UCLA LA-IMC reports confirmed use of tasers, pepper spray and batons against the peacefully assembled masses. Nearly a hundred arrests were made. UC Administrators threaten suspension, expulsion and possible criminal charges for those who participated in the protests.

At UCSC, students inside Kerr Hall drafted a list of demands. Their voluntary departure was contingent upon those demands being met by UCSC administrators. On Saturday November 21st, a small group of student liaisons began negotiations with the administration. The student liaisons met with Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education, Bill Ladusaw and Interim Vice Chancellor of Planning and Budget, Peggy Delaney.  The student delegates were accompanied by three faculty members who sat in as witnesses. Negotiators entered the process assuming good faith on the part of the administration.   The demands they presented were a pared down version of the original 35 that were drafted in the hours following the initial insurrection of Kerr Hall.  They represented those that they believed were within the scope of UCSC administrative jurisdiction.

The focus of negotiations revolved around these seven points:

1.  Amnesty for all individuals involved in current and past student protest around budget cuts and fee increases, including Brian Glasscock & Olivia Egan-Rudolph

2. Keep all resource centers open under the management of individual directors (Women’s Resource Center, Ethnic Resource Center, CANTU, etc.)

3. Make UCSC a safe campus by protecting all undocumented (AB540) students and workers through non-cooperation with ICE.

4. Repeal the 15% cut in labor time for UCSC custodians

5. Prohibit rent in Family Student Housing from exceeding that of operating costs in order to keep it affordable.

6.  Freeze layoffs to all campus employees.

7. Guarantee funding through employment or free remissions for both graduate students who have lost TA-ships and undergraduate students who have lost work-study positions

After approximately four hours of negotiations, the student liaisons returned to the group to inform them that the representative admin had conceded on the following demands:

-That students participating in the occupation of Kerr Hall would not face judicial charges that separated them from their student status.  In other words, protestors would not be suspended or expelled for their participation in the occupation.

-Fee remissions for graduate students who have lost TA-ships due to budget cuts and a promise to create new job positions so that all who are eligible for work-study are able to work.

The group’s consensus was that the administration’s concessions were not enough to get those inside to voluntarily leave the building.  Rather than outright reject the offer, the occupiers decided to send the student liaisons back to negotiations.  Upon their return to what they hoped would be a continued dialogue, the student liaisons were informed that Executive Vice Chancellor (EVC) Dave Kliger and Chancellor Blumenthal had flat-out barred the agreement.  Apparently, the EVC and Chancellor decided after the fact that they would not negotiate with terrorists nor would they legitimate occupation as a viable tactic for winning university concessions.  Had the occupiers known that negotiations were a sham from the very start, they would have never entered into the process. The student liaisons and supporting faculty were led to believe that the representative administrators were authorized to broker a deal with the occupiers.  They were not made aware of the veto process that would ensue.  It’s clear that negotiations were conducted in bad faith  on the part of the administration. What can be said of the negotiation process is that bargaining with a corrupt administration is effectively useless.  Negotiation, as a means to win demands, diverts momentum and misplaces power.

The EVC and Chancellor’s blanket refusal to concede on any one point ultimately led to the breakdown of negotiations.  As such, the remaining individuals voted to end negotiations.  In response to repeated threats of police violence, occupiers decided to barricade the doors.  The barricades were symbolic of their devout resolve to hold that space until their demands were met.  They were not willing to compromise or concede to the requests of an incompetent, self-serving and classist administration.  Their exit was thus contingent upon the university’s decision to forcibly remove them from the building.  Their insistence on staying forced the administration to sanction the use of violence against them.

Police did in fact use batons to push the crowd, which included faculty and staff observers, off of the Kerr Hall platform.  In the process of doing so, one UCSC professor was pushed over the balcony and fell onto the stairwell below.

The administration’s decision to use violence or threat of violence against those inside speaks to the blanket hypocrisy of UC administrators.  While the administration claims to make the health and safety of students their top priority, they are willing to use dogs, teargas and other weapons of the state against students when it serves their interest.  It seems that business-as-usual trumps the welfare of students and faculty time and time again.  Indeed, for UC administrators the protection of property takes precedence over the livelihoods of students, faculty and workers.

About an hour before the riot police assembled in front of the building, faculty supporters outside suggested that the journalists record any visible damage.  It should be noted that at this time both entrances to campus were blocked and internet service was disconnected.  In fact, the internet had been cut off several days prior.  In an attempt to intentionally prevent media personnel and legal observers from entering the UCSC campus, the administration stopped all incoming traffic.  Fearing the fallout of negative press associated with police brutality against students, UC administrators essentially created a police state through a media blackout. Had physical violence erupted, there would have been no one to witness it.  Police had free range to do as they pleased and the administration actively allowed it.

In the minutes before the riot police clubbed there way through outside supporters which included friends, faculty, and staff, students inside the occupation received a phone call from Felicia McGinty informing them that “the barricades must be taken down or police violence would ensue.  When relayed to the larger group so that a collective decision could be made on whether or not to take down the barricades and allow police entry, no one budged and barricades remained intact. The students inside were fully resolved, knowing that what they were there to do was morally and politically justified.

In the final moments, after countless threats of arrest and after countless refusals to leave on the part of student occupiers, police told those inside that they were free to leave within a 12-minute window effective immediately and that no arrests would result.  At that time, it was clear to those inside that a sacrificial arrest was pointless. So those inside left unscathed.  This is in many ways testament to the fact that this occupation had widespread support from the UC community and greater Santa Cruz community.  Indeed, power resides in numbers.  While no arrests were made, the administration claims to be pursuing both criminal and academic sanctions against protestors.

In response to the university’s assessment of damages and the media’s subsequent portrayal, we say this: yes, unnecessary trash was left behind.  This could have been avoided if students had been allowed access to the cleaning supplies they had requested.  To the university’s erroneous allegations that there were permanent” damages”, we call your bluff. Take a look again at the university’s pictures of “damages” incurred during the occupation.  In all but one picture, which shows a broken table, is there any depiction of real “damage”.  Rather, what is seen is simply trash.

We could assess the strengths and weaknesses of every particular decision that was made during the week of Nov. 15th-21st but there would remain some unanswered, overarching questions. What can be said of a society that uses batons, tasers, mace, bean bag guns, and rubber bullets on its young and most educated in order to protect the greed of a small few? What can be said of a society that in times of economic hardship, those who are wealthiest do everything in their power to shift the burden onto the backs of those who are least able to afford it?

They say it is the state that is to blame. They tell us to bring our fight to Sacramento to demand a bail-out for public education.  To that we say, THAT’S YOUR FUCKING JOB! In fact, we don’t want a bail-out as it does nothing to fundamentally change the unjust structure of the UC system at large. The university will remain an institution that perpetuates race, class and gender divisions until the stakeholders (students, faculty and workers) gain democratic control. So what is to be done?  Stakeholders must seize what is theirs for the taking, that is, their futures and the future of public education.

The battle for an affordable, accessible if not free education is symptomatic of a larger movement, one that resists the neoliberal agenda of privatization, corporatization, and capitalism.  Whether through continued occupations, campus shutdowns, or general strikes, we must reclaim our futures.

welcome.

November 30, 2009

check out some flyers on the propaganda page.

some of our comrades:

http://occupyCA.wordpress.com

http://ouruniversity.wordpress.com

http://occupyuci.wordpress.com


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