Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
So yeah. A small book that I wrote about March Fourth, and I guess sorta the student movement in general. I was arrested on March Fourth during the I-880 "takeover" thing. During jail I realized that I pretty much hate the student movement and what it's become. Which is kinda funny seeing as I'm technically a student, although I think I'm a little sicker than those kids in the UC system and shit. Whatever. Read it (if anyone actually checks this blog).
Within the crisis that is capitalism, life for working people is falling apart. Houses are being foreclosed upon, unemployment is rising, and schools are closing. Indeed it is the last one that has been garnering the most attention lately, especially within California. We are told that if we just work hard and go to school, we can make something of our lives. The college degree becomes a key to a supposed better future.
But, even as the powerful tell us this, they are doing everything they can to make sure poor and working people are unable to get a decent education. Kindergarten through 12th grade schools are receiving less funding, which means that teachers and staff are being laid off and class sizes are going up. Larger class sizes prevent kids from receiving the proper attention from teachers in order to develop the skills they need to survive in a capitalist world. Working class teachers are under constant stress from either having to worry about being fired, or having to deal with way more students than they should. All the while, more administrators are being hired, and living large on six-digit salaries.
The future of the university is even bleaker. The number of students allowed within the UC system is going to be decreased by 40,000 next year. Every campus within the UC, CSU, and JC system is suffering from class cuts and lay-offs (state-wide it's something like 30,000 teachers, over 500 from Modesto City Schools and even more at higher levels of education). As these cuts are happening, schools are beginning to feel more and more like the social factories that they are. Classes are being cut from Arts and Humanities departments, leaving only classes that will help produce more efficient workers. They tell us that they do not want this to happen; that if only there were more money they wouldn’t have to do this. But this does not ring true. Many campuses are undergoing extremely expensive remodeling projects, and some are even having entirely new buildings built. These are not, however, for the benefit of the people that attend these schools, but are capital projects that are borrowed against to maintain credit ratings. And at the same time, administrators are still receiving their ridiculously high salaries and allowances (President Shirvani of CSU Stanislaus has a housing allowance that alone is more than teachers there make in a year, and the head of the Modesto City Schools Board has travel and clothing allowances that are more than many working people make in a month). It seems strange to create buildings that will stand empty, or that there are people that get so much free money, but such is the logic of capitalism.
The Beginning of the Fall
Starting in September of 2009, students and teachers within the UC system came together to struggle against the proposed budget cuts. General assemblies formed at UC Santa Cruz and UC Berkeley as well as other campuses, where more radical and militant elements within the movement pushed for immediate occupations. The Santa Cruz occupation lasted a week and became the center of parties, graffiti and even an attempted looting of the bookstore, but the one at Berkeley was headed off by recuperative Leftists. Because of both of these actions a precedent was set. A precedent for occupation as well as antagonism between those that wish to manage rebellion and struggle, activists, and those that wish to confront everyday problems of class society head on, with balled up fists.
Three days of strikes during November throughout all UC campuses as well as CSU campuses sought to bring the universities to a halt in order to say "we control this shit!" However, the strikes in the Bay Area were mainly led by recuperative unions and activist organizations. The same boring chants were slightly altered to fit the situation at hand, and the dull droning of the picket lines sounded more like zombies walking in a circle than the strikes back in the days of militant worker struggles during the early 1900s. In Berkeley, whenever students and community members acted in their class interests, tensions flared and the managers of social struggle reined everyone back in through cries of “We have to keep a clean image for the media” and through suppressive calls for consensus. However, despite this, and the fact that a comrade from the Modesto Anarcho Crew was the first anarchist in over a hundred years to be arrested for giving a speech, we were all extremely excited about the possibilities the future held.
Despite confrontations and tensions with Left and other activists, there were many instances of beautiful rebellion that should not be forgotten. The first day in Berkeley there was a large march that snaked through downtown before ending back at the UC. Once on campus, it went to California Hall where the main administrators are, and formed a circle around it, almost effectively sealing off the exits. After a short while, people started to get rowdy, and attempted to push their way into the building. There was a period of time where students and working people were entirely out of the control of Leftist activists and union bureaucrats. This moment was eventually recuperated as some students stood with police to block other students from getting down. What's important about this, though, is not the recuperation, but the brief moment in time where people wanted to throw down with those that have continually fucked them, despite what those who play themselves off as comrades said. The last day at Berkeley there was another occupation that took place in Wheeler Hall, which is where a lot of class and lecture rooms are. This lasted just over 12 hours, but the length is not important. This occupation created a situation that pitted over 1000 students against the police and the administration. It made it painfully obvious what side the administration was on, and who the police were working for.
A few weeks after the November strikes and the Wheeler Hall occupation, a group of students were able to get permission to keep Wheeler Hall open 24 hours a day during finals week (from Monday morning until Friday night). The space was used for studying, dance parties, and film screenings. The last day that it was to be open, there was supposed to be a live show with Boots Riley from the hip-hop group The Coup with a street party to follow. When the chancellor heard about this, he ordered the police to invade the building extremely early in the morning on Friday. They made 60 arrests. What happened next is one of the greatest instances of escalation so far: a mob of working people from the community and students made their through the streets of Berkeley to the house of the Chancellor, where they proceeded to yell at him and break windows and things on his property. The governor of California went so far as to call this an act of "terrorism," and the Chancellor said he was afraid for his life. But what about the lives of the students he had arrested? Or the people that are unable to finish school or even get into school because of the decisions made by him and the rest of the administration?
In the past, the Bay Area has been a strong hold of radical activity, and many of us believed that this day of action would expand upon the last ones. We imagined unrestrained and generalized rebellion. We imagined multiple occupations and people acting within their class interest, without the mediation of activists. Essentially: genuine proletarian struggle. However, where working class and anarchist forces were once gaining a strong foothold, single-issue, reformist Leftists and managers were taking over. There was all of this talk of “escalation of tactics” and “generalizing revolt” after the November strikes, but what actually culminated was nothing more than a media spectacle that did very little to move toward the creation of a movement on the offensive.
The march that went from UC Berkeley to downtown Oakland did not challenge anything. It did not present us with opportunities to build our collective power, or ways for us to improve our immediate material conditions. We did not strike, or occupy, or takeover. The rally afterward did little other than make a few eyelids heavy and paint those who might want to actually fight back in a bad light. One speaker actually had the nerve to “warn” the youth of Oakland to not participate in potentially “violent” actions, as the police would just come down on them extra hard. This was clearly a veiled attempt at saying “if you are a person of color you should not fight back.” However, youth of color have every right to fight back, and in some ways have more of a right to fight against the racist police that beat them in their own neighborhoods or the educational system that does not give them access to the tools to rise above their shitty conditions.
The biggest mistake made on March 4th in the Bay Area was the breakaway march that happened after the rally. The march that should have ended in front of the office of the University of California Office of the President instead went on to march onto I-880. This ended in a cluster-fuck mass arrest that put over 150 students and working class kids in jail for 24 hours. We were unable to walk away from March 4th with anything except bellies full of jail food and citation numbers.
The actions that happened, especially in the Bay Area, were a step or two backwards for those involved in the student movement. Occupation as a tactic is one that solidifies the antagonism between those in power and those without. It takes a space that was once used to destroy life and regulate the flow of commodities and turns it into a space where I’s and Me’s and You’s can come together and become We. Occupation creates a break in the time and space of capitalism that can be used to spring board into an insurrectionary situation. Where this seemed to be the main tactic in use during November throughout California, and seemed to be the logical starting point for March Fourth, it was entirely ignored in favor of mass marches and symbolic actions. Occupations alone are not the end all of revolutionary activity, and it's important not to fetishize them. But they do provide a potential space to escalate (such as the committees and councils formed in occupied spaces in during the student-worker revolts in France during 1968). By immediately moving away from more radical tactics, the Left was able to direct the struggle along the lines of "acceptable protest."
Every aspect of the march from UC Berkeley to downtown Oakland was controlled, from the placement of banners to the speed of the march. This meant that those who wished to act outside of what was deemed appropriate were alienated from the rest of the march, and were decried as provocateurs. There was an instance where we were getting ready to set off from UCB, and a group of anarchists were standing in front with banners that read “OCCUPY EVERYTHING” and “We Have Decided Not to Die,” but were told that they could not be there because they wanted certain banners in front to present “the proper message.” The rally that happened after the march was the same old shit of boring speakers talking about speaking truth to power. The air of boredom during the rally says a lot about the differences in desires between the protestors and the Left.
Closer to home, the build up from November to March 4th at CSU Stanislaus started out as a potential site for exciting social and class struggle. Very quickly we realized that there was a split in interests with those that were doing the main organizing. One side there were the students that had been "radicalized" through recent events relating to the education struggle, and on the other were union bureaucrats and Leftist student-politicians like those in Socialist Organizer. Almost immediately after the November strikes, when organizing started taking place on CSUS, it became apparent that there was going to a conflict of interests between the two groups, although I think many people worked hard to not let this happen. Unfortunately working with organizations like SO, instead of not giving them any platform, allows them to further their own interests, which in most cases are not the same as the interests of working people. An example of this was the General Assembly that took place in mid-January. Instead of the assembly being an atmosphere of open discussion that allowed students to voice ideas for resistance on campus, the people in SO heavily controlled discussion, and shot down ideas that students put out that were not in line with their Party's stance. At a previous meeting, someone had proposed the idea of having an occupation or multiple occupations on campus, but was met with strong opposition from SO. We later found out that they had received instructions from higher-ups in the Bay Area that occupations were to be opposed. In fact, SO has become infamous for opposing occupations at SF State despite the overwhelming support for them from the student body. It’s hard to say whether or not the students at CSUS would have supported an occupation or not, however due to the recuperative actions of the Left, any potential for discourse on more militant and radical tactics was squashed.
At Modesto Junior College, people from the community, including members of Modesto Anarcho, attempted to organize a General Assembly in February with the goal of looking at the effects of the budget cuts at MJC and ways to address these. Almost one thousand flyers were handed out the week before the assembly was to take place. What happened was the administration became extremely afraid. One person that was handing out flyers was even harassed and threatened with arrest by campus security. On the day of the assembly, the amount of police officers on campus had at least tripled, with multiple officers patrolling the major buildings. Someone from the school newspaper was seen taking pictures of people in the Student Lounge where the assembly was to take place, and then talking with members of the administration. The newspaper released an article that poked fun at the people that attempted to organize the General Assembly, and even said that if people had just gone through the appropriate avenues to organize this, then it would have turned out differently. However, the articles fails to address the increased amount of police on campus and the pictures being taken, which are signs of blatant intimidation, and it almost seems stupid to ask if the same thing would have happened if it was the anime club trying to organize a meeting outside of the appropriate avenues.
The Salida school district and the Modesto City Schools district are also becoming sites of tension. In Salida, the administration is in the process of closing down an entire elementary school, saying that there is not enough money to keep it running. Within the Modesto City Schools, over 500 high school teachers received pink slips. In response to the former, parents and teachers and students organized protests outside of schools and at board meetings, and in response to the latter, high school students organized amongst themselves to coordinate walk-outs on multiple campuses. They also organized a small march through downtown Modesto. While the same critiques that are aimed at the events that took place during March Fourth can be leveled at the actions taken by people in Modesto and Salida, the important thing to keep in mind is that there is almost no precedent for this sort of stuff in our area. There is no organized Left to recuperate struggles here, and these symbolic acts serve as a base with the potential to push the struggle in more radical directions that may have the ability to create our own power.
Where we are now...
It's important to take into account the role of education in society, and the reason why reforming it is not our goal. Primarily, the university acts as a factory, except the commodities produced are future workers, not objects. The class cuts and such that are happening to most schools are only streamlining the university back into its most basic function. The way this was originally intended to work was the university was fairly accessible for those wished to pursue education, sort of like an investment those in power made in hopes that people would then come out as more specialized and capable workers. Thus allowing the bourgeoisie to pursue greater economic feats and ultimately make more money as their businesses would be running more efficiently due to better trained workers. Reform cannot change the fact that schools are no more than social factories, and that education is no less alienating than working a shit job.
As anarchists, we do bring a certain critique to the table. It may seem strange that a bunch of hooligan kids would be down to support a student movement. But we do recognize the school as a site of attack and a site for attack. What I mean is that this is an instance where the attacks that are waged on us every day by those in power are not hidden or softened. Because of this, this also becomes a place to attack back. To organize ourselves and act in a way that will benefit us. This is not to say that education in today's world can play any other role than one that pumps out more workers. But the university is a place where we can attempt to make our lives within capitalism a little bit better, but this is being taken away from us. Obviously we do not see a better or more accessible university as the final goal. To do so would be to ignore the tensions that exist around us, and the war that is waged on us by those in power. The class cuts, teacher and faculty lay-offs, and fee hikes are no different than corporate down-sizing and outsourcing, mass lay-offs, taking losses out of employee checks at work, or racial profiling and deportations by the state against people of color and immigrants.
Escalation is the only place left to go. The occupations and strikes that have been happening on campuses across California and the United States need to not stop there. Unless we can break out of the "student" movement into a generalized movement, we are going to be stuck in a continuous spectacle that will burn out very quickly. At the same time it is important to get away from the mentality of "the schools for the students; workplaces for the workers." Capitalism creates pigeon-holes that we are forced into, and without destroying these, we will simply be changing one group of managers for another. The distinction between occupied university and occupied workplace must be destroyed. We also need to steer away "Days of Action" as have been the norm thus far. This "tactic" amounts to little more than spectacular muscle flexing, and makes us look and feel like we are unable or afraid to actually confront our enemies. They also create a situation that allows Leftists and recuperators to control the way things unfold, pretty much cutting any chance of escalation out of the picture. Not to mention that a day of strikes, or even 3 days of strikes, that are established with bureaucracies and the administration has no potential on its own of effectively stopping anything. The only way forward is to recognize who we are, recognize who our enemies are, and then attack.
The student movement is dead; long live the proletarian movement!
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
We should recognize something here: that unity creates power. Becoming aware of our role in this struggle is vital to keep up the momentum that gets things done. Coming together to act on our anger gives us a vehicle to realize our collective desires. What we accomplished today as an organized force was something that is not experienced by regular people in today's world: the creation of our own power. It is important to understand that by acting, and by acting with each other, even if we were present for different reasons, we can take back control of our lives.
With love and solidarity,
-Some students and workers from the Central Valley
Today we found power. We found it in ourselves, and we found it in each other. We found it in our collective self on the quad of CSU Stanislaus. We found it again in MSR, when the administration hid behind the boys in blue rather than face us. And we found it once more when we got in.
Today, around 200 students, faculty, and staff walked out of their classes around 11:00 AM and met in the quad at CSU Stanislaus. After an hour-long rally, filled with speeches of discontent and enraging stories of the downward spiral of our university. 150 of us marched across campus to the Mary Stuart Rogers building (the administration building). Met with police barricades, we continued on towards the intersection of Geer Road and Monte Vista/University Way (arguably the busiest intersection in Turlock). After rallying there for fifteen minutes, we returned to the MSR building with 60 people to sit down in President Shirvani's office on the third floor around 1:00 PM. After another half an hour of discussion and wall-shaking chants, we left of our own accord.
Today was a victory. However, we are not without regrets. Today's numbers are unprecedented. This is likely the largest show of power the people of Turlock have ever manifested. At a university where normality consists not of radicals and hippies, but of nursing students and teachers, with no history of agitation or radical politics, we interrupted it, if only briefly.
That said: today we did not fulfill our desires. Today's action was rife with infighting and attempts at liberal remediation. Several individuals in particular showed up to the initial rally with the intention of co-opting the mass of students to their own goals of "speaking truth to power" and establishing a dialog with the administration, in stark contrast to the wishes of those assembled. We fell short of our potential when we refrained from storming Shirvani's office the first go-around, in fear of two police officers. We fell short when, at Geer and Monte Vista, we refrained from taking the streets, again for fear of police intervention. And we fell short when we allowed our energy to drain out in a matter of minutes after reaching Shirvani's office. Diminished already, with no support or resources to commence an occupation, and no direction or energy to escalate, those of us who remained in MSR filed out in the spectre of what could have happened today.
But in that spectre lies the possibility for so much more. We learned several lessons today. We have the power to organize in significant numbers, even on a CSU in the middle of the Central Valley. We are not alone in our discontent; everyone on our campus, at other CSUs, at the Community Colleges, and the UCs, everyone is feeling the effects of this crisis, and everyone is angry. We have broad faculty support. Even at CSU, we find ourselves faced with the leftist squanderers and student cops that our comrades at the UCs faced. It is a disservice to ourselves, and our desires, to allow such elements to remain within our ranks unannounced. Most importantly, we learned that we have the power to create the conditions in which we could act out our desires for our campus. Until next time.
Solidarity to SF State! Solidarity to Wheeler Hall! Solidarity to all of our comrades who are resisting at their campuses and workplaces across California and the world! We want to take a minute and especially shout out to our comrades who came from MJC today; towards the liberation of not only universities, but community colleges!
a student from the valley
Extensive video coverage of the day's events: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDyi0_imGs0
Friday, November 20, 2009
Within the context of insurrection, it's not important how we look, or think, or even the things we say. The most important thing is what we do.
Having said that, I think the behavior of the Left within the last week of UC Strikes was absolutely disgusting. When I say 'student activist leader,' you say 'recuperation.' What essentially happened was the self-elected student leaders did more to police the struggle than any actual police did (minus the events that took place on Friday at UC Berkeley - I would say at that point the student leaders and the police were on par with each other). And this is, to understate the entire thing, a problem. The people with the bullhorns and megaphones that defused every situation are the douche bags that future students will be fighting against. The student politician-cops are the future Yudofs. Whose university? Not yours, assholes.
When we were in front of California Hall, and students were demanding to get inside and occupy the space, it was the left that took hold of the bullhorn and proceeded to direct everyone to sit down and "vote" on what to do next. Those that wanted to escalate conflict were accused of not showing solidarity with the rest of those present. The same woman that took over the bullhorn also stopped people from rushing Yudof's office when there was a spontaneous march then sit-in on Monday in Oakland. When we were in Berkeley City College calling for the occupation of everything, it was the left that told us to 'shut the fuck up' because we were going to 'alienate everyone from the movement.' Ironically this alienated those that are more radical from the movement. But I suppose the so-called leaders don't care too much about that, because hooligans are too hard to manage. Even more ironic than this, however, was on Friday when banners held by regular students read 'OCCUPY EVERYTHING.'
Calls for solidarity and struggle are not enough. Especially in the current social-economic situation that is plaguing the world. Simply yelling isn't going to accomplish shit. Space needs to be occupied, and the roles of education and the university within capital, and within a truly free society, need to be questioned (do we even need a particular space and time to learn? Shouldn't learning be a natural, fluid, and enjoyable process that is indistinguishable from the time we spend growing?). There needs to be a showing of solidarity between people wanting to employ different tactics in order to create a cohesive movement that is actually capable of fighting back. The struggle against those in power needs to extend beyond the university, to the workplace and to the home. To see this situation as merely a single issue is to be blind. The connections between capital and the economic crisis and the university to need to be made apparent. The role of the police needs to be seen for what it is: to protect the interests of the ruling class, at the expense of workers, students, and teachers.
The role of the left needs to be taken into account, too. Those that wish to manage are wanna-be celebrities. They feed on attention, and get off on control. Activism is management, and management is death. This is the time for students to take away control of the struggle from the rulers as well as those within the movement that want control.
Destroy all bullhorns//Attack all managers
Friday, November 6, 2009
Anway, I started reading Marx's Capital vol I. Looking forward to getting more into it. And I'm hoping it'll give me a better foundation for when I start actively reading Debord. I'm part way into the first chapter of Capital, and despite the language he uses, a lot of it is comprised of fairly simple concepts that seem like common sense to me. The thing that stuck out the most is that idea that a thing that is produced is made valuable by the amount of labor put into it, relative to the average rate of production. I found a pretty cool series of lecture videos by a professor who taught Capital for like 40 years or something like that. Here's the link:
A friend and I are starting a zine. The goal is to ultimately foster a social movement that is healthy and able to fight/defend it's self. Or at least create dialogue for those interested in how to do this. Hope it's not too bro for you hippies.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
I've come to view work as the most oppressive and mentally distressing element of class society.
Work is totally and completely unavoidable, unless you're lucky enough to have been born to rich parents. Work is the foundation of our world, and this is indicative of how horrible and fucked up things are. Our daily and weekly lives are built entirely around work, rather than around our families, or our friends. The things that keep us going, or make us happy are set to the side. How many parents truly know who their kids are? If this depressing reality sets in, you are loaded up on chemicals, and told to go back to work. Every person on antidepressants knows there is something wrong with their lives. But are we given the space to look at what's wrong? Of course not. Depression is not a disease; it is a symptom.
We will always, as long as the bourgeoisie exist, have our labor stolen from us in the name of their profit. We will always, as long as work exists, have our lives stolen from us.