Monday, November 30, 2009

More required reading from the struggle against the university in California

"How many do you suppose will follow?" said Paul.

"As many people as are bored to death or sick of things the way they are," said Lasher.

"All of 'em," said Finnerty.

"And then what?" said Paul.

-Kurt Vonnegut, Player Piano

As the ongoing struggle against the university system in California continues, it has produced a lot of very interesting analysis and actions. We've yet to see these ideas and tactics translate across the border to Arizona, but PCWC will be pleased as punch whenever they finally do. While the situation in California looks a lot more like what some have called a "failed state" -- a system in crisis and collapse -- conditions are not that much different here at home. Tuition rises steadily higher, locking some students into decades of debt payments at the same time it locks working class students out, but the leadership of the student movement, what there is of it in Arizona, has proven itself totally unfit to the challenge.

I must say that it's been many, many years since any of us in PCWC has oriented towards student struggles. Generally they have not showed the political depth or militancy that we find necessary and interesting. Too often they have reflected a wimpy liberalism or reformist leftism that offers nothing at all in terms of possibilities for the shattering the misery of every day life on the university, to say nothing of posing any real threat of breaking beyond the ivory tower to articulate any ideas or generate any actions of relevance to those of us on the outside.

Nevertheless, the ongoing capitalist crisis has the potential, as we witness now in California, of radicalizing large segments of the students and workers that surround and participate in the factory of the university. And we know from history (Greece, Mexico, France, etc) that the universities can sometimes emerge at the forefront of the class war against Capital and the state. Will the struggle bust out and broaden? The latest round of occupations, much expanded thanks to the hard work of militants involved in earlier seizures, offers hope.

But if those struggles are to expand and, as we hope they might, grow finally to topple the corpse machine that we call every day life in the US -- and the exclusivity of the university system with it -- those of us within them must recognize the multiplicitous and often duplicitous nature of the enemy that challenges us and take aim, because the potential for failure lies not just in the reaction from the state and the obvious opponents to freedom, but also in the recuperative nature of the student leftist leadership itself. They must be challenged because, within the university context, it is they that stand between us and direct confrontation with Capital if what we want is to bring the class war to school. These gatekeepers, these professional managers of social struggle, will use all manner of excuses, arguments and ruses to maintain their death grip on the movement and we must be prepared to cut that hand off quickly and mercilessly lest we suffer the sell out and manipulation that is their stock and trade.

Thankfully, because of the the general absence of a Left of any consequence in Arizona, student militants here may find themselves at a substantial advantage over their Cali counterparts. The Left here has proven itself quite impotent and, therefore, not difficult to challenge and, honestly, ignore, when need be. That being said, militants must not make the mistake of building the Left as a tool for expressing our will onto Capital. The Left is not a threat to Capital, it is a manifestation of Capital and therefore aims for its preservation. We must understand this. The aim of the militant and the revolutionary, among other things, is to broaden the debate, to expand the mode and terms of struggle, and to push for the furthest reaching attack on Capital possible. This necessarily brings us into conflict with the guardians of the torch of campus activism. We must douse that light.

More can be said about strategy and the theories we need to deploy in the streets and in the university malls if we hope to be victorious, but for now, let's consider this point. Towards that end, I have re-posted below the entire text of an article composed by some of PCWC's California comrades who are currently engaged in the dust up over there. This inspiring piece articulates exactly the difficulties that the Leftist organizer presents for revolutionaries. Until we understand the true role of this counter-revolutionary, we have little hope of success in our fight. Further, this article is unique because it comes from a class war, non-student perspective, providing a fresh way to look at the struggle. Enjoy!


The Bricks We Throw at Police Today Will Build the Liberation Schools of Tomorrow

"If you're scared today you'll be scared tomorrow as well and always and so you've got to make a start now right away we must show that in this school we aren't slaves we have to do it so we can do what they're doing in all other schools to show that we're the ones to decide because the school is ours."

The Unseen, Nanni Balestrini

Days later, voices in unison still ring in our ears. "Who's university?" At night in bed, we mumble the reply to ourselves in our dreams. "Our university!" And in the midst of building occupations and the festive and fierce skirmishes with the police, concepts like belonging and ownership take the opportunity to assume a wholly new character. Only the village idiot or, the modern equivalent, a bureaucrat in the university administration would think we were screaming about something as suffocating as property rights when last week we announced, "The School is Ours!" When the day erupted, when the escape plan from the drudgery of college life was hatched, it was clear to everyone that the university not only belonged to the students who were forcefully reasserting their claim but also to the faculty, to every professor and TA who wishes they could enliven the mandatory curriculum in their repetitive 101 class, to the service workers who can't wait for their shift to end, and to every other wage-earner on campus ensuring the daily functioning of the school.

Last week, the actualization of our communal will gave us a new clarity. The usual divisiveness of proprietorship was forcefully challenged; cascades of hidden meaning rush onto rigid notions of possession and our eyes look past surface appearances. So now when asked, "who does the university belong to?" we can't fail to recognize that the college itself was built by labor from generations past, the notebook paper is produced by workers in South America, the campus computers are the output of work in Chinese factories, the food in the student cafe is touched by innumerable hands before it reaches the plates, and all the furniture at UC Berkeley is produced by the incarcerated at San Quentin. Thus the university, its normal operation and existence, ought to be attributed to far more than it regularly is. To claim that the school is ours requires our definition of ownership to not only shatter the repressive myth that the college belongs to the State of California and the Regents but to also extend belonging past national and state borders and throughout time. It's clear, the entire university, for that matter, every university belongs to everyone, employed and unemployed, all students and all workers, to everyone of the global class that produces and reproduces the world as we now know it. The school is ours because it's everyone's and the destruction of the property relation, with all its damaging and limiting consequences, is implicit in the affirmation of this truth. It's our university...

…but, as of now, in its present configuration, who would want something so disgusting as a school?

The Poverty of Student Life is the Poverty of Capitalist Society

It's now larger than any conspiratorial plot by Thomas Huxley. In fact, he could have never envisioned the extent to which contemporary class society would transform education as such into another separated activity, detached from the totality of life and devoid of any practical worth or good, while, simultaneously, being in perfect accord with the needs of capitalist production.

Learning is now sapped of all its content, education is but another part of the assembly line in the social factory, and the university itself serves an important function within the reproduction of disjointed life in this divided society. While the collegiate apparatus infests countless minds with the logic and technical knowledge of capital, the illusion is being sold that somehow academic labor is divorced from the world of work. Our apologies, but a term paper is not the production of autonomous and creative knowledge, it is work and therefore exploitation. It is human activity animated for the sake of capital not for humanity itself. The conditioning and preparation of students for a life crushed by regimented value creation is the essential purpose of the college: to teach the young how to give and take orders. Nothing about the university is neutral; its role in society is clear. The lines are being drawn.

The Representation of the Student Body Has Become an Enemy of the Student Body

You will always be offered dialogue as if that were its own end; it will die in bureaucracy's stale air, as if trapped in a soundless room. In insurrectionary times, action is the speech that can be heard.
-Slogan written on a Digital Wall

Far before last week's events, we've located them in the enemy's camp. Student activist-leaders shamed, begged, pleaded, and finally began to shriek and scream at us when we ignored their megaphone-amplified orders. In their last ditch effort to see their commands followed, they physically assisted the police in blocking us from occupying buildings and protected the outnumbered cops from our punches and shoves. It's obvious they've chosen their side some time ago. These are the idiots who were telling people who tried to break down the door of California Hall on November 18th that they should not do so because "there was no consensus." These are the same fools who sabotaged the attempted storming of the Regents meeting at UCLA and the occupation of Covel Hall, ruining months of self-directed planning, after declaring the crowd had become too "agitated." The Cynthias, who later that day went on to disrupt the occupation of Carter-Huggins Hall. These are the same politicians, who grabbed the megaphone as students marched in to the President's office in Downtown Oakland, prepared to raise utter hell and instead directed them into a dialogue with middle-level administrators, later issuing an order that the crowd must leave "peacefully." Disgusting, yet typical. The only consensus they want is rallied around the social peace and the preservation of the existent institutions and the only alteration they want of the power structure is their ascent to the top of it. By actively collaborating with the administration and police, by orchestrating arrests, by frittering away the momentum of the angry, they validate the insults we flung at them and they revealed themselves for the "student cops," "class traitors" and "snitches" they are.

For them it's a knee-jerk reaction: challenge their power and they fall back on identity politics. If they don't get their way they cry privilege. When the actions escalate, when we begin to feel our power, the self-appointed are waiting to remind us that there may be the undocumented present – the activist super-ego. Somehow in their tiny paternalistic brains they believe they know what's best for immigrants implying that the undocumented are too stupid to understand the consequences of their actions and god granted the student leaders the wisdom to guide these lost souls. In their foolish heads, immigrants remain passive sheep, black people never confront the police and just enjoy the beatings they get, and the working class always takes orders from the boss.

In pseudo-progressive tongue they speak a state-like discourse of diversity; the groans of the student-activist zombie is the grammar of the dead revolutions of the past. Their vision of race politics ignores the triumphs and wallows in the failures of the 60's movements. The stagnant ghosts of yesterday's deadlocked struggle; they are the hated consequences of the civil rights era that produced a rainbow of tyranny with a Black president mutilating Afghanis, Asian cops brutalizing students on campus, and Latino prison guards chaining prisoners. In this same way, the opportunists act out their complicity with the structures of order. When students defy preset racial categories and unify in order to take action on their own behalf, the student cops attempt to reinforce the present day's violent separations and reestablish governance. They fail to recognize that divisions among proletarians are questioned only within the struggle itself and the festering scissions between the exploited can only be sutured with hands steadied by combat with the exploiters. Like a scalpel used to reopen stitched wounds, the student activists' brand of multi-culturalism is undoubtedly a tool of state repression.

During the scuffle with the police in front of California Hall on the inaugural day of the strike, one of the student cops asked, "What's going to happen when we get into the building?" For us, given the social context of the strike, the answer is obvious, for them, even the question is problematic because of the risk it poses to their position of dominance. In the moment of rupture, their role as managers becomes void. Self-directed action crowds out the programmatic. They forever need to stand on the edge of the reality that something could pop off, because it is in that possibility that they can control the situation and ensure that things do, in fact, move in their way towards nowhere. When things get hot, the self-elected of the student movement are waiting with their trusty fire extinguishers ready in hand because they know that when people act on their own and valorize their self-interest, their authority crumbles and everyone can see how bankrupt their strategy of social containment actually is. The student activist stutter-steps on the path of nothingness. But we hope to turn the mob against them. To seize their megaphones and declare: "Death to Bureaucracy!" Some may ask, "Why have these hooligans come to our campus?" "They've come to ruin everything!" the student leaders will say.

And for once, we agree.

We Are Not Students, We Are Dynamite!

A movement results from combinations that even its own participants cannot control. And that its enemies cannot calculate. It evolves in ways that cannot be predicted, and even those who foresee it are taken by surprise.
-Paco Ignacio Taibo

Many will ask then, why have we thrown ourselves into the 'student movement?' We are not students, at least not now and never in the UC system. It is not feasible for us to attend the UC in the first place, either because of the cost or the lack of desire to live the rest of our lives ridden with overwhelming debt.

We have not come to the university to make demands of the Board of Regents or the university administration. Nor do we wish to participate in some form of 'democracy' where the 'student movement' decides (or is told to do so by student leaders) how to negotiate with the power structure. For us, Sacramento and its budget referendums are as useless as the empty words spewing from the mouths of the union leaders and activists on campus. Nothing about the "democratizing" the school system or forcing it to become better managed or more "transparent" even mildly entices us. No, we didn't join the student movement to obtain any of these paltry demands.

Last week, we began to attack the university not just because we are proletarians scorned by and excluded from the UC, or that we hope by resisting we may reduce costs and thus join the UC system and elevate our class positions. Our choice to collaborate in the assault on California's school was driven solely by our own selfish class interest: to take its shit and use it for ourselves. Occupied buildings become spaces from which to further strike the exploiters of this world and, at the same time, disrupt and suppress the ability of the college to function.

Like any other institution structured by class society, the university is one of our targets. We made our presence in the student movement to break down the divisions between students angry over fee hikes, workers striking against lay offs, and faculty at odds with the administration over cuts and furloughs. These are not separate struggles over different issues, but sections of a class that have a clear and unified enemy. We have come for the same reason we intervene in any tension: to push for the total destruction of capitalist exploitation and for the re-composition of the proletariat towards communism.

And so, ask yourself how could one even go about reforming something as debilitating as a university? Demanding its democratization would only mean a reconfiguration of horror. To ask for transparency is nothing but a request for a front row seat to watch an atrocity exhibition. Even the seemingly reasonable appeal for reducing the cost of tuition will leave the noose of debt wrapped snuggly around our necks. There's nothing the university can give anyone, but last week's accomplishments show that there is everything for us to take. If anything, our actions, as a means in themselves, were more important than any of the crumbs the UC system or the Regents Board might wipe off the table for us. During these days, we felt the need for obliterating renewal give rise to intense enthusiasm. We felt the spirit irradiate throughout campus and press everyone "to push the university struggle [not only] to its limits," but to its ultimate conclusion: against the university itself.

…And So It Must Spread

"It is surely not difficult to see that our time is a time of birth and transition to a new period. The spirit has broken with what was hitherto the world of its existence and imagination and is about to submerge all this in the past; it is at work giving itself a new form."

-The Phenomenology of Spirit

The stench that the university emits has become unbearable and students everywhere are reacting against the institution that has perpetually rotted away their being via an arsenal of disciplinary techniques. At campuses across California the corrosion of life is brought to a quick halt when the college's daily mechanism of power is given the Luddite treatment, and suddenly, studying becomes quite meaningless. Shamefully, the administration, terrified they are losing control and supervision of the pupils they spent so much time training, turn riot police on anyone ripping off their chains. At UC Santa Cruz, UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, SF State and CSU Fresno the unlimited occupations display the universal need for free and liberated space. The recalcitrance is spreading. In Austria, students left their occupied territory at the Fine Arts Academy to march on the US embassy in solidarity with the police repression on California campuses. On the same continent, the occupations in Greece have now extended outside the universities into the high schools and even the middle schools. Everywhere, the youth are recognizing the school as a vapid dungeon stunting their growth and, at the same time, they are refusing submission to the crushing of their bodily order. All over, a new generation is seeking the passion for the real, for what is immediately practicable, here and now.

The assaults on police officers, the confrontations with the administration, the refusal of lectures, and the squatted buildings point the objective struggle in the direction of the complete and total negation of the university. That is, brick by brick smashing the academic monolith into pieces and abolishing the college as a specialized institution restricted to a specific segment of society. This will require the instillation of technique known as learning to be wholly subverted and recomposing education as a generalized and practical activity of the entire population; an undermining through which the student shall auto-destruct.

Going halfway always spells defeat, and so, the spreading of movement is our only assurance against this stagnation. Complete self-abolition necessitates that the logic of revolt spill out of the universities and flood the entire social terrain. But the weapons of normalcy are concealed everywhere and especially within the most mundane characteristics of daily life. The allegiance to the bourgeois family structure and interruptions by holiday vacations and school breaks threaten to douse the fuse before its ignition and hinder our momentum.

Let us not lose sight of the tasks before us.

We must forcefully eject the police from the campus. Find their holes and burn them out. Block their movements near occupied spaces. Build barricades; protect that which has been re-taken. We need only to look to Chile or Greece to see the immense advantage movements possess once they seize territory and declare it free of police. Blockade the entrances and gates of the campus as the students have already begun to experiment with at UC Santa Cruz.

We must also denounce and destroy the student Left (the recuperative, the parasitic, the "representative") that seeks to de-escalate the movement and integrate it back into politics. Our venom is not only directed at those who assisted the police in blocking angry students from entering California Hall at UC Berkeley or obstructed the crowds during the Regents meeting at UCLA but also of those who sought to negotiate with the police "on behalf" of the occupiers of Wheeler Hall. It is telling that the police will negotiate with them, because to the cops, they are reasonable. We are not, however, because we seek the immediate annihilation of both the pigs and the activists.

Renew the strikes and extend their reach. Occupy the student stores and loot them. Sell off the computers in the lab to raise funds. Set up social spaces for students and non-students alike to come in and use freely. Appropriate the copy machines and make news of the revolt. Takeover the cafeterias and bars and begin preparing the communal feast. Burn the debt records and the construction plans. Chisel away the statues and vandalize the pictures of the old order. In short, create not an 'alternative' that can easily make its fit within the existent, but rather a commune in which power is built to destroy capitalist society. When faced with a university building, the choices are limited; either convert it to ashes or begin the immediate materialization of the international soviet.

To all waged and unwaged workers – students or not, unemployed, precarious or criminal we call on you to join this struggle. The universities can become not only our playgrounds but also the foundations from which we can build a partisan war machine fit for the battle to retrieve our stolen lives.

And to the majority of the students, from those paying their way to those swimming in debt, all used as collateral by the Regents, who bravely occupied buildings across California and fought the police against the barricades – we say this clearly: we are with you! We stood by you as you faced down the police in the storming rain and defended the occupiers. Your actions are an inspiration to us all and we hope to meet you again on the front lines. In you we see the spirit of insurgent students everywhere.

As our Austrian friends recently told us, "Take out your hairspray and your lighter"! Tear down the education factory. Attack the Left and everything that it "represents." Attack the new bosses before they become the old ones. Life serves the risk taker – and we're rolling the fucking dice!


-Three Non-Matriculating Proletarians

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