Occupations Spread Across California

Occupations Spread Across California

Behind Every Fee Increase is a Line of Cops

Fully armed, a line of 10 swat team police marched up to the picket line. Half-stunned by their presence, the crowd of supporters hesitatingly jeered the cops. In unison and on command the pigs charged forward and shoved the picketers to the ground. Throughout the day there were various refusals to accept these attacks; they ranged from hurling verbal abuse at the cops with chants like “Fuck the Police,” to acts ofPolice Attack, Students Fight Back physical resistance such as refusing to sit down at the urging of cops and fellow protesters, to minor incidents of exchanging blows with the pigs.

Some of these bold acts of resistance were deplorable to those protestors whose go-to chants were “Peaceful protest! Peaceful protest!” as the pigs violently attacked students.  One chant was even directed to the cops themselves: “We are fighting for your kids! We are fighting for your kids!” This brings into sharp relief the widespread confusion about the role of the state in the anti-budget cut movement.

Let’s be clear that the state, with its armed police and military forces, carries out its brute force when peoples’ consciousness begins to transcend capitalism’s ideological chokehold. What has been clearly demonstrated this past week is that resistance to the budget cuts is a class struggle that immediately brings us into confrontation with the force of the state.

The image of a protester violently resisting police brutality has certain activists blaming the victims of the brutality, pleading with militant protesters: “Why are you antagonizing them?  You’re only making it worse!”  It is an image that represents a political fact that we have been too slow to acknowledge – that education sector budget cuts are a particular point of a struggle involving the whole working class; a struggle against a crisis that presents itself to us as an increase in the overall disciplining of the working class; discipline which seeks to keep workers in line generating profits – especially when we refuse to go on as normal as everything around us falls apart. The escalation in the capitalist state’s corrective violence manifested on the UCB picket line is behind other seemingly disconnected government actions: the murder of Oscar Grant, ICE raids, and the wars in the Middle East. Behind every policy is an army of police.

The occupation of Wheeler Hall at UCB last Friday was a testament to the value of confrontational tactics. The common fear that a bold, confrontational action will look ridiculous and isolate the movement is proven to be out of date.  Thousands of students played a spontaneously active role fighting the fee hikes and budget cuts. This action was incredibly democratic, inspiring, and educational because it materially mobilized the power of the people present at general assemblies held the day before. The occupation and the struggle to support it acted as a teachable moment by highlighting the farce that is the capitalist, liberal-democratic state.

The liberal-democratic state is a tool of the capitalist class, a means of bourgeois rule that by definition we, the working class, are shut out of. The question is: how do we resist government policies from our position completely outside the official, “democratic” framework of the state? In the campus movement, the two primary answers to this question have been popular organizing (general assemblies) and militant resistance (occupations). What happened last week at university campuses across California was a step toward a synthesis of these two approaches. UCB’s occupation was approved at a general assembly. This is a good development, but as this synthesis is reached a new contradiction presents itself: what is the role of the education sector (especially university students) in generalizing this wave of campus resistance towards including the rest of the working class? What active steps can students take to introduce the practice of militant struggle independent of ruling class structures?

Student Uprisings

For three days throughout California universities engaged in militant struggle. UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, UCLA, SF State, and Fresno State all had mass protests, strikes, and building occupations. On Wednesday November 18, over 100 SF State students protested and then occupied their administration’s building for hours.

On the same day UC Berkeley students rallied with close to a thousand students, and marched downtown attempting to draw out Berkeley High students and Berkeley City College students; they had little success, largely due to a lack of preparatory organizing. The march returned to UC Berkeley and hundreds of students surrounded the administration building.

Hours later students occupied the architecture and engineering building, with a supportive crowd defending the occupation. The occupiers agreed to show their IDs to police and were released without arrest.

The next day, UCLA erupted in struggle as the UC regents voted to approve a 32% tuition increase. Protests took place throughout the day, including multiple confrontations with police and arrests. As the UC regents tried to leave the meeting, their vehicle was surrounded and stopped by angry student protesters.

The regents had to be escorted out of the campus in ambulances. Campbell hall was also occupied and renamed the Carter-Huggins building after two slain LA Black Panthers.

Friday, the day after, on November 20, UC Berkeley erupted in mass struggle. Over 40 individuals occupied Wheeler Hall the night before demanding among other things the rehire of the 32 laid-off UC Berkeley workers and political amnesty for the occupiers. Up to 1,500 students, workers and community folk surrounded the building’s six major entrances to make sure the police, who controlled the space immediately in front of and around Wheeler Hall, could not arrest the occupiers and send them to jail. The students held down militant picket-lines, blocking the police each time they tried to break the line.

This demonstrates that a militant occupation can only be successful with a powerful critical mass supporting it from the outside; otherwise its isolation will lead to failure and repression. The opposite can also be said: having a quantitatively large protest doesn’t automatically correlate to challenging the property relations of the system.

The crowd didn’t dissipate in the rain or leave despite long hours of duration.  Later that evening, the occupiers were finally released with misdemeanor citations. The original demands were not met, but hundreds of students and community folk experienced and coordinated a day of struggle against the police and the UC administration. When the occupiers left the building they told the mass crowd that they were the real heroes because without them nothing would have happened.  This embryonic awareness that confrontational action only works as part of a mass struggle is the beginning of a deep change in political consciousness of the anti-budget cut movement.

These protests represent a political eruption in a time when militant struggle is bubbling up to the surface.  It’s becoming progressively clearer that proposing such militancy is not premature, as some Trotskyist groups argued prior to the UCB occupation, but also prove that it isn’t wise to push heroic yet isolated occupation attempts as some anarchists do.  We have witnessed the first convergence of occupation with mass protest and observed the fiery radical effect the synthesis has had on its participants.  The only way to challenge society’s problems is to first understand that the rich and powerful will stop at nothing. Capital brings only impoverishment for our class while their class accumulates incredible amounts of wealth. Our struggle has to win by beating back and altering the relationship of class forces, which will not be easy. But this recent wave of occupations and militant protests throughout California represent a new cycle of struggle that gives hope and insight to such a possibility in the near future. The question now is will the public sector working class, school workers, janitors, K-12 teachers, bus drivers, BART workers, and city employees join this struggle? If radical isolated students throughout the UCs continue to fight, without public sector workers taking these struggles into their own hands, the student struggle will reach a limit and eventually decline in energy and momentum.

Spread the Rebellion

The wave of occupations that spread on November 18th-20th and the massive student support of them shows a quantitative growth in the struggle by sheer numbers of participants, but more importantly it demonstrates a qualitative growth in the anti-budget cut struggle due to the deepening of student militancy.  So far, however, this militant consciousness has failed to transcend the education sector. Why haven’t the Republic Windows and Doors occupation and the 2006 May 1st general strike for immigrant rights become a generalized trend across the working-class as a whole? The US working-class has gone so long without mass struggle that they lack the fruits that struggle produces: theory, organization, and confidence.

Students can play a catalytic role by approaching the working-class with traditional forms of political propaganda (direct agitation) and the propaganda of the deed, as recently demonstrated at UCB. Students who become radicalized should study the history of working-class struggle but don’t need to be experts before they can start talking to workers about the need for struggle on a larger scale. This should be an easy thing to do because most public higher education students come from working class backgrounds, go to community colleges and CSU’s and have jobs. Their agitation can start at the spaces they already find themselves in such as their own work places and school campuses, but should extend into other work places and communities.

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 in general and a strike on March 4thin particular. Unions will pass watered down resolutions for March 4th, which is a positive development, but rank-and-file militants are the key link in motivating the majority of their coworkers to take political responsibility for the strike building process to reach its radical, creative potential.  Unions cannot do this for the workers. It is commonly perceived by most left groups that the problem with unions lies with a flawed union leadership, ignoring how the political structure of unions have been vertically integrated into the state apparatus since the 1947 passing of the Taft-Hartley act. The development of these committees will be interlinked with the development of such rank-file militant workers who can 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 budget cuts facing public education are the same crisis that faces ghettos and barrios even in the best of times. Young people who California’s public higher education system rejects 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.

19 responses to “Occupations Spread Across California

  1. Great article! I’m glad I’ve found a good synthesis of what happened last week! I noticed some contradiction on friday and the past few days and this entry makes it more clear. Thanks for the theory and analysis! Ya’ll are helpful in my understanding on what’s going on!

  2. Geo’s piece, it has good backround information

  3. This is how the right-wingers are trying to turn the working class against this stuggle:

    “First and foremost, the protests are about privileged kids demanding subsidies from working people. The UC system will continue to be heavily subsidized by taxpayers, and the students who attend are among the most naturally gifted, with the highest future earning potential, in the country. This is especially true at the system’s flagship schools of Berkeley and UCLA, where the protests have been most intense. Narcissism and self-absorption are the norm on college campuses, but it really is pushing the limits to throw such a tantrum at the idea that you will be getting a smaller amount of free money taken out of the paychecks of strapped taxpayers, most of whom could never dream of the advantages and opportunities you enjoy.”


  4. Here’s a student/people of color group at UCB that is trying to mobilize students and people of color around the budget cut crisis. It’s still in its formative stages but if ya’ll have any input I would let them know what’s up!

    This group is designed to organize students and members of the community concerned about the issues of Students of Color at UC Berkeley, throughout the Bay Area and California. OUR GOAL is too unite students under one name, one coalition and to forward the movement to confront our struggles.









    America has gone through a process of THIRD WORLDILIZATION. We are Colonized Nations within a nation and we will continue to FIGHT from what our predecessors did in 1969.

    Richard Aoki, Manuel Delgado, Ysidro Macias, Charlie Brown, Jim Nabors, Dr. LaNada War Jack and many more not mentioned, did not intend to see students as docile and defeated as they are today.

    WE THE STUDENTS of the twLf will refuse to go to school and will stop students, staff and faculty from entering into a campus where the Berkeley Bureaucracy has systematically abused students of color and continue forcing us out in the streets and leaving us underrepresented at the University of California.



  5. Great analysis. It would be nice to see some links and a rundown of other working class sectors of resistance. I can throw a few out.

    SEIU Workers & Allies Continue to fight for jobs and services in SF, March & Direct Action

    “The women who hold the public health system together get canned, while the wealthy enjoy low taxes”

    Direct Action to Stop the Cuts Summer 2009
    Thomas, Luke June 28, 2009.

    LGBT Activists Protest Newsom’s Budget, Stage Die In

    ‘Die-in’ staged at City Hall due to crisis

    In addition to anti-eviction occupations in Oakland we have seen San Francisco City Hall occupied several times in the last year over budget cuts as well, and more to come. And last monday SF State and UC Berkeley students recently joined SEIU 1021 (yeah i know 😉 in a direct action blockade of a downtown intersection to protest the slashing of public sector jobs and budget cuts to vital services. We can expect to see these services gutted again this winter–and i wouldn’t rule out riots as a response.

    While we are doing great work building a movement to defend public education as a right for the working class and expanding the push for liberating curriculum, we need to connect the student/education worker movement against budget cuts with the broader budget justice battles against capitalist structural adjustment in public sector union movements and fights to save and expand neighborhood services in poor and oppressed communities.

    Doing this will be instrumental in assuring the militancy demonstrated by students does not end at the gates of campus, and ensure that the movement does not get privilege-baited and played in the larger scheme since we have traditionally seen education pitted against the rest of the public sector and welfare.

    The community fights are lacking the visibility, militancy, and radical vibrancy they need to be successful (strengths the student movements have) but represent the most glaring examples of injustice, oppression and human rights abuses.
    The student protests are inspiring, radical, militant, and on a successful trajectory but lack the moral leverage and broader social support and urgency the public sector movements against budget cuts have (healthcare, welfare, social services, everything that legitimizes the ruling class politicians as somehow serving the interests of society).
    In both cases we have unions which have the strategic leverage to bring the entire system to a halt, but in many cases their leadership has no spine and they have no attachment to the community struggles to the extent that they fall outside the immediate interests of the union bosses. Locally, the UC’s and UNITE local 2 are the only examples i can think of.

    In Vienna, for example, the students have opened their occupied university to homeless families. I see heeeeeeeella shit we can occupy right here in SF. We are already cross-pollinating as activists, in the modern day spirit of the Black Panthers, Brown Berets, the I- Hotel, and the student organizers of the Third World Liberation Strike at SF State, but we have yet to hit that phase again as movements (though we sure are talking about it).

    As we approach March 4th, and on the way to the revolution in general, let’s mix it up! Winter break would be a perfect opportunity to try it out en-masse! See you there!

  6. the movement is growing fast and the recent events around the state -especially at UCLA and UCB – are extremely positive. there are several themes that i hope to infuse into discussions about the anti budget cut movement, that i think would enrich our analysis and help chart a clearer strategy.

    need to make struggle more overtly political
    need for general strike to fight the general crisis
    need to raise the dual demand “no war, no cuts”
    unity needs to be built intentionally to bridge on/off campus divide
    direct actions need to be bridged with 3/4 strike in an integrated strategy

    below is an unorganized expansion upon these themes.

    occupations are good, but what we need is a strike. we need a strike in all sectors, including the 85%+ of workers that are not in unions. that means general strike. general strikes cant be planned and called, but that doesnt mean we shouldn’t think about how to prepare ourselves and the working class in general for such a thing.

    strikes dont require unions. in fact unions are most of the time trying to hold workers back from striking. we all know unions make wages and conditions better, but like this piece says, unions are tied to the state. they cant be the basis of our strategy, especially if our vision for the movement goes beyond just stopping the cuts. im a communist and i know a lot of people involved in this shit are too. people are taking it slow to bring the communist analysis and heat, but that needs to start changing in the next few months. otherwise, we are indistinguishable from militant liberals who use radical looking tactics but can easily decieve people toward a dead-end that produces no real structural change. certainly not socialism.

    if you are a communist/marxist/socialist involved in this movement, dont think that liberals will do your job for you. politicize as you build.

    we must remember that workers and recipients of government services dont HAVE to exclusively concern themselves with immediate economic self-interest – we can strike for POLITICAL reasons too. there is no real dichotomy between political and economic struggle, ESPECIALLY when the employer is the STATE. i appreciated the way this piece opens with a focus on the state, so that we dont get stuck in economistic/opportunistic thinking.

    its not like eduard bernstein said (“the movement is everything, the final goal nothing”). the final goal is the most important dimension. what are people seeing as the final goal of this movement? im concerned about this.

    the final goal should be socialism. there has been little to no utterance of the word “socialism” and thus the only SOLUTION to the crisis has been completely avoided!!! so how do we push this thing in a more revolutionary direction, one that can produce a new type of society? we have to bridge action with reflection, theory with practice. the occupation movement seems to be tall on dedication, short on theory. good on tactics, bad on strategy. all short-term, no long term. thats alright, but we should try to grow.

    the power and success of the occupation was almost completely symbolic. symbols of victory and feelings of confidence matter. but do people ask what to do with that energy? will folks let it dissipate?


    i hope we are able to use the energy like a trampolene to inspire the working class other than the campus community. intentionally outreach to surrounding workplaces. put flyers on people’s doors advertising the new militancy. every occupation should have this working class outreach as part of the PLAN. dont be satisfied with simply making a headline or impressing other students with your courage.. got to start bridging campus militancy with the off campus world. cant rely on the media alone.

    and analysis has to be part of this outreach to the community and working class. not just news reporting. educate folks about how this crisis can actually be solved (hint: full attack on all pillars of capitalist rule leading to socialist revolution). so far the solutions im hearing are very liberal. even the ones coming from so-called marxists. im hearing 1. reverse california’s 2/3 majority rule for tax increases, and 2. raise taxes on corporations. fine, but obama in his senator days would have said this shit. are these “transitional demands”? no.

    this brings us back to the fused economic-political dimension of this movement, inherently being a working class fight against the state despite its apparent purely economic demands… without rambling too much, i just want to say that the WARS in af-pak and iraq have to be put front and center in this shit. war is one of the fundamental pillars of capitalist system.

    when will these occupiers start putting “an end to imperialist war” as a demand? if there is a strike March 4th will the wars be part of the analysis? how do they think this budget crisis will ever get solved without ending the trillions dollar wars? the neoliberalism people talk about is IMPERIALIST neoliberalism. . . coming home to roost! stop the imperialism, stop the capitalism. stop the wars stop the cuts. the left should not be scared of raising analysis. it used to sound weird to people when imperialism was just a word of pity for victims of our bombs. but now there’s an objective basis for people to solidarize and link the issues.

    anyway im inspired by all thats been going on and trying to do my part.

  7. One thing that is more amazing than the expansion of the strategy of occupation from school to school is the remarkable similarity in the rhetoric of our opposition across terrains. And I don’t mean Capital or university administrations, I’m talking about our most fervent opponents within our own ranks: particularly among the “build the movement first” leftists.

    Rather than enter the discourse over the effectiveness of the “demand and march” model of campus activism or movement building as preceding any action, these opportunists and proceduralists have resorted to calling students who take the initiative to liberate buildings and spaces “adventurists.” This same term has been repeated to such a degree between New School and UC-Santa Cruz that it appears that our detractors maintain networks parallel to our own.

    [Somewhat ironically, these factions of the “left” have repeatedly sought to co-opt student initiative, breaking and entering into spaces and situations of adventure merely to augment their dwindling memberships while marginalizing our rage. But in so doing, they are presenting a dead end avenue for venting. In fact, these self-proclaimed “revolutionary” organizations are nothing but the parasitic pygopagus conjoined twin of Capital and the State and will die upon the liquidation of both–attaching themselves to any sites of revolutionary adventure like leeches and sucking them dry. In this regard, they are no different than our student governments.]

    But while they use the term pejoratively, we actually see it as a compliment. Perhaps the fact that they see adventure so distastefully sheds some light on the impotence of the contemporary Left, that they are so willing to self-castrate the only appendage that has historically been effective in staving off Capital.

    But adventure is what is ultimately appealing to the disaffected masses, and what is necessary. The ability to find some excitement, to find a rupture in the daily anesthetized routine of life, is at the root of sports riots, affairs, shoplifting, and amusement parks. Television even fulfills this need when there is a lack of access to rupture or genuine adventure.

    This also explains why no one comes to our meetings and rallies. We are tired of work and school, why would we choose to emulate those prisons elsewhere? Why must our “organizing” projects such model replicas of the greater mundanity of alienated life?

    Adventure is self-defense, self-learning, mutual experience. We find ourselves and each other in adventure, in life-altering occurrences which tear apart the fabric of the status quo and give us a blank canvas upon which to paint our future.

    We can never liberate others for them. We can never impart all of our correct consciousness upon workers, nor can we with words alone convert students to our particular brand of Marxism or Anarchism. What we can do is generalize conflict, and create situations of adventure. Remember how we ourselves came into our own individual politics: most likely through a series of life-changing experiences, through situations of adventure. With this in mind, if we are truly interested in “building the movement,” we have to understand that we can only draw our peers into the politics of liberation through the spaces of liberation and the politics of adventure as well. “Movement” implies a continuation of action; any real movement must move to grow.

    Whether we are already cognizant of its existence or not, there is a global subterranean civil war. We are all unwitting participants; our choice is not whether to fight or even who to fight, but how and where to fight. It is up to us to open new fronts, discover new weapons. Others will join the struggle as they pass through these fronts. This war cannot be won with words, guns, or members. Victory in this war depends on the generalization and expansion of adventurism, via the tactics of temporary occupation, expropriation, sabotage, and guerrilla action. If we refuse to fight, we die. If we become content with our victories and refuse to expand and generalize, we die. Only in a constant state of adventure can we experience individual and collective liberation, which inevitably recedes the moment we capitulate to authority or return to the dull, lifeless drawl of the endless meeting.

    Rather than condemn adventurism, we must come to recognize the necessity of creating spaces and situations of adventurism and developing a politics of adventurism. Until then, those of us already engaged in clandestine and adventuristic action will continue to do so, as we watch the rest of the “movement” atrophy.

    • hammer and sickness

      adventurism is a term similar to reformism. adventures and reforms are good, fetishized and turned into theories that limit action to narrow parameters, they become bad.

      your celebration of adventurism is energizing to read. adventure is energizing to experience. but i wonder what is the rubric by which you measure adventure’s success? to me its the energy it creates, and the residue of consciousness it leaves. what lessons did the participants and observers learn from the adventure?

      we have to admit that adventure does not always create or magnify energy. it also does not always take the energy it creates into the most constructive channels. riots for example are generally negative adventures that rarely lead to higher forms of struggle.

      adventure is educational, but its not a school in itself. celebrate adventure and create adventure, but dont shun theory. theory has to be anchored in action, true, but action has to be guided by theoretical understanding of history too.

      look at argentina during its economic crisis: occupations abounded, and this was occupations of factories, more immediately relevant to economic life than schools. what happened? the state was never challenged beyond skirmishes with cops . occupations like the one at UCB are 110% positive because they create energy and a platform. what is the platform used for? what are occupiers promoting? are they even thinking ahead at all? we have to think ahead about what comes after the occupation. where does occupation lead?

      can occupation lead to strike? can strike lead to revolution? are occupation and strike dialectically and mutually reinforcing? yes to all the above. but none of this will happen without the theoretical understanding of a complex class society in which enemy and foe is not always clear (how do adventures address contradictions of race, citizenship, etc???). theory, strike, protest, occupation, all have to be integrated into a single overarching strategy to prevent… atrophy.

  8. If we are going to make the jump from the university to the broader working class one of the things that needs to be addressed is the class divide, and the political divide, within the university itself. People chanting “whose university? our university!” need to be reminded that “our” universities currently contain weapons laboratories, economics departments dominated by free-marketeers and World Bankers, business schools that invent and hawk “financial instruments” and subsidized speculation, law schools where torture is defended, etc., etc. The “right-wing” notion that the University is filled with privileged kids who want free get-rich-quick seminars also reflects a more general popular view of academia. If we don’t specify exactly what kind of “education” we want and what we intend to do with it (e.g. re-create the world in a radical way) the struggle remains nonpolitical.

    You’re right, the struggle against the gradualism of Trotskyists, unions and others in the liberal establishment is key. Those who try to tell us that “this is just the beginning” should be rebuked by history: this is not the beginning, even of the movement to defend public education. There are moments when it is GOOD to press an advantage and resist the temptation to pat ourselves on the back and go home to watch the news. Doing this is in no way opposed to movement-building, as you suggest.

    November 20 at UCB felt good! I look forward to sharing more moments of victory with you comrades.

  9. The conference on October 24 discussed everything but methods of struggle. The compromise proposal was created behind closed doors and juxtaposed to a bunch of singular proposals. Without being able to discuss strategy, what is the “movement” discussing at such meetings and conferences? There needs to be an open discussion amongst the activist about how the UCB occupation on Nov 19-20 catalyized the movement, which is what Occupy UCI was arguing above, but so did that legal mass protest on Sept 24. Now each side (trotskyist vs Occupiers) has picked their history to prove their politics. Historically the most militant strikes have led to occupations but occupations have not led to militant strikes. In order for this movement to expand into the working class, neither gradualism nor an occupation-centric perspective will do. In order for working class folks to fight, they have to feel like winning is possible and state sponsored reprecussion could also be challenged. There needs to be systematic outreach (which includes meetings) but fused with politics of the im-possible (thinking beyond legalistic protest). If such real discussion took place, I think some of the rank-file trotskyeist would leave their leaders, and the occupiers would have to reflect on the class nature of their politics. But at those minor expenses, the movement would move FWD in militancy, struggle, cohesion and so on.

  10. Pingback: Occupations Spread Across California: An Analysis « Kasama

  11. Students in India hail international student protests

    Massive militant protests by students of Germany, Austria, USA and Canada against fee hike and privatization of education!!

    The students across Germany, Austria, parts of USA, Poland and Canada have launched massive movements against fee hikes, withdrawal of funds from education and gradual privatization of education. Implementing the neo-liberal policies, these countries have gradually withdrawn funds from education, especially higher education. Following the economic crisis the governments have been more stringent in spending money in education, which has led into massive fee hike, especially in the past couple of years. The examination systems have also been made stricter, making it impossible for most students who also work to pay for their education, to clear them. These movements of the university students in different cities and countries which have now spread across continents have been supported widely by the workers and trade unions too.

    Since late October this year, massive students movements erupted across many countries against fee hike and for a more equitable and democratic education. On Thursday October 22, students at Vienna University occupied their main lecture hall, Auditorium Maximus. 6 days later, the occupations have spread to other Austrian universities and cities like Graz, Klagenfurt, Innsbruck, Salzburg, Linz and many other cities in Autria and Germany. On October 28, 50.000 students in Vienna and 400 in Salzburg took to the streets to march against a lack of resources, space and finance and for free education. Their main demands are, for an increase in funding to the universities instead of giving money to the banks, no to tuition fees, the bologna process (European directive furthering moves towards marketisation of education) and “knock out” the exams. One of the main slogans on the demonstrations was “Money for education – not for the banks and big business!” The students are occupying the universities and the lecture hall and running communes and people’s kitchen. Plenaries, meetings, alternative lectures and classes are going on inside these occupied halls since the past one month.

    Almost 250,000 students took to the streets of over 40 German cities since first week of November, protesting against a number of ongoing reforms of third-level education in the Federal Republic. Students protested primarily against the introduction tuition fees as well as the introduction of a combination Bachelor-Masters study programme, and difficult and limited access to graduate programmes. The biggest demonstrations of the students was in Berlin (nearly 30,000 participants), Stuttgart (15,000) and Hamburg (13,000). Smaller manifestations took place in over 100 cities and towns all over the country. Here too students have started to occupy universities and lecture halls making the institutions dysfunctional till there demands are met. There have been crackdown on many of the protests and yet they have not died down. In some places the governments were forced to come up with some negotiations and paltry reforms which the protesters have rejected.

    The movement has spread to the USA too: In University of California Berkeley, University of California Los Angeles, San Francisco State University, University of California Davis, CSU Fresno and UCSC–students took over buildings to reclaim space and send the message that they won’t tolerate an exorbitant fee increase, fund-cuts, layoffs, and an increasing reliance on private funding and free-market logic in place of public financing and support. The police acting on the orders of the authority have cracked down on the students in several campuses of California. The police charged them with batons and even rubber bullets. Riot cops and the notorious SWAT team of police were also brought in to disperse the students. The movements however continue with escalated protests and demonstrations. The students here too are taking over administrative buildings and lecture halls to continue their struggles. In Los Angeles for example, the students have taken over, Campbell Hall, renaming it “Carter-Huggins Hall” in honor of two leaders of the Black Panther Party, Bunchy Carter and John Huggins, murdered there in 1969. Similar actions are taking place in other campuses too.

    Education has been one of the worst hit sectors worldwide after the recession. In India too, education has been massively affected. That is precisely why these movements of the students in different countries are being ruthlessly censored by the international media. It is only through the internet and other informal/alternative means of communication that these movements are connecting with each other. DSU extends its solidarity with these students movements of the students which are being fought for the most just demands for equitable and democratic education. It is only by such militant and uncompromising struggles we can fight the imperialist powers and win our basic right of education.

    Democratic Students’ Union


  12. I think your comments bring on some of the concerns I have this occupation movement as a game that’s going on: http://occupyca.wordpress.com/ . The adventurism going on with this ignores the rank-and-file worker mobilizing that Troskyists have been mainly working on (i.e. strikes, worker’s townhalls, worker meetings). Your outsider perspectives are great and all but you’ve only seen part of the happenings so I find them lacking in information. There is no critique of the failure of the picket lines and of the recent UC strikes in general. Organizing for the March 4 Strike should be injected in all of these occupations and events and the adventurists have shown no interest for it beyond another time to have an adventure. I think the lack of success of occupations as a tactic has been the lack of a race, class and anti-colonial political grounding in these occupations. Most of the planners have been elite white students who have been seeing themselves as the vanguard of this movement and ignore the mobilizing of people of color and the working-class. Ya’ll may be organizing outside Berkeley, which is great, but interviewing folks and doing investigation after the events only gets you part of the picture. Doing on the on-hand organizing and adventurism may be a better way to get the perspective and the real struggle going on. I consider myself sympathetic to the rank-and-file worker Troskyist cause but also am more worried about the racial and working-class divide going on in this movement. There is no reaching-out to these groups in the occupation adventurists and when you see middle-class and upper-class white students preaching to people of color and the working-class, it goes to show the lack of political, historical and ideological grounding their adventurism has. I’m all for occupations as a tactic but ignoring the workers, the tactic of general strikes, and the tactic of meetings to inform the uninformed workers and students is lacking. We must realize that those who have the most to loose in this struggle (people of color and the working-class) are not participating in big numbers and what we can do to address this issue. We can’t just hope it will go away with token demands (i.e. rehire the 38 laid off custodians, save Roachdale co-op). We need to look at the end goal, which I believe should be a Socialist/Communist/Marxist Revolution. But we can’t have this with just actions, if anything we need to transform peoples’ minds. We also have to let the oppressed organize themselves and give them the power and self-determination they need.

  13. hammer and sickness

    100% agreed, juan. but what would true black and brown working class politics with regard to the budget cuts look like?

    concretely, there needs to be a statewide strike on March 4th. hopefully beyond the education sector, and even including all sectors. hopefully demanding an end to the wars in the middle east, as the primary sources of potential funding for services. hopefully lasting more than 1 day.

    every city needs a 3/4 strike committee. but committees themselves are not enough. what will these committees do? these committees need to reach out to, and include, the lowest layers of the proletariat as well as the more privileged ones. the unemployed AND the unionized workers. students AND dropouts. you get the picture: all sections of the working class.

    i hope Advance the Struggle helps to mobilize the people who need an anti-budget cut movement most.

  14. Pingback: What in the hell … :: … is actually happening in the spread of the student occupations? :: December :: 2009

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