To the Budget Cut Movement: No More Ignoring State Violence

by Rebelde

The anti-budget cut movement and struggle for public education in California over the last year has inspired worldwide resistance, and has brought in a lot of new people who have never organized or been political before. The March 4th movement provided an outlet for people to get involved and educate themselves about the budget cuts; it also created a base to build off for the next cycle of struggle. Since March 4th conferences have gone down and a new date for mass action has been picked: October 7th… but will October 7th be qualitatively different than March 4th? Will more sectors of society be brought in? Will struggle deepen and become more militant? As the economic crisis deepens and affects more and more people internationally, there is a real need for a militant perspective examining why the budget cuts are happening, who is causing them, and who is suffering from them.
So far the education sector has largely lead resistance to the cuts, on college campuses specifically, but these cuts go far beyond the universities. It is not just education that is being destroyed; social services, such as free and/or affordable healthcare are being cut; there are massive foreclosures and a lack of affordable or public housing; unemployment remains high. Anyone can see that these cuts aren’t just affecting students, but the working-class as a whole. While all these cuts are happening in the public sector the top corporations and banks were immediately bailed out by the Federal Government as soon as their financial instruments evaporated in the bubble pop. If it wasn’t clear to you before that this system was based off of exploitation and a class divide between the rich and the poor, massive bailouts to the capitalists and bankers while we are left to struggle for the basic necessities of life should make it clear.

Police attack people protesting the racist murder of Oscar Grant. - July 9th, 2010, Oakland

These budget cuts are also occurring during a time period of massive state violence to communities of color and queer people; the passage of the anti-immigration bill SB 1070 is causing and supporting more profiling of immigrant populations and ICE raids; the Oscar Grant movement has exposed the police’s continual assault against Black women and men that stems from the days of slavery; and there is consistent harassment and murder of queer and gender oppressed people. Is a budget cut struggle solely confined to defending education enough to really fight the cuts and the crisis? Is it enough for the people most affected by it to be brought in? No. We need a larger analysis that identifies the true enemy, the capitalist system, which relies on other systems of oppression (patriarchy, racism, & homophobia) to target and discipline people of color, women, and queer folks to keep divisions within the class that makes uniting and resisting harder.


We cannot allow the system to continue to divide us; a way to fight these divisions is to unite all these separate movements (Oscar Grant, Immigrant & Queer struggles), because they are organically connected through our shared enemy, the capitalist system. We don’t need a budget cut movement confined to defending education. We need abudget cut movement that defends the people while resisting all forms of state violence.
This movement would address the indirect violence of the system that comes in the form of denying the basic necessities of life for its people: food, shelter, clothing, education and healthcare.

In SF a new attempt to criminalize homelessness is on the ballot in November

Without these things the people are pushed into the streets, where they rely on the informal economy to survive. When people are pushed into the streets to survive they face the direct violence of the state at the hands and guns of the racist, sexist police and ICE agents. In order to have such a holistic movement, which fights for the liberation of the working-class we have to understand how the different sections of the class are impacted differently by the budget cuts, which means we need an analysis of how the budget cuts are racist and sexist.

I have been involved in the budget cut struggle for a few years now, and have heard activists continually bring up how the fight for public education against budget cuts is important to the liberation of people, specifically women and people of color. But can we have liberating education under the oppressive system of capitalism? Education within capitalism is designed to discipline our youth, condition them in capitalist social relations of worker vs. boss to prepare them to go out into the world and sell their labor for a wage. For the people who are privileged enough to get into higher education (and it is a privilege nowadays) they have an opportunity to gain more skills, get a degree, and add more value to their labor so that when they ultimately graduate and go out into the labor market they can get paid more as a skilled workers. But we see that as jobs are scarce and unemployment is high there is a surplus of workers. Public education becomes obsolete to the capitalist, because he doesn’t need more skilled workers. Capital will cut education and other social services first, because these sectors do not immediately generate profit.
A clear example of the racist nature of these cuts is the consistent closure of schools in working-class communities of color while the prison industry continues to thrive. The connection is clear: this racist system does not value educating our black and brown youth it only cares about incarcerating them in private prisons for profit, and to repress resistance. The prison system is housing more black and brown bodies then the education system is. Military spending is another example. The US government is currently involved in 2 imperialist wars at a time when it supposedly has no money for education and jobs. Military recruitment is at an all time high; working-class youth will continually enlist in the military if they have no other solutions to their economic conditions. A local example is the city of Oakland. When bail out money was given to Oakland where do you think it went? You would think education, because the drop-out rate is so high; or maybe jobs because unemployment is at 16% or even higher at this point.

NOPE.

90% of it went to the Oakland Police Department, who continue to murder and brutalize our communities. The racial dimensions of these cuts are very clear. When higher education is no longer an option for working-class youth of color, and job opportunities are dismal, where do they go? Prisons or the military. The system is tracking them on these paths through its refusal to fund education and other youth programs, while continually funding the prison system and war machine.

Oakland Police Sgt. Fred Mestas and Officer Joe Cowles "serve and protect" a member of the West Oakland community.

These budget cuts are also sexist, and the intersections of race and gender place women of color at the bottom of this division of labor. We are exploited as wage workers and due to patriarchy are paid less than men for the same work. On top of that we are still expected to conform to heteronormative, bourgeois values: find a husband, marry him, pump out babies, do all the unpaid reproductive labor of taking care of the house, the husband, the children, make sure they are fed and sustained so the husband can go to work, and that the child can go to school and get a work ethic. This combination of exploitative wage-labor and unpaid reproductive labor makes us super-exploited as a caste. It also means that when the government fails to provide education, affordable housing and jobs for its people then it falls on the backs of working-class women to ‘make ends meets’. When schools shut down and daycare and afterschool programs are defunded it is the woman’s responsibility to figure out who’s going to take care of her children while she is at work. When general assistance and welfare is cut it is the woman’s responsibility to figure out how to get food and pay the rent. When health services are cut and free clinics close down women have to figure out how to take care of their children when they’re sick. That is why we see these disgustingly high rates of black and brown youth dying from curable diseases, because of the lack of affordable and free healthcare in this country. When the system does not provide the necessities of life to sustain its people it is expected of us, as women, to figure out how to do it, which is almost impossible but we have been ‘making ends meet’ for 100s of years now.

Laney ChildCare Protest

Families at the Peralta Community College District Board of Trustees meeting to protest closure of childcare center // Photo by Alessandro Tinonga

These examples combined with the fact that we live in a violent, patriarchal system that devalues women as a whole are the reasons why we as working-class women and women of color are the most oppressed layers of the working-class, and therefore have the most to gain from revolutionary class struggle. Our organic militancy has been generally neglected by the left, part of a historical failure to take up feminism as an integral part of the struggle for liberation from all oppression.  Developing women as militant leaders in struggle has not been prioritized. But this doesn’t mean that women haven’t played leadership roles in social movements and revolutionary struggles. We cannot ignore the significance of women advancing struggle in more militant directions.

On February 23rd 1917 in Russia it was International Women’s Day. It was agreed upon by the different political organizations that no strikes or protests would take place. In Petrograd the women textile workers, the most exploited and oppressed workers, showed up to work and learned that the boss was implementing a pay cut. They immediately violated the ‘no protest’ call by the revolutionary forces and went on strike. It had a ripple effect and within 3 days a general strike happened that shut down Petrograd, and gave birth to the February revolution, one of the most important events the history of class struggle. Twenty nine years later, 1946 in Oakland, CA, women retail workers started the last general strike in US history by walking out to protest the bosses’ union-busting. They were able to pull in other sectors of the class to go on sympathy strikes in solidarity and effectively shut Oakland down. Women all around the world have played the most militant roles in confronting the State and taking the struggle into the streets. We see this in Latin America where Zapatista women in Mexico have driven the military out of their villages, in Palestine where women have lead marches and confronted the Israeli army, one of the most powerful armies in the world.

Palestinian women participate in a rally marking International Women's Day in Gaza City, 8 March 2008. (Wissam Nassar/MaanImages)

All of this is due to our oppressed position in society and demonstrates our deep revolutionary potential. It is time that the left stops ignoring this potential and really starts prioritizing developing women into militant leaders in struggle. Advance the Struggle sees the revolutionary development of women, especially working-class women of color, as key in really advancing the struggle. Revolutionary class struggle needs to bring in all sectors of the class, and the most oppressive layers of that class need to be leading and providing it with political direction. Those layers are women and women of color!

As we move forward in the budget cut struggle we must do two things. First, we must analyze the system as a totality and build bases to bring the working-class in to start fighting back. We cannot solely rely on bureaucratic union structures, which do more to protect the bosses and the bourgeois state then the workers, and which only represent 9-10% of the proletariat. A way to start the process of making the struggle against budget cuts a mass struggle is to connect all these isolated movements so we can fight all forms of state violence and exploitation. Secondly, in order to connect these struggles and fight back strong as a class we must understand issues of race, gender and sexuality, which divide us as a class, so we can unite together to fight all class oppression. Women and women of color will play a leading role in this. In the words of Selma James, “Power to the sisters and therefore the class!”

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18 responses to “To the Budget Cut Movement: No More Ignoring State Violence

  1. Just two quick news items to affirm these points: Republican governor candidate Meg Whitman’s new campaign ads specifically mention putting more money into the UC system by “reforming” (i.e. slashing) welfare. And economists in Europe are talking more and more about bringing more women in to the workforce, not as a way to “empower” women (as the cynical ads for Jones New York women’s business clothing suggest) but as a way to ensure profits. Clear motivations to expand this struggle before the capitalists gain any ground in turning us against our own with their barbaric survivalist rhetoric.

    • “These budget cuts are also occurring during a time period of massive state violence to communities of color and queer people”

      I’d like to see this statement backed up with some examples of recent massive state violence against queer people in the U.S. I’m not saying this hasn’t been happening lately, but I’m just not aware of it, so I’d like to know what you’re talking about specifically.

      • Blarg, a lot of the current state violence against LGBTQ communities surrounds poverty, criminalization, and abuse while incarcerated. Working-class and poor queer and trans youth are disproportionately homeless, and particularly at risk for arrest.

        In prison, queer people face disproportionate abuse from fellow inmates and prison guards alike.

        From Wikipedia:

        Transgender prisoners are especially vulnerable in US prisons due to a general policy of housing them according to their birth gender regardless of their current appearance or gender identity. Even transgender women with breasts may be locked up with men, leaving them vulnerable to violence and sexual assault, as occurred with the case of Dee Farmer, a pre-operative transsexual woman with breast implants who was raped when she was housed in a men’s prison. Transgender men housed in women’s prisons also face abuse, often more from guards than other inmates.[14]

        I think I understand where your question’s coming from since it’s not exactly a Stonewall situation anymore, but with the explosion of prisons, especially in California, queer and trans people now face brutalization and murder ‘behind closed doors’ — at the hands of police and prison workers.

  2. Your mention of the need for broader movement and your attention to Palestine puts this Workers Aid Flotilla on the agenda of Advance the Struggle. This model resolution can be adjusted for the US and brought to your members’ trade unions.

    Trade Union resolution in support of
    The International Workers Aid Flotilla to Gaza

    This trade union branch recognises the suffering of the Palestinian people at the hands of the Apartheid State of Israel in pursuance of its Zionist ambitions. The Israeli state forces have caused the demolition and destruction of homes, towns, villages, farms, where Palestinians have lived in peace for hundreds and in some cases thousands of years.
    The destruction continues today with the demolition of Palestinian homes by bulldozer. We condemn all these unprovoked attacks on Palestinian people including the recent bombardment of the Gaza strip, which destroyed thousands of homes, schools, hospitals, mosques, factories and workshops.
    We condemn the barbaric blockade of Gaza, which is causing further deaths to Palestinians and is preventing them from rebuilding their lives. The blockade is in flagrant disregard for human life and suffering. We condemn the attack on the flotilla of ships in international taking desperately needed supplies to the people of Gaza.
    We support the boycott of all Israeli goods by UNISON, one of the biggest trade unions in Britain. We call on all British trade unions to follow suit.
    We further support the Dockworkers in the USA, Norway and Sweden who have refused to unload Apartheid Israeli ships.
    We support all aid convoys and flotillas of aid to the beleaguered people of Gaza. In particular, we support the International Workers Aid Flotilla to Gaza, to be launched in The Council Chamber, Camden Town Hall, Judd Street on 25 October 2010. This is the only flotilla that specifically relies on the labour of organised Trade Unionists across the world, taking aid created by workers across the world to our beleaguered colleagues in Gaza.
    We fully support the main objective of breaking the illegal embargo of Gaza by the Apartheid State and support the aim of sailing directly to a Gaza port to take aid directly to the workers of Gaza. We call on the leaders of all British trade unions to make it clear to the Apartheid State that the people of Britain will not stand by idly if the lives of our colleagues are put at risk by the apartheid state or its sponsors. If necessary we will occupy buildings until such time as any risk to our colleagues is removed.
    We agree to a small levy of 0.1% of our salary (approx £1.50 per month for average wage earner) and we urge our Trade Union reps to liaise with our employer to deduct this levy directly from our salary and pay the sums monthly to Workers Aid Flotilla to Gaza.

  3. Generally on point, though I suspect there isn’t a leftist on the planet who disagrees with the analysis. The real question is one of program. The question isn’t *whether* we should unite in opposition to capitalism as a totality — this much is a given — but rather *how* we should go about this.

    Clearly this piece is a call for the student movement to abandon its parochial focus and join forces with those organizing around Oscar Grant. Right on point. However, what is still needed though is an adequate justification of this position for those on the fence, even if only for propaganda purposes. When some petit-bourgeois dilettante claims that by expanding our focus to capitalism-as-totality instead of attacking a particular manifestation of austerity we are chasing a dozen hares simultaneously and therefore catch none, how should we respond? It’s easy to talk about this kind of unification in the abstract or in terms of necessity, but practically speaking, how can we feasibly git-r-done without spreading ourselves thin?

  4. Excellent points raised Icarus!

    I agree that we need to start thinking programmatically how to wage such a broad struggle to end ‘state violence.’ If we don’t articulate what concretely we mean by that then it could devolve into some abstract thing that any lefty can get beyond to push their own agenda. What I like about having a broad perspective for such a movement to ‘end state violence’ is that it gives us (radicals/revolutionaries) the opportunity to articulate what we mean by ‘state violence’ and give it political content. In my opinion, a real movement to end state violence would be abolishing the oppressive bourgeois state altogether. However, that is something that happens during revolutionary periods. The class is not united in revolutionary moment yet so how do we get there? This is when I think things get fun, because we can start to get creative in our campaign work while always pushing the message that these problems are a part of the violence and oppression of capitalism. This brings me to your devils advocate point here,

    “When some petit-bourgeois dilettante claims that by expanding our focus to capitalism-as-totality instead of attacking a particular manifestation of austerity we are chasing a dozen hares simultaneously and therefore catch none,”

    This reminds me when I used to go out to anti-war protests and every leftist group would show up with literature and they would be like end the war, and free Mumia & Peltier, and stop the Juarez murders, ect.,. I would agree with all of these things, but it would also leave me overwhelmed and unsure how to fight back besides joining email lists for any number of leftist groups and taking their literature. Not the most empowering experience as a young, developing radical. So we should avoid that kind of scenario.

    However, I believe that such a broad movement to end “state violence’ gives us an opportunity to do very focused campaign work that ties it back into the system. For an example, the Oscar Grant movement should have a serious systemic analysis of the racist violence of the state, but this analysis can be articulated through a campaign designed around dis-arming the bart police. Such a demand can bring in all the different sectors of society who use the bart, including the bart workers, and engage them in a struggle that also connects things back to the broader issues around the State.

    When other issues of state violence come up, such as the closing of the Alameda free childcare center. We can wage a specific campaign to keep it open, like comrades at Laney college did last spring, where laney students organized with working-class mothers to keep the center open. At first it may not seem like state violence to simply close down a free childcare center, but as organizers of the campaign we can explain that by not providing free childcare for working-class mothers, who are trying to educate themselves to provide a good life for their children, that that is violent. Women should have the right to an education, and they should have free childcare for their children while they are getting that education. Closing down that childcare center would cause many women to drop out of school, because they simply can’t afford private childcare.

    Politically arguing why the lack of government sponsored free childcare is a part of a violent system that is patriarchal to women identifies the system as the problem and also connects 2 struggles (free childcare & Oscar Grant) which normally wouldn’t be connected. They are connected through their shared enemy, the bourgeois state, and being part of the same movement to “End State Violence.”

  5. The reason why the student movement is not “joining forces” with other movements against the budget cuts is because it includes many different students who hold many different views. I am a student who has been involved in the opposition movement to budget cuts to education since 2007. I am about to enter the UC system and have I noticed a steady trend as the student movement has progressed: other movements trying to latch on to the growing student movement. Not all students agree that capitalism is the root of every problem in our society. Focusing on education specifically ensures a greater chance at reaching that goal. In my experiences with the student movement, too many times have our goals been hindered by other movements who wish to break down the system in which we (the students) are trying to work inside of. If you want to see the global economic system change, that is fine; but just know that when you attempt to do so as an ulterior motive when working with other groups and movements, nobody wins. That is why student groups who I work closely with have to keep a close eye out for non-students who try to “join forces”. I admit that capitalism is not a perfect system, but socialism is by no means going to be the savior to our social problems. Please stop hurting the student movement! You are not helping!

    • Well, good luck with that.

      Without linking various sectors together, what do you expect to achieve when you fight budget cuts? At best, I imagine that schools could be given a few more crumbs at the expense of other social programs. I don’t dispute that there are sometimes vampiric elements recruiting from the student activist population for their own organizational ends (there are several posts on this blog criticizing such elements) but I hope that YUP can see the overall value of broadening and deepening our collective resistance to austerity measures, and the good in cross-pollination of political perspectives, and mutual agitation.

    • YUP:

      “Not all students agree that capitalism is the root of every problem in our society. ”

      what do you think about this YUP? capitalism at the root of it all?

      YUP:

      “In my experiences with the student movement, too many times have our goals been hindered by other movements who wish to break down the system in which we (the students) are trying to work inside of.”

      oh i just figured out what your username refers to. your an aspiring YUPpie! well that explains a lot. yes, there are class contradictions within the student population and those do reflect on perspective to organizing. working class latino students for example, see the very real connection between “other movements” like the one for amnesty for undocumented immigrants, and the struggle for an education for all.

      But watch out… this isn’t “latching on” to the student movement in some mechanical fashion, its an organic fusion of issues that the latino students recognize. capitalism latches the immigration to the student issue by denying bilingual education, by underfunding schools with predominantly immigrant students, by denying diplomas and jobs to graduates. capitalism wants latino immigrants to stay “in their place” in the low skill strata of the division of labor, and your argument in favor of “focusing on education specifically,” only aids the capitalist class in this endeavor.

      to remove any ambiguity from what im saying, YUPpie, let me clearly indicate the racist implications of your argument, which, carried to its logical conclusion leads straight to an affirmation of the racist division of labor. you may want a world where latinos and blacks stay in the back of the house (and out of your ivory tower), doing your laundry and raising your kids, but i want a world where “every cook will govern.” (Lenin). that world is known as communism, and it lies entirely outside this system that you and your yuppie “education specifically” cohort strive so deeply to work within.

  6. Why is the term “violence” so important to us? Why is it important to redefine it to include all manifestations of oppression? I am posing these questions sincerely to you all because I am confused by the way we seem to consistently return to the question of the definition of “violence” in our organizing, and the way this question so often becomes the site of rupture when we organize (think about the debates over “non-violence,” property destruction, etc. in addition to the new-ish trend of various forms of injustice and oppression being described as “violent.”) Does “violence” become a synonym for “bad” when we do this? Is there a more accurate way to describe the connection between the general ravages of capitalism and specific types of state brutality?

    Why do some parts of the Left want to expand the definition of “violence” and others want to constrict it? Why do these debates take up so much of our time and energy?

    I guess I am somewhat troubled by the creeping idea that everything fucked up is “violent” partly because it seems a little anti-intellectual to me, and sets us up for some logical inconsistencies. I don’t necessarily need the word “violence” to help me connect the dots between the closure of a childcare center and the murder of a young Black man at a BART station, and I’m not convinced others do either. I tend to think that the word “violence” actually oversimplifies that connection.

    I’d like to read others’ thoughts on this.

  7. Pingback: Why Are Things As They Are? » Blog Archive » Rouge Forum Update: September 11 Hysteria Edition

  8. I agree with Huli. Returning to my earlier point, if we agree that the connection between state coercion and capital accumulation needs to be rendered legible to our potential audience, dismissing them as equally violent neither demonstrates this connection nor explains how these qualitatively different forms of violence are even related. If we revert to some sort of instrumentalist notion of the state as executive committee of the bourgeoisie, this fails to explain the motives of really existing pigs, even if their activity does in fact serve to shore up profitability in the last instance.

    Huli is right on point when s/he argues that to identify all violence as necessarily “bad” is to commit the liberal fallacy. It’s not violence itself with which we as Marxists have a qualm, let alone an ethical one. As Huli rightly implies, we are far from pacifists and have no problem valorizing violence when it is appropriate to our strategy.

    Dismissing both political and economic forms of power as “violent” fails to identify what’s actually wrong with these forms. I assume A/S has no beef with the notion of the dictatorship of the proletariat, demonstrating that it’s not state power tout court that’s the problem but rather the state as that which forcibly papers over class antagonisms.

    In short, while I am extremely sympathetic to the message in this piece, I’m not sure why the liberals in the anti-budget cuts movement who are currently averse to including rhetoric related to Oscar Grant will be convinced by the argument in this entry. Again, it’s a great piece in spirit and makes a long overdue intervention, but it remains unclear to me why “violence” is the key link here, and in that respect I strongly agree with Huli.

    • Huli asked what is the point of defining everything as violent, even when it is not directly so.

      The free market system and ideology create no identifiable enemies, making justice a very difficult to thing to deliver to individuals. Johannes Mesehrle is just a cog in the machine, Bush is just being controlled by Cheney, Obama wants to do the right thing but the racists wont let him, a woman is homeless because of the omnipotent power of drugs to hook people into addiction, etc. Post-modernism tells us to stop identifying enemies and look in the mirror. This is paralyzing and papers over the guilt, the enemy, the target, the bourgeoisie, its only fixed position in an otherwise swirling torrent motion, the state.

      The blame is in the circulation of commodities, a process that rips through social relations like never-ending cycles of tornados. Are tornados violent? Yes, even “natural” phenomenon are violent despite their impartiality. Capital, like nature, has a life of its own, compelled, as it is, to reproduce through growth. Like nature, the tendency of social relations is toward equilibrium. The arrogance of capital would lead to the collapse of its social ecosystem (creating its own gravedigger in the proletariat), but the state clears the way for capital to ravage new zones and revisit past ones once they start to recover from previous cycles of abuse. The state is the master-mind of the plot, the bourgeoisie the executer. The state is the collective committee of the bourgeoisie, and plans a course that behooves their interests.

      Cutting the school budget is violent in the same way that the fraternity whose house hosted the party where multiple women were raped is violent. The state is accomplice to rape. The state creates the conditions for the reproduction of capital, and capital has done genocide to the human spirit, driven a wedge deep between humanity and the earth, created great rifts between peoples segregated into hostile groups (nations, genders, races, strata within each)… all of this creating the conditions for the perpetuation of violence both vertical (from capitalists, their police, their state) and horizontal (oppressed against oppressed).

      We have only seen revolutionary movements flourish in this country when the working class starts feeling the actions of the state as acts of war.

      This is class war Huli.

      Icarus said:

      “Huli is right on point when s/he argues that to identify all violence as necessarily “bad” is to commit the liberal fallacy.”

      you’re wrong in two ways Icarus. Rebelde does not argue for pacifism, and Huli doesnt either. you straw-man Icarus.

      Rebelde didnt “identify all violence” as anything, let alone “bad.” Huli inserted the term “bad” into the conversation, which was “bad” enough, but at least she didnt commit your manipulation move of ascribing a liberal pacifist position to Rebelde’s argument. The pacifist notion is certainly a political fallacy, as Icarus says, but it is an argumentative fallacy to argue against a point that your opponent never actually made.

      To clarify: Rebelde highlights the specific type of violence that she IS referring to as that which is the most oppressive; the kind of violence committed by the state.

      Icarus again:

      “I assume A/S has no beef with the notion of the dictatorship of the proletariat, demonstrating that it’s not state power tout court that’s the problem but rather the state as that which forcibly papers over class antagonisms”

      can you explain “the state as that which forcibly papers over class antagonisms” please?

      It does much more than paper over the antagonisms – it aggressively extends the antagonism through class war against the proletariat. I suppose that’s why you use the term “forcibly” which is good because it shows that you do actually see the violence inherent in bourgeoise democracy. But you arent aware of your own contradictions.

      I understand your statement to say that AS, as Marxists, must not think that the violence of the dictatorship of the proletariat (dop) is “bad” and that in your opinion it might be hypocritical for anyone who subscribes to the Marxist concept of dop as a violent state apparatus to use such slogans as “End State Violence.” I also see you interpreting the existing bourgeois state as something designed to hide class contradictions.

      Starting with this last point, I think Rebelde would argue that the state’s violence makes its class character very clear. For her, radicals should simply point out the obvious fact the acts of state more often than not have violent repercussions that are forseeable but carried out regardless – “forcibly,” if you will – and are thus INTENTIONALLY violent. I would agree with Rebelde that this is our task, to tear down the paper thin pacifist rhetoric of the bourgeoisie that confuses so many people as to the actual violent nature of democracy. This is the democracy, after all that is balancing the wars in the Middle East on the backs of childrens education and welfare mom’s food stamps. Lets not be so ameteur about politics as to allow the direct connection to be papered over, Icarus.

      As for your point about the dop, its important to remember that the real Marxist position is that dop is not actually a state. For lack of a better word Marx, Engels, and Lenin used the term ‘state’ to describe the dop, the political form that is built through the revolutionary process and does the very class-biased and violent task of putting private property under collective working class management. The only thing the dop has in common with the bourgeois state is that it is tool of coercion for one class to maintain its rule over another class. But its differences with the bourgeois state lie in every single other aspect, from its “direct democracy” procedure (as opposed to representative), to its basis not arbitrary geographical zones like counties or states but instead in workplaces and communities organically linked by the process of production. But this is another topic altogether, belonging to conversations about the endpoint of a revolutionary movement that you seem very reluctant to join, on the basis of reservations about the extent to which the United States of America (insert list of genocidal crimes here) is violent or not. If it werent so sad, i would laugh at you.

      [Moderator’s note: I’m posting this comment because it’s a substantial engagement not just trolling, but we can do without the ill-informed personal attacks (“you seem very reluctant to join”) and condescending insults (“If it werent so sad, i would laugh at you”). This isn’t the YouTube comment section folks, check your tone before you hit post.]

  9. to begin, it’d probably be helpful to clarify some stuff. this won’t be a substantive post really, just a challenge to the ownership movement mentality and a very preliminary analysis of the question of anti-capitalism, which though it may be based in good intentions, is kind of divisive and seems to come from a place of privilege and entitlement. nonetheless it turned into a giant glob that attempts to engage a number of different comments so far posted on this thread. unfortunately it’s almost 3000 words long. oops.

    anyway, clarifications. for instance, what is “the budget cuts movement”? is there one–or are they many? is “the budget cuts movement” education specific?

    does it include only students? perhaps only UC students? or do state college and community college students ‘count’? what about alumni? what about unemployed alumni, or alumni who work at starbucks or some other shitty service job? after all, they’re still in student debt, they are getting rejected from grad schools and job openings (when they can find them); they’re realizing each year how their underfunded education left them with much less after they were through with it than they ought to have expected. they’re realizing that if they would like to continue taking classes at a community college, not to get some advanced degree, but because they enjoy the educational atmosphere, (it is, after all, a COMMUNITY college) that they may have to take out loans!–just to learn a new language or take up the guitar or finally get around to learning about biology.

    when the california master plan for higher education was implemented by the first jerry brown, its stated goal was to make education free–for EVERYONE in the state of california. the way i see it, EVERYONE who is not currently able to access free, quality public higher education has a stake in the claim against the cuts. not just the kids who’ve been able to enter the UC system. (and being that this post is already way too long, and will only get worse, i won’t even attempt an accounting of how whack the master plan was/is.)

    and what about students who have been unable to finish their degrees–especially those who have been unable to do so because of cuts: classes get cut and people can’t get into the courses required for their majors, they have to take on one, two, three more quarters (and how many thousands in debt, or months of their lives as full-time students who also work one or maybe two jobs on the side). tuition goes up (over 100% at UC in less than 10 years–and of course, over 30% in 1 year), and people can’t afford to stay in school, so they decide to take a break, which lasts, and lasts, and lasts…or students who “shuffle down” taking a few years of from UC (and its exorbitant tuition) to kill time at cheaper (but nonetheless increasingly expensive) community colleges? how about the tens of thousands literally turned away from state schools and community colleges in the past couple years (remember the master plan’s empty guarantee)?
    does it include puerto rican students? french workers? how about the custodians who clean UCB’s classrooms? the service workers who tend to UCB students in the dining halls?

    ok–so i’ve belabored the point, which i hope makes the core of my question clear: who/what is ‘the opposition movement to budget cuts to education’? what does it stand for? what will it be satisfied with? does ‘it’ recognize a link between the global economic crisis and the crisis in public schools? how does one distinguish between the ‘inside’ of this movement and the ‘outside’ of this movement, the outside being perhaps “other movements trying to latch on to the growing student movement.”

    and while i’m belaboring the point–who is it exactly that gets to decide which people and which ideas are allowed into budget cuts movement–and which are ‘harmful’?

    i’m lucky. i graduated from the UC system. i’m still luckier: i have a job. i was joining with students and workers to expose and oppose the UC’s budget priorities long before the housing market took a nosedive, before the bush administration implemented the Troubled Asset Relief Program. was that part of the growing opposition to austerity measures in the public sector? and those of us who participated way back when, should we step out now? perhaps to make way for this ‘growing student movement’…

    so, let’s look at this a little more closely. these hangers-on who are exploiting the growing student movement to serve their ulterior motives of destroying capitalism–these anti-capitalists of various stripes–maybe they’ve been on the front lines of the student movement all along.

    moving along…

    it would be very hard to argue that the student movements of today have nothing to learn from student movements of the past.  and probably harder to argue that today’s movements don’t inherit at least something of a legacy or tradition from past student struggles.  here in the bay, the most notable student movements of the past are probably the third world student struggles at SFSU and the free speech movement [FSM] at UC berkeley.
     
    i’m no expert, but i think that these movements were heavily informed by and gained a major boost from other movements to which they ‘latched on’ during that period.  at UCB, students in the FSM gained a great deal of experience, wisdom, inspiration and strength from their participation in civil rights struggles.  many even went south for a summer, participated in anti-segregations campaigns, were beaten and arrested, and some were even murdered.  UCB students quite obviously underwent transformations as part of their involvement with civil rights struggles, and those transformations were a necessary moment in the development of the FSM at UCB.  it would have been a real shame for UCB students to not have wanted to ‘latch on’ to struggles around civil rights.  it would have been pretty shitty if leaders and participants in civil rights struggles had told to students to quit messing things up and go find their own struggles.  lucky for us (students of history and enemies of oppression) the people involved in those struggles were not so narrow-minded.  they recognized how much is shared by struggles in seemingly seperate sectors–a common enemy being high on the list.
     
    did white students at UCB tell students of color at UCB to quit messing things up with their race talk, and to just focus on the issue at hand: free speech rights for students?  well, to be honest, i don’t really know, but if those struggles were at all like so many other struggles in the history of the US, then some probably did.  and they don’t get any respect from me.  they were on the wrong side of history.  they don’t get foregrounded as the ones whose strategic insight–that narrow political campaigns are better–or whose human insight or whose politics helped the movement to flourish.
     
    as an alum of the UC system and of student struggles within it, i’d just like to offer a counterargument: quit alienating people with your capitalism and movement ownership.  most US residents are AMBIVALENT about capitalism at best. and i bet there are more pro-capitalists at UCB then there are amongst working class people without a college education.

    the student movement, despite its great advances (due larger to what some call objective conditions–the crisis for instance), isn’t all that big or successful just yet.  you might need a lot more power than you’ve so far been able to muster.  and you might want to learn something from other movements that are ‘latching on’ to yours right now.
     
    and at any rate, the successes of the student movement to date–where do these come from? there isn’t a student struggle in the UC system today where the leadership isn’t predominantly or entirely anti-capitalist.  UCSC.  UCB.  UCLA.  Laney College.  BCC.  UCD–even there, there was significant leadership from people who openly avowed radical, anti-capitalist positions. Fight the Fees at SFSU, and SUP at SFSU–both openly hostile to capitalism and host to a predominantly communist/marxist membership.
     
    and the writing on the UC budget crisis.  check out robert meister whose written one of the only things worth reading on the source of increasing uc tuition (“they pledged your tuition).  guess what–he’s a marxist.  or look at the student unity and power (SUP) websites for either Laney college or SFSU–both have sick analysis of the budget and of the political economic system to which we are all subjected.  they’re anti-capitalist too.  and they are doing engaged budget cuts work at their school.  anti-capitalists shouldn’t dogmatically claim ownership over struggles.  but my guess is that if you look behind any significant uprising, movement, struggle or campaign in the last 120 years in this country, you’re gonna find anti-capitalist leadership.
     
    socialist.  communist.  anarchist.  these names may mean very little today to a great deal of people in this country.  (due largely to a lack of education–capitalist schools don’t teach histories of resistance with much accuracy)  but these are the people who won the 8-hour day.  the 40-hour week.  occupational safety and health protection for workers.  an end to the war in vietnam.  (yup. anti-capitalists were a huge force in organizing troops and domestic anti-war struggles.) these are the people and the politix that led forces from below which squeezed social security and ‘the welfare state’ out of the FDR administration etc.

    and this thread of thought is connected directly to the discussion about violence, what it is etc.

    before even getting into details, i’d like to clarify something, because hulu and vicarious (and, it goes without saying, YUP) are missing a major point of rebelde’s piece: the budget cuts are KILLING people–in addition to being part of a larger, bad, and i think, violent system, they are directly killing people. through starvation. through decreasing access to trauma care. cutting of vital services directed, for instance, towards people with HIV/AIDS, people with severe addictions. the list of the ways in which the budget cuts are killing people goes on too.

    what happens to people in communities where all the cuts (to schools, social services and public services) conspire to suffocate people, restrict them, extract from them at a greater rate? and i would put this in a historical context of oppression. and in a context of broader systems of oppression and exploitation. in these contexts, i think we should strive to see how the closure of a childcare center would relate to all this and again, in context, should be seen as violent, as the violent continuation of histories of oppression and as the violent imposition of structures/systems of oppression.

    (i actually think that any disagreement that may be at issue here comes, unfortunately, from semantics. the terms ‘structural’ and ‘institutional’ violence were crafted by those in struggle to deal with these types of issues.)
    the assault of austerity is a cross-sectoral extension of the crisis and capital (which are racialized and gendered in complex, interlocking and historical ways): in school it takes one form, in social services another. and of course (as Rebelde already pointed out), it takes yet another form in the streets where the police walk the beat–and the police budget in a time of crisis is funded PRECISELY by taking money out of social services and schools. that is a FAIRLY SPECIFIC AND EXPLICIT characterization, which was already covered in Rebelde’s original piece, of the connection between policing and austerity. there are no budget cuts without policing; there is no policing without cuts.
    it is a MISCHARACTERIZATION of the original piece to claim that its purpose is to help people connect the dots between seemingly disparate phenomena via a vague and abstract concept of violence. i would argue that that is one of a few mischaracterizations either explicit or underlying in hulu and vicarious’s posts.

    the piece is about the system in crisis and how its interlocking assaults on the dispossessed take the form of violence and are connected by systems of oppression that can and must be destroyed. it is an argument for the political content that revolutionaries should be cultivating in their ‘mass’ movement work, for instance within ‘the budget cuts movement’.

    it is an important political task for us right now to understand how and why budget cuts are violent. the systematic oppression of groups of people which leads to their suffering and ultimately to their death is violent, it is the quintessence of violence within capitalism today. it is very important to understand, especially right now, how systems of oppression function through concealment. this is a political task because by revealing larger, fundamental dynamics, a real revolutionary political perspective begins to emerge.

    the systematic oppression of the cuts is historical and contextual. is the foot of a boxer not violent, as his glove connects with his opponent’s face? is the act of deploying a satellite guided missile via a computer screen somewhere in idaho not violent?–or is it? i would argue that it is violent but that it appears not to be and that this operation, the ‘un-violent’ surface appearance of deeply violent actions and processes, this operation is very typical of capitalism and capitalist violence, and that in many ways it makes that violence worse.

    i’m not an advocate of ‘non-violence’. but i do oppose particular systems and particular types of violence. violence seems to me a pretty ubiquitous phenomenon. i think nature is rather violent; even life itself is a violent process. and the word itself is defined pretty broadly in the dictionary.

    but i don’t think violence is just ‘anything bad’, and i didn’t read Rebelde’s piece that way. i didn’t interpret the use of the term ‘violence’ in that piece as some kind of theoretical dot-connector. i thought it was a good attempt to address revolutionaries and activists across different struggles in the bay and challenge them to think politically about their struggles in order to develop better struggle. not a lot of comments are addressing that…

    state austerity programs directed at poor people, people of color, women, the proletariat–that IS violent, that IS violence. starvation in a world of plenty is violence. why? because it is a system of force and coercion applied systematically; because its means and its results are bound up in cycles of degradation, exploitation, disposession, death and destruction. because that system thereby destroys dignity, the sanctity of the inner-life, physical well-being, communities.

    i think that revolutionary (and certainly marxist) analysis of violence should focus on the fundamental dynamics and how they operate as part of a larger structure with necessary or inherent tendencies. and that our agitation and political advocacy should grow out of understandings of this type. and that this kind of focus, coming from both the Oscar Grant struggles and the budget cuts struggles, could produce qualitative transformations in struggle. but that won’t happen until people start thinking systematically. and the Rebelde piece is a good beginning to that. better pretty much than any other i’ve read.

    that being said, there is a connection, a structural one, between the murder of oscar grant and the state’s crisis-austerity attack. the state and capital are historical systems/structures. it is the disgusting truth that pigs systematically police, repress and murder poor people in this country. and especially poor people of color. this is a ‘pattern’ or a systematic outcome that is, once again, historical. the link between the murder of oscar grant and the austerity programs of the state in a time of ‘budget crisis’ is not JUST that BOTH ARE VIOLENT. it is precisely that these two, seemingly disparate forms of violence–one the ‘drab’, ongoing, slowly suffocating, institutional or systemic grinding attack against the disposessed, the other a ‘spectacular’ form of violence, erupting in a fast-paced circumstance, and culminating in the explosion which fired a bullet which tore through a man’s body and took his life–these two forms of violence are two poles of the same structure, two poles which need each other in every sense; two poles, neither of which would exist without the other.

    a blog post won’t convince liberals at UCB to approach their activism in a more systematic manner; it won’t convince them or anyone else to become a revolutionary. that is not the point of course. struggle, consistent agitation and comradery, experiences of direct action and state repression, study circles and art–these things over time (a long time) along with historical and objective circumstances–these are what radicalize people. and the precise point of rebelde’s piece is to make an argument to revolutionaries about how to approach and encourage that process. the big picture goal?

    the self-activity of the oppressed and exploited against the ruling class and the systems that produce it. a self-activity that is in direct opposition to capital and the state. and is a movement of and towards communism. that’s what it’s about…

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  13. i hope comrades will forgive me for pinning some comments about the state of the class struggle here in britain at the moment,to a much earlier item about state violence on the west coast of the usa.

    inevitably the recent riots in britain have stirred a lot of worldwide interest from a variety of quarters and perspectives.as usual the various fractions of the ruling class are in a number of states of anxiety.with the markets already falling,it does not appear that these events have had a visible influence on the markets.the gang who”rule over us”have been fast and vicious in their condemnations and faulty in their feeble excuses for analysis let alone their understanding.this has in my opinion marginally developed over recent days.the police,clearly in the only role they seem to have left are acting as a”body of armed men.over the last 10 days they have arrested over 4,000 people,charged and have charged over 1800 of them.In excess of 1300 have been processed through the courts and sentenced.

    whilst there is no excuse for thedeaths of at least 4 victims of the rioting,nor for the burning and looting of peoples homes,nor the small businesses in the communities affected,equally there is no justification for the vengeful sentences.whilst the judiciary legitimately take public concern into account when sentencing this is usually simply one element amongst several,in which sentencers are supposed to “take a step back” from immediate,current events and apply their own criteria established in published sentencing guidance,in order to establish some sense of balance and “fairness”across the country.there have been more than rumours that there were government/ministry of justice/unsourced instructions to suspend such guidance in order to impose sentences well beyond those norms.later that instruction/rumour was denied.

    over 2/3s of those entering court have been refused bail before trial/sentencing.many so far sentenced are well into adulthood,in their late 20s and 30s,and are not the”feral youth”of the current sterotype.

    2 young men in their 20s were sentenced to 4 years imprisonment for using social network/websites to encouraging rioting in their own home towns,even though no riot took place in either place.i do not know whether they were charged with conspiracy with each other or others,or the unknown potential/notional recipients of the messages.otherwise these are shocking sentences,not least because to my knowledge it is usual for british courts to sentence for actions and plans,not thoughts and suggestions,unless those suggestions are directly threatening to known and identifiable potential victims/others.another,single parent mother of 2 young children,who slept through the riots but accepted a stolen item of clothing from an adult flatmate recieved 5 months in custody,despite having no previous convictions.she has however,been released on appeal.

    in engllish law,in my opinion conspiracy charges open up all kinds of difficulties.that said apart from criminal conspiracies like bullion and train robberies,conspiracy charges are often indicative of “political crime”,such as the bwnic/british withdrawal from northern ireland trial in the 1970s,which collapsed eventually,after 14 peace movement activists were charged with conspiracy to cause dissaffection from the british army.

    i do not know if any conspiracy charges have been imposed on any of the “rioters”arrested.the british state often avoids conspiracy in relation to political activity precisely to deny any politics.in trun the current wave of arrests and sentencing can,in my opinion only be regarded not simply as political but as blatant systematic attacks on the working class,who one again are being demonised with the use of expressions like”feral youth”..this is both idealogical and is not supported by the facts.

    the ruling gang continue to scramble for an explanation.most attempts are idealogically informed,condemning rather than explanatory and actually explain nothing.cameron is maintaining his “moral collapse”explanation but this entirely failsto explain why now and why or why not in this or that explanation.

    i have written in several other locations,as well as here than any explanation needs to go beyond soundbites in depth,subtlty and breadth.camerons views contain no such elements.

    the police as well other sections of our ruling elite,as well as sections of the community have pointed out that this is not the time for cuts to bear down on the police.cameron and co continue simply to insist that ther will be more police on the streets today,whilst insisting alongside gthe rest of his government that the said cuts will go ahead.

    whilst this might indicate some kind of iron hand of determination it is problematic.if forced to change his attitude and policy,where has he left himself to go?it also reveals basically contradictory demands on the ruling class.if and when the break occurs,and if it is between police and government,where there are already a variety of tensions and disputes,then the breaking place or point is likely to be “on the rocks”of the working class,as the police enforce public order.what is unpredictable and probably unlikely that this would politicise police themselves,in any numbers into activism.that issue raises other questions for the ruling elite,our communities and the activist movement/revolutionary left.

    i will not go onto explanations here,although those explanations are important for any reconstructed left if ideas for genuine change are to have currency let alone tractions.in the meantime,just as”moral colapse”will not do,in any way neither will its left wing mirror image of simple resistance to oppresssion/poverty/exploitation/exclusion do.without at least an attempt at intelligent and intelligible explanations we miss the point and the means to make the change and the better world we desire and need.

    i hope to return to exploring explanations here and elsewhere in due course.alongside any urgency,we need to take a step back to construct that explanation not just from our theory and method but from the material of the events themselves

    is of the homes and approximatelyg class

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