Tag Archives: occupation

Defend and Transform: Next Steps in the CCSF Struggle

ccsf

Two days ago the battle to stop the destruction of the City College of San Francisco (CCSF) took another step forward when a protest of 300 students and supporters of CCSF gathered in downtown San Francisco.  The two principal demands of the movement at this point are for the mayor of San Francisco, Ed Lee, to immediately intervene to stop all sanctions against CCSF by the ACCJC, and to immediately fire the “Special Trustee” dictator Bob Agrella who has been specifically appointed by the ACCJC to carry out their plan for the destruction of CCSF’s existing programs through budget cuts and privatization. They’ve undermined the democratic decision-making power CCSF professors had in running their departments and determining their curriculum, along with the community learning aspect that remains deeply rooted in San Francisco’s working-class culture, all in order to “reform” the school along the corporate, privatized education model: bloated administrative bureaucracies, underpaid and overworked teachers with weak or non-functional unions, a reduced and underpaid staff, and a severely downsized student body with the limited options of a streamlined junior college-type transmission belt to four-year universities for those who can afford the debt, or technical programs for the development of an elite managerial class separated and above the working-class people CCSF still serves. For proletarian communities of color in San Francisco, this is a gutsy frontal attack. If not resisted, it will relegate tens of thousands of youth to low-wage service sector jobs without the chance of social advance, such as fast-food chains; it will exacerbate unemployment and speed-up the gentrification process that has so drastically changed San Francisco from a hub of multi-national/racial working-class neighborhoods to the next chic destination for wealthy Silicon Valley professionals in the high-tech industry.

As of today, we’ve found out that the lawyer for the city of San Francisco, Dennis Herrera, has initiated legal proceedings against the ACCJC for breaking federal regulations and having conflicts of interest, and against the Board of Governors that oversees California’s community colleges because it has ceded its legal authority over standards and funding in relation to community colleges to the ACCJC, a private body.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the City’s announcement of this lawsuit comes a day after the protest and sit-in that we organized. We should continue to demand that the local state, and the mayor in particular, intervene against the attack on CCSF;  this lawsuit and any possible actions on the part of the mayor are are possible only due to the self-organization of the students, teachers, and staff of CCSF. Now that the ACCJC is beginning to be delegitimized largely due to organized resistance, we are in a position to seize the momentum and expand the movement to put a definite end to the ACCJC’s reign of terror and take the struggle forward to expanding and improving the community college in the interests of the Bay Area’s exploited and oppressed.

Currently, the AFT 2121 leadership and a core of active teachers have expressed sympathy for a strike. The staff union leaders from SEIU 1021 have played a reactionary role by acquiescing to the ACCJC’s demands in hopes that teachers, who are actively fighting the ACCJC, receive the brunt of the attack while staff make it through this process unscathed. Rank-and-file staff have remained under the radar as they are unsure of the situation and know that their jobs are the most dispensable and likely to be cut.  As of now, the major strategic orientation of the movement should be the activation of the student body; it is a sleeping giant. However, it is critical we begin to build links with the two other key sectors of the proletariat in education, the teachers and staff. While one important step is for teachers and staff to self-organize within but independently of their union, we need a concrete plan to reach out to these sectors as students to build the links and lay the basis for a unified class struggle that takes up the demands of all three.  It is the social force of those who use the university that can be the backbone of the fight not only defend CCSF against its current round of attacks, but to be the organized body that can reconstruct and transform the CCSF we know now – a college that since the recession in 2008 has faced a total of $809 million in budget cuts, especially to lifelong learning and community programs that are not directly transferable to a four-year university or a technical profession, such as: childcare, ethnic studies, programs for ex-cons, seniors, and immigrants and help change it into the people’s college that we want it to be.

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Debate on Palestinian Liberation and Israeli Class Struggle

A while back a comrade of ours posted a serious response to a controversial (or at least controversially-titled) piece we put out last year: Power to the Jews and Therefore to the Class.  We’re just catching on to it (trippin!) and appreciate the thoughtful engagement.  Here’s a sample of the more combative section:

There are genuine problems with the AS post and the following comments (presumably by AS members or supporters) which are largely contained in the lack of a historical perspective that prevents them from seeing the specificity of Zionism and the centrality of Palestine in its overthrow.  Insofar as this historicity is concerned, I tend to agree with the ISO save for their “one state solution” prescription which I would counter with not a state but a “single democratic polity.”  This is of secondary importance here.

Check out the rest of their blog post :slash: slogan, “MAKE THE GENERAL STRIKE IN ISRAEL AN INTIFADA!”  We’ll be engaging the post over there, so if you’re interested link on.

Raw Reflections: East Oakland People’s Library

books packed up once over 40 police officers descended on the people’s library at about 11:30 on 8/13/12

Comrade Mara & The Fish write:

Today’s library occupation, like the Lakeview Occupation of July, demonstrated a powerful tactical approach towards building radical connections outside of activist circles.  In both cases, radicals initiated bold actions without asking permission but from the beginning were organizing to involve the folks directly affected.  Even in the first day of the Victor Martinez library, parents were already dropping of their kids to garden, a family from two blocks away donated crates of books, and curious people from the neighborhood were dropping by to show support and borrow literature.

Here are some of the basic components of what went down: folks occupied the library, erected banners, and brought in palettes of  radical literature.  But this wasn’t all they did in the brief time of the library’s new existence; in addition to these basic logistical tactics, the organizers also put out a press release, went door-knocking in the neighborhood to inform and invite the community, and built a gardening program that invited youth to come and develop the blighted space.  Without the support of the folks around, there’d be little defense against the constant narrative onslaught from the bourgeois media that radicals in Oakland are isolated and dwindling.  Instead, the Lakeview Occupation and today’s Victor Martinez library show a strategy that defends against that attack, building strength in radical unity with people’s hostility to austerity measures.

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The Value of the Lakeview Sit-in and People’s School for Public Education

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The eighteenth day of the Lakeview Elementary School Sit-in and People’s School for Public Education experienced a police raid that successfully shut-down the direct action. In the early morning, around 4:20am, police – led by Sargeant Barhin Bhatts, the officer responsible for shooting and killing an unarmed Raheim Brown in January 2011- gave an initial dispersal order and instructed all those looking to be arrested to sit in a designated area. Two Lakeview community members chose to be arrested, one – a parent of Lakeview and the other – an alumni and long time Lakeview supporter. All other supporters were allowed to gather their belongings and leave the premises without an arrest.

In response, the Education Committee of Occupy Oakland organized a rally just outside the front gates at Lakeview and a march to an undisclosed location for 5pm that evening.

The rally featured parents, teachers, and students who participated in the sit-in & People’s School. The program was a combination of calling out and shaming Tony Smith and the School Board for shutting down such a positive action, and also a call for people to get involved in the organizing against the austerity inspired policies of the Oakland Unified School District. There was a militant energy in the air coupled with smoke from dried sage provided by an indigenous elder supportive of the action. A long time Adult-Education teacher and veteran education activist credited our action with swaying the School Board to vote against a proposed 4 million dollar cut to Special Education. He made the point that this marked the first time in three years that the board voted against Tony Smith and felt this to be a contributing factor in shutting down our efforts.  Three candidates for the upcoming school board elections called on the crowd to support their campaigns to bring about a much needed change for Oakland’s Public Schools. Four students from the People’s School for Public Education called for an end to the police presence and for the people to continue using the building for its intended purpose – public education. More on this point later in the post. The student speeches were very inspiring and were met with loud cheering and applause. An education committee organizer wrapped up the rally with a call-out for everyone to continue actively supporting these types of actions.

After the last speaker, a recently fired OUSD teacher announced there would be a student-led march to Tony Smith’s house to confront him face-to-face and let his entire neighborhood know just who their neighbor is and what he’s all about.  The march was filled with militant chants in favor of “education not incarceration” along with music provided by the Occupy Oakland sound team. Upon arriving to Tony’s house there were calls for him to “reopen or resign” and a continuation of the rally started back at Lakeview. One of the students from the People’s School called on Supt. Smith to show his face. Despite him either not being there or else hiding behind the walls of his bourgeois home, it was nonetheless positive to see many of his neighbors outside their homes and supportive of our presence in that neighborhood. All in all it was a vibrant first volley in response to the police raid on the Lakeview Sit-in.

Now back to the political nature of this action and the reason why the sit-in was an extremely important step for the working class , i.e –  the use of the building.  The Use-Value of a commodity is defined as the qualitative aspect of value – its usefulness to people – as opposed to exchange-value – it’s worth in exchange for something else, like money – which denotes the quantitative aspect of value.   The parents, teachers, and students reopened the building, a commodity, for its use-value. The People’s School for Public Education was holding social justice classes. Members of the education committee were building a people’s library and were to planning to call it La Casita II (in honor of the parents who led a successful occupation to keep open a field house library on the grounds of Whittier Elementary on Chicago’s south side.) The grounds around the school were being used for lessons in gardening, drumming, sports, etc. etc. On Sunday July 1st  the building was opened up to the wider Oakland community. The education committee hosted a bbq/potluck followed by a movie screening of The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman . All these were arguably qualitative leaps when compared to the day-to-day operation of the former Lakeview Elementary School. Once the state realized the building was being used not only for a People’s School but also as a community space for political education and culture – they quickly sent their armed thugs to smash the occupation and school.

The state, in this case Superintendent Tony Smith and the School Board, has no interest in Lakeview’s (or any of the other four elementary schools) use-value. These public schools are being closed because of the exchange value of their buildings and grounds. Next year Lakeview, located in an area with high property values, will host administrative offices. These offices will be housed there while a brand new administration building is completed. Once the new building is ready, the district will no doubt look to rent out Lakeview to a charter school or sell the property to a developer. Santa Fe Elementary, the last public school in Oakland’s 94608 zip code, is being leased to Emeryville. Lazear Elementary, whose parents and teachers were denied a charter by Oakland Unified after the district recommended this course to avoid closure, will be a charter school after all because the county granted them their charter and OUSD grudgingly allowed them the use of the building and grounds. Why grudgingly? Because the district intended to sell the property to Target, and the site was to become another corporate chain store. Thurgood Marshall and Maxwell Park are both being leased to Charter School organizations. These closures are not based on anything except Tony Smith and School Board wanting to generate revenue to balance a public education budget decimated by austerity. And it just so happens that this fits in with a nationwide trend to dismantle public education in favor of charter schools, which represent the transitional stages for the ruling class to privatize education across the country.

Use-value over exchange-value is why the Lakeview Sit-in is an extremely important action that should be publicized far and wide. The goals of this action were clear from the beginning – the people taking back what is rightfully theirs and using it for its intended purpose while demanding that the state stop closing neighborhood schools to balance their austerity budgets, stop union-busting, and fully fund free public education. Every urban center in the country that is being bombarded with the same ruling class privatization strategy should hear about the People’s School for Public Education.  The working class must continue and escalate these types of actions. Failure to do so will mean losing access to a major component of our own reproduction — Free Public Education .

The Taking of Lakeview

The sight of young children digging into a planter box full of soil and sprouts is nothing new – an activity that happens at any given summer school for elementary school aged kids. The difference with this picture is that the gardening activity is taking place at a school site, Lakeview elementary, that’s been taken over by parents, teachers, community members and radicals. On the last day of school, June 15th, this motley mix of people held a bbq that marked the end of the Oakland Unified School District’s 2011-2012 school year and marked the beginning of the transformation of the Lakeview elementary campus into the People’s School for Public Education. This initiative is led by a committee of activists, parents, and teachers that formed out of the struggle against school closures in the fall of 2011; this struggle was itself intimately bound up within the context of a general strike called for by Occupy Oakland one day after 5 elementary schools were announced to be closed by the OUSD. The purpose here is to document and explore some of the context behind this current struggle, the complexities and contradictions involved in its organizing, and thoughts on moving forward.

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Power to the Jews and Therefore the Class!

SteveO writes:

One important component in the radical Left’s impulse for solidarity with oppressed people across the whole world is a condemnation of Israel’s relationship with Palestine, which is considered racist, colonial, fascist – a settler state par excellence. In our critique of Israel, we forget that nations are composed of antagonistic classes, and that the dialectic of class struggle in Israel-Palestine is not exclusively an anti-colonial one. The duty of a conscious Israeli to the world proletarian struggle for liberation does not lie in a self-sacrificing or suicidal “traitor-ism” wherein good Jews give themselves over to the Palestinian cause as a servant to it.

Israeli Jews have battles to fight of their own, bones to pick with other Israeli Jews, those who are their class enemies. Leftists in general, and Marxists especially, could consider the Jewish working class their sibling for once, rather than limiting our orientation to the contemporary Jewish question to the colonial aspect of the Jewish state. None of this is to say that we should stop criticizing and organizing against Israel’s apartheid regime. But we could and should consider a strategic re-orientation toward support for the working class Israeli, urging its alignment with its Arab counterpart, and forging a common interest between the two against racism, apartheid, colonialism, imperialism, capitalism.
This 7 part series serves as an accessible tutorial on the economics of Israeli Occupation:
These stories highlight some of the class contradictions between Israeli workers and capital, and the  action that Israelis are taking against “their own” government.

In May train workers wildcatted against the political arrest of union members for protesting privatization of the trains

On Tuesday hundreds of doctors in training (medical residents) walked out in response to a draft agreement with the Israeli Finance Ministry.  The strike has been happening since April, and a hunger strike is growing.

Crisis and Consciousness: Reflections and Lessons from March 4th

Crisis and Consciousness:

Lessons and Reflections from March 4th

Tables of Contents

  1. Introduction to March 4th
  2. October 24th Compromise
  3. City committees: Oakland and LA, Class Struggle Left Committees
  4. San Francisco: Center Wins Over Left
  5. UC Berkeley vs. UC Santa Cruz: Campus Committees Choose Focus
  6. UC Davis and CSU Fresno: Central Valley Consciousnesa
  7. Seattle: Worker-Student Power
  8. Conclusion
  9. Appendix
    1. Canada Community College
    2. UC Berkeley marches to Oakland
    3. Youth lead in Oakland
    4. CCSF

I. Introduction

Spirit is indeed never at rest but always engaged in moving forward. But just as the first breath drawn by a child after its long, quiet nourishment breaks the gradualness of merely quantitative growth – there is a qualitative leap, and the child is born.

– Hegel

March 4th provides us with a snapshot into the strategic and theoretical frameworks used by the Left to understand, develop and radicalize consciousness; we begin to see patterns emerge as this consciousness is translated into working class action, and we begin to ask ourselves what is needed to learn from these actions and begin developing a revolutionary consciousness and practice to address the ongoing crisis of capital. Continue reading