Tag Archives: Students

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

Reflections on “the most radical university”: Santa Cruz student-worker organizing – April 14th 2005

Far rightwinger David Horowitz announced in 2007 that UC Santa Cruz was the most subversive school in America. Why? In 2005 and 2006, UCSC had a wealth of labor struggles, anti-war activity and other forms of radical activism. The Pentagon was caught spying on anti-war activists due to succesful shutdowns against military recruiters.

Labor struggles also were noticed throughout the country as AFSCME 3299, one of California’s biggest public sector unions engaged in the first ever statewide one day strike in 2005 (see Estamos Aqui film).

As activists gear up towards building for March 4, some have framed the success of the AFSCME strike simply due to it being a “mass action” and not “liberal” or “ultraleft.” The problem with such categories is it depoliticizes the actual history of the struggle and ignores a key battle that took place, the struggle against the trade-union bureaucracy and its ideology.

Student Worker Coalition for Justice (SWCJ) was a dynamic student group, with a few active workers (not nearly enough) that helped organize the one-day strike and debated out strategy for its success. An undergrad IWW student activist wrote a reflective analysis of the labor struggles that took place at UCSC in 2005. In it, he posits how we should understand the source of agency and the role of the trade-union bureaucracy in labor struggles. This piece should have some political use value for students and workers who are hitting themselves on the head with frustration due to the deep passivity of unions and their unwillingness to struggle against layoffs and budget cuts.

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Reflections from Two Quarters of Organizing with the SWCJ

My aim is to express some of the critical reflections and analysis I have made of the organizing I was involved in with the Student & Worker Coalition for Justice over the course of the Winter and Spring quarters of 2005. By no means did I develop the ideas and analysis I am putting forward on my own. It is an analysis I arrived at with many of my SWCJ comrades, developed mostly in informal settings and casual conversations. My intention is to spark further collective analysis and greater political definition of the organization, as well as promote the idea that the Student Worker Coalition for Justice should create formal forums for this type of activity to occur.

A Debate of Tactics or Political Definition?

Leading up to the April 14th strike a debate within the Student Worker Coalition for Justice arose. It revolved around the following question: Should the emphasis and aim of the strike be to receive positive media coverage and “shame” the university or should it’s central emphasis and aim be to shut down the school through militant mass direct action, demonstrating the real power of the workers derived from their ability to withhold their labor? Some may not remember this debate in such sharp terms, or even recognize it as a debate of two conflicting tendencies, largely, because it was masked and softened by the terms with which it was framed, and because the two sides of the debate were never in overt opposition to one another. No one ever objected to mass direct action outright, but during these discussions the advocates of mass direct action were continually asked if our actions would remain “on message” and they were met with a defeatist attitude that implied that what they advocated was fantastical. Though masked and couched in civil language, the debate did occur. It was sharpest at the Sunday, April 10th meeting held at the AFSCME office specifically to address the forms of direct action the coalition would organize. Even after we had collectively decided to engage in mass direct action this decision came into question yet again at the Tuesday, April 12th meeting at Stevenson College.

Continue reading

“We Are All Workers” say UW student militants

Custodians Unite To Fight

Illustration by an anonymous University of Washington custodian

The anti-budget cut movement has unfolded quickly in the past few months after a UC walkout on September 24th of 2009 served as a catalyst for the already existing but increasingly uncreative organizing around the budget cuts on universities and community colleges that’s been going on for years in California and across the country. The past years has seen a large shift from isolated local struggles that involved petitioning or the annual March On Sacramento to more concerted and united actions and tactics reaching out internationally.

The tactic of occupation had a domino effect, injecting the politics of struggle into a movement that is broadening to a larger working-class struggle against increased exploitation levied against working people because of the capitalist crisis. March 4th, the date decided by a CA Statewide Organizing Conference for a statewide strike and day of action against the cuts, has expanded to become a national day of action to defend public education. Here in California there has been a push to connect the education struggle with defense of social services like healthcare and public transit, workers fighting against layoffs and speed-ups, and struggle against the closing of homeless shelters.

This move towards a more working-class-focused struggle for education, jobs, and social services has diversified the face of the movement beyond that of the angry privileged college student who just wants classes and cheaper tuition.  A more diverse face, however, is a step behind organizational unity.

Continue reading

What Could March 4th Look Like?

While we prepare to participate in the Northern/Southern California March 4th Coordinating Committee meetings tomorrow, let’s examine a strike of students and workers that happened a few years back at UC Santa Cruz.

Participants should recall the struggle that went down in the process of building for the strike: struggle amongst various Left tendencies, struggle with union bureaucracies, and struggle with student organizations to participate in the strike effort.  The results are clear in the short film Estamos Aqui.

What March 4th will look like is not yet clear.  Organizing efforts have been happening in Oakland, and folks in San Francisco are preparing as well . . . Meanwhile organizers in LA are taking steps towards establishing March 4th Committees.  It’s becoming clear that a strong left wing tendency has potential to emerge as March 4th organizers and organizations are recomposed.  Let’s keep it moving.

Reflections on ISO Critique: Response to Readers

We received a critical message regarding our piece on the SFSU occupation from a commentator named “Alejandra.”

"Liberation is a praxis: the action and reflection of men and women upon their world in order to transform it." - Paulo Freire

"Liberation is a praxis: the action and reflection of men and women upon their world in order to transform it." - Paulo Freire

As self-reflection and self criticism is just as important as criticism of others, we take these types of comments seriously and hope to continue receiving them from leftists in response to what we post on here.

Just to be clear, folks who participate and post on this blog work in coalition with ISO members (and various other tendencies we have written about) in movements against budget cuts and justice for Oscar Grant.  Our criticisms and reflections never preclude working together with these groups in the real world.

Here is the message we received from “Alejandra” (our response follows it)

Alejandra:

i´m not a member of the ISO, but i think it should be noted that this AS response fails on many accounts.

if you argued that what made Nov. 20th at Berkeley a success was a synthesis of the General Assembly with direct action, then why wasn´t the SFSU occupation proposed to a general assembly? do you acknowledge the turnout at SFSU in support of the occupation was pretty damn small? why can´t direct actions be done via the process of mass democracy (one person, one vote)?

The occupiers undercut the actual general assembly process at SFSU by making a unilateral decision. but rather than acknowledge this, you simply evade the question.

moreover, you pose a total strawman concerning democracy. nobody has every claimed that democracy means “every person has to approve something before it happens.” ridiculous! in the real world, a democratic process means a majority rules vote. couldn´t there and shouldn´t there have been a discussion and debate and vote on the occupation? if you don´t agree there should have been, you have the obligation to explain why.

lastly, it is a terrible means of debate to respond to a mild criticism with the inflamattory comparison of Corrigan´s critique and the ISO´s. what a great way to cut off discussion! if it´s true you are trying to learn from experience and not be sectarian, why have such a derisory tone and approach to other groups that,whatever your differences may be, are working in the struggle against the budget cuts?

despite all the talk about moving beyond the problems of the left, it seems to me that AS is mired in some of the worst old traditions: sectarianism and ultraleftism.

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Reflections on ISO Critique:  Response to Readers

I.  Possibility of Repression

II.  Democracy:  Theoretical Confusion

III.  Politicization

IV.  “Sectarianism” vs. Criticism

V.  Conclusion

Comrade Alejandra, first of all your response is very much appreciated!  In the spirit of comradely criticism, I’d like to point out where it’s problematic.  Primarily this emerges in two ways: a total lack of consideration for the possibility of repression and underlying theoretical confusion over the nature of democracy.  These problems, and the conflict between our two approaches in general, are important questions for this struggle; it would be much appreciated if you would continue to engage. Continue reading

Wallerstein on the Current Cojuncture

We’re reposting these notes by world-systems analyst Immanuel Wallerstein because of their concise presentation and contribution towards an understanding of our present situation.  Here in California we are in the midst of interesting and exciting developments of struggle against budget cuts, the outward expression of the crisis of capital.

Immanuel Wallerstein

Immanuel Wallerstein

In this context radical forces should be engaging in “serious internal struggles over the correct strategy to pursue.”  We’ve seen this develop in the student movement (see the posts below) and will continue to see it as resistance spreads.

The Current Conjuncture: Short-run and Middle-run Projections
by Immanuel Wallerstein

1. Where We Are:

a) The world has entered a depression, whose greatest impact is yet to come (in the next five years).

b) The United States has entered a serious decline in geopolitical power, whose greatest impact is yet to come (in the next five years).

c) The world environment is entering into serious crisis (and nothing much will be done about it) (in the next five years).

d) The rumblings of left-oriented social movements are everywhere, but they are poorly coordinated and lack clear tactical vision (because they lack clear middle-run strategic vision).

e) Far-right forces have clearer short-run tactical vision than the left (a combination of preparing for violence and a refusal of all centrist compromise), but they too lack clear middle-run strategic vision.

f) The future (both short-run and middle-run) is very, very uncertain. Continue reading

SF State CEO Corrigan and “Socialists” Attack SFSU Occupation

SF State CEO Corrigan and “Socialists” Attack SFSU Occupation

I. CEO and Socialists Share Bourgeois Notion of Democracy

II. Building March 4th Strikes: Synthesizing Diverse Approaches to Organizing

The wave of occupations at universities across California has raised the stakes of the anti-budget cut struggle while also raising questions about methods of struggle. On December 9th, SFSU students spoke with action that rang louder than any “speak-out” could as they occupied the Business building for 24 hours; in the process they galvanized a whole new layer of disgruntled students around a hopeful and inspiring

No more bourgeois control!!  This is a Class War

No more bourgeois control!! This is a Class War

project: fighting the budget cuts which attack the whole working class, starting where they are right now, at their own campus. Many students remarked that the occupation was the single most important experience of their political lives. In many cases this was the first day of their political lives.

CEO and Socialists Share Bourgeois Notion of Democracy

Teachers, faculty, campus workers, and the whole campus community are affected by these cuts. Yet some have seen it necessary to publicly condemn the occupation. Chief among these are the President of SFSU, Robert Corrigan (not a surprise), and the International Socialist Organization (kind of a surprise). Continue reading

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. Continue reading

9/24 – Opening Shot Against the Budget Cuts

What follows is an analysis of the actions which took place at UC ba-ucwalkout25_3_0500638419Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz on September 24th, the different political strategies advocated, and some perespective on how to move forward.  Post comments to discuss & debate, and Enjoy!

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September 24th:  The Opening Shot

-Advance the Struggle

I. Introduction to 9/24

II. UC Santa Cruz Occupation

III. UC Berkeley Rally & General Assembly

IV. Twin Pitfalls of Tailism and Adventurism

V. Moving Forward

I. Introduction to 9/24

On September 24 2009, thousands across the state protested and picketed against the California budget cuts. CFA organized pickets at some CSU’s across the state, several UC unions had actions on the UC system, and students protested in mass. UC Santa Cruz launched a successful occupation of the graduate student center and UC Berkeley had a rally of 5,000 students, with 500 students taking over Wheeler hall for a mass assembly. Continue reading

Students as Positive Proletarian Actors (Fresh marxist analysis of student movement)

In light of Tuesdays announcement of a 20% increase in CSU stuent fees, we

Students resisting CSU fee increase at Trustee meeting in Long Beachfelt it’d be appropriate to post some original writing on the role of the student movement. Is it a middle class movement as some have argued? Or is it part of the struggle against capitalism?

For what seems like the past decade, California students have been taking busses to Sacramento to lobby legislators to stop gutting and gentrifying university education. These efforts have been spearheaded by organizations like the faculty union CFA and student government officials (ASI) from various schools.

These efforts have achieved very little in terms of battling against Sacramento’s cuts.

While there have been glimmers of more confrontational, militant resistance coming from groups like SUP in San Francisco, and similar organizations at other campuses, they have not spread throughout universities or gained enough of a foothold at their campuses in order to challenge their local administrations and the power structure in Sacramento yet.

With this in mind, check out Esteban’s analysis of the relation between students and the class struggle. In light of the most recent failure to stop pushing out working class students of color from the university system, we should take a moment to re-consider our strategies and perspectives on what a student movement is.

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Students as Positive Proletarian Actors

-Esteban

students are workers. the logical implication of that fact is that students should organize as workers and with the rest of the working class. i think the success of a working class movement (ultimately culminating in total victory, ie, socialism) is largely based upon the extent to which students/intellectuals facilitate the process of workers becoming students/intellectuals. this seemingly obvious and simple fact is neglected by the great majority of established campus organizations including socialist and ethnic ones – both of which are products of the last round of historically relevant student struggle in the era of the “new left.” students have a crucial role in developing the class struggle, but those who fetishize workers in terms of some one dimensional blue collar fantasy as well as those who sideline class (let alone class struggle) in favor of cultural, national or other ascribed identities refuse to see this fact. this is a huge opportunity that is being thrown away and the working class as a whole suffers for it. below are some thoughts on how students can be positive proletarian actors.

the attack on public education is just one facet, one symptom, of the capitalist crisis in this acute stage

Interview w/ Nepali Student Leader

manushimain-1Manushi Bhattarai is part of the Maoist ticket that swept the student elections at Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu – Nepal’s largest university. Here she discusses the revolution, recent political developments, the international situation and the role of young people with Ben Peterson.

http://www.socialistunity.com/?p=4213

student-worker unity