Advance The Struggle

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.

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Takethecity.orgRecent events have raised many important questions: What does a real and vital movement look like?  What is the nature of leadership in struggle?  Is there a ‘correct’ way for us to fight against our conditions? Below is a statement from some friends addressing theoretical and practical concerns that have arisen in the last month or so.

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“The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language…. The social revolution of the nineteenth century cannot take its poetry from the past but only from the future. It cannot begin with itself before it has stripped away all superstition about the past. The former revolutions required recollections of past world history in order to smother their own content. The revolution of the nineteenth century must let the dead bury their dead in order to arrive at its own content. There the phrase went beyond the content – here the content goes beyond the phrase.”  Karl Marx – 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte

The above quote is just as integral to revolutionary struggle in the 21st century as it was for France in 1852.  Across the vast human topography of class society, clear lines are being drawn between those who parody and fetishize the movements of dead generations in order to dominate the movements of today, and those who seek to expand forms of praxis and theory created in the current cycle of struggle, through the self-directed struggle of workers and students themselves.

After several weeks of smears, ad hominem attacks and political diatribes, the conversation surrounding the events of March 4th has finally shifted to the terrain of tactics and ideology.  The small segment of humanity actually paying attention to this debate has been gifted with lapidary critiques of Anarcho-Imperialism, Anarcho-Situ-Autonomism, Demand-Nothingism, and – most recently — dangerous, “anger-based” Anarcha-Feminism.  While these critiques are coming from various activist quarters, they all focus their attention on the supposed Take The City “Organization.”  Each of these critiques (even if accurate) could land only a glancing blow, because the people who comprise their opposition are neither a party, nor an association nor even a website.  In fact, the alleged saboteurs of March 4th, the occupiers of last April, the self-proclaimed “bitches,” the militant feminists, and many others are merely tendencies within a larger, informal network.  This group has no party-line, no hierarchical structure and little theoretical unity.  The only thing that unites us is camaraderie and solidarity on the one hand and an understanding of direct action and self-organization on the other.  The following is a partial critique, by one tendency within this group, of the tactical and theoretical composition of what has been called the ‘student movement’.

Can a couple hundred students at an outdoor rally at Hunter be considered a movement?  Can six or seven hundred people standing in a Midtown police pen be considered a movement? The reason the NYC ‘student movement’ must be put in quotations is because the label is largely self-flattery.  We hope to show below that the tactics of the coalition of movement-builders are, at best, unhelpful to the development of a strong and vital movement and, at worst, preventative of one.

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The purpose of this statement is to cut through the sensational rhetoric surrounding the events of March 4th and outline several underlying political disagreements so far obscured in this discourse. We do not mean to discount particular accusations of misconduct, which are being taken seriously and addressed elsewhere, but to point to points of tactical divergence which these (often dubious) accusations have been allowed to supplant. This letter is meant to counteract the shopworn stereotyping that has set the tone for so much of what has already been written concerning these events.  Let us then lay out the points we wish to discuss.

1. Representation/Leadership
Who speaks for the students of New York City? Who speaks for the “Black, Hispanic, and immigrant activists” championed by one respondent? What is the proper leadership of a student movement? Who may claim a public university as their political turf? We find these questions problematic. 
 
As autonomous students and workers, it is not our intent to be in charge of anyone.  And we expect this to work both ways.  Our organic association, which has arisen in response to this crisis, lacks central leadership, a homogenous identity, or a single set of goals. And this is its greatest merit. 
Those who seek to harness and channel our energies toward their partisan purposes insult us. Aspiring politicians, replicating bureaucratic forms, have ensnared many well-meaning and energetic activists in reformist ventures doomed from the start, and call this “the movement”. The resulting partisan organizations are primarily concerned with prolonging their own existence in the most tacit of ways. Anything to avoid direct action and remain in the so-called safe spaces of liberal democracy. 
Those who claim to speak for “the students”, “the workers”, “the people”, etc., have appointed themselves to this noble position which we do not recognize. As the ranks of the unaffiliated grow, we will help condemn the anachronism of the Revolutionary Party to the dustbin of history.

2. On Decorating the Wall of Your Cell 
Every weekend, around the world, billions of adherents gather into designated spaces to be told by their self-appointed leaders that despite all of their problems, someday everything will be OK.  All they need to do is listen and wait. For the next two or three days their soul-crushing existence under capitalism is made slightly more bearable. Why is it that those who claim to be unhappy with exactly this sort of proselytizing are so eager to impose it on the most active among the present “student left”? Students and workers spend enough time being told what to do. Do we really need more speeches? No. We need not be reminded of our problems. We are all too aware of them. We need to act. If not during a city-wide gathering, then when? 
 
Anyone who has ever spent time in a steel cage, guarded by officers of the bourgeois legal system (which, by the way, includes security guards and university administrators) may find it bizarre that some-on-the-left seek to relegate the desire of others within such rigid perimeters. The self-appointed protectors of the March 4th rally sought the quiescence of a partisan political rally. These so-called leaders tell us not to chase waterfalls, but rather to stick to the protest pens and sidewalks we’re used to. To do so is to decorate the wall of one’s cell, which we reject.
 
3. Security Culture No-Nos
We have the audacity to hope that those who have spent the days following March 4th calling attention via the internet to their perceived political “opponents” come to the understanding that in addition to this inexcusable security culture no-no, they are also calling attention to themselves. It is possible that this is what they want, but it is certainly against the spirit of a proper revolutionary movement (let alone a revolutionary anything else).  And those who are so quick to point to the history of COINTELPRO as a rhetorical tool should certainly be aware of how such information (names, pictures, etc.) has and will be used by agents of state repression to neutralize the energies and intentions of participatory movements. Our political disagreements may be here to stay, but this sort of endangerment of fellow activists must stop immediately.
Some envision a post-revolutionary society as one of management and policing.  This is a discussion for another day (albeit, one soon to come). However, when you assist the police in any way, as this circulation of names and photographs in public forums most certainly does, you are empowering capitalism’s hired thugs and endangering fellow dissidents, whether you intend to do so or not.  
 
***
We hope that these points of tactical divergence can gain a place in a discussion otherwise marred by finger-pointing and hackneyed stereotyping which does no good for anyone. As indicated by the language of the police, the CUNY administrators, and conservative spectators, the discussion so far has been exactly what these elements would hope for in their wildest dreams of “leftist” infighting and internecine doom. 
 
In solidarity with mostly everyone,
James (footman of the Chilterns) and Semyon Podsekalnikov

More thoughts from California: Anti-Capital Projects

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Like any number of urban freeways, the I-980 and I-880 are lines of containment. They mark out the zones and boundaries of economic apartheid, making West Oakland into an island of poverty, a police zone, boxed in on all sides. A freeway, in this sense, is merely one of the most visible forms of the lines of force that cut up our cities and, in turn, our lives, that butcher them according to the logics of race and class, money and property. How can we see these arteries as anything less than instruments for the formation of a controlled population, instruments in the successive waves of urban centralization, white flight, gentrification? They are checkpoints and blockages – massive pours of concrete, of labor, erected to determine who gets to go where and how. And they have no meaning beyond the insinuation of the automobile into every facet of our lives, the automobile which is hallmark of US economic power in the 20th century, token of class mobility, passageway to pseudo-freedom, emitter of poison gases, turning our lives into a cut-and-paste of frantic alienation and isolation, responsible for more deaths than the M-16. Who could love a freeway?


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this property destruction brought to you by wage cuts, and tuition hikes! don't let loser socialists tell you differently

Another varmint statement posted on Take the City:

on march 4th the vanguard of submission (the I.S.O., maoist allies, & activist “organizers”) denounced the truly radical contingents that refused their policing. confronted w/ a loss of power, the specialists of protest took every measure to sabotage those autonomous subjects who refused reification as objects in their “movement.” the implications of possible native ‘uncontrollables’ being too much to bear, every student that called for concrete subversive action was branded an “outside agitator” or “agent provocateur.”

the comedy of all manner of guevara worshippers indicting anyone as an ‘outside agitator’ does not escape, but the implications of invoking this ever present counter-revolutionary watchword are sincere. in such an invocation a real division is made clear:

on the one side: those who represent spectacular conflict, who play the approved role of a “social conscience,” who side with the police when sedition belongs to desire, not party functionaries. this reformist bloc is committed to maintaining the reign of specialists, of even the school administration, for to question one hierarchy would counterfeit them all. their role is essential in the mystification of progress. “moralizing the marketplace,” wherein the world is delivered back into the hands of the same bosses who’ve decimated it, is the realm of this permitted resistance.

on the opposing side: those who would not separate revolution from daily life, those who refuse to be executed under the weight of “objective conditions,” but prefer to disrupt the continuity of the probable, the routine, the expected, & explore the possible, who recognize that there is no dialogue in hierarchy/no democracy under bosses, who extend their critique to every wing of the commodity life & refuse the lure of “causes,” who recognize that there is no ‘outside’ because of this totality, who realize poetry in the lyricism of action, who accept no revolution but the revolution of all creative life. Read the rest of this entry »

Greetings, they varmints.  In case you were beginning to think that NYC women couldn’t throw down like our comrades in Cali, here are some friends’ response to the recent shit-storm that’s erupted around the events of March 4th.  They call out the way that the language of race and gender has been used to mask reactionary politics and erase active participants from militant struggle, while making clear that there is no excuse for the use of misogynistic language by friend or by foe.

Check it!

Pushed by the Violence of Our Desires: A Statement Regarding March 4

Over the past few days, dozens of communiqués, letters, and statements have been circulating regarding issues of race, gender, and disrespect on M4. We have no intentions of addressing or disputing particular accusations or narratives regarding M4 in this statement; these things will inevitably be argued about elsewhere. Here, we attempt to discuss the language and politics that have been used in framing these issues.

As queer women of color, we feel as if we are trapped in the middle of all of this talk about identities. We have had, for some time, our own frustrations with and critiques of a number of white men with whom we have worked. At the same time, we are uncomfortable with the way in which the identities of “people of color” and “women” are being used to critique and condemn the events of M4, because we – as queer women of color – don’t agree with how these critiques and condemnations are being framed. In fact, we’re not just uncomfortable; we’re actually really angry about the way a small group of people, purporting to speak for the entire population of CUNY, has hijacked this rhetoric of talking about privilege and identity and deployed it in a fashion entirely too simplistic, generalized, and essentialist. Issues of privilege and identity are incredibly important to us and we wholeheartedly agree that they should be talked about. But as it stands now, identities like “person of color” and “woman” are being invoked in order to mask reactionary politics, and furthermore, are being employed in ways that contribute to the erasure of our identities as active participants in militant struggle.

Our political position is not one that comes from a platform. It is not even really a position so much as complete contempt for the system that forces us into the positions of “queer” “women” “of color” and everything that these socio-structural locations imply. White supremacy and patriarchy do not simply function by awarding some (white males) with privilege while denying it to others (women of color). Rather, the same mechanisms that create and maintain the identities of “women,” “queer,” and “people of color” also inflict their damage upon straight white men. And furthermore, we are all fucked over by capital and the commodity form indiscriminately. Liberal feminisms and anti-racisms taught us that we just want what rich white men have – but we have since come to realize that we do not want that either. Our socio-structural positions mean we are even more fucked over under capitalism than any rich straight white dude, and because of this, our need to destroy this world is infinitely more urgent.

One of the major lines of discourse over the past few days has been about how a group of “outside agitators” attempted to get wild without the consent of the Hunter student body. We do not need the “consent of the people” – and when you sound like the fucking Constitution, it’s difficult to believe you really understand the material conditions of being a queer woman of color under capitalism. We cannot sit on our hands until “the masses” decide to act.

Of course, increasing capacity is crucial to building a critical mass of individuals who have the ability to shut down the system: a clandestine vanguard is not the answer. In a situation like M4, people are becoming aware of their collective anger and their collective desire to do something more than stand around and chant. This anger can be facilitated by working to stoke the fire or, alternatively, can be slowed when radicals prematurely throw logs onto the flames before people are in the moment. This is not to suggest that folks are not already angry or that they need to talk about their feelings to come to the realization that they’re against the system; rather, it’s to point out that there are better and worse ways to increase our revolutionary capacity. This is a conversation about tactics, one with important ramifications for “oppressed identities” most affected by capitalism and ineffective action against it – but it has been framed as though the privileged want action, while the oppressed want peace. We oppose this dichotomy wholesale: we assert that it is in fact the most privileged who have the luxury not to contemplate these issues in terms of effectiveness and totality.

The Hunter walk-out was called in response to a national statement from California demanding a general strike. The group who organized at Hunter in the weeks leading up to M4 included many of those denounced as “outside agitators” – individuals who were from the beginning interested in a day of direct action. A vote for having an indoor demo was passed by a coalition of (mostly) Hunter students. There was a framework in place for militant action to occur – if anyone hijacked anything, it was the people who colluded with campus security, the Hunter administration, and the police (these are all synonymous) by herding folks outside. This effectively crushed the radical potential of the indoor demo, and reduced the action to a PR event for the Left.

Some have claimed that the speakers at the rally were composed of women and people of color, and that interrupting them was misogynist and racist. We disagree with this employment of critiques of privilege. We are not against “straight white boys”; rather, we are against the processes that create and maintain these identities of “women of color” and “straight white boys.” Whether or not the speaker at a rally is a woman or a person of color or queer is irrelevant in this moment: when she is speaking AT the crowd, when she is colluding with the State to crush militant potential, when she is maintaining the systems that oppress us, she is a politician. She is our enemy. To assume that a woman of color has our interests at heart, simply because she is a woman of color, is essentialist: fuck Condoleezza Rice.

We realize that some are put at risk by introducing arrestability to situations. We cannot dispute this. Some of us have been relegated to solitary confinement when arrested with a group of white people for no other reason than being brown, we have been sexually harassed in jail, we get slapped with more charges than our white friends. We are fully cognizant of the fact that some people are exponentially more susceptible to arrest, brutality, and sexual assault for no reason other than their skin color and/or gender. That said, these are also vulnerabilities we face walking down the street. Being arrested in a political situation means we are more likely to be protected to a certain extent from these possibilities. Our politics demand solidarity: we do jail support to keep tabs on those in custody, we know how to sweet-talk the bailiff to speed up the process, and we know how to get hooked up with lawyers – all of which mitigate the dangers that follow being arrested. Blaming the escalation of tactics for our vulnerability completely denies the fact that it is the cops who are doing the arresting, the state that presses charges, and white supremacy that puts us more at risk for arrest.

Finally, it bears mention that the reactionary use of politics based on race and gender obscures much more important conversations about racism and misogyny. It is crucial that we address the sexism of a dude using the word “cunt” as an insult, and more importantly, of furthering shame and stigma around STIs – which is problematic in and of itself, but also hampers the disclosure of STI status that is necessary for informed consent. More generally, “playing the race/gender card” to talk about strategic and political disagreements – for example, using the term “anarcho-imperialist” to create a narrative about “white downtown anarchists” rolling into the “POC” CUNY campus uninvited with intentions to colonize – makes it even more difficult to call out legitimate instances of racism and misogyny.

Perhaps some tactical missteps were made in the course of the events on M4. This is another conversation, one that should – and will – be had. Nevertheless, we are of the opinion that something is always better than nothing: everyone is already complacent, already alienated. California said March Fo(u)rth – not stand around.

Love,
Some Queer Women of Color
Brooklyn, New York
bitches@riseup.net

SUNY began March 4

March 10, 2010

With State University of New York administrators openly planning to centralize and overhaul the tuition processes throughout the system, New York faces a crisis in higher public education as devastating as California’s. In fact, some administrative proposals argue for an incremental 100% increase in SUNY tuition over the next 10 years. Here's a rundown on how NY campuses began to fight last week:

Stony Brook University:
Around 75 students rally and plan to storm a press conference between University President Stanley and SUNY Chancellor Zimpher. The action was thwarted when security somehow were informed of the action, and were able to pen students in barricades. The students were able to deliver a version of this note to President Stanley as he exited.

During a follow-up demonstration outside a closed press conference about SUNY cuts on March 8th, students were threatened with citation and harassed by police. More information here.

Video from rally.

University of Albany: Banner drop from Lecture Center:

SUNY Purchase– A massive rally and brief occupation of the Student Services building ended after police invasion. Detailed report-back hopefully to come. More is likely to be planned at this weekend’s Active Resistance conference.