March 12, 2010
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.
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