December 5, 2012
December 5, 2012
Dear Occupied Cooper Union,
We were inspired to hear of your occupation and see the red fabric unfurled from your windows, so near our own. We have visited, hung around, and we will continue to do so and offer whatever we have that you might need. The past 48 hours have energized us, have challenged us to seek the places we could revivify our struggle on our campus, have helped us to remember fully and to refocus our attentions. But even as we are prompted to look back and recognize the many student struggles that feed your occupation, we equally recognize the absolute urgency of today. We hope this occupation will be infectious. We need it to be so. December 2012 is a tipping point for Cooper Union, but Cooper Union today must be a watershed for our student movement. We are grateful and excited.
In the president’s meeting today, some in the crowd shouted that to expect free tuition is incomprehensible. This position – that education without tuition is ludicrous – is often bolstered by comparing no- or low-fee institutions like yours to those like our own, whose undergraduate fees amounts to a sum more or less equal to the median yearly income of NYC households. Somehow, our situation, in which the entire yearly earnings of a family would be spent on one students’ tuition, in a city in which income and work are so thoroughly striated by gender, race, and legal status – this is somehow more plausible.
What logic makes something that was possible in June seem unthinkable in December? Cooper Union was free, just as CUNY was in 1970 (following an occupation by Black and Puerto Rican students demanding open admissions). Why not now? Administrators claim spikes in tuition are a natural offshoot of the crisis, as if it wasn’t the administrations’ plans that made the university vulnerable to the vicissitudes of capitalist crisis in the first place. Jamshed Bharucha rehearses an argument typical of adminstrators’ euphemistic austerity boosting: Cooper Union’s funding structure was “shortsighted.” Cooper Union is a relic in an age of student debt, that mechanism that perpetually defers the crisis by deflecting it onto working class futures. We do not let pass without notice the deep irony of calling free education shortsighted while the average trade of financial equity brokers lasts a matter of microseconds.
As we roam through the rubble of financialization’s impact on higher education, it is clear that pressuring administrations to find new investors for endowments is not a solution. Should, then, we press for a reclamation of the welfare state, and recenter public education in the production and stabilization of a fully-employed working class? Let us be clear: there is no going back. Industrialists like Peter Cooper founded free schools in capitalist societies, and we live this contradiction coming to a head. So, we turn away from administrators, from capitalist benefactors, from the talking heads and the haters. We turn to your occupation, recognizing it as the only kind of place in which we can think through and construct the education, and society, we want.
Some feminist faculty and students at NYU
November 24, 2011
Since November 17th, students, non-students, workers and others have transformed through political occupation a formerly isolating, frigid and closed study space into a 24hour educational hub for not just all students, but all people. We have held this space for seven days and in that time we have set up multiple general assemblies, established a safer spaces group, dismantled institutional oppression with the immediate creation of gender neutral bathrooms, fed and housed over 200 people, provided teach-ins from an anti-capitalist perspective on the financial crisis and political struggle, and created a gathering place for political conversation. In reclaiming a New School building, a private university with astronomical tuition, there has been a sometimes pre-conceived perception of elitism and exclusivity; some have said they feel alienated, that the space is still too white, or that the theoretical discussion is too pretentious or academic. Some of these issues weren’t resolved nor they could have been resolved in such a short window. But this contradiction–where anti-capitalist/anti-racist debate is viewed as an elite politics–is precisely what we are in the process of shattering in this space. Hundreds of people have come to hear talks and have conversations about capitalism, revolutionary practice, anti-oppression, queer politics and international struggle. Most who have had problems in the space have consistently returned, recognizing that the politics surrounding the occupation are not solidified, but are instead immanent to the space itself.
Last night, November 22nd, marked the first attendance by many emphatic participants in the General Assembly. Through several manipulative acts, including the creation of a town hall that was somehow broadly attended in spite of a mere two hours notice, the Assembly was packed by antagonists including several faculty and a large group of students who had not previously been involved in the occupation. For many of us the large attendance was a success, but very soon it became clear that the sole goal of the majority of participants present was not discussion, but a yes vote for the destruction of the occupation. The intention was to disrupt any possibility of dialogue and to frame the voting of the assembly in the manner of representational politics and parliamentary theater.
At this assembly the faculty, the bureaucratic manipulators and students hand picked by administration revealed their faces. Arguments about race and alienation, couching pro-capitalist rhetoric and theatrical fear mongering, were used to disrespect and disempower the open assembly. Immediately after a perceived victory in “accepting” Van Zandt’s proposal, these individuals removed themselves from the process and demonized the continuing deliberation of the assembly’s remaining participants. We are writing to expose the misinformation and the constant sabotage that has being circulating through media and disseminated by specific individuals whose only purpose is to break this occupation from within. We also see this document as an opportunity to put forward a political perspective on these events, and on hopes for the future.
It is clear that we should not have trusted negotiations with the President of the New School about the security and the character of this occupation. After six days of dealing with this matter it is evident that it has caused fragmentation not only of the occupation itself, but poses a larger threat for the entire student struggle and the growth of the occupation movement. Political organizations still playing ping-pong on the back of the student body, in favor of specific ideological positions and with vested interests, have succeeded in the creation of media misrepresentation, the recruitment of students against the occupation, and the disruption of any possibility of dialogue. This has happened only for their own benefit to legitimate their bureaucratic actions, and to expand their conservative and archaic way of organizing. This method of organizing is one that they are unable to and refuse to transform when confronted with a movement that is against of any form of leadership or representation. The struggle can only develop with the opening of a space that is initiated by political praxis that remains open for any political analysis. Any jeopardization of autonomous practice will doom the struggle to failure.
November 23rd , 2011
November 23, 2011
The planning for this “action”, for logistical and pragmatically necessary reasons was, in its initial stages, kept as quiet as possible. For this reason it was frequently referred to as “the action” in correspondence and conversation. Now we have acted and the abstract concept is apparently no less determined. What does it mean to have engaged in or accomplished this “action”? The “action”, of course, is not accomplished, not terminated with the taking of space, but not for that reason, any less an action. In taking the space, in acting, we have created the condition for further instantiations of “action.” In creating a space for the further development of the movement we create space and opportunity for “action” previously lacking. The “action” is, in this way, a continuous development out of and beyond itself. It does not bleed into something different, but is itself further determined by what it becomes. Only through the process of progressively unfolding in ever richer determinations can we come to understand the meaning of the action we have taken. The determination of all actions is future oriented, that is, they are essentially the possibilities they open by what becomes thinkable and doable as their result. In this radical break from normal relations, we advance in an as yet undetermined dialectic. In recognizing our constitutive role in the process of determination we simultaneously acknowledge our freedom, our freedom to create freely. To continue acting is to continue in the manifestation of free meaning by increasing the horizon of possibilities, and in this way we simultaneously challenge both reified consciousness and the persistent foreclosure of opportunities for a truly rational, socially integrated society.
“No chaos resulted from the actions of people without leadership and without previously formulated program…instead of mob rule there appeared immediately the same organization which for more than a hundred years now has emerged whenever the people have been permitted for a few days, or a few weeks or months, to follow their own political devices without a government (or a party program) imposed from above.” So said Arendt, over fifty years ago, about the Hungarian revolution. She went on, in that article, to point out tat “the councils were born exclusively out of the actions and spontaneous demands of the people, and they were not deduced from an ideology, nor foreseen, let alone preconceived, by any theory about the best form of government. Wherever they appeared they were met with utmost hostility from leaders from right to left ant with the unanimous neglect of political theorists and political scientists. The point is that these councils have always been undoubtedly democratic, but in a sense never seen before and never thought about.” Such is our General Assembly. It is the next form of politics and freedom – one coming blessedly, just in time.
November 18, 2011
Today, the university is a supreme symbol of social and economic inequality. Skyrocketing tuition costs at public and private institutions deny us access to higher education and saddle us with crushing debt. We will reclaim this elite space and make it open to all. We will foster dialogue and build solidarity between students, workers, and others excluded or marginalized by economic and social inequalities. We will build community through the commonality of occupation. We will offer free education – this is systematically forbidden. We join a long tradition of student activism and struggle. We the indebted and the future unemployed and underemployed stand committed to this movement for our collective lives. We invite all to join us in this open occupation.
Workers, students, and the millions of this city unite!
Together we will be victorious.
ESCALATE the Struggle. EXPAND the Movement. OCCUPY!
April 19, 2010
This short text was written by an occupier on the third day (Saturday 13 March 2010) of an 8-day occupation of Arts A2 building at Sussex University. It was borne out of frustration with the way a radical act – a mass contempt of court (an imprisonable offence) by hundreds of students and even some staff – so quickly returned to the safe leftist territory of listening to Party hacks (and at least one non-affiliated local militant) urging us to unite against the “fascist BNP”. But it was also urging against the safe anarchist territory of small group activism. The text is a call for both the popular frontism of the leftists and the substitutionist activism of many anarchists to be superseded by a process of ‘massification.’
Tables of Contents
- Introduction to March 4th
- October 24th Compromise
- City committees: Oakland and LA, Class Struggle Left Committees
- San Francisco: Center Wins Over Left
- UC Berkeley vs. UC Santa Cruz: Campus Committees Choose Focus
- UC Davis and CSU Fresno: Central Valley Consciousnesa
- Seattle: Worker-Student Power
- Canada Community College
- UC Berkeley marches to Oakland
- Youth lead in Oakland
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.
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.
More thoughts from California: Anti-Capital Projects
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?