This past February students in the Muslim Student Union (MSU) at UC Irvine deliberately disrupted a talk by Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the US, as he attempted to justify the Israeli assault on Gaza in 2008/2009.
The 11 students who disrupted Oren by shouting him down were arrested. Afterwards, Muslim students and other Palestine solidarity activists attending the event walked out and held a protest outside.
Recently, Lisa Cornish, the Senior Executive Director of Student Housing, and other university officials at UC Irvine have recommended the 1-year suspension of the MSU. In addition, MSU members must complete 50 hours of community, no MSU officers will be allowed to be an “authorized signer” for any other student groups, and if the MSU is allowed to re-register for official status in 2011, it will be placed under a one-year probation.
One argument goes that it invites retaliation on the whole Muslim community threatening their religious freedom. The problem with this argument is that it places the sins of white supremacy and empire squarely in the laps of Muslims and solidarity activists who choose to resist. There is a faulty assumption here that the occupations of Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the racist attacks on Muslims in the US are a result of organized resistance on our part. This is completely backwards. Oppression doesn’t result from our resistance; we resist because we are oppressed.
As an anti-budget cuts organizer in Seattle, I am excited by the important debates Advance the Struggle (AS) has raised with their piece Crisis and Contradictions: Reflections and Lessons from March 4th. I basically agree with the perspective that AS is putting forward; it confirms and advances a lot of the perspectives that my comrades in Unity and Struggle have been developing, especially with our anti-budget cuts work with Democracy Insurgent in Seattle, with ella pelea! in Austin, and our comrade’s work at Berkley. For those who don’t know, Unity and Struggle is a revolutionary organization animated by a belief in the self-emancipation of oppressed people; for more info, check out the “About US” section of the Gathering Forces blog. I would consider Unity and Struggle and a lot of the milleiu around Gathering Forces to be part of the “class struggle Left” tendency that AS outlines and calls for; like AS we are attempting to chart a third path that is independent from both the centrists (the “we need to meet people where they are at” folks) and the adventurists (the “Occupy Everything Demand Nothing” folks). We appreciate the chance to dialogue with AS and other like-minded activists around the country and we also appreciate the chance to have principled debate with comrades from the other two tendencies.
The response pieces written by Socialist Organizer (SO) and Labors Militant Voice (LMV), raise some important challenges to this third tendency and highlight some key differences between us and the centrist tendency. It is important to note that LMV’s piece raises important critiques of SO’s piece and I engage with those here – I have no intention of lumping them together. I offer my notes on these responses in the hope of furthering the debate.
What I write here is relatively unsystematic because my comrades and I are in the middle of organizing for a strike at the University of Washington on May 3rd so I don’t have a lot of time to flesh this out. I hope comrades will forgive and correct any points here that are underdeveloped , inaccurate, or unclear. I am writing this from a first person perspective rather than formally representing Democracy Insurgent or Unity and Struggle, the groups I am a part of. I imagine that most people in both groups would agree with the spirit of what I put forward here but we simply don’t have the time to collectively write and edit a formal response right now because of all of our organizing and study groups.
Advance the Struggle has posted an important analysis of the events which took place last month. Paying attention to California is particularly important right now cuz the anti-budget cut’s student movement is highly developed in comparison to the rest of the country. This is in relation to the severe budget crisis of California and immense austerity measures that are being forced upon the students and working classes of the state. What is happening in California is a foreshadowing of what is to come in many other states across the country. Can the movement in California spread to other parts of the country and what lessons can activists learn from Cali so their respective local struggles can start on a higher basis?
** written with fatima & Tyler Zimmerman — the 3 of us are organizers with ¡ella pelea! but this is not an official position of that organization
At the University of Texas at Austin our rally and march on M4 was considerably smaller compared to the West – approximately 200 at its height – but since this was its first anti-budget cuts rally it was no small feat. Numbers can be less important than energy and militancy, and it showed on M4.
A SXSW Flavor
The smaller size is partly due to the fact that the effects of the recession are only just beginning to be felt in the state of Texas. Texas is one of the few states in the country that is not running a deficit, and has also been able to attract more businesses to settle and develop here due to lower tax rates. But along with this comes the under-funding of social services as compared to the rest of the country, which includes public education.
This can also be explained by the historical and regional contours of Texas as both a border state and a Southern state. Right on the US-Mexico border, Texas has the second highest concentration of undocumented immigrants in the country, following California, and is one of the few states in the country whose population is majority people of color. Along with other parts of the South and Southwest, Texas is also a Right-to-Work state, which means that collective bargaining rights for unions are illegal.
These things combined have meant that there is a lack of working class institutions to carry on the legacy of working class militancy in the face of right wing hegemony. The fight to take back and defend public education takes on new significance as a means to rebuild this legacy and these institutions.
It is has been ten years since thousands of workers and youth shut down the WTO here in Seattle. Now the fight against budget cuts is once again laying the groundwork for a mass movement. One again young people and workers are in the streets asserting that another world is possible. In this piece I will analyze this dynamic, shifting terrain of political struggle.
This reflection comes in the wake of the March 4th National Day of Action to defend public education, which was a major leap forward here. A student strike at the University of Washington (UW) brought out around 700 students, workers, teachers, and high school students with an unexpectedly high level of militant energy, shutting down streets and almost blocking the freeway ( as you can see in this video).
As an organizer with the student-worker group Democracy Insurgent (D.I.) at the University of Washington, I wish to draw out some reflections and conclusions from our involvement in the struggle. I’ll start by tracing the struggles that lead up to the March 4th strike and made it possible. Then I will outline what March 4th shows us about the prospects and challenges for building a mass movement here in WA state and beyond.
Analysis of March 4 is slowly appearing, but it will be some time before a fuller picture emerges. Until then we are collecting here a small number of writings that are relevant to the March 4 walk-out and protests. We will post more as it appears. If you find anything you think is important for discussion, please send it to us.
Student struggles are beginning across the country. There is no doubt that many of the issues which faced the 1960s generation of student militants will have to be dealt with in the current round of student struggles. For starters the university is till embedded in U.S. imperialism and capitalism. The university is still a major agent of gentrification.
Attached is an excerpt from Harlem Vs Columbia University: Black Student Power in the late 1960s by Stefan Bradley called, “Gym Crow Must Go!”.
“We are All Workers” is a zine produced by Democracy Insurgent as part of our campaign to fight the impacts of budget cuts and privatization at the University of Washington, Seattle. We are a group animated by principles of anti-racism, anti-imperialism, third world feminism, queer liberation and workers power. Our members are workers, students and unemployed workers. The push toward privatization has resulted in speed up, extra work and sweatshop conditions for workers on campus, hefty tuition hikes for current students, and reduced accessibility to the university for working class students and students of color. All these drastic attacks have been rationalized under the banner of “economic crisis” and inevitable budget cuts. However, it is a mystery why the University president continues to live in a UW student-sponsored mansion and makes about 1 million a year. It is clear that these budget cuts are an attempt to restructure the university and privatize education — this was already in the works for a long time, and the economic crisis provided the best legitimation for it.
This zine is the product of many ideas bubbling in the group over the summer. Some of us in DI were inspired by the Johnson Forrest Tendency, JFT, which produced the piece, “The American Worker.” “The American Worker,” a collaboration between Phil Singer and Grace Lee Boggs under the pen names of Paul Romano and Ria Stone, succeeds in “recognizing and recording” the workplace dynamics that Romano experienced as an auto worker in Detroit during the late 1940s. What is unique about the pamphlet, is that it captures both the rage and frustration that workers feel on the job, as well as the creative solutions that they come up with, that show glimpses of how a workplace free from managerial harassment and control, could function. These vignettes of everyday resistance and creation are best captured by a rank and file worker observing and participating in the informal workgroups and cultures inside the workplace. The pamphlet also highlights how work conditions, even more so than wages, is the key issue that brings workers together. Speed up, extra work, are working conditions that hit the nail on the head: Who controls your working environment and conditions? Who can push you to work faster, harder? Who do you need to fight to work better? In “American Worker,” Romano gives a vibrant and exciting portrayal of how these questions are fundamental to the workers, and how it is eventually workers self activity and power on the shop floor that can change these conditions. Continue reading “We Are All Workers” — stories of struggle at the University of Washington→
The rallies, strikes, marches, organizing meetings, and occupations that occurred on September 24, 2009 across many campuses in the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) systems were the product of the profound economic, political, and social crisis we current face. This crisis is deep in California where the state has cut billions from public education. UC administrators have used the state budget crisis as cover to quickly and thoroughly implement privatization measures through staff furloughs, layoffs, huge tuition increases, and cuts in services from the health center to trash removal and other campus safety measurers.
In California and throughout the United States, we are experiencing a structural adjustment; public services funded by our tax dollars are cut to the bone and privatized to the highest (or most well-connected) bidder. This is not unlike IMF/World Bank economic austerity measures imposed upon African, Asian, and Latin American countries over the past 30 years. These programs hollowed out public infrastructures there. Our rulers have no qualms imposing the same neo-liberal economic measures they use to support their imperialist agendas abroad as they do against working people in America. The two are in fact linked. So given the speed and devastation California state officials and UC management has acted with, what does the response by students and workers look like? This piece seeks to analyze the organizing efforts at UC Berkeley since summer 2009 to see how far we’ve gone, and how far we need to go.