Category Archives: University

Muslim Students Take the Lead at UC Irvine

written with Will

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.

There is currently a debate over at Kabobfest where some in the Muslim community are arguing that the MSU should not have been involved in organizing the disruption.  They argue that MSAs and MSUs have no business taking leadership in this struggle.

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.

Continue reading Muslim Students Take the Lead at UC Irvine

The Debate on Strategy in the Anti-Budget Cuts Movement

by Mamos

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.

Continue reading The Debate on Strategy in the Anti-Budget Cuts Movement

March 4th Analysis from California

-Will

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?

March 4th at UT Austin

** 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.

In this light, the strength of the Right in Texas needs to be taken into consideration.  With the primaries recently over, Governor Perry — who has executed more people than any governor in the history of Texas, and who openly associates with secessionists and other opportunists responsible for the attacks on white workers as well — has regained the Republican nomination.  More recently, conservatives have succeeded white washing the textbooks and curriculum in Texas public schools removing people of color movements, and painting neoliberalism and US Empire favorably.

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.

Continue reading March 4th at UT Austin

March Forth Seattle

by Mamos

Reflections on the Shifting Terrain of Struggle

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.

Continue reading March Forth Seattle

March 4 Student Strike Wrap Up

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.

In the News

Hundreds of Thousands Take Part in National Day of Action to Defend Public Education, Democracy Now

Education funding demanded in ‘Day of Action’, The Oakland Tribune

Thousands rally on campuses, streets for schools, San Francisco Chronicle

UW student rally targets higher-ed funding, The Seattle Times

California Students Protest Education Cuts, The New York Times

Analysis

Open Letter to the White Student Movement by J.

Response to a Critic of the “White” Student Movement by occupy california

Raider Nation Collective Statement on the M4 Highway Takeover by Raider Nation Collective

Following String of Racist Incidents, UC San Diego Students Occupy Chancellor’s Office, Democracy Now

How Not to Capitulate to Union Bureaucracies: March 4th and the AFSCME 444 Resolution by Advance the Struggle

Don’t be Bamboozled by the Budget by Democracy Insurgent

Black Power and Students in New York City

by Will

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!”.

Black Students at Hamilton.
Black Students at Hamilton.

Continue reading Black Power and Students in New York City

“We Are All Workers” — stories of struggle at the University of Washington

-JOMO

 

We are all workers cover

“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

Crashing the Party: Protesting Apartheid Celebrations in Seattle

-gila

The following are two speeches, one by myself and the other by Wen, given at a rally protesting Israel’s Independence Day at the University of Washington in April, 2009.

Each year, the Zionist groups on campus take the opportunity to hold what they call “IsraelPalooza,” which they frame as a purely cultural Independence Day celebration.  As part of the Palestine solidarity campaign that Wen and i were involved in, we decided to crash their apartheid party.Crash IsraelPalooza Flyer

While the Zionists tried to emphasize their event as a celebration of Israeli culture, we decided to celebrate 61 years of Palestinian resistance to apartheid.  At their event, they offered live music, henna, hookah,  falafel, and a “dialogue” tent, ostensibly to prove that they were nice, reasonable people.  However, once we began our rally not far away, the white supremacist insults began.  First we heard, “There’s no such thing as a Palestinian, you idiot!”  Later, Zionists tried to verbally and physically provoke those on our side.  We held our cool, while the campus police, who had promised to keep the groups separated, stood back and did nothing to prevent the Zionist hostility.

After several speeches were made and some lively chants recited (including: “From Mexico to Palestine, tear down the wall!”), we began a loud march around the perimeter of the apartheid party.  Being that the event was outdoors and advertised as free and open to the public, we decided that we would enter their settlement-like party as a contingent.  However, when we tried to enter, the cops formed a human barricade and denied us entry.  While they were not willing to intervene when the Zionists were trying to provoke physical fights, the cops were all too happy to bar us from a free event.  In comparing the two opposing sides, as we stood face to face with each other, two things were clear: 1) They were overwhelmingly white and we were majority people of color; and 2) The cops were willing to use force to “protect” the whiteys and their “culture” from all the scary brown people.  For a brief moment that day, it was like we were living under legally enforced segregation.

Just in case their white supremacy wasn’t obvious enough, the Zionists helped make it crystal clear when one of them yelled at our brown group, “Swine Flu.”  When an anti-Zionist Jewish woman who was part of our rally tried to enter IsraelPalooza, the cops barred her, while a couple Zionists behind the cops screamed, “Don’t let her in.  She might be a suicide bomber.”

Anyway, after a lengthy showdown with the pigs, we marched through campus, still full of energy, right to a local Palestinian falafel restaurant.  The food there was good; much better, i imagine, than the appropriated, blood-soaked falafel that the Zionists were giving out.

I wish i could post video from the event, but it has been lost, so i am posting the flyer for the event along with the two speeches. Continue reading Crashing the Party: Protesting Apartheid Celebrations in Seattle