james scott’s chapter 6.5
The 11th Annual BASTARD Conference – Submit workshop proposals now!
This is the eleventh year of the always popular, engaging, and informative Berkeley Anarchist
Students of Theory And Research& Development conference.
Every year we try to break up the monotony of the the workshop format by putting a twist into 8 hours of speeches and workshops.
Our latest attempt at this are the Open Space Threads (OST), a way to bring anarchist theorizing away from the people at the front of the room and back into the room itself.
This is the third year where the OST will be part of the BASTARD conference.
We believe anarchist theory should be transparent, ecstatic, and informed.
Every year BASTARD presenters have fascinating things to say but up til now we have not shared these things with non-attendees. So this year we are asking presenters if they are willing to have their presentations recorded (in audio). Our hope is to collect and freely share these presentations. We also hope to start work on a publication of the results of these recordings later in the year (perhaps as a pamphlet, since this year’s topics are especially exciting).
This year’s theme – developing an anarchist theory of everything
Track 1: Capitalism
Our lives are dominated by exchange relationships and when we finally wake up and attempt to understand this phenomena the only tools that are available are from Marxists. For many, this is enough. For us, it is not. We hope to explore this and perhaps begin to talk about where an anarchist theory of capitalism would begin.
Track 2: Space
If radicals in the twentieth century were captivated by the strategy of organizing in the workplace it isn’t outrageous to believe the 21st century will be equally focused on location. We will fight where we stand and there is a lot to develop if we are going to do it right.
Track 3: Identity
Threaded through any work we do are questions about who we are. These are existential and
semiotic. Questions forged in violence and structures of control, history and experience. An
anarchist theory of identity requires an understanding of these things and more. We hope
for experienced, sophisticated approaches on the issue.
Come join us at UC Berkeley on March 14th and begin a collaboration on anarchist theory. As always, we do also accept workshops on @ theory that are outside the theme.
***Comedy after lunch or at the end of the day***
workshop proposals should get sent to
given the late posting of this, shall we say that people read as much as possible of it, but are only really expected to have read the enemy within? just a thought…
The Enemy Within
-La Ventana Collective
The student is a state of being. It is a transitory state. It is a hazing; it is a rehearsal. It is a preparatory stage.
The student is a privileged person in an underprivileged world of suffering, but only because s/he does not recognize her/his own boredom as a form of imprisonment, of torture. The student is not only deadened to reality, s/he is also deprived of the consciousness of her/his own suffering. The student accepts this as “normal,” but it is only the normality of her/his repression that makes the student like the rest of society.
The student lives in a state of protracted infancy because it is the function of the University to train future, docile low-level functionaries. This state of protracted infancy is seen in the classrooms, where students sit quietly in military formation, accepting the nonsense professors spew. The student is there, content and misguided, believing that the classroom is a setting for some privileged and serious learning. Thus the student eagerly accepts the traditional teacher-student relationship.
It is in the University where submissiveness is ingrained ever more easily. Such inculcations formerly had to be forced upon the white-collar workers; now they are easily absorbed and passed along by the mass of future low-level functionaries. Students are being trained for jobs comparable to those of 20th century skilled workers; except, back then, skilled workers never expected promotions.
The student clings to the crumbling prestige of the University, and, in comparison to the former level of general bourgeois culture, the machine-made specialized education is just as profoundly debased at the intellectual level because the modern economic system requires the mass production of uneducated workers who have been rendered incapable of thinking—like domesticated cows.
The University is, in fact, a training ground for future docile, submissive workers. On these training grounds, the student unashamedly lives an overt childish existence. The tighter authority’s chains shackle the student, the freer the student believes s/he is.
The University has become an institution for organizing ignorance; “high culture” disappears at the same rate as the school assembly lines produce professors; most professors are scum and most would be jeered at in any high school classroom. But the University student is oblivious to all of this and continues to listen obligingly to the masters; the student consciously suspends all critical judgment so as to wallow in the mystical state of being a student—someone seriously committed to learning serious things—and hopes thereby to learn the latest “truths” and repeat them as her/his original thoughts.
The future revolutionary society will condemn everything that takes place today in lecture halls and classrooms as nothing but noise, verbal pollution. The student is already a very bad joke.
Students live a poor existence. Student poverty—both material and emotional—is more extreme than that of the proletariat’s. However, this poverty is temporary and not comparable with the miserable existence of society’s poor. Because student poverty is only temporary, and because being a student is too temporary and detached from the historical process, the student accepts the poverty without resignation. The student wallows in it, thinking that the approaching future will compensate. However, the student will only discover an endless, inevitable mediocrity.
The student movement is blind to itself because it is detached from the rest of society; it does not understand the forces that push it into action; it cannot connect its struggle to its own life. (The issue is not about incompetent state and school administrators and the severe budget cuts. Recovering funds will not solve the University’s perpetual problems.) The student movement seeks ‘demands’ everywhere, but because students cannot see the absurdity of their own lives and their own imprisonment, they cannot begin to imagine what the struggle is for.
The deaths of students who struggle all over the world for liberation reveal the poverty of the U.S. student movement and the superficiality of its own struggles.
When the real struggle comes, it will be easy to recognize because it will cut through all the bullshit in which the student is trapped. (It knows its objectives. Its tactics are clear. It moves with confidence.)
We begin by killing the enemy within us and within our friends with whom we share our classrooms, homes, and beds. We come together in small bands with those we have learned to trust, occupying everything that represses us, taking back the schools, the streets, our lives.
The function of the student movement must be something other than making demands of the University, but to destroy the existence of the student as a distinct social role and character structure. More eager for grades than knowledge, more eager for a “good” job than to live without dead time, the first enemy of the student is within you.
The student however should not alone be singled out for student passivity is only the most obvious symptom of a general state of affairs where each sector of social life hSan Francisco State
as been subdued by a similar imperialism.
Communiqué from an Absent Future
Like the society to which it has played the faithful servant, the university is bankrupt. This bankruptcy is not only financial. It is the index of a more fundamental insolvency, one both political and economic, which has been a long time in the making. No one knows what the university is for anymore. We feel this intuitively. Gone is the old project of creating a cultured and educated citizenry; gone, too, the special advantage the degree-holder once held on the job market. These are now fantasies, spectral residues that cling to the poorly maintained halls.
Incongruous architecture, the ghosts of vanished ideals, the vista of a dead future: these are the remains of the university. Among these remains, most of us are little more than a collection of querulous habits and duties. We go through the motions of our tests and assignments with a kind of thoughtless and immutable obedience propped up by subvocalized resentments. Nothing is interesting, nothing can make itself felt. The world-historical with its pageant of catastrophe is no more real than the windows in which it appears.
For those whose adolescence was poisoned by the nationalist hysteria following September 11th, public speech is nothing but a series of lies and public space a place where things might explode (though they never do). Afflicted by the vague desire for something to happen—without ever imagining we could make it happen ourselves—we were rescued by the bland homogeneity of the internet, finding refuge among friends we never see, whose entire existence is a series of exclamations and silly pictures, whose only discourse is the gossip of commodities. Safety, then, and comfort have been our watchwords. We slide through the flesh world without being touched or moved. We shepherd our emptiness from place to place.
But we can be grateful for our destitution: demystification is now a condition, not a project. University life finally appears as just what it has always been: a machine for producing compliant producers and consumers. Even leisure is a form of job training. The idiot crew of the frat houses drink themselves into a stupor with all the dedication of lawyers working late at the office. Kids who smoked weed and cut class in high-school now pop Adderall and get to work. We power the diploma factory on the treadmills in the gym. We run tirelessly in elliptical circles.
It makes little sense, then, to think of the university as an ivory tower in Arcadia, as either idyllic or idle. “Work hard, play hard” has been the over-eager motto of a generation in training for…what?—drawing hearts in cappuccino foam or plugging names and numbers into databases. The gleaming techno-future of American capitalism was long ago packed up and sold to China for a few more years of borrowed junk. A university diploma is now worth no more than a share in General Motors.
We work and we borrow in order to work and to borrow. And the jobs we work toward are the jobs we already have. Close to three quarters of students work while in school, many full-time; for most, the level of employment we obtain while students is the same that awaits after graduation. Meanwhile, what we acquire isn’t education; it’s debt. We work to make money we have already spent, and our future labor has already been sold on the worst market around. Average student loan debt rose 20 percent in the first five years of the twenty-first century—80-100 percent for students of color. Student loan volume—a figure inversely proportional to state funding for education—rose by nearly 800 percent from 1977 to 2003. What our borrowed tuition buys is the privilege of making monthly payments for the rest of our lives. What we learn is the choreography of credit: you can’t walk to class without being offered another piece of plastic charging 20 percent interest. Yesterday’s finance majors buy their summer homes with the bleak futures of today’s humanities majors.
This is the prospect for which we have been preparing since grade-school. Those of us who came here to have our privilege notarized surrendered our youth to a barrage of tutors, a battery of psychological tests, obligatory public service ops—the cynical compilation of half-truths toward a well-rounded application profile. No wonder we set about destroying ourselves the second we escape the cattle prod of parental admonition. On the other hand, those of us who came here to transcend the economic and social disadvantages of our families know that for every one of us who “makes it,” ten more take our place—that the logic here is zero-sum. And anyway, socioeconomic status remains the best predictor of student achievement. Those of us the demographics call “immigrants,” “minorities,” and “people of color” have been told to believe in the aristocracy of merit. But we know we are hated not despite our achievements, but precisely because of them. And we know that the circuits through which we might free ourselves from the violence of our origins only reproduce the misery of the past in the present for others, elsewhere.
If the university teaches us primarily how to be in debt, how to waste our labor power, how to fall prey to petty anxieties, it thereby teaches us how to be consumers. Education is a commodity like everything else that we want without caring for. It is a thing, and it makes its purchasers into things. One’s future position in the system, one’s relation to others, is purchased first with money and then with the demonstration of obedience. First we pay, then we “work hard.” And there is the split: one is both the commander and the commanded, consumer and consumed. It is the system itself which one obeys, the cold buildings that enforce subservience. Those who teach are treated with all the respect of an automated messaging system. Only the logic of customer satisfaction obtains here: was the course easy? Was the teacher hot? Could any stupid asshole get an A? What’s the point of acquiring knowledge when it can be called up with a few keystokes? Who needs memory when we have the internet? A training in thought? You can’t be serious. A moral preparation? There are anti-depressants for that.
Meanwhile the graduate students, supposedly the most politically enlightened among us, are also the most obedient. The “vocation” for which they labor is nothing other than a fantasy of falling off the grid, or out of the labor market. Every grad student is a would be Robinson Crusoe, dreaming of an island economy subtracted from the exigencies of the market. But this fantasy is itself sustained through an unremitting submission to the market. There is no longer the least felt contradiction in teaching a totalizing critique of capitalism by day and polishing one’s job talk by night. That our pleasure is our labor only makes our symptoms more manageable. Aesthetics and politics collapse courtesy of the substitution of ideology for history: booze and beaux arts and another seminar on the question of being, the steady blur of typeface, each pixel paid for by somebody somewhere, some not-me, not-here, where all that appears is good and all goods appear attainable by credit.
Graduate school is simply the faded remnant of a feudal system adapted to the logic of capitalism—from the commanding heights of the star professors to the serried ranks of teaching assistants and adjuncts paid mostly in bad faith. A kind of monasticism predominates here, with all the Gothic rituals of a Benedictine abbey, and all the strange theological claims for the nobility of this work, its essential altruism. The underlings are only too happy to play apprentice to the masters, unable to do the math indicating that nine-tenths of us will teach 4 courses every semester to pad the paychecks of the one-tenth who sustain the fiction that we can all be the one. Of course I will be the star, I will get the tenure-track job in a large city and move into a newly gentrified neighborhood.
We end up interpreting Marx’s 11th thesis on Feuerbach: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.” At best, we learn the phoenix-like skill of coming to the very limits of critique and perishing there, only to begin again at the seemingly ineradicable root. We admire the first part of this performance: it lights our way. But we want the tools to break through that point of suicidal thought, its hinge in practice.
The same people who practice “critique” are also the most susceptible to cynicism. But if cynicism is simply the inverted form of enthusiasm, then beneath every frustrated leftist academic is a latent radical. The shoulder shrug, the dulled face, the squirm of embarrassment when discussing the fact that the US murdered a million Iraqis between 2003 and 2006, that every last dime squeezed from America’s poorest citizens is fed to the banking industry, that the seas will rise, billions will die and there’s nothing we can do about it—this discomfited posture comes from feeling oneself pulled between the is and the ought of current left thought. One feels that there is no alternative, and yet, on the other hand, that another world is possible.
We will not be so petulant. The synthesis of these positions is right in front of us: another world is not possible; it is necessary. The ought and the is are one. The collapse of the global economy is here and now.
The university has no history of its own; its history is the history of capital. Its essential function is the reproduction of the relationship between capital and labor. Though not a proper corporation that can be bought and sold, that pays revenue to its investors, the public university nonetheless carries out this function as efficiently as possible by approximating ever more closely the corporate form of its bedfellows. What we are witnessing now is the endgame of this process, whereby the façade of the educational institution gives way altogether to corporate streamlining.
Even in the golden age of capitalism that followed after World War II and lasted until the late 1960s, the liberal university was already subordinated to capital. At the apex of public funding for higher education, in the 1950s, the university was already being redesigned to produce technocrats with the skill-sets necessary to defeat “communism” and sustain US hegemony. Its role during the Cold War was to legitimate liberal democracy and to reproduce an imaginary society of free and equal citizens—precisely because no one was free and no one was equal.
But if this ideological function of the public university was at least well-funded after the Second World War, that situation changed irreversibly in the 1960s, and no amount of social-democratic heel-clicking will bring back the dead world of the post-war boom. Between 1965 and 1980 profit rates began to fall, first in the US, then in the rest of the industrializing world. Capitalism, it turned out, could not sustain the good life it made possible. For capital, abundance appears as overproduction, freedom from work as unemployment. Beginning in the 1970s, capitalism entered into a terminal downturn in which permanent work was casualized and working-class wages stagnated, while those at the top were temporarily rewarded for their obscure financial necromancy, which has itself proved unsustainable.
For public education, the long downturn meant the decline of tax revenues due to both declining rates of economic growth and the prioritization of tax-breaks for beleaguered corporations. The raiding of the public purse struck California and the rest of the nation in the 1970s. It has continued to strike with each downward declension of the business cycle. Though it is not directly beholden to the market, the university and its corollaries are subject to the same cost-cutting logic as other industries: declining tax revenues have made inevitable the casualization of work. Retiring professors make way not for tenure-track jobs but for precariously employed teaching assistants, adjuncts, and lecturers who do the same work for much less pay. Tuition increases compensate for cuts while the jobs students pay to be trained for evaporate.
In the midst of the current crisis, which will be long and protracted, many on the left want to return to the golden age of public education. They naïvely imagine that the crisis of the present is an opportunity to demand the return of the past. But social programs that depended upon high profit rates and vigorous economic growth are gone. We cannot be tempted to make futile grabs at the irretrievable while ignoring the obvious fact that there can be no autonomous “public university” in a capitalist society. The university is subject to the real crisis of capitalism, and capital does not require liberal education programs. The function of the university has always been to reproduce the working class by training future workers according to the changing needs of capital. The crisis of the university today is the crisis of the reproduction of the working class, the crisis of a period in which capital no longer needs us as workers. We cannot free the university from the exigencies of the market by calling for the return of the public education system. We live out the terminus of the very market logic upon which that system was founded. The only autonomy we can hope to attain exists beyond capitalism.
What this means for our struggle is that we can’t go backward. The old student struggles are the relics of a vanished world. In the 1960s, as the post-war boom was just beginning to unravel, radicals within the confines of the university understood that another world was possible. Fed up with technocratic management, wanting to break the chains of a conformist society, and rejecting alienated work as unnecessary in an age of abundance, students tried to align themselves with radical sections of the working class. But their mode of radicalization, too tenuously connected to the economic logic of capitalism, prevented that alignment from taking hold. Because their resistance to the Vietnam war focalized critique upon capitalism as a colonial war-machine, but insufficiently upon its exploitation of domestic labor, students were easily split off from a working class facing different problems. In the twilight era of the post-war boom, the university was not subsumed by capital to the degree that it is now, and students were not as intensively proletarianized by debt and a devastated labor market.
That is why our struggle is fundamentally different. The poverty of student life has become terminal: there is no promised exit. If the economic crisis of the 1970s emerged to break the back of the political crisis of the 1960s, the fact that today the economic crisis precedes the coming political uprising means we may finally supersede the cooptation and neutralization of those past struggles. There will be no return to normal.
We seek to push the university struggle to its limits.
TUC Santa Cruz
hough we denounce the privatization of the university and its authoritarian system of governance, we do not seek structural reforms. We demand not a free university but a free society. A free university in the midst of a capitalist society is like a reading room in a prison; it serves only as a distraction from the misery of daily life. Instead we seek to channel the anger of the dispossessed students and workers into a declaration of war.
We must begin by preventing the university from functioning. We must interrupt the normal flow of bodies and things and bring work and class to a halt. We will blockade, occupy, and take what’s ours. Rather than viewing such disruptions as obstacles to dialogue and mutual understanding, we see them as what we have to say, as how we are to be understood. This is the only meaningful position to take when crises lay bare the opposing interests at the foundation of society. Calls for unity are fundamentally empty. There is no common ground between those who uphold the status quo and those who seek to destroy it.
The university struggle is one among many, one sector where a new cycle of refusal and insurrection has begun – in workplaces, neighborhoods, and slums. All of our futures are linked, and so our movement will have to join with these others, breeching the walls of the university compounds and spilling into the streets. In recent weeks Bay Area public school teachers, BART employees, and unemployed have threatened demonstrations and strikes. Each of these movements responds to a different facet of capitalism’s reinvigorated attack on the working class in a moment of crisis. Viewed separately, each appears small, near-sighted, without hope of success. Taken together, however, they suggest the possibility of widespread refusal and resistance. Our task is to make plain the common conditions that, like a hidden water table, feed each struggle.
We have seen this kind of upsurge in the recent past, a rebellion that starts in the classrooms and radiates outward to encompass the whole of society. Just two years ago the anti-CPE movement in France, combating a new law that enabled employers to fire young workers without cause, brought huge numbers into the streets. High school and university students, teachers, parents, rank and file union members, and unemployed youth from the banlieues found themselves together on the same side of the barricades. (This solidarity was often fragile, however. The riots of immigrant youth in the suburbs and university students in the city centers never merged, and at times tensions flared between the two groups.) French students saw through the illusion of the university as a place of refuge and enlightenment and acknowledged that they were merely being trained to work. They took to the streets as workers, protesting their precarious futures. Their position tore down the partitions between the schools and the workplaces and immediately elicited the support of many wage workers and unemployed people in a mass gesture of proletarian refusal.
As the movement developed it manifested a growing tension between revolution and reform. Its form was more radical than its content. While the rhetoric of the student leaders focused merely on a return to the status quo, the actions of the youth – the riots, the cars overturned and set on fire, the blockades of roads and railways, and the waves of occupations that shut down high schools and universities – announced the extent of the new generation’s disillusionment and rage. Despite all of this, however, the movement quickly disintegrated when the CPE law was eventually dropped. While the most radical segment of the movement sought to expand the rebellion into a general revolt against capitalism, they could not secure significant support and the demonstrations, occupations, and blockades dwindled and soon died. Ultimately the movement was unable to transcend the limitations of reformism.
The Greek uprising of December 2008 broke through many of these limitations and marked the beginning of a new cycle of class struggle. Initiated by students in response to the murder of an Athens youth by police, the uprising consisted of weeks of rioting, looting, and occupations of universities, union offices, and television stations. Entire financial and shopping districts burned, and what the movement lacked in numbers it made up in its geographical breadth, spreading from city to city to encompass the whole of Greece. As in France it was an uprising of youth, for whom the economic crisis represented a total negation of the future. Students, precarious workers, and immigrants were the protagonists, and they were able to achieve a level of unity that far surpassed the fragile solidarities of the anti-CPE movement.
Just as significantly, they made almost no demands. While of course some demonstrators sought to reform the police system or to critique specific government policies, in general they asked for nothing at all from the government, the university, the workplaces, or the police. Not because they considered this a better strategy, but because they wanted nothing that any of these institutions could offer. Here content aligned with form; whereas the optimistic slogans that appeared everywhere in French demonstrations jarred with the images of burning cars and broken glass, in Greece the rioting was the obvious means to begin to enact the destruction of an entire political and economic system.
Ultimately the dynamics that created the uprising also established its limit. It was made possible by the existence of a sizeable radical infrastructure in urban areas, in particular the Exarchia neighborhood in Athens. The squats, bars, cafes, and social centers, frequented by students and immigrant youth, created the milieu out of which the uprising emerged. However, this milieu was alien to most middle-aged wage workers, who did not see the struggle as their own. Though many expressed solidarity with the rioting youth, they perceived it as a movement of entrants – that is, of that portion of the proletariat that sought entrance to the labor market but was not formally employed in full-time jobs. The uprising, strong in the schools and the immigrant suburbs, did not spread to the workplaces.
Our task in the current struggle will be to make clear the contradiction between form and content and to create the conditions for the transcendence of reformist demands and the implementation of a truly communist content. As the unions and student and faculty groups push their various “issues,” we must increase the tension until it is clear that we want something else entirely. We must constantly expose the incoherence of demands for democratization and transparency. What good is it to have the right to see how intolerable things are, or to elect those who will screw us over? We must leave behind the culture of student activism, with its moralistic mantras of non-violence and its fixation on single-issue causes. The only success with which we can be content is the abolition of the capitalist mode of production and the certain immiseration and death which it promises for the 21st century. All of our actions must push us towards communization; that is, the reorganization of society according to a logic of free giving and receiving, and the immediate abolition of the wage, the value-form, compulsory labor, and exchange. Occupation will be a critical tactic in our struggle, but we must resist the tendency to use it in a reformist way. The different strategic uses of occupation became clear this past January when students occupied a building at the New School in New York. A group of friends, mostly graduate students, decided to take over the Student Center and claim it as a liberated space for students and the public. Soon others joined in, but many of them preferred to use the action as leverage to win reforms, in particular to oust the school’s president. These differences came to a head as the occupation unfolded. While the student reformers were focused on leaving the building with a tangible concession from the administration, others shunned demands entirely. They saw the point of occupation as the creation of a momentary opening in capitalist time and space, a rearrangement that sketched the contours of a new society. We side with this anti-reformist position. While we know these free zones will be partial and transitory, the tensions they expose between the real and the possible can push the struggle in a more radical direction.
WUC Santa Cruz
e intend to employ this tactic until it becomes generalized. In 2001 the first Argentine piqueteros suggested the form the people’s struggle there should take: road blockades which brought to a halt the circulation of goods from place to place. Within months this tactic spread across the country without any formal coordination between groups. In the same way repetition can establish occupation as an instinctive and immediate method of revolt taken up both inside and outside the university. We have seen a new wave of takeovers in the U.S. over the last year, both at universities and workplaces: New School and NYU, as well as the workers at Republic Windows Factory in Chicago, who fought the closure of their factory by taking it over. Now it is our turn.
To accomplish our goals we cannot rely on those groups which position themselves as our representatives. We are willing to work with unions and student associations when we find it useful, but we do not recognize their authority. We must act on our own behalf directly, without mediation. We must break with any groups that seek to limit the struggle by telling us to go back to work or class, to negotiate, to reconcile. This was also the case in France. The original calls for protest were made by the national high school and university student associations and by some of the trade unions. Eventually, as the representative groups urged calm, others forged ahead. And in Greece the unions revealed their counter-revolutionary character by cancelling strikes and calling for restraint.
As an alternative to being herded by representatives, we call on students and workers to organize themselves across trade lines. We urge undergraduates, teaching assistants, lecturers, faculty, service workers, and staff to begin meeting together to discuss their situation. The more we begin talking to one another and finding our common interests, the more difficult it becomes for the administration to pit us against each other in a hopeless competition for dwindling resources. The recent struggles at NYU and the New School suffered from the absence of these deep bonds, and if there is a lesson to be learned from them it is that we must build dense networks of solidarity based upon the recognition of a shared enemy. These networks not only make us resistant to recuperation and neutralization, but also allow us to establish new kinds of collective bonds. These bonds are the real basis of our struggle.
We’ll see you at the barricades.
Research and Destroy
2San Francisco State
Destroy the University
-André Gorz, 1970
The university cannot function, and we must thus prevent it from functioning so that this impossibility is made manifest. No reform of any kind can render this institution viable. We must thus combat reforms, in their effects and in their conception, not because they are dangerous, but because they are illusory. The crisis of the institution of the university goes beyond (as we will show) the realm of the university and involves the social and technical division of labor as a whole. And so, this crisis must come to a head.
The occasions and the ways of making it come to a head are subject to discussion. They are more or less good. But the discussion and the critique can only be carried out in a worthwhile fashion by those who recognize that the rejection of reformism is necessary, and its stakes global.
The open crisis in the university in France goes back to the beginning of the 1960’s, to the Fouchet Plan. When the majority of an age group strives to present itself for the baccalaureate and the majority of those with diplomas strive to enter the university, the mechanisms of social selection put in place by the bourgeoisie take a beating, its ideology and its institutions thrown into crisis.
The ideology of the academy is that of the equality of chances for social promotion though studies. This equality – and Bourdieu and Passeron have demonstrated this – has always been fictitious. Nevertheless, the mechanisms and criteria of academic selection in the past were sufficiently “objective” for their class and arbitrary character to be masked; one was eliminated or chosen in function of a group of “aptitudes” and “competences” that were defined once and for all. Traditionally the left fought, not against class criteria of selection – which would have forced it to fight against selection itself and against the academic system as a whole – but for the right of everyone to enter the selection machine.
The contradictory character of this demand remained masked as long as the right was, in theory, recognized for all while, the practical possibility to use it was denied to the vast majority. From the moment when, with the assistance of the diffusion of knowledge, the majority strives to obtain the practical possibility to use a theoretical right, the contradiction is made clear; if the majority accedes to higher education the latter lose their selective character. The right to study and the right to social promotion can no longer go together; if, at best, everyone can in fact study, everyone cannot be promoted to privileged posts. The mechanisms of academic selection having been beaten down, society will either seek to put complementary mechanisms in place, or to restrict the right to study through administrative limitations.
- These administrative limitations – numerous clausus, exams for university entry – are such delicate matters politically that the successive governments of the Fifth Republic have retreated before their application. In fact, the limitation ex ante of the number of students is the frank and brutal negation of a juridical principle and a social fiction, i.e., that the chance of social promotion through studies is equal for all and that the possibility to study is only limited by the aptitude for doing this.
Destroying this juridical fiction means exposing the illusory character of bourgeois freedoms, and above all means confronting, in the name of a technocratic rationality – study is expensive and it isn’t profitable when graduates can’t be “promoted” – the middle classes or those so- called, whose support the capitalist regime can only preserve by dangling before them the possibility of “social elevation” limited by merit alone. Numerus clausus, pre-selection, and entry exams for universities, by destroying the illusions of the meritocratic ideology, will raise up against the capitalist state the middle classes and will reveal their condition to them as a social fate; they are composed, not of potential bourgeois, which the chance of birth and fortune prevented from become real bourgeois, but of a riffraff of the needy and of subaltern workers fated to serve, and not equal, the bourgeoisie.
Politically – and this is the meaning of the Faure reform – the bourgeoisie must thus maintain the fiction of the chance of social promotion offered to all via the free access to studies. However, it is reality that takes on the task of putting the lie to this fiction; the access to studies is free, but the studies lead nowhere. The number of graduates devalorizes the diplomas. There are many called and few chosen: there are few posts. The numerical reduction that academic selection wasn’t able to carry out will be carried out by a selection at the point of hire.
While waiting for the “force of circumstances” to be understood, i.e., that parents point their children towards “good” professional school, which are yet to be created, giving them access to “good’ jobs rather than towards universities which they’ll leave jobless, the state keeps the universities open, but little by little removes the value (e.g. Vincennes) of the diplomas they grant. In short, they give the university enough rope so that in the end – they hope – it will hang itself. In the meanwhile, they send cops into the universities in order that, in setting them ablaze, their discredit might be established.
These contradictions in the bourgeois university are related to fundamental contradictions:
The market value that has until now been recognized in diplomas rested on their rarity and on the rarity of aptitude for study. If the latter becomes general the bonus attached to the diploma must logically disappear and, with it, the hierarchical division of tasks.
- If the aptitude for study – consecrated or not by a diploma – tends to become generalized, it ceases to be able to serve as a criterion for selection: social stratification can no longer claim to be based on competency and merit. The right to studies and the right to promotion can no longer march hand in hand.
If studies no longer assure promotion, it will result in either one thing or the other; either
they are considered a waste of time and a useless social charge, since they are profitable neither for those who do them nor for capitalist society; or
- they are considered as a non-functional general education which society can, after all, afford the luxury of. But in this case the affirmation of the inalienable right to studies has as its corollary that these studies, which open onto no career, must present to those who enter them – and who later will become employees, workers, or whatever – an intrinsic interest.
It is at this point that the contradiction of the university becomes clear. Against the selection system, the student movement had affirmed the inalienable right to studies. The logic of this demand (which remained petite bourgeoise insofar as it was a defense of the possibility of promotion for all) had led it to anti-hierarchical and egalitarian positions: in order for everyone to have the right to study it was necessary that studies, ceasing to be a class privilege, should also cease to confer the right to an privilege whatsoever. It had to be accepted that those with higher degrees should work with their hands, which led to putting in question and refusing the social division of labor, the technical division of labor which bears its imprint, and every form of the hierarchization of tasks.
But it was impossible to stop there, for the moment we accept that studies don’t lead to a career, we must redefine the nature of studies, their content and their meaning; since they don’t confer a “useful culture” they must confer a “rebellious culture;” since they don’t correspond to a demand of society’s, they must respond to the demand of those who make it and who intend to destroy that society, abolish that division of labor.
But the university is by nature incapable of responding to this demand; it isn’t functional either in relation to the demands of capitalist economy or in relation to the demands of those who want to overthrow capitalism; it dispenses neither a “useful culture” nor a “rebellious culture” (which, by definition, is not dispensed); it dispenses a university culture, i.e., a knowledge separated from any productive or militant practice. In short, it is a place where one can pass one’s time in neither a useful nor an interesting fashion. No kind of reform can change this situation. It can thus not be a question of reforming the university, but rather of destroying it in order to destroy all at once the culture separated from the people it incarnates (that of the mandarins) and the social stratification of which it after all remains the instrument
Such are the facts that the university guerrilla brings to light: it shortens the agony of a moribund institution and reveals the hypocrisy of the corporations that defend it. Can it be said that the leftist students will not be able to either put something else in its place or change society so that that other thing becomes viable? It is obvious: students cannot, on their own, either produce another culture or make the revolution. What they can do, however, is prevent the heightened crisis of bourgeois institutions, of the division of labor and the selection of “elites” from being masked. This is what they are doing (and is what all the partisans of order – of this order or of another, every bit as authoritarian and hierarchical – reproach them for). Alone they cannot go any farther; the effective destruction and even the contesting (and not only ideological) of the division of labor cannot be carried out in the universities; it can only be carried out in the factories and enterprises; it supposes the critical analysis of a productive organization whose apparent technical rationality is at one and the same time the objectification and mask of a political rationality, of a technique of domination. It supposes a practical knowledge of the process of production and the practical enterprise in order to change it; in order to submit it to the “associated producers,” to replace the hierarchical division by the voluntary division of labor.
It is only from the starting point of this effective critique of the division of labor that, in its turn, the critique can become effective of the education which, directly (in technical and professional schools) or indirectly, forms the managers, the enforcers, and the losers of capitalist production. The destruction of the university and class education is thus not only the affair of the taught alone; it is above all the affair of the working class if the capitalist division of labor, of which the school is the matrix, is to be surpassed.
The crisis of the bourgeois university and the working class revolt against the despotism of the factory confer an immediate relevance on the question of this surpassing. And if the conjunction between these two aspects of the same crisis – that of the division of labor – doesn’t arrive at the effective joining of the students and workers and a reciprocal critique of the methods of education and domination, the fault doesn’t lie with the student movement; it lies with the traditional organizations of the working class movement, who are doing everything possible to lock the students in the university ghetto in order to better control the workers’ demands. If the necessary violence of the student struggle thus tends to wear itself out in symbolic insurrections on the university level alone, it is not due to a perverse taste for objectless violence; it is because violence alone is capable of smashing, if only temporarily, the encirclement of the university ghetto and of posing a problem whose existence the reformists of all stripes prefer to ignore. This problem – that of the crisis of bourgeois institutions and ideology and the division of labor – is a political problem par excellence. It isn’t enough that the political parties refuse any political meaning or expression to student violence for it to be simple vandalism; it is a matter of a violence both political and politically necessary, if not sufficient.
Source: Les Temps Modernes #285, April 1970
-Participants in the Carter-Huggins Hall Occupation
OUC Los Angeles
n 19 November at approximately 12:30 students occupied Campbell Hall at UCLA. The time has come for us to make a statement and issue our demands. In response to this injunction we say: we will ask nothing. We will demand nothing. We will take, we will occupy. We have to learn not to tip toe through a space which ought by right to belong to everyone.
We are under no illusions. The UC Regents will vote the budget cuts and raise student fees. The profoundly undemocratic nature of their decision making process, and their indifference to the plight of those who struggle to afford an education or keep their jobs, can come as no surprise.
We know the crisis is systemic – and that it reaches beyond the Regents, beyond the criminal budget cuts in Sacramento, beyond the economic crisis, to the very foundations of our society. But we also know that the enormity of the problem is just as often an excuse for doing nothing.
We choose to fight back, to resist, where we find ourselves, the place where we live and work, our university.
We therefore ask that those who share in our struggle lend us not only their sympathy but their active support. For those students who work two or three jobs while going to school, to those parents for whom the violation of the UC charter means the prospect of affordable education remains out of reach, to laid off teachers, lecturers, to students turned away, to workers who’ve seen the value of their diplomas evaporate in an economy that ‘grows’ without producing jobs – to all these people and more besides, we say that our struggle is your struggle, that an alternative is possible if you have the courage to seize it.
WUC Los Angeles
e are determined that the struggle should spread. That is the condition in which the realization of our demands becomes possible.
To our peaceful demonstration, to our occupation of our own university, we know the University will respond with the full force of the police at its command. We hear the helicopters circle above us. We intend to learn and to teach through our occupation, humbly but with determination. We are not afraid. We are not going anywhere.
Playing Custer: Adventurism in the Occupation Movement
–Take Back UCI
One thing that is more amazing than the expansion of the strategy of occupation from school to school is the remarkable similarity in the rhetoric of our opposition across terrains.
And I don’t mean Capital or university administrations, I’m talking about our most fervent opponents within our own ranks: particularly among the “build the movement first” leftists.
Rather than enter the discourse over the effectiveness of the “demand and march” model of campus activism or movement building as preceding any action, these opportunists and proceduralists have resorted to calling students who take the initiative to liberate buildings and spaces “adventurists.” This same term has been repeated to such a degree between New School and UC-Santa Cruz that it appears that our detractors maintain networks parallel to our own.
[Somewhat ironically, these factions of the “left” have repeatedly sought to co-opt student initiative, breaking and entering into spaces and situations of adventure merely to augment their dwindling memberships while marginalizing our rage. But in so doing, they are presenting a dead end avenue for venting. In fact, these self-proclaimed “revolutionary” organizations are nothing but the parasitic pygopagus conjoined twin of Capital and the State and will die upon the liquidation of both–attaching themselves to any sites of revolutionary adventure like leeches and sucking them dry. In this regard, they are no different than our student governments.]
But while they use the term pejoratively, we actually see it as a compliment. Perhaps the fact that they see adventure so distastefully sheds some light on the impotence of the contemporary Left, that they are so willing to self-castrate the only appendage that has historically been effective in staving off Capital.
But adventure is what is ultimately appealing to the disaffected masses, and what is necessary. The ability to find some excitement, to find a rupture in the daily anesthetized routine of life, is at the root of sports riots, affairs, shoplifting, and amusement parks. Television even fulfills this need when there is a lack of access to rupture or genuine adventure.
This also explains why no one comes to our meetings and rallies. We are tired of work and school, why would we choose to emulate those prisons elsewhere? Why must our “organizing” projects such model replicas of the greater mundanity of alienated life?
Adventure is self-defense, self-learning, mutual experience. We find ourselves and each other in adventure, in life-altering occurrences which tear apart the fabric of the status quo and give us a blank canvas upon which to paint our future.
WUC Santa Cruz
e can never liberate others for them. We can never impart all of our correct consciousness upon workers, nor can we with words alone convert students to our particular brand of Marxism or Anarchism. What we can do is generalize conflict, and create situations of adventure. Remember how we ourselves came into our own individual politics: most likely through a series of life-changing experiences, through situations of adventure. With this in mind, if we are truly interested in “building the movement,” we have to understand that we can only draw our peers into the politics of liberation through the spaces of liberation and the politics of adventure as well. “Movement” implies a continuation of action; any real movement must move to grow.
Whether we are already cognizant of its existence or not, there is a global subterranean civil war. We are all unwitting participants; our choice is not whether to fight or even who to fight, but how and where to fight. It is up to us to open new fronts, discover new weapons. Others will join the struggle as they pass through these fronts. This war cannot be won with words, guns, or members. Victory in this war depends on the generalization and expansion of adventurism, via the tactics of temporary occupation, expropriation, sabotage, and guerrilla action. If we refuse to fight, we die. If we become content with our victories and refuse to expand and generalize, we die. Only in a constant state of adventure can we experience individual and collective liberation, which inevitably recedes the moment we capitulate to authority or return to the dull, lifeless drawl of the endless meeting.
ather than condemn adventurism, we must come to recognize the necessity of creating spaces and situations of adventurism and developing a politics of adventurism. Until then, those of us already engaged in clandestine and adventuristic action will continue to do so, as we watch the rest of the “movement” atrophy.
The Bricks We Throw at Police Today Will Build the Liberation Schools of Tomorrow
-Three Non-Matriculating Proletarians
“If you’re scared today you’ll be scared tomorrow as well and always and so you’ve got to make a start now right away we must show that in this school we aren’t slaves we have to do it so we can do what they’re doing in all other schools to show that we’re the ones to decide because the school is ours.”
The Unseen, Nanni Balestrini
Days later, voices in unison still ring in our ears. “Who’s university?” At night in bed, we mumble the reply to ourselves in our dreams. “Our university!” And in the midst of building occupations and the festive and fierce skirmishes with the police, concepts like belonging and ownership take the opportunity to assume a wholly new character. Only the village idiot or, the modern equivalent, a bureaucrat in the university administration would think we were screaming about something as suffocating as property rights when last week we announced, “The School is Ours!” When the day erupted, when the escape plan from the drudgery of college life was hatched, it was clear to everyone that the university not only belonged to the students who were forcefully reasserting their claim but also to the faculty, to every professor and TA who wishes they could enliven the mandatory curriculum in their repetitive 101 class, to the service workers who can’t wait for their shift to end, and to every other wage-earner on campus ensuring the daily functioning of the school.
Last week, the actualization of our communal will gave us a new clarity. The usual divisiveness of proprietorship was forcefully challenged; cascades of hidden meaning rush onto rigid notions of possession and our eyes look past surface appearances. So now when asked, “who does the university belong to?” we can’t fail to recognize that the college itself was built by labor from generations past, the notebook paper is produced by workers in South America, the campus computers are the output of work in Chinese factories, the food in the student cafe is touched by innumerable hands before it reaches the plates, and all the furniture at UC Berkeley is produced by the incarcerated at San Quentin. Thus the university, its normal operation and existence, ought to be attributed to far more than it regularly is. To claim that the school is ours requires our definition of ownership to not only shatter the repressive myth that the college belongs to the State of California and the Regents but to also extend belonging past national and state borders and throughout time. It’s clear, the entire university, for that matter, every university belongs to everyone, employed and unemployed, all students and all workers, to everyone of the global class that produces and reproduces the world as we now know it. The school is ours because it’s everyone’s and the destruction of the property relation, with all its damaging and limiting consequences, is implicit in the affirmation of this truth. It’s our university…
…but, as of now, in its present configuration, who would want something so disgusting as a school?
The Poverty of Student Life is the Poverty of Capitalist Society
It’s now larger than any conspiratorial plot by Thomas Huxley. In fact, he could have never envisioned the extent to which contemporary class society would transform education as such into another separated activity, detached from the totality of life and devoid of any practical worth or good, while, simultaneously, being in perfect accord with the needs of capitalist production.
Learning is now sapped of all its content, education is but another part of the assembly line in the social factory, and the university itself serves an important function within the reproduction of disjointed life in this divided society. While the collegiate apparatus infests countless minds with the logic and technical knowledge of capital, the illusion is being sold that somehow academic labor is divorced from the world of work. Our apologies, but a term paper is not the production of autonomous and creative knowledge, it is work and therefore exploitation. It is human activity animated for the sake of capital not for humanity itself. The conditioning and preparation of students for a life crushed by regimented value creation is the essential purpose of the college: to teach the young how to give and take orders. Nothing about the university is neutral; its role in society is clear. The lines are being drawn.
The Representation of the Student Body Has Become an Enemy of the Student Body
You will always be offered dialogue as if that were its own end; it will die in bureaucracy’s stale air, as if trapped in a soundless room. In insurrectionary times, action is the speech that can be heard.
-Slogan written on a Digital Wall
Far before last week’s events, we’ve located them in the enemy’s camp. Student activist-leaders shamed, begged, pleaded, and finally began to shriek and scream at us when we ignored their megaphone-amplified orders. In their last ditch effort to see their commands followed, they physically assisted the police in blocking us from occupying buildings and protected the outnumbered cops from our punches and shoves. It’s obvious they’ve chosen their side some time ago. These are the idiots who were telling people who tried to break down the door of California Hall on November 18th that they should not do so because “there was no consensus.” These are the same fools who sabotaged the attempted storming of the Regents meeting at UCLA and the occupation of Covel Hall, ruining months of self-directed planning, after declaring the crowd had become too “agitated.” The Cynthias, who later that day went on to disrupt the occupation of Carter-Huggins Hall. These are the same politicians, who grabbed the megaphone as students marched in to the President’s office in Downtown Oakland, prepared to raise utter hell and instead directed them into a dialogue with middle-level administrators, later issuing an order that the crowd must leave “peacefully.” Disgusting, yet typical. The only consensus they want is rallied around the social peace and the preservation of the existent institutions and the only alteration they want of the power structure is their ascent to the top of it. By actively collaborating with the administration and police, by orchestrating arrests, by frittering away the momentum of the angry, they validate the insults we flung at them and they revealed themselves for the “student cops,” “class traitors” and “snitches” they are.
For them it’s a knee-jerk reaction: challenge their power and they fall back on identity politics. If they don’t get their way they cry privilege. When the actions escalate, when we begin to feel our power, the self-appointed are waiting to remind us that there may be the undocumented present – the activist super-ego. Somehow in their tiny paternalistic brains they believe they know what’s best for immigrants implying that the undocumented are too stupid to understand the consequences of their actions and god granted the student leaders the wisdom to guide these lost souls. In their foolish heads, immigrants remain passive sheep, black people never confront the police and just enjoy the beatings they get, and the working class always takes orders from the boss.
In pseudo-progressive tongue they speak a state-like discourse of diversity; the groans of the student-activist zombie is the grammar of the dead revolutions of the past. Their vision of race politics ignores the triumphs and wallows in the failures of the 60’s movements. The stagnant ghosts of yesterday’s deadlocked struggle; they are the hated consequences of the civil rights era that produced a rainbow of tyranny with a Black president mutilating Afghanis, Asian cops brutalizing students on campus, and Latino prison guards chaining prisoners. In this same way, the opportunists act out their complicity with the structures of order. When students defy preset racial categories and unify in order to take action on their own behalf, the student cops attempt to reinforce the present day’s violent separations and reestablish governance. They fail to recognize that divisions among proletarians are questioned only within the struggle itself and the festering scissions between the exploited can only be sutured with hands steadied by combat with the exploiters. Like a scalpel used to reopen stitched wounds, the student activists’ brand of multi-culturalism is undoubtedly a tool of state repression.
During the scuffle with the police in front of California Hall on the inaugural day of the strike, one of the student cops asked, “What’s going to happen when we get into the building?” For us, given the social context of the strike, the answer is obvious, for them, even the question is problematic because of the risk it poses to their position of dominance. In the moment of rupture, their role as managers becomes void. Self-directed action crowds out the programmatic. They forever need to stand on the edge of the reality that something could pop off, because it is in that possibility that they can control the situation and ensure that things do, in fact, move in their way towards nowhere. When things get hot, the self-elected of the student movement are waiting with their trusty fire extinguishers ready in hand because they know that when people act on their own and valorize their self-interest, their authority crumbles and everyone can see how bankrupt their strategy of social containment actually is. The student activist stutter-steps on the path of nothingness. But we hope to turn the mob against them. To seize their megaphones and declare: “Death to Bureaucracy!” Some may ask, “Why have these hooligans come to our campus?” “They’ve come to ruin everything!” the student leaders will say.
And for once, we agree.
We Are Not Students, We Are Dynamite!
ASan Francisco State
movement results from combinations that even its own participants cannot control. And that its enemies cannot calculate. It evolves in ways that cannot be predicted, and even those who foresee it are taken by surprise.
-Paco Ignacio Taibo
Many will ask then, why have we thrown ourselves into the ‘student movement?’ We are not students, at least not now and never in the UC system. It is not feasible for us to attend the UC in the first place, either because of the cost or the lack of desire to live the rest of our lives ridden with overwhelming debt.
We have not come to the university to make demands of the Board of Regents or the university administration. Nor do we wish to participate in some form of ‘democracy’ where the ‘student movement’ decides (or is told to do so by student leaders) how to negotiate with the power structure. For us, Sacramento and its budget referendums are as useless as the empty words spewing from the mouths of the union leaders and activists on campus. Nothing about the “democratizing” the school system or forcing it to become better managed or more “transparent” even mildly entices us. No, we didn’t join the student movement to obtain any of these paltry demands.
Last week, we began to attack the university not just because we are proletarians scorned by and excluded from the UC, or that we hope by resisting we may reduce costs and thus join the UC system and elevate our class positions. Our choice to collaborate in the assault on California’s school was driven solely by our own selfish class interest: to take its shit and use it for ourselves. Occupied buildings become spaces from which to further strike the exploiters of this world and, at the same time, disrupt and suppress the ability of the college to function.
Like any other institution structured by class society, the university is one of our targets. We made our presence in the student movement to break down the divisions between students angry over fee hikes, workers striking against lay offs, and faculty at odds with the administration over cuts and furloughs. These are not separate struggles over different issues, but sections of a class that have a clear and unified enemy. We have come for the same reason we intervene in any tension: to push for the total destruction of capitalist exploitation and for the re-composition of the proletariat towards communism.
And so, ask yourself how could one even go about reforming something as debilitating as a university? Demanding its democratization would only mean a reconfiguration of horror. To ask for transparency is nothing but a request for a front row seat to watch an atrocity exhibition. Even the seemingly reasonable appeal for reducing the cost of tuition will leave the noose of debt wrapped snuggly around our necks. There’s nothing the university can give anyone, but last week’s accomplishments show that there is everything for us to take. If anything, our actions, as a means in themselves, were more important than any of the crumbs the UC system or the Regents Board might wipe off the table for us. During these days, we felt the need for obliterating renewal give rise to intense enthusiasm. We felt the spirit irradiate throughout campus and press everyone “to push the university struggle [not only] to its limits,” but to its ultimate conclusion: against the university itself.
…And So It Must Spread
“It is surely not difficult to see that our time is a time of birth and transition to a new period. The spirit has broken with what was hitherto the world of its existence and imagination and is about to submerge all this in the past; it is at work giving itself a new form.”
-The Phenomenology of Spirit
The stench that the university emits has become unbearable and students everywhere are reacting against the institution that has perpetually rotted away their being via an arsenal of disciplinary techniques. At campuses across California the corrosion of life is brought to a quick halt when the college’s daily mechanism of power is given the Luddite treatment, and suddenly, studying becomes quite meaningless. Shamefully, the administration, terrified they are losing control and supervision of the pupils they spent so much time training, turn riot police on anyone ripping off their chains. At UC Santa Cruz, UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, SF State and CSU Fresno the unlimited occupations display the universal need for free and liberated space. The recalcitrance is spreading. In Austria, students left their occupied territory at the Fine Arts Academy to march on the US embassy in solidarity with the police repression on California campuses. On the same continent, the occupations in Greece have now extended outside the universities into the high schools and even the middle schools. Everywhere, the youth are recognizing the school as a vapid dungeon stunting their growth and, at the same time, they are refusing submission to the crushing of their bodily order. All over, a new generation is seeking the passion for the real, for what is immediately practicable, here and now.
The assaults on police officers, the confrontations with the administration, the refusal of lectures, and the squatted buildings point the objective struggle in the direction of the complete and total negation of the university. That is, brick by brick smashing the academic monolith into pieces and abolishing the college as a specialized institution restricted to a specific segment of society. This will require the instillation of technique known as learning to be wholly subverted and recomposing education as a generalized and practical activity of the entire population; an undermining through which the student shall auto-destruct.
Going halfway always spells defeat, and so, the spreading of movement is our only assurance against this stagnation. Complete self-abolition necessitates that the logic of revolt spill out of the universities and flood the entire social terrain. But the weapons of normalcy are concealed everywhere and especially within the most mundane characteristics of daily life. The allegiance to the bourgeois family structure and interruptions by holiday vacations and school breaks threaten to douse the fuse before its ignition and hinder our momentum.
Let us not lose sight of the tasks before us.
We must forcefully eject the police from the campus. Find their holes and burn them out. Block their movements near occupied spaces. Build barricades; protect that which has been re-taken. We need only to look to Chile or Greece to see the immense advantage movements possess once they seize territory and declare it free of police. Blockade the entrances and gates of the campus as the students have already begun to experiment with at UC Santa Cruz.
We must also denounce and destroy the student Left (the recuperative, the parasitic, the “representative”) that seeks to de-escalate the movement and integrate it back into politics. Our venom is not only directed at those who assisted the police in blocking angry students from entering California Hall at UC Berkeley or obstructed the crowds during the Regents meeting at UCLA but also of those who sought to negotiate with the police “on behalf” of the occupiers of Wheeler Hall. It is telling that the police will negotiate with them, because to the cops, they are reasonable. We are not, however, because we seek the immediate annihilation of both the pigs and the activists.
Renew the strikes and extend their reach. Occupy the student stores and loot them. Sell off the computers in the lab to raise funds. Set up social spaces for students and non-students alike to come in and use freely. Appropriate the copy machines and make news of the revolt. Takeover the cafeterias and bars and begin preparing the communal feast. Burn the debt records and the construction plans. Chisel away the statues and vandalize the pictures of the old order. In short, create not an ‘alternative’ that can easily make its fit within the existent, but rather a commune in which power is built to destroy capitalist society. When faced with a university building, the choices are limited; either convert it to ashes or begin the immediate materialization of the international soviet.
To all waged and unwaged workers – students or not, unemployed, precarious or criminal we call on you to join this struggle. The universities can become not only our playgrounds but also the foundations from which we can build a partisan war machine fit for the battle to retrieve our stolen lives.
And to the majority of the students, from those paying their way to those swimming in debt, all used as collateral by the Regents, who bravely occupied buildings across California and fought the police against the barricades – we say this clearly: we are with you! We stood by you as you faced down the police in the storming rain and defended the occupiers. Your actions are an inspiration to us all and we hope to meet you again on the front lines. In you we see the spirit of insurgent students everywhere.
As our Austrian friends recently told us, “Take out your hairspray and your lighter”! Tear down the education factory. Attack the Left and everything that it “represents.” Attack the new bosses before they become the old ones. Life serves the risk taker – and we’re rolling the fucking dice!
FOR ANARCHY AND COMMUNISM!
-Three Non-Matriculating Proletarians
Torchlit Evening with Birgeneau
“Everybody throw your lighters up, tell me y’all gonna fight or what?”
It is no secret that the kids are pissed. Since September, we’ve carried out over a dozen building takeovers of varying scale and intensity on California campuses, and during the Days of Action against Cuts and Hikes in November, students in Berkeley and LA actually fought police. In the past few days, evictions of occupied spaces at SFSU and Berkeley by the armed agents of the state and academy can only represent the future of this form of education. Last night, we marched to war and for once didn’t wait for the enemy to strike the first blow.
veryone can follow the thread connecting these events. The police action towards students in the past few months could be accurately called “extraordinarily frightening and violent” as Birgeneau whined of the ruckus that woke him last night. As a leading beacon of the capitalist media recently observed, “Whether you’re an oppressive foreign dictatorship or an American state in the process of committing fiscal suicide, you know you’re losing the public relations battle when encounters between armor-clad riot police with truncheons and college students are broadcast on TV.” Despite the liberal overtones, Newsweek exposes some important points. The dictatorship of capital is indeed performing an ensemble suicide, and as we are its captives, our will to live can only be expressed through revolt — refusal, negation, and the unleashing of unlimited human strikes. As students, we are supposed to be the embodiment of society producing its own future, but this society has no future; there will be no “return to normal” and we must find ways to inhabit this reality. From Berkeley to Greece and back around the other side, we are in civil war. This is the basis of modern life, and it is high time we illuminate this fact for any who remain confused.
It’s worth noting that last night, the activist-mediators and movement-bureaucrats who have behaved as volunteer deputies so many times in the past few months were nowhere to be seen. This was neither peaceful nor a protest; the time for dialogue is over. The path of reform and representation is our target as much as the sphere of academic production itself. Birgeneau was right, we are “criminals, not activists”: we are no longer kept obedient by the myth of peace as our normal condition. We must wonder as well about the people who cleared obstructions from the street in the wake of the march – streets used minutes later by police who attacked the mob and arrested 8 comrades on extreme and absurd charges. A reminder to everyone: solidarity means attack!
The rage that was loosed upon the chancellor’s disgusting palace was not only well-deserved, but a long time coming and should not by any means stop there. Not until every knowledge-factory grinds to a halt and every rich man’s house is either squatted or burned to the ground.
Note: This Communiqué emerged anonymously on the internet and La Ventana denies any responsibility in having produced it.
We are still here
To those disaffected and affected by the budget cuts. To those laid-off faculty who have been sent off this campus because Robert Corrigan values his six-figure income more than your pedagogy.
To those workers, always the unseen heroes who are the first to take the sacrifices. To those janitors, who were denied from doing their jobs because of us. We do this for you.
40 years ago on this campus, San Francisco State College gave in to the demands of the 5-month Ethnic Studies strike, which gained valuable educational and economic opportunities for all Black and Third-World people. Self-determination for people of color was the word of the day, and although concessions were made, the struggle for self-determination of the working-class has not ended, but is going through a new phase of global class struggle intensified by the polarization of capital and labor.
Also 40 years ago, Indians of All Nations took a famous federal property known as Alcatraz Island, or The Rock, and again occupied the land that Lakota Indians had taken years prior unsuccessfully. The organizers, American Indians from tribes all across the continent, included young Richard Oakes, a Mohawk SF State student. The occupation lasted 19 months, whereby the IAN demanded a new American Indian Center on the unused surplus property, created a Bureau of Caucasian Affairs to deal with the white man, and purchased the island with feathers and beads worth more than the money paid to the native inhabitants of Manhattan Island by colonialists.
We Are Still Here
The legacy of the militant student and working-class movements of the 1960’s lit the revolutionary consciousness of the globe, from the Latin-American workers’ struggles to the anti-colonial uprisings in Africa, and back home to the Black Panther Party in Oakland and the Third World Liberation Front. These movements challenged not only the dominant capitalist hegemony through class struggle, they spread new ideas of how to struggle.
Universities worldwide, like those in Austria, in Greece, Germany and our comrades across the bay at UC Berkeley have recently used the tactic of occupation as a means to challenge bourgeois property relations, where not production but knowledge and ideas are socially produced but privately appropriated for the ruling class, which categorizes and divides the working-class into hierarchal constructions that reproduce our high-level managers at the UC’s, our technical workers at the CSU’s, and the lower layers of the proletariat left to the crumbs of a community college education meaningless in this capitalist crisis; great training for the workplace, where the administration becomes the corporate board, the professor becomes the boss, and the tailist union bureaucrats become…well, I guess some things stay the same. The student is the worker, adding use-value to her education for future exploitation and extraction of surplus-value.
Although occupation, or reclaiming space, is not a historically new idea, it is a new form of struggle for many of those disillusioned with the promises of lobbying, those too tired of petitioning “our” elected leaders, those who have lost all faith in politics as they know it. As direct actions like these redefine socially-acceptable modes of protest, occupations themselves redefine the power-relations at the site of struggle. We are occupying because we understand that the budget cuts, which are manifestations of capital in its search for untouched investment and the prospect of profits, are enforced through our consent, through our submission, when we focus the gaze of rebellion at the self-imposed sites of bourgeois political debate and conflict like the Capitol Building in Sacramento, or even its local subsidiary office labeled Administration Building at every elementary school, at every junior high, every high school, every college and university.
Our power as working-class people does not reside in the uneven and rigged political game where winners are chosen by their capacity to pacify those who wish to change the system, by their capacity to coerce the oppressed into rolling the dice one more time for the sake of chance: the opportunity that this time, maybe this time, change can come peacefully for the benefit of those subject to endless waves of unemployment, for the benefit of those faced with the racism of the workplace, for the benefit of those attacked by sexism and homophobia on the streets. The reclaiming of space that is occurring as we write this statement is a challenge to the assumption that politics and the power of political control is only suited for white-male representatives in black suits. The real power exists here, at the site of exploitation, be it the school or the workplace. We plant the seeds of these institutions as workers, students, staff, and faculty, constantly maintaining and watering them, looking after them as a gardener takes after her garden, but we are not allowed to enjoy the fruits of that labor. This is the contradiction exposed.
By redefining and reclaiming these spaces, we expose the true violent nature of our society. After escalated police violence on the UC campuses in Los Angeles and Berkeley, student occupiers rightly proclaimed that “behind every fee increase, a line of riot police.” In this structure, the Business Building of San Francisco State University, usually occupied by financial advisors for war-profiteering companies, there is no business as usual. Outside, the invisible hand of the market is holding a gun, revealing itself to us with a badge emblazoned “UPD”. The act of occupation is violent because it is a threat; we are not those who wield weapons, we are not those who possess the means to subordinate people to not just physical violence, but the psychological violence that disempowers us to believe that we do not have the power to resist and fight back. Then again, We Are Still Here
The Conscious Organ of the Imaginary Party Exercies in Critical Metaphysics
One begins with principles. Just action follows.
When a civilization is ruined, one declares it bankrupt.One does not tidy up in a home falling off a cliff.
Ends are not lacking, nihilism is nothing. Means are cleared in advance, impotence has no excuse. The value of means correspond to their end.
All that is, is good. The world of the qelipoth1,the Spectacle, is bad, through and through. Evil is not a substance, if it were, it would be good. The mysterious effi cacy of evil resolves itself in that it has no being per se, existing rather as nothingness become active.
Evil consists in failing to distinguish the good. Indistinction is its kingdom, indifference its power.
Men do not love evil, they love the good that is in themselves.
In the Tiqqun2, being returns to being, nothingness to nothingness. The fulfillment of Justice is its abolition.
History is not finished, for that, it would require our assent.
A single free man suffi ces to prove that liberty is not dead.
The question isn’t whether or not “to be of one’s time”, but rather to live for or against it. No argument.
Anything which boasts of some temporal innovation declares only its own inferiority to time.
The new, the original, so many alibis for mediocrity. Up until the present, progress has only connoted a particular accumulation of trivialities. The essential has remained in infancy. Men have moralized, but they’ve yet to think. Negligence for which they no longer posses the means. Here, history begins.
The catastrophes of history demonstrate nothing against the good. Revolutionary movements have not suspended “the normal course of things.” To the contrary. It is the normal course that is the suspension of the good. In their linkages, the revolutionary movements constitute the tradition of the good, up until now: the tradition of the vanquished.
This is our possession.
All of history is encapsulated in this, that a great city had been besieged by little kings. The rest remains unassailable.
Before time, absolutely, there is sense.
A clock that sounds nothing. To which, the crown.
We must act as though we were the children of no one. Men are not given to know their true descent. It is the historical constellation which they succeed in grasping. It is good to have a pantheon. All pantheons are not to be found at the end of Rue Soufflot.
Platitudes are the most beautiful things in the world. They necessitate repetition. Truth has always said the same thing, in a thousand manners. At a given moment a platitude has the power to make worlds oscillate. Besides, the universe itself was born of a commonplace.
This world is not adequately described because it isn’t adequately contested, and vice versa. We do not seek out a knowledge of accomplished states, but a creative science. Criticism has nothing to fear, neither the weight of foundations, nor the grace of consequences.
The age is furiously metaphysical, tirelessly striving to forget itself.
By casting off Critical Metaphysics, one embraces it.
Some have put forth that truth does not exist. For this they are punished. They do not conceal themselves from truth, rather, truth conceals itself from them. They bury not that which will bury them.
We have only to groan, there will be no charitable tailor-made revolt. You will have to put everything back together yourselves. This world requires truth, not consolation.
One must critique domination because it is servitude that dominates. That there should be “happy” slaves is not a justifi cation for slavery.
They are born. They wish to live. And they follow out their moribund fate. They even wish a bit of rest, and leave behind children, so as to birth other deaths, other destinies of death.
Here then, the time of larva, they even write little books in which they speak of their geneology. Since there have been men, and men who’ve read Marx, one has known that it’s a question of the commodity, but one has yet to be fi nished, practically, with all that. Those there are who, of other times, have made a profession of its critique, going so far as to propose that the commodity would constitute a second nature, more elegant and more legitimate than the first, to whose authority we ought to bow.
Their metastasis spread to the ends of the earth; one does well to recall that an organism riddled with cancer collapses in little time.
The old alternatives and the erstwhile disputes have been bled dry. We reimpose them.
Reject one side as you reject the other. Love only the rest. It alone will be spared.
Men are responsible for a world which they did not create. This isn’t mysticism, it’s a given. Let the satisfied feign surprise.
Hence, the war.
The enemy does not posses the intelligence of words, it tramples upon them. Words desire to be avenged.
Happiness has never been synonymous with peace. One must wield happiness offensively.
For only too long sensibility has been a passive disposition for the experiencing of pain, it must become the very means of combat. The art of recasting suffering as a force.
Liberty does not accommodate itself to patience. The former is the practice of history in deed. Inversely, “liberations” are merely the opium of naughty slaves. Critique is born of liberty, and gives birth to the latter.
One is more certain to fi nd liberty in the self’s undoing than to fi nd happiness in receiving one.
“Once, a certain society had attempted, through innumerable means, repeated endlessly, to annihilate the most living among its children. These children have survived. They desire the death of this society.”
Pursue liberty, with it you shall have all the rest. He that wishes to keep himself shall loose himself.
As everything whose existence must be proved a priori, life, as it’s accorded by the age, is of little value.
An ancient order survives in appearance. In truth, it only subsists so as to be documented in all its perversity.
One says that there’s no danger as there isn’t any unrest; just as one says that the absence of material disorder at the surface of society implies that the revolution is far from us. But the forces of annihilation gather upon a path very different from that where one had once thought to find them.
Burgeoning imbeciles, wee cads, obtuse realists, understand that there are more things in heaven and earth than you might dream in your inconsequential solipsisms.
This society functions as an incessant appeal to the restriction of one’s mental faculties. Its best elements are completely estranged from it. They rebel against it. This world turns around its margins. It knows nothing of its own decomposition. All that continues to live, lives against this society.
Abandon ship. Not because it’s sinking, but to make it sink.
Those who don’t understand today have already exhausted all their force so as to not have understood yesterday. In his heart of hearts, man is quite familiar with the state of the world.
All things radicalize. Stupidity, like intelligence.
Tiqqun draws out the lines of rupture in the universe of indifference. The element of time reabsorbs itself in sense. The forms take life. The fi gures are incarnated. The world is.
Every new way of being ruins the preceding way of being, and it is only then, on the ruins of the old, that the new begins. It is known as “the pains of birth”, signifying a period of great upheaval. The old way of being in the world will be ruined, things will be altered.
Once, a certain society had attempted, through innumerable means, repeated endlessly, to annihilate the most living among its children. These children have survived. They desire the death of this society. They are without hate. It’s a war that was never declared. We do not declare it either, we simply point it out.
Two camps. Their disagreement turns around the nature of the war. The party of confusion would like there to be but a sole camp. It directs a military peace. The Imaginary Party understands that conflict is the father of all things. It lives dispersed and in exile.
Outside of the war, there is nothing. Its war is an exordium where forces are composed and weapons are found.
Leave it to the century to combat its specters. We do not fight against phantoms. We brush them aside to lure the target.
In a world built upon lies, lying cannot be vanquished by its contrary, but only by a world of truth.
Complacency engenders hatred and resentment, truth assembles friends.
“We,” which is to say us and our friendships.
Intelligence must become a collective affair.
And the rest is silence.
Venice January 15th, 1999
1. Kabbalistic term meaning “husks of the dead”, the condition of a body that has outlived its soul.
2. A concept issuing from Judaism, often used in the kabbalistic and messianic traditions, which indicates all at once reparation, restitution, redemption, and which covers in large part, among others, the Jewish conception of social justice. “The tiqqun is the becoming-real, the becoming-practical of the world; the process wherein everything is revealed as practical.” (Introduction to Civil War)
24th – A chapter from Max Nettlaus’s book A Short History of Anarchism
1st & 8th December – 3 Ecologies by Guattari
15th – A chapter or two from Anarchy Alive! by Uri Gordon
22th – An article or two from Politics is not a Banana #2
29nd – ShiFu Soul of Chinese anarchism