Filed under: Milwaukee area, war-machine | Tags: down town milwaukee, general assemblies, milwaukee, occupations, occupy, occupy everything, occupy MKE, the left
This is a brief summary and commentary written by someone who participated in the occupy MKE events thus far. There is still an ongoing occupation in Milwaukee, but it’s laden with problems and at an extreme lowpoint in participation of actual occupation (outside of marches and General Assemblies). We’ll try to post further updates here when more develops.
I was excited when the occupation movement finally came to town. Almost a month after New York, Milwaukee would finally get a piece of the action. Nothing really exciting has really happened since the occupation at UW-Milwaukee, and I was excited to write the wrongs of the past.
When myself and several comrades arrived at the Zeidler Park for the kick-off march, the number of people already there was encouraging. The crowd was estimated between 2500 and 3000 people, much more than any other Milwaukee event in recent memory. What was not encouraging was the ominous proliferation of FRSO and WWP members and their respective newspapers. Even so, the presence of a first aid tent and people with masks kept me hopeful. According to a comrade who was at the planning meeting for the occupation, there would be marshals and the march would be permitted, but the peace police were limited to leading chants and directing the march leaving plenty of space for possible intervention.
Our interventions, though minor, were successful. As our black flags flapped in the wind we undermined the authority of marshals telling everyone to slow down by walking right past them, challenging them to “try and fucking stop us.” We also introduced a fun new chant of our own (Kill the rich, arm the poor; our one demand is civil war) much to the dismay of the pacifist organizers. When the march arrived at the Chase Bank there were several speakers. One of them tried to start chanting “thank you” to the police. He was countered by a “fuck you” chant and quickly gave up expressing his gratitude. While these minor interventions probably didn’t accomplish much, they were often appreciated by the other marchers who appeared to appreciate a break from the recycled liberal rhetoric they had been hearing since Madison.
After returning to Zeidler Park, the occupation acquired a festival atmosphere as it continued through the day. As expected, there was a potluck and pizza. At 7pm the GA started. The fail was soon to follow. The “General Assembly” that evening consisted of a small faction of the organizers talking at what remained of the occupiers (about 80 people). Anarchists intervened once more, calling out the organizers for engaging in negotiations with the police without the consent of the larger group. The discussion then shifted to whether or not people would risk arrest to continue the occupation in Zeidler Park. My comrades and I found ourselves on the same side as local SDS members, arguing that it’s not an occupation until it comes into conflict with the police. Unfortunately when the matter came to a straw poll of the crowd, we allowed the organizers to get away with phrasing the question as “Who wants to get arrested staying here?” Not calling that out was probably our biggest mistake. Naturally, the crowd of nervous occupiers erred strongly in favor of going home and coming back the next morning.
At 10pm there were four of us standing the the center of Zeidler Park squaring off against about 30 MPD officers. We decided that we’d rather spare ourselves the humiliation of being arrested on the local news and left after a couple warnings. It’s difficult to tell what would have happened if we stood our ground, but I have no regrets about not spending the night occupying a Milwaukee County Jail cell for a bunch of cowardly liberal organizers.
While we were being routed, another contingent of occupiers attempted to occupy a second location and, by the time we met up with them, were being told off by the police. The occupation spent the rest of the night roaming around downtown Milwaukee looking for a new encampment. This was the most enjoyable part of the evening as it evolved into a drunken game of cat-and-mouse with MPD in which the risk of arrest was extremely low. We went to a park, the cops showed up and stationed a few horse cops there, and then we moved to the next park. We finally found a privately owned park where we set up camp for the night.
In the morning, those of us who spent the night returned to Zeidler Park to be joined by occupiers who had left earlier. The general assembly which started at 1pm went on for five hours. During that assembly, the GA adopted a system of decision making which took the worst aspects of consensus decision-making and combined them with the worst aspects of Robert’s Rules of Order. This, combined with completely incompetent facilitators, resulted in an overly powerful GA which required a 75% majority vote to do anything and a hyper-bureaucratic system of committees.
With a GA that didn’t uses consensus and only two or three anarchists present at any given time, we were totally silenced at the second GA. None of us have returned to occupy Milwaukee as of this posting. Luckily for us, the occupation is already fizzling out due to disinterest and the comical incompetence of the organizers (for example: they don’t have control over their own website, so they can’t post updates on what’s happening or where they’ve moved.). Also, it’s getting really cold.
I think some of the lessons to be taken away from this are as follows:
1. Know the organizers – We were caught off guard by not immediately knowing who was in charge and found ourselves unable to intervene in time to prevent the manipulation of the first GA. Had we intervened more effectively, we might have been able to maintain control over Zeidler Park.
2. Assume the worst, hope for the best – I, for one, assumed that the GA would immediately adopt a consensus based decision-making model in which I would be able to block shitty proposals (like the formation of endless committees). This assumption proved costly as there weren’t enough of us present in the second GA to block the aforementioned proposals in a system where we needed +25% vote share to block.
3. Facilitation is key – Experienced anarchist facilitation of the first couple of GAs proved decisive in saving the UW-Milwaukee occupation from immediately becoming stupid (although it eventually succumbed to that fate) and inexperienced liberal facilitation ensured that occupy Milwaukee became a clusterfuck of fail.
Filed under: war-machine | Tags: autonomous, banks, bay area, bay of rage, liberated space, occupations, occupy, Occupy oakland, occupy wallstreet, oscar grant plaza
From Bay of Rage:
Social rebels from around Oakland have descended upon Oscar Grant Plaza and have created a genuine, autonomous space free of police and unwelcoming to politicians. Whereas other occupations have invited the police and politicians, or have negotiated with them, Occupy Oakland has carved a line in the cement. That line of demarcation says: if you pass this, if you try and break up or over shadow this autonomous space, you are well aware, as observed over the last couple of years, what we are capable of.
This article is a report back on the first week at Occupy Oakland, a reflection on problems we have been facing and some thoughts on moving the occupation forward; onto some next level shit.
After much organizing, logistical coordination, joy, sweat and tears, we’ve managed to hold down the first week of the occupation of Oscar Grant Plaza (conservatively known as Frank Ogawa Plaza). The police have not stepped foot inside the parameter of the occupation without an impassioned, hostile response. Likewise, the people who do enter the space have not left without an inspired and rebellious spirit – a fever.
On the first night, there was concern about how many people would show up or if any of them would feel empowered enough to stay the night. Despite the rain, at least 1,000 attended the rally and about two dozens tents were erected. After food was served, the first general assembly took place in the amphitheater of City Hall. In the form of a speak-out, an amplified sound system and an open floor made way for those in attendance to passionately talk about why they were there – why they hate capitalism, its pigs and its prisons. Here, people could speak their minds without the obstacles of an agenda or decision-making.
Different from many other occupations in the occupation movement, organizing took place for a week prior to the plaza takeover. On the very first day, the camp had a fully functional kitchen, an info-tent and a supply tent. By the end of this week there was a medic tent, art supply tent, an insurrectionary library, a free store, the Raheim Brown Free School, a media tent, a POC tent, a Sukkah, a DJ booth, and not to mention hundreds of sleeping-space tents. In addition, the rotating kitchen crew has been feeding everyone consistently from 8am until midnight and throwing spontaneous BBQs. Despite a few hiccups, these designated areas and tents have been beautifully maintained and non-exclusive – functioning to attract new-comers, leaving little prospect for anyone to feel like a spectator.
Immediately, different logistical issues that had to be dealt with spawned various working groups, or committees. These committees are in constant rotation. This “beauty in chaos” allows for a loose, flexible structure. Simultaneously, people are freely organizing and interacting with the camp however they desire. A few crucial sub-committees that the occupation hasn’t necessitated until recently, but have since been created (and experimented with) are: security (dealing with outside forces such as police, who from the beginning were not welcome), mediation (dealing with internal conflicts and dynamics), a facilitation working group (which organizes the agenda and shapes the process of the general assembly), a POC caucus that has been meeting every day, and finally, a newly formed anti-authoritarian/anti-capitalist caucus and a queer working group. People are no longer spectating the increasingly rapid destruction of their everyday life, instead they are actively participating in breaching normalized boundaries – how people relate to one another in a way that empowers everyone involved.
The General Assemblies, or “GAs,” are places where the people of the occupation can get updates, have debates, plan for actions, and decide on proposals. The GA Facilitation Working Group came up with a modified consensus process where a 90% majority – instead of 100% – is sufficient to pass a proposal. However illusory or “democratic” this process functions, its strategic implementation strips power away from potentially authoritative individuals who might hijack or otherwise sabotage our ability to make decisions and move forward. Because there is a specific group working on the facilitation process, the GAs operate smoothly and are usually quite exciting. Additionally, a lot of people that speak at the GA are really fucking on point. Thus far the general assemblies (of 200-300 people nightly) have passed decisions to never endorse political parties or politicians, to send a solidarity statement to comrades at Occupy Wall Street and another to those on hunger strike in the Pelican Bay state prison. This is also a space where anti-state and anti-authority sentiments flourish, be they against the police or the city government. As can be expected, some people say some really fucked up racist/sexist shit, but they are usually booed off stage. With what may be a perfect ending to the first week, a letter from the city (delivered en mass 30 minutes before the GA) was read aloud. The city detailed specifically what must be improved or taken care of “for our own safety” (when did the city ever care about our safety anyways?). Boldly (you could feel tension when the idea was initiated), some began chanting, “Burn it”. Without hesitation, someone took a lighter to the letter. Another person added lighter fluid to the burning, single sheet of paper. The flames raged wildly for a full minute. The crowd of at least 300 cheered and hollered with an enthusiasm unprecedented at any prior GA. For some reason, we feel that Occupy Oakland is different…
In addition to the amazing infrastructure and the excellent facilitation that has been set up, the organized events are extremely diverse and most of the time explicitly political. Each of the events throughout the first week nurtures the overall, vengeful tone of the occupation – performances, Hip Hop shows, poetry slams and movie showings. In each case, people find time away from hard work to enjoy each other’s company. In addition to planned events, numerous impromptu ciphers, dance parties and performances break out – accentuating a generalized desire to cultivate autonomous actions. One day a SambaFunk Band marched their way into Oscar Grant Plaza, proceeded to play for almost an hour – hundreds surrounding them, dancing. This beautifully unexpected addition to the occupation, along with others like it, demonstrates a recurring spontaneity. Multiple times throughout the day you hear people exclaim how inspired they are by this occupation and what is possible here. In addition to the more creative and fun events, workshops take place during the day and have been explicitly nonconformist. The workshops range from topics such as contemporary uprisings in Greece, Chile, and Oaxaca to Occupy Everything, which connect the student occupations to what is happening here. This upcoming week, everyday from 1-5pm there are more of the same: specific talks discussing particular political topics such as “Police/State/Prison” and “Oakland schools are being shut down! What are we gonna do?” Notably, the very first demonstration out of Occupy Oakland was an anti-capitalist march where over 200 people marched through downtown Oakland chanting, “1, 2, 3, 4 – organize for social war!” — among other things . This march attracted a diversity of people. Over 200 rebels chanting these radical slogans chill you to the bone. The following night, a queer march left from the occupation and went to Hella Gay, a queer dance party in Oakland. Upon reaching the club, marchers demanded to be let in for free and the venue acquiesced.
Incessantly, Occupy Oakland startles and excites many with its implicit radicalism. On Saturday, October 15th, MoveOn.org (a “grassroots” organizational front for the democratic party) organized a march and demonstration in conjunction with the national occupation movement’s day of action. They attempted to exploit Occupy Oakland when they announced that it would draw to a close in Oscar Grant Plaza with a series of speakers including several mayors from around the Bay. Upon this announcement, a proposal was brought to the GA: a refusal of special treatment and/or endorsement of politicians and political parties/organizations. It passed like a maple leaf in the wind. After negotiations with MoveOn, and based on our own policies, no politicians would be allowed to speak on behalf of their party at that event and thereafter. Surprisingly, MoveOn eventually complied with our demand. When someone broke the agreement (rather, they took advantage of a loophole) and began reading a statement from Congresswomen Barbara Lee, someone from the occupation promptly told those from MoveOn how they broke the agreement and how the democratic party is “counter-revolutionary.” At this point those who were brought to the occupation via MoveOn’s march begun to disperse and explore the camp (perhaps because it was far more interesting than hearing all of the old boring democratic rhetoric that has been said time and time before).
Over the past few years, Oakland has demonstrated its uniqueness in social conflict and protest. This distinctiveness isn’t anything new; rather, it has just reemerged. To elaborate, a comrade wrote in The Occupation Movement: On Greed, Unity & Violence:
“Oakland is currently under occupation by the police. The form of this occupation varies; the situation is much different in Temescal than in deep East Oakland. We live in a militarized space. Whether it’s police executions of Black youth, police harassment of sex workers along International Boulevard, or the city council’s racist legislation in the form of anti-loitering laws, gang injunctions or the suggested youth curfew, this paramilitary occupation is a project of local government to pacify and contain the city so capitalism can go about it’s business uninterrupted.
But Oakland doesn’t just have a violent, repressive contemporary situation; we have a vibrant history of struggle and resistance. From the 1946 General Strike to the formation of the Black Panther party in 1966 to the anti-police rebellion following the execution of Oscar Grant in 2009, Oakland has long been a city full of people that refuse to sit down and shut up. Despite every attempt by the state to kill that spirit, it lives on and will be out in full force over the coming days.”
Occupy Oakland reflects Oakland’s radical history. Because of this, an overwhelming anti-police sentiment guides the conversation about and the reaction to police. The GA has refused to comply with the city’s demand that we apply for permits (which we were told would automatically be accepted without charge). This lawlessness has played out when police have attempted to enter the occupation. On several occasions, many surround the approaching police and in unison began chanting “Pigs go home!” and “Cops get out!” When the police officers realize their lack of power, they have no other option but to leave. This tactic of resisting the presence of the police started spontaneously, but has since been the usual response. We hope that other occupations will look to this practice and realize its significance.
Despite the brilliant infrastructure, there have been problems. Some extremely important committees have been slow to respond to the growing need of the camp. Some of this is due to the transient nature of the groups, where people come in and voice their disagreements and then take off, leaving the work to the people in the committees who are already stressing about getting things done. Although there is “beauty in the chaos,” it has become evident that to some degree, disciplined organization is imperative. Ideally, a harmony of chaos and composition will surface.
One of the biggest problems emerging in the camp is specific dynamics of racism, sexism and other oppressive habits. In the first several days, excitement and festivity ruled the commune. This slowly transitioned into over-frequent dance parties that spilled late into the nights. Excessive drinking, unwanted sexual advances, harassment, and fights persist daily. This behavior, it should be mentioned, also exists without the presence of alcohol, but takes on a different form with alcohol. [NOTE: we are beginning to see reports of delinquency, drug use and violence in the media that may begin to duplicate in other media outlets. This could be the beginning of a campaign against the occupation. We would like to mention that these problems exist everywhere, as this occupation is to some extent a microcosm of Oakland, and until there is incentive to unlearn these behaviors, “peace” cannot be actualized. Again, this is not to say that they are not serious or that they are tolerated.] All of this has led to concern about the camp developing a Burning Man or Woodstock environment, devoid of almost all political content (other than the politics of culture, sub-culture and counter-culture which have a very limited potential and ultimately alienate people from one another). What is desired is a complete transformation (or destruction) of society, not just a cultural one. These dynamics are not unique to the occupation, but rather happen every day in Oakland and everywhere – they are symptomatic of a society that has broken all of us. In reaction, a mediation team has been set up to deescalate situations and allow for dialogue between those in conflict, resulting in much benefit. Despite all of this, Occupy Oakland is magnificently self-regulating – when a fool’s gotta go, a fool’s gotta go. This occupation is constantly growing and expanding – becoming more and more dissident by the day, pushing us all to our limits. Let’s see what else this occupation movement has to offer…
Beneath the internal conflicts lies an aching desire to externalize such wrath. Hundreds upon hundreds of people simply talk and mingle, discussing politics and life. You can almost taste a collective hostility towards each individual’s own socialization. People are learning how to be human beings without the mediation of capitalism and its apparatuses. Whereas alienation and isolation rule our every interaction, it has been replaced by the crisis of remembering the last 10 names of those you’ve met in the past hour. The war on alienation and isolation is fought through complex and voluntary social experiments, ultimately revealing the gaps of power relations that are facilitated, in part, by capitalism
Another pressing issue is that of expansion. The plaza now hosts somewhere around 150 tents on the grassy areas alone. Sunday night, 30 minutes before the GA, a letter from the city was delivered en mass to people in the occupation. It detailed the city’s intolerance to many things, among them, camping in the concrete area of the plaza. Logistically, moving to the concrete would be the most immediate remedy to the growing population density of the occupation. Are we to push that boundary? Already, a small encampment has manifested in Snow Park, which is a few blocks from Oscar Grant Plaza. Almost all of the grass is taken up at this point and if we are to push the boundaries with the city, we must be prepared to defend the spaces we select to house us next. Expansion onto the concrete would only be a temporary solution. If we are to expand to another location, we must nurture the crisis of the occupation – population density – and encourage many more from the street find a home in the occupation movement and seduce others out of their homes to do the same. [NOTE: Those occupying Snow Park stand their ground against police who tell them they are not allowed to be there due to a school being nearby. Since then, to some extent, the school and its students have announced support of the occupations in OG Plaza and Snow Park. However, Snow Park is in need of a greater occupying force. As of tonight, we are unsure whether that extension of the occupation can be held through the following day.].
The recent letter from the City gives light to their attempt to stifle our capacity. With good reason, they are afraid. It is likely the occupation will attempt a diversity of expansion strategies through the coming week. Undercover police are naive to think we haven’t noticed their technique of dividing the occupation on already present tensions – some COINTELPRO type shit. The camp is vulnerable – bearing wide-open entrances in almost every direction. Do we look to barricades? Do we take the barricades into the street? These are questions that will be answered in either a collective, intuitive and organic response to police eviction or in much planning and preparation. One thing is certain: the people of Occupy Oakland are well prepared to defend their new home.
Occupy Oakland (as you may have gathered at this point) is unlike any other. We begin to appreciate this when we realize our potential and current condition – that we are a force to be reckoned with, a danger to the capitalist functioning of Oakland. Police attack is no more imminent than the all too likely opportunities of widespread insurgency. Strategizing in accordance to our immediate geography’s potential as well as its weaknesses is key. Unions, schools, libraries and more, they are already our allies, as we are theirs. An overpowering confidence saturates the air of Oscar Grant Plaza – a threat and a promise.
Occupy Everything! Demand Nothing!
-Autonomous individuals among the liberated space known as Oscar Grant Plaza.
Filed under: war-machine | Tags: california, occupations, occupy everything, riot, UC-Berkeley
This describes the events shown in the pre-game video (posted below) which happened a week ago.
According to the Bay Area News Group:
“BERKELEY — Yet another student protest turned violent at UC-Berkeley late Thursday and into Friday morning, when more than 200 people spilled out of a dance party on campus and trashed university buildings and smashed windows along Telegraph Avenue.
Forty-five officers from several law enforcement agencies responded, including the Berkeley and Oakland police, and the California Highway Patrol, officials said. At least two people — current and former students — were arrested.
Now there is much concern that Berkeley’s on-campus violence could be a harbinger of far more damage next Thursday, when demonstrations against education budget cuts will take place all over the state.
“We know there”s going to be a lot of emotion associated with this,” said University of California-Berkeley police Capt. Margo Bennett. “It’s going to be passionate.”
Others fear the protests scheduled for next week may be overshadowed by rogue protests aimed at issues other than the prohibitive costs of higher education. But on Thursday night students attended what was to be a low-key event called the Rolling University. It was part of a series of teach-ins on state and UC budgets and other education issues, followed by a dance at Sproul Plaza. About 11 p.m. trouble started and police were called.
By the time police arrived they found someone had cut a chain on the fence surrounding Durant Hall, a former library in the center of campus that is closed for renovations, and hung a banner reading “March 4” above the entrance to the building, a reference to Thursday’s statewide “Day of Action” to protest education budget cuts.
At least 10 people were found inside the building. Several windows had been broken, graffiti was sprayed on interior walls, portable toilets turned over and construction equipment thrown around.
Crowds outside the building continued to swell, and by about 1:30 a.m. Friday, people began to clash with baton-swinging police, throwing bottles, setting trash ablaze and breaking several windows on Telegraph.
The action finally ended just before 4 a.m., police said. “We certainly hope this won’t happen again on March 4,” said university spokeswoman Janet Gilmore.”
Filed under: Milwaukee area | Tags: anarchist, CCC, discussion, milwaukee, new school, occupations, occupy everything, theory
The theme for this month coincides with a mounting wave of occupations and conflict about to hit California, New York and other areas.
2pm Sundays at the CCC (732 E Clarke St.)
Mar. 7th – Pick ax (movie screening)
Mar. 21th – 20 Thesis on the Subversion of the Metropolis
Mar. 28th – Nights of Rage (only available at the CCC)
Physical copies of the texts are available at the CCC for free.
(more supplementary readings will be posted soon, as well as updates on the developing situation regarding the occupations)
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: berkeley, california, occupations, occupy everything, pre-game, video
Filed under: war-machine | Tags: after the fall, california, occupations, occupy everything
From After the Fall:
The parting words of After the Fall– at once both a summation and a call– present the occupations in the past 6 months as a “vulgar and beautiful” destabilizing force within a larger arena of forces, at times nomadic and imperceptible, at other times spectacularly, with declarations and attitude.
Still, the finale of welfare state social services, the numbing terror of disaster, displacement, the colonial politics, the social death of civic life, the logic of representation, the endless reproduction of modern misery, the absent future, the crises of capital, the Afghan offensive, the government in a box– none of this deserves the elegance of any of the words we printed in this publication. They deserve a swift, merciless street fight.
After the Fall.
We will not be free when we are educated, we will be educated when we are free.
Society has reached the stage of potential mass unemployment; and mass employment is increasingly a manipulated product of the state and state-like powers that channelize surplus humankind into public works, including armies and official or semiofficial political organizations, in order to keep it at once alive and under control.
LEO LÖWENTHAL, UC BERKELEY PROFESSOR, 1949.
Before the Fall we felt it briefly, in each hour and a half interval: the ten minute grace period between classes, waiting for a lecture to begin, assigning ourselves one uncomfortable chair amongst 130 other uncomfortable chairs, and so began the telling of human History—grand, anecdotal, scientific, relevant or apropos of nothing. And just as we felt this loss, it disappeared. So we laughed, we fell asleep, we posed calculated questions, we watched a bald man every three days in a nice shirt pacing back and forth in an auditorium, the lights went dim, the lights came up, we collected ourselves, ate potato chips and a sandwich. We are kept alive, vaccinated, some even plump, yes, but we feel our surplus status. Excess. Excessive. This excessiveness animates our underlying dissatisfaction. That we do not matter: our private morals, decisions, attitudes, preferences, manners—that we are kept so absorbed, busy forever arranging these abstractions into purchases, identities, further abstractions on the future, sacrosanct opinions on the past. We are governed by the abstraction of the future and a grand or alternative History, sure, but we are also governed by these abstractions of the present.
That is the crisis, a lost faith in an inhabitable future, that the work ahead is as limited as the work in place now: the absent future, the dead future, the unemployment, the anxiety. For an economy that so often drains meaning from the immediate present for an imaginary future, a loss of faith is crisis. A surplus population of students, writers, photographers, freelancers, philosophers, social theorists without a doubt—but also increasingly of engineers, scientists, lawyers, businessmen, politicians. The economy that animates the university is an engine that produces irrelevance. That the economy itself provokes such a crisis of faith is testament to its own inner operating procedures, and perhaps to its own grinding contradictions.
And yet in the Fall something broke. Students and staff made a different claim on the university. We were not convinced that a dead future could be renegotiated through a “New New Deal.” We were not easily chaperoned to the endless deferral of “Sacramento,” we did not hide from the rain, we did not quietly suffer the eclipse of the university by the county jail system. Our faith in a future abstraction was not renewed; it was replaced by faith in one another in the present.
The movement should exist for the sake of the people, not the people for the sake of the movement.
AIMÉ CÉSAIRE, 1956.
Secure at first food and clothing, and the kingdom of God will come to you of itself.
GEORG W.F. HEGEL, 1807.
To put forth empty slogans to “Save the University” in a moment of student occupations is as misguided as calling to “Save the Prison” in a prison riot—redemption in this case would be to restore the status quo: the exclusions and incarceration, the slamming gates of the university and the warehoused social death of the prisoner.
They function as opposite poles on a spectrum of class reproduction. The university—an arm of the economy and state—in all of its exclusions and exclusivity, its funding schemes and governance, is bound to and dependent upon the prison. Certainly this was momentarily evident when we snuck a glance behind the theater of scripted rallies and petitions and discovered the batons and tasers of riot cops, county jail and county court, and a multimillion dollar administrative public affairs media campaign aimed at criminalizing students. In this way there is no “outside” to the university: there are no “outside agitators” as the public relations office declares. For us the only outside agitators are the administration, its police, capital and the state.
During the Fall, students occupied in order to cast the administration, its police, capital and the state as the outside—to reconfigure the sides—the “insides” and “outsides”—of a struggle. We knew fundamentally there was no ‘outside’ to the university—the university is yoked to San Quentin, computer factories in China, deforestation in Indonesia, mineral mining in the Congo, nuclear energy in Russia, green capitalism in Sweden, coffee houses on Telegraph, intellectual property rights in India, coked up hipster parties in Echo Park, and weed farms in Mendecino. Perhaps this is the university’s appeal as well. It is a world. Everywhere, connected to everything.
So we thought it was a matter of subtraction: to take ourselves and these buildings with us to transmit a message that “We will get what we can take,” that “Everything belongs to everyone.” Among some, the reaction was predictable. “Only children can take everything.” “We must all make sacrifices.” “Our leaders are doing their best and making difficult choices on our behalf.” Another world is unpopular. And yet we found, despite mistakes and despite successes, that another world was recharting the global map: solidarity messages and actions from Pakistan, Japan, Ireland, Germany, Austria, South Africa, Chicago, New Orleans, New York City.
And now we move outwards, towards the ways in which the university is maintained: compulsory labor, the rented homes of university students and workers, the police violence in these neighborhoods. We gravitate towards the Miwok tribe in Stockton, CA who in January this year occupied their headquarters after being served eviction papers. We gravitate towards the January 21st attempted occupation of a Hibernia Bank in downtown San Francisco in a struggle against homelessness, the occupation of Mexico City’s National University in the late 90s, the 2009 summer-long Ssangyong auto plant workers’ occupation in South Korea. We gravitate towards the young people who last year set fire to downtown Oakland to show they were still alive, to reveal a spark of their own relevance in the shadow of the police execution of Oscar Grant Jr. and so many others. We recognize ourselves in them. For all of our apparent differences, how we have been classified and filed under the logic of capital, race, gender, citizenship, ad nauseam, we know these categories do not guarantee a politics– we know our differences and commonalities are more complex than what is allowed in this world. Our faith is sheltered there, housed in mutual recognition, in building-seizures and confrontations.
The present, due to its staggering complexities, is almost as conjectural as the past.
GEORGE JACKSON, 1971.
Over the past semester an important set of critiques were leveled at actions we gesture toward throughout this paper and any group engaged in direct action. The editors of this paper hail from different social movements and moments and frequently disagree. We cannot write a collective statement with positive prescription. What we do know is that all liberatory social movements benefit from the destabilization of the university as an institution, as both a dream factory of class mobility and an engine of profound inequality.
A social movement is a counter-force within an arena of power. At its best a counter-force destabilizes that arena and creates social and political openings, in the moment and in its wake. The longer a crowd exists the more dangerous it becomes. It’s there, in those openings, that we find fertile ground for broad and interpersonal solidarity, trust, dreams of the future, collective desire for anything. That is where we build our positive prescription, our visions. Meaningful, useful dreams are only dreamt in struggle, in the spaces opened and left behind by the fight.
The Fall was that kind of moment—a reemergence of new and old formations shaped around new and old realities and ideas. The creation of tactical and strategic openings. The real, if momentary, blockage of institutional policy and systematic violence. The necessary polarization; the flowering of new solidarities and the nourishing of the old; the possibility of generalized direct action, social ruptures; students and all the rest living in a more meaningful present instead of an institutionally-imposed, indebted future. Those currently in power want nothing more than the reproduction of stability and unquestioned legitimacy, the guarantee of an unchallenged control that lasts forever, the disparities each of us have tried to fight as though they were separate and separable catastrophes.
And so after the Fall we are left with some openings: March 4th is one among many. We’ve built, seemingly by vulgar and beautiful chance, a party. The occupation. The mob. A mobile force. A machine. This is to say many of us are you, and likely many of you are us. We are all bound together merely by inhabiting the same arena; many of “us” are people of color, queers, counter-settlers, 1st generation college students, service industry workers–traumatized, beat down, brilliant, and tender.
But we are also adventurists.
Filed under: war-machine | Tags: after the fall, california, communiques, occupations, occupy everything
This is a new periodical / magazine regarding the recent wave of occupations in California. The bookmobile should have 50 copes for free soon.
I. Like A Winter With A Thousand Decembers
In Greece, they throw molotovs in the street. For every reason under the sun: in defense of their friends, to burn down the state, for old time’s sake, for the hell of it, to mark the death of a kid the cops killed for no reason. For no reason. They light Christmas trees on fire. December is the new May. They smash windows, they turn up paving stones, they fight the cops because their future went missing, along with the economy, a few years ago. They occupy buildings to find one another, to be together in the same place, to have a base from which to carry out raids, to drink and fuck, to talk philosophy. The cops smash into packs of their friends on motorbikes. They hold down the heads of their friends on the pavement and kick them in the face.
In Ssangyong, one thousand laid-off workers occupy an auto factory. They line up in formation with metal pipes, white helmets, red bandanas. Three thousand riot cops can’t get them out of their factory for seventy-seven days. They say they’re ready to die if they have to, and in the meantime they live on balls of rice and boiled rain. Besieged by helicopters, toxic tear gas, 50,000 volt guns, they fortify positions on the roof, constructing catapults to fire the bolts with which they used to build cars.
In Santiago, insurrectionary students mark the 40th anniversary of Pinochet’s coup by attacking police stations and shutting down the Universidad Academía de Humanismo Cristiano for ten days. No more deaths will be accepted, all will be avenged. In France, a couple of “agitators” dump a bucket of shit over the President of Université Rennes 2, as he commemorates the riots of the 2006 anti-CPE struggle with a two-minute public service announcement for corporate education. The video goes up on the web. It drops into slow motion as they flee the mezzanine after the action, not even masked. It’s easy, it’s light, it’s obvious. How else could one respond? What more is there to say? We know your quality policy. A cloud of thrown paper breaks like confetti in the space above the crowd below—a celebratory flourish. The video cuts to the outside of a building, scrawled with huge letters: Vive la Commune.
In Vienna, in Zagreb, in Freiburg—in hundreds of universities across central and eastern Europe—students gather in the auditoriums of occupied buildings, holding general assemblies, discussing modalities of self-determination. They didn’t used to pay fees. Now they do. Before the vacuum of standardization called the Bologna Process, their education wasn’t read off a pan-European fast food menu. Now it is. Fuck that, they say. They call themselves The Academy of Refusal. They draw lines in the sand. We will stay in these spaces as long as we can, and we will talk amongst ourselves, learn what we can learn from one another, on our own, together. We will take back the time they have stolen from us, that they’ll continue to steal, and we’ll take it back all at once, here and now. In the time that we have thus spared, one of the things we will do is make videos in which we exhibit our wit, our beauty, our sovereign intelligence and our collective loveliness, and we’ll send them to our comrades in California.
In California, the kids write Occupy Everything on the walls. Demand Nothing, they write. They turn over dumpsters and wedge them into the doorways of buildings with their friends locked inside. Outside, they throw massive Electro Communist dance parties. They crowd by the thousands around occupied buildings, and one of them rests her hand upon the police barriers. A cop tells her to move her hand. She says: “no.” He obliterates her finger with a baton. She has reconstructive surgery in the morning and returns to defend the occupation in the afternoon. We Are the Crisis, they say. They start blogs called Anti-Capital Projects; We Want Everything; Like Lost Children, the better to distribute their communiqués and insurrectionary pamphlets. Ergo, really living communism must be our goal, they write. We Have Decided Not to Die, they whisper. Students in Okinawa send them letters of solidarity signed Project Disagree. Wheeler, Kerr, Mrak, Dutton, Campbell, Kresge, Humanities 2….the names of the buildings they take become codewords. They relay, resonate, communicate. Those who take them gather and consolidate their forces by taking more. They gauge the measure of their common power. They know, immediately, that if they do not throw down, that if they do not scatter their rage throughout the stolid corridors of their universities, that if they do not prove their powers of negation, if they do not affirm their powers of construction, they will have failed their generation, failed the collective, failed history.
But why wouldn’t they throw down, and scatter, and prove, and negate, and affirm? After all, what the fuck else is there to do?