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A Message to Wisconsin’s Insatiable Workers and Students

We’re watching the RSS feeds and news sites like we watched Al Jazeera during the Egyptian Uprising. We’re looking for a sign. Hoping that the rage we share cuts through our daily routine. We’re hoping that what’s transpiring in Wisconsin is an internal error in their system, and that it’s irreparable. We’re praying at our grandparents graves that they, who fought for dignity or who bowed shamefully, will give us all the strength and resolve to push ourselves beyond our limits of politeness. Wisconsin, we’re looking to you like we looked to Egypt, like we looked to all the places that have recently flared up. We want you to say it’s on. To say we don’t have to be afraid anymore, and we don’t have to take shit. We want to be forced to stop watching, take sides, and join up.

What we need from you:

Never go back to work. Never go back to school. Spread the occupation beyond the symbols of power. Occupy and block what counts. Attack symbols, occupy infrastructure. Extend the scale and scope of the struggle by attacking what links the governor’s position with the misery of daily life. Fight, with all means, and through fighting make connections with others you never knew.

Teachers, elaborate your teach-ins. Tell your story, encourage everyone you touch to say why collective struggle (not just bargaining) is a necessary part of our position in this world. Talk about your dying grandmother. Talk about your difficult addictions. Talk about history. This law is an attempt to conceal the realities of our daily lives and to liquidate those stories from the future. Reveal this, and make possible the education that was never allowed in school.

Care-workers, your strike is extremely significant when most waged-labor now includes elements of care administration. For this reason, your participation in the most undocile parts of the struggle is needed, not simply to share the skills of your vocation, but to interrupt the ways in which care is structured as a passive and neutral force.

Students and young workers, you set the tone for what it means for our generation to struggle. Don’t limit your abilities; don’t restrain your rage. Expose the policing and pacifying elements in the demonstrations by refusing to limit yourself. When the National Guard comes or if the counter-demonstrators attack, you will need improvised barricades. If those forces need to be pushed back, you will need to be the ones to throw the first rocks. If you occupy a position you will need the means to feed yourself. The large Grocery Store owners have already sided with the Governor, take what you need from them. Refuse all concessions, refuse dialogue with union managers, and bosses. Expose and undermine those elements publicly. Humiliate them when they try to speak, make them run when they try to pacify and limit the struggle. Make the prison guards and law-enforcement workers choose between siding with struggle or siding with government. There is no middle ground.

Anon and techies, solidarity is a weapon. As we’ve seen in recent revolts in North Africa and throughout the Nile, the use of information-technologies, social-networking and DDoS against the ruling party, against government infrastructure is a pivotal dynamic of contemporary struggles. Tweet hard, flashmob. Get behind a proxy, and let the us all know you got our backs.

The struggle must become dangerous to those in power. If the demonstrations are docile, they will never connect with those who have already been excluded from the world of unions and job security. The demonstrations must change their tone in order to resonate with those who live on shit-wages and tips, with those who are murdered by police, whose entire neighborhoods are already excluded from the bargaining table. The police, either in blue or in National Guard attire will be standing between you and all the possibilities that can emerge from a fierce and diverse struggle. One way or the other, they must be confronted, and defeated.

Struggles have a short period of time when they appear to be the door through which possibility enters. As soon as these possibilities are perceived, the police will attempt to neutralize them. We must act quickly and with precision in order to defeat the police and open up the struggle, to keep it going. This sense of urgency is the single order when we are racing with the police to occupy these zones of possibility. But if we can take positions and keep them open, a new time and a new rhythm takes hold and spreads almost as hastily as the operations of the police to conceal it. If you can achieve this, Wisconsin, you will set the precedent for the rest of us. The new rhythm will put to rest everything normal about our misery and exploitation. And it will be heard, reverberated, and mashed up by all the worlds that open to it.

We’re anticipating your song Wisconsin,

Some insatiable service-industry workers in the South



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Perhaps the most exciting elements of the events of today have been the wildcat strike of teachers and the massive walk-outs of students and workers. Hundreds of schools remain closed across the state as thousands of teachers and students call in sick and refuse to go to work and school. Teachers get together for drinks and to talk about the revolution, high school students spend the day in the park or march to the university to join occupations, janitors spend the day at home in bed, college kids get together to dance and gossip. Where usually our days would be spent on the ceaseless future of capital, today was ours. It almost feels like spring, and we can do with it as we please.

Put another way, we are trapped in a zero-sum game with the economy. Wherever the economy functions, it is impossible for us to determine our lives for ourselves. Any situation wherein our lives are our own would necessitate the immediate cessation or obstruction of the economy. The value of the sick day strike isn’t found in the message it sends, but rather in the direct ways it blocks the machinations of capital and makes space for our own activity. We must now concern ourselves with the expansion and continuation of the joy of the sick day. Only on days like today can we even begin to imagine what a world outside capital could feel like. Let’s call in sick forever!

– Wisconsin in exile, February 17

brief reflections on the walk-out, demonstration and occupation at UWM on February 17th

Much of what we know about the events today is either experienced by us or is hearsay.

Today we witnessed the largest walkout and demonstration at UWM since at least the height of the anti-Iraq war era and if not more than that then since the Vietnam war spilled over into Cambodia, spreading a wave of occupations and rage filled demonstrations across the US. Throughout the demonstration thousands of people came with hand made signs, stayed to hang out, or passed through, but the mass of people that seemed to slightly exceed the protest ritual of the past in Spaights Plaza, that has been so easy to ignore, became a sight of interest in itself. Much of what was being said on a stage could not be heard over the crowd’s noise. People found friends or talked to strangers, gawking at the crowd and sometimes feeling power – this curious sensation that with this many people we could do pretty much anything we want. And when this passes, we also sense the frustration of squandering this moment.

The space of Spaights Plaza seems to contain within it a memory and ritual that informs the repetition of a specific form of political activity, which produces different quantities of the same. Organizers stand on a stage and talk at people. People who are close listen or sometimes chant along. Some hold signs. All the while the activity maintains a strict division between different levels of a hierarchy of organizers and organized participants. This goes on until it loses steam and people go back to work, class or home. One should ask, what is the function of the reproduction of this continual defeat? We ask this, not to merely cut down our political adversaries, but to ask how it can become more.

According to friends, many teachers were giving lectures or short speeches about the cuts and new proposed legislation, then told their students they were walking out and that they should follow. Across Milwaukee, Madison, Racine and other places today and yesterday thousands of teachers have called in sick in public schools. Combined with seemingly spontaneous walkouts by students many schools and some districts have been completely shut down. It’s unclear what is happening with other state employees on the campus other than our individual experiences and conversations with a few people. Some janitors of the dorms were apparently planning on taking part in the walk out and were threatened with immediate termination. After this they asked why a security camera has been put in their break room, to which their managers responded “you don’t have a break room.” There were rumors and passing remarks of workers throughout the city who wanted to walk out or call in, but were threatened and frightened into isolation.

As we were walking home a friend called us and told us Bolton 150, a large lecture hall, had been occupied. Exactly what was going on was unclear. We turned back around and headed toward campus. On our way, we hear a march of students that looked too young to be students attending the University. They were a group of a couple hundred Rufus King high school students who had walked out and had been walking for miles chanting. We ran across the street and informed them that an occupation had just started on campus, that they should come join it, and we were astounded by the joy and lack of deliberation that responded to our suggestion. They entered the Bolton Hall still shouting and were met with cheering and applause. This went on for a bit, then a discussion resumed, among people who had already been present, about capitalism and its connection to eduction. Appeals were made to shut down the Campus, but the discourse prevailed. The occupation had a planned deadline for 5pm, though it wasn’t clear why or how this was being decided. Some people had planned to join the thousands maintaining the occupation of the Capitol building in Madison and perhaps spreading it further in Milwaukee seemed less important in this moment.