Archive for the ‘Analysis’ Category

The Good Worker, Property Destruction, and Trayvon Martin

17 July 2013

from ofCLRJames:

Even before the city street fully absorbs the resonant sounding of shattering glass, the press—mainstream media or citizen journos, it doesn’t matter which—introduces us to a stock figure whose words are nonetheless accorded a special status. You’ve met him or her before. We’re now all old friends with The Worker Who Doesn’t Like Property Damage. The prolie who picks up the shards after the anarchists have had their smashy-smashy fun.  The employee who tells us he is sympathetic to the anger, but there must be another way. Days after Trayvon Martin suffered his second death—the juridico-political death that retroactively strips him of property in himself, the juridico-political death that came after but always came before, the juridico-political death that laid down the path that Zimmerman would follow—media outlets have dusted off the Good Worker and set her to work to chastise those whose outrage at Martin’s second death has taken the form of smashed windows, burning dumpsters, courthouse graffiti admonishing us to kill all the pigs.

The Good Worker knows that property damage is no way to protest the fact that Martin had no property in himself. The Good Worker knows that violence dishonors Martin’s memory. Of course, everyone already knows that; this is the USA, after all. But the Good Worker knows something special, something more. She possesses a particular knowledge derived from a quotidian detail of her life. She is the one who has to sweep up the glass. He is the one who has to wash off the paint. After the party of anarchy, the Good Worker appears on the scene and, with a sigh, dispenses his special knowledge: the infantile leftism of the anarchists and the outraged hurts no one but those whom they claim to defend.

Through the Good Worker’s resigned affect—“I’m the one who has to clean up”—liberals convert dependence on capital into an alibi for capitalism, transform the worker’s binding to the propertied as property’s normative basis. Relations between capital and labor never seem so free from compulsion as when the Good Worker laments the extra work imposed upon her by…other workers, maybe, but more likely dropouts and nogoodniks. The discordant symphony of shattering glass resolves itself in Careyite harmonies. One is encouraged to imagine that the Good Worker’s Good Boss never demands a little overtime, never subjects her to work that go beyond the parameters of the job. But that is precisely what is happening, and not just because he is sweeping up a window: the very articulation of the lament is itself a form of surplus extraction. After all, the political geography of smashy-smashy and political economy of U.S. cities ensures that the Good Worker’s skills will tend toward the communicative, the affective. He doesn’t work in a factory, but in a shoe shop, a restaurant, a boutique cheese store. And she possesses the corresponding skills: she can read inchoate desires and conduct them toward an object, respond to pressing demands, defuse awkward situations. After the windows come smashing down, the general capital exploits these affective competencies. It shoves a microphone, recorder, or someone with a Twitter account in his face and asks him to work a little bit longer, to piece the shattered norms of capitalist society back together with his words. And she does, bearing tidings that an assault on property is an assault on workers, because workers have nothing but the property of others. To harm property is to harm ourselves. The Good Worker’s stoic acceptance of her lot is converted into a quasi-proprietorial care that simulates a property in something that could never be hers.

This equation has been literalized in the case of the Oakland protests over the juridical fact that Martin had no property in himself. In an article entitled “Waiter attacked, freeway blocked in 3rd Oakland protest,” the reader is informed, “As the night wore on, violence grew. About 11 p.m., a masked protester hit a waiter at Flora Restaurant and Bar on Telegraph Avenue in the face with a hammer as he tried to protect the restaurant, whose windows were broken two nights ago.” That this happened is undeniable, terrible, and has been condemned by pretty much everyone (minus some with what I think are fantasies of an agent provocateur). I can’t think of any anarchist who would approve non-defensive violence, particularly against a worker, during a demo; we’d gladly leave a window untouched so as to not harm a human. As the masked protestor’s action strikes us all as aberrant and abhorrent, what intrigues me is the description and naturalization of the waiter’s (named Drew Cribley) act. The causal determination of the worker’s intention is established—windows had been broken before. The deeper emplotting of the event comes at the end of the sentence, and retroactively accords his action—tensed with “as he tried…”—a drawn out, durational quality where one might only read temporal simultaneity or, indeed, spontaneity.

Yet, as another article reveals, the waiter’s defense of the restaurant was indeed spontaneous:

Cribley said his black-masked attacker passed him on the sidewalk, then started pounding on windows with a hammer when Cribley turned and told him to stop. “I kind of instinctively pushed him away,” Cribley said. “That’s when he turned back at me and cracked me in the cheekbone.”[…] “Looking back on it, it was a really stupid thing if you thought I was going to interfere,” he said.

Strikingly, Cribley didn’t think he was going to interfere, he didn’t intend to, not consciously, but a “kind of instinct[]” drove him to “turn…and [tell] him to stop.” It is as if the thump of the hammer on the window sounded out like Althusser’s policeman’s hail: Cribley can’t not turn, even if he doesn’t know what he’s turning toward, turning for. With its direct access to the habits of head and heart of liberal capitalism, the newspaper reveals why. Cribley turned to “protect the restaurant”—not himself, not a window, but the corporate/fictive entity of the restaurant. According to the paper, he wasn’t protecting an object so much as the idea of property itself.

It seems perfectly natural, even laudable, that a worker’s body would absorb the blow intended for a capitalist’s window. Indeed, the article establishes a striking fungibility between (capitalists’) objects and (workers’) bodies. Both are, in effect, absorbed into the fictive person of the firm and, indeed, are little more than the business’ precipitates, the accidental bearers of capital’s personhood. (The assault on Cribley doesn’t even make it into the lede; it is only reported after destruction of other property is detailed.) After the windows come smashing down, the press impresses the Good Worker to restore the commensurability of bodies and objects, people and things.

It was this form of commensuration that killed Trayvon Martin, and killed him twice. The trial of Zimmerman briefly extended to Martin something that could never be his—a proper claim to himself, a juridico-political identity that did not position him as some bizarre thing midway between object and person. If the court’s decision confirmed Martin’s status as a being that could be killed but not murdered, the discourse surrounding property destruction in Oakland confirms neoliberal capitalism’s commitment to reproducing and repairing that order. Through the Good Worker, it first indicts those who actively refuse this commensuration with the charge of exposing its ugliness, for directing conversation from Trayvon Martin to smashed windows (as if anarchists are to blame that the media cannot control its vulgarity, as if anarchists are to blame that the media can’t not stop a conversation about Martin because a violated property hails). It then tells us that Martin would not approve of this violence, that violence against property is no way to honor Martin. Indeed, it posthumously transforms Martin into the Good Worker, someone who knows that to harm property is to harm ourselves. Someone who knows that because we have no property, because the property of others has subsumed any claim to property in ourselves, we have to identify ourselves with it. Someone who knows that our being can be exchanged with objects and things and that, indeed, we should be prepared to “protect” windows—even if we risk extreme bodily harm in so doing.

Feigning outrage, the media is hard at work restoring the logic of racial, neoliberal capitalism that killed Trayvon Martin twice. But there’s grumbling in the ranks: the Good Worker isn’t complying. The follow up article on Cribley concludes with the paper asking him to play his appointed role.

Cribley said he sympathized with protesters and their right to voice outrage, yet feared the violence would overshadow their goals. “It sucks for the people who are really trying to be heard because it starts to take away from their message,” he said. “People around the country look at Oakland and feel like there’s a bunch of vandalism and violence rather than intelligent people with an actual cause they believe in. Instead of talking about that, you’re talking about the guy who got hit in the face with a hammer.”

Note the striking disparity between the paper’s gloss and Cribley’s words. Cribley’s final quote is introduced as if what follows is pure Good-Workerism. He’s sympathetic to the protestors, sure, but, like, he wonders: this couldn’t be the right way. But, as his words actually reveal—his words, what he thinks when his personality is not subsumed into the indirect discourse of capital’s mouthpiece—he does not disavow property destruction. He does not oppose “vandalism and violence” to “an actual cause.” Rather, “people” do, people who “feel” a certain way about Oakland because the reporter, instead of talking about the cause of the demonstrators, is busy “talking about the guy who got hit in the face with a hammer.” Cribley is basically asking the reporter, the you of his address, to write about something else, to write about the actual cause of the violence, the actual meanings it conveys. Cribley refuses to be the Good Worker, to simulate investment in an order of property, of proper being, that left him with a hammer to the head, that left a black boy twice dead in Florida.

But the propertied order has the last word: “Cribley said he’ll return to work Thursday.” And the windows will be repaired by then, too.

Note from Revolutionaries of Color II

27 May 2013

from DavisAntiZionism:

“At whatever level we study it… decolonization is quite simply the replacing of a certain ‘species’ of men by another ‘species’ of men. Without any period of transition, there is a total, complete, and absolute substitution.” -Frantz Fanon

“Indeed our words will remain lifeless, barren, devoid of any passion, until we die as a result of these words, whereupon our words will suddenly spring to life and live amongst the hearts that are dead, bringing them to life as well.” -Sayyid Qutb

We, the anti-Zionists and radicals (of color), organized to take over Dutton Hall at the University of California, Davis on May 15, 2013, the 65th anniversary of the Nakba, in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle. The administration, Zionists on and off campus, and local media have tried to misrepresent what took place that day, and this is why it is necessary that we send a clear and direct message.

Our action had absolutely nothing to do with the recently failed UC Davis Divestment resolution. The fact that the divestment resolution did not even pass the initial stages of Zionist bureaucracy provides us with another example of the failures of dialoguing and negotiating with racists. The resolution’s failure only made visible the pre-existing antagonisms of Zionism (colonialism) and anti-Zionism (anti-colonialism). We did not organize our action out of frustration from the failure of the divestment process. We were already frustrated! For us, dialogue with the colonizers, with the enemies of the Palestinians, is already a form of defeat. It is already a weak, counter-revolutionary position to sit down at the same table as the colonizer. We have no desire to melt the heart of Zionists. We want to remove the colonizer out of the political equation, so that there is a final end to colonial-relations. We shut down Dutton Hall – an action we recognize to be minimal compared to the worldwide anti-colonial/anti-imperialist struggles – not because of the failure of the divestment resolution passing, but because it was the day of the Nakba, the day of catastrophe for all Palestinians, and we consider it to be our historical responsibility to take a strong oppositional position against colonialism in general, and Zionism in particular.

We want to make sure everyone knows that these were autonomous actions by anti-Zionists and radicals of color. No campus student organizations were involved in the organizing and mobilizing process. The question of organization is not only a theoretical problem but also an important tactical question for us. We know full well that organizational structures that were useful in an earlier stage of history are now obsolete and impotent on the ground – outside of (Zionist) classrooms, and administration-controlled centers. These centers function within the mystifying logic of multiculturalism, in order to not only reproduce the disciplining and policing of dark bodies, but also to create internalized technologies of self-surveillance. The student organizations generally work very closely with these centers, and share with them vital information and documents about events, workshops, training programs, and the students themselves, thereby enabling the (re)creation of both structures of surveillance with a wide pool of data, as well as subjects that monitor themselves in an effective way. It is precisely in this juncture that we witness the slow disappearance of the difference between administrators and students. We encounter students that act in favor of administrators, and administrators that act as soft cops, and the entire structure of surveillance work with its various institutional coordinates in a methodical and coordinated manner in order to identify, target, order and pacify (student) protests that may have resonance in the larger communities of struggle.

The UC Davis Police Department graduated its first student cadets a few days ago. ASUCD President Carly Sandstrom commented: “This program is something every UC campus should take on — training homegrown officers who understand students.”  This is an example of how the administration works through a structured cooperation between administrators, cops, and students. The various student centers on campus, like the Cross Cultural Center (CCC), have demonstrated themselves to be spaces complicit with Zionist ideology. Students and staff members affiliated with these centers always mediate rightfully enraged pro-Palestinian students into submission through inter/intra-community snitching which has become central for the smooth functioning of administrative logic. There is no point anymore to talk about reclaiming the CCC by evoking the history of the hunger strike. We have to realize that these centers are fundamentally anti-Black, anti-Muslim, and anti-indigenous. To promote policing is to promote the ideology and political practice of settler-colonialism. It is concretely the continuation of the systematic obliteration and assimilation of indigenous communities, geographies, and economies, and the disciplining of black bodies that reduces them into flesh, into the economic units of slave labor. To promote policing is to promote the ideology of the War on Terror that not only evacuates Muslim bodies out of their material social self-representation and location, but also destroys their societies and modes of life for the purposes of creating new markets. The plundering and re-appropriating of resources requires strategic cooperation with the native Muslim bourgeoisie, and it is in this juncture that we witness the use of soft-power that through various reformist programs encourages the formation of moderate subjects that are complicit with U.S imperialism. Within the United States, the emergence of the “American-Muslim” identity signifies the shift from an articulation of an anti-plantation/anti-racist political-religion, towards an internally re-arranged and re-articulated ideology that is at peace with hyphenated Americanism. The CCC nurtures such counter-revolutionary identities. It will not become less racist with time. It will keep reforming and renewing itself to be better at policing dark bodies, and to train students of color to become cops and informants themselves.

For these obvious reasons we did not work through the given student organizations, nor did we try to prepare for our action at a student center, and as we took over Dutton Hall we made it clear that we did not want administrators in our space. Initially, three administrators came to the occupied building and tried to negotiate with us. But we were successful in having them leave the building as it closed around evening time on May 15. The next morning, we were able to blockade the building. We saw from the inside that cops, a fireman, administrators, and reactionary students tried to enter our space. But they were unsuccessful. We were supported by many students on campus who were sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. They came to look at the banners and signs, and engaged in discussions about colonialism, political-economic and social suffering in Palestine, police violence on and off campus, and student debt with supporting comrades who acted as observers right outside of the building. We thank our comrades for their support.

Islamophobia is actively present at UC Davis. But we do not want to think about the hatred against Islam at the level of psychological disposition or cultural misperception. But rather, we want to think about the objective conditions that structure certain kinds of social behavior that target and demonize “non-secular” bodies. When Islam is made flesh through various movements of the body of the mu’min, whether they are religious rituals or political acts in the public sphere, it provokes the racialist order to think about its own foundational sins.  In order to maintain its own metanarrative, white supremacy constantly refounds and reproduces itself in a new historical plane. Islam is seen as a deliberate transgression, an embodiment of infidelity towards America. While there is a general hatred against Islam, patriarchy enmeshed with whiteness targets Muslim women in a particular manner. The precision of this kind of peculiar targeting of veiled Muslimas gets its substance from the specificity of colonial social relations. In order to examine the substance of this specific hatred against Muslim women, we need to look at the dream content of the colonialist. The colonialist dreams about unveiling and penetrating the colonized woman, and this is structurally linked to political-economic penetration and domination. But the veil marks and makes visible the political separation between the colonizer and the colonized. If it is used in a non-assimilationist way, against multiculturalism in accordance with the embodied practice of the sharia, the veil creates a sense of terror in the hearts of the unbelievers. It signifies resistance. It signifies separation. But most importantly it signifies unknowability. This is precisely why for the colonialist there is a need to understand the veil. The understanding of the use of the veil is central to taming of the body that uses the veil. Fanon examines the relation between visibility, colonial gaze and dream of unveiling. He writes: “This woman who sees without being seen frustrates the colonizer. There is no reciprocity. She does not yield herself, does not give herself, does not offer herself [...] Thus the rape of the Algerian woman in the dream of a European is always preceded by a rending of the veil.” Beyond the veil-fetishism, colonialism has a direct interest in targeting bodies of dark women. Women are specifically targeted in Gaza because it is through their bodies that the struggle reproduces itself. Palestinian women and children are seen as a threat to the future of Israel.  Their deaths are not accidental. Israel even sterilizes its own immigrant African women, demonstrating a fundamental anxiety over the reproduction of darker bodies. These genocidal acts of the Israeli State against the bodies of darker women make it structurally similar to the United States[i]. During our occupation of Dutton Hall, as we positioned ourselves against the regulative principles of the administration, practicing Muslims – particularly our sisters – observed their religious duties. There was a salaat (prayer) schedule, and the Muslims prayed in congregation. The practitioners agreed that making salaat together inside an occupied building, in the midst of political encounters, is consistent with the spirit of Islam that aims to bring order out of disorder, without making the forceful distinction between religious practices and political action. Jahiliyyah[ii] is a condition of non-Islam, a condition in which we experience the world in an inverted manner. Our bodies feel disoriented, and the world as a totality seems disrupted. Under these extreme conditions, when we take it upon ourselves to critically engage with the disrupted/disruptive world of colonialism and capitalism, and force ourselves to struggle against the causality of this disruption, we fundamentally work against the material causes of Islamophobia, and take the first step towards disalienation[iii].

Palestine is central to decolonization proper. It is not a side issue. We are at the beginning stage of the formation of an uncompromising anti-Zionism on campus that does not take soft positions for the sake of political, legal, social expediency. Anti-Zionism helps us determine our friends and enemies in a historical manner[iv]. Post-Zionism is just another name for the justification of the occupation of Palestinian life and social consciousness through a reified genealogy that aims to evoke the settler-socialist fantasy of civil integration. Far leftists will have to call for a decisive break with Zionism if they are to be credible in the Islamic world, in the third world. Post-Zionism may have the appearance of a political pragmatism, but it is fundamentally a counter-revolutionary, reactionary position. Zionism cannot be improved. It has to be dismantled. But this task of dismantling requires that we understand Zionism as more than a mere political ideology. It plays a central role in structuring, specifying and organizing neoliberal economic programs[v] in the Middle East within the totalizing logic of capitalism. The economic domination of Palestine foundationally relies upon the Zionist occupation that emerges out of a racialized social-political, historical-ontological difference between settlers and natives.

We had to write this note from the point of view of revolutionaries of color because we find ourselves in colonial relations, in antagonism with white supremacy. And, we are sure that true (white) abolitionists will understand this position. Colonial-relations are reproduced in capitalism. Capitalism has to persistently racialize and colonize. The Nakba is a historically specific event. And, we cannot lose sight of this specificity and the details of our social experience and the differentiating grammar of struggle as we make general propositions about the structure of capitalism, and by extension, imperialism. We have to understand that while capitalism absolutely totalizes and homogenizes, it also necessarily differentiates. It necessarily makes distinctions between the first world and the third world. It necessarily reproduces bodies of slaves and servants in a new historical plane. As always, we are against identity politics[vi], but that in no way seduces us into carelessly upholding empty universals. Fanon writes: “Challenging the colonial world is not a rational confrontation of viewpoints. It is not a discourse on the universal, but the impassioned claim by the colonized that their world is fundamentally different.”  We cannot forget the historical specificity of the dynamic between determinations and struggle.

Death to Jahiliyyah.

Death to reified conceptions of struggle.

Long live the Intifada!


[i] We know about the sterilization of indigenous and black women in the United States in the past.

[ii] This concept is discussed by Qutb in the modern context. We have discussed it differently here.

[iii] This notion of disalienation comes from Steve Biko’s work.

[iv] The friend-enemy distinction is inspired by Malcolm X’s speeches and his theorization of the “collective white man”. A comrade/sister from Palestine reminded us as we were preparing this note that we should be careful about the friend-enemy distinction because there are too many so called “allies” for the Palestinian cause who are interested in dominating the way we talk about resistance to Israel. This is precisely why Malcolm X’s focus on white-supremacy in relation to slavery and servitude is the correct political move.

[v] Adam Hanieh talks about neoliberal programs in Palestine in more detail.

[vi] For our critique of identity politics see our first note: http://bicyclebarricade.wordpress.com/2012/01/28/note-from-the-revolutionaries-of-color/

Revolutionary Heartbreak: Why Every Single Rapist Has to Go

21 December 2012

via NecessaryMeansFight:

Everything that rises must converge.

I’m sure by now you’ve read the criticism that my comrades have produced about the Progressive Labor Party’s gender politics and their response to the reminder that Seth Miller is a rapist. Through all of our organizing on this issue, our position has been that PLP must administer a systemic solution to the problem of a rapist in their midst, and we’ve advocated this on behalf of our comrade at every level of leadership to which PLP will grant a non-member access.

To this point I’ve been able to compartmentalize my feelings by seeing the accountability process as another realm of organizing, but I felt personally betrayed when I learned that PLP implemented a process independently of the process we had been discussing for months. It was a harsh reminder that within the constellation of sexual violence, the political can be very personal.

In the few days since our collective released the original statement calling out Miller and PLP, I’ve been told by one PLP member that the information I have needs to “be corrected,” but they were not willing to tell me what we have wrong. Moreover, I’ve been very disappointed in my comrades’ efforts to help. People seem afraid to cut out friendships at the expense of dealing with something as difficult as rape, but the pain of cutting those ties is nothing compared to the profound and dehumanizing pain of being raped.

This essay will read to many of you like personal narrative, but you must not dismiss it because it isn’t explicitly political analysis. What I describe here reflects real friendships and real communities— relationships that are completely destroyed now because the party decided it was better to let Miller remain than to expel him and support his victim. Maybe there’s a political lesson in here somewhere. I just hope I can show how we are all deeply destroyed by rape.

Finally, a disclaimer. A few people from the party have told me to stop gossiping about this to my friends. This is not gossip. Calling this gossip renders a very serious political problem into meaningless social fodder, and it turns fighting patriarchy into labor that is gendered and dismissed as idle and childish. To those members of the party: you will not silence me like that.

This is not a love letter.

I sat on a rickety chair at a recreation center somewhere in Los Angles, and every few minutes a toddler stepped on my foot while amused adults tried to corral the kids back to a play area in the next room. On either side of me people were packed elbow-to-elbow at long folding tables eating homemade food from paper plates. The crowd of 150 or so overflowed into the alley behind the recreation center, and folks took turns at the tables while comrades performed revolutionary songs, poems, and speeches.

(more…)

Confronting the Many Faces of Repression

22 October 2012

from OccupyOakland — Anti-Repression Committee:

Rethinking Repression

Over the past year, we have experienced many forms of overt police repression, from the camp eviction and night of tear gas on October 25th, to raids on the vigil, to snatch and grab squads on May Day.  We have come to expect the riot-clad police, with their batons and chemical weapons, although repression comes in other forms as well.  As a community, we have not been sufficiently attuned to these other faces of repression.  As the Anti-Repression Committee (ARC), we too have focused primarily on the overt police violence on the street and its counterpart in the jails and courts.  We have spent countless hours in communication with people in jail, working with NLG folks to secure lawyers when possible, doing and mobilizing court support, and providing commissary and other forms of support for our comrades who remain locked up.  We have also held workshops to talk about some of the other forms that repression can take–and ways that we as a community can keep one another safe–but we have not done enough as a committee to address these other faces of repression. We feel that as a community we need to shift our thinking about repression, to recognize the subtler more insidious forms that it takes and the ways that it targets our sources of strength and plays on existing conflicts and divisions in an attempt to weaken, distract, and consume us.  This does not mean that we should become mired in trying to identify state infiltrators and agents. We may never know who the infiltrators are, and ultimately, whether individuals are directly working for the state when they engage in disruptive and divisive behaviors is not the point.  We need to instead focus on behaviors. If behaviors support and consolidate state campaigns of repression–then they do the state’s work of repression. (more…)

History and the Sphinx: Of Riots and Uprisings

25 September 2012

Jasper Bernes and Joshua Clover deliver a superb review of Alain Badiou’s The Rebirth of History: Times of Riots and Uprisings, challenging cries for greater “organization” along the way.

The exhortation to organize has been often heard in the dissolution of the various Occupy encampments here in the US, from left thinkers as various as Noam Chomsky, Doug Henwood, and Jodi Dean. And “organize” must in some regard be the right thing to do, in so far as it is a term both common-sensical and capacious in its lack of specificity. It risks being what Fredric Jameson calls a “pseudoconcept”: the imperative to “organize” comes down to, do that thing that causes you to be more rather than less effective. But lacking any further tactical clarity, the word inevitably backslides into the meaning it offered the last time around, redolent of sad-faced activists trying to sell you copies of Socialist Worker. In the face of this vast and mercurial irruption which Badiou’s book wishes to register, the call to “organize” serves for the moment as the chorus to a paradoxical song: this new politics is fantastic, but it seems to have reached its limits; we need…the old politics!

(Read more on Los Angeles Review of Books )

Square and Circle: The Logic of Occupy

17 September 2012

A sobering analysis of #Occupy on it’s first anniversary, by Jasper Bernes:

Why Occupy? This is the question I want to answer in what follows. I ask, in this regard, not just about the tactical or strategic benefit of the outdoor occupation, but about the causality of the Occupy phenomenon in its entirety. Why did it arise at this particular moment and not some other moment, in this particular form and not some other form? Why did the occupations unfold in the way they did? Who took part and why?

First off, the question of timing. Why now? Or rather, to put it in more pointed terms, since the economic crisis has ushered in a newly volatile and riotous age, why did it take so long? Why did Occupy erupt in 2011 and not 2009 or 2010? Did people reach some kind of breaking point, as the economic crisis worsened month by month, as unemployment came to seem a permanent rather than transitional stage, as debts became more and more unpayable, mortgages more and more burdensome? Notably, 2011 was the year in which the effects of the crisis were particularly devastating for governmental budgets, precipitating numerous opportunistic austerity programs, particularly at the state and municipal levels. But why, then, didn’t Occupy emerge as an anti-austerity movement, as observers of events in Europe since 2008 might have predicted? Why did attempts to reproduce the Madison Capitol occupation of the preceding spring fail so miserably? Is it because of the weakness of the traditional actors in such movements, such as public sector unions? Or the deep-seated anti-statism of Americans? It is certainly notable that, unlike Greece or the UK– where the capital is also the largest city, capable of generating the largest protests – most major cuts in the US are undertaken by state rather than federal governments, meaning there is unlikely to be a single piece of austerity legislation that will conjure forth a nationwide protest movement.

As we know, Occupy imagines itself as a link in a global chain of protests which begins in Tunisia, spreads to Egypt and from there to the cities of Spain, to Greece and beyond. By the time it gets to Europe and the US, this new International of protest quite self-consciously casts itself as propagated spontaneously through ineluctable processes of contagious, “viral” replication and imitation, sometimes attributed to the dispersive, participatory character of social media. In my view, “spontaneous” is simply the name we apply to those social manifestations whose causality we don’t really understand, and if one looks closely at any of these instances, one sees groups reading the direction of the historical winds and making choices based on their sense of what’s possible. In other words, there are always specific acts of will within, if not behind, any spontaneous emergence – as we learn from the text messages the rioters of Britain sent each other – and this is certainly the case with Occupy Wall Street’s original manifestation. What distinguishes it from the earlier sequence is how long it took, how much delay there is between Syntagma Square and Zuccotti Park. This is one question we need to answer: why did it take so long? And what is it that this delay measures? One answer might be that it measures the uncertainty, here in the US, about the target, the object, around which a protest movement might cohere. As we will see, this uncertainty turns out to be crucial to the course Occupy takes.

(Read more on The New Inquiry)

LIES vol.1 has dropped

15 September 2012

from LIES Journal:

LIES came out of our experience within struggles. The story of the journal is the intersecting narratives of our involvement with the occupations and strikes of recent years and the gendered fault lines that emerged within them. We met in the midst of these activities. We felt the need to organize autonomously as feminists. We started reading groups, held summer camps, met friends in other cities, and developed forms of mutual aid and solidarity. We did not want to go home, or maybe home suddenly felt like a more hostile place. Things got harder. But the more we read and wrote together, the more we desired a means to devise a theory and politics that is inchoate but at least our own. This journal is that: a way to communicate, to be overcome by the feminist commune, to survive with lesser pain or better pain, to be- come a more precise and effective force.

Get it here.

Related:

  • In case you missed Escalating Identity’s “Who is Oakland,” you can read it here.
  • Bay of Rage’s “Unfinished Acts” on Oakland in 2009.

Single Mother Falsely Accused of Endangering Her Children at Occupy Oakland

17 April 2012

from OaklandOccupyPatriarchy:

The authorities apparently stop at nothing to intimidate and scare people from participating in a movement that they fear. Stayaway orders, bogus arrests, heavy charges for minor offenses, sham “lynching” laws, and, most recently, deploying the Child Protective Services to attack a single mother for participating in Occupy Oakland.

Kerie Campbell is an all-star activist at Occupy Oakland. There from the very 1st planning meeting in Mosswood Park, there the night the camp struck back in October, Kerie is also an admin on the OO (Occupy Oakland) website and co founder of the Occupy Oakland Children’s Village.  The Children’s Village is an area for kids and parents/legal guardians to hangout and feels safe, and is designed to create a space for children to have their voices respected and heard in ways not common for them.  It allows people come to OO events knowing they will have a safe, friendly place to spend time with their kids. Most recently, at the OO Barbecue/Speakout series, kids in the Children’s Village made puppets, got their faces painted, and otherwise hung out together with their parents or guardians.  Considering that Kerie is also a single mother with two young children, the fact that she is so heavily involved is impressive.

Around Occupy Oakland Kerie and her children are welcome, familiar faces that everyone loves. Like many other children who spend time around OO, Kerie’s kids became part of the larger OO family.  But recently something tragic happened in her life that is angering her and the larger community of OO. This activist who has such a standing in the welfare of children had her own children forcefully taken away from her by an Ex-Husband under ridiculous charges that are clearly politically motivated.

Throughout Kerie’s marriage to Anthony Sprenger and during the 6-year custody battle of their 2 children, Kerie and her ex-Husband had a tumultuous relationship to say in the least. However their legal situation was finally worked out and she had two years of relative calm, which made this most recent attempt to bar Kerie from seeing her children come seemingly from out of the blue.

On Friday afternoon Kerie arrived at her children’s school like any other Friday, the day she her Ex-Husband normally switched custody. The Friday custody switch-up, until this point, went “like clock work.”  Thursday night Kerie’s daughter called her, crying about a classroom conflict. “I told her that I would see her the next day.” Kerie recounts with tears in her eyes.  But when she got to school, her children were nowhere to be found. She panicked, until a friend told her that her ex husband had come to pick the kids up before she got there. Frantically, Kerie went to different school administration officials to find out how exactly her Ex Husband had done this without any warning to Kerie. The search for more information from the administration, with which she had a good relationship up until this point, was to no avail. “They had their heads and eyes down and said that they couldn’t do or say anything.”  Finally, she was forced to call the police (which she did not want to do) who eventually, after a lot of back and forth, produced the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) her ex used to take the children. The Restraining Order was supposed to be served her before taking her children. It had no supplementary declaration or evidentiary documents.

The TRO stated that Kerie’s children were at risk because she had taken them to the Mosswood Encampment, which was an Occupy Oakland re-occupation that occurred on March 22nd, thus endangering them. That day the encampment was granted permission to be at Mosswood by OPD once the occupiers had taken their tents down. The “recklessly endangering” activities that Kerie and her children were taking partin? They ate pizza, wrote letters to imprisoned comrades, played Frisbee and tag,and read books in an environment largely resembling a park picnic. Clearly, this event was not dangerous. The TRO mentioned quite a few other charges that cite Kerie as an unfit mother because of her involvement in OO, which is absurd given her activities in Occupy Oakland.

This attack has disturbing implications for how repression could affect single parents involved in OO and is something the larger OO community must be on the watch for.  Kerie believes this was a targeted attack against her involvement in Occupy Oakland.  “[My ex-husband] had gone after everything else before, this was all he had left to go after.”

As occupiers and feminists, we must support Kerie against this attack, and we must continue to provide spaces like Children’s Village that support people with children   who want to participate in this movement.

To donate to Kerie’s legal fund send checks to her friend Don Macleay:
“KC”. C/O Don Macleay, P.O. Box 20299, Oakland CA, 94620

Related:

On the November 9 Stay-Away Orders: The University and its “Lawful Business”

26 March 2012

-written by three people among the thirteen charged

We are graduate students and teachers at UC Berkeley. Like thousands of other members of people here at Berkeley, we have participated in rallies and demonstrations and marches against the privatization of the University of California. In early March of this year, however, we each received letters from the Alameda County District Attorney informing us that criminal complaints had been filed against us. No details of the complaints were listed, only the date we were to appear at Wiley Manuel Courthouse.

When we called the DA to find out our charges, we learned they stemmed from November 9, 2011, the day riot officers assaulted hundreds of students, faculty members, and workers for setting up tents on the lawn in front of Sproul Hall at UC Berkeley. The planned encampment was to be established in solidarity with the growing Occupy movement. It aimed to raise awareness of the budget cuts at the UC. Internet videos of the brutal actions of police that day went viral, foreshadowing the international scandal UC Davis police would cause just a week later when they belligerently pepper-sprayed sitting students. In a now infamous turn of phrase, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau defended the pummeling of the protestors at UC Berkeley by declaring their act of civil disobedience (linking arms) to be “not non-violent.”

That we were suddenly being charged for participating in the events of November 9 struck us as odd. Four months had passed. We had not been arrested on November 9, nor did we suspect that we were under investigation. The UC administration had even granted amnesty from student conduct charges for those who took part in the protest. We soon discovered that several friends (also students) were facing similar charges. Like us, most of them had also not been arrested that day. In total, 13 individuals have been charged, including a professor of English, who, when surrendering herself for arrest on November 9, was pulled to the ground by her hair by police. The various criminal complaints against us include resisting arrest, battery of an officer, obstructing a thoroughfare, and remaining at the scene of a riot.

How the DA decided that we should face charges is not fully clear—although it is evident that they are bringing charges on the basis of recommendations received from UCPD, despite Chancellor Birgeneau’s protestations to the contrary. As UCPD spokesperson Lt. Tejada recently said, “We make our case, and the district attorney reviews the evidence, and if they feel they have enough evidence they will move forward.” Furthermore recent reports suggest that even campus health services had a hand in the selection and identification of protestors. Hundreds of people were on hand the afternoon of November 9. Even more were present on Sproul Plaza when police returned in the evening to again attack students and confiscate their tents, bringing out a crowd of at least 2000. Nearly ten thousand supporters joined in a student strike at UC Berkeley a week later in response to the appalling actions of police. Why are only 13 out of these thousands being charged? Is it a coincidence that some of those targeted are highly visible organizers at UC Berkeley? Is the UC Berkeley administration outsourcing the criminalization of dissent to the Alameda County District Attorney, just as the UC Police Department outsourced the brutal repression of dissent on November 9 to the Alameda County Sheriff?

Of course we are not taken aback by the situation in which we find ourselves. For months now, the Alameda County District Attorney’s office has been vindictively harassing anyone they suspect of taking part in the Occupy movement. Most recently the DA has started slapping stay-away orders on almost any activist brought before the court with ties to Occupy Oakland. This attempt to smother dissent through judicial means is simply a less spectacular (and far less bloody) approach than the hard-fisted tactics employed by their law enforcement brethren.

Since we knew full well how the judicial system is being geared to criminalize and stifle dissent in Alameda County, we should not have been the least bit astonished when our judge—without the slightest hesitation—granted the DA’s request to issue us indefinite stay-away orders from the University of California. Nevertheless, the stay-away orders first issued on March 19 took us all by surprise. Had administrators of the University of California deemed us worthy of banishment from campus, they could have used their own established protocols and procedures to do so—something they have hardly been hesitant to use before.

When asked why the stay away orders were to be applied not just to the UC Berkeley campus, but to all property owned by the University of California, the DA responded that we are known to travel to other campuses to protest meetings of the UC Board of Regents. The light this response sheds on the political motivation of the stay away orders should not be missed. We are now disallowed from stepping foot on any campus in the UC system for the simple reason that we might take part in political activity on UC property. The timing of these stay away orders, it should be noted, is extremely convenient for the UC administration: a major meeting of the UC Regents is scheduled at UC San Francisco next week.

In issuing these stay away orders, the judge granted a narrow exception to all of us who are students, as well as a few other exceptions to particular individuals (i.e. for living in university housing, or for performing official union responsibilities). Those of us with classes and teaching duties (which includes 12 of the 13 being charged) are allowed to visit campus for “lawful business.” We can attend our courses and meet with our students as usual. While a reasonable exception to an unreasonable order, this further reveals how the stay-away orders have been constructed expressly to eliminate our political engagement on campus. The stay-away-order-plus-exception effectively distills our lives as students and workers from all other trivial or superficial aspects. We are reduced to mere academics, without political or social lives, whose sole purpose is to work and study and return home. We cannot attend a lecture on campus. Or meet with a friend for coffee. Or stop to talk with a former student. And we most certainly can’t attend any protest. The court is permitting us to contribute to business as usual at the university so long as we do not do anything outside of the strict delimitation of such business, as long we do not attempt to challenge it in any way. We are made into model students and workers, perfectly obedient, without the encumbrance of feelings and thoughts beyond our academic work on campus.

Potentially complicating this analysis is the additional exception that one of us received for the performance of union responsibilities.  When this individual’s lawyer initially spoke with the District Attorney, letting the DA know that his client was an elected steward in the UC union of academic workers, the DA responded by asking: “Union work is totally unrelated to occupy protests, right?”  If this question betrays a basic unfamiliarity with recent organizing on campus, it also reveals something about how union activity is generally understood at this historical moment.  Union activity is imagined here as a form of labor, performed by elected bureaucrats, who are recognized by management as the legitimate representatives for, and regulators of, a particular workforce.  Such work appears unrelated to, if not in fact antagonistic toward, the forms of non-hierarchical direct action practiced by the occupy movement.  When partitioned in this way from protest, union activity can evidently appear as part of the lawful business of a student instructor, whose life is thus distilled into acts of labor, some instructional and others bureaucratic.

Whatever the exceptions, we have little reason to trust that the campus police will interpret the stay-away orders in any predictable or consistent way. The actions of numerous John Pikes and Jared Kempers have taught us to never underestimate the lengths the UC police department is willing to go to punish campus protestors. We have little faith that the police will allow us to be on campus without also harassing us. This is, of course, their “lawful business.” (via reclaimuc)

Related:

Still Waiting for ‘Real Action’: UC’s Repeated Failure to Address Campus Racism

9 March 2012

from WeAreStillTheCrisis:

As many in the UCLA community are now aware, the door to students’ off-campus apartment was vandalized with anti-Mexican and sexist messages on the morning of Monday, February 27.  As tragic as this isolated event was, it is more illustrative of the broader campus climate on one hand, and, on the other, the complete inability of campus and system administrators to effectively address these situations and ensure the safety of their female students and students of color.

Before looking at the Daily Bruin editorial penned by Christine Mata, Assistant Dean of Students for Campus Climate, it’s important to rewind several years and place this event in the proper context. (more…)

Suppression in Oakland

8 March 2012

from hyphenated-republic:

Months ago, District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, in collusion with Mayor Jean Quan’s office and the direction of Deanna Santana, began a series of strategies designed to silence free speech—that is, from their perspective, the wrong kinds of speech directed at powerful local actors. As a recent dump of emails show, Quan was quite keen to explore ways of co-opting the Occupy Oakland movement when she thought the message was directed impotently at far away targets in Washington and Wall Street, even going as far as commissioning a series of “initiatives” that would make her seem aligned with the movement’s goals, and empowering operatives to co-opt the movement’s message [p. 1058]. When the Mayor and City Hall discovered that they would not be able to ride the Occupy Oakland train to cynical political gain, an ugly series of tactics were arrayed to chill free speech and intimidate protesters. These culminated in violent raids that nearly took the lives of two activists. These are well-known, but the violence and repression from police and city designed to suppress the Occupy Oakland movement did not stop there. Read more.

Related:

  • Three Oakland occupiers have been given ludicrous charges, including hate crime, for a recent demonstration at a bank. Although the bail amount varies with each of the occupiers and is seemingly fluctuating, it has been set as high as $1 million for one of the arrestees. Donations are being requested to help bail out at least one occupier (with the lowest bail).
  • Around a dozen demonstrators involved in OccupyCal last fall have now been charged by the Alameda County DA for their actions during the statewide education demonstrations on November 9th. Read more.

Op-Ed: An Account of the Last CSU Trustees Meeting

25 February 2012

On Wednesday, November 16th, I was a part of the California State University anti-austerity protest at Long Beach. The police present beat students and facilitated the passing of the CSU Trustees’ anti-democratic, extortive, and unnecessary fee hike. I was arrested for four violent felonies stemming loosely from the breaking of a door; despite the fact that video evidence has surfaced which clearly exonerates me from breaking the door, and despite the fact that the District Attorney has explicitly rejected these and other charges, the CSU Trustees and their police have been adamant about pinning whatever they can on me, and the Long Beach City Prosecutor has finally caved to their demands. I am facing ridiculous but serious charges—and I need your help to get them dropped. (more…)

Letter to President Yudof objecting to hiring William Bratton to investigate UC Davis pepper-spray incident

28 November 2011

November 27, 2011

President Mark G. Yudof
University of California
1111 Franklin St., 12th Floor
Oakland, CA 94607
Fax: (510) 987-9086

Dear President Yudof,

The Council of University of California Faculty Associations (CUCFA) protests your decision to hire the Kroll Security Group, and its Chairman William Bratton, to conduct what you call an independent investigation of police violence at UC Davis. We take no position here on Mr. Bratton’s personal qualifications; our objection is to the conflicts of interest of Kroll Security itself, which is already a major contractor with UC on security matters. According to its website, Kroll’s services are not confined to securing databases and facilities from attacks by criminals and terrorists. It also protects many global financial institutions and other multinationals against threats to “operations” that may come from public criticism and direct political action.

By deepening UC’s links to Kroll, you would be illustrating the kinds of connection between public higher education and Wall Street that the Occupy UC movement is protesting. Kroll’s parent company, Altegrity, provides data-mining, intelligence and on-the-ground security to financial institutions and governments seeking to head off and defeat both private sabotage and public protest. In addition, Altegrity’s parent company, Providence Private Equity, is a major global investor in for-profit higher education companies that benefit from the decline of publicly funded higher education.

We already know that Kroll has provided security services to at least three UC campuses for the past several years. This in itself would disqualify Mr. Bratton from participating in the investigation you propose, even if the role of Kroll and its affiliated companies in defending the financial sector against OWS did not raise further questions about its pro-Wall Street and pro-privatization bias.

A truly independent investigation that would allow UC to provide a credible response to the events at Davis (and the other campuses) needs to address several questions that would not be seriously considered if you hire Kroll.

  • What was your role and that of UC General Counsel in the events at Davis? Did you, as a distinguished first amendment scholar, tell chancellors and campus police chiefs that protests (especially protests against UC’s own policies) are “part of the DNA of this University” that should not be addressed using the same techniques that UC has developed (likely with the help of Kroll) to deal with terrorists, shooters, and cyber-saboteurs? (Even if you have been a zealous defender of the rising student movement to restore public higher education, such a conclusion would not be credible coming from an investigation tainted by Kroll’s conflicts of interest outlined above.)
  • What was and is the role of Kroll in helping banks and public institutions (including UC) investigate and defeat movements such as OWS and their campus counterparts? Is Kroll now acting as a liaison between universities, city governments and the Department of Homeland Security in defending the financial sector against protests occurring on what used to be considered public spaces? Are protests against Wall Street in such spaces now considered a threat to the security of the nation, the city and the public university? (The growing securitization of public space has been a major obstacle to first amendment activity since 9-11.)
  • How much money has UC and its individual campuses paid to Kroll for security services? Were these contracts issued as sole source contracts or was there open bidding? Were Kroll’s services confined to protecting, for example, the privacy and integrity of data systems and faculty and staff conducting animal research or did they extended to what Kroll’s website calls “organizational threats” arising from “the dynamic and sometimes conflicting needs of the entire campus population?” (This could be a description of the student protests that you rightly regard as “central to our history” as a university.)
  • What led to the issuance of false and misleading statements by University of California officials (Chancellors and their assistants, spokespeople, and police chiefs) in the aftermath of police violence at Berkeley and Davis? Did you encourage these efforts at spin control? (Dishonest statements seriously damage the university as an institution devoted to truth and protect only the individuals whose decisions are in question.)

The broader issue is how protest can be part of what you characterized as “our university’s DNA” when the right to protest is not formally recognized within the university’s own codes of student and faculty conduct. It could be and should be. The CSU student code states explicitly that “[n]othing in this Code may conflict with Education Code Section 66301 that prohibits disciplinary action against students based on behavior protected by the first amendment.” If such language were included in the UC code of conduct, students would have a clear first amendment defense against disciplinary action arising from peaceful political protest-and there would be strong grounds for questioning the legality of a police order to disperse a peaceful protest from a public site on a public university campus. The explicit incorporation of constitutional limits on UC’s power to break up demonstrations that threaten its march toward privatization would go a long way toward recovering UC as a public, rather than a private, space. We urge you to see that the UC codes of conduct are amended to parallel those in place at CSU.

Events at Davis and the other campuses have shown the University of California in a negative light, and we agree strongly with the need for an independent investigation. We believe, however, that your appointment of Kroll to investigate the university’s response to last week’s protest could itself become a basis for new protests, and that you should ask Speaker Perez (or someone unaffiliated with the University) to appoint a genuinely independent committee with representatives from student, faculty, staff and civil liberties groups. Such a committee should be given a specific charge to investigate and report on all of the questions set forth above.

Robert Meister,
President, Council of UC Faculty Associations
Professor History of Consciousness and Political and Social Thought, UC Santa Cruz

(via CUCFA)

No Cops, No Bosses

20 November 2011

from BicycleBarricade:

By now much of the world has seen video and photos of Lt. John Pike of the UC Davis police department as he discharged a canister of burning chemicals into the faces of students seated in the center of the university quad. Most viewers are outraged, and justifiably so. Much of the outrage has been directed at John Pike. He deserves it. But we should remind ourselves that Friday’s police violence was only an aberration because it happened on a university campus not easily assimilable to the stereotype of “Berkeley radicals” and to students who are perceived or portrayed as mostly white and as resisting passively. Whiteness is brought up here, not to chastise those who only now denounce police violence that has been routinely applied to non-white communities and individuals—this itself is a misperception of Friday’s events: a majority of those arrested were not white—but to invite readers, new and old, to extend the critique of police violence beyond the walls of the university to the communities whose life it damages every single day.

Friday’s punitive violence, as terrible as it was, is not an example of bad policing. It is an example of policing.

We’ve seen this kind of violence used before on California campuses, and not just in response to the anti-privatization protests and occupations of the past two years. We’re seeing it used now to suppress dissent in cities across the world, from Oakland to Cairo.

When UC Davis police chief Annette Spicuzza says she is “very proud” of her officers, who “did a great job,” she is convinced that this is true. It’s not simply a public relations strategy, it’s a reflection of the fact that her officers did what cops are expected to do: employ violence against those who challenge authority.

This is why we do not demand the dismissal of Lt. John Pike, although it would be welcome.

Our demand is COPS OFF CAMPUS. Period.
(more…)

Seize the Ponies

13 November 2011

The actions this Wednesday on the UC Berkeley campus under the banner “Occupy Cal” were the largest political manifestation there since September 24, 2009. On that occasion, a faculty-initiated walkout in concert with two union strikes, shortly joined by a mass of students, mobilized protesters across the UC system against the privatization of public education — 5,000 alone at Berkeley. Amidst broad and spectacular national attention and predictable comparisons to the spirit of “the Sixties,” the action in 2009 threatened to begin a new era in campus agitation and struggle.

It also threatened to bring it to an end. An attempted occupation of Wheeler Hall by a militant fraction of the participants, proceeding from a more sweeping anticapitalist analysis seeking “to push the university struggle to its limits” within a declared program to “occupy everything/demand nothing!” failed amidst great acrimony. The ill will arrived no more from the administration than from the main body of that day’s protestors, committed to the seemingly more realistic and less divisive goal of restoring a marginally more affordable and hospitable academic environment.

These two positions — revolution and reform, in their latest local incarnations — had a brief moment of rapprochement that November when, two days after another failure to hold a different building, more than 40 participants locked down part of Wheeler Hall for long hours during which the building was surrounded by riot police from multiple jurisdictions. The police were, in turn, surrounded by thousands of students challenging the threat and authority of the robocops, while helicopters nattered overhead and faculty members endeavored ineffectually to broker a deal that would end the standoff. Cops beat students for refusing to depart, charged into crowds, issued endless streams of threat and invective. They were answered. Students and staff found their inner militants. In the event, the threat of the massed and notably non-pacific supporters compelled safe passage for the occupiers, who walked out into the embrace of an exhausted and briefly jubilant crowd.

That moment’s tenuous unity would exhaust itself in the months to come. Fractious divisions returned, planned actions grew more chaotic and less charismatic, and it became increasingly evident that a mild reformist program — tuition rollbacks, job preservation, a curbing of the administrator class’s expansion — might as well have been demands for a new utopia with ponies for everyone. Everywhere the only response from administrators and politicos was paternalistic contempt, disingenuous handwringing, and a monolithic, blank insistence that the tide of history moved in one direction, against which even the most concerted, realistic or well-mannered entreaties would find no purchase. Against all that — demoralization among the temporarily inspired participants, sheer exhaustion among the committed organizers, divisions all around — the campus anti-privatization movement seemed to have guttered out.

¤

Which brings us to Occupy Cal, and the apparent revitalization of the fight over public higher education in California. On Wednesday a thousand or more students rallied on Sproul Plaza, marched through Telegraph Avenue to Bank of America, returned to the Plaza for a General Assembly, and voted almost unanimously to set up an encampment near the administration building. When they tried to do so, already-staged riot cops from the UCPD and Alameda Sheriff’s Department immediately moved to stop them. As the students and workers linked arms and tried to defend the small grassy area, the police attacked with batons, beating many, tackling and pulling the hair of a few, and arresting a handful, all of whom were then charged with resisting arrest, with one being sent to the hospital with injuries — all in the process of trying to prevent a single tent from being raised.

But the crowd was actually pretty tough, and grew swiftly, because, as it turns out, people — including people from university communities — don’t like violent cops, and it is increasingly implausible to recognize the existence of any other kind. The police were compelled to withdraw for a while, promising to return for an eviction at 10 p.m. Up went a few tents. Out went the call for support that night. The cops returned early, moving swiftly and angrily, beating people indiscriminately and ironically on the Mario Savio steps, knocking over the tents, arresting about 30 more, forming a militarized line to defend a micro-knoll. The inevitable crowd gathered, the helicopters hovered: it felt like old times. By after midnight a General Assembly of 3,000, fired by a still-burgeoning shock at the actions of the administration (especially the odious, miscalculating Chancellor Robert Birgeneau), convened to plot next moves. There will be next moves.

But perhaps what is most striking is that, at this exact moment, the battle of the East Bay has two fronts.

When the call for support went out, it went around campus; it also went down the street. Less than five miles away, at the far end of Telegraph Avenue, Occupy Oakland had established itself as the most militant of “the Occupies” — enforcing a strict no-cops policy, declaring itself not simply an encampment but the Oakland Commune, supplying its own needs, and reestablishing itself spiritedly after being violently evicted on October 25. Having come through a cloud of teargas, rubber bullets, and other ordnance, the Oakland Commune swiftly called for a General Strike (the last in the nation had been in Oakland in 1946) which shut down numerous businesses for a day as well as the nation’s sixth largest port.

It is easy enough to note that Occupy Oakland seeks to push the Occupy movement to its limits. The slogan “Occupy Everything!” had accompanied the new movement since its inception in September. Indeed, the initial call for Occupy Wall Street, formulated in the Canadian magazine Adbusters, had borrowed heavily from the ideas and writings of the university militants of 2009, whose actions they had chronicled (albeit poorly) at the time. Of absolute significance is the fact that the Occupy movement fashions itself openly, if sometimes ambiguously, as broadly anticapitalist.

In short, the ideas and programs of Fall 2009 that presented themselves as too militant and unrealistic for that moment — occupation as material tactic, no demands, strike and refusal, anticapitalism — are now simply the general atmosphere of the most popular political movement in decades. To quote the Situationist writer René Vienet, “Our ideas are on everybody’s mind.” This would be a remarkable denouement, but for three things.

The first is that the story is by no means over. Now everyone is a crisis maven and can understand these irruptions in the context of objective conditions. Cycles of joblessness and homelessness, of debt and default, and of exclusion from the grounds of capital are not easing but intensifying. Everybody knows there will be no ponies gotten simply by asking, or by arguing eloquently from some principle of justice or reason. We’re going to have to seize the ponies. Which is to say, the homes and the jobs, and the mechanism which excludes an increasing number of people from such amenities. At this point, visions of wandering bemusedly out of recession and back into boom times are in fact less plausible than the vision of various Occupies expanding outward to meet community anti-foreclosure struggles in an increasingly unified reorganization of daily life — by which I mean, a reorganization of who holds what, and how.

The second is that it would be a mistake, finally, to see the Occupy Everything movement as beginning in the California university struggles of 2009, which themselves drew on similar struggles in New York, which themselves…. In truth, the failure of the international economic regime and the tidal fury it has produced have been wandering the globe for a while now. The content is misery, dispossession, and a willingness to struggle. It looks here and there for whatever form to which it can fit itself in order to gain purchase on a given situation. It typically involves students and the dispossessed. It looks one way in the French banlieue in 2005 and another in the Paris CPE riots the following year. It takes one form in the streets of Athens and Thessaloniki in 2008; another in Tahrir Square in January, and another in the squares of Madrid and Barcelona. It burns differently on the campuses of the UK and in Tottenham and Hackney. And then there’s Chile.

It is critical to understand the university struggles in California not as some independent rise and fall, some odd pulsating rhythm proper to this place and this situation, but as one appearance of a far broader — and in many regards far more advanced and intensified — conflict that has been afoot for some time. When hostility to capitalism moves to the fore, it is not some mutation, or the ascent of some ideological fraction against another; it is the irreducible truth of the situation, having found the form in which it can finally appear unmasked.

But the third reason for skepticism in advance of any conclusions is that there is no irrevocable march forward. Conditions guarantee this conflict, but they also present limits. Right now, the limits for Occupy Cal and Occupy Oakland are most obviously the police: the same government-paid thugs who rode camels into Tahrir Square, here kitted out with far more advanced weapons. But there is also the weather and real estate, the two things that strangers discuss at bourgeois dinner parties. These turn out to be the objective conditions of the moment. The shift of occupation strategies in the last two years from inside to outside spaces, to semipublic arenas, was both necessary and unforeseeably effective. It was also a plan for a mild season. Now, as the fog and the chill of late autumn sets in — brumaire, this month was once called — the movement of the squares, the plazas, the universities and the Occupies will need to reclaim some indoor spaces for itself. Whether these can be gotten, and held, is a most pressing question.

¤

Joshua Clover is a Professor of English Literature at University of California Davis. He is currently at work on a book tentatively entitled Capital Poetics, bringing together the study of poetry with contemporary political economy, and finishing a poetry collection called Tranche/Syntagma.

(via LA Review of Books)