I am organizing with other students at a community college. I have been supportive of and excited by the occupations from the get-go for raising the level of risk and disruption of business-as-usual. I see the occupations as a necessary component of an overall strategy to build the power we need now.
At the same time, on our campus we are not at a stage of organized resistance to pull off anything like an occupation. Right now we are concerned with pulling students together and finding our voice. But make no mistake, the occupations have created more imaginative space as we walk forward. Even if we can’t find the will or the ability to do it where we’re at, we know that more can be done than signing petitions and marching around with signs. And that means a lot.
On our campus of working class students, most of us haven’t had the opportunity to be involved in collective political action before, and very few of us have had the benefit of being exposed to the range of social theory and organizing skills that a significant number of UC students have had. (I’m one of the exceptions, but I’m kind of a weirdo.) So into this steps a few teachers who define themselves as Leninists and Trotskyists and who knows what else. I’ve lost track now of whether they belong to the Socialist Worker Party or the Workers Socialist Party or the Tutti-Frutti Fourth International Clusterfuck of the Proletariat, but whatever. All I know is when they start pumping out their scripted ideology, with that weird glazed look in their eyes, most students seem to want to start digging a tunnel to escape. If we had a good anarchist trend on our campus to counter-balance this I wouldn’t be so worried, but there’s a pretty apolitical vibe overall here.
So while the occupiers on other campuses are busy opening up imaginative space, the sectarians are busy trying to shut it down. There seems to be an obsession with the “March in March” thing, for example. Okay, it’s great if we can get buses and all go up there, but then what? And up til then, what? It seems to me that these March marches have become a regular event, a ritualized pageant – but they don’t seem to have worked! Or maybe they’ve worked brilliantly. In other words, a few crumbs might follow from a march, just enough to make people think they are effective, so that all our energy goes into these marches for the next go-around. Like people of great faith those promoting the march are convinced that all we have to do is make the march BIGGER this time. We just have to pray harder! I mean, am I the only one who thinks it’s kind of weird that our administrators and the media are urging us to go to Sacramento and quit raising a ruckus right where we’re at?
I’m not arguing against the march. There are many people for whom the march is inspiring and makes sense and to whom it appeals as an action they can participate in. Let ’em go. I’m not arguing over the date of the march, or suggesting that we need to do one thing or another. I’m just concerned that the laser-like organizing focus on the march is closing down imaginative space for creative and disruptive action. I hear a lot of scolds denigrating the occupations for being adventurist, for taking the focus off the march, but what about the way the march is taking focus off our ability to transform our campuses and fundamentally change the power relationships that exist in our daily lives?
Why are our teachers telling us that our banners and flyers and slogans all have to be about the march?
Anyway, a few words of experience, strength, and hope from the rest of you out there would be nice. Don’t forget us out here in the CC’s!