When Students Move Millions Follow

Posted: November 9, 2011 by globaloccupation in 2011, November, pamphlet, seattle
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In Paris, May 1968, students held massive occupations at some of France’s most prestigious university campuses. When riot police crushed the first of these protests, popular support grew and within days more than a million marched through the streets of the city. Workers started independently occupying factories, beginning one of the only general strikes to ever fully paralyze an industrialized, first-world nation. This was a wildcat strike, led autonomously and directly by workers, rather than any union bureaucracy.
Soon the Sorbonne was reoccupied and declared an autonomous “people’s university.” The populace mobilized across France. Enormous marches were held in every major city, calling for president de Gaulle to step down and dissolve the National Assembly. Factories all over the country were seized by their own workers, who demanded full share in the wealth they had created. France was, within a month, brought to the brink of a revolution which could have changed the course of history.

This was just one in a long line of university occupations throughout the 20th century. Some, like the occupation of CUNY in 1969 by black and Puerto Rican students protesting segregated admissions, succeeded in winning major reforms. Others, such as the 1968 Columbia University occupation, were quickly and forcefully crushed. Still others—suchas Paris in 1968, the Athens polytechnic uprising in 1973, or Bangkok’s Thammasat University occupation of 1976—toppled political parties, destroyed military juntas and nearly sparked worldwide revolutionary change.


For us, occupying the green of Seattle Central Community College seems obvious. Our global Occupation gestated in the ruins of a collapsed economic bubble. This was a bubble built by immense speculative accumulation in the form of interest on debts which themselves were forms of rent paid into the extractive real estate industry. At the heart of this collapse were the “too big to fail,” parasitic banks funded by an uppermost percentile of wealthy owners and financiers.

The next economic bubble is already building. It is being filled by immense speculative accumulation in the form of interest on debts, which itself is simply a form of rent paid on educational infrastructure owned by others. Rather than extractive real estate, it is founded on an inflated service industry with student loans instead of mortgages as its increasingly toxic asset. At the heart of this next collapse are the same “too big to fail,” parasitic banks funded by that same 1% of wealthy owners and financiers.

Already this next crisis is evident. Young people across this country are overeducated, underemployed and threatened with a life of endless debt. In Tunisia, this demographic sparked the cycle of global revolt, revolution, indignation and occupation we are all a part of.

So what are the goals in our new situation? There are, of course, the cuts suffered by SCCC, the massive increase in tuition rates, the district-wide forced furloughs for faculty and staff , the elimination of classes as well as other services, such as the school’s daycare center—each of which we oppose. But this is not all, because we are not simply a reform movement. We do not just want to go back to how things were before these specific cuts. We understand, of course, that things have been better in the past – when states like California had a world-class, tuition-free university system open to its citizens. But why stop there?

The fact is that the 1% are terrified of us. Not because we are occupying in the remnants of a collapsed housing bubble that gave them massive profit and us unemployment. No – and for this I need a Mic Check (Mic Check!) – they are terrified (they are terrified!) because we have the power (because we have the power!) to Occupy Everything (to OCCUPY EVERYTHING!).
Because we are affirming our power not only at the end of an emptied bubble but at the beginning of the next one. The college campus is the perfect symbol of the future they are stealing from us. It is a perfect symbol because it illustrates both what they are taking and how they are taking it.


Do not be discouraged. If the police come for us, like they did in France in ’68, like they did in Oakland in ’11. If the popular parties of our own militarized nation try first to co-opt our movement and then to crush it. Even if the media misportray us to the populace—because they will. They will say that we are spoiled children seeking entitlements, seeking privileges.
Because that is the core of their flimsy argument. Today, they tell us we do not have rights, we have privileges—which is to say that we have what they afford us and that only and all easily revocable. Rights are a naïve conception from a bygone era—or they are simply the name of that vague democracy we must force on others with our military power. They are not vital, dynamic, human rights—things to be demanded and won.

But do not be discouraged, because we all now know different. Something has ruptured. There is no going back.

We are beginning to relearn what rights are because we have felt the first stirring of them—dormant for so long but now unfurling, waking in their burrows like a million ancient hearts buried in the center of every cell of our bodies ignited, enraged and wildly loving—and we are demanding and they do not understand what it is we demand because we do not demand more privileges, a longer leash or a bigger cage, we demand all that is our right and our right is education, health, a just share in the common wealth of humanity, a just treatment of our common earth and the right to gather the fate of this world into our hands.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

The Red Spark Collective
We are revolutionaries, we are communists, and we aren’t settling for anything less than the freedom and liberation of people everywhere.
Let’s work together! We need to go back to the last 100 years of radical revolution and learn from past ideas: Whether communist, anarchist, socialist or just plain revolutionary. We need to study new trends and thinking that come from the people. We envision a process that embraces open discussion among ourselves and others, critical investigation, and comradely debate.
We are out to be a collective that is unapologetically revolutionary as well as open-minded and humble.

It is Right to Serve the People
Lessons from New York Occupations

In 2008-9 there were three occupations at two New York colleges: The New School and New York University. The Red Spark Collective writes this in order to help draw lessons on legitimacy, power, tactics, and strategy from these experiences, for our own occupation and our global movement.

A tremor is shaking the world and the occupations which first took off in Tunisia and Egypt are at the heart of it. Like a tsunami it rippled out, awakening and giving heart to those awaiting. And here too, occupations are now tearing at the fabric of normalcy, making the impossible possible — while we discover (and invent) what that means for everyone and what that requires of us.
But as we pull and tug, we are told from every angle which forms of action, which ways of expressing our agency and our power are “legitimate.” We are told: You can’t disrupt business as usual… You’re only legitimate if you make practical demands… If you aren’t speaking to your representatives you aren’t in the game…

We beg to differ.

Occupy Seattle has been organizing at Seattle Central Community College for a while now. There was a walkout involving over three hundred students. The teacher’s union released a letter of support for the occupation. There has been talk of strikes if the campus president Kilpatrick tries to drive us off. Six hundred signatures were gathered from students and faculty supporting Occupy Seattle in only two days. And now we’re occupying the campus itself.

It seems that, for the people, a campus occupation is a very legitimate thing.

In December 2008, at the New School, two hundred students took over a building with tremendous popular support. The occupiers barricaded themselves inside the campus’ Kimmel student center.

Bob Kerrey, the president of the New School, claimed that it wasn’t a “legitimate form of protest.”

Once inside, the NYU occupiers used the internet to send messages to the outside world, calling on people for support. Their actions caught the imagination and gave inspiration to students from all over the city. As cops blocked all entrances over a thousand supporters gathered outside. Passions rose and the coalescing crowd began to surge against the entrenched police. The line was broken. The occupation exploded. Two hundred occupiers became twelve hundred.
It seems that Kerrey’s idea of what is legitimate is simply a calculation of what the status quo is and what power dictates.

We are faced with a different situation at Seattle Central Community College. We have permission to be on campus. And the president says we can stay.

However, Kilpatrick, the president of the campus, is saying that we can only stay if we “police ourselves” and aren’t disruptive. We can’t “interfere with education.”

But Seattle Central Community College is facing 23% budget cuts. That means lay offs, cut pensions, rising tuition, when education is already not available to so many. Education, the teacher’s futures, the student’s futures, and all those that couldn’t afford education in the first place are being “interfered” with; and not by us.

And let us just say, for the record: Our occupation is an education. One you can’t get anywhere else.

This is a part of a whole larger economic crisis with job loss, cutting of the social safety net, growing uncertainty, loss of education… We all feel it’s weight.

The students, teachers, and working people on campus all face their plight because of the same thing. We should remember: We are the 99%.

While the campus population has their own particulars, we have a common cause to our problems and a common solution. And that is where we need to set our sights. Our movement came into existence precisely because of the recognition that we have no power over society and have no one that does nor can represent us in the halls of power. Both parties have proven incapable of solving this crisis, they have shown that they cannot meet the needs or the desires of the people.

Our movement is shocking, radical, powerful, earth shaking because it is doesn’t approach this or that local reform or seek to be a pressure group on politics as usual. These occupations are so damn spectacular because their starting point is the whole world. Our vision is, and should be, doing away with those politics, that system which are the very reasons why we need our occupations in the first place!

We should conceive of and aim for a world without banks, without empires, a world where education isn’t a commodity but a basic human right around the globe.

If we are to draw any lessons from the occupations at the New School and our own, it is that what makes something legitimate isn’t whether or not it respects the current power relations or accepts the cascading economic crisis. What makes something legitimate, whether it be an action, an idea, or a movement, is who it serves. And our movement is serving the vast majority of people everywhere.

The only way to serve the people is to be disruptive, is to be working decisively against the system which is suffocating us day by day. That is legitimacy. And if Kilpatrick says we must be good, we must be quiet, and we mustn’t challenge that status quo, then he is telling us to simply accept the real, tangible, human suffering and loss right before us.

Let’s learn from the occupations at the New School. We have to rely on our strengths: Public opinion, communication, the people of Seattle Central Community College, of Seattle, and the people of the world. Let’s work with them to grow our occupation at Seattle Central and build a movement that can really win.

We’ll have to confront the powers that be and their enforcers; we’ll have to figure out how to defeat them. But we can’t do that without relying on our power.

There was a shower of fliers back in 2009 at one campus in New York. We’ll change the wording just a bit to make it work, but it’s even better now:

“The time has come to begin our refusal. We cannot allow ourselves to stand idly by while the 1% profits by our intelligence, lining their pockets while our future slips away. The crises we face are too great for self-interest-as usual. This is the beginning of their end, and our beginning. Out of their fall, we will rise. Will you rise with us?”


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