Organizing for March 4th is proceeding apace. We have been reaching out to students, many of whom do not even know about the March 4th general strike. We have been handing out information about the self-destruction of California’s public universities. People are signing petitions. They are pledging their participation on March 4th. Undoubtedly, this is important work—the long, slow process of growing from a few hundred people to tens of thousands. In Mexico, when students occupied the National Autonomous University, 100,000 people came out to support them, and they won their demands—even if they lost their struggle to transform society. We are far from even that point. How do we get there?
Something is missing in all the out-reach we have been doing this quarter. It provides students with information, but how does it grow their collective power? How does it help us break out of this suffocating culture of passivity? Last quarter, we began to organize ourselves without representatives or leaders. People said it couldn’t be done, but we did it—we occupied buildings on campus, setting off a wave of occupations across the state. We used these spaces to organize our struggles, but also to meet one another—to talk, to eat and to dance together.
That is what is missing this quarter: collective action. It was these actions, these actions alone, which forced Sacramento to reconsider its position: what does it say about a state that spends more money on prisons than on higher education? What does say about a state that calls in the riot cops to beat up its children? But the occupations were more than just a means to fight the budget cuts. They were also an end in themselves. In the occupations, we discovered our collective power and overcame our fears.
Now, in February, there are more than a thousand of us across the state of California. We found each other; we are learning from one another. We are spreading tactics of sabotage and disruption throughout the state. We are beginning to spread them beyond the bounds of the university. But how are we going to reach more students, here at the university? When 250 people spontaneously occupied Kerr Hall, I walked around the campus, talking to everyone I saw: “Kerr Hall has been occupied; this has never happened before in the history of the university; come check it out before the cops get here!” People were unimpressed. They had some excuse, of course, as if I were a teacher asking them why they didn’t do their homework. Some bothered to feign excitement, but they obviously had no intention of coming to see for themselves.
This passivity, this anti-social mentality, is the last remaining reason why the tuition hike has not already been overturned. How are we going to get past this point? Perhaps the fault lies in a choice of targets. We occupied the administrative building to shut down the university. It probably had a minimal effect in that direction (although most of the administrators, if they do any work at all, probably work from home). Precisely because we occupied an administrative building, we failed to interrupt and transform the daily lives of most students, who float from dorms to classes to dining halls to dorms—worrying about their grades, worrying about their jobs, worrying about their families, worrying about their futures, but always alone or with a few friends, never with a group large enough to actually force a change in this self-destructing institution. Maybe it is time to take over and transform our living spaces directly. It need not be any big production. How easy would it be for a few friends to interrupt dinner at a dining hall for a little theater production, to throw an unsanctioned party in a dorm, to end class abruptly and start a discussion, or even to distribute a newsletter? It is amazing what twenty-five people can do if they do it together…
This quarter, let’s organize with our friends to make a ruckus around campus—to interrupt people’s daily lives, to involve them in a collective project—TO HALT the functioning of the university, TO OVERTURN the budget cuts, TO END this miserable society of unemployment, debt and servitude.