Analysis of March 4 is slowly appearing, but it will be some time before a fuller picture emerges. Until then we are collecting here a small number of writings that are relevant to the March 4 walk-out and protests. We will post more as it appears. If you find anything you think is important for discussion, please send it to us.
In the News
Hundreds of Thousands Take Part in National Day of Action to Defend Public Education, Democracy Now
Education funding demanded in ‘Day of Action’, The Oakland Tribune
Thousands rally on campuses, streets for schools, San Francisco Chronicle
UW student rally targets higher-ed funding, The Seattle Times
California Students Protest Education Cuts, The New York Times
Open Letter to the White Student Movement by J.
Response to a Critic of the “White” Student Movement by occupy california
Raider Nation Collective Statement on the M4 Highway Takeover by Raider Nation Collective
Following String of Racist Incidents, UC San Diego Students Occupy Chancellor’s Office, Democracy Now
How Not to Capitulate to Union Bureaucracies: March 4th and the AFSCME 444 Resolution by Advance the Struggle
Don’t be Bamboozled by the Budget by Democracy Insurgent
6 thoughts on “March 4 Student Strike Wrap Up”
I’m a member of Democracy Insurgent and I edited a short video of the student-strike at UW: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3cLxJkbKAY
any thoughts here on the ongoing controversy that has developed around the more confrontational forms of action?
I think there needs to be more confrontation, breaks with capitalist legality, challenges to private property, disruptions of day-to-day life in capitalist society.
I think, I hope that there’s a lot of potential for not only a new radical student movement in the universities but one throughout the public education system, with possibilities for waves to lap into other social spheres and issues. One thing interesting to me is that it sounds like, in contrast to the ‘60s (and maybe this is a stereotype), there’s larger working class participation in these protests, in the case of the community colleges and public schools, for example, and community involvement, like with the parents of students.
There needs to be a sharper distinction between demands around defending “public education” in its present form, within a capitalist context, and redefining the nature of education in socialistic terms.
The protests, if they continue, will also test the capacity of U.S. capitalism for making concessions under conditions of severe economic crisis (and I’m also thinking of capitalism’s “secular crisis,” as presented by Hamerquist in his piece, “Thinking and Acting in Real Time and the Real World,” among other places).
I wanted to throw this article from Socialist Worker into the mix, even though it’s technically on the anti-Olympic movement in Vancouver, because I think it gets at some of the questions we need to think about.
The condescending attitude toward direct action/black blocs is typical of the Trots and liberals, and the notion of basing one’s own activities on what the mass media are thinking is ridiculous.
More relevant for our purposes is the idea that we should keep in mind where ordinary folks are at when deciding our tactics. The irony, of course, is that the author suggests that folks are actually conservative and if we leave it to them they will always be against direct action. This is not the case at all, and at their best moments, many of the student struggles on March 4 combined popular assembly-style decision-making with a willingness to be confrontational. In other words, ordinary people WERE choosing confrontational tactics, and doing so in many instances through democratic processes.
Where does this leave this author’s argument? It leaves it largely in the dust, as it shows that popular movements WILL sometimes choose aggressive direct action in large numbers. It isn’t an either/or thing between boring marches and breaking Starbucks’ windows. Neither is it an “in-between” thing where we combine the best of both worlds.
Often, we’ll have to do what neither of these groups do – patient building among the most oppressed alongside a willingness to embrace the most militant tactics possible decided democratically at crucial moments in struggle. This isn’t an impossibility. The movements on the street in Seattle, for example (and other folks can speak more directly to this) did exactly this kind of thing.
Personally, I’d like to see more “black blocs” like at UC Berkeley and UCSD – intimately rooted in oppressed communities, building long-standing ties with ordinary people, and yet willing to engage in confrontational and militant tactics. (See photos – http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2010/03/01/18639175.php)
One of the problems and frustrations of the usual “black bloc” suspects is that they appear out of nowhere and bring down repression on the whole movement, a movement they often have done little to build. The author of the Socialist Worker piece above goes so far as to suggest that these folks are basically cops – this is ridiculous and cynical and we need to fight against this kind of sectarianism.
The actions of the typical black bloc are often brave as hell and worth defending. But too often the way they are organized leaves the vast majority of folks unable or unwilling to participate in them, because they so often do not arise organically from oppressed communities themselves. What is needed, today, then, is what we saw in places like Seattle – slow, patient building among workers, students from colleges, high schools and even middle and elementary schools, among the unemployed and among community members combined with a willingness to trust the combativeness of these people, their willingness to fight when they feel they can win, but also their good sense not to risk their necks when they can’t.
Both of these groups – the folks like the author of the Socialist Worker article and the traditional black bloc folks – fundamentally distrust the self-governing capacities of ordinary people. The SWer crowd seeks to legislate against direct action of any kind and confine our action to tepid protests that get us riled up but give us no sense of our own power. The black bloc folks never even try to involve us in their actions on a long-term basis. Most of them we never meet before the day of the protest. Often we don’t even see them at the protests until halfway through them. Some of us then follow them on the direct actions they propose because, frankly, protests and speechifying can be boring and lame.
Ultimately, I feel the frustrations of the black blockers much more than those of the SWer folks – the world is tearing apart at the seams TODAY; people are suffering TODAY. How can we stand idly by, how can we not challenge these forces directly? I would posit that the slow and patient work involved in rooting ourselves in oppressed communities, in intimately learning their contradictions and their potential, is NOT standing idly by – as long as it is combined with a fighting spirit that seeks in every instance to raise the stakes of struggle, to do what we can when we can, but always be expanding our sense of what’s possible.
At its best, such a strategy means building toward more and more people participating in direct action and in so doing gaining a sense of our collective power, rather than getting riled up but participating little in mass rallies or watching as traditional black bloc forces bravely confront the cops. Both leave us on the sidelines; neither give us a chance to feel our collective, gathering forces.
I disagree people don’t democratically vote to throw rocks or tear gas. No matter the right/wrong cost anylasis, I can’t see any democratic light shed on it nor would I believe the actors would attempt to speak on their behalf in the light of democracy. I hardly have faith they showed up in that spirit no matter what the result.
Anyone heard of toyi-toyi ? I’d prefer it over rocks anyday..