California strike attempts on 4 March & subsequent struggles

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Steven.
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Feb 15 2010 13:02
California strike attempts on 4 March & subsequent struggles

saw this e-mail going around from someone who posts on libcom. Was wondering if anyone else had any further information, or was involved in this?

Quote:
As far fetched as that sounds it's what young student-workers are calling for, especially at schools that are mostly working class kids of color like San Francisco State University. And I know that at least one meltdowner as well as our fearless moderator were active in the 5-month long student/worker strike at SF State from November 1968 to April of 1969, so perhaps they can speak to their experiences about how what the kids are doing now is based on revitalizing a campus tradition. The SF State Strike, who's slogan was "Strike! Shut It Down!" was unique in campus agitation in the U.S. because the faculty organized into AFT local 1352 actually went on strike 2 months into the student strike, receiving county labor council sanction which meant that other organized workers could honor the picket lines, which they did, and the campus received no food or supply deliveries during the strike, nor did other support staff report to work. At the end of the strike the campus was deserted and at most 20% of classes were held, often off campus.

And I wrote "student-workers" above because if you read that excellent chapter from Marc Bousquet's book /How the University Works/, entitled "Students Are Already Workers, (posted on meltdown by John Garvey and available here: http://marcbousquet.net/Bousquet_4.pdf <http://marcbousquet.net/Bousquet_4.pdf> ) you would have read that today in the U.S. 80% of students work: 50% at 25 hours a week, 30% at 40 or more hours a week, and 20% don't work at all. Which brings up this dilemma of identity: are they students-who-work or workers-who-study?

While we know the general strike probably won't take off at this first attempt, we have helped create a buzz across California regardless. Another interesting personal experience I had was fliering for the March 4th strike in SF's heavily working class Latino Mission District. We did guerrilla soapboxing at a packed full Social Security office, which got everyone interested and demanding a copy of our flier. Our Spanish-speaking comrades talked with parents as a nearby charter elementary school let out. We'd heard that the ISO cadre who teach at Mission High had gotten territorial about their turf, telling us that on March 4th they'd keep the kids in school for a teach-in. But about 90% of the kids we fliered and talked with that day were excited at having an excuse to walk out. One of our fliering crew, who'd gone to Mission High and is now at City College of SF, was talking with an older guy in a suit and tie. At first I was worried that he was school security, but soon the comrade and he were laughing. When the guy passed me, he said "Keep up the good work!" I was dying to know who he was and what he felt about our advocating a student strike. Our comrade said he was his former teacher, but is now the principal. I was shocked and pleased, but even more surprised that the high school's principal is well to the left of the ISO and is even encouraging the kids to walk out on March 4th himself.

As I've posted here before, students have already done building occupations at UC Santa Cruz, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, San Francisco State, Fresno State, and there have been fairly large 1-day to 3-day strikes across the UC system, as well as a militant demo of 5,000 at UCLA at the meeting on November 19th where the UC regents announced that student fees would go up 32%, putting annual tuition over $10,000 a year.

These young organizers are getting around and reaching beyond the campus. Students at Cañada College, in suburban Redwood City due south of San Francisco, attend a commuter community college campus that is already poorly served by public transit. With the budget crisis in their county (San Mateo), the transit system is threatening to make
the bus runs to their remote campus even more infrequent, laying off drivers in the process. So students at Cañada have been trying to organize bus drivers to be part of their strike on March 4th.

Below is a local newspaper's report about last week's teach-ins, including the one at Cañada, that shows the great potential for regional coordination. This is happening through the cross-pollination with the kids SF State who had occupied their campus' business building on December 9 and 10, who at the teach-in were stridently calling for a "statewide general strike against the California government." As the British rock band The Who used to say "The kids are alright"!

In Solidarity,

x

The article below:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

From the /San Matean/:

http://www.sanmatean.com/home/index.cfm?event=displayArticlePrinterFriendly&uStory_id=facc9476-c8d1-4127-b1ba-f68bd47cd134 <http://www.sanmatean.com/home/index.cfm?event=displayArticlePrinterFriendly&uStory_id=facc9476-c8d1-4127-b1ba-f68bd47cd134>

*Teach-In Speakers Dynamic, Draw Hundreds*

By: John Servatius, Nick Zirbes, and Alex Farr

Posted: 12/14/09

Hundreds of students, faculty and staff turned out on all three college campuses to address the financial chaos that continues unabated.

Though all campuses participated Feb. 3 and 4, two chose radically different solutions, and the third dissolved amidst growing bitterness and finger-pointing.

The on-going college budget crisis prompted the Associated Students to sponsor a "Teach-In" at the CSM Little Theater over the two days to highlight problems and call students, faculty and workers to action - massive organization and peaceful protest.

The "Canada Strikes Back Association," in partnership with the San Francisco State University budget-cut resistance, took the call to action one step further: proposing far more vigorous measures than their CSM counterparts. Rather than simply advocating protest, speakers urged aggressive disobedience, including a *statewide general strike against the California government.**
*
Skyline's "Teach-In" presentation fell into disarray on the first day. Faculty was prohibited from commenting on specific and sensitive topics. The consensus appeared to be
that political factions within the college were competing to advance their own interests. Despite these setbacks, those involved felt hopeful that future endeavors would be more
productive.

scottydont
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Feb 16 2010 09:30

I just moved to the Bay Area a few weeks ago and am not directly involved, so my impressions are probably not quite as grounded as they could to be, but from several events I have been to, both informal and formal, where march 4th has been discussed it seem to be moving in an impressive direction.

Students from the more elite UC schools seem to be making good connections in state schools, high schools and community colleges, and the organizers at Berkeley are intentionally making sure that things on the 4th move away from campus and into working class Oakland next door. Even smaller more isolated schools such as Modesto Jr. College are a calling general assemblies. Also, I can't speak personally to it, but I know there is at least some relationship being developed between students and the rank and file campus workers at UC Berkeley.

There seems to be a distinct tendency toward a "social war"/insurrectionist way of framing the occupations from last fall which is carrying over to the organizing for march 4, at least in the pieces that are getting widely read in the anarchist "scene" right now, but I'm a little unclear as to how it relates to the actual organizing. Rhetoric aside, occupation as a tactic that is somewhat unusual in the US seems to have really struck the imagination of people all over CA. Even parents in the central valley, which is one of the most depressed areas in the US outside the rust belt, (I believe the author of that email recently wrote a quite excellent article about it actually) have occupied elementary schools to stop them from closing.

As for more info, there are a plethora of blogs etc that have sprung up out of the occupations this fall:
most of them are in the blogroll of this: http://occupyca.wordpress.com/, so I won't bother linking to all of them.

An ad hoc group of people recently complied the communiques etc., from the series of occupations this fall in newspaper format and printed 10,000 copies for free distribution, apparently they are going like hotcakes. You can look at it here: http://afterthefallcommuniques.info/

here is one of the actual call outs for march 4th
http://anticapitalprojects.wordpress.com/2010/02/06/the-call-on-march-4-escalate-occupy-reclaim/

here is some analysis of the actions this fall from the left(ish?) communist blog "advance the struggle" which is pretty decent:

http://advancethestruggle.wordpress.com/2009/10/03/924-opening-shot-against-the-budget-cuts/

http://advancethestruggle.wordpress.com/2009/11/24/occupations-spread-across-california/

http://advancethestruggle.wordpress.com/2009/12/15/sf-state-ceo-corrigan-and-%E2%80%9Csocialists%E2%80%9D-attack-sfsu-occupation/
(the last one is mostly them tearing into the ISO ( the US version of SWP) for their roll in hindering action)

There are also strikes planned in Washington State, Louisiana and New York, though I have no idea about the details on that.

Cheers!

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Steven.
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Feb 16 2010 09:57

thanks for the update. Yeah one thing which was quite striking was the advanced nature of the politics in the communiques

scottydont
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Feb 16 2010 10:11

Yeah...it is a bit bizarre.

A few old acquaintances of mine from high school who used to be quite apolitical/liberal-lefties are students at UC's now, have been radicalized by the whole thing and talk like a freaking Tiqqun article when they are discussing it neutral

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Feb 17 2010 08:03
scottydont wrote:
Rhetoric aside, occupation as a tactic that is somewhat unusual in the US seems to have really struck the imagination of people all over CA.

It's only unusual for the current generation, but in the 1960s it was quite common. The most famous was the week-long occupation of 5 buildings at Columbia University during a wave of struggles in spring 1968, which was part of the worldwide youth rebellion in that period.

But at places like UC Berkeley the occupation tactic ran into its inevitable limitation soon after. A protest against attempts by California Governor Ronald Reagan to stop Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver from teaching a class on racism at UC Berkeley led to a sit-in on October 22, 1968 in Sproul Hall (site of the 800+ arrests during the Free Speech Movement sit-in in 1964). The cops quickly arrested all 121 occupiers. Then:

Quote:
On the following day radicals seized and barricaded Moses Hall. The demonstrators, borrowing a technique used earlier at Columbia University, piled furniture against the building entrances. The militants renamed the building Cleaver Hall, hoisted red and black flags, and displayed several banners ("Liberated," "Solidarity with Students Forever," "End Regents Racism."). For several hours into the night leaders spoke from a balcony through megaphones to a crowd of several thousand curious but distinctly nonrevolutionary onlookers. Then police, personally led by Edwin Meese III, entered the building and arrested 77 people (54 students). A number of protestors, including Tom Hayden [according to a first-hand account I heard, he escaped by pinning a Press Pass to his jacket -- Hieronymous], had escaped from the building before the police arrived. As the arrested demonstrators were led to police buses, the women sang "Solidarity Forever." The men, however, did not know the words and sang "Mickey Mouse." [apparently this is where Kubrick got the idea for the end of the film Fulll Metal Jacket, no?]. Moses Hall had suffered considerable damage; some professors offices had been entered, and files were tossed about. Radicals blamed the police. (from Berkeley at War: The 1960s by W.J. Rorabaugh, p. 84)

I've actually seen photos from the Moses Hall occupation, where it was clear that after trashing the professors' offices the cops made signs that said things like, "YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE FLUNKED ME, FUCKER." Soon after this, Cleaver's parole was revoked and he fled to Algeria. By all accounts, the Moses Hall occupation was a disaster. I know some older comrades who got busted there and they said it was a mistake because there was no mass support and without it, all 77 of them had to serve a jail sentence of something like 2 weeks at the county jail at Santa Rita.

Almost simultaneously, events were taking off across the Bay at San Francisco State College (it's now called University), which was and still is a much more working class campus with more students of color. Events were sparked when the Cal State Trustees ordered that Black Panther George Murray be fired from his position as an English teacher, for advocating armed self-defense of Black people. The Black Student Union launched a strike in November and through December there were pitched battles on the campus between protesters and as many as 600 to 2,000 riot cops.The Third World Liberation Front (TWLF), comprised mostly of Latino and Asian students, joined in solidarity. And as it says above, faculty set up their own picket lines at the beginning of the new semester in January 1969, for their own job-related issues like low pay and heavy workloads, as well as in solidarity with the students' demand for Black Studies and Third World Studies departments on campus. Striking SF State students also went off the campus to walk picket lines in solidarity with striking oil and hospital workers, so it had a clear class struggle dynamic, unlike the campus-based protests at Berkeley. And as pointed out above, with San Francisco Labor Council sanction, other workers didn't cross the picket lines and the strike effectively resulted in the campus being deserted and nearly all classes being canceled. It went on until April 1969 and was largely a success; SF State was the first college in the U.S. to gain a Black Studies program.

Here's an excellent account of how the students learned from the mistakes of limiting themselves to the occupation tactic at Columbia and Berkeley, which never really went beyond being symbolic, and pushed for and achieved a total closure of campus, true to their slogan of "Strike! Shut It Down!":

Quote:
The nonsymbolic nature of the S.F. State strike was likewise reflected in the tactics, which carefully avoided the usual ritual seizure of buildings and planned confrontations with police. Instead of ‘living the revolution’ inside an occupied building for a brief apocalyptic period culminating in a Big Bust, and then attempting to prolong things by playing upon the shock of police occupation (which at many campuses, is becoming less and less of a shock), the TWLF [Third World Liberation Front] opted for a ‘protracted struggle,’ closing the campus and keeping it shut down not by simply impairing normal campus activity, but by making it totally impossible. (from the chapter entitled "The Struggle for San Francisco State," in the anthology Black Power & Student Rebellion: Conflict on the American Campus [1969] p. 296)

Soon after, the nationwide 1970 Student Strike, called in response to the U.S. invasion of Cambodia, the killings at Kent State and Jackson State, and the Black Panther 21 trial in New Haven, was the next obvious escalation. It ended up involving 4,000,000 students and shut down nearly 500 campuses for up to a week. In 16 states the National Guard was mobilized in case they were needed to put it down. And it's limitations were what's being faced in California today, which is a Popular Front of Trots and liberals who want to keep it tightly controlled by their own centralized leadership, where each action is timidly scripted. The result today is these sectarians want it to remain at the level symbolic protest, which means marches to the state capital in Sacramento and rallies after work, starting at 5:00 p.m., on March 4th. There are clearly doing everything they can to prevent a strike that might spread to other public sector workers. By the way, Root & Branch wrote an excellent analysis of the 1970 strike called No Class Today, No Ruling Class Tomorrow: Lesson of the Student Strike [p.m. me if you'd like a pdf copy -- and moderators, please let me know how to post it in the library].

So to draw the lessons of history, we can take ideas from the 1968-1969 SF State strike and the 1970 nationwide strike, as in this contemporary paraphrasing of positions from the Root & Branch pamphlet:

Quote:
Universities, schools, public buildings, workplaces, and offices must be occupied at the start of the movement to serve as bases of operations (and even TV and radio stations if we are to follow the example of Oaxaca in 2006 and Greece last winter); they must be defended through mass action and control of expropriated equipment.

The real possibilities of a student strike generalizing into a class-based movement would be for it to spread beyond the campuses and to include the increasing numbers of laid-off workers in California. Also by including the homeless through mass re-occupations of the millions of foreclosed houses sitting empty. The following example from the movement in France in the winter of 1997-1998 might be instructive:

Quote:
In December and January tens of thousands of jobless people demonstrated in dozens of French cities, in many cases occupying unemployment offices, welfare offices, utility companies and repossession agencies, invading posh stores and restaurants, and making collective raids on supermarkets. This movement, though far bolder than jobless actions in the United States, unfortunately remained largely under the control of the official unemployment associations (dominated by the leftist parties and labor unions). Many of the occupations, however, were carried out on the initiative of individuals who began bypassing the official spokespeople and speaking and acting for themselves.

This radical tendency came to the fore in mid-January when jobless people briefly occupied the Paris Trade Center and the elite École Normale Supérieure, and then, upon being forced out by the police, took over an amphitheater at the nearby Jussieu University. Though this latter occupation was also clearly illegal, the university authorities refrained from calling in the police, and daily assemblies of 100 to 200 people were held there over the next two or three months.(from http://www.bopsecrets.org/recent/jobless.htm)

ALL POWER TO THE GENERAL STRIKE BEGINNING ON MARCH 4th!

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Feb 16 2010 22:21

great info, thanks hieronymous!

scottydont
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Feb 17 2010 03:11

Thanks for the history lesson, great info!

The tactic certainly feels new and unusual for someone from my generation (born in the late 80s).

Also, on that note, there dose seems to be a distinction between at least the better known occupations of the 60's (SF state excluded) and the current occupations in that the current occupations, which makes these feal more fresh: they have addressed issues that are not "activist" demands, but relate to the conditions of the students as students/workers. For example, the Columbia occupation was related to military research at Columbia and the construction of a gym that destroyed a black neighborhood in Harlem (please correct me if I have my facts wrong). Similarly, the last time the tactic was used at all in the US, that I'm aware of, was in solidarity with anti-apartheid activity in S. Africa. I know that that is probably an overly crude distinction, but there dose seem to be a difference.

Cheers and thanks for the long post. I will pm you for that pamphlet!

spaceattack
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Feb 17 2010 07:51

Yes, the writers of the communiques are mostly readers of libcom.org with equal parts influence by TC and Tiqqun. That seems to be a common if unsightly mix in the Anglo-American world (see, for example, this piece of garbage from mute magazine: http://www.metamute.org/node/12806): TC for the smarts, Tiqqun for the feeling! The fact that the occupiers are all libertarian communists is perhaps less surprising than the fact that the communiques have had a sizable following... But it makes sense. All this advanced theory, you know, it comes from the struggle! Am I rite?

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Feb 17 2010 09:48

While not perfect, I though Cunningham's Mute article was well written and a good critique of both Dauvé and TC. Why was it garbage?

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Feb 17 2010 10:07
spaceattack wrote:
All this advanced theory, you know, it comes from the struggle! Am I rite?

ironically, not for TC

si
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Feb 17 2010 12:38
Hieronymous wrote:
While not perfect, I though Cunningham's Mute article was well written and a good critique of both Dauvé and TC. Why was it garbage?
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Feb 18 2010 19:21
scottydont wrote:
Thanks for the history lesson, great info!

Cheers and thanks for the long post. I will pm you for that pamphlet!

yeah, thanks for that.

Please do post a pamphlet in the library! As well as anything else you have in electronic format.

Just click submit content - history

Then put in the title, etc and click "file attachments" to upload the PDF, then check the box "list" next to the file in order to display it. Any questions ask in our feedback and content forum

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Feb 18 2010 19:22
spaceattack wrote:
Yes, the writers of the communiques are mostly readers of libcom.org with equal parts influence by TC and Tiqqun. That seems to be a common if unsightly mix in the Anglo-American world (see, for example, this piece of garbage from mute magazine: http://www.metamute.org/node/12806): TC for the smarts, Tiqqun for the feeling! The fact that the occupiers are all libertarian communists is perhaps less surprising than the fact that the communiques have had a sizable following... But it makes sense. All this advanced theory, you know, it comes from the struggle! Am I rite?

do you know who they are? It would be good if they would post here...

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klas batalo
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Feb 19 2010 08:55

yes the whole ultra-left/post-left/post-situationist/nihilist communist/anti-civ but movement based thing is really huge now in cali. i'd attribute it to mostly the folks over at the likelostchildren.blogspot.com they are heavily involved it seems in the UCSC occupations and picked up where the new school theory junkies left off...but seriously shit was spreading like fire and lots of reading groups...the coming insurrection selling something like 5 re-prints in the usa might not have hurt either.

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Steven.
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Feb 19 2010 11:07

is Glenn Beck to blame for that do you think?

scottydont
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Feb 20 2010 01:30
Steven. wrote:
is Glenn Beck to blame for that do you think?

That probably has a lot to do with it.

Sometimes I think that it is popular because it is (or at least seems to be interpreted as) the mirror image of a lot of the ideologies and practices that were quite prevalent in the N. American anarchist scene when the younger comrades were becoming political aware: a huge emphasis on consensus and "democratic" process, lots of time spent on "identity politics" and "anti-oppression" work, activist oriented campaigns, subculture, a suspicion of theory etc etc, while, at the same time being similar in important ways: embracing personal transformation and aspects of lifestyle anarchism, having a fetish for street fighting, disdaining formal organization.

To make that more concise, I think people are using it as a convenient ideological hammer to smash last remains of the "anti-capitalist" movement without having to completely abandon some of their ideas.
(cue ICC logo)

Really though the majority N. American anarchist scene is so insular and detached from theory/self-reflection that anything different which comes along makes huge ripples, particularly when it is all foreign and exotic. Hence the plethora of "Platformist" groups that popped up after Andrew Floods tour of the states.

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Feb 20 2010 05:56

Comparisons to the '60s are not going to hold because of the major change in the class composition of UC students. The American educational system has undergone huge changes over the past couple decades, with a large part of the private and public research universities focusing overwhelmingly on attracting the children of the bureaucratic (managers, lawyers, doctors etc) and capitalist classes. One of UC's current strategies is freezing out more California students of lesser economic origin in order to make a profit by selling themselves to out of state or foreign students, who they can charge much higher fees. The other elite universities are doing the same thing, and a competitive struggle, of sorts, pushes these universities to pursue similar policies.

This comes about in part thru obsesseive focus on SAT and other scores to get in, because these scores tend to correlate with class background.

This fits in also with changes in government policy where most "aid" for student costs from the feds is now directed at the more affluent families. This means that fewer and fewer working class kids can get into schools like UC or other elite schools. The average family income of students at UC and most other elite private and public universities is $100,000 a year.

This is a significant change from the '60s when fees were vastly lower and most aid went to students who needed it, ie working class students.

Nowadays the working class students are forced mainly into the community colleges, and to some extent the lesser public state colleges, like the CSU system in California. when i taught some classes a few years back at San Jose State I had mostly working class students, including immigrants and students of color.

This will make it hard to develop an alliance between UC students and workers and working class students & workers elsewhere unless this class divide is addressed directly. And this means it's necessary to overtly address the increasingly rigid class segregation of the US education system.

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Feb 21 2010 22:51
syndicalistcat wrote:
Comparisons to the '60s are not going to hold because of the major change in the class composition of UC students.

We should be suspicious when anyone makes overbroad, sweeping generalizations telling us things won't happen for reasons that are clearly ahistorical. Especially when what they say amounts to saying that comparisons "won't hold" because of "changes." Because those changes are what we compare with history.

And [admin; name deleted - DON'T use people's names - or face consequences and posts will be deleted]why are you so fixated on the University of California system? Did you even read the above posts? If you did, you'd get a sense that most of those active in this struggle clearly aren't looking to much coming out of the UC system. Most see that Community Colleges (2-year schools with open enrollment), which are often facing as much as a 25% cutback in course offerings -- meaning 25% less work for teachers, are going to be at the forefront of this struggle. As will the California State Universities, which are contracting in some cases by 25% too. Many high schools students throughout major metropolitan areas throughout the state are already self-organizing a walkout on March 4th.

So xxx again why is your post so similar to Kevin Keating's on another list (aut-op-sy) at almost exactly the same time? With the same single-minded obsession about UC? Here's what your partner wrote:

xxx's comrade wrote:
Events that take place on University of California campuses are going to be universally ignored by the wage earning populace of this state. The UC's are rightly seen as a world unto their own, and as bastions of bourgeois class privilege. Like it or not, that's how it is.

Kevin Keating

xxx, you allude to "class composition" at UC, but don't even do your own homework, nor do you support your assertions with any references. If your and Kevin's obsession includes UC's flagship campus at Berkeley, a simple look at wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_California,_Berkeley#Student_body) would show you that that campus is 42% Asian. So you can't just throw out a facile, unsubstantiated, off-the-cuff analysis of "class composition." That's un-nuanced because you either ignore or deny an understanding of the racial dynamics. And not all of the parents of those Asian students are "managers, lawyers, and doctors." Most are not. Many are seamstresses in sweatshops, nurses, cooks, waitresses, and hotel housekeepers. Lots of low-wage benefit-less service industry workers. I know this first-hand because I have worked with many of those parents. Many Asian students are the first in their immigrant families who have ever attended college. And here even a race and class analysis doesn't sufficiently allow for cultural factors. You would have to factor in Confucian values and familial expectations.

But if you really wanted to understand how elite public universities like UC are privatizing, you'd need to actually read up on it. For example, you should look at critiques like Bob Meister’s brilliant analysis (see it here: http://keepcaliforniaspromise.org/482/where-does-uc-tuition-go) that shows the UC System is using revenue streams from student fees as collateral to maintain its bond ratings to finance capital building projects, almost none of which is earmarked for classroom instruction. Most UC campuses have large numbers of construction sites, giving the appearance of a “building boom”—in stark contrast to the rhetoric of “crisis” used to justify raising student fees. One part of the ideological propaganda campaign by UC System President Mark Yudoff is demonizing taxpayers, rooted in Reaganite ideas of privatization, which California voters confirmed with roll-backs on property taxes with Proposition 13 in 1978 (but mostly benefiting commercial property owners)—pushed with racist myths of suburbanites subsidizing welfare cheats in the ghetto. The struggle over housing in California, often through the divisive use of racism, has been as inextricably connected to class relations as education and access to jobs. So with loans as the only option, students are being encouraged to mortgage their future to purchase increasingly expensive educational commodities.

Radical students and workers, united in solidarity, who are organizing against educational austerity at the University of Washington use the slogan "We Are All Workers,” which is dead-on correct. Marc Bousquet’s book “How the University Works” drives the same idea home in chapter 4, entitled “Students Are Already Workers” (available here: http://marcbousquet.net/Bousquet_4.pdf). His stats show that across the U.S. 80% of undergraduates in higher education work; 50% average a 25-hour week; 30% work more than 40 hours; and 20% don’t work at all. It creates this dilemma of identities: Are you a student-who-works or a worker-who-studies? But the misery of this situation is further exacerbated by the creation of a just-in-time labor system where 26% of all workers in the U.S. today have no stable job at all, they’re precarious, temporary, non-permanent workers. This is due to offshoring, automation, the near absence of organized labor in the private sector, and basic changes to the class composition as employers adopt new management techniques to cut their labor costs.

This is seen most severely in the 47 million (58.4% of the labor force) who don’t have healthcare. The U.S. is the only advanced industrial country in the world where the state does not provide some form of basic healthcare. So job security is all the more important, since the social compact after World War II left the provision of healthcare to the corporate sector as something to be negotiated for in collective bargaining agreement. Which also meant that in lean times, such as now, they can be bargained — or simply taken — away.

The leading employer in the U.S. today is Wal-Mart, followed by the temporary employment agency Manpower, so it’s clear that these conditions are our future if we don’t start fighting back. See BusinessWeek’s article “The Disposable Worker” (available here: http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/10_03/b4163032935448.htm) for further elaboration of these trends.

So xxx, the Par-Econ ideology, which was never more than a sociological construct, has been superseded by the conditions and class composition wrought by the current crisis. And the slightly warmed-over Second International Social-Democratic Par-Econ ideas you hold so dear ain't ever coming back. Time to relegate them to the dustbin of history. Proletarianization has swept most in middling layers out of self-employement, the petty bourgeoisie, and even upper management into waged work. The 3- or 6-class analysis of Par-Econ is over, so you need to read up on the changes on class composition and stop spewing falacies. What the I.W.W. said a hundred years ago is still true now as ever:

IWW Preamble wrote:
The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life.

Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the Earth

If you want to compare how these changes are really taking place for the global working class, I suggest you read the excellent article ""The Working Class, World Capitalism and Crisis, A General Perspective" (2010) that can be found here: http://www.instcssc.org/ (click on the 2nd article down).

For a Classless Society,

Hieronymous

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Feb 20 2010 09:30
syndicalistcat wrote:
This is a significant change from the '60s when fees were vastly lower and most aid went to students who needed it, ie working class students.

Sure, but how did that happen? As I said, you're making mere assertions without backing them up.

Here's how I see that history:

Before the 1960 Donahoe Master Plan for Education in California, the state “had one of the most inclusive, tuition-free, publicly-supported higher-education systems in the U.S.” The Donahoe Plan created 3 tiers, using class-based tracking that actually reduced ethnic diversity. Once the plan was implemented, SF State went from 12% African American to 3%, at a time when the K-12 public schools in San Francisco were 70% nonwhite.

Ronald Reagan was a Hollywood movie star who rose to the governorship in 1966, campaigning to “clean up the mess in Berkeley.” His agenda as governor was to attack public education and to dismantle other New Deal social programs. He frequently attacked student protestors, calling them “brats,” “freaks,” and “cowardly fascists”; when confronted with campus unrest and the need for “restoring order” he said, “If it takes a bloodbath, let’s get it over with. No more appeasement!” Within days, four students were shot to death by the National Guard in protests against the Vietnam War at Kent State, fulfilling Reagan’s prophesy. Same with the students killed at Jackson State.

Reagan’s agenda was simple:

1. He called for an end of free tuition for the UC and State College (as CSU was called then) systems.

2. Each year, he cut the higher education budget by 20%, making raised fees inevitable.

3. As U.S. president, he even proposed eliminating the Department of Education as part of his neoliberal agenda of destroying all social programs and removing all traces of the New Deal. When he began office as president, the federal share of the education budget was 12%; when he left office, it was under 6%.

Universities like UC were created through the Morrill Act, during Lincoln’s administration in 1862, as land-grant colleges to provide “practical” education — meaning in the mechanical, agricultural and military arts. But since the federal government put up the land, the states are legally restricted to providing free education for all qualified residents of the state. So they can’t call the fees they charge tuition. Reagan simply pushed through fees that started at $150 a year, doubled and tripled every few years, until today an undergrad at UC pays $10,300 a year — so there’s little difference from tuitions at private universities and colleges.

scottydont
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Feb 20 2010 11:17

I feel like there is some bad blood here...

Hieronymous: I overwhelmingly agree with your perspective on this one, but I must say it is a bit rude to use a real name on a web forum like this.

Anyway, purely in the interest of advancing the discussion, and not because I'm particularly endorsing any of these statements, here is what the kids who are actually involved are witting about this issue, there certainly seems to be some interesting assertions being made:

From Student Unity and Power: (a militant organization based at SF State)

Quote:
"No, we see UC Santa Cruz as the continuation of the struggle that was waged in 1968 at SFSU, as well as a continuation of every struggle throughout history where students have played a role in inspiring the imagination of general society— students who did not ask how can we get a better deal as students, but instead dared to wage struggle and demand a different world altogether. We stand in solidarity with the students of UC Santa Cruz who have not waited for the approval of student government and student organizations who may mean well but whose strategy of petitioning and letter writing must be refuted as strongly as the logic that underlies it, the idea that all we are fighting for is more accessible public education. No, we are done with the atomistic, individualistic, single-issue ideas of struggle that refuse to see the bigger picture. This is not just about education. These cuts are an attack on the entire working class as a whole, across California. We stand with the students of UC Santa Cruz who refuse to barter within the twisted logic of the current debate, where sectors are compelled to compete amongst each other over diminishing scraps while multi-million dollar corporations who profit from our work are given tax breaks..."

From someone associated with Advance the Struggle ( i don't know why there is not capitalization):

Quote:
students have a crucial role in developing the class struggle, but those who fetishize workers in terms of some one dimensional blue collar fantasy as well as those who sideline class (let alone class struggle) in favor of cultural, national or other ascribed identities refuse to see this fact. this is a huge opportunity that is being thrown away and the working class as a whole suffers for it... the traditional reformist way of “organizing” for students is the ritualistic signing of petitions and politely taking afl-cio provided buses to an annual convergence on sacramento to do charade lobbying sessions with congress people. oh yes and of course the conventions and conferences where they get together with all the branches of their organization from across the country and shmooze, playacting a fantasy future as middle level manager or state employed bureaucrat. this is bullshit and must cease. this is the time for proletarian resistance, not middle class opportunism.

From "Communique from an Absent Future"

Quote:
Like the society to which it has played the faithful servant, the university is bankrupt. This bankruptcy is not only financial. It is the index of a more fundamental insolvency, one both political and economic, which has been a long time in the making. No one knows what the university is for anymore. We feel this intuitively. Gone is the old project of creating a cultured and educated citizenry; gone, too, the special advantage the degree-holder once held on the job market. These are now fantasies, spectral residues that cling to the poorly maintained halls....

But we can be grateful for our destitution: demystification is now a condition, not a project. University life finally appears as just what it has always been: a machine for producing compliant producers and consumers. Even leisure is a form of job training. The idiot crew of the frat houses drink themselves into a stupor with all the dedication of lawyers working late at the office. Kids who smoked weed and cut class in high-school now pop Adderall and get to work. We power the diploma factory on the treadmills in the gym. We run tirelessly in elliptical circles.

It makes little sense, then, to think of the university as an ivory tower in Arcadia, as either idyllic or idle. “Work hard, play hard” has been the over-eager motto of a generation in training for…what?—drawing hearts in cappuccino foam or plugging names and numbers into databases. The gleaming techno-future of American capitalism was long ago packed up and sold to China for a few more years of borrowed junk. A university diploma is now worth no more than a share in General Motors.

We work and we borrow in order to work and to borrow. And the jobs we work toward are the jobs we already have. Close to three quarters of students work while in school, many full-time; for most, the level of employment we obtain while students is the same that awaits after graduation. Meanwhile, what we acquire isn’t education; it’s debt. We work to make money we have already spent, and our future labor has already been sold on the worst market around. Average student loan debt rose 20 percent in the first five years of the twenty-first century—80-100 percent for students of color. Student loan volume—a figure inversely proportional to state funding for education—rose by nearly 800 percent from 1977 to 2003. What our borrowed tuition buys is the privilege of making monthly payments for the rest of our lives. What we learn is the choreography of credit: you can’t walk to class without being offered another piece of plastic charging 20 percent interest. Yesterday’s finance majors buy their summer homes with the bleak futures of today’s humanities majors...

The university struggle is one among many, one sector where a new cycle of refusal and insurrection has begun – in workplaces, neighborhoods, and slums. All of our futures are linked, and so our movement will have to join with these others, breeching the walls of the university compounds and spilling into the streets. In recent weeks Bay Area public school teachers, BART employees, and unemployed have threatened demonstrations and strikes. Each of these movements responds to a different facet of capitalism’s reinvigorated attack on the working class in a moment of crisis. Viewed separately, each appears small, near-sighted, without hope of success. Taken together, however, they suggest the possibility of widespread refusal and resistance. Our task is to make plain the common conditions that, like a hidden water table, feed each struggle.

From Occupy CA:

Quote:
And now we move outwards, towards the ways in which the university is maintained: compulsory labor, the rented homes of university students and workers, the police violence in these neighborhoods. We gravitate towards the Miwok tribe in Stockton, CA who in January this year occupied their headquarters after being served eviction papers. We gravitate towards the January 21st attempted occupation of a Hibernia Bank in downtown San Francisco in a struggle against homelessness, the occupation of Mexico City’s National University in the late 90s, the 2009 summer-long Ssangyong auto plant workers’ occupation in South Korea. We gravitate towards the young people who last year set fire to downtown Oakland to show they were still alive, to reveal a spark of their own relevance in the shadow of the police execution of Oscar Grant Jr. and so many others. We recognize ourselves in them. For all of our apparent differences, how we have been classified and filed under the logic of capital, race, gender, citizenship, ad nauseam, we know these categories do not guarantee a politics– we know our differences and commonalities are more complex than what is allowed in this world. Our faith is sheltered there, housed in mutual recognition, in building-seizures and confrontations.

enjoy!

also, on a side note: i just noticed my horrendous cut/paste typo in my second post and would like to apologize belatedly

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Feb 20 2010 21:06

Yeah, well Mr G, writing under cover of a pseudonymn (Hieronymous), is so obsessed with his inbred little personal war with Kevin K. that he sort of ignores the fact that, (1) I generally don't agree with Kevin about much, (2) my comment here has nothing whatever to do with the in-bred personal feuds of the tiny irrelevant ultra-left milieu in California.

If i were to hazard a guess, I'd say that G. is showing signs of paranoia.

me:

Quote:
This is a significant change from the '60s when fees were vastly lower and most aid went to students who needed it, ie working class students.

G:

Quote:
Sure, but how did that happen? As I said, you're making mere assertions without backing them up.

I wasn't writing an essay on the history of change in higher education. G. doesn't dispute my "assertion" so what's his beef?

Quote:
Tom, you allude to "class composition" at UC, but don't even do your own homework, nor do you support your assertions with any references. If your and Kevin's obsession includes UC's flagship campus at Berkeley,

Why does G. assume that what I posted has any relation to what Kevin has written somewhere (I have no idea since I haven't seen it and couldn't care less)? Talk about lack of evidence! Someone has a screw loose here and it isn't me.

Now, in fact I've just been reading "Tearing Down the Gates" by Peter Sacks which is about the change in the orientation towards access and funding towards working class students over the past couple decades, at the elite private universities and major research oriented public universities, like UC. All of these universities are in competition to secure the children of the affluent (and politically inluential) bureaucratic and capitalist classes. Actually UC has moved a *bit* less in this direction than some schools as Pell Grant eligible students (who would be working class) are roughly 30 percent of the students. But this is still a lower proportion of working class students than used to be there, and they are moving further away from access for working class students, through things like taking on more out of state students as a revenue enhancing measure.

G. goes back into the '60s to talk about the 3-tier tracking system for higher education, but this doesn't really relate to the more drastic changes that have been going on at all levels of education in the USA in recent years. For example, the Clinton administration fundamentally changed the orientation of federal government student aid policy. Before that time, most federal student aid was aimed at working class students. Now, most federal student aid goes to children from affluent families...it is a subsidy to the bureaucratic & capitalist classes, and this is true also of state systems of student aid like the HOPE system in Georgia.

Anyway, G. says I've not done my homework...and then he proceed to offer no evidence whatsoever about class composition. Talking about the high proportion of Asian students doesn't give us any evidence about the class position of their parents. Yes, some of them are likely to be children of working class parents...I know a female Chinese-American student at UC Davis whose mother is a hotel housekeeper. But I didn't say that there were no working class students at UC campuses. I said that UC students are predominantly children of the bureaucratic (managerial & high end professional) class and wealthier sections of society generally. UC's trend in this direction follows a national trend, as Peter Sacks documents in his book.

And then G. offers a lot of stuff that's interesting but has no bearing whatever on what I said.

Quote:
So Tom, the Par-Econ ideology, which was never more than a sociological construct, has been superseded by the conditions and class composition wrought by the current crisis. And the slightly warmed-over Second International Social-Democratic Par-Econ ideas you hold so dear ain't ever coming back. Time to relegate them to the dustbin of history. Proletarianization has swept most in middling layers out of self-employement, the petty bourgeoisie, and even upper management into waged work. The 3- or 6-class analysis of Par-Econ is over, so you need to read up on the changes on class composition and stop spewing falacies. What the I.W.W. said a hundred years ago is still true now as ever:

first of all, this is not relevant to what I said. It seems that G. is just ranting, a behavior all too common among the ultra-left. and saying that my viewpoint, which is actually anarcho-syndicalist, is "social democratic" is just calling it names. The thing about G. is that he tends to overly personalize. so for him the fact that I treat Kevin in person in a friendly and open fashion, despite our political differences, is somehow unacceptable to him.

if by "parecon ideology" he's referring to the thesis of the bureaucratic class, this idea wasn't invented by Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel, tho it is true that their essay "A Ticket to Ride" (in the excellent anthology Between Capital and Labor) is a good reference point for understanding class under corporate capitalism. Apparently Mr G, despite his hyper-ventilating references to "proletarianization," has missed the fact that taylorism and bureaucratic bloat continues to be a feature of the corporate capitalist system. For example, in 1989, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics, managers were 12% of economically active population in USA, but more recent BLS stats from 2004 now log it at 15%.

"Self-employment" is a category that is very vague and has no good statistics on its real meaning. That's because employers nowadays often use it as a way to simply maintain workers in a more powerless position, as with taxi and trucking operations (like FedEx) that call their drivers "independent business people." A more reliable indicator would be the size of the small employer class, which, according to data from Marxist economist Howard Sherman, is only about 6% of economically active population. So, yes, this class is very tiny and has been declining for decads...as Marx predicted. So what? What does this have to do with the thesis of the bureaucratic class (as I call it)?

Allowing this kind of personal crap from G. onto a message board is exactly why I stopped posting to libcom for a long time. it shows a lack of revolutionary seriousness and accountability. It's the sort of thing that anarchistblackcat is able to prevent by closer moderation.

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Feb 20 2010 21:18
syndicalistcat wrote:
Allowing this kind of personal crap from G. onto a message board is exactly why I stopped posting to libcom for a long time. it shows a lack of revolutionary seriousness and accountability. It's the sort of thing that anarchistblackcat is able to prevent by closer moderation.

Then go back to anarchistblackcat.

Feud? With only one person participating? You need to break out the dictionary and find a new word.

And if you're going to come here and make shallow, unsubstantiated statements that don't seem to even have a basic understanding of why UC students fired the first salvos in this battle -- the November and December occupations at UC Santa Cruz, UCLA, UC Berkeley, and UC Davis -- then what is your point?

It seemed to come out of nowhere, since UC was only mentioned in passing, and your focus on UC matched sectarian Leftist attacks on March 4th organizing there being made by Trot groups that are paralleled by Kevin's attacks on aut-op-sy.

And if "overpersonalizing" is wrong, please stop doing it yourself. And as I told you privately, if your anarcho-syndicalist group is debating the "class composition" of UC students and you want to post about it on Libcom, why don't you simply start a new thread?

If I want to continue to show how my critique of Par-Econ is that it's a continuation of reformist social-democratic ideas of "taming" capitalism, I'll take that up on the appropriate thread myself.

Please stop the character analysis too. I see you face-to-face about every other year, so don't tell me -- or anyone -- what our "fashion" is or what we're "accustomed to." You know as little about me as I know about you, so please keep it principled. Or simple keep it at anarchistblackcat where things are better moderated.

Thanks,

H.

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Feb 20 2010 21:15

Accusing me of being in cahoots in some conspiracy is not "personalizing"? Well, that's cute.

Quote:
If I want to continue to show how my critique of Par-Econ is that it's a continuation of reformist social-democratic ideas of "taming" capitalism, I'll take that up on the appropriate thread myself.

Nothing I said has any bearing whatsoever on participatory economics, which is not about "taming" capitalism, but is a conception or model of a libertarian socialist economy based on social ownership, classlessness, and self-management. But, hey, if you want to write an actual critique of it, go ahead. But in this case that's not what you're doing. You're bringing in something irrelevant to act as a red herring. Whatever you can bring up that you think will discredit me in the eyes of the other ultras, that's your aim.

Quote:
Please stop the character analysis too. I see you face-to-face about every other year, so don't tell me -- or anyone -- what our "fashion" is or what we're "accustomed to." You know as little about me as I know about you, so please keep it principled. Or simple stay at anarchistblackcat where things are moderated better.

I do in fact keep to principled debate. What I was objecting to here is precisely your failure to "keep it principled". Accusing someone of being in cahoots with someone else without evidence is not exactly "principled" debate.

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Feb 20 2010 21:37

admin - off topic comments removed, please keep this discussion on topic. Also please do not divulge any personal information here

scottydont
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Feb 21 2010 00:11

On another note:

The spring round of occupations kicked off last night in Washington:
http://news.infoshop.org/article.php?story=20100220182709485

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Feb 21 2010 08:57

Meetings are constantly going on across California to plan for strikes and walkouts on March 4th and -- hopefully -- beyond.

This article develops strategic ideas and points of unity developed by some of us in the San Francisco Bay Area, approaching this from a class struggle perspective:

From Student Strike to General Strike

Quote:
“The non-symbolic nature of the S.F. State strike was likewise reflected in the tactics, which carefully avoided the usual ritual seizure of buildings and planned confrontations with police. Instead of “living the revolution” inside an occupied building for a brief apocalyptic period culminating in a Big Bust… the TWLF [Third World Liberation Front] opted for a “protracted struggle,” closing the campus and keeping it shut down not by simply impairing normal campus activity, but by making it totally impossible.”
—James McEvoy & Abraham Miller, “On Strike…Shut It Down” in Black Power & Student Rebellion: Conflict on the American Campus (1969)

Quote:
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
—George Santayana, Reason in Common Sense

Suggested Points of Unity Towards Action on March 4th
On March 4th we hope to use the high points of the 60s and 70s revolts as points of departure so that we do not start from scratch and repeat their historical mistakes. There has been too much criticism of the building occupations last November and December and not enough discussion of how we can take their militancy and push our next actions even further, hopefully beyond the campus to draw in other working class people affected by the crisis. Some proposals even ignore the strikes and occupations that have occurred so far and suggest “going slow” and refocusing our efforts on the politicians in Sacramento through lobbying, petitions, letter writing campaigns, vigils and symbolic marches. We find this caution to be based on an obsession with top-down leadership that distrusts the imagination and potential for radical action from below by ordinary students and workers. The following points attempt to visualize how a statewide general strike on March 4th would unleash the creativity of the mass of the participants.

Universities, schools, public buildings, workplaces, and offices should be occupied at the start of the movement to serve as bases of operations.
While we are advocating a strike, occupied space can serve as a place for assemblies for maintaining and defending the strike, as well as coordinating its extension beyond the campus to other public sector workers, and hopefully to private sector workers, the homeless and everyone in the working class. If we are to follow the example of Oaxaca, Mexico in 2006 and Greece last winter, attempts should be made to take over TV and radio stations. The occupations and campus shutdowns must be defended through mass action and control of physical space and expropriated equipment.

Only a general strike has the power to achieve our most basic goal, which is the defensive demand to stop the cuts to education and public services.
We should be operating by the principle “Everyone needs to be out on strike” and “Statewide problems demand statewide solutions.” Student occupations and strikes should not be seen as ends in themselves, but as a way of creating a basis for others to act. When strikes spread off the campuses to public sector workers, the class nature of the struggle will draw in others to help prevent the strikes from being defeated in isolation. Class consciousness will also draw in private sector workers, the unemployed and homeless, all united around the slogan: “An injury to one is an injury to all.”

Control and maintenance of the action should remain in the hands of the strikers and occupiers themselves.
We must refuse delegating decisions and control beyond the autonomy of those involved; we must push for the active participation of the greatest number. Issues and concerns of the strike should be debated and decided by all the strikers. Those engaged in various support and solidarity activities should meet regularly for collective discussion of the significance of their work and its political basis; these meetings should be used for reports to all the strikers of the work of the smaller groups, such as task-oriented action committees, for political discussion of the strike, and invitations to participate in specific actions, etc. Each site, whether school, public building or workplace, should have its own strike coordinating committee, like the city-wide committees we now have to plan for March 4th. Committee members should be elected by the strikers, subject to instant recall, with new elections every few days–as long as the strike continues. City or regional coordinating councils should represent the elected strike committees for the purpose of information exchange over a wider area. This type of structure will prevent the emergence of a strike bureaucracy, which destroys the collective energy of the strike. The mass participatory nature of our actions will show the emptiness of parliamentary democracy, the way it mediates our power away from us, and how it alienates decision making into a hierarchy with power over us. As the Situationist International said, “You can’t fight alienation by alienated means.”

The goals and demands of the strike should be made universal.
Different groups should be encouraged to join the strike to press for their own demands. For example, working class users of public transit should be able to advocate for a “social strike” of the public transit system (meaning the system continues to operate, but drivers and station agents refuse to collect fares) when fares are raised, as BART and San Francisco’s Muni are currently planning to do. If immigrants continue to feel threatened, as they did with the Sensenbrenner Act in 2006, they should be supported in solidarity should they organize another general strike. With the continued escalation of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, we could imagine that longshore and port workers would call a strike in support of student demands and against these imperialist wars much like they did when they shut down 29 ports on the West Coast on May Day 2008.

This is merely an approximation of what we might do to be prepared for an indefinite strike on March 4th. All too often, the day of action comes and no forethought had been given to organizing ways to maintain the strike and to find means of spreading it further. Our greatest strength is going to be our militant imagination and willingness to reach out to other workers to show them it is in their class interest to not only support our strike, but to join it in solidarity.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

PS to above posts in the thread: I'm sorry for using real names and initials.

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Feb 21 2010 22:00

Just as a follow up to my earlier post about the predominance of children of the wealthy and high end professionals and managers at UC, there is some relevant info on this in the book I mentioned by Peter Sacks. Sacks' book is about the rigid class hierarchy in education in the USA. He points out that reliance on SAT scores tends to be a means used by universities to obtain mainly children of the elite classes because SAT scores mainly track to class and, to some extent, racial background. The SAT is ultimately descended from the same type of testing as the IQ test. The idea that tests of this kind measure some innate intellectual superiority is a bogus notion but one used by defenders of the present scheme. When UC stopped using the SAT exclusively in 2003, a study was done comparing how the SAT predicted academic performance. It was found that it did not in fact predict anything about how well students would do in classes.

In order to determine the proportion of working class students, Sacks uses the proportion of students receiving Pell grants, which are aimed at students of low to moderate income. Of the 50 top ranked private and elite public colleges and universities, UC has the highest proportion of Pell grant students. At UC Berkeley this is 32 percent and at UCLA is 35 percent. This is twice the average of Pell grant students of the 50 top ranked universities. For example, the University of Iowa, University of Michigan and University of Wisconsin at Madison all have a much lower proportion of Pell grant students than UC. for example, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor is only 13% ( a decline from about a third in the '90s).

This is a problem that has become progressively worse in recent decades, as universities compete for the more affluent and politically connected families...partly in order to obtain donations to their endowments, as well as to increase their rankings based on average SAT scores, as part of their competition for the children from the elite classes. This is part of the various changes in the USA over the past 3 decades that have greatly rigidified the class system, part of the return to the age of the robber barons.

Also, a friend of mine who knows a number of the activists in the student protests tells me he thinks that a greater proportion of the UC students involved in the protests are from this large minority of working class students.

EDIT: correction: percentage of Pell grant students refers to percentage eligible for such grants, not percentage who actually receive them.

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Feb 22 2010 02:15

Good post.

I'll definitely check out Sack's Tearing Down the Gates: Confronting the Class Divide in American Education. Thanks.

I'd also suggest taking a look at Anya Kamanetz' Generation Debt: How Our Future Was Sold Out for Student Loans, Bad Jobs, No Benefits, and Tax Cuts for Rich Geezers--And How to Fight Back, especially Chapter 2 -- called "College on Credit" -- which has first-hand interviews with former students and their gut-wrenching stories of trying to survive at McJobs while paying off a mountain of student loans. This is definitely a phenomenon of the last few decades, so yes syndicalistcat, you're correct about this causing a changed class dynamic since the 1960s.

I was recently reading Ellen Meiksins Wood's excellent Retreat from Class: A New "True" Socialism and she really refutes the weak class analysis, because they're often tempered by PoMo leanings, of the so-called classic critiques of capitalist education -- like the prolific books of Michael Apple, as well as Bowles and Gintis' Schooling in Capitalist America: Educational Reform and the Contradictions of Economic Life. I tend to agree with her, but have only skimmed the latter. Any comments?

* * * * * * * * * *

I'm in a study group with both UC Berkeley students and non-faculty workers on campus (a librarian, a clerical worker and a work-study student who is both), with a couple students from Laney College in Oakland, and the rest are recent graduates or teachers in the public or non-profit sector (life myself). We've been reading working class history, in addition to race and class analyses of campus-based struggles like the building occupations at Columbia in 1968, the1968-1969 SF State Strike, and more recent accounts of organizing by graduate teaching assistants at NYU during the last decade.

The students in our group come from families with parents who are clearly in the wage earning class. All of them work themselves, much like Marc Bousquet's "Students are Already Workers," so they are very aware of the studies of Wal-Martization by UC Berkeley's Labor Center. This research shows that campus workers earn poverty wages, especially vis-a-vis the cost of living in the Bay Area, that puts them beneath the poverty levels of federal guidelines and even makes them eligible for food stamps -- even for some of those working full-time!

They're heavily involved in the present organizing and they constantly say that they know their future is low-wage benefit-less service industry jobs -- like the mostly immigrant campus workers they work, or study, side-by-side with everyday. This proximity obviously influenced the demand of the November 20, 2009 occupiers of Wheeler Hall at UC Berkeley for the rehiring of 38 laid off custodians.

* * * * * * * * * *

Syndicalistcat, I'm still not clear if the Pell Grant statistics for UCLA and UC Berkeley means that even those elite schools have more mid- to low-income students than other elite universities across the U.S. Am I getting that correct?

Or are they just slower to adopt the "Michigan Model" of privatization? Which would rightly be called the Virginia Model since taxpayer-based funding of the University there is down to 8%, compared to 18% at University of Michigan [CORRECTION: both statistics as of 2004] -- contrasted to the national average for public universities which was 64% in 2004, down from 74% in the early 1990s.

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Feb 22 2010 01:57

according to Sacks, the University of Washington and UC have the highest percentage of Pell Grant eligible students of all the top ranked universities. but, yes, it may be that their slide towards the path followed by U of Michigan, U of Iowa, Penn State, and U of Illinois at Champagne-Urbana is just slower. The latest move to hike the number of non-residents I think points in the direction of a higher percentage of elite students, because it's a tactic for making more money. U of Virginia has the lowest percentage of Pell Grant eligible students of all public universities.

EDIT: i should point out that the Pell grant eligibility data for UC is from a couple years ago. the current proposed tuition and fee hikes of over 30 percent are going to drastically reduce the ability of working class students to attend.

this is driven by the state's forced shrinkage of financial support to education, due to the current capitalist crisis. but this is a trend that has been going on for long before this crisis, in many states. The continued cut backs in funding of higher education by the states forces the universities to work like capitalist entities. This has gone fathest with U of Virginia which now gets no public funding at all.

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Feb 22 2010 18:22

I find this discussion incredibly interesting and directly related to my own organizational struggles in my UC. I take issue with the idea of there being a fundamental class divide between students (specifically of the UC) and the working class. Syndicalistcat mentions that the average income of a UC student's family is over $100,000--a fact that the UC system seems to admit when it allows students with family incomes of less than $70,000 to attend the school free of tuition (this is the much touted Blue & Gold Opportunity plan). However, how effective is income at determining this?

One of the fundamental divides in the working class was the promotion of higher wages for some segments of it, and not others. My family certainly falls into Syndicalistcat's income group but they're primarily civil servants and many of them put up those power polls that we see every day. Does this mean my family is not working class, not by the nature of their work or their position as wage workers or their sociological culture as definitively working class (no black tie functions for us) but simply by their income? It's an honest question but I'm not interested in a prolier-than-thou argument but I think it strikes at the crux of the failure of the student movement today to recognize its class position. I think there has been an increased proletarianization of the majority of students in the United States today. I also disagree with the notion that it used to be composed more "working class" students. Universities before weren't that expensive but just anyone couldn't join them. Now, I'd appreciate being corrected if this is incorrect, but I understand that universities prior to Nixon's campaign to increase university enrollment (and debt) beginning in 1971 admitted students on a more meritorious regimen than today--today regardless of what your SAT scores (which of course, are a problem in and of themselves) are, it seems that there's always a university somewhere that will accept you provided, of course, that you're willing to pay through loans or other financial means the cost of that education--with some schools doing this along ideological lines (such as focusing on the inclusion of more minority students, etc) but even this was already framed within the integration of these minority students into the privileged or educated class.

Universities today, the UC schools included in my opinion, do not largely groom the future ruling class. There are some elite schools for sure which still serve this function, but the majority of higher education institutions today are factories for the mass production of skilled labor--a role which they perform imperfectly, I might add. Students may not be strictly proletarian when they enter the university, but the majority of them stand posed to inherit that precise condition--irrespective of their wage upon graduation (which, as we know, seems to be decreasing on average as the economic crisis worsens). The student-as-worker phenomenon has already been discussed by Hieronymous so I will not address it further.

The debt mechanism is an important one to consider here, because many families (mine included) took our loans to pay for my education at a UC school. These loans were made easily available and my family took them out because, despite falling into the $100,000+/yr stratum, there was no other recourse to pay for my education. Debt represents an assault on the working class, it integrates students into the state apparatus and psychologically stultifies the class conflict.

There is something else that seems to blur the class lines though, and which certainly contributes to the image of the UC schools as somehow "elite:" the self-view of UC students. A lot of my classmates, and if you watch some of the interviews at UCLA in the past November protests you'll see this also, certainly do see themselves as being in some sort of privileged position and this is my primary critique of the student movement today. UCs are seen as somehow superior to other universities or college systems (CCC, for example) and for this reason, the logic proceeds, UCs must be defended. I find this to be confusing to the underlying class nature of students in general because despite the marginally better jobs that a UC graduate can attain in relation to, say, a CSU graduate or a CCC graduate, the UC system does not function substantially different from other university systems--it is unable to continue its roles in decaying capitalist economies without further instrumentalizing its curriculum and operating as a factory for the mass production of labor. It has to turn a profit, and it does this through student fees, issuing of bonds and production of students who can return on their investment (often through capitalized debt).

I've thrown a lot of ideas out here and I hope they come across clearly.

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OliverTwister
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Feb 22 2010 18:23

Good thread so far.

Hieronymous I like the thrust of the points of unity that y'all developed and I'm going to distribute them at a planning meeting tonight in Davis.

I'm curious though, why did you all not mention the sabotaging role that the unions will play if the struggle expands? Was this a tactical consideration or something else?