March 4: Strikes and Occupations in California and across the US

Banner at Brooklyn College

In response to the state government's attempt to use the crisis as en excuse for rolling back public services -including tuition increases of 32% at the UC system- students and workers struck and occupied across the state of California, as did their counterparts at colleges in New York and 30 other states, defying efforts to corral the movement into after-work rallies or "dialogues" at the Capitol.

One of the most striking facts about the breadth of the action on March 4 was the popularity of radical action in areas with very little history of struggle. Students across the UC system were consciously referring to their activity as a strike and attempting to shut down their campuses, not just at the "activist" campuses of Berkeley, LA, and Santa Cruz, but also at San Diego, Irvine and Riverside (all in the heart of suburban Southern California), Santa Barbara (notorious as a party school) and Davis (the agricultural campus, located in "The Tomato Capitol of the World").

According to Occupy California (occupyca.wordpress.com), each of these campuses saw at least several hundred students attempting to shut down the functioning of the university and, in many cases, to spread the disruption off campus. At Santa Cruz pre-dawn picket lines closed the entrances to the campus and were held even against violent attempts by drivers to break through, including one attempt by the driver of a Prius that broke a picket's leg. Many campus workers, instead of getting angry at another "student protest", respected the strike by joining the picket lines or by defying supervisors (and police escorts) and claiming that they couldn't get through the picket lines. In Oakland, around 1000 students from Berkeley joined students and teachers from public schools, community colleges, and CSUs for a mid-day rally at City Hall. The marchers managed to get onto Interstate 880, a freeway going through the most working-class sections of Oakland, where 150 were arrested. At Irvine and Davis hundreds of students shut down their campuses and then moved to shut down surrounding traffic - in Davis the marchers then moved to occupy Interstate 80 (the main artery to nearby Sacramento), but after overcoming several lines of police using batons and shooting pepper balls, were eventually prevented. Similar strike attempts occurred at other UC campuses, as well as many campuses of the California State University.

There were simultaneous actions at universities in 31 other states, including at several branches of the CUNY and SUNY systems in New York. Take The City reports an occupation at SUNY Purchase, as well as demonstrations and walk-outs at Brooklyn College, CUNY Hunter, and the CUNY Graduate Center.

The movement is spreading and echoing quicker than anyone expected. Capital demands its pound of flesh and, in so doing, creates its own gravediggers. The students are not relying on any existing organizations for leadership but are spontaneously creating General Assemblies to strategize. By consciously referring to the movement as a strike and by attempting to spread off campus students are showing an implicit consciousness that this is not simply about 'defending education', but is about refusing to pay for the crisis created by the contradictions of capitalism. In order to move forward, the strike movement is going to have to spread - students will have to make links with workers, such as the 15,000 municipal workers who are receiving pink slips in San Francisco today, and they will have to encourage the workers to form general assemblies or general strike committees, instead of relying on the established unions that will divide the workers and prevent a general strike.

More to come...

Comments

Steven.
Mar 6 2010 14:37

hey, thanks for this update. I'm in the US at the moment (although far away from all this) and had wondered what had happened. have not seen any corporate media coverage yet, will try to have a look for it if I get a chance a bit later

Zanturaeon
Mar 6 2010 20:04

Steven, all I know is that CNN covered the nation-wide action on the 4th on their website. I'm unsure of follow-up coverage...

Tojiah
Mar 6 2010 20:08

Maybe I've just missed it, but I don't see where the piece states what the impetus is for these strikes and occupations.

lamb
Mar 6 2010 20:33

It is briefly referred to in the last paragraph. Do you ask because you don't know or because you mean to point to a flaw in the article? If you're looking for some information I'd suggest these links:

http://occupyca.wordpress.com/
http://wewanteverything.wordpress.com/
http://anticapitalprojects.wordpress.com/
http://anticapitalprojects.wordpress.com/2009/11/26/communique-from-an-absent-future-on-the-terminus-of-student-life/

Tojiah
Mar 6 2010 21:59

Both, really. An article should be self-contained enough to at least mention why something occurs, rather than just describing what's occurring. I'll look at those websites, but someone just browsing it might not go through the effort.

lamb
Mar 7 2010 00:23

I'd agree, just trying to clarify.

OliverTwister
Mar 7 2010 03:28

Fair point. Updated.

OliverTwister
Mar 7 2010 03:41

The Student TV program at Davis made a really good piece: http://www.youtube.com/asucd#p/a/u/0/U6BYPN5dIq0

Tojiah
Mar 7 2010 07:31

Much better. smile

Sheldon
Mar 8 2010 18:28

I'm involved in the organizing at one of the suburban campuses you mention and I appreciate noting the significance of actions happening there at all. Everyone is surprised with the turnout and as the crisis deepens it seems like momentum is gaining--however, student radicals seem willing to enter into a coalition with just about anyone (unions, PL, etc). Is this a trend that you're seeing on other campuses as well, or is this a particularity to individual campuses?

Andros
Mar 9 2010 15:53

This is strange
It's hard to see how you missed it. the article opens with

[['In response to the state government's attempt to use the crisis as en excuse for rolling back public services -including tuition increases of 32% at the UC system- students and workers struck and occupied across the state of California, as did their counterparts at colleges in New York and 30 other states, defying efforts to corral the movement into after-work rallies or "dialogues" at the Capitol.'

If there's anything missing I would say that it's in not drawing the connection between the actions in the US and those around the world against the same attacks on wages and living conditions particularly the courageous response of the Greek working class defying both the Greek and Global ruling class as well as capitals friends in Pasok and their unions. Connections on an international scale against this global assault are essential and should be pursued where ever possible.

Steven.
Mar 9 2010 22:46

Andros, that paragraph was edited in later. Thanks for keeping it updated Oliver!

Jason Cortez
Mar 9 2010 22:47

Probably because this addition happen afterwards.

oliver Twister wrote:
Fair point. Updated.
Jason Cortez
Mar 9 2010 22:48

snap Steven

OliverTwister
Mar 9 2010 23:30
Quote:
I'm involved in the organizing at one of the suburban campuses you mention and I appreciate noting the significance of actions happening there at all. Everyone is surprised with the turnout and as the crisis deepens it seems like momentum is gaining--however, student radicals seem willing to enter into a coalition with just about anyone (unions, PL, etc). Is this a trend that you're seeing on other campuses as well, or is this a particularity to individual campuses?

This is probably everywhere. I'm at Davis and the same non-critical coalitions seem to be the dominant trend... I'm not sure if this is because of some sort of ideological commitment to avoid critique, or if it's lack of experience - or really what the proportion is between the two.

OliverTwister
Mar 10 2010 04:26

Also, Andros you make a good point that this short article does not say anything about the need for internationalism in the struggle in response to the worldwide attack on our class. In defense, I wrote this as simply a brief update for libcom, and I assumed a familiarity with Greece, Egypt, etc. on the part of the readers (perhaps incorrectly, since Libcom does receive a lot of internet traffic).

However, for a leaflet I wrote to distribute "on the ground" at my university, I was much more clear on this point: http://libcom.org/library/fan-flames-discontent-some-thoughts-reflections-occupation-mrak-hall-uc-davis

Andros
Mar 10 2010 19:46

Oliver
I've read your leaflet for Davis, its exactly what we're talking about.
Often it's frustrating watching struggles such as those in Greece or Guadeloupe
remain isolated even thought these struggles are often happening simultaneously, which one would think is exactly what the doctor ordered. Every nationalist' racist, ,xenophobic ploy is used by the respective factions of the world ruling class to keep the struggle compartmentalized, fragmented and easy to take apart one section one country at a time. Simultaneous struggles in a very real sense are what animate the principle of 'Workers of the world unite , and blast a hole in the atrocious notion that we all must take a cut to our living standards so 'our' respective nation can be competitive.

Good luck with the struggle on the ground

s.nappalos
Mar 12 2010 14:30

I spent the first 18 years or so of my life in California, and I have to differ with the assessments I've seen here and on other anarchist and ultra left sites. You have to realize that firstly the schools in California are massive. UCB and UCLA a few years back had more than 40k students let alone staff. Most of the demonstrations at the colleges were in the 100s or barely the 1000s.

My own sense of things from afar is that these protests are essentially just groupings of the activist cliques that exist on campuses. In California those cliques are quite large, but for say Bay Area standards for run of the mill protests, the turnout is rather low especially in view of what is at stake. If you look at places where leftist subcultures are absent, you'll note that participation was non-existent. My guess is that the people organizing these actions aren't doing the on-the-ground work necessary to reach beyond people who are career/lifestyle activists. Where there's a big enough pool of those folks, it's easy. There are a few exceptions though in Washington, UCD, UCI, etc. I don't want to be disparaging, but there's context lacking that many seem unaware of.

OliverTwister
Mar 12 2010 18:19
Quote:
My own sense of things from afar is that these protests are essentially just groupings of the activist cliques that exist on campuses. In California those cliques are quite large, but for say Bay Area standards for run of the mill protests, the turnout is rather low especially in view of what is at stake. If you look at places where leftist subcultures are absent, you'll note that participation was non-existent.... There are a few exceptions though in Washington, UCD, UCI, etc.

You're clearly talking out of your ass. The only UC schools with established 'activist cliques' are Berkeley, Santa Cruz, and LA. A large part of those activist cliques (the student unions, the trots) have been mobilizing for tame marches in Sacramento. The United Educators of San Francisco also did everything they could to limit the action in SF to an after-work rally and prevent a strike. As I pointed out in the article, one of the most exciting developments is the use of general assemblies and radical tactics like occupations and blockades at the 'places where leftist subcultures are absent' - in the UC system alone this has happened at Davis, Irvine, San Diego, Riverside, and Santa Barbara - in short, every campus except Merced (est. 2005) or the specialized schools of UCSF and Hastings. The idea that these are all just 'a few exceptions' is ridiculous.

Zanturaeon
Mar 13 2010 06:45

What about s.nappalos' point that "UCB and UCLA a few years back had more than 40k students let alone staff. Most of the demonstrations at the colleges were in the 100s or barely the 1000s," OliverTwister? I think it's a good point.

s.nappalos
Mar 26 2010 17:00

For example take
http://media-newswire.com/release_1113880.html

From everything I've read, Santa Cruz (a notoriously liberal school) had tens or maybe 100 protestors. When compared to other marches and actions based on campuses whether it was anti-war stuff a few years back, or other actions that don't directly impact students/staff's lives, it gets put in perspective.

To me whats striking is not that a slim minority is doing some cool stuff, but the notable absence of the proletarians directly impacted by all this. This is a theme repeated in student organizing in the US where activist causes garner more support than day-to-day struggles. I'm not sure if people were doing the hard on the ground organizing to make this happen or not, but my suspicion is that they didn't...