On our chaotic swarm - Edinburgh University Occupation

Edinburgh University Occupation was invited to sign a national "occupation manifesto" at the start of December 2010. As a non-hierarchical collective, we explain why we are stronger without centralised leadership.

Submitted by Ramona on December 2, 2010

Edinburgh is a non-hierarchical occupation. Entirely leaderless. And as such have decided that we cannot back a national occupations manifesto. I’ll explain why we have taken this stance.

The occupations have formed a swarm network. This network is very hard to destroy. For every occupation that is forcibly evicted, five more have sprung up. We do not rely on leaders or student unions. And in doing so we lack weak links. We can afford to lose connections and nodes in this network, for new ones are continuously forming in their place.

An overarching manifesto is one such weak link. It is easy to discredit a document, and in doing so, discredit all the signatories. We have to remain unquantifiable and chaotic. We act independently, and are hard to track definitively. We can leak rumours, and form truths.

In 1960, 4 black students staged a sit in. Within two months, the Southern states had seen the birth of an inspirational, powerful student movement. The first significant student movement in the US. They’d previously, similarly, been apathetic. Unlike the civil rights movement of the mid-50s this new movement was not borne of existing organisations or established groups. These students acted entirely on reports they had read in the papers, heard on the radio. They were hard to keep track of. They spawned random. A true grass roots movement.

Greensboro was arguably the spark that set off the symbolic civil rights movement of the 60s and the activism we so associate with the 60s and 70s. It was going to happen. It just had to find its spark. Millbank, whether you support it or not, was our spark. I witnessed the first window being smashed. Something changed that day. That moment.

I believe we are such a movement. As a networked, chaotic group we can act powerfully and unpredictably. We can appear larger than we are. More powerful than we are. From our nodes we can mobilise, organise. Entirely chaotically. We are inspirational. These are not my words. Our movement have been receiving global solidarity, and global coverage. Internationally similar protests are spawning. And they are looking to us for that inspiration. They are looking to us for methodology.

As such we must remain independent. The NUS is easy to attack. We are not. Student unions are easy to attack. We are not. Politicians are easy to attack. We are not. Any action against us, fuels our cause. Every act of police violence, fuels our cause. We must remain confusing and vocal. We must shout louder than we are. In doing so we will magnify our numbers. In doing so, more will join us. In doing so, more will listen.

It’s easy to ignore one voice. You cannot ignore a million.

The government is shifting. And this is only the beginning. We are leading the way. Our cause will succeed, no matter how long it takes. But we have to take action now!

The modern age of apathy is over.


Appleton Tower



13 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Samotnaf on December 2, 2010


Well - you've inspired me.

Interesting statement - not sure of the fetishism of chaos ("We must remain confusing ") as an antidote to hierarchical order and ideological certainty; one has to strive for clarity even if there should always be aspects of a movement that are chaotic and confusing. It might sound pedantic, but the progress of experimental movement involves basing oneself on certain certainties and moving off into the unknown, reformulating what might have been jumbled into something clear, then going off again into the experimental dark, enlightening what is useful in such experiments, discarding what is a mess, and then going off and developing further this rolling dialectic of clarity and confusion...

Confused? I hope not.

T La Palli

13 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by T La Palli on December 2, 2010

Yes, thanks to all the inspirational actions of students recently.

I am curious as to what the author feels might occur now the swarm leaves its occupied nest? Is anything being done to increase the likelihood of new connection and nodes becoming in FE, schools, and workers and claimants outside of education? Whilst some of this movement might be spawned random, it would be interesting to see what happens after the occupation. I can only speak of Edinburgh, but whilst the Millbank spark has ignited dissent in Edinburgh Uni (not the other uni’s, or to any significant extent to schools), this hasn’t spontaneously spread from this (and I doubt will). It’s a shame that access to Appleton has been “out of the occupiers control” and so non-Edinburgh Uni Students have been unable to attend the meetings to-date.

It would be great to see some kind of focus on the two nurseries due for closure off the back of the current momentum. And also for the occupiers to express their solidarity to the council workers who have been in battling with City of Edinburgh for 18 months and still facing bullying at work etc. As always, there is lots to discuss. Looking forward to a discussion space finally opening.

I realise that you have decided to end the occupation - what was the university managements’ response to your demands and pledge in the end?

Hopefully, this is only the beginning.


Caiman del Barrio

13 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Caiman del Barrio on December 2, 2010

Good work, I think this has nicely captured the prevalent feeling amongst British students right now. I also agree that the internet should be used as a force for anonymity...we need to spread things out and use the force of momentum for things to go viral.

Mike Harman

13 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Mike Harman on December 2, 2010

Is there a copy of this manifesto anywhere? Do you know where it originated from?


13 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Ramona on December 2, 2010

Mike - we were emailed by someone at another Uni - (UWE) suggesting it -it's still being drafted and now we've opted out I'm not sure when we'll get to see the full thing. But I'll give you a rough idea - they've pretty much taken the various demands from all the occupations and squished them into one document, nothing too problematic in any of them, but our opposition was with trying to centralise the occupations and thus leave it open to top-down nastiness.

T La Palli - any more info about council workers would be greatly received, as you probably picked up, we've been very unplanned and working through things as they come up. Everyone involved in the occupation is very keen to build links with other struggles so I'm sure I can speak for all of us when I say we'd get behind this. And apologies for still not replying to yr PM, I'm in a very weird time zone in my head from lack of sleep and vegetables, will get on it.

We are ending the occupation tonight, for various reasons, but we feel we have made some progress in opening up debate and discussion with the University management. We've also had an about-face from the Ed. Uni Student's Association, or at least from the officers in a personal capacity, who have started denouncing management after they arranged for police, mobile CCTV and FIT teams to be present on campus on Tuesday, and tried to lock us out of our space in Appleton while our numbers were low due to people being on the march/at EUSA AGM. In an email "leaked" to us, the words "disgraceful", "embarrassment", "ashamed to be associated in any way with University management", and "never again do I hope to be confronted by lines of police while trying to enter an academic building" were used by one of the sabbatical officers ;)

The full statement of why we are leaving and why we'll be doing this again is on our blog, here

Everything being written is by different working groups and then run past whoever is currently occupying, so it's not one person's words.

The lack of free movement in and out of Appleton has been really shit and has stiffled a lot of debate and hasn't helped us work with other people, so hopefully from now on we can conserve our energy a bit and pour it into working with others some more.

As for everything else, I'll come and chat when I've had more than 3 hours sleep :)


13 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Samotnaf on December 3, 2010

3 hours sleep

3 hours sleep ? Luxury! I have to get up half an hour before I go to sleep, work 28 hours a day.....