200 students start occupation at Sussex uni

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no1
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Nov 15 2010 18:25
200 students start occupation at Sussex uni
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About 200 students went into occupation an hour ago at Sussex University. A statement is being drawn up at the moment. Messages of support can be sent to sussexstopthecuts@gmail.com.
If you are a student at sussex or brighton please join the occupation in Fulton building on Sussex Campus and bring along your friends, food, drink, sleeping equipment etc…

Follow the occupation on Twitter: http://twitter.com/stopsussexcuts
Website: http://defendsussex.wordpress.com/
/

http://brightonsolfed.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/breaking-news-sussex-uni-occupation

Who will be next?

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Nov 15 2010 19:37

Great stuff! Seems like some momentum's really growing. The call-out mentions sleeping equipment. So these guys might be in for the long haul?

Any updates would be great. The twitter feed has gone quiet.

Mike Harman
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Nov 16 2010 04:54

Posted a news article here - http://libcom.org/news/university-occupations-following-london-student-protests-16112010 - feel free to update if you can.

no1
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Nov 16 2010 09:11

The occupiers have now released a statement

Quote:
Statement from the occupation:
November 15, 2010

This afternoon, over 170 students occupied the lecture theatre in the Fulton building at the University of Sussex in protest of the trebling of tuition fees and the attack on our education system.
In light of Wednesday’s demonstration, which saw 52,000 people come out in opposition to the government’s proposed cuts to education and raising of fees, we feel it is necessary for further action to consolidate the efforts made so far and push on in the opposition to these ideologically motivated cuts to both education specifically and public services as a whole.
We reject the notion that these cuts are necessary or for the benefit of society. There are viable alternatives which are not being explored. While the government has suggested that ‘we are all in this together’, we completely reject this and are insulted that these cuts are being pushed through alongside reductions in corporate tax. We feel these cuts are targeting those who are most vulnerable in our society.
Furthermore, not only are these cuts damaging our current education, but are changing the face of the education system as we know it. The hole in finances left by government cuts will inevitably be filled by private interest. This marketization of education will destroy the prospect of free and critical academic enquiry, on which universities should be based. The trebling of tuition fees will further exclude another swathe of society and make university accessible only to the rich.
We reject the media manipulation of the occupation of Millbank. The cost of the damage to 30 Millbank is less than insignificant when set against the damage of lost livelihoods and destruction of public services for future generations.
This occupation recognises that Aaron Porter’s statements condemning the demonstration are counter-productive and serve only to divide and segregate the movement. We are disappointed that, as a national representative of students, Aaron Porter’s statements have detracted from the real issue at hand by focusing on the events at Millbank Tower.
We believe that this Tory led coalition government has no mandate for lifting the cap on tuition fees. Nick Clegg has openly manipulated student voters in his campaign for election, and following the recent exposure of plans to drop his pledge to reject any rise in tuition fees, this occupation condemns his dishonesty and undemocratic methods.
Education is a right, not a privilege.

- We demand the University of Sussex management makes a statement condemning all cuts to higher education and rise in tuition fees
- We are opposed to all cuts to public services
- We oppose a rise in tuition fees
- We call for solidarity and support for those arrested or victimised on Wednesday’s demonstration
- We stand in solidarity with others taking action, both nationally and internationally, in the fight against austerity measures.
- We call for all other university, college and school students and staff to strike and occupy in defence of the future of our education system, and to participate in the national day of action on the 24th November 2010.

http://defendsussex.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/statement-from-the-occupation/

Mike Harman
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Nov 16 2010 11:17

Second item on google news for 'student protests' now - http://google.co.uk/news/search?aq=f&pz=1&cf=all&ned=uk&hl=en&q=student+protests

first is the fitwatch takedown.

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Nov 16 2010 17:11

Looks like the occupation is still going strong...

Quote:

Come join the occupation!

Fulton lecture theatre B

Still going strong, (lots of food- thanks)
Thank you for your messages of solidarity, we’re reading them all on the projector and they’ve been keeping the morale up as usual!

TONIGHT

For those who can make it:
5-6: “Activist security” talk hosted by the Anarchist Society
6-7: “Revolution and state: can we change the world without taking power?” talk hosted by Socialist Worker Student Society
7.15- 8.30: Dinner: Bring what you can, eat what you like
9: Open mic: Music, poetry, spoken word, performance and whatever else comes along.

See you there!

In a strange way it's actually nice to see Anarchists and the SWSS both involved in giving talks at the occupation rather than working at cross-purposes.

Samotnaf
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Nov 16 2010 18:53
Quote:
“Revolution and state: can we change the world without taking power?” talk hosted by Socialist Worker Student Society

Auto:

Quote:
In a strange way it's actually nice to see Anarchists and the SWSS both involved in giving talks at the occupation rather than working at cross-purposes.

Assuming the SWSS means to say that you need the State to take power, this seems very much at cross purposes. Or is this the typical "let's forget about fundamental differences when we're confronting a greater enemy"? You don't create genuine unity by being weak, by hiding differences. I've seen too much of this supposed non-sectarianism to know that such an attitude can only lead to sitting down with your future oppressors.

And I'm not talking about long-term future here; those with hierarchical forms, content and goals of supposed anti-capitalist activity always fuck up struggles. Take this, for example, about the occupation of a hospital ward at UCH in London in 1993 (from here):

Quote:
During the struggles at UCH the SWP did everything to minimise the efforts of non-SWP members. During the work-in aimed at stopping the closure of Ward 2/1 in Nov – Dec '92, SWP members played as much a part as anyone else involved in the struggle – though it was probably the support of the junior doctors which really won this battle, admittedly only a temporary reprieve. In the strike of Aug – Sept '93 they played a more significant part – not all of it helpful by any means. For instance, they did much to ensure that the cheerful demos which had previously disrupted traffic got turned into boring routine affairs. And in the occupation of Ward 2/3 in September, admittedly suggested by an SWP member, though broken into by a non-party hospital campaigner, they did much to dampen the high-spirited atmosphere. When occupiers met with a few SWP union stewards to discuss the occupation, the occupiers were told the stewards represented the decisions of the strike committee, and these decisions were: vetting to decide who should be allowed into the occupation, to be carried out by the branch secretary and chair, both SWP members. People would have to book themselves onto a formalised rota days in advance just to be able to spend a night there, reducing the occupation to a chore and duty, killing off the social dynamic going on. The effect of these changes was miserable: a lot of people, particularly locals who visited regularly, were put off from coming. And there seemed little point in giving out leaflets encouraging people to come, if they had to be vetted first. People now felt they were only there with the tolerance of certain officials, and no longer joint partners in the struggle.
The openness of the occupation, with free debate flowing back and forth informally, was replaced with an atmosphere of intrigue and secret whispering. It was only later found out that these demands of the SWP union officials weren't at all proposed by the strike committee: it had been an SWP manipulation from the very beginning.

Watch your backs!

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Nov 16 2010 19:55
Samotnaf wrote:
Take this, for example, about the occupation of a hospital ward at UCH in London in 1993

or the Sussex House occupation 6 months ago, which the SWP opposed, then went along with, then argued to end it from within, which happened, but not before they stuck their unmasked faces out the window, got suspended and became cause celebres* for a cause they retrospectively championed, including changing their facebook profiles to the aforementioned unmasked posing...

by complete coincidence the following week, while 4 leading SWP activists were banned from campus, a mass struggle blossomed which won... their reinstatement.

* only 4 of the Sussex 6 were SWP (the others were singled out by virtue of management recognising ones voice on the phone, and by being arrested).

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Nov 16 2010 20:36

Nevermind then, eh?

Fuck.

no1
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Nov 17 2010 11:03

they sent this out just now, if you're interested in today's menu:

Quote:
WEDNESDAY MORNING UPDATE:

We are still occupying!

We do need people to come down, though, and have designated the morning as
a quiet study space until 1. Feel free to bring your laptops, reading etc
and study in the occupied lecture theatre!
...
TIME TABLE FOR WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON:

1PM: "10.11.10: 1 WEEK ON- AN OPEN DISCUSSION" - A forum for reflection on
last week's demonstration, where we can collectively discuss the events of
last week, how we feel about them, and where to go next.

4PM: "BOYCOTT ISRAELI GOODS" with speakers, hosted by the Palestine
Society

5.30PM: "COPENHAGEN: THE MUSICAL" - A short film made by Sussex students
who visited the Copenhagen climate change summit. Well worth a watch.
Hosted by the Environmental society

6PM: DAILY ORGANISATIONAL MEETING - All welcome. An opportunity to discuss
where we go from here, and voice any ideas and plans for the future of this
occupation

7PM: "WORKERS FIGHTING BACK - CONNECTING OUR STRUGGLES" - A meeting with
workers fighting the cuts locally

8.30PM DINNER - Hot food for donation- bring what you like!

Followed by evening activities.

Samotnaf
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Nov 17 2010 12:18

Curious about this occupation, because i want to understand how it compares with student occupations I've known a bit about in France.

How many people are involved (still 200? 170 as stated on Indymedia? is it growing or diminishing?). Do the lectures and tutorials and seminars continue alongside the occupation? Are outsiders (non-students or non-Sussex Uni students) allowed to vote? Has the canteen been taken over by the students? Is there much graffiti, and if so, what's the content? Are there any attempts to directly go to other people in other places, or is it all done through the internet or what?

Can't find a specific internet site for this occupation, so I'm asking all this here.

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Nov 17 2010 14:19
Samotnaf wrote:
How many people are involved (still 200? 170 as stated on Indymedia? is it growing or diminishing?).

wasn't there much yesterday, but while 170+ took the room only around 30-40 stayed over night.

Samotnaf wrote:
Do the lectures and tutorials and seminars continue alongside the occupation?

i think they're being relocated, but it's happened before. normally it's decided in a general meeting whether to move to the back and allow classes to continue, disrupting peoples education is a controversial issue (and given the number of direct participants, probably rightly so).

Samotnaf wrote:
Are outsiders (non-students or non-Sussex Uni students) allowed to vote?

technically security aren't letting in non-Sussex students/staff, but there's no ID checks or anything and it's pretty much open access. everyone in the room gets a vote. Edit: i should add while majority voting is used, there's a lot of hostility to this from anarchists who favour consensus. the result is sometimes the worst of both worlds, with the peer-pressure and railroading of consensus combined with the weakness of a narrow mandate on a close vote that nobody feels confident to implement.

Samotnaf wrote:
Has the canteen been taken over by the students?

nope, just a single lecture theatre in a larger building.

Samotnaf wrote:
Is there much graffiti, and if so, what's the content?

none.

Samotnaf wrote:
Are there any attempts to directly go to other people in other places, or is it all done through the internet or what?

from the occupation itself, mostly internet appeals to other unis as well as some direct links with and participation from some students at the other Uni in Brighton (there's two). hopefully there'll be more IRL attempts to reach out too, students normally visit local picket lines etc.

Samotnaf wrote:
Can't find a specific internet site for this occupation, so I'm asking all this here.

www.defendsussex.wordpress.com is the general sussex uni stop the cuts blog.

in general, there seems to be quite a divide between the (mostly leftist) politicos in the Stop the Cuts campaign and the wider 'student community'. a lot of people in the room just walked out of the initial meeting when it got railroaded into a discussion about whether to condemn Aaron Porter (which the SWP were mainly pushing for to support the NUS left, reclaiming the union etc), and later when it got party political (are we against the cuts or the Tory cuts etc).

this was a divide the big Arts A2 occupation overcame in March, with over 1,000 students (out of 12,000 total) participating through the week despite a High Court Injunction criminalising the occupation, but it seems to have resurfaced. in my opinion it's the difference between a political campaign (where you relate to others through lowest-common-denominator leftist politics) and a class movement, where you relate to others through shared interests and accept or even embrace the political heterogeneity that implies (i mean most people start off liberals with all sorts of illusions in legalism, the sanctity of property, idealist methods etc, it's through direct action that many develop more radical ideas...).

i think the Arts A2 occupation overcame this divide for a number of reasons; a tactical error by management to fake a hostage situation and call in riot cops against peaceful students which caused widespread anger, a highly visible central location on campus, and considerable effort to open up the occupation as a space for students and workers to meet and discuss (there were some excellent contributions from support staff - cleaners etc). i wrote this at the time trying to think a bit about these dynamics. the big danger is to the extent the occupation is done by Stop the Cuts and not students as a whole, it's very much reinforcing the activist-student divide and closing off activity to those not in the clique, reinforcing the resigned passivity many have towards austerity. i think a lot of people are aware of this danger, the question is whether to try and use the energy from last wednesday to bolster the STC campaign or to ask what was so exciting about last wednsday, and where are all those faces who took action for the first time in the occupation?

I should really get down there but got shit to do :/

Samotnaf
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Nov 17 2010 14:30

Joseph Kay - thanks for all that.

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Nov 17 2010 14:55

by way of a caveat to the more machiavellian antics mentioned above, i should add i don't really subscribe to anti-SWP sentiment per se. they normally do nothing more sinister than caucus and make arguments, often confidently and articulately. obviously i disagree fundementally in all sorts of ways with their politics, but i don't think people can complain about a group being organised and making arguments. there's a danger the SWP become a bogeyman to cover the lack of organisation and strategy on the part of anarchists/communist/libertarians.

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Nov 17 2010 15:36
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
It's not as if they just make arguments though is it. They play an active role in holding back struggles. I'd agree that we shouldn't blame them for our own lack of organisation, but we shouldn't ignore the role they play either.

well i've documented some of that above. but tbh in this occupation it has been mostly arguments (i haven't been there for 24 hours, so maybe it's changed). that doesn't stop people complaining about the 'bloody SWP', which i think becomes a convenient target for frustrations. now even making arguments can fuck up struggles by determining the character of the space - most of those who weren't leftist politicos left very quickly, one who stayed made the point that her friends were leaving because they didn't agree with the political assumptions everyone was assumed to share (that wasn't just the SWP either tbf, it's an easy thing to slip into). so assertively taking leftist assumptions for granted very quickly alienated non-activist students and reduced the occupation to mostly the usual suspects rather than broadening it out.

i'm certainly not saying we shouldn't talk about the role the SWP (or others) play, my point is that how they play it is often not particularly sinister or machiavellian.

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Nov 18 2010 11:48

Any update on the occupation?

Samotnaf
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Nov 18 2010 20:25

Joseph Kay - any reason there's no graffiti? Too many cctvs, etc and people can't be bothered to mask up for the cameras? too indifferent? student bureaucrats against it and everyone just accepts it? or what?

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Nov 18 2010 23:12

I think there's probably (a not unfounded) feeling that criminal damage to university property would further isolate the 'activists' from the broadly sympathetic but uninvolved student body, which is fairly liberal in terms of politics. there is a fair amount of CCTV etc, but you could easily get away with it if you wanted.

i popped in today, and there was only a handful of people there. i think we really fucked it in the first 30-60 minutes, alienating all the liberals/non-activists and thus precluding any radicalisation/political/theoretical conversations or development. once people have felt that, no amount of leafletting in the square will get them back... a lot of (political) friends are really frustrated and feel like we shot ourselves in the foot, but we're trying to focus on making the 24th interesting.*

* note to journos: i'm not planning a riot.

Jason Cortez
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Nov 18 2010 23:28

Note to journos riots are spontaneous affairs.

alibi
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Nov 19 2010 00:41

interesting stuff Joseph Kay. you sound bang on about the first 60 mins.

glad there's no grafiti - juvenile pish and will not help things one iota. nothing revolutionary about pissing in your own backyard.

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Nov 19 2010 02:21
alibi wrote:
juvenile pish and will not help things one iota.

Those are almost the exact words a judge told me in court except he said 'stupidity' and not 'pish'. He also said graffiti was behaviour befitting of wild beasts and not of civilized societies.

You are joking right?

Thanks for the updates Joseph Kay. I hope the problems are just a temporary setback. In any case hearing about the events in the UK has definitely cheered me up, good luck to those in the "belly of the beast".

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Nov 19 2010 04:37

alibi:

Quote:
glad there's no grafiti - juvenile pish and will not help things one iota. nothing revolutionary about pissing in your own backyard.

So the Universities are our own backyard are they?

I suppose this and this was juvenile pish .

no1
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Nov 19 2010 10:01

This was just put up on their blog:

Quote:
Statement of Departure
This 5 day occupation of Fulton building has come to an end!
It was a statement to this coalition government that the events of Nov 10th were by no means isolated.
We have used this time and space to organise, mobilise and prepare for the 24th of November. This national day of action will see resistance on an unprecedented scale.
We have galvanised other universities and educational establishments to take similar action, and we are grateful for the many messages of support that we have received.
We stand firm on our request that our universities’ management speak out against these government plans which have the potential to destroy education as we know it.
On leaving this occupation we will join the local newspapers picket lines, standing in solidarity with others suffering from cuts.
Watch this space…

http://defendsussex.wordpress.com/2010/11/19/statement-of-departure/

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Nov 19 2010 10:42
Joseph Kay wrote:
i popped in today, and there was only a handful of people there. i think we really fucked it in the first 30-60 minutes, alienating all the liberals/non-activists and thus precluding any radicalisation/political/theoretical conversations or development. once people have felt that, no amount of leafletting in the square will get them back... a lot of (political) friends are really frustrated and feel like we shot ourselves in the foot, but we're trying to focus on making the 24th interesting.

This is a real shame. To go from over 100 students to a mere handful (presumably the 'usual suspects') is a real blow.

Yet I don't see how you can stop it from happening. Politicised members of a group will always start spouting off because they assume their perspective is the obvious one that everyone should share.

I think this goes right to the heart of the problem. Over the coming months various political groups and perspectives will be trying to take control of various struggles for their own ends. If direct, open democracy can't take root in these struggles, then they'll be throttled by the old politics of the left.

But how do you avoid it? I can't see an easy answer.

no1
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Nov 19 2010 11:45

How can we avoid it ? very good question! Obviously this is one of the main reasons why it's important that we form organisations and promote a libertarian communist perspective in these situations.

However I don't think the problem can be reduced to leftists taking over struggles. The fact is that in that first hour when people tried to draw up a statement and when things went wrong, there were a lot of different political perspectives of what was happening and what people wanted. The adherents to these different perspectives then all tried to push their view, add their preferred sentence to the statement etc. This is a pretty futile thing to do because it does put off everyone who's not a fulltime politico and, just because your political point ends up being in a statement doesn't make it in any way meaningful if it's just some sort of compromise that doesn't articulate a shared view.
So I think it would have been far far more productive to first work out the things the vast majority of people agreed on (against tuition fees, cuts are going to affect others too not just students and education workers, commitment to oppose cuts, defending the people involved in 10/11/10), and the things people disagreed on (how to respond to Aaron Porter's denunciation, the nature of student unions, whether these are Tory cuts, how to oppose them, etc). A short statement based on the first set could have been written, and a series of debates could then have been organised to discuss the questions people disagreed on over the week. This would probably have been interesting and stimulating, it would probably have drawn in new people, it would probably have radicalised a lot of the liberals. Instead, the politicos tried to impose their pre-conceived ideas on everyone and made it so dull that everyone sensible decided they had better things to do.

In general I find that it is a big mistake to not deal with political differences (as is typical for 'anarchisty' consensus decision making) we need to use the tension that derives from political difference to enrich and stimulate .

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Nov 19 2010 11:52

Thanks for this Joseph Kay, I think your point about the difference between a class movement and a political movement is very important.

*note to journos Joseph Kay is deputy in charge drawing moustaches on pictures of authority figures at the next riot.

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Nov 19 2010 15:00
no1 wrote:
How can we avoid it ? very good question! Obviously this is one of the main reasons why it's important that we form organisations and promote a libertarian communist perspective in these situations.

i agree on the importance of organisation, but i disagree we need to 'promote a perspective', at least in the first instance. i think political groups tend towards impotence precisely because they conceive of politics as one-way communication of pre-developed ideas, the crudest example being Kautsky/Lenin bringing us consciousness that eludes us. i think the way out of that impotence is to relate to other not primarily on the basis of political ideas (or assumptions), but shared interests. the politics come in terms of how we articulate those interests etc.

in practical terms this is similar to what you suggest; beginning by keeping the occupation as inclusive as possible along the lines of making everybody who opposes the cuts, or even just education cuts/fees welcome (this is not about 'broad politics', that's a symptom of basing action on shared interests). then in subsequent debates, i guess advertised for Day 2 we can argue the toss. i still think the 'political perspective' people like us would push would be primarily a tactical/strategic one though (e.g. arguing for 'flying pickets' going to other unis/colleges/picket lines to spread the struggle...) rather than me standing up and talking about libertarian communism as superior to ParEcon or something.

in some ways this is a rearticulation of the classical view of Direct Action (Pouget), although i draw different organisational conclusions to Pouget for a variety of reasons; essentially if people act for themselves in their own interests, they are driven to try and comprehend those actions and interests, which may lead to revolutionary ideas. action running ahead of consciousness which then seeks to make sense of it, as opposed to consciousness being delivered Blue Peter style as one prepared earlier by a vanguard party or would-be leadership of ideas. it's not to say i think political propaganda or arguments are always-already pointless, i spend considerable time doing them, but i think they have to be conceived as dialogue based on interest rather than simple dissemination of a line and the associated political practices; rhetoric, demagoguery etc.

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Nov 19 2010 15:14
Samotnaf wrote:
student bureaucrats against it and everyone just accepts it?

just to pick up on this... student bureaucrats aren't really a problem at Sussex. the student union officers only serve a year full time then typically return to study, which means they don't have time to completely bureaucratise or their interests too sharply diverge from students (although in principle it can happen v. quickly, and i could think of some small examples, it generally hasn't been an issue at Sussex in the last year i've been around). the students union is also pretty lefty. there's an interesting division of labour where basically the students union doesn't organise these kind of struggles at all, something which would be hard to conceive with trade unions, based as they are on a mediating position. rather the demonstrations, occupations etc are organised by Stop the Cuts campaign and the union is typically verbally and to an extent materially supportive to the extent permitable by bureaucratic/legalistic considerations.

however, that's not to say all the same problems of bureacratisation aren't reproduced by STC activists becoming specialists in struggle, alienating others, subordinating action to their own agendas etc, as discussed above.

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Nov 19 2010 16:02

I think this article picks up on some (though not all) of the issues outlined above about specialists in struggle running campaigns at Sussex uni (though the author now doesn't like most of the article..). When i was at sussex, the left was basically just anarchists but as the 'specialists' they acted in much the same way as other 'authoritarian' groups (not out of bad will like, they were all really nice people but just for, what they felt was, the best..)..

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Nov 19 2010 16:43
Quote:
So I think it would have been far far more productive to first work out the things the vast majority of people agreed on (against tuition fees, cuts are going to affect others too not just students and education workers, commitment to oppose cuts, defending the people involved in 10/11/10), and the things people disagreed on (how to respond to Aaron Porter's denunciation, the nature of student unions, whether these are Tory cuts, how to oppose them, etc). A short statement based on the first set could have been written, and a series of debates could then have been organised to discuss the questions people disagreed on over the week. This would probably have been interesting and stimulating, it would probably have drawn in new people, it would probably have radicalised a lot of the liberals. Instead, the politicos tried to impose their pre-conceived ideas on everyone and made it so dull that everyone sensible decided they had better things to do.

This is good.

Quote:
In general I find that it is a big mistake to not deal with political differences (as is typical for 'anarchisty' consensus decision making) we need to use the tension that derives from political difference to enrich and stimulate .

So is this.

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Nov 20 2010 11:00
Joseph Kay wrote:
essentially if people act for themselves in their own interests, they are driven to try and comprehend those actions and interests, which may lead to revolutionary ideas.

I think there's something in that, an parallel, to finding themselves upset with the world, looking for a solution which fits how they feel. This is a much stronger position that reading around political ideas and picking one which looks interesting.

On similar lines, I've heard it said that people don't choose their actions according to their morals, they choose their morals according to their (preferred) actions. I think there's something in that.