October Occupation Statement
Statement from the Humanities II Occupation
The glass walls of passivity, separating us from one another, can only be shattered with revolt. We are occupying a second building on the Santa Cruz campus of the University of California because we have answered the call of the first to occupy everything. Tonight is a demonstration to students and workers everywhere that the division between taking what you want and planning for a movement to come only appears as a problem for abstract thought about taking action. We only catch sight of the fires of the insurrection to come on the morning after the unrest of the night before.
What is a crisis anyway? It is the exclusion from work and public services of those most precariously situated within this system. To a crisis which is generalized, it is pointless to respond with generic activism. Activists of more prosperous eras held demonstrations. Still, they were unable to secure any lasting position for those on whose behalf they took “action”. As the current crisis unfolds, it is necessary to elaborate innovative forms of escalation and revolt. Our crisis is as much the failure of these tired forms of mobilization as it is the collateral damage caused by a growing economic catastrophe.
We have lived through too many cycles of defeat and must try something else. We are compelled to negate the crisis itself with whatever capacity we have now. Tonight, we have taken the Humanities and Social Sciences building. As long as we occupy this space, Dean Sheldon Kamienecki will be deprived of his workplace. This empty figurehead, who last spring made decisions about what jobs get cut and which departments lose funding, will no longer have access to the means of his existence. While we hope this occupation quickens his pulse and that of administrators like him, we have not taken this building to send them a message. Although we hope that they fear for the integrity of their documents and office supplies, we do not occupy to demand the reinstatement of funding channels to what they were before the crisis exposed the fucked up priorities of this school. This occupation is a second call to everyone who has been targeted by this crisis. Which is to say: it is a call to everyone. We cannot wait for some movement to come that will stop the forces pushing ever more people out of this system. Our task is to disrupt the functioning of this system by appropriating what is ours for ourselves.
No amount of organizational meetings, phone calls or emails to legislators have the capacity to build a movement. Society cannot negotiate its way towards liberation. There is no need to raise consciousness. The crisis is already making people painfully aware of the situation. Peaceful marches, rallies and symbolic protests, attracting spectacular media attention, will never increase our ranks because this very process of mediation reduces us to passive observers of what is supposed to be our own activity. Organization for action has become an end in itself cut off from the reality of capitalism in decline. How many voices of outrage are required for a political rally to have a set demands met? We all know the answer to this question: no amount of voices will ever be enough. There is no power to which we can appeal except that which we find in one another. The organization of the movement occurs whenever a freshman or a service worker learns how to barricade doors, how to avoid arrest, how to pick locks. The movement has staying power when, for every one of us who grows tired, there are three who will take our place.
We have recently learned that the University of California does not use tuition money or student fees to fund research and education. On the contrary, they place one hundred percent of this money into an account with the Bank of New York Mellon Trust in order to protect their borrowing power in credit markets. They hold our tuition as collateral in order to finance the largest and most speculative construction projects in the state of California. UC pledged collateral rose by 60% with the last issue of bonds to $6.72B from $4.2B. The number of students taking out debt has risen 20% since 2000: 80-100% for students of color. Average debt levels for graduating seniors rose to $23,200 in 2008 alone, a 24% percent increase over 2004. We know very well what is going on: the University’s ability to finance bonds for new construction increases in direct proportion to their ability to slash spending on education, raise student fees indefinitely and ensure that students cannot disrupt the function of the University itself. This spectacular credit swap finances new construction on the backs of parents who increasingly risk foreclosure on their homes and students who will work the rest of their lives to pay off their debt. The University of California has already been securitized, ensuring that none of us have a future within this system.
We in the US have been too timid for far too long. We are afraid of the police. We are afraid of losing our jobs or getting expelled from school. We are afraid of people shouting in the streets. Security is the watchword of our era: no one wants to take risks. But this illusion of comfort — our separation from one another into perfectly compartmentalized lives, disconnected and self-amused — increasingly unravels with each person thrown out of work, every family evicted from their home and each student unable to afford unending tuition increases without bartering away her future on credit markets. It remains for those terminated by this system to use these failures as flash-points for generalizing the struggle. Perhaps, at last, we can understand one another, for we are all going bankrupt.
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- October 16, 2009 / 12:15 pm