Revolution #194, March 7, 2010

Turmoil and Protest On University of California Campuses

Growing Resistance at UC Berkeley

On March 4, students, professors, teachers, workers and others will be marching in cities up and down the state to oppose the massive assault on public education in California. The attacks run from massive tuition increases and slashing cuts in staff and programs at the level of the University of California system, the "crown jewel" of public education in the United States, to parallel attacks on the state college and community college system, cutting things to the bone and beyond in high schools across the state (e.g., eliminating libraries), the complete elimination of many adult education programs, and more. And this is on top of an educational system that is already shaped to serve the needs of this oppressive system.

As it puts it in our statement "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have":

"And, despite the good intentions of many teachers, the educational system is a bitter insult for many youth and a means of regimentation and indoctrination overall. While, particularly in some 'elite' schools, there is some encouragement for students to think in 'non-conformist' ways—so long as, in the end, this still conforms to the fundamental needs and interests of the system—on the whole, instead of really enabling people to learn about the world and to pursue the truth wherever it leads, with a spirit of critical thinking and scientific curiosity, education is crafted and twisted to serve the commandments of capital, to justify and perpetuate the oppressive relations in society and the world as a whole, and to reinforce the dominating position of the already powerful. And despite the creative impulses and efforts of many, the dominant culture too is corrupted and molded to lower, not raise, people's sights, to extol and promote the ways of thinking, and of acting, that keep this system going and keep people believing that nothing better is possible."

Last fall new and important shoots of resistance emerged in opposition to the slashing budget cuts on many campuses in California—buildings were occupied on a number of campuses, police attacked student protesters in a way not seen in decades, and students fought back in ways not seen in decades. Voices from the students raised sharp and important critiques—and expressed broader concerns—of the way education is shaped to serve this system, of racism in education and in society, of the U.S. wars in the Middle East. And there is contention over that: the ruling class is "advising" against raising these bigger questions through articles quoting more conservative student leaders complaining that "too many slogans dilute our message." We welcome and encourage these bigger questions and more radical challenge to the status quo. This kind of ferment is extremely important—something for those who are building a movement for revolution to engage, to learn from, and to foster.

The March 4 protests coming up are the next major nodal point in this battle. A wide range of people and social forces are entering into protest—unions have organized their members, high school principals are finding the ways to encourage students to miss school and go, professors are organizing to go to Sacramento to lobby the state legislature for more funds. One indication of what is brewing among students on college campuses came out at UC Berkeley this past week. From February 22-25, students organized a "Rolling University," with art exhibits, discussions, theater and music building towards the protest. On February 25, students danced outdoors late at night on the campus in support of March 4. After the dance, some students briefly occupied Durant Hall and hung a banner that said "March 4" above the entrance, then walked and danced across the campus to Telegraph Avenue where they defiantly took over the street. Police attacked the crowd and snatched a student and arrested a recent graduate. Trash bins burned and bottles flew in response. Newspapers across the country ran articles denouncing the "violence" of the protesters and warning this was completely unacceptable—no doubt our rulers would prefer that the destruction of public education, the firing of thousands of people from their jobs, the gutting of major universities, etc., etc. go down with no protest at all—but if there is going to be protest, they want to keep it as conservative and contained as possible. You can see in this their worries that high school students who are encouraged by school administrators to go protest against budget cuts might end up mixing it up with emerging radical students—and with the revolutionaries.

New things are stirring. The same day as the clash on Telegraph Avenue, hundreds of UC San Diego students protested and occupied the university chancellor's office for several hours as part of protests against a series of outrageous racist provocations on the campus—including a noose hung in a campus library. (See correspondence from a reader on UC San Diego on our website.) And at UC Irvine, 11 students still face the threat of serious charges for a powerful protest against Israel’s assault on the Palestinian people when they disrupted Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s speech on that campus earlier in February.

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