Meanwhile .... elsewhere on planet Earth, the Multitudes continue to Strike Back against Empire

bronwyn lepore

Yesterday (November 28, 2010) Ireland’s multitudes took the streets to protest proposed reductions in pensions and the minimum wage as well as massive layoffs, all repercussions of a “bailout” deal with the EU which, as elsewhere in Europe, means cuts to health care, education, social security and infrastructure. Let’s call it the post-Reagan “US Model.” The continuing global Crisis created by out of control, runaway banks and real estate developers in sycophantic relationships with governments who then step in to guarantee the bank debts, while the rest of us are, as the Irish would say, “fecked.” Debts incurred, US economist Paul Krugman points out in a recent column “Eat the Irish,” “not to pay for public programs, but by private wheeler-dealers seeking nothing but their own profit – yet ordinary Irish citizens are now bearing the brunt…”Earlier in the week (November 24), in a national day of action against cuts in education and rising tuition cuts, protests, flash mobs (Twitter and Facebook the organizing tools of a new generation), building occupations, street blockades and other direct actions erupted all over Britain: from Millibank to Manchester to Bristol to Cardiff and Glasgow! Teachers, grad students, university students, workers, activists and high-schoolers flooded the streets in response to proposed austerity measures. The day of action was called on November 10 due to the hugely inspiring success and numbers who took to London’s streets to protest cuts in university funding and higher tuition fees – “We went off script: the script that said a few thousand would turn up, complain a bit, and go home; and the cuts would go through pretty much as planned” said Chessum, 21, a sabbatical officer at University College London. “That has changed. Now students really feel they can stop this.” Of course, the typical media response decried anarchist hooliganism and violence against the police, but a surprising number of university faculty, lecturers, union reps and even an occasional Vice Chancellor, stuck by those involved (despite being roundly condemned by the government and press). Union presidents of the universities of Sussex and London published a statement defending building occupations as “a long established tradition in the student movement,” while the lecturer’s union at Goldsmiths declared that “the real violence in this situation relates not to a smashed window but to the destructive impact of the cuts and privatization that will follow…”

In an article posted on Indy Media London on the November 24 actions in London, Jenny Bloom describes how “a good number, maybe half of the people protesting in Whitehall were underage – sixth formers to skiving twelve-year olds who’d walked out of school, looking for a march, some shouting and maybe to change the world. What they got was a sharp lesson in media manipulation, police thuggery and the politics of protest.” Cordoned off in pens by police, thousands were denied access to food, water or toilets for hours on one of the coldest days of the year, garnering more support than enmity.

And, as Bloom concludes:

Fundamentally, this is what those young people took away with them. They took away the knowledge that in these situations, the police are agents of the enemy. They are willing to hurt you, they are willing to trick you, and they won't have any compassion. These kids will have spread the word to their classmates when they returned to school about freezing cold, thirst, and being shoved about by lines of riot police. About parents who arrived at about 6pm, after night fell, pleading for the release of their children. About kids whose parents didn't know where they were, and couldn't get home. These young people are the ones who will have gone home and told their families that the TV reports are wrong, that the newspapers are lying. With any luck, they'll remember not to believe everything they read, everything they hear.

The idea of putting them off protest has backfired spectacularly. This insulting and inhumane treatment of children, this massive indefensible overreaction, has radicalized and educated a generation of ordinary London youth. Next time they'll be back, with thermoses full of soup, winter coats, and a lot to say. I'm delighted.

Students occupied the Slade School of Art and the London School of Economics and manifestos, blogs and statements are pouring out of campuses all over the country.

Just a sampling:

“Welcome to the University for Strategic Optimism, a university based on the principal of free and open education, a return of politics to the public, and the politicization of public space. As our university buildings are being boarded up we inhabit the bank as public space. Not just a public space but the proper and poignant place for the introductory lecture to our course entitled ‘Higher Education, Neo-Liberalism and the State.’ We will take up only five minutes of your time for our inaugural lecture but will reconvene in different locations on the dates to be found on the syllabus that should be circulating. Please do check the website for further information and for details about assessment.

How much was spent on the bank bailout?

- £850 billion

Who’s paying for this?

- students

- workers

- pensioners

- the unemployed

We at the University for Strategic Optimism reject the false antagonisms set up by the media between these groups and declare our solidarity with them. We are told that we must tighten our belts and sharpen our elbows so that the markets might be appeased, the collapse of society staved off. Along with Joseph Stieglitz, Nobel-prize-winning economist, we puzzle over a world in which the poor subsidize the rich.

All of those involved in the protests today did so in defense of a society we need to reclaim from the impending cuts, a society based on community, not corporation.

Those that question the normalization of these ideological interests are harassed and witch-hunted, such as the whistle-blowers in the NHS (National Health Service) who have brought to light the deaths and endangerment of hundreds of patients under the auspices of mis-management.

Yet, we will not be intimidated by these developments because we have a vision for a society that is sustainable, egalitarian and perfectly viable outside the narrow terms of economics. We demand breadth and freedom of choice in education, not the baseless pitting of sciences against the humanities. We demand an education that is not underwritten by financial gain but by the sake of learning itself.

Our quest is to protect education from the neo-liberal market. We will press for the resistance, and continue our own vociferous and active resistance, of the obstruction of learning as an empowering experience.

We will continue to highlight the greedy agenda of those who want to rollout their private wealth. With this affect, they command the productive wealth of our society. We the students, refuse to accept the labels 'selfish' and 'lazy'- our actions of solidarity across generations today disproves these."

The Anarchist Federation statement of support for the student direct action insists that:

"This movement will not be sustained by the occasional union-led national demonstration, but by the daily action of people in our own communities and places of education and work. The momentum created by Millbank was just the beginning, something to inspire the struggle, not the struggle itself. It is direct action - strikes, occupations, sit-ins, and walkouts - that sufficiently disrupt capitalism that will force the abandoning of the austerity program. This must be widespread and occurring up and down the country, not just at pre-meditated places and times.

It seems that the government is knowingly dressing down the humanities' status in favor of disciplines whose end result is net private profit, with the effect the population is coerced into financialised and managerial modes of work."

The Midnight Notes Collective’s excellent essay “Promissory Notes”* posits that, “One of the mysteries of the crisis has been the delayed and sporadic responses by workers [et al.] To its serious implications in the U.S. Few actions have taken the financial or economic crisis directly at its point of opposition in the U.S.” As one protest slogan stated, “We are the working people who produce the goods – we are not going to pay for its crisis.” All over Europe, austerity measures brought on by banks and corporations and supported by governments are meeting lively, angry and well-justified confrontation. Instead of living in fear and trepidation, we should be learning from the assertions of people power elsewhere and put our bodies, voices and creativity on the street and in the face of those fucking us over. Jobless benefits are expiring for hundreds of thousands of Americans, foreclosures continue, students are looking at years of endless debt, and yet too many sit and wait for things to what? – smooth themselves out? The hope Obama promised is not tangible. We need to ACT! NOW! May the force be with you!

* See