US Bank Flees in Terror From Direct Action

On March 12, the parasitic US Bank notified its hosts customers that, as of Feb. 28, it had officially closed its UC Davis branch.

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The bank’s closure was the result of a quarter-long blockade, in which an autonomous direct action group effectively prevented bank operations.

Despite sustained efforts at intimidation by bank managers, private security guards, UC Davis police and administrators, the bank blockade stood its ground, even when faced with arrest threats, student judicial sanctions, and physical confrontations.

The successful blockade is clear proof of the efficacy of direct action, in which a committed and organized group, willing to place its “bodies on the gears, . . . upon all the apparatus” can achieve victories against the capitalist system that transforms our classrooms into spaces of exploitation and forces us to sell our lives, our futures, to bankers and profiteers.

This action was part of an ongoing campaign to free the university from the grip of capital. Every space we retake from the managers, the bankers, the administrators, and the self-elected résumé polishers of ASUCD represents a step towards the autonomy required to transform this corporate university into the people’s university.

We celebrate this victory by planning our next action and restating our intention to remove the chancellor and police from our campus as a necessary step towards liberation.

 

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The Neoliberal University, Banks, and the Professors Who Love Them

The Neoliberal University

Things seem complicated, but they’re not. Yes, the UC budget is complex and the State of California is withholding funding due to its own, apparently unresolvable budget crisis, but these facts only obfuscate and particularize a near-universal movement towards the privatization of publicly owned and operated institutions: universities, libraries, public utilities, etc.

We call this movement neoliberalism, but it’s not all that new. Capitalism has a life-cycle, driven by its internal laws. Neoliberalism is simply the latest phase of decline. There have been others. We hope this will be the last. When capitalism reaches a limit to growth in the productive sector (this means industry), it compensates with speculative investments (loans and other finance tools).

These investments are bets. A bank wagers that the money it loans will be used profitably enough for the borrower to repay it with interest. If the borrower can’t pay, the bank loses its bet. This is the risk the bank takes—like a professional gambler, it knows the odds, and will cheat whenever it can.

When there is a general decline in profitability, though, it gets harder for banks to cover their bets. Fewer jobs exist. Borrowers can’t repay loans if they can’t work and earn money. Banks never admit they made a bad bet, though. For individuals, unpayable debt becomes a Moral Obligation; for banks, unpayable debt means “too big to fail.” Banks will seize homes and property, garnish wages, and use intimidation to squeeze a few more pennies from debtors. To place this in context, there were 1.5 million homeless people in the US at the end of 2010. That same year, banks seized more than a million homes. This is the story of the last three years (since the housing market crash in late 2008). When so many loans simply can’t be repaid, the credit bubbles inevitably burst. The resultant boom-and-bust cycle is the story of the last 40 years (Japan’s Lost Decade, the fall of the “Asian Tigers,” the dot-com bubble, the housing bubble).

In the era of financial capital, profit is not to be found in production. Investors have to look for ways to extend credit and enforce its repayment. The enforcement part must be emphasized. Neoliberalism never walks alone: it rolls up with union-busting, budget-cutting thugs—Thatcher, Pinochet, Yudof—and a militarized police apparatus that allows the banks to loot communities, universities, and even entire countries (Greece, anyone?).

State disinvestment in public universities must be understood in this context of declining profitability and financialization. Unlike Keynesians and other professional optimists, we don’t think the money is coming back. That’s why we propose the more radical solution of making the university free, student-run, and universal, i.e. open to anyone. This will frighten those worried about “outside elements.” We say there are no outsiders.

Banks

When we say students have been sold out to the banks, we are talking about two things.

(1) Student loans

Student debt has now surpassed consumer debt in the United States. This is a result of two related facts. First, tuition costs have skyrocketed, forcing us to take out loans. Don’t tell us to get a job; we work more than our parents’ generation did when they were in college. Second, alternatives to college, like getting a decent job with a high school diploma or vocational degree, have evaporated. Those jobs are gone. What’s left are the military, prison, or the shitty jobs we work between classes.

Decades ago, when quaint-sounding things like democracy were still taken seriously by the political elite, it was thought that having an educated citizenry was essential for a healthy civic life and for economic development. Those days are over. Now the prevailing view is that public goods like the university, in which the ghostly residue of the commons persists, must be sold to private corporations. In fact, the only real profit to be made these days consists in aggressive, Bain Capital-style takeovers and/or pillaging the public sector. The Regents been selling us out for years; now they’re trying to finish the job. Operational Excellence!

(2) US Bank at UC Davis

The university is selling students to the bank because it’s the only way to generate more income from students who don’t otherwise have it.

The administration and its ASUCD surrogates, always on the lookout for a revenue stream, have allowed US Bank to set up a branch in the Memorial Union. Instead of study space or a tutoring center, we now have a bank in one of the most high-traffic areas on campus. In exchange for royalties (that will be spent on unspecified “services and programs”) on new student banking accounts, UCD signed a ten-year agreement with US Bank, which now has access to university premises to set up branches and ATMs, and marketing rights at university events, including student group or organization meetings. Students were also forced to obtain new ID cards doubling as bank cards.

US Bank is willing to pay royalties to the university for access because they know that students are a vulnerable and therefore profitable customer pool. We live from paycheck to paycheck and are likely to incur overdraft fees or to take out loans to bridge the gap between what we’re paid and what we must pay. At a historical moment in which banks have reached new heights in predatory lending, fraud, and reckless, speculative investment, the administration invites US Bank, the eight-largest holder of student loans, onto our campus. Administrators like to play the part of the concerned parent—”yes, we pepper-sprayed you, but it was for your health and safety”—but they are not concerned in the least about forcing us into debt slavery with the two-pronged attack of increasing tuition and selling us to the bank.

We’re fighting back. We’ve blockaded the bank daily for over a month, forcing it to close early or preventing it from opening. We plan to continue until US Bank packs up and leaves.

[Update (3/16/2012): The blockade has succeeded! US Bank has fled with its tail between its legs!]

Professors

When we say “behind every fee increase, a line of riot cops,” it’s not just rhetoric. This shit is real. Every tuition hike and budget cut in the service of privatization is met with resistance by those who refuse to allow further incursions into the commons. And every act of resistance, however peaceful or non-violent, is met with violence: pepper spray, smashed-off fingers, beatings, near shootings, and the more subtle violence of legal proceedings and student judicial sanctions (suspension, expulsion, loss of scholarship funding).

The chancellors, hired by the Regents to continue the neoliberal transformation of our public universities, have an armed police force at their beck and call. We’ve seen them use it many times to crush opposition to the neoliberal agenda. Until this elementary situation changes, students will continue to be victimized by administrative violence. This is why we call for a university without cops or bosses.

The measures recently brought to the UCD Faculty Senate were never going to address this fundamental problem. In fact, they have only served to highlight divisions among the faculty, which Katehi will continue to exploit to her advantange.

A brief summary of the results of these three measures:

(1) Motion to declare no confidence in Chancellor Katehi: FAILED (312-697).

(2) 5-point motion of confidence in the chancellor: PASSED (586-408).

(3) Motion condemning violent police response to non-violent protesters: PASSED (635-343).

As Michael Meranze has noted, measure 2 in particular seems “to be an effort to appear to care about the violence to students without thinking that it matters all that much.”

These results are not surprising. Many professors, believing themselves to be the beneficiaries of privatization (in the form of grants, donations, endowed positions, etc.), support Katehi’s agenda. Now we know that at least 343 of them support enforcing privatization by violent means. This is useful knowledge.

We also know that “only 37% of UC Davis faculty vote on measures regarding campus events that received worldwide attention.” And professors complain about student apathy.

Those professors who brought forward the motions of no confidence and against police violence should be applauded. It’s risky to speak out when promotion and tenure depend on toeing the line. It’s encouraging to note that 312 professors support their students.

But these motions highlight the limits of institutional struggle (petitions, motions, declarations), where the administrators will always have the upper hand. They write the rules, and circumvent them when necessary. For years, faculty have fought a losing battle to defend shared governance, tenure-line positions, and academic freedom from a rapacious administrative logic. It’s time to abandon institutional forms of defence and turn the tables on the admins. Solidarity means attack.

We urge professors to engage in direct action.

If the professors demanding Katehi’s resignation and the 312 who voted for the no-confidence measure had blockaded the administration building instead, Katehi would be gone. The same is true of Birgeneau at UC Berkeley. Instead, both Chancellors now understand that they are immune to the media outcry surrounding police brutality. The Faculty Senate has empowered the administration to hurt students.

Only direct action will reverse this situation. It’s long past time for professors to leave the comfort of their offices. You must take meaningful action to take back the university.

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Posters for March 1-5 public education actions

from reclaim UC

The first poster is for UC Berkeley’s March 1st strike, in conjunction with the M1 national day of action; the others are for regional and statewide actions that begin on the 1st and run into the following week. Please share widely!



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Absolutely Terrible. Total Betrayal Of The Students By the UC Davis Faculty

Reposted from Remaking the University

The Davis Senate concluded its vote Friday on the motion to declare no confidence in Chancellor Katehi. The motion failed 697-312. A second motion–the “Five Points” motion–that criticized the use of police force against the demonstrators but affirmed confidence in Katehi’s responses to the police violence and her “impeccable performance of all her other duties” passed 586-408. UCOP declared itself “gratified” by the results.

Clearly the Davis faculty is deeply split: about the campus leadership, about how to respond to the police violence, and about the general direction that Davis is moving. Slightly more Faculty cast votes on the clear no-confidence motion than on the “five points” motion and Katehi’s support on the latter dropped over 100 votes. That the majority of the Senate Faculty are unwilling to break with the Chancellor is clear. Beyond that how Davis responds in the future or to the reports about police violence on campus in the future is unclear.

This ambiguity is especially clear if you read the “five points” motion. Here is the language:

Be it therefore resolved that the Davis Division of the Academic Senate:

Condemns both the dispatch of police in response to non-violent protests and the use of excessive force that led to the deplorable pepper-spraying events of November 18, 2011.

Opposes all violent police responses to non-violent protests on campus.

Demands that police deployment against protesters be considered only after all reasonable administrative efforts to bridge differences have been exhausted, including direct consultation with the leadership of the Davis Division of the Academic Senate.

Accepts Chancellor Linda Katehi’s good faith apology.

Expresses confidence in Chancellor Linda Katehi’s leadership and efforts to place UC Davis among the top 5 public universities in the nation.

As both David Copp and Daniel Cox have pointed out, the “five points” motion is internally incoherent. On the one hand, it “condemns” the sending in of the police and their use of “excessive force” on November 18th but doesn’t acknowledge that they were sent in by Chancellor Katehi. On the other hand it “expresses Confidence” in her leadership. The first 3 points raise serious questions about the Chancellor’s judgment. The last 2 suggest that in the end these questions don’t really matter.

In other words, violence against students is “deplorable” but let’s put it into perspective. It was really a blip in Davis’s rise to prominence. Let’s put it behind us. Senate Faculty who did not think that the police violence was sufficient to declare no-confidence in the Chancellor had the option of simply voting no. Given that, the “five points” motion appears to be an effort to appear to care about the violence to students without thinking that it matters all that much.

What message does that send to students?

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February 27: Stop Neo-Nazis at the State Capitol

From Modesto Anarcho, a call to shut down a planned Neo-Nazi rally in Sacramento.

These racist scum are trying to use the language of human rights to advance their anti-black and anti-Semitic agenda. Fuck that. See you in the streets!

 

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Note From the Revolutionaries (of Color)

“And in my opinion, the young generation of whites, blacks, browns, whatever else there is, you’re living at a time of extremism, a time of revolution, a time when there’s got to be a change, people in power have misused it, and now there has to be a change. And a better world has to be built and the only way it’s going to be built is with extreme methods. And I, for one, will join in with anyone — I don’t care what color you are — as long as you want to change this miserable condition that exists on this earth.”

~ El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X)

 

“I propose nothing short of the liberation of the man of color from himself.”

~ Frantz Fanon (aka Ibrahim Fanon)

 

We, the revolutionaries (of color), who strategized, organized, mobilized, and directly participated in the action to take over the former cross cultural center at UCD, which was an abandoned building, have decided to send a very clear and straightforward message to respond to the lies, propaganda, and misrepresentation of our movement—a misrepresentation that was systematically perpetrated by a couple of ‘people-of-color’ (p-o-c) groups on campus that have proved to function from within the administrative logic of the university, the very same logic that uses the police force to repress student protest.

 

Three/four days ago when we took over the building, we began with a clear anti-colonial, anti-imperialist, and fundamentally anti-capitalist position. This was made clear when we rejected liberalism (the political supplement to capitalism): 1. We physically blocked media and surveillance into our “autonomous” space, 2. We confronted someone who wanted to sneak in an American flag into the building.

 

Our message was clear: We do not want administrative presence and the symbol of Empire in our space. We realize full well that the flag represents genocide, war, racism, imperialism, torture, surveillance, and the continued colonization of people (of color). We also understand the history of indigenous struggle in the Americas well enough to know that a proper anticolonial movement (decolonization) involves the total dismantling of settler-colonialism. We also know that anti-colonialism without anti-capitalism is not a total critique of the given order. We realize that a proper struggle requires us to understand the ideological history of the Americas, the coordinates of indigenous resistance to State violence, and forms of political action that combat the ideology of colonialism. This was the foundation upon which we wanted to begin to build our movement. We knew that the rejection of the flag was symbolic, but nonetheless, we were excited about the tone the movement began to have within that space (a space that also has its own radical history).

 

When we put up that banner “Revolution is the only Culture” (a paraphrased Fanon quote) we knew very well that it would disturb, challenge, and expose the ideological function of late liberal multicultural capitalism. We were ready for the battle with the multiculturalist logic that helps pacify and commodify marginalized communities of color into fixed non-revolutionary entities. We understand the importance of culture well enough to know that true culture is an impossibility within capitalist social relations. We know clearly that what is presented as culture is fundamentally a non-culture, a kind of non-being, an inauthentic existence, determined by the historical conditions of the exploitative relations of capitalism. Culture is nothing but a horizontal arrangement of meaningless, colonized entities within the marketplace. And, therefore, culture is in need of liberation. Revolution is the only activity that can properly dismantle relations of exploitation that produce reified conceptions of identity. In this sense, we are fundamentally against identity politics. Identity politics, which is supported by the administration, has absolutely nothing to do with the realization of human potential. It has everything to do with coopting communities of color into the logic of capitalism, ghettoizing marginal identities into narrow surveilled places, and using techniques of imprisonment (e.g. prisons, schools, mental institutions, social service institutions) upon bodies of color to finalize the colonial state. Every colonial project fundamentally worked through the methods of physical genocide and cultural genocide. We know that the colonial project in the Americas involved the same exact process of occupying a land through physical means, and then continuing with cultural genocide through institutions of education. Our fight against the administration is a fight against cultural genocide and colonialist capitalism.

 

When EOP (Educational Opportunity Program) came over to argue to get back the space, they were supported by a couple of p-o-c groups that ignorantly spoke of their identities and their cultures as if they are self-evident. They spoke of their individual stories of oppression and trauma. While we respect individuals, we fundamentally reject the line of reasoning that allows for this kind of isolation. We think it is a total misreading of the social, economic crises in communities of color, because no amount of individual counseling or therapy can resolve the larger problem of capitalism. The problem of capitalism can only be solved through revolutionary action which emerges from the tension between historical determinations and struggle. This is precisely why it is important for us to be aware of our own historical condition/moment. The revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East did not come out of a vacuum. A certain kind of historical situation presented itself, a certain set of crises emerged, and a certain kind of revolutionary struggle realized its task at hand. Identity politics is a strategy encouraged by administrative logic that aims to cloud the political truth procedures of marginalized and oppressed communities. And, therefore, identity politics within the logic of multiculturalism works against revolutionary politics. Our confrontation with EOP and the non-revolutionary p-o-c groups prove this point. We offered to share our space with EOP to help them become self-reliant. We also offered to occupy a larger place on campus for them. They declined both offers, and insisted on transitioning into our occupied space because that is what the administration asked them to do.

 

When Malcolm X argues for “extreme methods” he is precisely talking about rejecting the idea of making “peace” with oppression, making “peace” with the system. We, the revolutionaries (of color) know very clearly the role of the ‘truth’ of politics. We know how to identify our friends and enemies. Our truth is based on political action, but also a proper understanding of the “critique of political-economy.” In this sense, we never separate theory from action. We learn through doing, and we do when we learn. We are always ready to begin from the beginning. We know that the true movement of history can open up a different future, a different society without exploitation. When Fanon speaks of liberating “the man of color from himself” he is precisely talking about this possibility of the unfolding of history in the true revolutionary direction, where we destroy constructs created by the system.

 

Revolution is the only Culture.

 

Destroy (reified conceptions of) difference.

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Notes From Occupation

The ongoing occupation of the building that once housed the Cross Cultural Center (now located in a new $30 million dollar building) has drawn its share of critics. Much of this criticism has taken disturbing forms: race baiting, slurs, and outright threats. This must stop. Solidarity means working with groups who share the same goals, or similar ones, even when tactical differences exist. It also means that we will defend the occupation against administrators, police, and others who threaten our comrades.

Fortunately, not all criticism has taken the aggressive and dangerous approach. A thoughtful comrade writes the following in defense of the EOP:

“Though the spaces of the student centers at UCD may be surveilled by administrators and staff, these are also spaces where students exercise their creativity and make communities, build and make resources, and make spaces to have radical discussions about the structure of the university, societal and social structures, and imagine how things could be different in this space and elsewhere.”

To which another comrade replies with a statement that neatly outlines our more radical position:

I think this is true, and really important to recognize. But it doesn’t describe a fixed and necessary relationship. That is to say, it is not the case that those radical discussions and that community-making must take place under the auspices of sanctioned instituions which function to curtail, limit, and neutralize.
Indeed, wouldn’t we all agree that the goal would be to break the radical discussions and communities out from those neutralizing sanctions, rather than saying, “oh, it’s not all that bad in there, good stuff happens”? And in that sense, wouldn’t such communities want to support the opening of organizing centers that are beyond that neutralizing sanction? The critique of “culture” offered by the new occupation seems to me to be, quite clearly, a critique of sanctioned, official, institutionally legitimated culture — does anyone really want to take the counter-position that goes, yes, that is the culture we mean to defend?
I suspect we all agree, to restate, that we want cultures free of neutralizing sanction. We want to eliminate the neutralizing sanction so that our cultures can be free. And that is what Fanon meant as well. The elimination of that neutralizing sanction (sometimes expressed as a set of protocols, sometimes as pepper spray) is what revolution is. That is the revolution of culture — that activity which allows actual, free culture to flourish beyond institutions of control.

Two years ago, in the Communiqué From an Absent Future, our comrades wrote that “a free university in the midst of a capitalist society is like a reading room in a prison.” One might say the same about an Educational Opportunity Program in the midst of a university that is no longer free.

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