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.