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Let the Dead Bury Their Dead

Recent events have raised many important questions: What does a real and vital movement look like?  What is the nature of leadership in struggle?  Is there a ‘correct’ way for us to fight against our conditions? Below is a statement from some friends addressing theoretical and practical concerns that have arisen in the last month or so.

“The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language…. The social revolution of the nineteenth century cannot take its poetry from the past but only from the future. It cannot begin with itself before it has stripped away all superstition about the past. The former revolutions required recollections of past world history in order to smother their own content. The revolution of the nineteenth century must let the dead bury their dead in order to arrive at its own content. There the phrase went beyond the content – here the content goes beyond the phrase.”  Karl Marx – 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte

The above quote is just as integral to revolutionary struggle in the 21st century as it was for France in 1852.  Across the vast human topography of class society, clear lines are being drawn between those who parody and fetishize the movements of dead generations in order to dominate the movements of today, and those who seek to expand forms of praxis and theory created in the current cycle of struggle, through the self-directed struggle of workers and students themselves.

After several weeks of smears, ad hominem attacks and political diatribes, the conversation surrounding the events of March 4th has finally shifted to the terrain of tactics and ideology.  The small segment of humanity actually paying attention to this debate has been gifted with lapidary critiques of Anarcho-Imperialism, Anarcho-Situ-Autonomism, Demand-Nothingism, and – most recently — dangerous, “anger-based” Anarcha-Feminism.  While these critiques are coming from various activist quarters, they all focus their attention on the supposed Take The City “Organization.”  Each of these critiques (even if accurate) could land only a glancing blow, because the people who comprise their opposition are neither a party, nor an association nor even a website.  In fact, the alleged saboteurs of March 4th, the occupiers of last April, the self-proclaimed “bitches,” the militant feminists, and many others are merely tendencies within a larger, informal network.  This group has no party-line, no hierarchical structure and little theoretical unity.  The only thing that unites us is camaraderie and solidarity on the one hand and an understanding of direct action and self-organization on the other.  The following is a partial critique, by one tendency within this group, of the tactical and theoretical composition of what has been called the ‘student movement’.

Can a couple hundred students at an outdoor rally at Hunter be considered a movement?  Can six or seven hundred people standing in a Midtown police pen be considered a movement? The reason the NYC ‘student movement’ must be put in quotations is because the label is largely self-flattery.  We hope to show below that the tactics of the coalition of movement-builders are, at best, unhelpful to the development of a strong and vital movement and, at worst, preventative of one.

The Movement-Builders

As far as we can tell, the coalition of movement-builders (hereafter abbreviated CoMB), consists of assorted Trotskyists, Marxist-Leninist-Maoists (MLM), anarchists, and radical liberals. While their ideologies are diverse, the CoMB insist that the student movement requires leadership, transparency, clearly-defined goals, and democracy.  Their ultimate criterion is quantitative: numbers of protesters, numbers of rallies, numbers of newspapers sold, numbers of endorsements, ratios of disadvantaged to privileged, dollars of damages, etc. They privilege form over content, while largely ignoring the qualitative aspects of collective action and its potential for a revolutionary trajectory.  As for the various Leninists, their idealist conceptions of the ‘necessary’ forms of struggle are a-historical caricatures that suit their ideological hang-ups.  They would superimpose patterns of revolutionary struggle borne against a Czarist regime almost a century ago onto the decadent capitalism that exists today in New York City.

The CoMB’s elevation of ideal structures and concepts results, at best, in call for a rally or demo with large numbers – at worst, in full-on counterrevolutionary policing of the movement. Leadership of the CoMB kind can just as easily manipulate and suppress as it can do any “good”.  The formal preoccupation with transparency, which for many in the CoMB is just a call for democratic-centralism, has the potential to undermine more militant and forward-thinking action, especially in an epoch of growing state repression. The insistence on defining goals often forces people to think within the realm of reform, thereby legitimating bankrupt power in a time of crisis when militancy and direct action are crucial.  The fetishization of formal democracy (especially in an environment dominated by ‘experienced organizers’) can undermine autonomous endeavors that may point to novel and potentially effective forms of struggle.  And yet, these abstract ideals are accepted without question within the CoMB.  We believe that, as always, self-organized workers, students, and the unemployed — in solidarity with one another — will figure out these issues through the course of struggle itself, through their own successes and failures.

In focusing on quantitative criteria as the sine qua non of effective action, the CoMB tow the same line as bourgeois politicians, social scientists and statisticians, and miss the real point.  What is far more important than the question of “how many” is the question of “how”:  How are these actions manifesting the antagonisms of class society?  How is this activity building the preconditions for greater collective action?  How are these modes of struggle confronting real material and social needs?  How are they contributing to a new repertoire of tactics that address the unique conditions of this era? These lead to other questions: What good is an enormous rally if everyone feels less powerful once it’s over? When does “movement building” actually build movement as opposed to suppressing it?   If we apply a critical reading of history, we can see that in many instances more people have been mobilized far more quickly and passionately through collective militant action than through teach-ins, rallies, panel discussions and newspaper articles.  The recent uprisings in California are a good example of this.

The whole notion that workers and students need a vanguard (whether consisting of liberal activists, Leninists or other politicians) to lead them is as bankrupt today as it was a century ago.  Just as capital constantly rips from workers the rich human content of their work and debases their autonomy in order to devalue their labor, so do the ‘movement specialists’ attempt to alienate them from the creation of self-directed forms of resistance.  Part of the reason why so much of the CoMB rhetoric falls on deaf ears is that they demand a discipline and vacuity that is just as easily found behind a cash register or in a factory.  Furthermore, the idea that struggles against the imposition of austerity by capital and the state can be fought using standard activist means is absurd.  Today, any movement that seeks an end to exploitation and oppression cannot resort to the strategies of its enemies (nor the strategies that its enemies encourage and/or fund), but must transcend the ideas and tactics of dead generations.

On Occupationism

Occupation, as a particular tactic, has become such a frequent topic of conversation in recent time only because it has resonated highly with workers and students across the country.  People tend to forget that student occupiers’ inspiration came directly from workers in Chicago who occupied their factory in December of 2008 against the theft of their pay. Soon after the New School and NYU occupations, the students and non-students involved were heading regularly up to the Bronx to reciprocate the support of the Stella D’Oro strikers on their picket lines, and offer support for the potential occupation that the workers were considering. Today poor and homeless people are “occupying” empty land, foreclosed homes, and warehoused properties. So much for occupation as the ‘fetishized’ plaything of privileged elites!

Part of the reason for the resurgence of occupation – and land takeovers more generally – are the particular necessities that it addresses.  Not merely a means or an end, an occupation or a land takeover becomes a venue for transforming the use of space for self-directed activity, and forging new bonds of material solidarity.  It directly addresses the contradictions of a class society in which privatized space lays empty while public common space is closed and policed, and homelessness surges alongside a startling swell in home foreclosures and warehoused condos.  By seizing space and holding it hostage from those who would control it, occupation creates a venue for collective action on a greater scale and can also significantly disrupt the normal functioning of institutions. Workers, students, and the homeless effectively put this form of direct action back on the table in the United States, where it has become the most notable feature of recent mass struggle.

We have seen many caricatures of our notions of effective action over the last week.  The most common one appears to hold that our minimum program is heckling activists at rallies and our maximum program is a fetishized type of “occupationism” to be imposed upon passive, unsuspecting people of color. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The frustration evidenced on March 4th was a direct reaction to the opportunistic and unimaginative behavior of the “leadership” of the Hunter “movement.” The scene on the 3rd floor of Hunter West was tense, but liberatory. Students, who had been treated on a good day as mere consumers and on a bad day as potential criminals, were up in the Vice President of Student Services’ face giving him hell for the cuts and the turnstiles. Hundreds chanted, “Whose school? Our school!” laying collective claim to the space of the institution, a radical gesture when surrounded by security and cops. And yet, nobody had been arrested and nobody had been hurt. It was a moment of possibility and solidarity. Still, some element within the demo decided to do the cops, security, and the Hunter administration a favor by helping them to move the indoor demo outside.

As for our supposed obsession with occupation, this is completely false.  We are highly active in many struggles and employ many diverse tactics: tendencies within our informal group have recently been active in grassroots unionization at their workplaces, education campaigns with prisoners, free childcare in poor neighborhoods, solidarity actions with industrial workers and organizations for the homeless, militant protection of women’s reproductive rights, organizational networking across CUNY/SUNY – the list goes on. In our experience, people don’t want to be controlled, whether by cops, bosses, or radicals. Furthermore, what people do when they organize themselves and network through lines of solidarity is infinitely more powerful than when orders are sent down from above through a chain of command.

Poetry from the Past

If, in previous critiques, special attention has been paid to the International Socialist Organization, it is because (no offense to Freedom Road or the Spartacus League) they represent perhaps the loudest and most visible activist group on Hunter’s campus. Indeed, among the CoMB, the ISO is most representative of the failed tactics and bankrupt ideologies that plague campus activism in NYC and across the country.  An examination of their words and deeds shows why.  With its intellectual roots in the Trotskyist faction of the Bolshevik Left, this group was birthed out of the many factional splits that characterized the post-WWII political landscape. The group that is now called the ISO practiced industrial ‘entryism,’ whereby party militants would gain employment in factories in order to recruit and spread “revolutionary consciousness” to the “masses” on the shop floor and through the union structure.  After the failures of the international revolutionary upsurge of the 1960s and 70s, the ISO shifted its attention to college campuses. Today, this group retains its hierarchical, democratic-centralist structure, its rigid adherence to party dogma, its opportunism and entryist tactics. Most importantly, they seek to control self-organized student movements by stacking working committees with ISO members. Their goal is to turn every instance of struggle into either an ISO front-group and recruiting center, and/or a base from which to disseminate their Socialist Worker newspaper. Still, ISO membership is a virtual revolving door, with astonishing turnover rates.

From the ISO’s “New Members Study Packet”:

“We need socialists in every workplace to agitate around fightbacks on the shop floor. We need socialists in every neighborhood to take up the questions of housing, police violence, health care, and everything else that comes up. We need students to agitate on college campuses. We need socialists in every corner of society inhabited by working people, and we need these socialists working nonstop–organizing struggle and carrying on political discussions.”

It has not historically been “the socialists” who agitate, organize, revolt, strike back, and fight, but the people themselves!  Nor should any one group set the agenda for struggle. By co-opting self-directed campaigns (a recent issue of Socialist Worker featured a picture from the April New School occupation on its cover, an event they had nothing to do with) the ISO have a deleterious effect on any broad-based struggle, despite their disingenuous calls for a “democratic movement.” They dominate discourse and push actions in their desired direction wherever they can. They believe in leadership that speaks for others (a recent ISO article on the Black Liberation movement of the 1960s is entitled “Speaking for the Oppressed”). Those who tread on their turf or attempt to critique the ISO are accused of sectarianism and red-baiting, or accused of trying to “control” the same movement that the ISO itself seeks to manage. Some of this behavior may sound familiar to those who have followed the particular shit-storm around March 4th, but it is absolutely routine for the ISO.

The purpose of the above is not to simply belittle a tiny groupuscule of well-meaning but deeply misguided activists, it is to point out the important problems we are facing in NYC and the US as these groups scramble to gain footing in and control over growing movements. Individuals and organizations, whether Trot, MLM or liberal, will continue to describe their fearful, reactionary, self-important behavior as “real leadership” and “movement-building”. This behavior is not only disempowering, but also detrimental to struggle itself.

Besides being opportunistic, centralist vanguardism tends to be highly conservative and elitist.  If we look at this historically, it is clear that the ‘disorganized masses’ have often placed the limits of struggle far beyond their supposed ‘representatives’: before the Russian Revolution, an outburst of women and, later, soldiers took the streets but were met with hesitation by the Bolshevik Central Committee, the ‘vanguard of the revolution’, who put the breaks on the workers’ upsurge; In 1917, when the revolution arrived, the Lenin and the Bolsheviks took the opportunity to “lead”, and while the Russian workers’ councils and peasant communes took direct control of over production, the Bolsheviks soon subsumed them under the bureaucratic state; In 1936, workers’ militias and farmers’ collectives abolished private property in much of Spain until the Stalinists, and later the fascists, reimposed it; in 1968, the Communist Party sat on its hands in shock as French students and workers initiated the largest wildcat general strike in history, pushing capitalism to its brink. The stakes are certainly smaller today in this period of crisis and working class retrenchment, but why should we imagine that these processes should play out differently now? Why should we subordinate diverse struggles to a party line or sacrifice them for the greater good of a “movement” that hardly even exists?

Dead Strategies

The CoMB are not merely conservative and reformist, they are stuck in another era, employing anachronistic strategies and utilizing hackneyed concepts. This is unsurprising. The tactical repertoire of the so-called Left is always the product of dead or dying struggles; they are always fighting yesterday’s battles. These specialists in struggle turn what should be dynamic and fluid into something monolithic and sclerotic. In these ways, they act as an actual barrier to contemporary struggle.

The organically produced strategies and theses of yesteryear always become idealized when those struggles fail. Again, there are many examples of this: Jacobinism out of the political struggles of the French Revolution; Blanquism out of the Paris Commune; Leninism, Trotskyism and Stalinism out of the Bolshevik Revolution; Councilism out of the Sparticist Uprising; Syndicalism out of the C.G.T. and the Spanish Civil War; Maoism out of the Chinese Revolution; Situationism out of May 68; Focoism out of the Latin American struggles of the 50s and 60s; Insurrectionism and Autonomism out of Southern Europe in the 60s and 70s; ad infinitum. It is exactly when the tactics and ideologies born of these struggles cease to be operative in praxis that they become dogma; that is to say, when they risk being used by self-styled “leaders” to force “the masses” into their preferred mold.

Every generation discovers, out of necessity, new modes of practice within new conditions. Then, through struggle itself, they construct suitable analyses unique to their times. In this vein, we realize occupations might one day cease to be an important process and become idealized into “Occupationism.” Regardless, all those interested in the universal emancipation of humanity from exploitation, war and division should be focused on the conditions of the present and the potentials of the future. This is not to say that the past has nothing to teach us: it is crucial to study the successes and failures of dead generations. However, raising the theories and modes of practice born of any particular revolutionary situation – whether in the US, Russia, China or Algeria – to the level of dogma is counterproductive and self-defeating.

The Vital Present

Despite the rhetoric of CoMB, militant workers and students in California and NYC are not a “danger to the movement.”  These people are involved in some of the most vital and powerful aspects of class struggle. Whatever their flaws, two recent actions – the attempted appropriation of an abandoned bank building in San Francisco and the takeover of a major freeway in Oakland – point towards some exciting possibilities. The real solidarities that have been created across the country by countless students, workers, homeless, jobless, landless peoples have the potential to constitute something powerful and new. Perhaps the time will come when activists screaming at a few weary bystanders to “fight, fight fight!” will cause them to rise up and take back their lives. Perhaps someday selling newspapers to students will actually create a revolutionary force. Perhaps someday appealing to a bourgeois political leader will actually win a higher level of equality and freedom for the working class as a whole.

We say: not likely.

This much we do know: nobody can predict the precise forms that struggle will take amidst this most recent crisis of capital. We can engage in battles on the ground and support those who need support. We can propose actions within movements that could lead to more powerful instances of collective action. We can seek to connect various struggles through affiliation, propaganda and analysis. We can continue to read and talk and understand the system that is killing us. We can all do much, much more than we have been doing. But crucial to this enterprise is confronting and marginalizing those who would use their power to co-opt self-organization and place the supposed “needs” of the “movement” above the revolutionary impulses of the people, while subordinating a range of actions by diverse groups of people — the whole of which is what constitutes a movement that is real and vital — to hierarchical management and anachronistic forms of struggle.

We say that the revolutionary movement of the 21st century must let the dead bury their dead: so let’s get on with it.


The following readings highlight the historically-specific nature of tactics and struggle, and/or provide a history which reveals that anachronistic or hierarchical organizing has a tendency to suppress real revolutionary actions taken by exploited people, who often happen to be women and/or “unorganized” workers and poor.

Martha Ackelsberg – The Free Women of Spain

Maurice Brinton – Bolsheviks and Workers’ Control

Gilles Dauve – Eclipse and Re-Emergence of the Communist Movement

Endnotes – Endnotes I

Evtuhov, Goldfrank, Hughes, Stites – A History of Russia

Sheila Fitzpatrick – The Russian Revolution

Herman Gorter – Open Letter to Comrade Lenin

Paul Mattick – Anti-Bolshevik Communism in Germany

Maria Mies – Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale

George Orwell – Homage to Catalonia


Generalized Fury on MTA cuts

Heads up to ny for those who didn’t know: Cuts of MTA subway lines are going into effect on June 27, 2010.

click on image for link to article on Raucous Rally in Queens against MTA cuts

Including raising fares, cutting bus lines, subway lines, reducing frequency of already-overcrowded trains, and attacking student fares, the MTA will lay off about 450 subway station agents (in addition to about 700 other employees). And probably hire twice as many pigs to squat happily around the corner from the turnstiles waiting for some poor motherfucker to slip over them. WE

HAVE JAILS TO FILL, right? and fewer and fewer jobs and schools…

Also, did we mention when this went down? — several arrests at a joke of a “public hearing” in brooklyn on the mta cuts on March 3rd  (precipitated by a woman attempting to speak, frustrated by the corrupt structure of the event): click here for a great vid of the event.

These disruptions followed generally consistent unrest, as exemplified by 5 solid minutes of booing at this MTA hearing, which we already posted a while back, but why not reminisce:


bedstuy: “jail playground” at the tompkins houses

‘Jail Playground’ on a New York City Housing Authority property, located at Tompkins Houses (Park Avenue between Tompkins and Throop) in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Read more on story here.


shut the city down

NY Times: Philly flash mobs turn violent

“… these so-called flash mobs have taken a more aggressive and raucous turn here as hundreds of teenagers have been converging downtown for a ritual that is part bullying, part running of the bulls: sprinting down the block, the teenagers sometimes pause to brawl with one another, assault pedestrians or vandalize property…

The flash mobs have raised questions about race and class.

Most of the teenagers who have taken part in them are black and from poor neighborhoods. Most of the areas hit have been predominantly white business districts.

In the flash mob on Saturday, groups of teenagers were chanting “black boys” and “burn the city,” bystanders said.


A roundup of some of the Student Activity Globally since March 4

Austria: 10,000 students descend on anniversary party

Local organizers called for the main demonstration on March11th, knowing that the education ministers would arrive in the evening for celebrations. I believe all in all about 10,000 people followed the call and flooded the streets. Check out video by UNIRIOT

Florida: Cop shoots student in face, Students Storm Trustee Meeting

Adu-Brempong is an international graduate student from Ghana who was shot in the face by a University of Florida policeman. After receiving a call from a neighbor concerned that Adu-Brempong was screaming, due to stress over his studies and his immigration status, campus police stormed his apartment, tased him three times and then shot him in the face with an assault rifle.

Phillipines: Students Revolt at 2,000% Tuition Hike

The students, nearly a thousand of them, threw armchairs, tables and papers down to the ground floor and set these on fire. Many of them hanged streamers from the state university’s main building denouncing the proposal…

PUP is a state university where most of its students come from the poor. “PUP is supposed to be the most accessible university with its P12 tuition fee. What would happen now to our poor students and high school graduates? They have nowhere to go to,” said Chaser Soriano, student council president.

El Salvador: Occupation of Library (spanish)

After having successfully occupied the only public university in El Salvador, la Universidad de El Salvador, masked students some of whom were still in high school shut down the operations of the campus. This was a result of the fact that 12,500 students will not be admitted to the University of the 23,000 students that applied. Approximately 235 students engaged in the occupation which has come to an end this week and are facing disciplinary actions

UK: Snap Occupations at Sussex U

which turn into 8-day occupation that wins reinstatment! (thanks jk76)

Following a large demonstration against the suspension of the Sussex 6, hundreds of students staged a snap occupation in defiance of management and the state, following the granting of a High Court injunction banning ‘occupational protest.’ This turned into an 8-day occupation which won the reinstatement of the 6, and actions which are upping real student-worker-staff solidarity.

and in case u hadnt hurrrrd, people took over highways in California on March 4th, here is a good round up of the discussion about it compiled by our friends at occupyca.


Pushed by The Violence of our Desires

As March 4th quickly fades into the past, more statements have been released addressing the backlash to the walkout at CUNY Hunter.

The piece “Pushed by the Violence of our Desires” signed “by Some Queer Women of Color Brooklyn, New York”confronts the way race, gender and privilege has been used by those critical of the Hunter walkout in manipulative and dangerous ways

“Beware those who would deliver you a cheaper suicide” is an anonymous piece addressing the reactionary politics behind the backlash…

Pushed by The Violence of our Desires: A Statement Regarding March 4th.

we’re not just uncomfortable; we’re actually really angry about the way a small group of people, purporting to speak for the entire population of CUNY, has hijacked this rhetoric of talking about privilege and identity and deployed it in a fashion entirely too simplistic, generalized, and essentialist….

Blaming the escalation of tactics for our vulnerability completely denies the fact that it is the cops who are doing the arresting, the state that presses charges, and white supremacy that puts us more at risk for arrest…

Read the entire statement HERE


on march 4th the vanguard of submission (the I.S.O., maoist allies, & activist “organizers”) denounced the truly radical contingents that refused their policing.  confronted w/ a loss of power, the specialists of protest took every measure to sabotage those autonomous subjects who refused reification as objects in their “movement.”  the implications of possible native ‘uncontrollables’ being too much to bear, every student that called for concrete subversive action was branded an “outside agitator” or “agent provocateur.”

the comedy of all manner of guevara worshippers indicting anyone as an ‘outside agitator’ does not escape, but the implications of invoking this ever present counter-revolutionary watchword are sincere.  in such an invocation a real division is made clear:

on the one side: those who represent spectacular conflict, who play the approved role of a “social conscience,” who side with the police when sedition belongs to desire, not party functionaries.   this reformist bloc is committed to maintaining the reign of specialists, of even the school administration, for to question one hierarchy would counterfeit them all.  their role is essential in the mystification of progress.  “moralizing the marketplace,” wherein the world is delivered back into the hands of the same bosses who’ve decimated it, is the realm of this permitted resistance.

on the opposing side: those who would not separate revolution from daily life, those who refuse to be executed under the weight of “objective conditions,” but prefer to disrupt the continuity of the probable, the routine, the expected,  & explore the possible, who recognize that there is no dialogue in hierarchy/no democracy under bosses, who extend their critique to every wing of the commodity life & refuse the lure of “causes,” who recognize that there is no ‘outside’ because of this totality, who realize poetry in the lyricism of action, who accept no revolution but the revolution of all creative life.


at kronstadt, in catalonia, in budapest, in canton, in the paris of may, we have seen what happens to revolutionaries who dare to think they might speak for themselves, to think that they are best suited to quench their own passions.  the stalinists, maoists, trotskyists, & every other missionary of ideology revealed themselves as mouthpieces of the police in every instance.

the student organizer’s every word now serves authority in doing the work of isolating, identifying, & slandering those who actualized their critique.


the establishment & defense of fiefdoms is inherently reactionary.  the attitudes of territory are the attitudes of capital, of separation, that we must abolish within ourselves as well as without.  does a potato chip factory worker have only the right to seize the production of potato chips?  is he resigned to be a specialist of snack foods in revolt as well as under capital?  all space is social space.  its seizure & use is for all to realize as roles break down & separation disintegrates.  the university, then, is not exclusive to those allotted the title of student (or student of a particular institution) any more than the factory is exclusive to the factory worker.  for a ‘radical’ to protect his/her turf is to put each of us in our place the same as any boss or leader.

every monument to reification, to alienation, to boredom, to oppression, to submission, is rightfully & artfully destroyed.  the alienation of capital does not limit its borders to one school, to one city, to one country, to one class, or to one race.  its domination, its submission evangelism, is necessarily extended to every element of the social life.  thus, its sabotage, too, knows no borders.


A Response to the Lies of March 4th

Take the City was set up to be a website promoting an informal network linking high school kids, college students and all pissed off New Yorkers wishing to coordinate to fight back in these times of “Crisis”. We wish to help promote actions, and to hopefully be a tool to link disparate struggles in this largely atomized city. We are not part of any organization.

When we began we did not want to involve ourselves in sectarian squabbles or internecine drama of any sort. However since the events of March 4th at Hunter we feel that it is necessary to endorse this response crafted by Hunter students and alumni. There are many allegations floating around and we are trying to sift through them to figure out all that happened that day.

While we will take anybody to task for using sexist or otherwise abusive language, what we personally witnessed on the 4th and are beginning to hear as we talk to others who were involved in the events of the 4th paints an entirely different picture than that which has been spread over the internet in the past few days.

That said we present you with the below statement. Word is there will be more statements forthcoming in the coming days so stay tuned…

A Response to the Lies of March 4th

On March 4th 2010, a walkout was called for at Hunter College. This event was organized to coincide with the National Day of Action to “defend public education”. Inspired by walkouts, strikes, occupations and other acts of disobedience in public universities in California and here in NYC, Hunter students and allies decided on calling for a Walkout at CUNY Hunter. For a rundown of the day you can look here. This day has quickly become very controversial, with a multitude of accusations being thrown around the Internet. Pictures of participants of the action have even been emailed around activist circles at CUNY Hunter, and even published in articles in the Hunter Word by an ‘activist lawyer’ none the less. Based on this backlash from ‘activists’ who had little to no role in the organizing of the walkout and indoor demo that occurred, some of us involved in putting together and publicizing the walkout wish to clarify some points. We would also point out that, unlike those involved with the anti-walkout witch-hunt, we will not use photos of those involved with the rally or walkout or people’s names out of respect for their anonymity in the face of possible state repression.

Of “hijacking” and “saboteurs”:

On Facebook and in open letters making rounds on the internet, various self-defined Hunter ‘student activists’ have referred to those who took part in the indoor demo and walkout at Hunter college as “saboteurs”, and “outside agitators” who came to CUNY to “hijack” the day of action, putting students at risk. This is a complete lie. Many, who are now being decried as violent outside agitators, are actually the ones who spent over a month organizing the walkout. Weekly public planning meetings were held at Hunter, and hundreds and hundreds of fliers were printed and distributed among students. Tabling sessions were used as an opportunity to talk one-on-one with fellow students about March 4th and about the issues that we face as students at Hunter. Most of the people who have initiated wild denunciations and false rumors never even bothered to participate in these meetings or info sessions. Others were openly dismissive of the day of action.

The night of March 3rd it became clear that text messages were being sent among Hunter ‘activists’ claiming that New School and NYU students were coming to Hunter to cause a riot. Last ditch attempts were made by these ‘activists’, who had little to no role in planning this event, to contact students considered connected to the walkout threatening them that they needed to call off the event.

Having failed at preemptively sabotaging the walkout, the question should be raised: “Did these ‘activists’ go so far as to contact campus security and NYPD to repeat these baseless accusations about outside provocateurs and create an atmosphere of fear which led to the complete militarization of campus?”

“These guys aren’t students, they are ringers from outside”

– A cop in the stairwells of Hunter on the 4th echoing the claims of rally organizers.

On March 4th, many of us heard the same mantra, “New School and NYU kids are coming here to riot” from various students in the halls of Hunter. This same false claim was heard coming from the mouths of police attempting to control the indoor demo. Inside of Hunter the 3rd floor meet up point was swarming with NYPD (plainclothes and in uniform) and campus security.  Signs were posted saying that any gathering inside of Hunter was unpermitted, but that the rally (called by some of the various activist groups who run the roost at Hunter) was permitted. Cops and security tried to herd the crowds gathered inside towards the permitted rally.

Sign posted at the 3rd floor meet up point

It is interesting that these ‘activists’ continually see the presence of students from other schools who, for the record, were invited by organizers of the walkout, as somehow more dangerous than that of the police. The NYPD were allowed full access to Hunter, blocking entrances and shoving and beating students. Arrested students were brought to the basement of Hunter College, which had secretly been transformed into a NYPD staging area for the day. Campus security also attacked students attempting to convince more students to participate in this walkout.

As students began to gather on the 3rd floor, watched by a large police presence, a member of the ISO loudly accosted a New School student, who is also a professor in the CUNY system. The ISO activist asked him why he was there and if he was going to start trouble. The New School student, who was invited to the walkout by Hunter students, replied that he was simply there to support the walkout. Minutes later as this same New School student was walking up the escalators with his friend, a Hunter alum, he was surrounded by police, security, and the Vice President of Student Affairs all dressed in suits. His cell phone was grabbed out of his hand and he was asked again – this time by police – if he was a New School student, and if he was here to start trouble. At this point he was threatened with arrest and lead downstairs toward the campus security office.  Eventually one of the suit wearing men identified himself as a police officer and after walking the New School student to the exit informed him he was ‘free to go’. This account leads us, despite the denials of the ISO member, to believe that our friend was either pointed out to the cops by the ISO member or was lead to be detained by the police because of the extremely loud public accusations of the ISO member.

Men in suits

While students worked their way through the halls of Hunter, encouraging others to join the walkout, campus security and the police continuously ushered latecomers outside.  Furthermore, in cooperation with the police, several people who had had no part in the actual planning of the event, attempted to disperse the crowd, thus dismantling the walkout itself.  A drum was heard banging accompanied by the cry, “Outside! Outside!”.  Confrontations occurred inside the school as campus security and NYPD manhandled Hunter students and allies.  After a while, students from the indoor demo and walkout began to trickle outside, in some cases chased or escorted out by police, security and those who intended to manipulate the situation for their own political motives, even though these motives were in direct opposition to all that had been agreed upon in organizing meetings. Many, who moments before were involved in fighting off police assaults, were angry to see the walkout degenerating into another boring Hunter rally with the usual suspects taking credit for the day’s events.

At the rally a few students with boom boxes began trying to energize the crowd in response to the call that had gone out from students still inside to reconvene back in the building.  At this time, the same woman banging a drum asked one of the Hunter students to be quiet and respectful of the speechifying. When this woman refused to comply, the woman with the drum hit her full in the face with her drum, giving the student a nasty cut. This assault instigated a full-fledged melee with students pushing, shoving and yelling at each other. Friends of the woman holding the drum attempted to point out fellow Hunter students to police who rushed the crowd hitting and grabbing at people. (A video shot by NYC IMC shows this melee, as the NYPD grab at the crowd you can see two women on the left of the screen pointing people out to campus security or police).  The police arrested one walkout supporter during the fracas.

Clashes continued mainly between walkout supporters and various members of the Marxist-Leninist sects who assembled to speak at the outside rally. Repeatedly students were asked to produce their Hunter ID’s by other students or faculty, insinuating that they were outsiders or private school kids, further infuriating Hunter students who had seen our friends pointed out to the cops, assaulted and insulted by the real hijackers of the March 4th walkout.

After the rally a small stream of students walked downtown on the sidewalks, ironically chanting “Whose streets? Our streets?”, as traffic continued its normal flow down Lexington Avenue. They then reassembled inside protest pens outside of the Governor’s office. Once securely penned in they again had the pleasure of being harangued by the same speakers from the Hunter rally. The walkout became another small but heavily policed rally on the streets of midtown Manhattan.

Fuck With Hunter.

There have been a host of sickening statements unleashed on the Internet, mostly via Facebook, over the past few days. Most of these attacks accuse “private school kids” from “downtown private universities” of being “outside agitators”, often hinting that those involved in the walkout were all privileged white kids with no understanding of Hunter College. They talk of “Anarcho-Imperialists”, apparently a new strand of left libertarian thought popular amongst “rich white kids”, whose dogma apparently involves putting less privileged people at risk.

There is even a Facebook page called “Don’t Fuck With Hunter” which states:

…”A planned protest by Hunter students against the recent tuition hikes and budget cuts was marred by NYU and New School students storming into our school and vandalizing it. Yes, of course they came from schools that could afford to repair damages…Thanks, private school trust-funders! As if we weren’t financially screwed enough. This is only bound to make matters worse, and doesn’t prove anything to anyone.”

With no mention of the police occupation of our school, and only a brief mention of the reasons why Hunter is in dire financial straits, it seems that the writers of this statement see the Hunter students and their supporters who took part in the March 4th actions as responsible for the deterioration of public education. What a stellar analysis of capitalism!

It is highly offensive to the entire Hunter student body that these ‘activists’ fail to assume that Hunter students could, or would, be involved in actions on their own campus. Those who participate in such territorial reactions to the walkout act as if the school actually belonged to us Hunter students! Cops are freely allowed to walk our halls harassing students, CUNY bureaucrats are given raises as they cut our services and raise tuition. Even as students at a public institution, many of us are left strapped with debts. And don’t for a second think that the administration is not aware of how they attack us. That is why as they attempt to cut childcare and other services they find the money to install systems of social control such as surveillance cameras and the new security turnstiles.

This further shows the lack of understanding of those who decry the ‘random acts of vandalism’ that occurred on the 4th. Whatever you think about property destruction, it is clear that the shattering of the financial aid office’s windows and the smashing of the security turnstiles is anything but random. Instead these attacks can be seen as clearly targeted gestures by angry students who understand the stakes that we face as victims of capitalism’s current crisis and who wish to strike back.

Financial Aid Office March 4th

Hunter, and all the CUNY schools belong not to the students, but to the administration, the bureaucrats and the cops.  It is up to us to recognize that as students we are merely commodities to them, as professors we are simply laborers, and as janitors and clerical staff we are all workers that keep their education factory running smoothly.

Moving forward…

It is clear that there were a host of tactical and strategic errors that occurred during and in the lead up to March 4th at Hunter. We hope to address those at a later point. It is also upsetting that the larger issues that came to the fore on the 4th are being overshadowed by individualized (and often contradictory and outright false) accounts of atrocities committed by one group or another. While acknowledging the unfortunate fighting and foul words that occurred outside of Hunter on the 4th, and while we will hold any comrades who may have used sexist language, of any kind, accountable, we believe that these arguments generally boil down to tactical and ideological differences.

There are groups of Hunter students, alumni, and professors who hold very rigid ideological views and have spent their careers carving out their little political territory within Hunter College. It should have been obvious to those of us who live outside the rigid realm of their ideologies that when we attempted an action that would tread on to what they feel is their turf, the backlash would be severe.

This has been a stressful time for those of us who were involved in organizing and publicizing the Hunter walkout. In addition to dealing with raising bail for arrested students, and other threats of state repression, we are forced to defend ourselves against false allegations from all sides including many people who were not even there on March 4th. We have spent the past few days checking up on many of these allegations and have found most of them to be at least misinterpretations but mostly outright lies.

We apologize to our comrades from the New School, NYU, City College, the Grad Center, and other non-students who were invited to support the action on the 4th and have since served as scapegoats for various fictitious crimes. Unfortunately these slanderous statements have made their way across the cyber world where they have gained currency with those who have an axe to grind or whom feel threatened by self-organized movements for liberation.

We believe that although this backlash will definitely occupy us for a while, it will not derail our ongoing efforts to organize a serious force within the city to challenge the crisis in all its forms – not merely on the trite level of student politics. The reactionary attacks of those who wish to control the actions of others has strengthened our resolve and will help us as we further our own strategies and realize who is a comrade and who is in the struggle solely for their own egotistical ends.

They will never be able to control our rage…

Some Hunter Students, and Alumni