Students And Sparks And The Flame That Never Was

10 Nov

Yesterday’s day of action in London might not have been as much of a landmark as previous protests, but this does not mean it requires less analysis in the aftermath. Indeed, perhaps it requires more.

The 9th November, a year on from Millbank, was billed as the event to reinvigorate the student movement and with occupations still ongoing in the city as well as the Sparks electricians and RMT taxi drivers also calling a day of action, the day had the potential to be very exciting. However in the event, police numbers proved too much and the day passed quietly and largely unreported.

Police numbers were massive: 4,000 officers were on duty for the march, the Met claiming one of their biggest public order events ever. In the run up to the day it was announced that baton-rounds would be on stand-by and warnings were given to known activists and school students to stay away. Even as activists arrived in London they faced harassment with student coaches being searched and arrests made on ludicrous grounds. With so much happening on the day and so many potential “flashpoints”, the police tactic was clearly to keep everything separate.

The electricians’ day of action started with the Sparks marching around central London, blockading roads including Bishopsgate, after which they eventually joined with an “official” demonstration called by Unite. Once again putting pressure on the union to follow the rank-and-file movement’s example of radical action, several hundred electricians refused to follow the agreed Unite march and instead tried to join up with the students. This was quickly kettled by police and despite efforts from students outside to break it, the Sparks were kept back. Meanwhile in Trafalgar Square, members of OLSX had broken through police lines and set up tents in the square. Though it seemed at first that they had won yet another occupied space, victory was short-lived as police arrested them after an hour, with the march and potential reinforcements a safe distance away. The march itself was supposed to pass the occupation at St. Pauls but before it could reach the camp the route was diverted down heavily policed roads, not allowed even near St. Pauls, and into a semi-kettle at Moorgate. With only one exit and several units dotted along the road it led to, the police made sure that the marchers wouldn’t leave en masse for the Finsbury Square occupation or to any other part of the city.

This may not have been the headline-grabbing success we’d wanted but it does highlight some very important things about the state of play. Firstly, it’s been said before but deserves reiterating: everything has changed since Millbank. It seems almost inconceivable now that only a year ago police thought just a handful of officers would be enough for tens of thousands of student marching through London. The expectation from both sides that something can happen on any demonstration now is a massive shift in itself. Not that long ago “minor scuffles” and 60 arrests would have been enough to provoke upset and condemnation from newspapers, now they’re so par-for-the-course it’s hardly worth reporting. The fact that so many police and such a big operation are now needed for a relatively small protest is a victory in itself and it’s reasonable to question just how many demonstrations the resources of the Met can keep that level of policing up for.

More importantly though in being so successful on Wednesday the police have exposed their biggest fear: that all these apparently different issues and protests should collide with each other in an act of solidarity. We should remember then that whatever particular situation, organisation, struggle or action we might be involved in it is part of something bigger. OLSX, the students or the Sparks are not wholly the movement but just a part of the movement and get their strength from acting together. With the Occupy movement, the riots and student protests last year as well as the Sparks and other rank-and-file campaigns we’re seeing that spontaneity and new networks and forms of organisation are able to grow that we can mobilise around. In the run up to the strikes at the end of the month we need to organise despite divisions of union, industry, sector or workplace. We need to go further than the slogan “students and workers unite” and instead realise that we are all workers, even if some of us are workers-in-training.

Formalised methods of taking up disputes are designed to limit our actions, but the Sparks and the Occupy movement have shown that we can act around these limitations. If you’re not unionised or not out on the 30th book the day off or pull a sickey to strike informally, or find out from your union about support they might give you for not crossing another unions picket. We can support each other by meeting together to plan actions and in Leeds strike meetings are taking place between lecturers, support staff and students on both the University and the Met’s campuses (check out Leeds EAN for more details). The Sparks campaign will be coming to Leeds, holding their first meeting in November and this Friday Leeds will join in the Occupy movement. In The Space Project, being run by us at Really Open University, we will have meetings around issues that affect us all and inviting people to think about how we deal with them collectively.

Mike Davis: Wall Street through the augmented eyes of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper

26 Oct

by Mike Davis

Who could have envisioned Occupy Wall Street and its sudden wildflower-like profusion in cities large and small?

John Carpenter could have, and did. Almost a quarter of a century ago (1988), the master of date-night terror (Halloween, The Thing), wrote and directed They Live, depicting the Age of Reagan as a catastrophic alien invasion. In one of the film’s brilliant early scenes, a huge third-world shantytown is reflected across the Hollywood Freeway in the sinister mirror-glass of Bunker Hill’s corporate skyscrapers.

They Live remains Carpenter’s subversive tour de force. Few who’ve seen it could forget his portrayal of billionaire bankers and evil mediacrats and their zombie-distant rule over a pulverized American working class living in tents on a rubble-strewn hillside and begging for jobs. From this negative equality of homelessness and despair, and thanks to the magic dark glasses found by the enigmatic Nada (played by “Rowdy” Roddy Piper), the proletariat finally achieves interracial unity, sees through the subliminal deceptions of capitalism, and gets angry.

Very angry.

Yes, I know, I’m reading ahead. The Occupy the World movement is still looking for its magic glasses (program, demands, strategy, and so on) and its anger remains on Gandhian low heat. But, as Carpenter foresaw, force enough Americans out of their homes and/or careers (or at least torment tens of millions with the possibility) and something new and huge will begin to slouch towards Goldman Sachs. And unlike the “Tea Party,” so far it has no puppet strings.

In 1965, when I was just eighteen and on the national staff of Students for a Democratic Society, I planned a sit-in at the Chase Manhattan Bank, for its key role in financing South Africa after the massacre of peaceful demonstrators, for being “a partner in Apartheid.” It was the first protest on Wall Street in a generation and 41 people were hauled away by the NYPD.

One of the most important facts about the current uprising is simply that it has occupied the street and created an existential identification with the homeless. (Though, frankly, my generation, trained in the civil rights movement, would have thought first of sitting inside the buildings and waiting for the police to drag and club us out the door; today, the cops prefer pepper spray and “pain compliance techniques.”) I think taking over the skyscrapers is a wonderful idea, but for a later stage in the struggle. The genius of Occupy Wall Street, for now, is that it has temporarily liberated some of the most expensive real estate in the world and turned a privatized square into a magnetic public space and catalyst for protest.

Our sit-in 46 years ago was a guerrilla raid; this is Wall Street under siege by the Lilliputians. It’s also the triumph of the supposedly archaic principle of face-to-face, dialogic organizing. Social media is important, sure, but not omnipotent. Activist self-organization—the crystallization of political will from free discussion—still thrives best in actual urban fora. Put another way, most of our internet conversations are preaching to the choir; even the mega-sites like are tuned to the channel of the already converted, or at least their probable demographic.

The occupations likewise are lightning rods, first and above all, for the scorned, alienated ranks of progressive Democrats, but they also appear to be breaking down generational barriers, providing the common ground, for instance, for imperiled, middle-aged school teachers to compare notes with young, pauperized college grads.

More radically, the encampments have become symbolic sites for healing the divisions within the New Deal coalition in place since the Nixon years. As Jon Wiener observed on his consistently smart blog at “hard hats and hippies—together at last.”

Indeed. Who could not be moved when AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, who had brought his coalminers to Wall Street in 1989 during their bitter but ultimately successful strike against Pittston Coal Company, called upon his broad-shouldered women and men to “stand guard” over Zucotta Park in the face of an imminent attack by the NYPD?

It’s true that old radicals like me are quick to declare each new baby the messiah, but this Occupy Wall Street child has the rainbow sign. I believe that we’re seeing the rebirth of the quality that so markedly defined the migrants and strikers of the Great Depression, of my parents’ generation: a broad, spontaneous compassion and solidarity based on a dangerously egalitarian ethic. It says, Stop and give a hitch-hiking family a ride. Never cross a picket line, even when you can’t pay the rent. Share your last cigarette with a stranger. Steal milk when your kids have none and then give half to the little kids next door—what my own mother did repeatedly in 1936. Listen carefully to the profoundly quiet people who have lost everything but their dignity. Cultivate the generosity of the “we.”

What I mean to say, I suppose, is that I’m most impressed by folks who have rallied to defend the occupations despite significant differences in age, in social class and race. But equally, I adore the gutsy kids who are ready to face the coming winter on freezing streets, just like their homeless sisters and brothers.

Back to strategy, though: what’s the next link in the chain (in Lenin’s sense) that needs to be grasped? How imperative is it for the wildflowers to hold a convention, adopt programmatic demands, and thereby put themselves up for bid on the auction block of the 2012 elections? Obama and the Democrats will desperately need their energy and authenticity. But the occupationistas are unlikely to put themselves or their extraordinary self-organizing process up for sale.

Personally I lean toward the anarchist position and its obvious imperatives.

First, expose the pain of the 99 percent; put Wall Street on trial. Bring Harrisburg, Loredo, Riverside, Camden, Flint, Gallup, and Holly Springs to downtown New York. Confront the predators with their victims—a national tribunal on economic mass murder.

Second, continue to democratize and productively occupy public space (i.e. reclaim the Commons). The veteran Bronx activist-historian Mark Naison has proposed a bold plan for converting the derelict and abandoned spaces of New York into survival resources (gardens, campsites, playgrounds) for the unsheltered and unemployed. The Occupy protestors across the country now know what it’s like to be homeless and banned from sleeping in parks or under a tent. All the more reason to break the locks and scale the fences that separate unused space from urgent human needs.

Third, keep our eyes on the real prize. The great issue is not raising taxes on the rich or achieving a better regulation of banks. It’s economic democracy: the right of ordinary people to make macro-decisions about social investment, interest rates, capital flows, job creation, and global warming. If the debate isn’t about economic power, it’s irrelevant.

Fourth, the movement must survive the winter in order to fight the power in the next spring. It’s cold on the street in January. Bloomberg and every other mayor and local ruler is counting on a hard winter to deplete the protests. It is thus all-important to reinforce the occupations over the long Christmas break. Put on your overcoats.

Finally, we must calm down-the itinerary of the current protest is totally unpredictable. But if one erects a lightning rod, we shouldn’t be surprised if lightning eventually strikes.

Bankers, recently interviewed in the New York Times, claim to find the Occupy protests little more than a nuisance arising from an unsophisticated understanding of the financial sector. They should be more careful. Indeed, they should probably quake before the image of the tumbrel.

Since 1987, African Americans have lost more than half of their net worth; Latinos, an incredible two-thirds. Five-and-a-half million manufacturing jobs have been lost in the United Sates since 2000, more than 42,000 factories closed, and an entire generation of college graduates now face the highest rate of downward mobility in American history.

Wreck the American dream and the common people will put on you some serious hurt. Or as Nada explains to his unwary assailants in Carpenter’s great film: “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass … and I’m all out of bubblegum.”

First published in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Inside the Egyptian Revolution,

25 Oct

Last night (23/10/11) the Space Project played host to Jano Charbell, journalist and anarchist activist from Cairo in Egypt. Jano spoke to an audience of about 30 in the newly decorated space, about the conditions in Egypt since the revolution began and Mubarak fell. He warned of the counter-revolutionary activities of the ruling military council in Egypt as being a threat to the energy and optimism of the millions who took part in the initial uprisings of 2011. The council has put thousands of civilians on trial, gagged the media and delayed promised elections. He also spoke, however, of the causes for optimism in Egypt where new civil society organisations, such as independent trade unions and neighbourhood assemblies continue to spring up.

For Jano the internationalism of the current wave of resistance is crucial. There is a real cross-fertilisation of struggle. Activists in Egypt are not only inspiring and inspired by other Arab popular revolts, but also inspired by the current global Occupy movement and other anti-capitalist protests. Building international links of solidarity and support is a key part of ensuring that the challenges to capitalism remain strong.

Jano’s talk is just one of the many events being organised in The Space Project. Other up and coming events include: ‘There was Struggle Before Us’: A programme of walks, talks rides and performances concerning radical history on the streets of Leeds; and in conjunction with Leeds International Film Festival, ‘Living With an Earthquake: a Week of Militant Cinema.

For a full programme of events check out:

People’s University in Washington Square

24 Oct
Out from the classrooms and into public space, in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street.


The People’s University brings education out from the classrooms into public spaces.

The People’s University refuses exclusions and limitations on access both to education and to public space.

The People’s University is open to people of all races, genders, sexual orientations, ages, and abilities. And it demands that those with privilege step up by stepping back and listening, so that we can learn from each other.

The People’s University draws inspiration from the occupations on Wall Street, other cities in the United States, and throughout the world.

The People’s University acknowledges that NYU, and other private universities in New York City and beyond, have colonized our neighborhoods, erecting physical and social barriers to inclusion. The People’s University will now decolonize the public space at the center of NYU’s real estate empire—Washington Square Park.

The People’s University acknowledges that a movement for economic justice and radical social change requires hard work and a lot of rethinking assumptions. Educational efforts and community organizing go hand in hand, and the People’s University will bring community groups, activists, union members, students and educators into dialogue to build this movement together.

The People’s University aims to remove education from the marketplace. Learning must be free of charge, and opportunities for education must be plentiful, not scarce. The People’s University is one small step in that direction, because it says that education is not a consumer good. It is what the 99% can and must share in common.

The People’s University is organized in solidarity with #OWS in Liberty Square and complements the education and empowerment work ongoing there. Events at the People’s University will cover a range of subjects, from “Understanding the Economic Crisis” to art and activism, from the history of worker occupations to the ongoing struggles of NYC communities against economic injustice.

Sessions en español and with sign language interpretation will be announced soon. Please join us, and propose your own sessions at

The Fight for ‘Real Democracy’ at the Heart of Occupy Wall Street

22 Oct
The Encampment in Lower Manhattan Speaks to a Failure of Representation
By Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri

Demonstrations under the banner of Occupy Wall Street resonate with so many people not only because they give voice to a widespread sense of economic injustice but also, and perhaps more important, because they express political grievances and aspirations. As protests have spread from Lower Manhattan to cities and towns across the country, they have made clear that indignation against corporate greed and economic inequality is real and deep. But at least equally important is the protest against the lack — or failure — of political representation. It is not so much a question of whether this or that politician, or this or that party, is ineffective or corrupt (although that, too, is true) but whether the representational political system more generally is inadequate. This protest movement could, and perhaps must, transform into a genuine, democratic constituent process.

The political face of the Occupy Wall Street protests comes into view when we situate it alongside the other “encampments” of the past year. Together, they form an emerging cycle of struggles. In many cases, the lines of influence are explicit. Occupy Wall Street takes inspiration from the encampments of central squares in Spain, which began on May 15 and followed the occupation of Cairo’s Tahrir Square earlier last spring. To this succession of demonstrations, one should add a series of parallel events, such as the extended protests at the Wisconsin statehouse, the occupation of Syntagma Square in Athens, and the Israeli tent encampments for economic justice. The context of these various protests are very different, of course, and they are not simply iterations of what happened elsewhere. Rather each of these movements has managed to translate a few common elements into their own situation.

In Tahrir Square, the political nature of the encampment and the fact that the protesters could not be represented in any sense by the current regime was obvious. The demand that “Mubarak must go” proved powerful enough to encompass all other issues. In the subsequent encampments of Madrid’s Puerta del Sol and Barcelona’s Plaça Catalunya, the critique of political representation was more complex. The Spanish protests brought together a wide array of social and economic complaints — regarding debt, housing, and education, among others — but their “indignation,” which the Spanish press early on identified as their defining affect, was clearly directed at a political system incapable of addressing these issues. Against the pretense of democracy offered by the current representational system, the protesters posed as one of their central slogans, “Democracia real ya,” or “Real democracy now.”

Occupy Wall Street should be understood, then, as a further development or permutation of these political demands. One obvious and clear message of the protests, of course, is that the bankers and finance industries in no way represent us: What is good for Wall Street is certainly not good for the country (or the world). A more significant failure of representation, though, must be attributed to the politicians and political parties charged with representing the people’s interests but in fact more clearly represent the banks and the creditors. Such a recognition leads to a seemingly naive, basic question: Is democracy not supposed to be the rule of the people over the polis — that is, the entirety of social and economic life? Instead, it seems that politics has become subservient to economic and financial interests.

By insisting on the political nature of the Occupy Wall Street protests we do not mean to cast them merely in terms of the quarrels between Republicans and Democrats, or the fortunes of the Obama administration. If the movement does continue and grow, of course, it may force the White House or Congress to take new action, and it may even become a significant point of contention during the next presidential election cycle. But the Obama and the George W. Bush administrations are both authors of the bank bailouts; the lack of representation highlighted by the protests applies to both parties. In this context, the Spanish call for “real democracy now” sounds both urgent and challenging.

If together these different protest encampments — from Cairo and Tel Aviv to Athens, Madison, Madrid, and now New York — express a dissatisfaction with the existing structures of political representation, then what do they offer as an alternative? What is the “real democracy” they propose?

The clearest clues lie in the internal organization of the movements themselves — specifically, the way the encampments experiment with new democratic practices. These movements have all developed according to what we call a “multitude form” and are characterized by frequent assemblies and participatory decision-making structures. (And it is worth recognizing in this regard that Occupy Wall Street and many of these other demonstrations also have deep roots in the globalization protest movements that stretched at least from Seattle in 1999 to Genoa in 2001.)

Much has been made of the way social media such as Facebook and Twitter have been employed in these encampments. Such network instruments do not create the movements, of course, but they are convenient tools, because they correspond in some sense to the horizontal network structure and democratic experiments of the movements themselves. Twitter, in other words, is useful not only for announcing an event but for polling the views of a large assembly on a specific decision in real time.

Do not wait for the encampments, then, to develop leaders or political representatives. No Martin Luther King, Jr. will emerge from the occupations of Wall Street and beyond. For better or worse — and we are certainly among those who find this a promising development — this emerging cycle of movements will express itself through horizontal participatory structures, without representatives. Such small-scale experiments in democratic organizing would have to be developed much further, of course, before they could articulate effective models for a social alternative, but they are already powerfully expressing the aspiration for a “real democracy.”

Confronting the crisis and seeing clearly the way it is being managed by the current political system, young people populating the various encampments are, with an unexpected maturity, beginning to pose a challenging question: If democracy — that is, the democracy we have been given — is staggering under the blows of the economic crisis and is powerless to assert the will and interests of the multitude, then is now perhaps the moment to consider that form of democracy obsolete?

If the forces of wealth and finance have come to dominate supposedly democratic constitutions, including the U.S. Constitution, is it not possible and even necessary today to propose and construct new constitutional figures that can open avenues to again take up the project of the pursuit of collective happiness? With such reasoning and such demands, which were already very alive in the Mediterranean and European encampments, the protests spreading from Wall Street across the United States pose the need for a new democratic constituent process.

How can Occupy London Stock Exchange exceed its limits?

21 Oct

An ROU friend and comrade has written these reflections on the London Stock Exchange occupation. We are  publishing them here as the first in a series of reflections on the ‘occupation movement’ . #strike//occupy//transform

There is a starting point that is incredibly powerful to all this. It is a simple realisation, an acknowledgement that the government does not do what it claims. Democracy is a lie and we are not all in it together. It is the same powerful realisation that underpinned the riots. The multitude of attacks on our lives always had to produce something more than neat, well defined campaigns.

It is this lack of definement that gives the #occupy movement its power and potential. While lack of demands and clear message has been the chief criticism from the press and politicians it has not seemed to prevent its growth. What is vitally important is the lack of answers because this is also an acceptance that the answers will not be easy. They require coming together, listening to each other, and this takes time.

Above all else #occupy is a movement of people looking for answers, what is to be respected is that they did not turn to the media, our self selected leaders or celebrity for these answers but each other. When the list of grievances is as long and wide as the collected occupiers the solution has to be radical (especially when considered internationally). It has the potential to become a school in anti-capitalism, not where lessons are dictated but where learning takes place through a Freirian “collective investigation of reality” (however I cannot help but feel an influx of political theory is also needed). Will everyone’s grievance get its full airing? Will the time be set aside for us to discover genuine answers or, in fear out of the unknown, will it snap back and merely call for mild technical reform of the system that occupies our daily lives?

The question is can the occupy movement rise above the setting of its own limits? Already we can see how limits are being set, but they are not concrete yet. I wanted to outline 3 ways the movement threatens to limit itself and how it might rise above them.

Limits of privilege

Privilege is everywhere but it is never more obvious than when there is a guy telling everyone that “this is democratic and if you disagree with a decision it is because you did not make your voice heard”. I watched an open general assembly where, on the surface of it, anyone could stand up and speak their mind. Out of the 10-12 speakers I saw, one of them was a woman and one of them was not white.

Aside from who gets to speak at the camp there is also the problem of who attends it, the crowd is overwhelming middle class as I understand it was in Spain and is in New York. The 99% are not equal. The fact there is privilege and discrimination should be expected, after all the movement is built out of the world as it exists already. What is needed to prevent limitation by privilege is not pretence it doesn’t exist but recognition of it and active struggle against it both inside and outside the camp.  This can turn it from a limit into a catalyst. Including struggle against many forms of oppression will bring more people in, help build more chains of solidarity and gain a better understanding of the world now and the one we want.  Certainly there is awareness amongst some in the camp of this but how much time and energy the camp as whole dedicates to this is to be seen.

Limits of fetishisation of strategy

The guy mentioned earlier who claimed #OccupyLSX was perfectly democratic also fell into the trap of limiting by fetishiseing the strategy. This already exits to a large degree due to the memetic roots of the protest but often grows from participants not wanting to question what they have put so much effort into. What is at risk is that the strategy (mass public occupation, consensus, etc.) becomes like the Party, unquestionable and resistant to change. It seems unlikely the camps will survive the British winter and even in sunny Spain could not last forever. It is vital that the participants are able to evolve the strategy into many currently unknown forms that can take place after and alongside the occupation.

There is a threat the occupation comes to privilege itself over other forms of rebellion. #OccupyLSX should not be the centre of the movement any more (or less) than the TUC should be.  To do so would be to limit not only #OccupyLSX but rebellion more generally.

A particular fetishised strategy is so called ‘peaceful protest’. I’m not suggesting the occupation should attack the police, indeed at the current moment in time this would be a poor tactic. The problem is ‘peaceful protest’ has become a mantra, not a current tactic but an ideological way we should always be. I heard ‘the police are the 99% too’ a lot but not ‘the rioters are the 99% too’ and this ‘we are peaceful’ thing sounds a lot like ‘we are better than the rioters’ (and whiter, and richer). It limits #OccupyLSX not only to tactics but far more importantly to who it is in solidarity with and who is in solidarity with it.

Hunter S. Thompson once talked about the failure of the counter culture movement coming out of the colleges in the 60s being down to not recognising and linking with the Hell’s Angels and other working class rebellions of the time. Will this end up been the same for the #occupy movement with the looters who grabbed the nation’s attention earlier this year?

Limitation by definition

This is perhaps the most threatening limitation but also the one the author struggles with the most. As discussed earlier the current power of the #occupy movement is the existence of more questions than answers. The lack resistance to falling into a set piece protest is what gives the movement potential.

The politicians and the press are devastated by its lack of definition, they don’t know how to undermine and subvert it. They don’t know what it is so it is difficult to co-opt.  They would rather the occupations change so as they can be understood by those in power. When it does not do the things they expect it is derided as silly, illegitimate or even somehow immoral.

There has been desperate desire to define itself amongst much of the camp, to give itself identity. This is why the, frankly confusing, draft statement was rushed out. There are various reasons for this desire. Partly it is to please those in power as if by playing their game they will give concessions, as if 5 simple demands will put #OccupyLSX on all the front pages with universal good coverage. The other reason some call for definition is security, a list of demands or a defined cause would explain would answer the question ‘what the fuck are we doing here?’. It would provide an anchor so we can avoid the rough seas of the unknown but it also prevents us going far. My fear is that technical demands of the system are proposed (e.g. regulatory independence) that, aside from been unlikely to be achieve and making little difference if achieved, ends up constricting #OccupyLSX to that rather than helping on the path to the creation of a new world. #OccupyLSX must ask the questions: Who are they trying to look respectful to? and Do we want to be considered legitimate in a world where everything we are against is legitimate? To the Leninist who claims we will never get mass support until simple demands are levelled we must ask: How did we get here without these demands?

This is not to say #OccupyLSX should not have demands or goals. Indeed the process to come up with these demands could be incredibly powerful. But it should not do this to seem respectful or legitimate but because they are tactically advantageous. Yes, we need a radical politics to erupt out of the vagueness that surrounds these gatherings. Yes, we need to understand why we are here and what we are fighting for. And of course we should aim to be able to articulate this to ourselves and each other. But this will take time and we do not need to define ourselves in the eyes of the 1%, they do not need to understand us other than as a menacing threat.

But above all else the movement should not allow itself be defined by the demands it uses. Any understanding of why we are here should instead be drawn from the generalised fluid purpose that comes from the discussions held with each other, the sharing of grievances, the collective education. What should be sought in the #occupy movement is not a well defined single campaign or campaigns, but more like the early labour movement, a space in which demands can be articulated and campaigns fought (alongside many other functions). The movement must always remain bigger than these short term goals, happy to leave them in its wake, an ever-changing, glorious beast.

Overcoming our fears

This all boils down to fear. It is how the police operate from the bark of the dog to the roboticness of the riot cop and the threat of the kettle. And it is scary realise that privilege is everywhere, and overcoming decimation is not simple. It is scary to accept the tactics are not perfect and we cannot be in control of it all. It is scary to take part in something that has unlimited aims, that is venturing into the unknown. For those ‘radicals’ who has criticise from the sideline it might be scary to take part in something that does not match our expectation that we have philosophised about so much. It is scary to venture beyond our limits. But if we desire real change we must be brave and find those things that make us ecstatic, move us forward and defy expectations.

The Private Law of Protest

14 Sep

The Private Law of Protest: Workshop at Kent Law School, November 4, 2011.

This one-day workshop will examine the deployment of private law by university management against students in the context of recent protests against the marketisation of learning and teaching. The workshop will draw on the experiences of occupiers and their lawyers in mapping and critiquing the use of tort, contract and property law to end, prevent and punish student occupations of university buildings. Among the questions we might ask are:

– How have the rights of free assembly and free speech been restricted – in principle and in practice – in recent occupation judgments?
– Has private law been used within the university in this way before? Has it been used in this way elsewhere?
– What sort of university space are we protesting to defend/create and for whom? How do protestors’ visions of university space depart from that protected by law?
– How useful are the tropes of ‘marketisation’ and ‘privatisation’ of the university in understanding recent developments in the private law of protest?
– How should we understand the relationships between the legal control of university space by management and broader government projects?
– How might we re-imagine the relationship of protest to the injunction, the contract and the possession order? Is there an alternative law of protest which departs from that underwritten by the state?

There is no charge for attendance, but for space and catering purposes, please email:

This workshop is generously sponsored by Social & Legal Studies.

Call for a Transnational Meeting in Tunisia

14 Sep

Call for a Transnational Meeting in Tunisia

We, students, precarious workers, unemployed, and activists of Europe and North Africa met in Tunis to share our knowledge and begin a process of common struggles. The struggles that have swept across North Africa over the last few months spoke to the entire globe because the absence of a future for the new generations was at the center of these conflicts. The front lines in these struggles were held by the new generation who is always the first to fight and the last to be listened to. In the context of the global economic crisis, there are many parallels in the reasons why we are fighting in Europe and why Ben Ali and Moubarak were toppled.

These struggles are demanding a radical change of a system based on generalized exploitation by parasitic governments of elites over the needs of the many. We are revolting against the misery of the present and to build new social relationships that are produced by processes of liberation and the reappropriation of our collective wealth. These struggles create common spaces that power constantly tries to fragment and repress.

This is why we are calling for a transnational Meeting of activists to share our struggles and to construct common strategies and campaigns. We don’t want to have a “media” event, but to construct a transnational network able to face these times of struggle and great social transformation.

We would like this Meeting to be a laboratory of reflection and common work around the following fundamental questions: migration and the free circulation of people and knowledges, precariousness, the question of debt and social services, free and accessible education for all, the construction of autonomous media and networks, the reappropriation of urban spaces, the mechanisms and the forms of social mobilization and the experimentation of new forms of organization and collective intelligence.

We propose a 3-day Meeting in Tunisia in September 2011, and invite all collectives, groups, individuals and activists who adhere to this call and who wish to construct a transnational network of struggle.

Front de Libération populaire de la Tunisie

Knowledge Liberation Front

Network Welcome to Europe and other activists of NoBorder

Soliplenumk Revolte (Gottingen)



The Space Project

14 Sep

We would like to invite you to an open meeting to help us shape a new vibrant venue for discussions, film showings, seminars, talks,workshops, reading groups, archives, enquiries and other creative projects.

The space will be close to Leeds City Centre hosting events that explore social change (broadly defined) in an engaged and participatory way. Facilitated by the Really Open University, we’re seeking other groups and individuals who would like to contribute to the life of the space by hosting events and contributing to building a non-commercial, self-managed space in Leeds.

Do you have something you think you would like to do? Come along to our open meeting or please get in touch with us at

Where: The Space Project, 37-38 Mabgate green, Leeds
When: Tuesday October 4th 7:30pm

The ‘space project’ will be run as a not-for-profit venture, with no paid staff and events being free or donations-only.

Greek Public Universities in Danger

2 Aug
To the international academic community
PUBLIC Greek Universities in Danger
 In the last few years, a wave of ‘reforms’ within the European Union and throughout the world has subjected Higher Education to the logic of the market. Higher Education has increasingly been transformed from a public good and a civil right to a commodity for the wealthy. The self-government of Universities and the autonomy of academic processes are also being eroded. The processes of knowledge production and acquisition, as well as the working conditions of the academic community, are now governed by the principles of the private sector, from which Universities are obliged to seek funds.

Greece is possibly the only European Union country where attempts to implement these ‘reforms’ have so far failed. Important factors in this failure are the intense opposition of Greek society as well as the Greek Constitution, according to which Higher Education is provided exclusively by public, fully self-governed and state-funded institutions.
According to the existing institutional framework for the functioning of Universities, itself the result of academic and student struggles before and after the military dictatorship (1967-1974), universities govern themselves through bodies elected by the academic community. Although this institutional framework has contributed enormously to the development of Higher Education in Greece, insufficient funding and suffocating state control, as well as certain unlawful and unprofessional practices by the academic community, have rendered Higher Education reform necessary.
The current government has now hastily attempted a radical reform of Higher Education. On the pretext of the improvement of the ‘quality of education’ and its harmonization with ‘international academic standards’, the government is promoting the principles of ‘reciprocity’ in Higher Education. At the same time, it is drastically decreasing public funding for education (up to 50% decrease) which is already amongst the lowest in the European Union. New appointments of teaching staff will follow a ratio 1:10 to the retirement of existing staff members.  This will have devastating results in the academic teaching process as well as in the progress of scientific knowledge.
The government proposals seek to bypass the constitutional obligations of the state towards public Universities and abolish their academic character.

  • The self-government of Universities will be circumvented, with the current elected governing bodies replaced by appointed ‘Councils’ who will not be  accountable to the academic community.
  • The future of Universities located on the periphery, as well as of University departments dedicated to ‘non-commercial’ scientific fields, looks gloomy.
  • Academic staff will no longer be regarded as public functionaries. The existing national payscale is to be abolished and replaced by individualized, ‘productivity’ related payscales, while insecure employment is to become the norm for lower rank employees.
  • Higher Education will be transformed into ‘training’ and, along with research, gradually submitted to market forces.

The government proposals have been rejected by the Greek academic community. The Council of Vice-Chancellors and the Senates of almost all Universities have publicly called the government to withdraw the proposals and have suggested alternative proposals which can more effectively deal with the problems of Greek Universities. Despite this, the government proceeds with promoting its proposals, in confrontation with the entire academic community.
We appeal to our colleagues from the international academic community, who have experienced the consequences of similar reforms, to support us in our struggle to defend education as a public good. We fight, together with our British, French, Dutch, Italian, Spanish and other colleagues, for the respect of the academic tradition of the European universitas in current conditions.

We ask you to send electronically the appeal below, signed with your name and indicating your academic status and institutional affiliation, to the Initiative of Greek Academics ( or  sign online at

The support of the international academic community will prove invaluable for the upcoming developments not only in Greek Universities but in respect to public European Higher Education as a whole.

Initiative of Greek academics