Statement by Comrades from Cairo in Response to OWS Proposal to Send Election Monitors

re-posted from jadaliyya.com
[The following statement was issued by Comrades from Cairo on 13 November 2011.]

To our kindred occupiers in Zuccotti park,

When we called out to you, requesting you join us on 12 November in defending our revolution and in our campaign against the military trial of civilians in Egypt, your solidarity—pictures from marches, videos, and statements of support—added to our strength.
However, we recently received news that your General Assembly passed a proposal authorizing $29,000 dollars to send twenty of your number to Egypt as election monitors. Truth be told, the news rather shocked us; we spent the better part of the day simply trying to figure out who could have asked for such assistance on our behalf.
We have some concerns with the idea, and we wanted to join your conversation.
It seems to us that you have taken to the streets and occupied your parks and cities out of a dissatisfaction with the false promises of the game of electoral politics, and so did our comrades in Spain, Greece and Britain. Regardless of how one stands on the efficacy of elections or elected representatives, the Occupy movement seems outside the scope of this; your choice to occupy is, if nothing else, bigger than any election. Why then, should our elections be any cause for celebration, when even in the best of all possible worlds they will be just another supposedly “representative” body ruling in the interest of the 1% over the remaining 99% of us? This new Egyptian parliament will have effectively no powers whatsoever, and—as many of us see it—its election is just a means of legitimating the ruling junta’s seizure of the revolutionary process. Is this something you wish to monitor?
We have, all of us around the world, been learning new ways to represent ourselves, to speak, to live our politics directly and immediately, and in Egypt we did not set out to the streets in revolution simply to gain a parliament. Our struggle—which we think we share with you—is greater and grander than a neatly functioning parliamentary democracy; we demanded the fall of the regime, we demanded dignity, freedom and social justice, and we are still fighting for these goals. We do not see elections of a puppet parliament as the means to achieve them.
But even though the idea of election monitoring doesn’t really do it for us, we want your solidarity, we want your support and your visits. We want to know you, talk with you, learn one another’s lessons, compare strategies and share plans for the future. We think that activists or as people committed to serious change in the systems we live in, there is so much more that we can do together than legitimizing electoral processes (leave that boring job to the Carter Foundation) that seem so impoverished next to the new forms of democracy and social life we are building. It should be neither our job nor our desire to play the game of elections; we are occupying and we should build our spaces and our networks because they themselves are the basis on which we will build the new. Let us deepen our lines of communication and process and discover out what these new ways of working together and supporting one another could be.
Any time you do want to come over, we’ve got plenty of comfy couches available. It won’t be fancy, but it will be fun.

Yours, as always, in solidarity,

Comrades from Cairo
13 November, 2011

P.S. We finally got an email address: comradesfromcairo@gmail.com

A Call for Disassembly

http://anticapitalprojects.wordpress.com/2010/10/13/a-call-for-disassembly/

UCSD OCT 7 action co-opted as sit-in / photo-op by members of the Cross-Cultural Center (a UCSD-funded student body)


strategic expropriation and redistribution

No more General Assemblies • No more Statewide Conferences• No more Days of Inaction

The fiasco of the Oct. 7th “sit-in” demonstrates the utter bankruptcy of the General Assembly: a political form more effective than tear-gas or billy-clubs in bringing an action to a close. In our fight against the university administration, we have ceded our power to administrative mechanisms that are little better.


How is it that an institution widely regarded last year as farcical came to assume ownership over the university struggle, to assert yet again its supposed sovereign power to broker all meaningful decisions? How can we assure that the General Assembly never again comes to assume the power to neutralize, silence, and demobilize?  How can we finally demystify the GA’s absurd self-presentation as a space of democracy, participation and openness?


It is tempting to think that the failures of the General Assembly are those of personality, ineptitude, and opportunism.  As we all know, the GA is run by a small clique of “socialist” organizers and future politicians who follow a political script unchanged, in its unflagging failure, since 1983. These are people who have, at every turn over the last year and a half, opposed proposals for direct action, or deferred them to some never-arriving future moment when they have “built the movement.”


Because of the very events last year — ones that were compelled to bypass the GA simply to proceed with planning — it is now impossible to hold a day of action that does not, in fact, feature action. The GA’s call for a sit-in was an acknowledgment of this fact, and of last year’s successes. But the organizers of the GA only conceived of the October 7 sit-in, it is now obvious, as a masquerade intent on borrowing the charisma of last year’s events in order to shore up their failing political project. They had no actual desire to sit-in or occupy the library, and so the millstones of circular proceduralism — the canned speeches, irrelevant proposals, votes on whether or not we would vote on taking a vote  – were hauled out to crush any spirit of actual resistance in the crowd, to preempt any discussion of the potentials of the present moment, or to address the practical, ready-to-hand exigencies. Were we going to stay in the space?  Were we going to let the police surround us? Would we call for support from fellow comrades, make preparations for an extended sit-in? None of these things were discussed until it was already too late. Rather, we talked about what we wanted to do next week, next month, next year. Seeing the “action” for what is was – a meeting about more meetings – people fled in droves. The facilitators were doing the work of the administration and its hirelings for them, and none of the hammer-and-sickle icons stamped on their faces could disguise this fact. Watching from the doorways, the cops smiled and ordered pizza.

The problems with the GA are structural and ideological, and no change of facilitators will make this form work within the present political landscape.  The GA is a failure because it assumes, from the start, principles of unity, majority rule and sovereign decision-making power that are incompatible with the university struggle as such. We do not need an assembly (usually composed of fewer than 50 people) to vote on what “all of us are doing” – we need a political form based upon collaboration and affiliation, whose basic communicational unit takes the form of “This is what we want to do. Will you help?” Those who worry that this will mean a fragmenting disunity should realize that there are different forms of acting-together; there is a spectrum of consensus and dissensus, and not all forms of unity must resemble liberal-democratic parliaments.


In any case, the unity of the GA is a false one: many, many people on campus do not identify with it except as a form of alienation, an external imposition. It is a protocol that assumes, in advance, what is and is not possible. It guarantees “plans” at the lowest common denominator, whose main function is not to be disagreeable — we must ask, is this a tenable platform for real struggle? Obviously not. We must overcome the hollowness of this small, anodyne plurality. Not by wandering away, atomized and dispirited, into the evening that had so recently promised so much — but by abolishing the General Assembly that stands in the way of that promise, of real struggle.

*

A related point concerns the “statewide coordinating committees”—these are bodies that have, at the highest level, done nothing but call for various “days of action.” What action? When will that be decided? What counts as “action” — another meeting to plan another day of action?


The situation here is much the same: when did we cede our power to a group of 30 people to establish the timeline for the university struggle? At what point did we agree to confine our political agitation to preappointed days, always too far away, the better to be ignored by our antagonists with their tuition bills and billy clubs?


Political struggles have rhythms, carried forward by alternating waves of optimism and despair, attack and counterattack. Actions occur on certain days and not on others, until, perhaps, one reaches a prerevolutionary moment. There is no avoiding, at least for now, the day of action. But we can be choiceful and artful and strategic in deciding when and where we will fight. We can  investigate the relationship between the actual, affective rhythm of political antagonism – the state of the struggle – and the abstract calendar laid atop it by the coordinating committee. How does the current calendar interact with the real temporality of our movement? Does it augment or diminish its power? What would have happened in the Spring of 2010 if there had been no call for the March 4th Day of Action, a day into which people poured variously exaggerated expectations? It was a good hook for journalists and other semipro chit-chatters to hang their hats and hopes on. Wouldn’t it have been better to begin building from the energy of the previous semester, without hesitation or loss of momentum? Certainly there is a power to coordinated, multi-sector and multi-campus action. The general strike model is a good one. But the days of action have, so far, produced diminishing returns as a statewide or national education movement. We shouldn’t sacrifice the possibility of contestation for a “grand day” which never arrives. It is unclear that many successful general strikes have been called by coordinating committees. Such strikes, when they do not last for merely a day or so, when they really direct their power at capital and state, are built from the bottom-up, by resonance, contagion. We were more effective in the fall of 2009 during the Regents’ Meeting, when multiple campuses rose up, despite the absence of a statewide committee.

*

Once again, the UCOP has proposed a further fee increase of as much as 20%, a year after they voted in an increase of 32%. Will we stop them? Or will we hamstrung by the politics of failure?

March 4 – GENERAL STRIKE!

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Regional Events

Los Angeles Regional Rally

.. 3 pm Rally @ Pershing Square (5th & Hill) in downtown L.A.
.. 4 pm March from Pershing Square to the Governor’s office
.. 5 pm Rally @ Governor’s office (300 Spring St.)

East Bay/Oakland Regional Rally

.. 12 pm-4 pm Rally @ Frank Ogawa Plaza (in front of Oakland City Hall, 14th & Broadway)
.. March to the Ogawa Plaza Rally from:
-UC Berkeley: 12 pm Rally @ Bancroft & Telegraph, followed by March
-Laney College: 11 am Rally, followed by March
-Fruitvale BART: Assemble @ 11 am, March @ 11:30 am
.. Travel to San Francisco Regional Rally (See regional listing below)

San Francisco Regional Rally

.. 5 pm Rally @ San Francisco Civic Center

Sacramento/State Capitol Rally

.. 11 am-1 pm Rally @ State Capitol (North Steps of Capitol)

San Diego Regional Rally

.. 3 pm Rally @ Balboa Park, followed by March to governor’s office
.. 4 pm Rally @ Governor’s office (downtown)

San Fernando Valley Regional Rally

.. 3:45 pm gathering @ CSU Northridge Sierra Quad
.. 4:15 pm March
.. 5 pm Hands around CSUN
.. 5:30 pm Rally @ CSU Northridge Sierra Quad

University Events

UC Berkeley

.. 7 am-12 pm Pickets
.. 12 pm-1 pm Rally/Action @ entrance to Sproul Plaza (Telegraph & Bancroft)
.. 1 pm-3 pm March from UC Berkeley to Oakland’s Ogawa Plaza
.. Students, faculty, workers and campus community will travel to San Francisco Regional Rally (See regional listing above)

UCLA

.. 10 am Pickets
.. 11:30 am Walk Out
.. 12 pm Rally @ Bruin Plaza
(UCLA invites high schools and community colleges in the Westside area to join)

UC San Diego

.. 11:30 Walk-out & Rally @ Gilman Parking Structure
.. 12:30 pm March from Gilman to the Silent Tree outside Giesel Library and Rally there
.. Students, faculty, workers and campus community will travel to San Diego Regional Rally (See regional listing above)

UC Santa Cruz

.. 6:00 am Picket at the entrances to campus
.. 9:00 am Rally @ main entrance to the campus (Bay and High)
.. 12:00 pm Rally @ main entrance to the campus (Bay and High)
.. 5:00 pm General Assembly @ main entrance to campus (Bay and High)

UC Riverside

.. 1 pm gathering @ UCR Bell Tower
.. 2:30 pm March from UCR to downtown
.. 3:30 pm Rally @ University Ave and Market St. (Downtown Riverside)

CSU Bakersfield

.. 11:30 am-1 pm @ the Student Union Patio (rain: Stockdale Room in Runner Café)

CSU Channel Islands

.. Students, faculty, workers and campus community will travel to the San Fernando Valley to participate in San Fernando Valley Regional Rally @ CSU Northridge (See regional listing above)

CSU Chico

.. 8 am sendoff for students, faculty, workers and campus community traveling to State Capital Rally (See regional listing above)

CSU Dominguez Hills

.. Students, faculty, workers and campus community will travel to Wilson High School Long Beach and Los Angeles Regional Rally (See Long Beach details below or regional listing above)
.. 11 am-1 pm students hold a fair on CSUDH East Walkway (Games to learn about public education costs, access and quality)

CSU East Bay

.. 12 pm Rally/Open Mic/Speack Out @ Agora Stage
.. Students, faculty, workers and campus community will travel to San Francisco Regional Rally (See regional listing above)

Fresno State

.. 10:30 am March from NW corner of Blackstone and Shaw, go down Shaw to Fresno State
.. 12 pm-1 pm Rally @ Peace Garden

CSU Fullerton

.. Students, faculty, workers and campus community will travel to Los Angeles Regional Rally (See regional listing above)

Humboldt State

.. 3 pm-5 pm Rally @ Humboldt County Courthouse-Eureka with CSU and K-12 faculty and students

Cal State Los Angeles

.. 9:30 am Rally @ the USU area (Free Speech area)
.. 2 pm March to Los Angeles Regional Rally (See regional listing above)

CSU Long Beach

.. 12 pm-1 pm Rally @ South Campus, Upper Quad,
.. 1 pm-2 pm Parade
.. 4 pm Rally with K-12 and Community College (see below)

Long Beach: Wilson High School

.. 4 pm Rally @ Wilson High School Gymnasium (4400 E. 10th St.)
.. Music by Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, The Nightwatchman)

California Maritime Academy

.. Students, faculty, workers and campus community will travel to San Francisco Regional Rally and Sacramento/State Capitol Rally (See regional listing above)
.. 12 pm Street Theatre/Mock “Die-In” @ Maritime’s main quad

CSU Monterey Bay

.. 11 am-1 pm Rally/March
.. Followed by car-pools to Community Rally
.. 4 pm Community Rally @ Colton Hall (570 Pacific St. between Madison & Jefferson)
– Contact: Kat General, 415-728-8927

CSU Northridge/San Fernando Valley Regional Rally

.. 3:45 pm gather @ CSU Northridge Sierra Quad
.. 4:15 pm March
.. 5 pm Hands around CSUN
.. 5:30 pm Rally @ CSU Northridge Sierra Quad

Cal Poly Pomona

.. 1:30 pm- 2:30 pm Send off Rally @ – as CFA members, students and campus community board buses for Los Angeles Regional Rally (See regional listing above)

Sacramento State/Sacramento/State Capitol Rally

.. 11 am-1 pm Rally @ State Capitol (North Steps of Capitol)
– Contact: Kevin Wehr, 916-541-2125

CSU San Bernardino

.. 11:30 am March @ Marquee entrance (NW corner of University Pkwy and Northpark Blvd)
.. 12 pm Rally @ Pfau Library

San Diego State/San Diego Regional Rally

.. 11:30 am-12:00 pm collect video testimonials from students and campus community next to Aztec Center (Large “scoreboard” showing the loss of students, teachers and classes at SDSU due to budget cuts)
.. 12:00 pm Rally by Aztec Center
..  Students, faculty, workers and campus community will travel to San Diego Regional Rally (See regional listing above)

San Francisco Sate

.. 7 am Campus Shutdown
.. Students, faculty, workers and campus community will travel to San Francisco Regional Rally (See regional listing above)

San Jose State

.. 11 am gather at San Jose City Hall
.. 11:45 am March to San Jose State Tower Lawn (7th Street Plaza entrance)
.. 12 pm Rally @ San Jose State Tower Lawn

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

.. 3:30-5 pm Rally @ Office of state Senator Abel Maldonado (1356 Marsh St.., San Luis Obispo)

CSU San Marcos

.. 10:30 am-11:30 am Teach-in on State Budget @ Academic Hall (ACD) 102 (simulcast to other classrooms)
.. 12 pm-1 pm Rally @ Kellogg Library

Sonoma State

.. 11:30 am Student Walk Out
.. 12:00 pm-1:30 pm Rally near Stevenson Quad

CSU Stanislaus

.. 11:30 am-1pm Rally @ campus Quad

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Original list compiled by Steve Seltzer
Modified by Jonathan Nunez

Links to information about events planned for March 4:

 

On the Actions of December 10th and in Defense of the Occupation

(from La Ventana Collective)

The actions of December 10th reflected an evolution on the campus of San Francisco State University. While the ISO argues that the occupation was “undemocratic” it is important to note that in this particular case it was strategically valuable to have clandestine organization. This militant action will act as a spark for more expanded and informal organizing in the spring. Security is a huge issue on campus as the struggle to defend public education escalates in resistance. Additionally, the ISO’s organizing model is in many ways undemocratic in nature with centralized committees espousing orders that rank-and-file militants within their organization must follow, including the “party-line” and “platform” with which the ISO members must adhere.
Furthermore, to assume that outside support must be organized by a vanguard is to assume students on campus are incapable of acting on their own initiative to support an occupation that is an important step in mobilizing for power amongst students, employed members of the university, and the supporters of the community. They used the word “hastily” but the fact that a large number of students (the largest turn-out we have seen all semester) on their own volition decided to support this action the week before finals proves the potential of spontaneous self-organization. The students on this campus are willing to support actions that are outside the traditional framework of “activism” as defined on this campus (e.g. walks outs, marches, rallies, teach-ins). The thousands of students who showed up to support the occupation was what kept it alive for 24 hours. The “haste” of preparation for the occupation had nothing to do with the riot cops ability to break it up – they forced their way into the building by breaking windows at 3.30 in the morning, when many students were tired and on the verge of sleep.
The ISO criticizes the cancellation of the “General Assembly” despite the fact that a general assembly still took place, albeit in separate breakout discussion groups at each entrance to the occupied building. The decentralized structure allowed for intimate conversations, and provided an empowering space for those who would not normally have spoken up or attended. In light of these conditions, we ask the ISO two things:
(1) What is their definition of a “general assembly”?
(2) What is the best way to mobilize students to participate in the struggle to defend public education?
These questions are important and perhaps represent where we ideologically disagree with the ISO. Their version of a general assembly is one where procedurally they can control the facilitation. They bring members of their organization to vote in blocks to favor their pre-meditated proposals, which in the first General Assembly included a 10-person steering committee. This is a textbook tactic of vanguards—particularly of the rotting Leninist variety—to control a democratic assembly of people. Obviously, as demonstrated by the vote, this was one of the least supported proposals put forth during the first general assembly. Coincidentally, the ISO showed up to the General Assembly that occurred at the occupation with proposals that included approaches to organizing and requested that students support these proposals with a “straw-poll” at the western entrance. The organizing approach reflected how to build for March 4th by specifying the exact amount of hours students were to outreach and “flier” each week. However, we identify autonomy within the struggle as being a primary strength that was manifested within the occupation. The occupation inspired complementary actions and participation that counteract an authoritarian approach to expanding the organization of this fight.
It was strategic on the part of the ISO to send a representative to each mini-general assembly to try and co-opt the discussion and push to adopt their proposals as laid out.
Secondly, if we know anything about the ISO and their involvement in the General Assemblies, it is the fact that none of them advocated the proposal for a general strike, which was voted on as one of the most popular proposals to bring forth to the Berkeley Organizing conference on October 24th.
In the 2006 Oaxacan uprising and rebellion, the APPO (the Popular People’s Assembly of Oaxaca) organized large general assemblies held in the midst of the occupation of the zocalo of the capital city of the state of Oaxaca. The “planton”—or occupation—was a space where meetings took up to 3 days in many cases due to the horizontal nature and directly democratic principles of the APPO, which functioned as guidelines and principles of the movement. For the ISO to argue that an occupation is undemocratic reflects their fears in not being able to control the situation and context of organizing on campus at SFSU. A general assembly, is for us, a large gathering of people willing to talk about the issues through discussion in order to formulate plans for moving forward. This is different than the symbolic and flawed “General Assemblies” we have seen at State, which pretend to have representation of the campus body but fail to do so. Students were bound to resolutions that were never popularly supported because the only people that came to the frustrating meetings were students involved within the “typical activist milieu.” If we are serious about March 4th then we have to be willing to step outside of the traditional organizing framework and create spaces for autonomous action and allow people to decide for themselves how they want to support the proposals and organize amongst themselves. Rather than centralizing the General Assemblies to consolidate power so that the ISO or other similar organizations can take over, we should promote a “diversity of tactics” that complement each other in a horizontal manifestation of our collective strength.
Throughout this occupation we have gained evidence that large numbers of people turn out and are willing to engage in dialogue about the course and direction of the movement. This is not unlike the Oaxacan model of organizing as demonstrated by the coalition known as APPO. Due to the large representation and diversity of the students that turned out, this action transcended the “leftist” facade on our campus and brought real people with representation on behalf of real issues. The ISO is not the only “leading campus activist organization” and their flawed theories on organizing exclude people from wanting to participate in building for larger actions on campus, which the ISO cannot contain. The “Socialist Worker” article also failed to mention perhaps the most important part of the occupation and that is the relationships that were formed and the lived realization that a self-organized student-worker university is possible.
It is as our friends in Tiqqun stated: “It is not the occupation that is important, but rather, the relationships that are formed during an occupation.”
This is the most important part of an occupation—the communization of the struggle. The social interactions broke down old ideals and created new realities that, we as participants, wish to achieve not after we win the struggle but rather during the struggle. This is a philosophy that was stressed during the 2001 horizontalist movement in Argentina after the collapse of the economy. Once again, during the actions that followed the collapse of the government, the people self organized in their own neighborhoods. Rather than centralize the general assemblies, they decentralized them in order to coordinate from the particulars to the general as opposed to the general and on down to the particulars. This perhaps, was driven by the needs-based desires, to coordinate basic functions and activities in the neighborhoods in order to survive an economic collapse. In that tradition we must view our struggle as a process in which we are implementing our ideals not in a linear trajectory towards some abstract that is irrelevant to those most affected by the issues of inaccessibility to affordable and quality education for all.