Tuesday Night -- 03.22.11 -- Struggles against Austerity and Crisis -- Emma Dowling -- Event 7 -- 03.22.11
Tuesday Night -- 03.22.11 -- Struggles against Austerity and Crisis -- Emma Dowling -- Event 7
1. About this Tuesday
2. Alexander Gallas -- Brothers in arms
3. Nic Beuret -- Hope Against Hope – A Necessary Betrayal
4. Heidi Liane Hasbrouck -- An NUS Steward Tried to Clegg Me
5. Useful Links
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A NOT ENTIRELY UNRELATED NOTE:
There is an artist initiated campaign to Boycott the Guggenheim over Migrant Worker Exploitation.
If you support the call, please sign the petition asking the Guggenheim Foundation obtain contractual guarantees that will protect the rights of workers employed in the construction and maintenance of its new branch museum in Abu Dhabi.
For more information:
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1. About this Tuesday
When: 7.00 pm, Tuesday 03.22.11
Who: Free and open to all
Where: 16 Beaver Street 4th floor
In the latest event in the Truth & Politics Series, we will explore with London-based activist, researcher and writer Emma Dowling the politics of the austerity measures in the UK and the responses to them by social movements.
The austerity measures of the UK Government mean drastic cuts to public funding across all sectors. The consequences of this are closures of services, cuts to welfare and the imposition of ever higher costs in accessing care, education and other public goods. Cuts also mean lay-offs, pay cuts and speed-up for workers. Moreover, austerity measures go hand in hand with further neoliberal restructuring, where more and more areas of social life become governed by the logic of profit and business models. Currently, the UK Government is implementing cuts across all sectors whilst at the same time calling on individuals and communities to
contribute to the ‘Big Society’. The ‘Big Society’ articulates the Con-Dem Government’s programme for an overhaul of the public sector wherein existing public service contracts will be redistributed to the private and voluntary sector. But the Government’s much implored ‘Big Society’ is angry and has other plans: the shock wave of cuts to all areas of public funding has given rise to a vociferous ‘anti-cuts movement’ across the UK intent on fighting back against the current attacks. University
occupations, teach-ins in banks, direct actions against tax dodging retailers, demonstrations at nursery schools and local council meetings, days of protest, marches and walkouts have been occurring as many
thousands have expressed their refusal of the imposition of working class austerity and further precarisation as a means of capitalist recovery.
As the UK and European anti-cuts movements prepare for more strikes and marches against the next round of restructurings and budget cuts this coming week, at 16 Beaver we will discuss the forms of interventions, mobilisations and alliances that are emerging from this new cycle of struggles. What are the challenges that these struggles face? How are we to understand what lies behind the UK Government’s plans to address the present crisis of social reproduction through social entrepreneurship? How can the politics of the crisis develop beyond a crisis of politics? What kind of transnational connections do we need to strengthen the global fight back against austerity?
This event has been organized with our 'This Is Forever' friends
2. Alexander Gallas -- Brothers in arms
The coalition attempts to use the crisis for a fundamental restructuring of British society
It’s easy to imagine that board meetings of leading British companies are currently marked by a celebratory mood. According to a study by Incomes Data Services, the earnings of board members of the companies in the FTSE 100 have increased, in just one year, by 55% on average. This is
remarkable, considering that Britain has just been through the longest economic downturn since official data were first recorded, and that about half of the British banking sector remains nationalised due to the financial crisis.
In this situation, the coalition government has announced that there is a serious threat of state bankruptcy, and has embarked on a course of spending cuts that exceeds anything seen since the interwar period. Over the next parliament, departmental expenditure is supposed to shrink by 12.7% on average. When George Osborne presented the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) in October, he announced that 490,000 jobs in the public sector would be lost in the process. An independent estimate that includes the private sector arrives at a gross number of 1.6m.
In all likelihood, the members of Cabinet and their social circles won’t be affected by the cuts. They appear to be a fairly uniform group, not just ideologically, but also socially. Out of the 29 Cabinet members; 28 are white, 25 male, and 22 millionaires. 19 have Oxbridge degrees, and 19 have attended fee-paying public schools. Considering these personal backgrounds and the development of top-level earnings, statements such as ‘we are all in this together’ (Osborne) and ‘this is the fairest possible way’ (Nick Clegg) are ludicrous. So what’s the political strategy behind them?
Scaremongering over Greece
Obviously, the best way to find out about the coalition’s strategy is to look at fiscal policy. The new government was formed in May; this
coincided with the Greek debt crisis. Right after taking office, David Cameron instantly announced a fiscal state of emergency. He declared that Labour had left public finances in an “appalling mess”, and added that the budget deficit was on course to exceed that of Greece. Moreover, he announced that it would be eliminated over the course of one parliament. A month later, Osborne announced the broad outline of the cuts when he presented his ‘emergency budget’. “This is the unavoidable budget”, he remarked, only to add that any other course would threaten a
continental-style crisis. When he presented the CSR, he stated that Britain had been on the brink of “bankruptcy” before the coalition decided to step in.
The approach of the government is to create a disaster scenario and to present its own political agenda as the only workable method of
prevention. However, neither its depiction of the current situation nor the conclusions drawn from it stand up to closer scrutiny. The depiction is accurate insofar as the national debt exploded when the Brown
government implemented measures to bail out the banks and stabilise demand. However, both Tories and LibDems consented to a good part of these measures. So who carries the political responsibility for the crisis? The ‘New Labour’ governments ran a laissez faire regime in the area of financial market regulation, and they didn’t act to prevent the creation of bubbles in the financial markets. But to a considerable degree, the liberalisation of the British financial markets, especially of the consumer credit and mortgage markets, happened in the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher. All this suggests that the ‘mess’ in public finances isn’t a product of unrestrained welfare expenditure, as Osborne suggests. It is a product of the neoliberal, finance-driven strategy for economic growth pursued by all British governments since 1979.
Furthermore, it’s plainly wrong to equate Britain with Greece. First of all, Britain has still got its own currency. Consequently the government and the Bank of England dispose of an array of potential interventions in the areas of fiscal and monetary policy that their Greek counterparts can’t pursue. For example, they can opt for devaluing the pound in order to boost exports. Second, the structure of the national debt is different from that of Greece because British bonds are mostly fairly long-term, which means that there is no rush to pay back borrowed money. Third, the national debt as a share of GDP is considerably lower than that of Greece, and also lower than the average of the last 300 years. Consequently, the cost of borrowing for the British government was quite low even before the CSR.
Finally, the conclusions aren’t correct. Cutting state expenditure in a time of crisis potentially poses a problem for consolidating the national debt because it reduces demand. This in turn means less economic growth and less taxation revenue for the state. And even if the government was right that the national debt and the deficit are the most pressing problems of the British economy, one could still have an argument about how to tackle them. It neither follows from the existence of a substantial deficit that it has to be eradicated over the space of one parliament, nor is it a given that this has to be done via cuts in state spending. In other words, the government doesn’t simply react to material constraints when it’s opting for cuts. It’s making political decisions that reflect a specific world view. One example of this that the coalition broadly rejects consolidating the national debt via increases in taxation, and that the only substantial tax hike is the one in VAT, which hits poor people the hardest.
Neo-Thatcherism and zombie neoliberalism
All in all, the government seems to be attempting to complete the
Thatcherite political project. The aim is a society completely governed by the market, where the provision of public services through state
institutions is reduced to the absolute minimum. This is illustrated by the decision of the government to vastly extend academy schools, which aren’t accountable to city councils and are free to commission
administrative services and even the preparation of lessons to private providers. A key part of the Thatcherite project was also the
marginalisation of the trade union movement. The last remaining
strongholds of British trade unionism are located in the public sector. As a result, the cuts also represent a revival of the Thatcherite attacks on trade unions.
In one respect, however, the coalition is different from the Thatcher governments: its interventions are flanked by a pacifying rhetoric aimed at co-opting the whole population to its agenda. The limits of this approach have been visible from the outset. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), highly respected in the political mainstream, clearly contests the claims of the government regarding the even distribution of ‘pain’ on different parts of the population. According to the IFS, the numbers provided by the coalition on the effects of the cuts on different income groups only look even because they factor in measures taken by the Brown government, for example the increase in the top rate of income tax in the 2009 budget. The cuts are clearly regressive and hit poorer strata of the population harder than richer ones. And this is case without even considering their effect on the labour market, where less qualified people made redundant will struggle harder to find new jobs. Moreover, women are far more badly hit by the cuts than men, because they receive a larger share of welfare payments and are more likely to be employed in the public sector. Similarly, the former industrial regions in North will fare worse than other regions, especially the South East, because their local labour markets are far more dependent on public sector jobs.
All in all, the political distribution of the burdens connected to the cuts resembles those of the Thatcher era: the winners and losers are more or less congruent. This also means that the people made to pay for the crisis are those who profited least from the asset bubbles that produced it. Conversely, the banks are only facing an insignificant new levy under Osborne’s budget plans, which is almost fully compensated for by a reduction in corporation tax.
George Monbiot uses Naomi Klein’s concept of ‘disaster capitalism’ in order to describe the situation: “The government's programme of cuts looks like a classic example of disaster capitalism: using a crisis to re-shape the economy in the interests of business”. But it’s not just that the cuts happen in a situation of economic disaster – their likely outcome will be disastrous, too. Demand will diminish, which will in turn hit growth and drive up unemployment. The fact that personal debts are already at a records levels makes it unlikely than consumer loans and mortgages can once again compensate for this. There is a serious threat of Britain becoming of a site of ‘zombie neoliberalism’ (Jamie Peck): a country marked by a permanent and potentially worsening crisis, which is unable to shake off the ‘undead’ ideology of the ‘free market’.
Is Ed really red?
In light of this, the big political question is obviously how to oppose the cuts agenda. In the political scene, little has happened so far. Labour has been wavering over how to lay out an alternative agenda. Ed Miliband initially seemed to try to break away from his predecessors by criticising the Iraq War and announcing that the era of ‘New Labour’ was over. When the right-wing press took this up and highlighted that he owed his victory to the trade union vote, Miliband reacted by highlighting that unlike his dad, he was not a Marxist. Moreover, he railed against
“irresponsible strikes” and decided to make the Blairite Alan Johnson his shadow chancellor. Johnson was quick to stress that he was not against cuts out of principle, but that he favoured the less drastic approach of the last Labour chancellor Alistair Darling.
The student protests over the trebling of tuition fees are the first instance of a massive popular protest over the course of the coalition. The question is whether they can be sustained beyond on the vote on the issue in the Commons, and whether they will link up with protests emerging in other areas of society. A forceful protest around one issue can be contained, even if this at times comes at a high price. The poll tax riots were instrumental in forcing Thatcher’s resignation, but the Tories clung to power for another 7 years. This suggests that forcing the coalition to retreat will take more than just student demos, however successful they’ve been so far in highlighting the issues at stake. It will be necessary to forge a ‘counter coalition’ representing all sections of society hit by the cuts.
This article is a shortened version of a longer German article
and has been translated into English by the author. Contact: a.gallas [ the at sign ] lancaster.ac.uk
3. Nic Beuret -- Hope Against Hope – A Necessary Betrayal
A single image from a day of movement marks out competing visions of hope. A boot through a Millbank window fed the dreams of resistance that many in the Left have been craving since talk of austerity started. The same boot posed a question that plays out in the university occupations that preceded it and have since blossomed in its wake: what is it exactly that we are hoping for?
The question of how students have inspired people to act, engage and organize to combat the Government’s austerity plans is an important one. It is one that also potentially contrasts with some of the views of students themselves. For let’s be clear – it is not necessarily (or even principally) the University or its defence that mobilizes people’s desires and dreams outside the student movement. Defending the ‘right to
education’ may be what sparked student revolts, but those of us who are not students have been drawn in because we want, more than anything, to resist and fight. And to resist and fight you need to know that resistance is possible, that you will not be alone, and that you can win. For the most part the resistance so far to the regime of austerity has been rote and uninspiring – a betrayed strike here, a sacked workforce there. Minor victories and thousands of words spoken of an inevitable uprising, of an insurgency against the restructuring. The boot through the window took us beyond the rhetoric and yearnings. It showed rage and the will to fight. It showed cops overwhelmed and underprepared, Tory offices ransacked and the beautiful excess of an insurrectionary moment. It inspired because it was truly magical, and people saw for themselves that battles could be waged, people would fight, and winning was possible. But beyond this, what support is there for the ‘right to education’? For this was the starting point for the riot and the thread that binds the demonstrations, the walkouts and the occupations. Cutting the Education Maintenance Allowance, shedding whole university departments and countless staff, and raising fees. The restructuring is an attack on ‘education’ as it exists in the University; a wholesale revision of who can access what. It is perhaps taken for granted that ‘we’ all support the right to education, and that we are all united in our defence of the University. But what if we are not?
What if it is our rage and not our hopes that are united? What if we are together only for the fight, but not the victory?
Hope becomes scarce Laurie Penny nails the motivation behind the riot – hope. Or rather, the restructuring of hope and its coming scarcity. A restructuring and scarcity because hope is not something eternal or ephemeral. Hope is a material thing, produced and distributed through social channels and institutions. Institutions like the University.
What do we mean by a socially produced hope? Different societies produce different kinds of hopes. In fact, every single society produces different kinds of hopes. Hope is a mobilizing and organizing force that structures the direction and possibilities of our lives. As memory shapes our understanding of the past and how we understand what we are now, hope shapes our understanding of the future – what there will be, what there could be, who and how we will become something more than we are today. Both hope and memory give form and purpose to our actions; they give our lives meaning.
There are competing versions of hope in a given society, but there is also a hegemonic form to hope. For us, living in a becoming- neoliberal world, that hegemonic form is aspiration. Not aspiration in the sense to aspire to greatness in some heroic Greek sense, or something romantic and colourful. No, for us aspiration has a particular hue and tint – it means social mobility. It means a better job, more money, more things and a higher rung on the career ladder. Hope is individual in our world, never collective – the hope of entrepreneurs dreaming of making it big. Not just climbing the ladder but also winning out over all others. We hope for social mobility. Which is exactly how Penny frames it, as do most of the placards on the streets. Hope, the dominant form of hope, is to do better than your parents.
Hope is not evenly distributed – what hopes there are and who has access to them depend on where you are located (be you poor or black, disabled, a woman, young, living in the regions, etc). Neoliberal hope – aspiration – is increasingly restricted to an ever-smaller circle of people: those people doing well through the current crisis; those people above the buffer of the ‘squeezed middle’. For the rest, there’s the lottery. (To be clear, there have been ‘no hopers’ for quite some time – an underclass living a kind of social death of meaningless, pointless lives, hidden away behind ASBOS on estates . But this is to become the norm for many, many more people).
This in turn leads to a scarcity of hope and an increasing number of people subject to a social death – a life defined as without future and therefore without meaning. A life trapped with nowhere to go. This generates a crisis of hope that can manifest in a number of ways. The most obvious is resentment against those who seem to still have hope. It is also visible in the desperate attempts to salvage some hope – through the memories of privileges of nationality, race and gender (such as mobilized by the BNP).
The current crisis marks a turn from a mixed economy of hope – where neoliberal policies and subjectivities press up against older forms of entitlement and ideals of fairness and social mobility. We are living through the birth pangs of a truly neoliberal age where meaning, hope and the future itself are scarce and out of reach for most of us. It is here, at the juncture of a new social order and the collapse of the remaining entitlements of the welfare state, that the restructuring of hope comes to be generally seen as a crisis of hope. We are entering an age of scarcity of the future.
It’s clear that the students are revolting against the loss of this hope and future. Social mobility (as such actually exists) is under attack. The ‘squeezed middle’ and their children will become, like the existing underclass, a footnote to the bigger and brighter stories of the well- to-do professionals. The student revolt speaks to us all as the first open revolt against the expansion of social death and the collapse of the more general circulation of aspiration. So the loss of entitlement is real, and the revolt is too. But we should stop here and ask if that is the end of the tale told by the boot. Did that kid kicking in the window really just want to be better off than his parents? Did he really want to keep the University as it stands?
Aspiration and the right not to be working class
Let’s go back to the idea behind neoliberal aspiration – social mobility. Social mobility means getting ahead, doing better than your parents and your peers: it means that while you move other people have to stand still. Social mobility requires both winners and losers. Hope – or aspiration – confirms the unequal world in which we live. And education – that formal process of differentiation, where some end up with degrees and contacts and others with jobs without a future – is essential to the creation and maintenance of that inequity. It reinforces the role of the University in unequally distributing meaning, possibilities, wages and other forms of social wealth. Put this way, the right to education means the freedom to be unequal. The right to education works to underpin the myth of meritocracy – the myth that it’s through hard work and ability and not connections, class and privilege, that people get to where they are. The right to an education means that if you perform well in standardized tests (helped by being well off, going to the right school and having a stable family life) then you deserve to go to University and cement your place up near the top of the social hierarchy (as long as you make it into a relatively decent university, though how many ‘bad’ ones will remain after the cuts is an open question). The betrayal of the right to education – by either there not being enough jobs for graduates (as is the case for a third of existing graduates), or by the rising costs of ‘earning’ a degree, putting it out of reach for all but the very wealthy – is the betrayal of the right to not being working class. Looking at it this way, through the broken glass, we can see that the riot went beyond mere aspiration. Just as the university occupations have gone beyond the simple question of the ‘right to education’. The joy to be found in revolt overflows the boundaries of a pedestrian desire to get ahead.
But here both we (both we who are students and we who are not) find ourselves in a double bind. We need to defend mobility in the world as it stands – its defence is the defence of actual existing lives and the real possibility to have a meaningful social existence. And we need to defend the funding of education as it stands. To resist paying more for education is to defend the social gains made by previous generations and to defend the social wage. And defending it is exactly what many students (and many of their supporters) are doing. But in merely defending it we are in fact defending the most sacred of neoliberal freedoms – the freedom to be unequal. Defending this freedom means defending the University as a filtering device set up to segregate us into educated and not; those with access to a ‘professional career’ and those who do not. Those with meaningful lives and those without.
Hopes against hope
So we must go beyond mere defence. The riot is as much about dreams that have yet to become possible as they are over the loss of existing
entitlements. There are hopes that lie dormant or hidden that speak of different ways of being; of different kinds of dreams and futures. The crisis of hope and the coming scarcity of the future for many people is a betrayal that makes possible a different kind of hope – a hope against hope, violently against aspiration and cold conformity.
The student revolts then are the fracture in the facade. Students sense that not only are their lives changing, but that the myth of mobility that has underpinned the University in recent years is coming undone. These protests are the first protests in Britain to contest the changing meaning of hope, and the austerity of dreams that is the coming neoliberal future. But to be honest and faithful to the riot and the promise of a different kind of hope, an act of betrayal is needed. A betrayal of the University and education as it stands. For here we come full circle.
For if the protests and occupations speak only of the importance of education, and the necessity to defend the University, people will quickly fall away. People can see clearly what the University is now.
The window is broken. We can see clearly that the University is a machine that creates social death. Eventually the inspiration of the initial fight and victory will fade, and the content of the revolt will have to stand on its own. If the content of that struggle is only to restore that machine, to defend the freedom to be unequal, failure is all we can hope for. But if the struggle calls into question the very existence of such a machine, and reopens the question of learning as opposed to education – to self-development, the exploration of interest and inclination, and to allow for the navigation of curiosity and desire; in short, learning as a way of creating new possibilities and meaning, new practices and forms of relating and organising – then the window may stay broken for a long time to come.
 I am talking of the hegemonic form of hope here. Those devoid of hope in the conventional normative sense often resist through the production of alternative visionings and dreams; other kinds of hopes and socialities, often rejecting outright the binds to convention and the
>From Edition Zero Minus One of ‘The Paper’, for many more articles on the
crisis and struggles,
see here: http://www.wearethepaper.org
4. Heidi Liane Hasbrouck -- An NUS Steward Tried to Clegg Me
What became clear from the student protest on cuts on 10th November is that the NUS has assimilated the Liberal Democrat political strategy. This can be seen in two peculiar events I experienced on the protest. The first event literally happened at a crossroads. After crawling along with the march for a couple of hours my friends and I decided to push along the sides to see what was really going on in Parliament Square and beyond. Pre-march rumours that there would be a sit in at the Tory HQ had us swoop by the sit-in at Parliament Square. We found ourselves standing at the roundabout at Lambeth Bridge. With protesters coming and going in different directions, we didn't know where to go so we hovered like lost tourists.
It was in this confused moment that we were approached by a friendly steward. She kindly informed us that the protest was over and there was no point of going any further. She explained the protest was larger than anticipated by the NUS and police, that the speeches had happened already and now the police were turning everyone around. I asked, 'Well where is the protest supposed to go to? Isn't it supposed to continue past this point?' She responded 'There's a party at LSE tonight! A post protest party!' To which I retorted, 'I wasn't asking where the party was, I am asking where the protest is!' She looked at me bemused and not prepared for the confrontation. At this moment two police riot vans screeched around the corner and hurtled down Millbank. I glanced down at her nametag - she was from the NUS (National Union of Students). So we went down to Millbank.
What proceeded will be written about in both the mainstream and alternative press for weeks to come. A very large group of protestors smashing in the glass windows of Millbank Tower and successfully occupying it for hours while thousands of us chanted in support. By 8pm the last 200 students would be rounded up and released one by one having to give their names, addresses, birthdays and video taken of the front and backs of their fresh faces. I will leave the analysis of this to others.
The second peculiar event was when a group of students supporting this
occupation at Millbank Tower were woo'ed by an NUS representative on a megaphone rationally explaining, 'Everyone has done a great job but the protest is over now. There is nothing happening here anymore. There is an after-party at LSE starting. Come to the party at LSE!' The 'nothing to see here folks' approach of the megaphone preacher dissipated about one third of the exhausted, cold crowd. What I want to write about is the friendly steward and the megaphone party preacher.
It was at these two moments that I felt the most deflated. I expect police officers to push me in a different direction. I expect the mainstream media to ignore the cause and focus on the injured female police officer. But purposeful lying by the NUS to sabotage the direct action protest spontaneously taking place at Millbank? As Charlie Brooker quipped, the NUS steward and megaphone party preacher tried to 'clegg me'. But I refused to be clegged into believing everything was fine and a party at LSE was better than direct action. The same can be said for the thousands of other students that participated in the occupation of Millbank Tower. We wont be clegged! So what does this mean for students?
We are not only fighting a battle with the government, we are fighting against the very people that are supposed to represent us. While a lot of pre-protest rhetoric dismissed the NUS as a dying union for career minded future politicians, there was still respect for their organising abilities. It was, after all, the NUS that organised the protest. My run-ins with the NUS at the protest and their official post-protest statements criminalising the direct action by attributing it to a few infiltrating anarchists who ruined a peaceful demonstration exceeded my previous suspicions. The NUS is not a useless, defunct organisation; it is media powerful and divisive. If we begin to attack the NUS, will the big issues be sidelined? Can we continue on with them against us? Has the government successfully divided and conquered? When a union no longer represents its members, and is a corrupt source of power, what do you do? The ultimate question becomes, do you change the union from within or do you scrap it and start afresh?
The NUS has to represent the whole of the student population in the UK,
and of course there are various political perspectives on what happened at the protest that need to be taken into account. I spoke to one first year student at Goldsmiths who defended the Goldsmiths Student Union's (GSU) official statement reprimanding Millbank protestors. She said she watched a lot of footage of what happened and felt the protestors were 'mean to the police officers that were defenseless against the crowd.' She said a lot of students at Goldsmiths felt the same way, and the GSU had to address their feelings as well. As many of the Millbank occupiers were Goldsmiths students, including an officer of the SU who was arrested, I felt a decision based on media portrayals of the events was, well... lame. I proposed the job of GSU was not to be reactive to the students' media-led views on direct action but to help educate so that students' opinions would be well informed. Why not a Goldsmiths Town Hall Meeting to decide where to go with the unions and with future protests? Invite occupiers to answer questions and explain their experience and invite the local Liberal Democrat MP, Simon Hughes, to answer questions on the cuts.
Another suggestion is to look at the New York Taxi Alliance. After decades of neglect by defunct and corrupt unions that were out of touch with the workers, a new more radical, more demanding union emerged. The New York Taxi Alliance has successfully built to become the largest taxi union in the city and now collaborates with taxi unions internationally. Through direct action and protest they were able to substantially change their wages and rights for the better. Perhaps we can learn from this.
Students are in a precarious position. We are not asking for worker's
rights. If we don't go to school, economic production will not be halted. The effects of the cuts will be a slower, more gradual change in British society. The university will be turning out a different type of student, one that views her education as not the development of her mind, but as a means to a capitalist end. It will look like the American system. The most common question a student studying the humanities will receive is 'What are you going to do with that?' not 'What are you learning about?'
What are the effects of the American system on American society? The
American system creates an underlying anti-political sentiment limiting the boundaries most students feel they can push. As an American
undergraduate student protesting the Iraq war in 2003, I made banners, signed some petitions and marched in Washington DC. I did not think to occupy my University. It didn't occur to any of the predominately left wing students in my university that this was a boundary that could be crossed. The political spectrum was on par with most universities in the US (there are a few truly left schools): Democrat or Republican.
As a student protestor who occupied the roof explained to me yesterday, I pushed a little and realised we were winning, so I thought what happens
if we push a little more, so we did, and we broke a window! Then I thought, wow, we broke the window, what happens if we go inside? Then we got inside! So I thought, if we got this far, could we go further? And before I knew it I was on the roof!
It was not until she pushed one boundary that another became possible.
Being crippled by debt, stricter immigration policies, precarious labour trends and cuts in social services and benefits will limit the boundaries we can push. After finishing my undergraduate degree in the US one of my friends went to work at Starbucks instead of pursuing writing. Her reason, 'Starbucks has a great health insurance plan, and I have to start paying my loans back in 6 months.'
From the special issue of Mute Magazine on the crisis and education
struggles, ‘Don’t Panic, Organise!’ –
see here for more articles:
5. Useful Links
Immaterial and Affective Labour: Explored, Ephemera Journal of Theory and Politics in OrganisationVol. 7(1): 1-7
“Producing the Dining Experience: Measure, Subjectivity and the Affective Worker,” ephemera: theory & politics in organization Volume 7 Number 1. http://www.ephemeraweb.org/journal/7-1/7-1dowling.pdf
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