Friday, January 27, 2012

Occupy UC Davis! Preserve the Cross Cultural Center

2012-01-27 "Notes From Occupation"
The ongoing occupation of the building that once housed the Cross Cultural Center (now located in a new $30 million dollar building) has drawn its share of critics. Much of this criticism has taken disturbing forms: race baiting, slurs, and outright threats. This must stop. Solidarity means working with groups who share the same goals, or similar ones, even when tactical differences exist. It also means that we will defend the occupation against administrators, police, and others who threaten our comrades.
Fortunately, not all criticism has taken the aggressive and dangerous approach. A thoughtful comrade writes the following in defense of the EOP: “Though the spaces of the student centers at UCD may be surveilled by administrators and staff, these are also spaces where students exercise their creativity and make communities, build and make resources, and make spaces to have radical discussions about the structure of the university, societal and social structures, and imagine how things could be different in this space and elsewhere.”
To which another comrade replies with a statement that neatly outlines our more radical position:
[begin excerpt]
I think this is true, and really important to recognize. But it doesn’t describe a fixed and necessary relationship. That is to say, it is not the case that those radical discussions and that community-making must take place under the auspices of sanctioned instituions which function to curtail, limit, and neutralize.
Indeed, wouldn’t we all agree that the goal would be to break the radical discussions and communities out from those neutralizing sanctions, rather than saying, “oh, it’s not all that bad in there, good stuff happens”? And in that sense, wouldn’t such communities want to support the opening of organizing centers that are beyond that neutralizing sanction? The critique of “culture” offered by the new occupation seems to me to be, quite clearly, a critique of sanctioned, official, institutionally legitimated culture — does anyone really want to take the counter-position that goes, yes, that is the culture we mean to defend?
I suspect we all agree, to restate, that we want cultures free of neutralizing sanction. We want to eliminate the neutralizing sanction so that our cultures can be free. And that is what Fanon meant as well. The elimination of that neutralizing sanction (sometimes expressed as a set of protocols, sometimes as pepper spray) is what revolution is. That is the revolution of culture — that activity which allows actual, free culture to flourish beyond institutions of control.
[end excerpt]
Two years ago, in the Communiqué From an Absent Future, our comrades wrote that “a free university in the midst of a capitalist society is like a reading room in a prison.” One might say the same about an Educational Opportunity Program in the midst of a university that is no longer free.

2012-02-28 note From the "Revolutionaries (of Color)"
“And in my opinion, the young generation of whites, blacks, browns, whatever else there is, you’re living at a time of extremism, a time of revolution, a time when there’s got to be a change, people in power have misused it, and now there has to be a change. And a better world has to be built and the only way it’s going to be built is with extreme methods. And I, for one, will join in with anyone — I don’t care what color you are — as long as you want to change this miserable condition that exists on this earth.” ~ El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X)

“I propose nothing short of the liberation of the man of color from himself.” ~ Frantz Fanon (aka Ibrahim Fanon)

We, the revolutionaries (of color), who strategized, organized, mobilized, and directly participated in the action to take over the former cross cultural center at UCD, which was an abandoned building, have decided to send a very clear and straightforward message to respond to the lies, propaganda, and misrepresentation of our movement—a misrepresentation that was systematically perpetrated by a couple of ‘people-of-color’ (p-o-c) groups on campus that have proved to function from within the administrative logic of the university, the very same logic that uses the police force to repress student protest.
Three/four days ago when we took over the building, we began with a clear anti-colonial, anti-imperialist, and fundamentally anti-capitalist position. This was made clear when we rejected liberalism (the political supplement to capitalism): 1. We physically blocked media and surveillance into our “autonomous” space, 2. We confronted someone who wanted to sneak in an American flag into the building.
Our message was clear: We do not want administrative presence and the symbol of Empire in our space. We realize full well that the flag represents genocide, war, racism, imperialism, torture, surveillance, and the continued colonization of people (of color). We also understand the history of indigenous struggle in the Americas well enough to know that a proper anticolonial movement (decolonization) involves the total dismantling of settler-colonialism. We also know that anti-colonialism without anti-capitalism is not a total critique of the given order. We realize that a proper struggle requires us to understand the ideological history of the Americas, the coordinates of indigenous resistance to State violence, and forms of political action that combat the ideology of colonialism. This was the foundation upon which we wanted to begin to build our movement. We knew that the rejection of the flag was symbolic, but nonetheless, we were excited about the tone the movement began to have within that space (a space that also has its own radical history).
When we put up that banner “Revolution is the only Culture” (a paraphrased Fanon quote) we knew very well that it would disturb, challenge, and expose the ideological function of late liberal multicultural capitalism. We were ready for the battle with the multiculturalist logic that helps pacify and commodify marginalized communities of color into fixed non-revolutionary entities. We understand the importance of culture well enough to know that true culture is an impossibility within capitalist social relations. We know clearly that what is presented as culture is fundamentally a non-culture, a kind of non-being, an inauthentic existence, determined by the historical conditions of the exploitative relations of capitalism. Culture is nothing but a horizontal arrangement of meaningless, colonized entities within the marketplace. And, therefore, culture is in need of liberation. Revolution is the only activity that can properly dismantle relations of exploitation that produce reified conceptions of identity. In this sense, we are fundamentally against identity politics. Identity politics, which is supported by the administration, has absolutely nothing to do with the realization of human potential. It has everything to do with coopting communities of color into the logic of capitalism, ghettoizing marginal identities into narrow surveilled places, and using techniques of imprisonment (e.g. prisons, schools, mental institutions, social service institutions) upon bodies of color to finalize the colonial state. Every colonial project fundamentally worked through the methods of physical genocide and cultural genocide. We know that the colonial project in the Americas involved the same exact process of occupying a land through physical means, and then continuing with cultural genocide through institutions of education. Our fight against the administration is a fight against cultural genocide and colonialist capitalism.
When EOP (Educational Opportunity Program) came over to argue to get back the space, they were supported by a couple of p-o-c groups that ignorantly spoke of their identities and their cultures as if they are self-evident. They spoke of their individual stories of oppression and trauma. While we respect individuals, we fundamentally reject the line of reasoning that allows for this kind of isolation. We think it is a total misreading of the social, economic crises in communities of color, because no amount of individual counseling or therapy can resolve the larger problem of capitalism. The problem of capitalism can only be solved through revolutionary action which emerges from the tension between historical determinations and struggle. This is precisely why it is important for us to be aware of our own historical condition/moment. The revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East did not come out of a vacuum. A certain kind of historical situation presented itself, a certain set of crises emerged, and a certain kind of revolutionary struggle realized its task at hand. Identity politics is a strategy encouraged by administrative logic that aims to cloud the political truth procedures of marginalized and oppressed communities. And, therefore, identity politics within the logic of multiculturalism works against revolutionary politics. Our confrontation with EOP and the non-revolutionary p-o-c groups prove this point. We offered to share our space with EOP to help them become self-reliant. We also offered to occupy a larger place on campus for them. They declined both offers, and insisted on transitioning into our occupied space because that is what the administration asked them to do.
When Malcolm X argues for “extreme methods” he is precisely talking about rejecting the idea of making “peace” with oppression, making “peace” with the system. We, the revolutionaries (of color) know very clearly the role of the ‘truth’ of politics. We know how to identify our friends and enemies. Our truth is based on political action, but also a proper understanding of the “critique of political-economy.” In this sense, we never separate theory from action. We learn through doing, and we do when we learn. We are always ready to begin from the beginning. We know that the true movement of history can open up a different future, a different society without exploitation. When Fanon speaks of liberating “the man of color from himself” he is precisely talking about this possibility of the unfolding of history in the true revolutionary direction, where we destroy constructs created by the system.
Revolution is the only Culture.
Destroy (reified conceptions of) difference.

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