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occupation, permission and freedom-as-overcoming

21 Oct

Last week we spent some time with the occupation on Wall Street. Then we wrote this. Then we read some other views about extending the occupation of LSX beyond its limits. Then we re-read about the power of the Space Project in Leeds and its hopes for a hub for radical education. Reclaiming these spaces takes courage. We have seen many acts of courage recently. We will need more as capital and those with power-to seek to re-enclose our world and re-inscribe our society with their power.

Then @willcommon wrote this on Twitter. The tweet stressed the importance of excess; of boundaries; of moving beyond limits; of disruption; of actions that are beyond permission. It reminded us of Moishe Postone’s critical re-reading of Marx, that our social constitution by labour is not transhistorical; it is historically situated and defined. It therefore underlies the automatic, and apparently normal/normalised/normalising, regulation of our social life in capitalism. This is then the object of our critique of capitalism. Emancipation, in Postone’s terms, is not found in the realisation of this mode of social constitution [of labour in capitalism] but by our overcoming of the capitalist relations of production, of value and of capital, and by our overcoming its automatic regulation of our society.

In. Against. Beyond. Inside our abstract domination. Against our abstract domination. Beyond our abstract domination. Overcoming abstract domination is a necessary presupposition for the realisation of self-determination.

Postone stresses overcoming and moving beyond limits imposed in states of normality and democracy and exception. This may be where spaces need to be theoretically-defined not in terms of their demands and their representations, but in terms of what they enable through excess. So in New York we witness Occupy Wall Street supporting moves against Stop and Frisk, which @newyorkist is tweeting about here. And in New York a march heads-off to the Village against fracking. And in New York there is a spin-off occupation of MoMA, because its sponsors are big finance and because art should be for all and not just oppressive.

And in this occupation as a space as a hub for radical education, we might ask, as @aaronjpeters did here, how do the current occupations connect to the lessons of the dispersed, demanding, student protests of last winter/spring. How do workerists, educators, students, support the variety of issues within and across our society that act as controls and constraints on our being? How do those students and workerists empower occupations to grow in excess of their spatial limits? As the Dean of St Paul’s, supported by transnational elites (the 1%) and in order to maintain capital’s reproduction of its power in our world, we might ask, in Postone’s terms, how do we use spaces as hubs of radical education, to overcome capital’s automatic regulation of our society? How do we develop the courage to reveal our freedom in acts of overcoming?

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occupy everywhere

14 Oct

On Wednesday we went into occupation of ourselves. This was a joint action between Leicester, New York and Ayr. This is part of a general call for action and discussion about alternatives and repossession and opening out of spaces that have been violently enclosed.

In New York we took our occupation down Broadway, past City Hall and a labor rights protest against developer Sam Chang and past the portacabins at the World Trade Centre site that bore the flags of the National Union of Crane Operating Engineers and the New York City and Vicinity District Council of Carpenters. We occupied Broadway in order to witness the allegedly alternative form of organisation at Occupy Wall Street. The occupied space:

  1. made us think about how public, or previously enclosed spaces are colonised by sub-groups and permacultures, and re-enclosed by them – it made us think of homeless shelters;
  2. was clearly part of a spectacle, with the police watching the tourists watching those who faced out of the occupied space with their single issue placards who in turn corralled those who had settled the square;
  3. used consensus decision-making, and was clearly being dominated by a few people who were owning the process for others – in fact the process of repeating the words of each speaker as they spoke, formed a liturgy of consensus that risked talking down/overwhelming those who were deemed to have invalidated the process; moreover it felt like “his name is Robert Poulsen“;
  4. used consensus to decide to spend $2000 on 30 flags; the speaker proposing this wanted US-made flags that could be inscribed and used in direct action; he did not want “shitty flags” that had been made abroad; so much for labour solidarity in the face of the transnational finance capital that was located 50 yards down the street; as for ignoring capital and making rather than buying flags, well that wasn’t on the agenda;
  5. was clearly fetishised – in the face of a threatened eviction, which did not take place this morning, the occupiers cleaned the square – they became good occupiers, in order to keep the spectacle on the road. They inscribed the square with power, the same socially-reproduced power relations that they claimed to be opposing, and used consensus to re-inscribe that fact. Then it felt that the square was reified as the only focal point for action. Rather than walking away from its normalisation with the legal framework demanded by the Mayor, the occupiers cleaned their cell. You will obey the bunting. Whoever hangs it up.

And so we walked away back up Broadway and thought about occupation as an ideological apparatus that was unable to reveal a tranformatory social moment because it could not imagine a revolutionary other world. We thought about how capital needs disruptors like these in order that it can adapt to them and re-produce its logic through their actions. We thought about how a radical set of ideas around equality in a square might never become tranformatory because they cannot move away from concepts like equality as it is formed within the legalistic institutions of democracy-in-capital.

And we thought about November 9/30 in the UK, and the types of actions that might unfold from there. We thought that what is at stake is being against inequality through capital, not a fight for equality or its subsumption under equality of opportunity/social mobility. These are bourgeois sops/liberal justifications. The fight is for the negation of inequality under capital, and for alternative forms of value and ways of realising that value. And so we thought about how to use November 9/30 to engage in a critique of labour-in-capitalism as the organising principle for  the structures of our lives, and we thought how to connect students and workers in this project, in order to overcome this historical crisis. And we wondered about the role of the University, and what might be salvaged from the neoliberal university, and how that space might be re-invented against the reproduction of the university as education-for-capital.

be prepared

22 Sep

Whether it’s for the first day at school, the first day of the football season, the first cut (which is the deepest, apparently), or just the first time, Third University wants to help you to be prepared. Not in a Baden Powell, proto-fascist organisation way. Or in a dodgy Aston Villa way. But in a way that helps to keep you safe. Helping you to keep yourself safe. That’s what’s currently exercising us.

So here’s the thing. We want to help you to tell your story, and there are some opportunities coming up for doing just that. Leicester is hosting Local Democracy Week, 12-19 October. John Coster has stated that:

“Now more than ever it’s vital that Leicester people get the chance to speak out and be heard about the issues which matter most to them and we’ve come together to try to create opportunities and provide platforms to make that happen.

“Our message is that if local democracy is to work, everyone’s opinion has to count and everyone has to be encouraged and enabled to express it. We also believe that there is so much we can learn from each other which could make our city a better place for us all.”

We are also aware that in the run-up to national protests on 9 and 30 November, people might be wondering how to use social media to get their ideas and stories across. From inside a protest; or outside a protest; or from a range of coffee shops; or by working with young people, or marginalised people, or unionised people, or officials, or whatever. We also think that we might usefully begin to situate those emerging stories historically. To understand how their own stories are connected to other narrtives and critiques. To understand how to work for change. This might be to connect their November 30th to other historical November 30ths.

To support this process of connecting critiques, we will be supporting two things. These things might be actions or activities or conversations. They will surely be storytelling.

The first will take place during local democracy week, and will be virtual and real. It might take the form of a tweetup or set of SKYPE chats or blog-posts or iPadio broadcasts or something else. They will take place between locations in New York, Ayr and Leicester. They will attempt to create a set of historical narratives about protest.

The second will take place during Community Media Week (2-8 November) and will involve social media training for activists. It will involve discussion about how to keep safe and still tell your story, and how to connect to others telling their story.

There will be no curriculum. Just people with different expertise. And a series of protests. And a desire to support and safe-guard.

Whilst we were listening to Sufjan Stevens…

23 Jun

We were listening to Sufjan Stevens, and in particular, reflecting on the beauty of Vesuvius and the iron cage that is a pedagogy of debt:

“Vesuvius
I am here
You are all I have
Fire of fire
I’m insecure
For it is all
Been made to plan
Though I know
I will fail
I cannot
Be made to laugh
For in life
As in death
I’d rather be burned
Than be living in debt”.

We thought it would be nice to think about debt-as-possibility or as opening, and the possibility of the revolution that might be the re-form-ation of higher education into higher learning, in the face of the shock doctrine. Can a re-form-ation be revolutionary? So we spoke about higher education and the discipline of shock. And we waited for our friends at The Really Open University and the Social Science Centre to open up cracks as alternatives because we need to know what is to be done?