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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.


an away day in Bedford

2 Oct

Yesterday we held a walkabout-cum-learnathon-cum-exploration-of-space-cum-awayday in Bedford. We were hoping to learn something about unemployability. We learned:

  1. about historically-defined administrative units of wapentake, hundred, shire and county. We learned about their role in feudal enclosure and political control and taxation. And in our wondering why they developed as they did, with different flavours in different spaces/places, we reflected upon their historically-situated and defined emergence, and the historically-situated and defined emergence of new possibilities. Just because it was, doesn’t mean it has to be;
  2. about the role of public schools and rowing clubs and rugby clubs and the aristocracy in the early development of football and the way in which the town provided a space for former colonial administrators, in the history of Bedford. And we learned about the sacking of the town under Henry III and its pivotal medieval role on the River Great Ouse. And we wondered about how that inscribed the place and the space with a particular culture and set of explicit values that denied other histories and possibilities by enclosing and refusing them;
  3. about the ways in which the successful defence of the line in rugby union offers a sense of hope and relief and release through a real-world focus on place and space. And the attritionality and precarity of our actions in the world. And we wondered how that shared engagement in a space, shared for immanent and yet disparate reasons by a crowd, and that co-operative association might enable new forms of production and use to emerge in other spaces. Or we wondered whether there always had to be dominant and dominating rules inscribed and imposed on our land.

And we thought about how walking through a place like Bedford, historically-situated as an amalgam of cultures, reflected by a distinctly conservative culture, might enable us to re-think our solidarity with #occupywallst, and prepare for action ahead of #nov9 and #nov30. And we wonder about this in the real-world, and in face of the proletarianising reality of austerity, and we reflect on the need for direct action, in enabling possibilities for a world of #unemployability that is against capitalist work as the primary organising principle for all our our lives.

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.

On Leicester and its spaces for doing stuff: 9th August (LCB Deport 5pm onwards)

31 Jul

As part of a City Galley exhibition “I will talk with anybody who will talk with me” (A series of performances/installations/conversations, named after this footage from a news piece on the anti-university of London in 1968) The Third University will be doing something in the space (which looks a bit like a den you’d build when you were small) at the front of the LCB Depot on the 9th of August (5pm onwards).

There will be a little bit of learning from Eric Rosoman (the exhibition coordinator) on some of the pieces in the space – followed by hopefully an interesting discussion about the spaces in Leicester for doing stuff. The Third University is aware that although the council have their own managers for arranging and talking about things to do in spaces, much of it is from a top-down, business orientated perspective. This is about reclaiming, re-appropriating and hacking the city. It would be nice if we could talk about what we might do in the autumn term. You have an idea, a thing that you are good at or something that we should be teaching, we would like to help you find things to learn, but also have a place and a space to do it- even if it is or never needs to be permanent. This is what this discussion/talky thing will be about.

The lesson will follow after by a trip to the pub. There will be more details about logistics later – but please do keep the 9th of August open- and let us know if you’ll be there. Either on twitter -or leave a comment here.

The @thirduniversity hangs out the bunting during community media week.

4 May


This is the plan for 6th of June.

 10-1 – The Third University presents:

 3 people talking for 3 minutes on the stuff that they like and care about. 3 times. For 3 hours. With chat and coffee and cake in between. In the nice space in the Phoenix with a projector and chairs that looks into the garden bit. It is warm we will open the double doors and sit outside. Plant some flowers. Nobody else will.

Don’t be scared. Count to 360. That is all it takes. It would be great if you could come. You don’t even need to prepare. It is good  speak some times. It’s even better to listen.

 12.30-1.30 – Leicester does #media2012 showcase

 This is #media2012:

We will occupy the Phoenix Square until they ask us to go away. We have nice things from Olympics archives, the East Midlands Special Olympic Team and the Wave reporters (under 25 community news) covering the spectacle. This is a good chance to see how things might happen in 2012. You can also meet members from the 15 citizen’s eye community news agencies, join stuff, do your own thing, make the experience your own.

2-4 #media2012 steering committee. A meeting.

 6-9 The Third University presents:

 It doesn’t know yet, it hopes that people who have been glued to their desk during the day or have been enjoying a rather busy Monday, can come along later and do some nice stuff in Natterjacks. Good sandwiches and beer and a screen to display images about things you might like. Who knows? It’s nice to worry about these things.