Counterinfo for the
Why ‘Cutting Class’?
Our truancy is not a student activist campaign.
2018 marks the passing of half a century since the global youth insurgency of 1968. Students across the world took their struggles beyond the limits of the University as an institution and began to imagine new ways of learning and living—forms that broke the social walls between “Campus Life” and “Public Life.”
The so-called spirit of ’68 survives in the insurrectional language that, to this day, can still occasionally articulate a bridge between the accounted-for and the unintelligible. Under the paving stones, the beach. The act of translation can only be a direct act.
Fifty years later, to speak of the reemergence of a “student movement” is to speak of the dead and not their spirit. The endless attempts to “democratize” the University, to make it “run for and by the students,” fail even when they succeed. Academia has pacified the language of the ’68 uprisings within the University and its lecture halls, textbooks, and mechanisms of assimilation. This corpse of a student movement is propped up by an endless array of life support systems—non-profits, professionalized activists, student government politicians, and official channels for action—that speak the language of the old movements while ensuring that nothing resembling them could ever truly emerge again. The University can listen to all the demands thrown at it and accomodate all the movements that claim to speak for the students—so long as we all end up going back to class the next day.
This is where Cutting Class comes in.
To seek out a new insurrectional language that exceeds the University, that threatens the social roles of Campus Life. To practice speaking from life and developing new capacities. To shatter academia’s monopoly on historical memory. To learn new ways of deciding our friends and enemies, of recognizing accomplices and preempting those student politicians who would rather see us work to rebrand the University as “progressive” than to destroy class & classes altogether. To transmit glimpses of possibilities and alternatives that have been suppressed and new ones emerging on the horizon. To provide tactical knowledge, memory, and tools to assist other students in their discovery of this insurrectional language, their encounter with the undercommons, and their construction of a new world.
Most succinctly, Cutting Class is a project that intends to inspire truancy.
Today, you can see smoke signals billowing from campuses in Santiago, Montreal, Athens, Paris, the Bay Area, London, and all across Mexico and South Africa. You may have even noticed there are kids starting to pass notes filled with incoherent prose at your school too. Truants are everywhere, and we need to find each other—whether we’re skipping class to put together a zine, masking and fighting fascists on campus, seizing or sabotaging infrastructure, or inhabiting spaces with each other instead of working on our resumes, we all share a common refusal of the University from within. We hope to elaborate a practice of insurgent truancy—a way of refusing the imperatives of schooling that takes on an active, combative position within and against the University. The truant is neither student nor dropout.
What we lack is a way to engage each other outside the apparatuses of our enemies—a way to speak to each other not mediated by the spectacle of news reports, official University statements, movement officials, and so on. Cutting Class aims to create, connect, compile, and circulate the knowledge of a conspiracy: a conspiracy that already stretches from coast to coast, that infiltrates new campuses every time a student, teacher, or worker finds a new way to scream “fuck school” with the sincerity of a truant. In connecting people and communicating ideas, we hope to develop a framework for counterinformation that can describe the emotional, tactical, strategic, and ideological lessons and realizations of a lived-event to comrades that are coming from widely different emotional and material experiences of struggle. Though we are separated by hundreds of miles, identities, and theories, the nuance and difference in our thought represent opportunities to challenge and diversify the struggles and give rise to a multiplicity of fractures & conflicts within and against the University.
“Autonomy therefore means: desertion, deserting family, deserting the office, deserting school, deserting all supervision, deserting men’s, women’s, and the citizen’s roles, deserting all the shitty relations in which THEY believe us to be held—endless desertion. With every new direction that we give to our movement, the essential thing is to increase our power…”
– Tiqqun, This Is Not A Program
So this is an invitation to cut class with us. To discover what lies beyond the walls, or what latent potentials we can reclaim from the spaces within them. This is simultaneously an invitation to get organized in the spirit of ’68, and to say Fuck ’68, Fight Now!
If you’d like to reply to this invitation, here are some ideas:
- Send us news, resources, zines, critiques, music, videos, memes, podcasts, projects, and other cool shit that pushes for an insurgent truancy! CuttingClass [at] riseup [dot] net
- Read and discuss this questionnaire with your crew, and then send us your answers as a means of introduction! We’ll be compiling and publishing these conversations as a way of finding each other. Be sure to include information detailing how people can support your work.
- Check out our toolkit for theory, tactics, DIY-guides, mail-order gear, counter-repression resources, and more.
- Launch your own counter-info project
- Visit our website and follow us on social media! Twitter, Fedbook, Instagram
We hope to see you out of class
– The Cutting Class Collective
Like the society to which it has played the faithful servant, the university is bankrupt. This bankruptcy is not only financial. It is the index of a more fundamental insolvency, one both political and economic, which has been a long time in the making. No one knows what the university is for anymore. We feel this intuitively. Gone is the old project of creating a cultured and educated citizenry; gone, too, the special advantage the degree-holder once held on the job market. These are now fantasies, spectral residues that cling to the poorly maintained halls.
Incongruous architecture, the ghosts of vanished ideals, the vista of a dead future: these are the remains of the university. Among these remains, most of us are little more than a collection of querulous habits and duties. We go through the motions of our tests and assignments with a kind of thoughtless and immutable obedience propped up by subvocalized resentments. Nothing is interesting, nothing can make itself felt. The world-historical with its pageant of catastrophe is no more real than the windows in which it appears. […]
But we can be grateful for our destitution: demystification is now a condition, not a project. University life finally appears as just what it has always been: a machine for producing compliant producers and consumers. Even leisure is a form of job training. The idiot crew of the frat houses drink themselves into a stupor with all the dedication of lawyers working late at the office. Kids who smoked weed and cut class in high-school now pop Adderall and get to work. We power the diploma factory on the treadmills in the gym. We run tirelessly in elliptical circles.
It makes little sense, then, to think of the university as an ivory tower in Arcadia, as either idyllic or idle. “Work hard, play hard” has been the over-eager motto of a generation in training for…what?—drawing hearts in cappuccino foam or plugging names and numbers into databases. The gleaming techno-future of American capitalism was long ago packed up and sold to China for a few more years of borrowed junk. A university diploma is now worth no more than a share in General Motors.
We work and we borrow in order to work and to borrow. And the jobs we work toward are the jobs we already have.
– Communiqué from an Absent Future, Research & Destroy
The attempt of an autonomous group of students unaffiliated with campus organizations to occupy Wheeler Hall on Monday was a way to reclaim our agency and our education. Understanding that the university will never be able to grant our demand for liberation, we sought to facilitate a space that was free of fascism in all its forms.
We originally began collaborating because we were sick of wasting our time seeking legitimacy through the dead-end channels provided by the Pitt administration and their police. But as much as we liked to position ourselves as inhabiting a space somewhere outside of Campus Life and its toxic social institutions and useless reformist activism, we now realize that we were merely carving out niche spaces within it. […]
In centering the student identity and its socio-geographic limitations, we effectively sidelined our non-student friends and comrades and self-isolated our struggles; in imagining ourselves and our scene as somehow being exterior (and superior) to Campus Life, we self-sabotaged our efforts to organize around student issues. As a result, we spent most of our energy organizing according to the artificial relationships and interests imposed by the University, or trying to construct “alternative” scenes with the same building blocks that Campus Life provided. But we cannot hope to build a movement by hopping back and forth between cookie-cutter countercultures, half-ironically adopting the aesthetics and politics of a given scene until we’re left with the choice between complicity in the guise of left unity, socio-political posturing, and dropping off to watch as another scene falls out of fashion. As aspiring truants, we must experiment with all available means of disrupting the routes by which Campus Life follows us into our spaces and relationships. Therefore, we can no longer passively identify with the infantalizing range of behavior and thought permissible to “students.”
Our truancy is oriented against the University as a site of separation – the separation of students from other youth, of students from faculty, of students from community, of education from public life, of the individual from self-identification/determination, of thought from deed. We recognize that we cannot take down the university-colony without fighting alongside the rest of the city: alongside our friends who never fucked with colonial education, our peers who are getting paid poverty wages by the university-factory, our neighbors who are being pushed from their homes by the rising cost of living, the land that is continuing its generations-old resistance to the economic crosshairs of corporate education.
Our truancy is oriented against the University as a site of separation – the separation of students from other youth, of students from faculty, of students from community, of education from public life, of the individual from self-identification/determination, of thought from deed.
[W]e are acting for ourselves to re-invigorate a common life among students, to find each other, learn from each other, build with each other, and play with each other. Whether it’s a dance party in a park or an organization meeting filled with board games and casual conversation, we are constructing ways to organize that do not merely reproduce the regimes of work, control, and brutality that we oppose. We are finding new ways to imagine knowledge, community, life, and study. Cultivating knowledge without purpose, playful uses of space, community building, self-defense, and more actions lie on this continuum that begin from our current situation and move towards our refusal of the roles assigned to us.
– Agitate, Subvert,Negate: Austin Year in Review 2017, Autonomous Student Network – UT Austin
We must begin by preventing the university from functioning. We must interrupt the normal flow of bodies and things and bring work and class to a halt. We will blockade, occupy, and take what’s ours. Rather than viewing such disruptions as obstacles to dialogue and mutual understanding, we see them as what we have to say, as how we are to be understood. This is the only meaningful position to take when crises lay bare the opposing interests at the foundation of society. Calls for unity are fundamentally empty. There is no common ground between those who uphold the status quo and those who seek to destroy it.
– Communiqué from an Absent Future, Research & Destroy
[C]ampus insurrections are practice for the next revolutionary moments, when we’ll be ready to take hold of the university’s and society’s resources in order to put them at the service of broader struggles.
For an education that liberates.
For a classroom that no longer spectates.
For house parties where students,
workers, and faculty can throw down together.
For a campus culture that terrifies the board of trustees.
For a campus that celebrates life.