Looking Back on the California Student Occupation Movement

Originally published by It’s Going Down

In this episode of the It’s Going Down podcast, we talk with a participant in the worker-student occupation movement that exploded in California in the fall of 2009 to the spring of 2010. With eyes on the present and the current #NeverAgain walkouts, we discuss the lessons and evolution of the movement that took place in the aftermath of the 2007-8 economic crash and grew in reaction to a proposed 32% increase in tuition costs within the University of California (UC) system.

At the heart of our discussion is both the tension of the role of demands within social struggles, as well as how people spread the physical tactics of occupation, as well as the concept of ‘communization,’ as a real life revolutionary practice. As our guest describes, the act of taking and using the university through a series of occupations and the making of its infrastructure communal, brought thousands into conflict with both the university and its police, but also with more traditional Leftist forms of demand based activism. Decried as “adventurists” by many activists, the student communards pointed towards a mode of activity that was based around not the self-managing or ‘democratizing’ of institutions, but instead the destruction of separations between people and the means of existence.

Beyond talking about the spread of occupations in the fall of 2009, which included everything from massive building takeovers, clashes with the police, sit-ins at libraries, and large scale outdoor dance parties, we also talk about the shift towards trying to link up with students and groups organizing in public education outside of the University of California system. With this in mind, we discuss the turn towards the ‘day of action’ model on March 4th, 2010, as well as the continued disagreements over strategy that erupted between those organizing on the ground.

Towards the end of the podcast, we then turn to discuss the impact that the worker-student occupations had on other movements and struggles, both in terms of tactics and ideas, from the spreading of highway occupations in Black Lives Matter, to the cry of ‘Occupy Everything’ generalizing within the Occupy Movement itself. We end by looking towards the present situation, both in terms of struggles happening in public education as well as the overall crisis within capital and the political State.

More Info: After the Fall: Communiques from Occupied California, Communique from An Absent Future, and Occupy California.

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