- An Interview with Matthew Evsky (Part 2) -
In this interview, Matthew Evsky* speaks on ways that the education system is bound up with policing, mass incarceration, and settler colonialism. How can we integrate education struggles with abolitionist, decolonial approaches? For resistant alternatives, we can look to Liberation Schools and free, cooperative universities embedded in communities. Facing major barriers to these from racism, we must call on white people to renege on their racist bargain with the state and capital. How can we popularize such an abolitionist politics with narratives that convince people to be for annihilating the very system that gives them privileges?
In this interview, Joe Grim Feinberg shares his experiences with a radically democratic union, Graduate Students United at the University of Chicago. Rather than waiting for recognition from the state, they have thrived by getting together as workers, declaring themselves to be a union, and organizing to improve their working conditions. Joe praises the IWW’s strategy of organizing a union for all workers that, if followed consistently, de facto leads to an anti-capitalist approach. Such a strategy faces many limits, as grad students are habituated into academic professionalism, which goes against the idea of industrial unionism. Instead of professionalizing for individual insertion into the capitalist rat race, academics can take pride in what they do through organizing and taking control of the production process. Continue reading
An Interview with Marianne Garneau
(co-author of “Snapshots of the Student Movement in Montreal”)
Against a kind of activist-y, spectacular politics, Marianne Garneau argues that US students and workers can learn from the Quebec model how to organize our power as a class. Quebec students have kept their tuition low because they’ve historically had a vibrant, militant student movement, one that is willing to strike and directly disrupt, and not wait for the leadership of the business unions. The organizing model is to create directly democratic bodies—department-by-department assemblies—that know how to leverage our power to fuck up the business of the people who are screwing us over, whether they’re our educators or our employers.
Drawing on his extensive research on the history of universities, Mark Paschal debunks mystified views of higher education. Instead of relying on overly sophisticated theories that are tough to popularize, Mark recommends focusing on what attracts people to universities: opportunities to make better lives for themselves. We can create autonomous universities with a kind of vocational training more in line with historical materialism than the humanities—to learn skills for taking over empty buildings and holding down city blocks for radical causes. To connect such organizing with the informal networks that already exist in marginalized communities, rather than presuming that the knowledge and skills gained in universities can be useful in struggles, learn others’ modes of communicating and ask questions about how we can be useful. Since the fucked-up-ness of the capitalist university-prison-industrial complex can seem overwhelming, rather than merely trying to illuminate the problems, we need physical interventions that demonstrate viable alternatives. To inspire a mass exodus from universities, we must continue to struggle within existing institutions—such as through strikes and occupations—while we create autonomous universities that force the dominant ones to confront their own limits.
by Sutapa Chattopadhyay (Maastricht University)
Today, frankly our universities are transformed into knowledge-for-profit-enclosures, as primarily ‘branded’ universities are sold-out to the policy elites (techno-scientific foundations, business consortia and multinationals) for the progress of scientific research, on which intellectual property rights are placed that exclude most people from its benefits. This is the reason we must connect with ecosocialist, ecofeminist and anarchist strategies, as these alternative theories and praxis can undo the rigid, hierarchical, authoritarian, hegemonic and provincial university education system toward a non-hierarchical, egalitarian, emancipatory knowledge locus.
Summary: From the wilderness of adjuncting to university occupations and the Quebec student uprisings, professor Alison Hearn (U. of Western Ontario) discusses how we can create organizing grounds in the ruins of universities. The classroom presents possibilities for connecting pedagogy with organizing, while grappling with the tensions of context, faculty authority, and student resistance. Rather than falling into either authoritarian or hippy-dippy, de-professionalized modes of teaching, Hearn talks about how an ethically responsible approach can escape the academic capitalist rat race and build relationships across divisions of workers and students.
CW: What is the deal with YoSoy132?
Patrick: It’s kind of a weird movement, because it started in the private universities, in a very upper class Catholic private university called Iberoamericana. It’s probably one of the more progressive private universities, because it has a quite independent and active faculty trade union. It arose in response to Enrique Peña Nieto who is the PRI candidate for president. The PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional) was in power continuously from 1929 to 2000, one of the world’s longest running dictatorships, guilty of incredible abuses of human rights. The most infamous one was the massacre of Tlatelolco on October 2nd, 1968, just before the Olympics, when the Mexican army and paramilitaries killed around 500 people in a square near the center of Mexico City. It’s never been properly investigated. The ex-Mexican president, Luis Echevarria who was the minister of Internal Affairs when that happened, was briefly arrested and charged with genocide in 2006, but was almost immediately released. In spite of all their crimes, they’re on the point of being re-elected after just 12 years out of power. It’s like fascism coming back. The problem is that the party that’s been in power, the PAN (Partido Acción Nacional), has been as bad if not worse than the PRI. So, it’s just gone from the frying pan to the fire and back to the frying pan again. 60,000 have died in these last 6 years of President Calderon from the ‘war against drugs,’ which in reality has been a war against the whole population, at the same time a new form of governance and a new theatre in the “global war against terrorism”. It’s been government through military dictatorship that we’ve had in Mexico since 2006, and the electoral fraud in 2006, too, that started it. Of course there’s a real danger of another electoral fraud. Until May 11th it seemed like Enrique Peña Nieto was going to win the elections easily. There had already been one or two setbacks for him. First, at the Guadalajara International Book Fair in December last year, he was asked what were the three most important books in his life, and he couldn’t name one. He is just such a complete airhead, an ignoramus. This is the guy who’s going to be the next president of Mexico!
by Turiddu Kronstadt
When hired at an entry level university post, whether postgraduate, precarious, or tenure-track, one is often confronted with teaching courses beyond one’s background and/or interests (besides a complete lack of or very limited institutionalised pedagogical experience). That was somewhat the situation for me when I started teaching entire courses by myself under the ever deceptive title of Teaching Assistant. If I wanted a stipend (any stipend, really, at that point) and avoid being encumbered with even more loans than I had already accrued, I had to accept whatever was thrown at me.
It happened to be a lab in introductory physical geography (see syllabus here). I had no college-level teaching experience and had just decided to move away from physical geography after my MSc, so as to concentrate on social theories. The prospect of becoming a dishwasher for tenured faculty unwilling to teach introductory courses was not only irritating (and one must quickly learn to hide such irritation under such relations of power), but overwhelming. It would and did set me back in my studies as a result of having to dedicate many hours to a subject that was to me of little interest at that point. At least I had studied enough physical geography to be competent and to make the (it turns out) typical error of piling readings and gratuitous complexities in the curriculum, all for the sake of completeness and, ultimately, to cover up intense self-doubt or insecurity regarding my competence. Regardless, my involvement in anarchist and other anticapitalist groups (e.g., founding the short-lived Atlantic Anarchist Circle, joining the IWW) could not have been further removed from my institutional education work.