Summary: The author of We Created Chávez, George Ciccariello-Maher, draws on his experiences in the “cauldron of resistance” of Oakland, CA to speak on the relations between education, organizing in universities, and struggles against police and prisons. Against academics’ use of alibis, such as ‘changing the world by teaching,’ to legitimize anything they do as a contribution to radical movements, he calls for academics to more clearly distinguish between their jobs and their political work.
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.