As promised in our “Oppose Blog Worship“, we will publish (or republish) interesting and relevant contributions from readers and friends of Maosoleum. The views here are, thus, those of Neftali, and do not necessarily represent the views of Maosoleum. This article originally circulated among Neftali’s friends more than a year and half ago, and we are publishing upon his request in the context of the struggles developing at the City University of New York.
by Neftali, Guest post
(no contact information, so please leave comments or contact us, if you want to engage him.)
A General Orientation to Our Question
One of the hollower of phrases today in our movement, so deceptive it is treacherous to the people, is the demand of “student power” within a “student movement.” True revolutionary forces must expose such a reactionary slogan within the context of our struggle. It has in practice only led to the domination of one class over another within the movement(s) connected to higher education. Its particular manifestations we see incarnate in various student organizations from the most reform oriented to even the most radically minded. These student organizations tie themselves to their “movement” in such a way as to never truthfully peer out from the high walls or exit their gates to see the general condition of the people. They call for strikes and occupations solely on the basis of the identity of students and their supposed power and with no real true attentiveness to the condition of the proletarian masses around them.
What is the meaning of “student struggle” when the location of students are transitional to the general economy? Those speaking about “student struggle” and “student power” are in essence only class aspiring petty-bourgeoisie among us. The work conducted among students must be conducted in relation to general struggle of proletarian masses. A struggle around debts and tuition solely is the struggle for the petty-bourgeoisie on the backs of the broad oppressed and exploited people of the world, a struggle which opens the university, transforms its relationship to the people, transforms the relationship of the teacher and the student, which transforms the basic content of the education for the purposes of revolution is the only true struggle for the masses.
Let us break this down to all its atoms – we live fundamentally within the coordinates of imperialism, of world capitalism dominated by the parasitical sector of finance capital. In its concreteness of our actually existing predicament, this appears in the manifestation of the neo-liberal regime (the fusion of state power and capital under capital) with hegemony under US Empire (a settler-colonial, white supremacist state of North America). The internal class dynamics of the US Empire are principally between socialized labor and capital, the basis for socialist revolution. However because of the character of such a country within the world coordinates of production (as world police and benefactor for imperialism, and as a white supremacist, white-settler country) this fundamental contradiction has never been always principled in the democratic revolutionary struggle of the masses. Elements of labor have been co-opted into the imperialist system and racist pogroms and national oppression of national minorities within the country have produced a historically deformed class structure. However generally speaking within what is a deformed class structure produced from imperialism and national oppression, the class alignment of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie are still fundamental with wavering unstable classes in this mix.
This is a simplified class analysis of the United States for the purposes of orienting our understanding of the struggle of the students. We must begin generally with understanding the student in their particular mode as a student, as an abstraction. The student, is as we said, a transitional subject whose mode of practice revolves fundamentally around the skilling of their labor for utility within the capitalist mode of production, either directly within production, within reproduction, or management of these tasks. Their identity, therefore, is transitional and is bound towards having a definite relationship to the mode of production which can only be clear when looking concretely among the students themselves.
We do not deny the vast majority of students are bound to join the labor force as waged workers. But as skilled waged workers among the middle and upper sections of the working class. This is for certain the fate of many students attending public universities, community colleges, technical schools, and the lower rate universities that are merely scams upon the people in reality. There are also at the same time not an insignificant minority of students who are being skilled as managers of capital, as part of the ideological and repressive state apparatus or directly within the production scheme itself. There also plenty of more students (whether bound to wage-work or not) are fundamentally bound to an entirety of their life in unstable quarters as wage-workers, petty-bourgeois hustlers of the dignified sort, and possible future managers within the system.
The student is from the standpoint of the proletariat not much different from any other petty-bourgeois aspiring elements within society or among our class. The student looks for community only among other class striving elements to encourage their own prospects of embedding themselves within the system, the student is in many instances ideologically deluded by the prospects of bourgeois right, but fail to take notice of how they will mostly be under the peonage of finance capital. Many fail to notice how proletarianization is a fact among even the most skilled of labor, how they have become a part of a deeper pool of labor of their own skills.
Class Suicide is the basis for Students Seizing Revolution
Students, in general, as an unstable and transitory element have many of the same very marks of ideology as the petty-bourgeoisie (even when they’re working class). It is necessary to promote as much as possible a “serve the people” ethics to the students, for them to grasp and understand their relationship to the people is not as “student-worker” as the student syndicalists have promoted in the last few years but as those with skill who must integrate themselves with the people and lead in their struggle.
Generally the syndicalist line has consistently confused who the proletariat is and this instance has done so badly in this regards they now imagine and fashion workers out of the possible salatariat. We should, on the other hand, promote at every occasion and agitate to the students of not only uniting but integrating with proletarian struggle through student organizations led by the proletarian line. We must expose all forms of petty-bourgeois radicalism – from the various forms of identity politics to the heterodox Trotskyists.
We must promote wholesale a strategy of class suicide among the students; to serve the people, to fight self-interest, to fight bourgeois right. The most principled apolitical student – maybe we can imagine one who studies analytic philosophy, theology, chemistry, etc. – stands on the side of a mountain of bones. That their continued participation within that process, within the machine of capitalist accumulation, grinds more of our people into the earth and if they’re unlucky, they too will be a part of this. If they fight, they can not fight to gain back what history has already smashed. Unearthed, displaced, and proliferated the scholar will never sit in the court of the king. No! Proletarianization is a reality and all those who fight it are hanging on to the coattails of the professorial robes drenched in blood.
It is important to expose the students to the class war with the phenomenological accounts, narratives, and history of revolutionary heroines and heroes. Surely not to promote any cult of personality around this or that person, but to show definitely that the price of our war is no child’s play yet encourage the student to see that there is experience that is fulfilling enough which doesn’t have to be determined by the fantasy machine of the capitalist system or the relic notions of pre-capitalist eras. Have the experiences of our comrades not been enough to speak to this reality whether we are reading the autobiography of Assata Shakur, Huey P. Newton, David Gilbert, The Young Lord’s Palante!, the Correspondences between Kevin Rashid Johnson and Outlaw, the Account of a Revolutionary Village in China provided by Edgar Snow and so on and so on. It is important to stack our libraries with theory but also with this material as well. A revolutionary suicide is the baptismal sacrament into the new world.
Why we must win over Students and the Methodology of Work Among Them
The revolutionary proletariat must dare to struggle for terrain in the schools, it is a “turf war” between us and unstable classes (even in their anarchist or socialist colors). For proper revolutionary proletarian work to be built broadly among the people, for proletarian organization to generate, it must attempt to win over any sections of the intellectual elements from the schools (to supply the revolutionary ranks with organic intellectuals). All philistine attitudes which carry forward work without the ability to recruit from the ranks of the intellectuals will end up in the mindless duldrums of economism and reformism, this is the history of such trajectories. The University forces students to be educated with the rational tools of many subjects, for the purposes of performing higher functioning mental labor in accordance to their task of production. The process of capitalist production, the capitalist has skilled the general labor force (with of course particular exceptions based upon the political projects of national oppression and other repressive measures against the world’s oppressed majority globally). Such education gives us access to the tools of science – of investigation, analysis, and practice. Without any work from our revolutionary ranks, the schools produce naturally these elements in mass scale.
Further the struggle to bring revolutionary proletarian politics to the students is also a means of bringing ourselves to and embedding ourselves within the academic institutions. This has many levels of advantages:
- It brings us in direct contact with the most advance thought in the sciences and theory generally. In contact with the sciences and general theory, we sharpen our own thought and contend with the bourgeois ideology surrounding science and theory.
- Towards this struggle we reproduce lines of our own thought within academia, even among the bourgeoisie themselves in their institutions. We do so through the contention of our line of thought and advanced theory with the lines of thought of the bourgeoisie. We may directly win in academia our own revolutionary professors or at the very least constitute study groups which spread the lines of thought among the students.
- Memes derived from our own thought get caught within the system and our reproduced by the petty-bourgeois academics themselves if not directly us. ‘Many revolutionary movements have had their variations of “‘legal’ Marxists” who have done this amount generally for ourselves and we should at every moment take the door they have left ajar to agitate and propagate the political line of the revolutionary proletariat among the people.
With this considered it is necessary to develop a proper method in regards to student work:
- Foremost it is necessary to openly put forward the revolutionary line of the proletariat as broadly as possible among students; work as communists must be conducted as openly as possible. It is necessary to develop an agitation and propaganda (agitprop) apparatus towards the students, to set the students to studying revolutionary theory of our class, to have them contend conscientiously with ideas all sorts. To agitate on the general condition of the masses of oppressed and exploited people; to combat the wrong ideas of the bourgeoisie broadly on as many questions as possible but particularly to those which are of direct concern to the most proletarian of elements among the students. Media is the weapon – papers, books, Facebook, Twitter…all must be to utilized for agitprop.
- One must build revolutionary student organizations, committees, clubs, etc under the line of the revolutionary proletariat. The purpose of which to generally coordinate revolutionary work and any possible mass work among students. To give an intersubjectivity of thought that provides for the enrichment of work among students, to allow the advanced among the students to join and take hold of their own “struggles” (broadly speaking) and to connect with revolutionary proletariat. Such revolutionary formations among the students must be connected with the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat, and in optimal conditions, connected to their most advanced organization, their vanguard. Without such connections a revolutionary formation among students can be doomed to lapse into petty-bourgeois delusions of all sorts – adventurism, identity politics, student syndicalism, etc. This is why it is also important to conduct study groups on the classic texts of revolutionary thought.
- The formation of mass formations wherever possible; revolutionaries must enter the clubs, student unions, fraternities and sororities, which brings them closest to the most proletarian section of the masses. Black, Chican@, American Indian, and other student unions of the oppressed nationality people or even clubs based on racialized identity are clearly the most suitable to join. When considering the “deformed” aspect of US class society, such formations bring possibly the most proletarianized or popular strata together – such clubs while not giving us possible direct proletarian basis for organization will give us connection to the broad multiclass oppressed nationality communities; even its national bourgeoisie. Such relationships will always be key to be forged in and outside of education. The formation of women’s organizations is also vital as well when we must consider that the patriarchal domination and masculinist violence are fundamental features of capitalist production. Women make a larger majority within the colleges than many other equal gender institutions because women are beginning to make up a larger percentage of the educated work force – this is connected very much to what Marx highlighted as the “feminization of labor” as capitalism develops. A Rainbow Alliance or Queer Student Union is also evidently another avenue as well.
In each case we enter or create these formations to join the spontaneous fraternization of the students along the lines of identity and to even celebrate such identity, its history, etc. Such communities are needed and are not opposed to revolutionary internationalism of our class; we however do not tail identity politics but attempt to struggle for leadership of these formations, to educate about such history in the historical materialist lense to expose the basis of common oppression in such categories of identity by the capitalist system through national, racial, or gender oppression. Through this activity we bring forward the most consciously advance sections of these formations towards ourselves and give them class conscious theory and practice to set them to struggle, win over the intermediate of those who will unite with us on features of struggle against capitalism (especially regard to common oppression based upon identity) giving us steadily the possible basis for a broader united front against capitalism which is beyond the mere scope of our class but with it in leadership.
- The orientation of mass organizations to mass work. A mass organization must set towards mass work, largely in defense or for the advance of practical gains which embolden the revolutionary sentiment among students, opens the university to the general masses of people and breaks the ivory tower, and transforms the content, structure of such academic sites in coordination with the broad revolutionary struggle of the proletariat. There are campaigns of a few character types.
- Campaigns and mass work which are directly connected to mass formations that share common oppression and identity together – Work to defend or create ethnic or gender studies programs/departments, fighting for centers or community spaces to be constituted against the normative violence of racist, sexist, and/or homophobic students, gender neutral bathrooms, rape prevention, etc. Such work should go beyond the university as well to organizing against police brutality, domestic violence, and other broad violations of rights of people or basic denial of humanity.
- Campaigns connected broadly to anti-imperialist, anti-war, or other forms of solidarity work – Hands off Iran Committees, BDS campaigns against Israel, Free Cuban Five Committees, Stop FBI Committees, United Against Sweatshops, etc.
- Campaigns that broadly represent an issue of the whole student body – the tuition hikes, budget cuts, student loans, student government elections, administration, the firing and hiring of professors, campus security, etc.
- All such campaigns must attempt the broadest united front but also attempt to polarize the issues towards the interests of the revolutionary proletariat. In the context of campaigns of the first and second type, a mass formation of one type or another can lead but should unite with individuals drawn to the campaign alone on the basis of the campaign, the organizations should attempt to build coalitions with other formations interested in the work. The campaigns which directly concern students and only indirectly the people must always be abridged by conscientious attempts to bring the students to the people or give the character of the struggle something that is popular for the people – open the ethnic studies center to the general public to visit for example or allow an opening up of the classes for them. Campaigns which are fundamentally at concern with the people and bring the students as auxiliary workers to those struggles must emboldened the revolutionary spirits of the students and connect the students on the level of such enthusiasm to reproduce the continuity of work around the issue. The third type is one of broad concern of not the students, but the broad masses and has fundamentally to the relationship of the institution to the consumer (student) and the people. One can’t not effectively work as a simple student in regards to demands with generally affect the student body, but must take upon themselves the position of a class within the student body (even with such broad and democratic struggles). In this sense the revolutionary student is not necessarily from within the host of the body of the university, but is an insurgent for the proletarian revolution.
- The basis of development of mass organizations and mass work will depend upon the particularity of the college, it necessitates a proper class analysis of the terrain of struggle. In a school like Columbia University there will be the necessity of uniting with the national bourgeois elements located in the student unions – the democratic struggles within such a campus will effectively always have a bourgeois character, but unity with national bourgeois forces are an important detail to further strengthening and developing alliances for future struggle and for uplifting the oppressed nationality and national minority communities. The only truly proletarian struggle to be waged at Columbia is for its liquidation into the hands of the people, its expropriation of assets, and minimally its integration into the state university system. In the CUNY system the struggle for democratic control of the university does take on a more explicitly proletarian character as the broad many of the students come from the working class or lower middle class, there are however many nuances that need to be understood – the conservative and sometimes reactionary positions of the professors and their trade union, the unstable character of the adjunct professors and graduate students between the petty-bourgeoisie and the working class, the contradictions among the poorest and other working class students around tuition, financial aid, and admissions.
- It is necessary to integrate our numbers into the departments of special interest and among the students who are being put in the position of technical skill among the working class. There is a need for conscious revolutionaries to join the ethnic studies departments and to take them up as majors and minors. It is also important to detach as many revolutionaries as possible away from the liberal arts programs into the sciences, nursing, public administration, urban studies, law, education, etc. Among this layer of people there will be a section of the lower petty bourgeoisie and the working class which will have a pivotal relationship to the reproductive ability of the capitalist mode of production. There are also (especially in the community colleges) programs that the radical petty-bourgeoisie ignore completely, delighted to indulge in the more parasitic section of petty-bourgeois intellectuals and dilettantes, that Communists must look towards at the very least becoming within the mix.
Minimum and Maximum Program around the University System in General
Minimal Program in relation to the on-going struggle for Socialism
- The end of all tuition hikes and budget cuts in the state universities, their complete reversal to pre-crisis 2008 rates. The short fall of budget issues within the education system to be paid by the “1%” through progressive taxation.
- The elimination of all programs, scholarships, colleges within the public university system which assist the middle, upper, petty-bourgeois and bourgeois stratum over the working class and lower petty-bourgeoisie. Retention of new but similar programs, scholarships, and programs for the multiclass oppressed nationality and disadvantaged national minority communities and the multinational working class people.
- Stoppage of work orders on all expansions of the university systems conducted by the Public and Private universities in relation to new building projects. Immediate oversight to be conducted by special committees made up of participatory delegations from community districts and site workers in immediate relation to the projects.
- Divestment of all institutions from the Israeli state. All financial relationships of the university shall be made open and transparent.
- Tuition at technical schools to be brought down to the tuition corresponding to the community colleges. Gradual integration of technical schools into the public university system.
- Integration of the facilities and resources of the Private Universities with the Public Universities – libraries, study centers, even staff.
- Debt relief from student loans.
- Open admissions to all public universities.
- Smashing the bureaucratic apparatuses in place for the democratic apparatus of a joint student-worker, and where possible, community controlled apparatus. Democratic participatory committees shall replace the Board of Trustees, the presidents, etc.
Maximum Program of Student Struggle in Relationship to the Struggle for Socialism Broadly
- The liquidation of private universities and expropriation of all assets into the hands of the revolutionary democratic joint dictatorship of the proletariat and its allies. The integration of all universities into the common holding of actually existing public universities.
- Elimination of all debt accrued from students to finance capital; the creation of broad work-studies programs to replace the system of peonage to finance capital. Such programs will integrate the students (all sections) from their abstracted base in the education system into production.
- The creation of Third World schools in the cores of the country as part of the general reparations for the system of neo-colonialism instituted in relationship to the oppressed nations in the world context. The creation of schools and universities for those communities who exercise self-determination and autonomy within the context of the older white-settler colonial North America.
- Cultural Revolution throughout the academy against all forms and modes of bourgeois ideology, all professors who uphold bourgeois right, who propagate pseudoscience, who have utilized the academy as a center of coordination and collaboration of the bourgeoisie. The end of all secret societies on the campuses. All enemies of the people must be rooted out and away from the people’s universities through people’s tribunals, through student led mass movement of criticism.