domingo, dezembro 26, 2010

quarta-feira, dezembro 15, 2010

Call in solidarity with the students and precarious workers arrested the 14th of December in Italy

Please sign and circulate:
The 14th of December was another great moment of struggles in Italy. One hundred thousand high school and university students, precarious researchers and workers from all over Italy demonstrated in Rome on the day in which it seemed a vote of no confidence would be passed on the Berlusconi government. Berlusconi and the right saved themselves, but in the streets of Rome and many other Italian cities the movement expressed its mistrust of the government.

The response of the government was a huge repression: people were charged and beaten in the squares, and dozens of students and precarious workers were arrested. There is only one accusation: they resist the cuts to schools and university, to education and research, they speak up against the theft of their future, against precariousness and the lack of guarantees for their future. This is a resistance of a generation of students and precarious workers, in Italy as well as in Europe and all around the world.

We express our indignation in face of this act for people who have simply demonstrated their dissent. We affirm that we are on the side of freedom of thought and freedom to demonstrate dissent. We think that it is not acceptable to manage every protest as a police problem. We affirm that the university is a space of freedom, confrontation and the production of knowledge. We demand the immediate release of the students and precarious workers who have been arrested.

terça-feira, dezembro 14, 2010

For a new Europe: University struggles against austerity. Meeting @ Paris, 11-13 February 2011

European Meeting of University Movements
From London to Vienna, from Rome to Paris, from Athens to Madrid, a new Europe is emerging. Students and precarious workers, citizens and immigrants, the multitudes are fighting for their lives and future in the front lines against the crisis.
Struggling to reappropriate their rights and the shared wealth that they create everyday. Rebelling against the austerity measures that exploit our present and rob us of our future. Raging against the arrogance of power.

Following the collective consensus of last years’ “Bologna Burns” meetings in Vienna, London, Paris and Bologna and this years’ “Commoninversity” held in Barcelona, Edu-Factory and the Autonomous Education Network join the call for a European meeting for all groups who are involved this common fight to create a powerful network of European of university struggle and beyond. A transnational space to discuss and develop our collective political capacity to counter the attacks against the university and social welfare and to build a new future for everyone.

Through conferences and workshops, panels and assemblies, we will propose the discussion around the key topics of the university, autonomous knowledge production, self-education, networking struggles, transnational political organization and the common.

The time is now upon us to rise up, together, collectively and singularly, to reclaim our lives and build a New Europe based on rights and access. The time has come for us to reclaim what is ours: the common.

sábado, dezembro 11, 2010

University of Puerto Rico students resume strikes

Student activists are organizing again after University of Puerto Rico administrators tried to undo the victory students won last Summer.
Students from six campuses in the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) system have held a series of 48-hour strikes in the last week to oppose the imposition of an $800 fee that is scheduled to take effect at the beginning of the January 2011 semester.

Students at the Río Piedras campus were among the first to go out after they held a December 1 mass assembly and voted by an overwhelming majority to strike if the administration does not rescind the new fee by December 14.

The chancellor of the Río Piedras campus used every means possible to try to stop the students from gathering, including canceling academic recess, freezing the bank account of the student council so that it couldn't pay for the sound system, and denying students the use of a space for their meeting.

But UPR students are already used to doing things the hard way, so the night before, they raised funds by approaching cars stopped at traffic lights so they could rent a sound system for the outdoor meeting that lasted five hours under the harsh rays of a sunny day at the university's athletic track.

quinta-feira, dezembro 09, 2010

Royal car attacked in protest after MPs' fee vote

A car containing Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall has been attacked amid violence after MPs voted to raise university tuition fees in England.
A window was cracked and their car hit by paint, but the couple were unharmed. In angry scenes, protesters battled with police in Parliament Square. Hundreds were contained on Westminster Bridge for a time by officers. Police say 12 officers and 43 protesters have been injured, while 22 arrests were made.

Prime Minister David Cameron said it was "shocking and regrettable" that protesters had attacked the prince's car. Clarence House said the royal couple were safe and attended the Royal Variety performance as scheduled.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson said there would be a "very serious and very detailed investigation" into the disturbances, in which 10 police officers have been injured.

The vote will mean fees will almost treble to £9,000 a year. The government's majority was cut by three-quarters to 21 in a backbench rebellion. Three ministerial aides resigned. Only 28 Lib Dem MPs - less than half - voted for the government's plans for tuition fees. Six Conservative MPs voted against.

segunda-feira, dezembro 06, 2010

La vostra violenza… la nostra determinazione!

Autunno 2010: in tutta Italia studenti universitari e medi scendono in piazza per bloccare l’approvazione del ddl 1905. Rispetto al 2008, quando la legge 133 apriva la stagione di lotte per difendere il diritto allo studio, il movimento è più maturo, siamo più maturi.
E chi è dall’altra parte se n’è accorto: la discussione viene più e più volte rimandata, continui litigi in Parlamento, politicanti vari fanno a gara a timbrare il cartellino di “amici degli studenti”, i professori vengono ascoltati, ma sappiamo che la lotta è nostra e non si ferma al blocco della Riforma, le forze dell’ordine caricano, cercano di disperdere, ma raccolgono solo più rabbia e determinazione.

A Napoli, in una settimana, le scuole, le facoltà sono state occupate (l’Orientale, Lettere e Architettura della Federico II), siamo scesi in piazza sotto la pioggia tutti i giorni, per bloccare la stazione, le strade, per sanzionare il CEPU, il Mattino, la Provincia, il Comune, Confindustria.

Ieri siamo andati al San Carlo, abbiamo legato la nostra lotta a quella più generale dei tagli alla cultura, abbiamo cominciato un’assemblea con i lavoratori e gli artisti che preparavano la prima della Tosca. Ma forse era un po’ troppo e Polizia e Carabinieri che, entrati da un ingresso secondario, hanno caricato più volte gli studenti in assemblea. Ma non hanno ottenuto nulla, hanno raccolto solo più determinazione e consapevolezza dei nostri mezzi; hanno mostrato l’intolleranza di chi non ascolta e risponde cercando di distruggere ciò che si prova a costruire: l’unità delle lotte.

Non siamo scappati, siamo rimasti insieme, anche sotto la Questura, per aspettare i due studenti fermati e subito rilasciati e poi siamo tornati all’Università, ancora in tanti. Abbiamo deciso di continuare, ci siamo guardati negli occhi e abbiamo capito che non ci avevano spaventati e costretto a fare un passo indietro; che hanno provato a farci indietreggiare ma non ci sono riusciti. Ora siamo ancora più consapevoli dei nostri mezzi e consapevoli che facciamo paura, che quella minoranza che decide sta cominciando a fare i conti con quella maggioranza che lotta.

domingo, dezembro 05, 2010

A history of Student Revolt

sábado, dezembro 04, 2010

If they block our future, we’ll block the city! Notes on the university mobilizations in the italian Autumn of 2010

The image of the Leaning Tower of Pisa occupied by students traveled the world over, ending up on the BBC and the front page of the Financial Times in a matter of hours. A mirror image was taken a few days later: a besieged Parliament, closed off in their backrooms to approve an unpopular law while outside the country was blocked by the new generations. Two years from the “Anomalous Wave” movement, university students are once again the ones politically translating the lurking conflict latent in the world of education.

The Gelmini law passed the House but its passage was anything but painless. The parliamentary agenda was accompanied by a week of radical organization, both intense and capillary, extending to every Italian city. The “Wave” was not followed by a tsunami but by many small shockwaves that made an already unstable government tremble for a day (the 30th of November).

The forms practiced in the mobilizations were varied: the occupation of universities, didactic suspensions, metropolitan paralysis, blocking the main nodes of transportation (stations, ports, airports), attempted interruption in institutional buildings and the squatting of national monuments.

Every initiative tried to synthesize the radicalism and the communicative nature in their acts. Protest actions generally resulted from assembly discussions between hundreds of people and virally circulated across social networks, not excluding word-of-mouth and direct communication, reinforced by assembly practices as reclamation of commonfare practices.

Click here to read the full text...Class struggle in Temples of Knowledge

Intelligence for seizing the moment, the political use of the network, bending mainstream communication devices, ability to synthesize a wide political discourse; all these attributes confirm how the highest political composition of class in the country is condensed into the student today.

Comments and editorials seem to be aware of this, macroscopic if compared with the misery and auto-referentiality of political parties and presumed social élites. From the newspaper Repubblica to cultural circles, all the way to the random gestures of opposition leaders (which, however, have been mostly ignored by students), everyone realizes, suddenly, that students are here and that they are not pacified whatsoever, nor have they been reabsorbed into the current productive and political configuration.

If the empathy that the movement draws out is an acquired and pacific fact, the challenge that these bodies thrown into the Italian piazza are posing isn’t so. The pure face of a subject that talks about “saving the public university” is easy to like, the political sense of an alternative system less so. There is the impression that behind the (thinly veiled) acquiescent façade that a part of the cultural lobbies are putting up towards the students, there is a deep fear of much broader claims and a terror that these claims find conflictual generalization throughout the entire social body.

This is because the questions that students are asking, whether they know it or not, are directly linked with a social stratification that is evermore brutal and rigid and that seems to be the only possible future for new generations. A stratification in which access to the university no longer functions as a principle line of demarcation, having been totally incorporated into the corporate university, with an infinity of artificial conflicts that determine the rhythms of any academic career according to the logic of differential inclusion.

This is why students, from their first year of enrollment, have the experience of being inside a gigantic factory in which every passage is already determined while they are constantly hearing voices from the outside telling them not to have any illusions about their working future.

The pubic school has always worked like a double track anyway: on one hand an institution of social promotion, on the other a mass disciplinary machine for future workers and citizens – a kind of macro social regulator that guaranteed the exchange between consensus and future promises in a systemic framework.

With the crisis of stockholding capitalism, school’s mediating function has completely broken down, now acting like a mere parking lot: “no more upward mobility” says Capital to the new generations.

Underneath the hashed and rehashed slogans of the inviolability of Culture, the specter of class struggle is haunting the Temples of Knowledge.

European Framework, Italian Anomaly

These observations force us to make both a more general comparison and a correct declination of the question at the height (or the gravity) of the Italian anomaly.

The student mobilizations this fall should be interpreted on multiple levels. One immediate and contingent one, in the occasion of the parliamentary discussion on the Gelmini law; a continental one, that measures the propagation of student mobilizations on a European scale; and a third, that identifies the link between renewed conflict in education and the financial crisis.

The House of Representatives passing the law is interesting above all for the space of political subjectification that is opened inside a composition that the previous Wave partially participated in. More than a result, it is important to measure the growth of subjective potency that this brief but intense experience has produced. Even if the numbers aren’t as high as the Wave, the force of the new movement must be measured in its capacity to produce an acceleration and radicalness in social movements. Everything happened in under two weeks but has left a deep impression in the subjective constitution of the many people who participated in such a brief but intense season of struggle. Grand discussions made way for a more direct need for action and intervention. How to affect change, disrupt and hurt the adversary have been the main questions. For the first time, students effectively went on strike directly inside the corporate university, sometimes even being able to totally paralyze didactic and administrative functions. All this over the whole surface of society, asking what it means to go on strike today, to interrupt the whole capitalist cycle. This is where the reasons behind metropolitan blocks and the interruption of traffic and communication fluxes come from.

On this level, the European lesson – especially from France – has been indispensable.

At least since 2006, with the anti-CPE movement (maybe with some timid anticipatory elements from the Italian struggle against the Moratti reform in 2005), the struggles across the world of education are, in all senses, conflicts that call labor legislation into question. Since then, with yearly punctuality, these struggles have been seen in practically every European country, stronger in Western European countries (France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria and now England) and in a somewhat lighter but significant form in newly acquired states (like Lithuania and the Czech Republic). The capillary and common denominator of all these movements point toward a great cycle of struggle against the “Bologna Process” with which, only 10 years ago, the constituting European Union foresaw the homogenization of higher learning on the continent.

When one speaks of homogenization, standardization is always intended. This means regularization of difference (which could instead be a resource) but also promotion; a homogeneity that aims at bettering things, to the highest degree. It didn’t work. To stay within these bothersome “European parameters”, the Bologna Process was articulated across the board as education and research cuts. On a deeper level, it tried to redefine education as the production of precarious and flexible workers who held the qualities asked for by businesses and companies.

The European student struggles over these last 5 years should be interpreted as the standstill and failure of this process.

If we look at what is happening in Ireland today, and the promises that these measures are announcing for other pieces of Europe, we can measure how the failure of the Bologna Process somehow accompanies the failure of the European Union as an exclusively Money First union.

The last and most important level that this struggle (and all the other ones that are investing the world of education even outside of Europe) must be measured on is its direct contact with financialization devices.

The Gelmini reform has the tendency of prospecting a complete dumping of educational costs from public spending to individual students, through the institution of ‘debt’ that students will have to negotiate with banks in order to enroll and follow courses. A mortgage on one’s own future that has already been the norm in Anglo-Saxon countries for years. Last year American students and this fall English students revolted against the intensification of this very device. The university planned by Gelmini, Tremonti and Sacconi goes in this direction, with the wholly Italian particularity of having many other resources available. Tracing the lines that connect these movements, even though geographically distant and different in the power of numbers and radicalness, is indispensible for understanding what grounds we will have to fight on in the coming years. The first answers that we have observed and participated in over the last few years demonstrate how new student movements are the principle, and at the moment the only organized reaction to the global financial crisis.

The Legacy of the Wave: Steps Ahead and Unanswered Questions

Having measured the multidimensional and problematic light that this new and important season of struggle must be seen in, before looking beyond and moving forward, a comparison to the previous cycle of mobilizations in and around education it might be useful.

The Wave movement that spread throughout every university in the fall of 2008 represented a breath of fresh air in the Italian swamp. The slogan “We won’t pay for the crisis” synthesized an attentive interpretation of the current situation and became a political program for struggles to come, identifying the crisis as an anchorage point from the point of view of the actions of precarious subjects and students.

As many have already stresses, the importance of this movement couldn’t be limited to its success or failure in blocking the reform. Rightly so, a symptomatic approach aimed at gathering the new and possible elements that a new social composition offered prevailed. The result of this struggle pushes us to the same considerations.

Yet, even in repetition, new and significant differences have emerged.

The dominant rhetoric of the Wave sketched a uniform university of students equally affected by the proposed reform. Rectors, professors, researchers and students were all on the same plane, omitting the material reality of hierarchies, powers and roles.

This weakness, that the counter-rhetoric took advantage of, was confirmed by the constant obsession of students looking for support from professors and university élites. As if the requests of the movement were not strong enough to do without their baptizing. Today, the movement has mostly done without this “support”. It hasn’t even looked for it, the memories of the previous experience still freshly vivid.

This contradiction, that has always been inherent to the world of education, has remerged in a condensed form in the struggle of the researchers who threatened and practiced their “unavailability” of bearing the burden of excess work imposed by the corporate university.

An exemplary moment of the battle happened at the beginning of the academic year with the Rector of Bologna threatening to suspend and replace any researchers who refused this burden. Many spoke of the “Marchionne Model” applied to the university. During an interview, one researcher from Bologna refused this representation, preferring to talk about a “sense of responsibility” for the fate of the public university. Inside what was expressed as a conflict of opposite and partial interests the adage of the general interest popped up.

Between becoming class and staying corporation, Italian researchers chose the latter, being easier in the short term but a losing strategy in the long run. As this movement and the Wave before it have demonstrated, only students have the numbers and the quality for overturning the whole of power relations inside the university. Researchers certainly occupy a central role in the corporate university. Strategically, however, they have to know how to understand a political alliance with students as necessary and immediate, abandoning any velleity of integration and collaboration with a university élite that wholly incarnates the emperor’s clothes.

The Next Step: Generalizing the Protest

Politically recomposing conflictual subjects inside university departments isn’t enough! If, as we have suggested, the last few years have been witness to a virtuous circularity of reciprocal stimulus and grit between student movements on a European level, looking towards Europe also means understanding the processes of generalization and transversal character of the social conflict that some of these experiences are starting to show.

For the first time in France, we have seen the limits that cunningly confined the limits of student struggle with a dominant media narration broken. It is true that the occasion was offered by a space of wider social struggle, by an unprecedented attack against Labor and Welfare. But what is significant is that high school and university students were blocking their institutions and the streets… all to oppose a retirement reform! This gesture is immediately political for how it breaks the fences of the social and generational compartmentalization that biopower uses to segment and control social struggles.

Taking advantage of this means continuing down a double and simultaneous path: coming out of the universities to socialize the struggle and bringing what is starting to move against the crisis and the measures ordered by the other side into the Academy. What has always been practiced by small avant-gardes must be socialized as the commonfare of the most generic student composition. If it is true that students have been the first to explicitly oppose crisis capitalism, it is also true that they can’t do it alone, in Italy and elsewhere. How to continue and intensify a constant practice of aperture, circulation and connection between struggles must therefore be posed as our main objective over the next few months.

Right now, Italian students are facing several important deadlines: the Senate discussion of the law and the construction of a national day of mobilization against the Berlusconi government on the 14th of December. Both of these occasions will continue to be infused with the call for a general strike by the main Italian union, the CGIL. These important moments for speaking out cannot, however, overshadow: 1) necessary work to be done and constant internal sabotage of the reform; and 2) the preparation and organization of the coming conflicts.

sexta-feira, dezembro 03, 2010

US education and the crisis, by Michael Hardt

Governments across the globe are dramatically reducing funding for public education and raising university tuition rates. These measures are often cast as a response to the current economic crisis but really their implementation began well before it. Whereas in Britain, Italy, and other European countries students battle police in the streets and experiment with new means to protest such government actions, there is a relative calm on U.S. campuses.

Forty and fifty years ago US student movements were among the most active and innovative in the world, not only protesting against militarism, racism, and other social hierarchies but demanding a democratic reform of the education system. Why today do US student movements appear so far behind in response to this global crisis of education?

There have, in fact, been significant student protests in the U.S. in recent years that have not received widespread attention. The most important of these are the student movements to protest raises in tuition in the public university system in the state of California. Tuition in the University of California system had risen gradually to double over the course of a decade but the sudden additional increase of 32% in November 2009 set off the student protests. In the largest and most widespread actions on US campuses since the 1970s, students occupied university buildings and mounted demonstrations.

The primary focus of the California students has been the social inequality created by higher tuition rates and lower funding of the university as a whole. The poor are obviously the first and most severely affected by the changes. The widening class division, the students insistently point out, corresponds closely to racial divisions, since black and Latino students constitute a large portion of those most affected by the higher tuition fees.

The modest successes in the project to open university education to a wider population in a previous era are being gradually reversed. For the past 30 years, explains Christopher Newfield, professor at the University of California Santa Barbara, “the public universities, which most US students attend, have been systematically underfunded, restricting all educational gains to the top quarter of students by income and destroying the country’s previous global advantage in educational attainment.”

Click here to read the full articleThe California student movement has been significant but not nearly as intense, widespread, or sustained as its counterparts in Europe. One obvious reason for this difference is that changes in the US university have been more gradual and smaller. Tuition at public universities has long been higher in the US than in most of Europe and recent increases have been relatively modest. The 32% increase in California in 2009 is dwarfed by the proposed increase in Britain of nearly 300%. A second factor that could contribute to less student protest in the United States is that university conditions are not unified at the national level. Public university funding and tuition rates vary widely in different states and the extensive system of private universities creates even more significant variation.

The most significant reason for less student activism in the United States, however, may derive from a much deeper national condition. The social value placed on education for all, especially higher education, has declined dramatically. This is certainly true for other countries as well but the fall has been more precipitous in the United States. Student politics can only gain a powerful voice when university education is a social priority.

Consider, in contrast, the US government response to the “Sputnik crisis.” Within the frame of cold war logic, the Soviet launch of the Sputnik satellite was considered a challenge to US security and its position in the global system. In response the United States substantially increased university funding, especially in science and technology. The mission was not limited to advanced scientific training or to military advances but rather spread though all levels of the education system, with widespread and varied consequences. Even Donna Haraway, the pioneering feminist theorist, often refers to herself as a “child of Sputnik.”

The increase of knowledge and intelligence across society was a national priority. Mass education advances contributed directly to the economic growth of the US economy. And furthermore, in the context of this educational project, the student protests of the 1960s and 70s found a loud voice in national debates.

Whereas one can say that the launch of Sputnik made the United States smarter, the attacks of September 11th, perceived as the primary challenge to the national position in this period, only made the country more stupid. The “war on terror” has given priority only to the most limited military and technological knowledges and the idiocy of security dominates public discourse. In this atmosphere arguments for advances in mass public education as well as student demands for equal and open access to the university carry little weight.

The importance of mass education for economic development is no less today than it was 50 years ago, but the economic significance of the fields of education have changed. Along with a wide range of economists, Toni Negri and I argue that in recent decades the dominant sector of the economy has shifted from industrial production to what we call biopolitical production, la production de l’homme par l’homme, involving the creation of ideas, images, code, affects, and other immaterial goods. If this is true, then the mass education of engineers and scientists is no longer the primary key to economic competitiveness. In the biopolitical economy mass intelligence – even and especially linguistic, conceptual, and social capacities – are what drive economic innovation.

University policies throughout the world have not kept pace with these changes. The private money that universities solicit to compensate for the decline in public funding is dedicated overwhelmingly to technical and scientific fields. The human sciences, which are increasingly relevant in the biopolitical economy, are deprived of funds and wither. In this case the student demands actually point in the direction of economic prosperity. The current student protests thus reconfirm a general rule of politics, that social struggles proceed and prefigure social development.

I am generally skeptical about laments of the decline of American civilization. In fact, I foresee the loss of military dominance heralding a much more dynamic and creative period of US social development. But the failure to make mass education at all levels a social priority is certainly one factor indicative of decline. And I interpret the relative calm of US campuses in face of economic crisis and cuts as a symptom of that problem.

quinta-feira, dezembro 02, 2010

It's now or never: British students call national demonstration for 9th December as Parliament votes on fees

Clare Solomon, President of London University, launched the greatest round of student activism yet as parliament set a date for a vote on the hike in tuition fees.

She called for a massive effort by all student activists to make the national demonstration on Thursday 9 December the greatest mobilisation ever by students.

She said: 'We want every college occupied in the run up to this demonstration. We want every occupation to be an organising centre for booking coaches and mobilising students for this demonstration.'

'Teachers and lecturers need to send a clear statement to their managements that schools and colleges are going to be closed on that day and that they will be on the streets with the students'.

'This is the fight of our lives and we don't intend to lose it'

John Rees from the Coalition of Resistance said: 'I expect many working people to be out with the students on the 9th December. They know that the students are just the start and that the government will be coming after them next.'

He added: 'The Coalition of Resistance will be working flat out to make this a huge demonstration and we are saying to people all over the country 'be here now, your future and that of your children is at stake'.