In the last two years, renewed militancy in university struggles has led to both victories and defeats at campuses across the country and beyond. Against the backdrop of continuing academic proletarianization, ever rising student debt, and expanded campus policing, students and workers have nonetheless formed new tactics and solidarities, and forced numerous concessions from university administrations. This dossier presents critical reflections and reportbacks from recent university struggles, indicating some of the possibilities, paradoxes, and challenges of ongoing fights to transform the university.
By “cooperative labor union,” we meant an organization that would focus on building the power of rank and file workers by pooling our collective resources and knowledge to further on-the-ground organizing. We were tired of being subordinate to and undermined by business unions that weren’t interested in building the capacity necessary to take militant action and, frankly, didn’t care about our interests as workers. We also wanted to assist new organizing efforts of workers both inside and outside of universities in order to build a powerful working class base that could defend its own interests. The vision was to join workers from multiple Midwestern universities in one union or cooperative labor organization. We hoped to eventually expand to other universities in the region and beyond, and to include adjuncts and service workers as well.
Our theory of the university - how to study it and how to be in relation to it - calls for a fundamental rethinking of property relations. It is a theory that refuses many collective assumptions of the university, perhaps most centrally its benevolence and its inevitable future. To focus on accumulation, capital, and land has the potential to widen the frame of who the stakeholders are in this struggle beyond students and faculty so as to be accountable to and ideally in solidarity with other campus workers and the people who live in areas adjacent to college and universities. To think the university in this way is to shift away from the idea of being “in but not of” to grapple with the ways we’re all of it, whether or not we want to be and thus to refuse a tempting absolution from complicity with the institutions’ violence. We understand ourselves as working in and on the university, with our different and shifting positions in relation to university institutions (tenure-track, tenured, adjunct, staff, grad student-worker, ex-academic) to agitate across our positionalities—particularly in reckoning with the limits and possibilities for studying, collaborating, and organizing in solidarity with each other.
The abolition university recognizes that abstract oppositionality and critique, left to their own devices, may in fact unwittingly reproduce accumulation regimes by offering their practitioners the sense of moral supremacy and social exteriority necessary to imagine knowledge production as a form of change in itself. Instead, we imagine the abolition university as a relation, a network, and an ethos with various potentials for transforming what and whom the university can be for.
Class consciousness does not automatically develop from poor working conditions (nor, as we will address, should an analysis of our working conditions be restricted only to questions of hours, pay, etc., without including ideological aspects of work); rather, consciousness develops when individual demands are actively made political and collective: in other words, through class struggle.
The movement in Switzerland was patiently constructed from below, in a capillary fashion, in connection with social movements and militant and trade union organizations, without renouncing the radical elements of its program. This is undoubtedly one of the keys to its success, manifest on the evening of the 14th of June.
The “Feminist International” is (and for a long time has been) a lived reality of the Polish feminist movement – we participate in international feminist groups and activities, in workers’ unions, grassroots organizations, political parties and their alliances on the European level, as well as in initiatives such as the Women’s International Strike. The feminist international is perhaps the biggest and most promising international today, apart from the independently forming international of the fascist groups, which obviously inspire our resistance.
The necessity of rethinking and practicing the strike as a feminist initiative and to share common discourses and claims has been and continue to be the guiding orientation for NUDM organization. Since 2016, local assemblies have been established throughout Italy, coordinated on a national level through mailing lists, Skype calls, and general national meetings. The effort has been to move beyond the simple coalition of already existing organized groups, starting from the feminist strike as a process.
Since its inception the Feminist Strike has been an intergenerational movement, driven by strata of very young women but also managing to incorporate older women, who in many cases had no prior political experience. This mixture seen in assemblies and work commissions has now crystallized in personal bonds, where our comradeship precedes any existing differences. The principle of active solidarity is enabling women from diverse backgrounds to become quickly aware of the problems and conflicts that affect other women.
The Women’s Strike Assembly in Britain began with women coming together to explore our visions of the red feminist horizon – what it could look like and, crucially – how we could get there.