Saturday, April 26, 2014

Last Exit to UC Berkeley; Or: A Tale of Three Campus Protests in the Span of about a Week; Or: #ReclaimTheStrikeFunds

Last Exit to UC Berkeley

Or

A Tale of Three Campus Protests in the Span of about a Week

Or

#ReclaimTheStrikeFunds



What do you call a tepid UAW 2865 two day “strike” (pre-planned work stoppage with scheduled ending point) with mere dozens participating by walking in a small circle for a few hours, leading to the UC Administration “caving” leading to a “tentative agreement” where the Union wins the right of lactation rooms & transgender bathrooms, but not a cost of living increase, so a good percentage of the unionized workforce of graduate students still has to rely on food stamps to fend off starvation?  In 2014, a Historic Labor Victory, of course! 

Disclaimer:  I’m very supportive of transgender (/transgender-friendly) bathrooms and the role they play in our culture in reducing transphobia.

In a similar light, I also support the idea of a keg of free beer for workers off the clock… 


 but not the expense of a DENTAL PLAN! 
 …because Lisa needs braces.

The First Protest:

I don’t know if UC Berkeley still teaches The Simpsons as part of their Sociology curriculum, but I can guarantee that the students on the UAW 2865 “picket line” would have learned more by spending their time watching the classic Season Four Simpsons episode “Last Exit to Springfield” (synopsis here) than walking in a circle, pretending that their protest was more than useless Union theater.


The two day “strike”
For some reason, the United AUTO Workers represents around 13,000 graduate student workers at the University of California…

 
… and the organization has a history of conceding away all their labor organizing power to management for the past 30-plus years: the local UAW 2865 was in a position of negotiating for a ridiculously awful contract that wouldn’t  keep up with the cost of living/inflation.

'"Homer, organized labor has been called "a lumbering dinosaur".'
This article breaks down this farce of a “labor action” better than I probably could so check it out so I don’t have to repeat its prescient points.  I can provide a little more personal, on the ground context to how this “strike” played out at UC Berkeley.

This first point can’t be emphasized enough:  The UAW 2865 organizers planted themselves at the head of the #No2Napolitano movement (the movement against the appointment of Janet Napolitano, the former Head of Homeland Security as the new President of the University of California system) for the past eight or so months to usurp and manipulate radical student energy away from direct actions on campus and into planning for the narrow scope of campus workers’ contract struggles.  So when you look at these rather bland pictures of the UAW 2865 Graduate Students Workers on strike, know that months of planning and untold thousands of dollars of Union Dues went into a few dozen people walking in a circle in a faux-picket line for a few hours, accomplishing nothing; not even the tepid reforms of their negotiated contract.  More importantly, organizing support and populist student momentum on campus for #No2Napolitano was sacrificed on the ever-present altar of UAW moderation.

We at @CalOpenU (That’s the Open University student group, the last active working group of Occupy Cal) played the role of observers, chatting up with people who wanted to hear the broader story of activism at UC Berkeley in the past couple of years.  While the UAW dozens were chanting “Don’t cross that picket line!” and other tepid Union slogans… 


CARL
What do we want?

EMPLOYEES
More equitable treatment at the hands of management!

CARL
When do we want it?

EMPLOYEES
Soon!

… I had a far more important counter-chant:
Where's my burrito? Where's my burrito? Where's my burrito?
Yes, snagging an unauthorized burrito from AFSCME was the high point of the day filled with Picket Line Theater.  Why “Picket Line Theater”?  There was no attempt to stop classes or stop students from going to classes.  The picket was in the sidewalk off campus property.  Thousands of students walked through the picket line unhindered (rightfully so, as what would they be scabbing?), but importantly with no idea of what this protest was about, no UAW members handing out flyers describing the nature of the demonstration and of the contract woes.  Useless.  Useless.  Ladies and gentlemen: the state of Labor Unions in the USA in 2014!

[Narrated not by me]

(Look closely… do you see ONE #No2Napolitano sign anywhere?  Another in a long line of proofs: UAW 2865 “solidarity” only flows one way…)

The Second Protest:


A few days later, an under-advertised event happened on campus.  Janet Napolitano was visiting the Boalt Law School at UC Berkeley for something or other, and the Students of Color Solidarity Coalition (SCSC [see section on Front Groups & Alphabet Soup here]) promoted a demonstration against the president’s presence on campus.  For a group that calls themselves a “solidarity coalition”, they sure do their damndest to make sure no one sympathetic to the cause finds out about their organizing meetings or their actions.  An anemic march of less than twenty came up from Sproul to the Law Center chanting “No to Napolitano!”
I had a bullhorn but mostly chose to only observe this farce of the eventually over 50 gathered, chanting at the side of a building, rather than, you know, go inside and challenge her directly.

Other members of @CalOpenU decided to troll the stagnant rally with counter-chants lauding Janet Napolitano, and even brought signs parodying the situation. 

The SCSC were so dense, they actually thought we supported Napolitano, until they were informed later it was a satirical gesture.


The formerly potentially vibrant movement was reduced to 10% of the students and activists once involved, not because the cause was any less pressing than it was on Feb 13th 2014 when over 500 showed up to rally against Napolitano, but because of poor leadership that caused students to want to bow out of boring protest theater that wasn’t meant to accomplish anything but advance and enhance a few organizers’ activist profiles and careers.  As I sat back and observed this cowardly farce, another grad school student who wrote this excellent piece criticizing that lack of radicalism and canned protest theater of #No2Napolitano for CounterPunch, said hello to me: “Did you hear the latest rumor going around about you guys (@CalOpenU)?  Supposedly you aren’t just cops, but are Specialized Infiltrating Agents.”

This is the latest escalation in an over two year smear campaign, led by a leader of the UAW/ReclaimUC sect, whom in tradition of not naming names in my exposes, I’ll just refer to her in this article as AA (for Anonymous Activist).  AA was part of the Original Facilitation Committee instrumental in splitting up Occupy Cal, moderating radical direct action away from campus into a useless one-day Democratic Party/Union led rally at Sacramento called “Occupy Education”.  When members of the still active (still winning direct actions) Occupy Cal saw that it was clear that these two UC Berkeley “Occupies” weren’t acting harmoniously as Occupy Education (UAW front) initially promised, but the latter were actively working against us, we started speaking out against DNC/UAW cooption in our GAs (more on a specific instance later).  And that’s when the generalized smear campaign began against Occupy Cal (which at that point [Jan 2012] still had 50 people +/- willing to meet twice a week), with unfounded accusations, backstabbing and mudslinging, which I won’t detail again here.  This led up to earlier this year when we called out the UAW usurpation of the #No2Napolitano, we were called “cops” in public, and the ReclaimUC/UAW sect/AA refused to denounce this, but instead kept propagating the dangerous lie to the fresh crop of student activists involved with #No2Napolitano.

We confronted this clique again on the edges of the #No2Napolitano “action” at the Law School, asking for an apology and a public refutation of calling us cops/snitchjacketing before the situation got any uglier.  Instead, they doubled down, again publicly saying we were cops.  The ridiculous dialogue continued something like this:

“What evidence do you have to make the accusation that we are cops?”

“Well, you act like cops.”

“How do we act like cops?”

“You take pictures of our rallies.”

“So do dozens of other people!  Are they cops?”

“You come across as threatening.”

“We have never, ever physically threatened anyone. Calling out UAW cooption is NOT a threat!   
Snitchjacketing is very dangerous: that threatens OUR safety as activists!”

We concluded this debacle by saying we will stop coming to #No2Napolitano meetings/”actions” if/when they are willing to have a public debate about tactics and UAW cooptation.  Another sheltered neophyte know-it-all activist (of which UC Berkeley has far too many) chimed in: “That’s a threat!”
“You can’t just redefine words like that!” I shouted back.  I pointed at the observing UCPD ten feet away, “They’re a threat! They have fucking guns!”

Incredibly, a UCPD cop addressed me with this sheepish chuckle, “Hey, I’m a peace officer…”
Incensed, I yelled at him: “I’m sure that’s what you were yelling to the students as you were beating them in the rib cages with your baton!” I pantomimed the infamous baton-thrusts versus Occupy Cal, with every jab yelling “I’M A PEACE OFFICER!  I’M A PEACE OFFICER!”  That shut the cop up.

The Third Protest:



A few days later it was Cal Day: a day when potential UC Berkeley students tour the campus with their families as the university has tables, displays and presentations all day long to promote the UC Berkeley brand.  One presentation of interest to us at @CalOpenU and the activist Berkeley community at large was a contentious groundbreaking ceremony of a new engineering building. It was bad enough that the university planned to cut down a grove of redwood trees for this project, but to put salt on the wounds was in the place of the green space was to be an ugly building that would basically serve as a privatized Qualcomm spy center on campus.  Another ominous sign of the increasing surveillance police state happening on campus along with former DHS head Janet Napolitano being appointed UC president.


So an ad hoc coalition of activists showed up, determined not to allow a farce of a groundbreaking ceremony with plutocrats giving self-congratulatory speeches go without dissent.




In response to a vague threat by known, committed direct action activists, the UCPD came out en masse with a 24 hour guard at the trees to prevent an occupation.  On the day of the groundbreaking, the ceremony apparently didn’t feel safe enough with armed cops on all sides, and fled, unannounced to an undisclosed location to make their presentation.

Leaving the UCPD to guard a field of empty chairs…


While the Qualcomm plutocrats had a groundbreaking indoors; their shovels symbolically digging into air on stage: total UC administration cowardice.



See, this is what happens when a protest is legitimate; when a demonstration is a threat to The Powers That Be at the University of California: the suit and tie brass in the UC Administration tuck tail and run and send in the riot gear clad pigs of the UCPD with their batons and pepperspray.  

Yet when activist organizers leaders direct a demonstration away from radical direct action, IE don’t enter the building Janet Napolitano was at to directly protest her to her face, occupy the WRONG BUILDING; don’t allow the masses to occupy the wrong building with the vanguard, making them wait outside and merely, meekly, observe the preening “Blum 11” (psst: you don’t get to call yourself the Blum 11 like the "Chicago 8" until you are arrested/prosecuted, you egotistical fucks): this is when Protest Theater is ensured, and therefore no threat to The Powers That Be.

How else can one explain the fact that dozens of UCPD riot cops lined up and left en masse WHILE THERE WAS A BUILDING OCCUPATION IN PROGESS… unless they too knew that it was protest theater?







Never once in my six years of being an activist at UC Berkeley have I known the UCPD to leave a direct action in progress, to not collect that overtime pay like the leeches they are.  This is unprecedented, and many veteran Berkeley activists agree…



...



"Smithers, where is that union representative? He's twenty minutes late!"
"I don't know, sir. He hasn't been seen since he promised to clean up the union."
"What the Hell?"
...

"Welcome, brothers of Local 643. As you know, our president, Chuckie Fitzhugh, ain't been seen lately. We're all prayin' he'll turn up soon, alive and well."
(everyone laughs)

Besides the mostly behind my back smears (rarely to my face, online or otherwise) calling me a conspiracy theorist, a wingnut, or a cop, coming from this ReclaimUC/UAW sect, they do offer one (and ONLY one) line of thought to actually argue against the points I’ve been making for months (years): let me go ahead and disprove this fallacious counter-argument now, again.  This cabal says all of my arguments are invalid because there actually is a leftist wing inside the UAW 2865 that is against the Democratic Party entrenchment in the union and has been doing some excellent radical organizing since 2011.  Let’s highlight/bullet point some of these Great Moments in the UAW 2865 Faction of Radical Leftist Communist Organizers, shall we?


 (On being elected new Union President)
CARL
Congratulations, Homer.

The crowd picks Homer up, cheering.
HOMER
Hey, what does this job pay?

CARL
Nothing.

HOMER
D'oh!

CARL
Unless you're crooked.
"Woo-hoo!"

First, disclaimer, I grow weary of the Alphabet Soup/Front Groups this sect puts forth: from this UAW 2865 clique since 2011 there have emerged the ADWU, PEC, Occupy Education Facilitation Committee, SDU, CPE, SCSC, and probably a handful of others I missed.  For the purposes of clarity in regards to my Occupy Cal article, I rebranded them the OFC for Original Facilitation Committee of Occupy Cal, though at the time in fall 2011, they were sardonically called the “Trots”; a play on Trotskyites… AND wet runny shit, for the way they fucked up a mass student movement with their terrible leadership.  It isn’t my paying job* (*more on this later) to write the War and Peace version of the history of the UAW 2865, but I’m well aware of this Communist/Trotskyist/Marxist/Leninist/Syndicalist/Leftist/Unionist/Whatever-The-Fuck-ta-vist sect of the UAW 2865 lack of radicalism, ratfucking, and Agent Moderation, however much they deny connection to the Democrats (beyond the obvious example of their union dues going directly to the DNC).  Twice in a matter of a month in late 2011 did AA go beyond her bounds, representing herself as a/the leader of Occupy Cal; first unilaterally stalling direct action on campus until February 1st, and in another Occupy Education coalition meeting, stalling it again for another month until March 4th 2012, doing her damndest to make Occupy Cal a lame duck organization for 3-4 months.  As mentioned before, Occupy Education was a one day rally of the who’s who of DNC-funding Unions, with a keynote speaker in Democrat Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom… but of course, UAW/Occupy Education has NOTHING to do with the DNC: they’re radical communists.  (Oh, I have more examples… I’ll just leave it here for now)


LISA
This is your chance to get a fair shake for the working man.
"And make life-long connections to the world of organized crime. Mmm... organized crime..."
The fact is, this “anti-DNC” sect of the UAW 2865 claim to radical organizing fame is Occupy Education and ratfucking Occupy Cal: no matter home many times they want to ignore this truth, or pivot from this reality.

Why more journalists aren't covering this story:


 (Springfield, 1909) -"You can't treat the working man this way. One day, we'll form a union and get the fair and equitable treatment we deserve!"


"Then we'll go too far, and get corrupt and shiftless, and the Japanese will eat us alive!"
"If only we'd listened to that boy, instead of walling him up in the abandoned coke oven."
 (Of course The Simpsons isn't calling out the UAW here: Bosh!  Flim-shaw!)

The Simpsons episode “Last Exit to Springfield” accurately portrays Union corruption and shiftlessness with hilarious biting satire: this was in 1993, before NAFTA hammered in the near final nail to USA’s middleclass unionized manufacturing base.  Business unions since 1945 were too busy purging leftists from their ranks, lobbying against Post-War Universal Healthcare for all Americans (unlike their European counterparts), and making life-long connections to organized crime, to mount any kind of fight against the outsourcing of labor to Japan than Mexico in the 1970s or 1980s.  Instead of using their vast organizing dollars to lobby for tariffs (for example), the corrupt, intransigent Union bosses of the UAW were paid off by neoliberalism, letting the once prosperous manufacturing cities like Detroit or Flint Michigan become the dystopian urban hellscapes we know them as now.

Once upon a time (pre-Reagan +/-), journalists were paid a salary to research and report on Union corruption (and other worthwhile news that falls through the cracks of modern News Media).

A scene from “Superman: The Movie” circa 1978:
Clark Kent (Superman) and Lois Lane in the Daily Planet newspaper newsroom:
 (Remember newsrooms?  Of course you don’t)


Editor in Chief Perry White walking through the room of bustling reporters, stops for a brief moment to praise Clark Kent: 
PERRY
(walks away around the desk again, says over his shoulder while examining some papers)
Hey, nice job on that union scandal, Kent.
CLARK
(half-rising out of his chair)
Uh, gosh, thanks, Mr. White.
Today, in 2014 there are basically only two types of journalists who get paid to write about Unions.  One being right wing/libertarian trolls like the Breitbart band of scumfucks, being paid by billionaire plutocratic earth rapists like the Koch Brothers to denounce teachers barely making a living wage as greedy.
The other types are the progressive, liberal, “indy” news websites: and the only type of reporting that pays is uncritical, unexamined Pro-Union shameless cheerleading.  Somehow they never find the glaring faults of the entrenched Business Union hierarchy, but keep feeding the propaganda “If we win this next (minor) union struggle and #ElectBetterDemocrats, the benefits will trickle down to the rest of the American workforce!  The Union makes us strong!

All the usual indy media outlets gave the predictable rah-rah pom-pom & flag waving to this two day strike (variations of "Historic Labor Victory" was a term thrown around pretty casually in these articles), all the while knowing damn well knowing the UAW/UAW 2865's historic and recent roles, nationally and locally, in ratfucking real populist/leftist activism.  But hey, journalists gotta get paid, amirite?

(Witness this conversation where I call out a semi-apologetic journalist from Al Jazeera who damn well knows better.)

Wrong.  I'm not naive, I know we ALL sell out in this fucked up capitalist system in varying degrees, but this shit is a bridge too far.  This style of reporting is more propaganda maintaining the illusion that faith in the Union bureaucracies will be fruitful, despite 70-plus years of evidence to the contrary.  Every word written for money to propagate this lie is selling out the working class, and stifling visions of something better.

On a more personal note, these journalists know they are working for the forces of censorship, which is enemy Number One to any notion of a free and open press, the 1st Amendment, the 4th estate, etc.  The UAW have done just about all they can to discredit me with a smear campaign, snitchjacketing, and censorship and your bullshit cheerleading is supporting this travesty.

Combined, they've maintained this elitist notion of the liberal journalist caste: you only get a meal ticket as a writer if you went to the right school and sucked up to the right people; not on the merits of how well you write.  They've done their best to stall/sabotage my paying freelance writing career.


Or as Nathan Explosion so succinctly puts it:
"That's my bread and butter you're fucking with."





This isn't exactly new: since the start of Occupy Wall St there have been a vast number of "rad" "indy" journalists sidling up to activists, schmoozing with us: only to sell us out at the drop of a hat... or at a potential MSNBC spot.

"I for one welcome our new insect overlords..."




"...as a trusted TV personality I could be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground sugar caves!"


 

To wrap up...

Fuck you, you fucking sellout journalist hacks.

And fuck you, you fucking sellout activists, who choose cliques over truth.

To the rest of you reading: we can work together to form better models of organization than Business Unionism.  I'm rather optimist in this, despite all the reasons I have to be jaded and cynical.  But we must confront these last Sacred Cows of the Left, the Unions who backstabbed the radical populism of Occupy, sitting on collectively BILLIONS on dollars in unused, purposefully dormant strike funds.  The UAW alone has around $800 million: think about how just 1% of that money could have been a game changer for Occupy. These strike funds were set up a century ago as a public trust to wage a class war against plutocracy: generations of greedy, corrupted Union bosses have denied these funds to We the People, leading us to this hellish austerity illusion of modernity: IE where Teachers' Assistants still on food stamps is a "Historic Labor Victory."

I still believe that the Power is still with the People: The Unions ARE NOT the people.  Not anymore.

They have the Plant, we have the Power.




#ReclaimTheStrikeFunds




@Ergoat



Monday, February 17, 2014

Recognizing “Protest Theater” Facades at #No2Napolitano and Beyond



Recognizing “Protest Theater” Facades at #No2Napolitano and Beyond,

Or:

“I’m giving you a choice: Either put on these glasses...



 ...or start eating that trash can.”
 (Forward: If you haven't watched the 1988 movie "They Live!" yet, do so ASAP.  If you've seen it, but haven't watched it since your involvement in the Occupy Wall Street movement [especially the encampment raids]: watch it again.)


 On Thursday, February 13th 2014, there was a protest against the appointment of former head of the Dept. of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, to the position of President of the University of California system.   The demonstration was held UC Berkeley, or Cal, long recognized and mythologized as the pinnacle and exemplar of sustained college student activism for the past half century, yet the around 500 people who attended comprised the largest political rally on campus since the dwindling days of Occupy Cal, two years earlier.  Our collective showed up in solidarity and support of the #No2Napolitano actions as the last active working group of the once thousands strong movement at Occupy Cal, now under the banners of CalOpenU.org and bpOffCampus.org.   While the vast majority of demonstrators were righteously fired up against Napolitano for her inhumane deportation record, splitting up millions of families, we passed out copies of a small quarter-sheet flyer to widen the scope and awareness of Napolitano’s presidency of just one visible symptom of a vast cancer eating away at the world’s largest Public University.


The flyer read:

#No2Napolitano

Defend Public Education:
  • Ax the corrupt and undemocratic UC board of Regents
  • Reject the fascist DHS takeover of the UC by “Big Sister” Napolitano
  • Get BP off campus and stop the privatization of public education
  • Throw cops (UCPD) off campus and stop the militarization of public universities
  • Hold accountable the fraudulent activists within UAW 2865 for moderating radical movements
As we passed the flyers out (non-aggressively, person to person) to the crowd, we could see people nodding in agreement while reading the first four points, and then get stuck at the last one.  “Huh? What’s this about the UAW?”
 

Well, this is going to take more than a 30 second sound bite to explain…



Put on these glasses...



It’s not widely known why, even by its members, the United Auto Workers represents over 13,000 graduate student workers in the UC system.  I’ve written extensively [Long Version / Short Version] on how in the Fall of 2011, when the Occupy Wall Street movement finally manifested itself at UC Berkeley as Occupy Cal, UAW graduate student “activists/organizers” placed themselves in key leadership positions (in a “leaderless” movement, mind you) to moderate the thousands of students, faculty, and community members’ populist outrage against incredible tuition hikes, increasing privatization and corporatization of the UC, and the despicable administration and police tactics to brutalize the peaceful activists; to moderate and divert this mass movement fueled by righteous indignation into strategies to elect better Democrats locally and nationally with the (false) hope that they could fix our problems from within the system.


As stated, UC Berkeley is known internationally for its radical student protests, and even the prior two years (2009-2010) there was a series of building occupations against increasing tuition and privatization.  So when thousands mobilized at Occupy Cal for direct action, there was a palpable disappointment when the General Assemblies (GAs) went nowhere slowly, the Original Facilitation Committee (which was always stacked with UAW members) stalled/rejected any kind of building occupation votes with their super-minority block and deceptive parliamentary procedure tricks, and ultimately, after a week, they undemocratically told everyone to go home and reassemble three months later when they (the UAW) were ready for a mass action (as if we weren’t “ready” right then).



On Front Groups:  Alphabet Soup, shell games, and who’s pulling whose strings.  (Or: a brief as possible history of ratfucking [sabotaging/double-crossing] political movements at UC Berkeley 2011 - 2014)


It’s important to note that this cabal of organizers never explicitly represented themselves as UAW organizers, for if they did, cracks would form in the façade and begin to reveal the motivations and connections the United Auto Workers union has, in a top-down feudalistic pyramid scheme, to the Democratic Party.  They have supported the Democratic National Committee (DNC) unquestionably with their dollars and union dues (one of the biggest financial contributors of the Party in the past decades), and in the past 30-40 years, if a DNC leader says “Jump!” the UAW asks “How high?”  So when the UAW faction usurped the democratic GA process during the first couple of weeks of Occupy Cal, they called themselves the Public Education Coalition (PEC) to avoid this connection and to keep their motives clouded.  After their powers at Occupy Cal were severely limited when the Facilitation Committee’s rules were overhauled, the UAW sect quietly disappeared and formed “Occupy Education” which was the 1st incarnation of the “99% Spring”.  The 99% Spring was formed after it was clear that the Occupy Wall Street movement couldn’t be co-opted into rallies to #ElectBetterDemocrats and the Dept. of Homeland Security (Napolitano’s old job!) coordinated police attacks on Occupy encampments all across the country, brutalizing and arresting thousands.  The 99% Spring was rose from those ashes to pretend to be a parallel movement to Occupy, but it was spearheaded by the Labor Unions that were intrinsically connected to the DNC… like the UAW.


How the 99% Spring manifested itself at the University of California was with “Occupy Education”, led by UAW grad students, with all meetings held at the local UAW hall.  Again, they pretended to be sympathetic and parallel to Occupy Cal (half a mile away) but they diverted populist student energy off campus to one rally and “Protest Theater” (more on this term later) at the State Capitol at Sacramento.  By all accounts (that aren’t duplicitously rose-tinted), this March 5th 2012 “Day of Action” was a complete disaster/farce with all students going home with no objectives won, while a few smiling DNC politicians made speeches full of hollow promises and a few union organizers put a feather in their cap for their personal “activist/organizer” resumes.


With the Occupy movement essential over at UC Berkeley (despite a handful of dedicated activists) the UAW sect changed from Occupy Education to a new political party on campus Students for a Democratic University and tried to use Occupy Cal’s brand & previous accomplishments into campaigning and electing some of them into the Cal Student Government (the ASUC).  They won exactly zero seats.  The SDU existed for the next year-plus; basically as an outlet/front for new eager earnest students to get connected to activism on campus, go to a couple of long boring meetings with no rallies or actions on the horizon, and then decide that student activism wasn’t for them (and never be seen again).  These past two years have been the LEAST active at UC Berkeley since the 1950s.  Then, in Fall of 2013, Janet Napolitano was appointed the new President of the University of California, and a new populist movement fell into the lap of the UAW sect… to take over and ratfuck.


It is worth noting that our working groups/collectives (@CalOpenU and @bpOffCampus) were far from dormant in the two years since the decline of Occupy Cal: we were extremely busy with our limited resources, researching, holding public teach-outs about Public Education, privatization, the Regents, BP; we networked with other groups around the Bay Area, attending many environmental rallies about Climate Change and Fossil Fuels; we had direct actions, staged guerrilla theater actions on campus and more.  All this time, we held out the olive branch to the UAW faction (and their minions) on campus, inviting them to work with us, hoping that we could bury the hatchet, work past our differences for the betterment of all activism at UC Berkeley.  All of these attempts were roundly rejected by this UAW sect.  They shunned anyone who even associated with us and defriended people on Facebook who promoted our events.
 

So when Napolitano was appointed, without being asked the UAW jumped to the front of the growing movement against her, now calling themselves the Coalition for Public Education (CPE).  They called a public meeting to “democratically” decide how to say “No 2 Napolitano”.  Incredibly (except to those of us paying attention the past two years) the UAW/CPE managed to pull off what they did against Occupy Cal over the course of months (insidiously transform a horizontal, democratic populist movement into a one day rally for the UAW, a top-down organization that only pays lip-service to the movement ideals) in under an hour.  At the meeting with UAW-stacked facilitators and plants in the audience, they patiently listened to this fresh crop of eager student activists, and then called for a vote (“Wait, what? Who said we were voting on anything?”) to make the first action of the “anti-Napolitano”-CPE into a one day “strike” for AFSCME(representing campus workers)/UAW grad school student workers. 







         Needless to say, there weren’t any more #No2Napolitano actions of merit last semester.  Which brings us to the planning meeting for protesting Janet Napolitano’s visit to campus on February 13th 2014; The UAW sect again jumped to a leadership role by default (of course, unelected), and the group now called themselves the Students of Color Solidarity Coalition. For those of you at home keeping score, the UAW 2865 front groups since Fall 2011: PEC (Public Education Coalition), Occupy Cal OFC (Original Facilitaion Committee), Occupy Education, SDU, CPE (Coalition For Public Education) and now... the SCSC. 
 

Various students group who showed up to this public planning meeting were told there was no time for announcements, and this was not a space to plug separate affinity groups.  Almost immediately after everyone settled in, the meeting turned into a video presentation, plugging/promoting the UAW organizers, and a call for support for a potential UAW/AFSCME “5 day strike”.  When people asked what the UAW/AFSCME strike had to do with #No2Napolitano, they were hissed at, and denounced as disruptors.  So members of the CalOpenU collective waited for the “discussion period” at the end of the presentation to voice their concerns.  But they were not “allowed” this opportunity to do so publicly, as one of the night’s organizers kept asking them to leave, and he’d answer their questions outside of the meeting space.  When they refused, saying they’d prefer to address this situation publicly, a member of the UAW/#No2Napolitano organizing faction publicly, in front of many witnesses, called CalOpenU “cops”.




On Snitchjacketing:


                Ever since some of us began questioning Occupy Education’s political role in co-opting Occupy Cal in February 2012, we’ve endured all kinds of attacks on our character: baseless mudslinging, defamation, accusations of embezzlement, disinformation etc: I must emphasize, this has been entirely one-sided.  Whatever political attacks we’ve made in the public sphere against this UAW sect, they’ve been just that: political, not personal.  In the article’s I’ve wrote (or even in my social media feeds), I’ve NEVER ONCE named a single name.  Instead of writing a rebuttal to my damning article, the UAW used their Big Labor influence to pressure my publisher, Truth-Out.org to censor the article, removing it from the site.  They’ve quietly let leak even more disinformation; take this [paraphrased] exchange I had with a student activist at UC Berkeley in the 80s: “Hey, did you ever read my article?”--- “No, I haven’t. Is that the one where you call people in the UAW cops?”


                There is a HUGE difference between pointing out that Unions like the UAW and AFSCME are intrinsically connected to the Police State, and saying that certain members within the union are cops!  One is examining how in the UAW has donated millions for the Obama against their own working class’ interests; that UAW dues help elect the President who appointed the Secretary of Homeland  Security Janet Napolitano who was responsible for more deportations, more broken up families than any other president in US history; that AFSCME as a union represents over 60,000 prison guards across the United States, therefore they support the Prison Industrial Complex, the School to Prison Pipeline, and inhumane laws that keep undocumented immigrants in cages longer; yes there is a difference between pointing out the inconvenient  truths of Big Labor’s ties to the Police State in the US in 2014 (which is what I did), and calling individual activists cops, which is what the UAW/#No2Napolitano organizing faction did to us, making them snitchjacketers.


                Snitchjacketing:  “When a member of an organization is set up to appear to be an informer or a cop in order to get that person killed or to instigate some organizational disruption or split. This counter-intelligence tactic was carried out by the FBI COINTELPRO program against members of radical political organization such as the Black Panther Party.”  Without naming the specific individual in question, let me point out this wasn’t a naïve 19 year old student yelling out in the heat of the moment without knowing any better: this comes from someone who has been organizing around Occupy Oakland (which had its own infamous case of snitchjacketing), and the Bay Area for years, and damn well knows snitchjacketing is extremely dangerous. 





Onto February 13th 2014, the day of the #No2Napolitano protests:


                I arrived at the Sutjada Dal Hall (SD Hall) at 10am; just in time to see some UC administration top brass in their Sunday best to meet with Napolitano sneak in the back “Trash Only” exit of the building to avoid another student immigration rights group protesting out in front.  I tried to follow the admins in, but I was hassled by the UCPD, as apparently the public wasn’t allowed in that “Trash Only” exit due to a rule they made up on the spot.  I waited for the main rally of the day begin at 1pm on Sproul Plaza, taking a role of observer and dialoguing with anyone who wanted to engage on the prospect of this rally being usurped and turned into a UAW/AFSCME publicity stunt.


                The rally began with genuine, contagious energy that had around 500 student protests, a majority of them people of color picketing in a circle around Upper Sproul Plaza, chanting “Hey Hey! Ho Ho!  Napolitano has got to go!”  As someone who has been to a fair share of dud demonstrations on campus in the past couple of years, it was really nice to see students finally fired up about something again.  Then the speeches began…

 

---There really ought to be a DeCal (a nontraditional set of classes taught at Cal) on How to Protest: The first topic would be “Basic Bullhorn Use 101”.  In my years of activism, I’d say a good two-thirds of people grabbing a megaphone were partially to totally inept in how to use this relatively old piece of technology.  People can seem to grasp the idea that even though a bullhorn amplifies your voice, you still have to project your voice; you still have to speak clearly.  Otherwise people can’t hear you beyond ten feet. 


The organizers of the rally brought for the two worst bullhorns I’ve ever come across in my life that could still be technically called “bullhorns”.  This isn’t hyperbole: I’ve seen traffic cones be put to better use.


So the amassed crowd listened to a tinny bullhorn project long winded speeches that couldn’t be heard more than 10 feet out.  The previously charged up crowd began to dwindle.





#ProTip for the ~97% of people gathered at #No2Napolitano who fervently, genuinely want this monster dismissed as UC President: If you are going to use a bullhorn, don’t read from a document, SPEAK FROM YOUR FUCKING HEART!!!  If you have a document in hand, fucking bullet point it and pass the mike.  This isn’t the 1950s, where random people off the streets gather to hear the news from a leader on a soapbox: People attending protest rallies in 2014 are generally well informed on the political subjects at hand.  Unless you are Joe or Josephine Charisma (and you probably aren’t), your more than 120 second speech at the bullhorn is hurting the energy and momentum of the action.  This isn’t about you.  (And no, in 1963, it wasn’t about Mario Savio either, even though the damn Sproul Steps are named after him.)


After about an hour, the #No2Napolitano marched deeper into campus, to the Memorial Glade, where we were treated to… you guessed it: more de-energizing, long winded speeches that only 33% of the crowd could hear.  This second stop was designed so the UAW sect could slip ahead, and “occupy” the Blum Center building.



On vanguards “Occupying” the wrong fucking building:

                
          As the #No2Napolitano march, now down to about 300 people, neared the SD Hall where Janet was meeting with UC brass, the crowd was led instead to an adjacent building, the Blum Center for Developing Economies, named after the one of the sitting UC Regents, Richard Blum (husband of Senator Dianne Feinstein and otherwise all-around plutocratic asshole) who appointed Napolitano.  Let me be clear: with a fired up crowd still 500 strong #No2Napolitano a brave contingent could have easily stormed the SD Hall where she actually was, stopped the meeting, occupied the building, and made international news.  The 300 tepid protesters who remained still could have supported the maybe 50 or 60 still left in the crowd who were willing and eager to take direct action, and could have stormed SD Hall!   This would have created international headlines, capturing the imagination of a whole new wave of student activism!  The potential squandered at #No2Napolitano is downright shameful.  (This grad student, who isn't part of our collective, nails it in this CounterPunch article) .



                Instead the 300 students, most of them attending their first protest, were docilely led to watch the UAW vanguard sect occupying the wrong building, raising their fists in “resistance” behind huge plate glass windows.  Many of the 300 outside the building, after cheering on those 11 people inside (the so-called “Blum 11” … sigh), were eager to join them in the occupation.  “No, no!” said the leaders outside, “we’re just here to support those inside. “   As the students grew anxious at this turn of events (and the plan they were not privy to), the leaders to the bullhorns and gave more long-winded go-nowhere speeches while the Blum 11 paraded inside, waving to the crowd, using the windowed staircase like a fashion show runway… but, because, for you know… activism!



                While other members of our collective tried to engage with people in the crowd on a one on one level, I took a theatrical nap under a tree to symbolically show that this protest and unending inaudible bullhorn droning wasn’t just putting me to sleep, but also the Powers That Be who felt absolutely no threat from this phase of the protest/”occupation”.  I was happily woken from my “slumber” when a veteran activist from another immigrants’ rights coalition used their collective’s bullhorn (IE functioning) to fire up the crowd with impassioned bullet points against Napolitano.  The spacing and acoustics of the nearby campus buildings were as such, that if even a marginally competent person grabbed the megaphone, the message could be heard over 100 yards away, instead of the 10 feet that was being broadcast to 95% of the time.  

(Look at those faces: "This isn't part of the script!")
 As the crowd got excited again, the #No2Napolitano “leaders” on the outside quickly announced “They aren’t with us!” and got the crowd to mic-check chant the other protesting collective into silence… so that the droning could continue unabated.  There was not any semblance of democratizing the bullhorn, access was only granted via cronyism.  In fact, ANY dissenting, or even just questioning voices were quickly hissed or shouted down.  Some Stalinist bullshit right there…


Those outside eventually dwindled down to under 50, as there waiting for a “Manifesto” from the “Blum 11” to give them some reason to remain.  For hours they waited outside, on the concrete, with no thought from any of the organizers to supply food or water.  Eventually a tub of popcorn and a loaf of bread arrived.   ---Really?  You ask dozens of people to turn their direct action activism participation into ground support for a vanguard, and you can’t shell out $75 to have 10 two-topping Domino’s pizzas delivered to the protest?  (As a dedicated veteran activist, I consider it my duty to have firm knowledge on local pizza status/pricing).  Finally, the “Manifesto” was delivered.




On Fake Activism or “Protest Theater”:


                To be clear, Theatrical Protests are awesome; they have to power to transform the stagnant reciting of grievances into creative dynamic performances that have the potential (when done well) to stick with those viewing for far longer than conventional methods.  “Protest Theater” on the other hand, is a different beast entirely.


                Rallies, demonstrations, marches all serve legitimate functions in protesting: They raise awareness to (whichever) cause.  But when the rallies and marches are an end to themselves, IE they don’t create genuine “civil disobedience” where the day to day status quo aren’t meaningfully disrupted and interrupted; this is the beginning of “Protest Theater”.


More cynically, “Protest Theater” is an action or event that claims to create change but the organizers know beforehand that it is a prefabricated illusion of populist momentum designed to popularize and legitimize the “Leaders” or organizers of the event on the backs of (usually unpaid) volunteer labor. 
 

For example, shutting down the Port of Oakland like Occupy Oakland did on Nov 2nd 2011 was quite a legitimate protest, with a good numbers of unions working together a mass of citizenry and activists stop the flow of capital in a “General Strike” the likes of which hadn’t been seen in this country for 70 years.  After then, one union (of many), the SEIU gradually withdrew from Occupy to be in the 99% Spring (on top-down orders from the DNC).  They chose not to participate in Occupy Oakland’s call for another General Strike on May Day 2012, and instead promised a “Wisconsin-style Uprising” the day before on April 30th at San Francisco’s City Hall.  Instead of Occupying the City Hall, they held a permitted rally where they chanted, clapped, tepidly sang some old union songs, and when their permitted hour was up, they quietly left the building.  That’s protest theater.


Protest Theater has insidiously evolved since, with no better example coming to mind than the environmentalist group 350 dot Org’s rally at the Chevron station in Richmond CA.  Thousands of people, angry at Chevron’s local pollution disasters, didn’t march to picket the refining station, or block work shifts from entering or exiting.  The mayor of Richmond and 350 dot org organizers had colluded and preplanned the day’s events with the Richmond police.  Over 200 people lined up in front of the Chevron refinery to wait their turn to participate in civil disobedience arrest-theater.  One by one Richmond cops put zip ties on “protesters” only to have them removed 5 minutes later, without being cited or booked.  But the headlines across the country read “Over Two Hundred People Arrested at Chevron Refinery” and “Rockefeller-funded douche-canoe and 350 dot org top pimp” Bill McKibben got to put another feather in his cap.  Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. are rolling over in their graves.


“But isn’t some protest better than no protest?”  It would seem so, on the elementary mathematics surface, but let’s factor in a few more variables and advance to at least Pre-Algebra, shall we?  Even a 12 year old can deduce that an act of “Protest Theater” can harm the larger movement  when it draws attention away from people on the front lines; using the anti-fossil fuel example, those people risking arrest and severe jail terms for blockading pipelines (and otherwise actually getting shit done) in Canada and the USA.


From start to finish, the #No2Napolitano demonstration was “Protest Theater”, designed to draw power away from eager new student protesters while simultaneously enhancing the activist profiles of a few select organizers.  Their “Manifesto” can easily be debunked as hogwash.  The “Manifesto” has a lot of information on how the UC Regents are undemocratically appointed, and how Napolitano’s presidency is illegitimate: but who elected the UAW/”Blum 11” into leadership positions of #No2Napolitano; how legitimate are their proclamations?  The “Blum 11” were going to occupy the Blum building, calling for:


1.       “UC Berkeley Chancellor Dirks to publicly renounce Janet Napolitano” = To create the kind of pressure necessary for Dirks to make such a career killing statement would require a lot more than 11 people in a “occupying” a building that would be vacant over the weekend anyway:  those 11 people went to the wrong building and turned away hundreds of others from joining them.

2.       “For all those in solidarity to cancel classes tomorrow (Friday, Feb 13), and for people to build a strike in support of Napolitano’s resignation and for the democratization of the University.”  This coming from the UAW sect that were among the Original Facilitation Committee at Occupy Cal in Nov 2011 would be quite laughable if it weren’t so hypocritical. This sect claimed this kind of student strike; during the high point of Occupy Cal with thousands amassed and ready; would take 10 weeks and then an additional month to pull off!  But these 60, mostly neophyte, #No2Napolitano protesters (as earnest as they are) were to scramble and pull off a campus wide strike in under 16 hours!  Riiiiiiiight…

3.       “Full amnesty for all those reclaiming campus space, including those who have taken the Blum Center.” = the Golden Parachute/Get Out Jail Free card.  The only objective achievable; and the only one they cared about getting.  And the precedent had been set for this strategy to work when yet even another Immigrant-Student-Rights group occupied another building on campus late 2012.  They also had a large list of demands that included amnesty for the protesters, and hours later they un-occupied with only amnesty won.  The veteran activists observing at the time cynically thought “Great! Any group can now take any building, ask for the moon and the stars, settle for just amnesty, and come down as radical student activist heroes”  Which is what’s happening now with the UAW sect and their Protest Theater.

                 
           By the way, I’m not just talking out of my ass here when it comes to building occupations and tactics therein: I was part of an Occupy Cal action in Jan 2012 where we Occupied the Anthropology Library in order to re-staff a dormant position and to open the library back to its 9-6pm hours instead of the new 12-5pm hours that began that semester.  In a 50 hour occupation, we forced the Administration to meet all of our demands, and the next day, the library opened its doors at 9am.  (A further “by the way”: the UAW/Occupy Education sect came en masse into our Occupation-In-Progress and tried to vote it down, telling us to go home.  They failed.)




On "I’m giving you a choice: Either put on these glasses, or start eating that trash can."

"They can see..."


                Seeing through the façade of “Protest Theater” should be incredibly simple: all it takes is an open mind, and some basic critical thinking skills.  Yet for reasons that are still incredibly baffling to me, many of my Occupy comrades have this sort of blind allegiance to Business Unionism that provokes a knee-jerk response that closes their mind and dulls their otherwise razor sharp critical thinking skills when it comes to activists critiquing Unions.  (From a “leftist” point of view, mind you; not right wing or libertarian views on why Unions are detrimental to business bullshit)


                So many radical activists of all stripes (Anarchist/Socialist/Communist, even the Green Party), especially in Occupy Oakland would (rightfully) denounce Obama and the DNC at the drop of hat, but when it came to questioning the critical lack of support from the Unions to Occupy nationwide (that essentially doomed the movement): you could hear a pin drop.  The Occupy Wall Street movement was picking up the standard and fighting the good fight against plutocracy and for all workers (not just “skilled labor”) that the Labor Unions abandoned over 70 years ago.  The thing is, the Unions kept all the money to wage that class war, in the form of dormant strike funds, sitting billions of unused dollars, while Occupy had to fight unpaid, under-supported, in the cold.  The UAW has over $800 million in strike funds: take a moment to imagine how just 1% of that could have been a game-changer for Occupy.


             Yet when I point these facts out to certain people and cliques within the (former) Occupy movement, this stone-faced, blind allegiance comes up.  I don’t personally know what unbreakable bonds of unity and brotherhood were forged on the picket line during the (theoretical) six day union strike of 1998 to get 2 extra paid sick days per year, but whatever happened, it created a free pass on systemic critique of Business Unionism in the USA to this day.  It’s analogous to unquestioning flag waving patriotism, just trading the stars and stripes for Union colors.



It’s time to dispel the Business Union illusions, and “Put on the fucking sunglasses!”





           Let’s examine the nature of the reactions (good and bad) and counter-arguments to my accusations of the UAW 2865’s involvement in ratfucking populist student action since at least 2011 (and perhaps even before then:  from 2010 “If you look at the weak (or guaranteed-to-fail) “demands” (and planned action) of the upcoming March 4th education-centered protest on UC campuses…“)

1.       Many former/current Occupy activists around the country have been reaching out to me, sharing similar experiences with Union organizers trying to divert radical actions at their local Occupations/GAs; countless examples ranging from constantly reinforcing the Democrats VS Republicans illusion, to minor things like during marches, voting to stay on the sidewalk instead of taking the streets.

2.       Locally, mostly silence.  Which is understandable, to a degree, as Occupy Oakland activist faced some of the nastiest infighting and sectarianism of the entire OWS movement that eventually tore the once vibrant, most radical wing apart.  While I didn’t explicitly ask people to take sides, by default they were asked to either claim I was misrepresenting the truth RE the UAW, or to start take action VS the Unions/99% Spring that ratfucked Occupy around the Bay Area.  So many stayed on the fence, silent.  (Incredibly, and sadly, I’m the only person that significantly organized with Occupy Oakland, Occupy Cal and Occupy the Farm [not a claim I’m particularly proud of, I’d rather have company], although I constantly implored more people to cross-organize.)

3.       Incompetence: Trying to explain away all of Occupy Cal’s failures, and the weakening of pitiful activism in the past two years at UC Berkeley on inexperience and incompetence of student organizers (IE not because of any shadowy UAW Agenda).  If this is the case, after nearly 3 years of total abject movement failures at UCB, why would anyone trust this flock of student organizers (the UAW sect & their minions), to organize a lemonade stand, let alone promote them as “leaders of the student movement”?

4.       Lack of Proof?  People who weren’t there saying I can’t prove what I said happened, even after I’ve had multiple witnesses corroborate the chain of events that I described about Occupy Cal in writing. 

5.       And, most bafflingly, people saying that “Yes, there are problems within the UAW nationally, but there are some radical folks within the local 2865. So, no…” and the argument trails off there, without any further explanation, or citing any specific examples that I misrepresented.


  This last argument comes from the Reclaim UC collective, who came to international activist prominence during the Wheeler Hall Occupations and the student movement against the tuition and privatization from 2009-10.  They’ve done excellent reporting and blogging about the corruption at the UC system for years, even publishing a reportback from an action our bpoffcampus collective engaged in last spring.  But in the instance of my article exposing UAW’s infiltration of Occupy Cal, the Reclaim UC collective has quietly used all of their activist cred they’ve built and earned over the years to basically call me a liar, without offering any further proof, dialogue,  or written academic rebuttals.  More dismaying is my Occupy comrades, especially those in a (loosely defined) Wheeler Hall 2009 clique (who have risen to Activist Organizers Persons of Influence and Trust around the Bay Area due to their activism/camaraderie 4 years ago), basically take the Reclaim UC collective’s word over mine, just on their say-so.


I’m not saying anything like everyone in the UAW are counter-revolutionaries: I’m pointing out the hard truths that a tiny cabal within the UAW 2865 local, with influential people on the sidelines unquestioningly championing them, have careerist egotist motives; and furthermore are willingly useful idiots and pawns of the DHS/DNC plutocracy promoting “Protest Theater” while stalling any real reform.




“Start eating that trash can…"


                Days in advance of the #No2Napolitano action, I warned observing activists repeatedly via social media that this was more than likely going to be “Protest Theater” with the UAW (/AFSCME) sect trying to take it over to promote an upcoming 5 day strike over wages, IE nothing to do with Janet Napolitano as a human rights violator.  This was mostly ignored.


                Later, when our collective was called cops by the UAW sect at a public meeting, I informed people that a cardinal sin of activists was committed: snitchjacketing.  When the Occupy Oakland Media/Hella Occupy Oakland collective snitchjacketed a member of the media working group back in 2012, the Occupy Oakland GA, at over 90% vote banned the 4 who wrote the dangerous article from any further official use of OO media, saying they could never speak on behalf of Occupy Oakland again.  Unofficially we as individuals all stopped promoting Hella Occupy Oakland articles, stopped retweeting their tweets, etc, effectively shunning them.  The message was clear, if you are, or if you associate with unapologetic snitchjacketers, we will stop associating with you.


                Yet in the past few days we have a virtually identical situation.  The UAW sect of the #No2Napolitano has called our collective cops at a public meeting for disagreeing with them. They haven’t acknowledged, apologized or even denied this.  It is extremely dangerous for this behavior to go unchecked by the activist community!  I even informed a number of activists via social media personally; although any more than cursory scroll through the #No2Napolitano tag on twitter would inform people.  Many people; who I’ve faced down riot cops with; chose to ignore this information and precedent and promote the UAW sect’s Protest Theater of the “Blum 11”!




Dirty Pool comrades, Dirty Pool.




            In conclusion, we at CalOpenU/bpOffCampus will continue to organize against Napolitano, the UC Regents, British Petroleum… the whole damn rotten corrupt system!  We are NOT in it for personal gains; we aren’t asking for dues, we don’t want you to drink any fucking Kool-Aid.  We want to defeat the plutocratic bastards, and we think we have the organizational experience and strategies to better accomplish this.  We are extremely encouraged by the vast majority of the #No2Napolitano protesters, and dismayed at any and all cabals/sects/cliques that would divert their energy into dead-end activism.  We are always open to new good ideas and a diversity of voices and we would like to hear from you!







@bpOffCampus


(Edit/Post Script: After ~24 hours, the Blum 11, reduced to the Blum 7, left the building. No arrests were made.)