It would be good -- putting it mildly -- to move toward a situation in which the obvious political questions about the occupations could be discussed frankly. This won't be easy: obviously those taking real risks and suffering the real hardships associated with occupations have reason to be impatient with those casting doubt.
It's hard to avoid a discourse of blame and dismissal, even of people -- faculty, students, staff -- whose dedication to building an effective resistance over the past months seems unquestionable. The kind of treatment they received in, say, the Counterpunch article strikes me as glib (or worse). But it is time to move beyond name-calling.
Some of the questions we ought to be discussing are these. First, as with any form of political action, questions of tactical aim and effectiveness. Occupations demanding what? Addressed to whom, in the short run (beyond "the authorities," I mean)? Doing what -- hoping to achieve what -- with the all-too-likely "negotiation" and winding down that follow such actions in a day or so (or even sooner, in the case of the UCOP invasion)?
Second, just as urgent, questions about the occupations' strategic point. To what kind of wider movement are they addressed, precisely in and through their expected "defeat"? To a student movement? Or is the very idea of such a movement consigned to the dustbin of history? How do the occupations stand -- as spur or spark or spanner-in-the-works -- in relation to questions of the California economy and state financing of public education? For instance, how do the organizers see the occupations contributing to the building of a student fee strike in response to the 32% rise? This is one tactic being actively considered.
Such a strike would be directed straight at one main provocation among the present slew of attacks and attritions, have the possibility of gaining widespread support, and, if it succeeded, have real-world consequences. Or is this kind of strategy -- longer-term, involving a vast amount of painstaking organization, persuasion of the "moderate" student center, legal maneuvering, etc. etc. -- seen as hopeless and counter-productive? Are occupations MEANT to make such a channeling of energies harder? Certainly some of us suspect they do, or will.
Talking tactics naturally means talking about the real-world political and social situation. Contrary to myth, even in what was thought to be a pre-revolutionary situation in '68 -- I cite the '68 precedent reluctantly, and claim no special authority regarding it -- there was considerable difference of opinion among those sympathetic to or involved in the occupations about the tactic and its future. Was "territorialization" of the movement the way to go? What did it mean to occupy territories -- buildings, theaters, university blocks -- that in no sense were strongholds, or even significant outposts, of the actual productive or repressive apparatus? (Let's put heavy irony about Wheeler, the literary canon, and the economy aside.) When does a tactic become a shibboleth? Does occupation symbolically/literally "enclose" the student movement in its provided social space, and entrench its distance from other social actors?
I am not, by the way -- repeat not -- saying that the answers to all these questions were/are clear. But they were real questions, hotly debated, even in a time of escalating social breakdown and apparent threats to state power, when the possibility of student actions resonating with -- maybe spreading to -- the realm of production and consumption was... well, a possibility. They ought to be asked again, a fortiori, and debated differently, in our present paralyzed social and economic world. I go along with much of what The Necrosocial has to say about that dead landscape. But precisely because the wider terrain in California and beyond is one of funerary calm, the question arises: "One spark to set THIS plain alight?" Some of us doubt it.
None of this is meant for a moment to call into question the intensity and commitment of the occupiers, or to offer ANY kind of justification for what the university chose to do in response last Friday. It just seems to me urgent that "sides" within the current of opposition don't now freeze into mutual distrust and silence.
Best -- Tim