Saturday, December 31, 2011

Last Posting of the Year (Probably)

     I thought that I would take the time to write a brief end of the year posting.  Most likely, I won't have the time or inclination to do this tomorrow, so I might as well put something up tonight.  It's been a curious year.  At the local level, this year has seen the success of the reform movement in the grad student movement, quickly moving from the challenges to the last contract to a strong, state-wide movement that successfully won all positions on the union's executive board.  From there, the local has been at the center of the attempt to revive the movement to defend public education.  Schools across the state have been involved in occupations, demonstrations, and disruptions.  The most notable actions occurred in Davis and Berkeley, but all the schools with heavy AWDU contingents have managed substantial political actions.  The local still needs to make up for the years of neglect in regards to its workplace organizing.  I still think that this is going to be a lot of work, particularly without any real models for the kind of work we are involved, but I think that we can still produce a strong rank and file union by the time the contract is up in a couple years.

      At the national level, the 'occupy' movement seems to present an opening for counter-systemic movements that doesn't really have an equivalent in my life time.  The movement has its obvious origins in the Arab Spring, but that impetus quickly translated into a method to fuse a number of disparate struggles.  The closest comparison might be the anti-globalization movement, but it never produced a linkage between the local, the national, and the international that we see here.  Additionally, the protests are remarkably popular.  Repeatedly in polls, over half the population supports the basic aims of the movement, giving the movement a popularity that the ant-war movement certainly didn't see.  The shift from the encampment structure to the attempt to protect houses from foreclosure seems to be a potentially powerful shift for the winter months.  I can see two potential points of collapse.  1.  A collapse of the delicate structure of alliances, between radicals and liberals, anarchists and socialists, veteran activists and new recruits, as well as a diversity of racial and ethnic groups.  2.  The presidential election is going translate into some pretty substantial attempts on the part of the democratic party to translate the movement into a prop for the Obama election.  I don't know whether these potential crises will be negotiated or not, but they represent the potential of the movement, in the form of previously unimaginable political assemblages and through a movement that is large enough to potentially change the fate of presidential elections.

      The productive problems of both levels of struggle gesture towards the need to reconsider the second type of knowledge as discussed in Spinoza's Ethics, common notions.  We need new forms of organization, new forms of communication, and new ways of communicating.  I don't know what those new forms are, or if we are capable of producing the kind of novum implicit in these new commons.  I think that we need to try to hold onto a little more theoretical modesty in regards to these questions.  If these new forms are created, they will be created collectively and in struggle.  In this context, we must take up Hegel's demand that we 'tarry with the negative' in order to produce new concepts, that is, the need to refuse the desire to synthesize antagonisms, to flatten ambiguities, and to accept the existence of the unknown.  Experimentation and failure are crucial to social movements, no matter how painful they are at times.  I'm looking forwards to finding out what happens in the next year, along with finishing a dissertation.

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