Will the March 4th UC Demonstrations Fail?

Will the March 4th UC Demonstrations Fail?
by Arnold Pepper

Yes. All the protesters making demands on March 4th at educational centers throughout California are doomed to NOT be granted… justice.

It’s not because their demands aren’t reasonable. It’s (mainly) that they’re too modest. Too timid. To unimaginatively narrow. It’s like they’re asking for money back from a deaf, devilish thief who took their collective wallet, and is in the process of looting their households while they cry in public about the whole shebang FOR ONE DAY. And on top of that, the criminal has designs on the whole neighborhood. He’s already set in motion what’s needed to gentrify their area (using toxic materials), making it impossible for them to live there. [Pause.] It’s all f’d up, and what’s in process has pretty much nothing to do with what the students, staff, faculty and labor on UC campuses are spotlighting. It’s not mainly about money.

The deaf, devilish thief must be locked up, taken off of the streets. Or put out of commission in some way. And one way to do that is to expose the thief as a criminal of a much higher order than what the official accusation, charge indicates. For the thief is a murderer too, and he will not stop at killing off anyone who dares to be a threat; he’s killed before. Many times. Certainly, in this case, the murderous, thieving powers that be (on UC campuses and elsewhere) have no intention of giving in. [I cite Noam Chomsky's Mafia Principle, which explains that such powers cannot be seen to be giving in to demands, for such caving sets a bad example.] And they’ll have no reservations about making use of law enforcement or the military to put down any potential threats. It’s in that context that I give you the top ten reasons why I feel the March 4th protesters will fall far short of their goals (further encouraging long term cynicism and resignation in the process).

In no special order (after observing scores of those involved in planning for March 4th statewide):

1. The demands coming from the various educational centers are not being made clear far enough ahead of time, and, in any case, are not totally aligned with one another. There needs to be some build-up of interest among the general public, for starters.

2. There’s not a single demand outside of the obvious on-campus concerns regarding fee hikes, cuts and layoffs that the educational centers have in common. There must be at least one larger societal issue which draws in outside elements, general citizen support.

3. Too many of the activists are willing to settle for planting seeds for the future in lieu of demanding palpable changes immediately. Meaningful follow-up — weakly planned for, if at all, to date, is the kind of planning for the future which should be taking place. It will be virtually impossible to pull off later if March 4th disappoints large numbers, and the opposition is committed to making things turn sour.

4. The several campuses which were presented with a proposal for an (uncompromising) hunger strike refused to even discuss that non-violent means for applying pressure on the powers that be. This is quite simply very bad judgment, a failure of imaginative leadership.

5. There’s a broad state of denial regarding the importance of linking matters like UC nuclear weaponry research and UC torture of laboratory animals to fee hike, cuts and layoff issues. Just in terms of $$$, it’s obvious that there can be an on-campus re-organization of priorities for expenditures. But on the moral plane, refusal to address the values being perpetuated on a grand scale by one’s institution while one pursues one’s self-centered interests exclusively does not bode well for the movement.

6. In an effort to meet various deadlines related to publicizing March 4th, organizers/coordinating committees are moving way too fast, leaving no time for deep discussion. For instance, one group meeting at Berkeley hurried discussion and voting along in the name of needing decisions to be made related to the production of flyers. A proposal to make use of campus connections to Green Day and Rage Against the Machine was not discussed — although their involvement would have made flyers virtually unnecessary — in part because of time considerations (or some other unfathomable reason). Certainly, what a (local) band like Green Day could have done to generate interest in a few days prior to their March 4th event would have been monumental, truly inspiring. And — according to the person who made the suggestion — not have cost any time or money. There’s a real sense of the protesters simply going through the motions of conducting a democratically-run affair, with the format used being more important than the substance involved.

7. There seems to be a lack of imagination among organizers. Above I mentioned denial in relation to the need for linkage. There’s also denial when it comes to the effectiveness of the old paradigms for protesting. Getting arrested, getting beaten by the cops, getting tasered, getting a police record all count for something, no question. The Question, however, is “Is that the approach that’ll best serve the purposes of one and all today?”. A distinct lack of imagination seems to plague those making decisions. That and an inability to be adventurous, daring. The legal situation of non-profits in relation to elections comes to mind. The powers that be have designed parameters which make it illegal for 501s to get involved in the electoral arena. For reasons that serve their purposes, those in control. Non-profits, then, tailor their activities accordiingly. The protesters seem like good tailors.

8. There’s deep ignorance regarding what’s going on on campus behind closed doors, and an unwillingness among those who know to share information about the nefarious activities of campus officials. The Nuclear Nexus described by Darwin BondGraham is one such example of something which begs for discussion. There’s no possibility of linking larger societal issues to expected demands if people are in the dark about their institution.

9. Recruitment, generally, is mired down by old models for generating interest. Nothing I witnessed could possibly raise interest among students who are not inclined to join in the fray… which is the vast majority of students at the moment. Ditto for faculty and labor leaders (who are woefully in opposition to small numbers of fired up rank and file union members).

10. Nine out of ten protesters I talked to about Richard C. Blum, a major influence among his fellow-Regents, didn’t know anything about him. This is different than not knowing about questionable research on campus. This husband of Diane Feinstein who is an enormous war-profiteer and more (that’s negative), is an actual person who represents THE OPPOSITION! [I put that in caps 'cause the protesters are up against some formidable challenges, not the least of which are the people they're fighting.] What he is raking in and what he has been losing (in investments) for the UC system alone is equivalent to what the protesters will probably be asking for (money-wise) with their demands. One cannot influence a fellow like Blum by following him to his house, and threatening him with bodily harm. I mean, it’ll do some good perhaps, but not if that’s one’s primary or exclusive approach to such well-protected individuals.

If I’m in Vegas and I’m giving odds, 100-1 says that what’s being planned will result in abject failure by any standards. Especially when one considers that the window of opportunity in March will not come again.

I pray that I am wrong.

The author can be reached at impelus@gmail.com.
P.S. Sad to say that I have other “reasons” which are not given here. Which does not bode well. UPDATE AS OF 1/23/10: Very disturbing is that having sent this article to over thirty activists on the protesters’ listserv, I received not a single response… even though I prefaced the piece with a very tactful plea for feedback.