From the Autonomous Occupation of 90 5th Avenue:
Since November 17th, students, non-students, workers and others have transformed through political occupation a formerly isolating, frigid and closed study space into a 24hour educational hub for not just all students, but all people. We have held this space for seven days and in that time we have set up multiple general assemblies, established a safer spaces group, dismantled institutional oppression with the immediate creation of gender neutral bathrooms, fed and housed over 200 people, provided teach-ins from an anti-capitalist perspective on the financial crisis and political struggle, and created a gathering place for political conversation. In reclaiming a New School building, a private university with astronomical tuition, there has been a sometimes pre-conceived perception of elitism and exclusivity; some have said they feel alienated, that the space is still too white, or that the theoretical discussion is too pretentious or academic. Some of these issues weren’t resolved nor they could have been resolved in such a short window. But this contradiction–where anti-capitalist/anti-racist debate is viewed as an elite politics–is precisely what we are in the process of shattering in this space. Hundreds of people have come to hear talks and have conversations about capitalism, revolutionary practice, anti-oppression, queer politics and international struggle. Most who have had problems in the space have consistently returned, recognizing that the politics surrounding the occupation are not solidified, but are instead immanent to the space itself.
Last night, November 22nd, marked the first attendance by many emphatic participants in the General Assembly. Through several manipulative acts, including the creation of a town hall that was somehow broadly attended in spite of a mere two hours notice, the Assembly was packed by antagonists including several faculty and a large group of students who had not previously been involved in the occupation. For many of us the large attendance was a success, but very soon it became clear that the sole goal of the majority of participants present was not discussion, but a yes vote for the destruction of the occupation. The intention was to disrupt any possibility of dialogue and to frame the voting of the assembly in the manner of representational politics and parliamentary theater.
At this assembly the faculty, the bureaucratic manipulators and students hand picked by administration revealed their faces. Arguments about race and alienation, couching pro-capitalist rhetoric and theatrical fear mongering, were used to disrespect and disempower the open assembly. Immediately after a perceived victory in “accepting” Van Zandt’s proposal, these individuals removed themselves from the process and demonized the continuing deliberation of the assembly’s remaining participants.
We are writing to expose the misinformation and the constant sabotage that has being circulating through media and disseminated by specific individuals whose only purpose is to break this occupation from within. We also see this document as an opportunity to put forward a political perspective on these events, and on hopes for the future.
It is clear that we should not have trusted negotiations with the President of the New School about the security and the character of this occupation. After six days of dealing with this matter it is evident that it has caused fragmentation not only of the occupation itself, but poses a larger threat for the entire student struggle and the growth of the occupation movement. Political organizations still playing ping-pong on the back of the student body, in favor of specific ideological positions and with vested interests, have succeeded in the creation of media misrepresentation, the recruitment of students against the occupation, and the disruption of any possibility of dialogue. This has happened only for their own benefit to legitimate their bureaucratic actions, and to expand their conservative and archaic way of organizing. This method of organizing is one that they are unable to and refuse to transform when confronted with a movement that is against of any form of leadership or representation.
The struggle can only develop with the opening of a space that is initiated by political praxis that remains open for any political analysis.
Any jeopardization of autonomous practice will doom the struggle to failure.
November 23rd , 2011