Students at Berkeley staged an occupation of the campus anthropology library last week, winning a rollback of planned cuts to library hours and a reversal of a planned staff reduction. This is the second time a Berkeley library occupation has ended in victory in the last two years.
Those two victories stand out — both at Berkeley, where the administration has often responded to peaceful protest with police violence and mass arrests, and as a national model, as library occupations have been among the most successful actions mounted in the current wave of student mobilizing.
It’s tempting to argue that such victories hold lessons for future organizing, and in some ways they clearly to — the fact that something is working is a pretty good reason to keep doing it. But it’s not a reason to stop doing other things with less immediate payoff, as one library occupier writes at Reclaim UC.
I’ll let her take it from here:
One lesson we may take from this is that direct action works. In fact, in the case of the Anthropology Library, it has consistently worked. And we should take this moment to celebrate the significant manner in which direct action has restored part of the basic functioning of the university and—at least in this one case—reversed the terribly damaging policy of an increasingly profit-oriented administration. […]
In the nearly three years of student uprisings, the library occupations have earned us our only concrete, measurable successes. But the wrong lesson would be that by keeping our demands small, and by staying “reasonable,” we may achieve our goals. What we have won here is a band-aid for a university system suffering from hemophilia. Don’t get me wrong: we need band-aids—we need lots of them—but our small, reasonable, achievable demands will fail to produce either the university or the society for which we fight. They will simply bandage up the tools of class reproduction.
Our greatest successes over the last three years have been neither concrete nor measurable. And although a good deal of thought must be put into what “Occupy” is and represents, there can be no doubt that at the beginning of 2012, we stand on an entirely different ground from where we were a year ago. This shift has been effected not by policy enacted or reversed, but by on-the-ground organizing and a growing consciousness of and a willingness to act—to take direct action—against the structures of domination of which we have become a part.
This victory is only a victory if we use it as a springboard for further escalation and further growth.
I couldn’t agree more. Go read the whole thing.