Workers Vanguard No. 895

6 July 2007


SFSU Students Walk Out Against Fee Hikes

SYC Says: "Free, Quality Education! Abolish the Administration!"

(Young Spartacus pages)

On April 26, a multiracial crowd of 1,000 San Francisco State University (SFSU) students walked out in protest of increasing student fees and cuts in services. Students assembled at Malcolm X Plaza, marched through several buildings and then briefly occupied the Administration building. Fees for students in the Cal State University system have gone up a staggering 92 percent since 2002 and there have been major cuts in classes and staff. The gutting of affirmative action and rollbacks of financial aid and educational outreach programs are part of the ruling class’ racist purge of universities nationwide.

The SFSU walkout was organized by members of the student government and student interns of the California Faculty Association (CFA), which represents over half of the almost 1,800 faculty at SFSU and had passed a resolution against the increase in student fees. The walkout’s organizers wore red T-shirts sporting the Students for a Democratic Society fist and the words “This is what an activist looks like.” But these activists sought to steer angry students into the dead end of reliance on so-called friends in the state capitol, telling people to go to Sacramento on May 9 for the annual Lobby Day. While the Democrats posture as the “friends” of working people and the oppressed, they are a party of the capitalist ruling class. Historically the Democrats have been the preferred party to enforce racist capitalist austerity, strengthen the repressive powers of the state, and wage bloody imperialist war.

The austerity measures that sparked the student protest mean an attack on campus workers and teachers, who are natural allies in the students’ struggle. Importantly, a representative from the campus janitors union attended the walkout, as did a number of professors and counselors. In March, after two years without a contract, the CFA membership voted overwhelmingly to strike for the first time in its history. A last-minute agreement between the union and the Cal State University Board of Trustees resulted in a settlement with a 20.7 percent increase in wages over four years.

The Spartacus Youth Club joined the walkout and occupation, arguing for students fighting against fee hikes to link their struggle to the social power of the working class. We fight for free, quality, integrated education for all as part of the struggle against capitalism, which means war, poverty and oppression for millions around the world. We carried signs calling for student/labor mobilizations against tuition hikes, for freeing black death row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, against the U.S. occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, and for breaking with the Democrats and forging a revolutionary workers party. In response to the organizers’ chants of “What do we want? Less fees!” we chanted, “No fees!” and many students joined in.

The organizers of the walkout, in an effort to avoid a confrontation with the administration, tried to prevent the crowd from entering the Administration building. But after a few minutes of standing outside the building chanting “The students, united, will never be divided!”, “Shame on you!” (to the administration) and “Fewer classes, higher fees—the CSU is run by thieves!”, students began to occupy the building. The organizers worked with the cops to prevent people from entering the fifth floor, where SFSU president Robert Corrigan’s office is. We chanted, “Cops off campus!” A couple of self-proclaimed anarchists joined in. But when one of the organizers told them to stop, they meekly obeyed! We also chanted, “Free, quality education! Abolish the administration!”, which was picked up by many of the protesters. The organizers, dismayed, drowned us out with chants of “What do we want? Lower fees! When do we want it? Now!”

Members of the crowd defended the SYC’s right to put forward our Marxist program at an open mic inside the Administration building, including against members of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and Students Against War, who tried to shout our speaker down when he criticized their politics. Predictably, the ISO and Socialist Action (SA) ditched their usual Sunday speechifying about socialism in order to impress the liberals as “realistic” advisers to the world’s bloodiest ruling class on how to reform capitalism. The ISO speaker called the attacks on public education a problem of “government priorities” and SA’s spokesman simply bemoaned that the government is spending billions on war and prisons instead of schools. Despite what SA and the ISO would have you believe, imperialist war and racist oppression are inherent to the capitalist order. Nothing short of international socialist revolution, which is what we fight for, will put an end to them.

The College Republicans posted a video of the walkout on YouTube in an attempt to set protesters up for administration and cop reprisals. These junior McCarthyites were in hysterics about supposed violations of the administration’s guidelines for student organizations—including “subversive” acts like standing in doorways and carrying posters on poles. A special section of the video entitled “The March Was About More Than Fee Hikes” is devoted to SYC signs, which were indeed about more than fee hikes. But for all the right-wingers’ attempts to paint the demo bright red, the SYCers were the only reds around. We say: No reprisals against the student demonstrators!

We print below the speech given by SYC comrade Martin Burk, edited for publication.

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Down with the fee hikes! Free, quality education for all! Down with the racist purge of the universities—for open admissions and no tuition!

The attacks on education today are a part of the ruling class’ drive to wipe out the gains that were won through hard-fought struggle by the working class and the oppressed. Education under capitalism is increasingly out of reach for working-class, poor and minority youth as tuition goes up, affirmative action is gutted, programs are cut and teachers are laid off.

As Marxists, we know that free, quality education will be the right of all only when this decaying, profit-driven capitalist order is overthrown by victorious socialist revolution around the globe. While the ruling class purges the universities of blacks and minorities, it also bolsters its racist “war on terror” on the campuses. The campus administration is not neutral, but acts as the enforcers of the “war on terror” here, going after Near Eastern and leftist students and stifling dissent, like with the ban on the Edward Said mural [see “Down With Ban on Edward Said Mural!”, WV No. 881, 24 November 2006].

None of these attacks are simply a product of one belligerent, right-wing president. Both the Republicans and the Democrats are parties of capitalist exploitation and imperialist war. Many students see the Democrats as allies of the oppressed, but the Democratic Party are representatives of this rapacious bloody system. The imperialist system cannot be reformed. Yet so-called socialists like the International Socialist Organization and Speak Out Now present war as simply a policy that can be pressured out of existence. You call for “Money for jobs and schools, not wars.” It is utterly utopian to think that this capitalist state can be made to change its interests and serve the oppressed. It’s the same capitalist state that left blacks and poor to die in New Orleans, that slaughters the people of Iraq, that continuously attacks workers’ livelihoods, taking away health care and pensions, that further erodes women’s abortion rights, and that wants to kill Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Student actions alone cannot put an end to the cutbacks and attacks on education. Teachers in Hayward have been on strike for the past few weeks fighting for a wage increase so they can survive! We need the strength and power of the multiracial organized working class. The campus administrations should be abolished. Those who work, study and teach at the universities should run them—for worker/student/teacher control of the universities! We call for open admissions and a state-paid living stipend for all students. We also call for cops and military recruiters off campus! For full citizenship rights for immigrants! Students must ally with labor in the struggle for free, quality education, and fight for the future of humanity through workers revolution.