Why the DNU may fail: One day we may (Part 1)

Submitted by hadrian on Mon, 05/04/2015 - 18:51

Every protest movement requires critique in order to improve. "De Nieuwe Universiteit," (DNU) a student protest movement in Amsterdam started with the occupation of the Bungehuis in February 2015 and continued with the occupation of the Maagdenhuis two weeks later. The movement has made its mark in the history of student protests in the Netherlands with two lengthy occupations and it inspired some people to become more active in other cities. How the DNU must continue requires us to turn our collective gazes inwards and backwards in order to analyze the problems we've had so that we may look forward with new experiences and hope for a more successful movement. This text deals with some of the problems I've noted. It's part 1 of 4.

Hope! It may sound peculiar to the outsider who might say the entire movement is hope, maybe even vainglorious hope. One of the movement's original aims were for more control by students and staff over their own education and research. This is, at its core, a Socialist demand when we define Socialism as self-control of one's own life and labour-processes. This demand is not the hope that formed the demise of the movement. It is another, very specific, kind of hope that is. The hope that we would be able to gain something, that we would get all of our demands, or at least some of them, met; hope that the managers would be gentle and rational and see our critique as valid, our demands as necessary, and would then act on it. Indeed, then, it was vainglorious hope. The outsider may have been right. Of course, the managers would not act on our demands as they have their own interests to look out for. If they were to give into our demands too even a little bit they would, doubtless, risk their careers in the process. No other organization wants a member on their board that gives in, even a little, after a little bit of raucous. In the end, they refused to even talk with delegates of the DNU. It has always been like this. Did any movement ever reach its goals completely and this easily? Does the State not have too much control over our way of thinking? Does the state not force us to negotiate on the State's terms? Of course it does! It's exactly what the State is: the mediator between individuals. The State is a social relation which manifests itself as a replacement of the social relation between individuals. The University acts on the terms of the State alone, it is not a revolutionary institution and its leaders certainly aren't revolutionaries. Nevertheless, we petitioned for redress; we dared to hope!

From the days of the Spinhuis several people, me included, have been calling for the foundation of an entirely new university. After the end of the Bungehuis I claimed this seemed the logical next step. "We call ourselves the new University, let's be one!" What happened was a new occupation and a change of demands. The faith in the board of directors was lost and we kept hoping; hoping that a new board would give us what we demand. Thus, the demands changed; no longer a call for democracy, no longer a cal for financing in service of academia; no! a call for a new board. With that, the movement finally lost all its focus. In the end, committees were instated where the DNU would be allowed to participate. Of course, this participation is together with a multitude of other organizations and very much on the terms of the university itself. However, the movement was recognized, our vainest hopes satiated, and all sense of direction lost. All we have to do is wait until the committees have done their job. What we forget is that the movement will have bled to death by that time. Anger abates but bureaucracy has infinite patience.

We've made that elementary mistake already uncovered by Landauer in theory and a thousand movements before and after in praxis: if we don't build Socialism in the here and now, how can we ever expect to see it?

The only way to get change is to build it. We've learnt this once again. Ask for redress and we are ignored or institutionalized, whichever serves the bureaucracy best. Build, and our creative forces get free reign; the State has never understood creativity. We must, each of us, think in a revolutionary manner if we want change. That entails immediate and direct actions towards what we want. If we want better and free education: build it!

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