On the 19th of January a gathering of students at UC Santa Barbara met to discuss the situation in Iraq and the US government's seeming preparation for a possible military strike against Iran. Out of this meeting it was decided by the students that a strike is in order. On Feb. 15th UC Santa Barbara students will hold a 1-day strike against war in which no one attends class, those who can afford to or are not unduley vulnerable take the day off from work, and no one shops.
The action, an autonomous and student led initiative comes just prior to announcements by several other major universities that their students are preparing to organize strikes, walkouts and similar actions on this day. Among these are Columbia in New York City and UC Santa Cruz. The significance of Feb. 15 is that in 2003 in the run-up to the Iraq war the date saw the largest single protest mobilization in human history. Countless millions marched in the streets of every major city across the planet.
UCSB's students hope that the strike mobilization spreads to other campuses and that increasingly well organized nonviolent direct actions against the war ensue on campuses until the goal is reached. UCSB's students hope to stop "business as usual," and to send a message that unless the war is ended and plans for futher military aggression are shelved, the students of the United States will not be idley complicit by going about their lives as though nothing is wrong.
Some reasoning behind the strike written by one UCSB student [by no means speaking for all UCSB students though] is as follows:
How to Stop the War (or, Why a Student Strike Makes Perfect Sense)!
Students have very little influence over foreign policy. We are young, our votes don't matter to this president, we are too disorganized right now to lobby, in short, students are like poor people: politicians don't pay us much attention. They don’t have to.
But we do have a great deal of power if we act in a collective way!
So how do students collectively act to help end the war? Protest is a good start, but if all we do is come out on a weekend and protest in the park, or if all we do is hold a lunchtime rally at school and have people speak against the war, and afterward everyone heads back to class and work and goes about their normal lives, then it’s unlikely to have a big impact. This kind of antiwar action doesn’t have an immediate effect on the situation. Lots of students understand and feel this way about protesting so they stop going to antiwar rallies in large numbers. The Bush administration is ignoring us and going against our wishes because they can. Congress is being sheepish (relative to how forthright they could be) and choosing not to end the war because we're not forcing them to act. Right now we're living under a very anti-democratic regime that doesn't want to listen to us, and doesn’t have to as long as we stick to the means of protest we’re most used to. Until we make them listen they will do as they wish, not as we say.
So how do we prevent Bush from escalating the war? How do we prevent him from possibly attacking Iran or North Korea? How do we call into question the US warplanes that are bombing Somalia right now? How do we force our leaders to listen to us?
We need to act on institutions and structures that we have the power to influence and change. This means acting here and now in a practical and material way! Therefore, we as students need to do 3 things:
1. Strike: no class. The university is shut down for a day as students refuse to go to school. More strikes could ensue if it’s necessary.
2. No work: students and anyone else who has the ability should not work for a day (exceptions can be made for those who cannot afford to strike and who might be penalized unfairly for participating in a mass antiwar action).
3. No consumption: our nation goes to war in part because it is resource hungry. As long as the USA makes up only 4% of the world's population but consumes more than 25% of its resources (including oil) then our nation must make war on others. Unsustainable consumerism fuels war. Energy dependence on oil fuels war. Using our economic power threatens the assuredness with which our leaders rule contrary to our democratic wishes. It also helps us teach one another about living simply so that others might simply live.
All three of these things means stopping business as usual. Remember what president Bush told the American people after 9-11? Go shopping! America is open for business. Go about your lives as though nothing happened. There is nothing a ruler fears more than a strike on these different levels. If the American people really want to stop the war and
occupation of Iraq and prevent further belligerence then it's as simple as withdrawing our tacit support. Right now we are mostly only symbolically opposing the war. Bush has shown time and again that he doesn't care about other's opinions and ideas. Thus, if we really want to affect his policies we need to withdraw our tacit support and stop business as usual. Shutting the university down is the most immediate and powerful thing students can do on this front.
Shutting down UCSB is a very direct way of opposing war and militarism, not just the war against Iraq. The University of California is not an enlightened institution, an ivory tower or benign force for good. It is tied up with the very corporations and political leaders who have promoted this war and profited off of it from day one. Some of the UC Regents (like Richard Blum) profit off the war through stocks they own in military contracting corporations. Other UC Regents are major financial supports of the Bush regime (like Gerald Parsky who raised $200,000 to re-elect Bush in 2004). The UC has also formed a for-profit business partnership with the Bechtel Corp., one of the most notorious war profiteers in Iraq. This partnership is to co-manage one of the nation's nuclear weapons research, design, manufacturing facilities (Los Alamos Lab). UC makes nuclear weapons! UC campuses also take in hundreds of millions each year to do weapons research for the military and arms manufacturers. UC investment fund managers have also invested our school's finances in a portfolio that includes military-industrial corporations like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. Military recruiters are given unfettered access to each of our campuses, and here at UCSB there is even a Department of Military Science where our fellow students are taught how to make war.
You may think that some of these are legitimate university functions. That’s reasonable. But the fact is this; the university makes very real contributions to our nation’s war efforts. When the war is unjust, criminal, when the government is pushing us further toward the brink, we help this happen, we make it possible. We are complicit in all of this. That is, unless we do something about it.
The UC has a vested interest in war. Striking sends the message to the UC Regents and administrators that we will not tolerate our school’s grossly disproportionate ties to corporations and federal agencies that do nothing other than profit off war and prepare nuclear weapons. It also sends a message to the government that we will not be complicit in any illegal and immoral war. Therefore striking isn’t an indirect or irrational thing to do at all. Striking at a time like this against the war and occupation of Iraq, against a possible war on Iran, and against the militarism that is infecting our university will send a clear message and be an empowering action toward peace. http://sbantiwar.org