‘The End of Capitalism?’ event at UMD-College Park

**These are Bob’s notes from Alex Knight’s workshop at the University of Maryland – College Park during Radical Rush Week 2010.**

College Park Students for a Democratic Society hosted activist/writer Alex Knight and his workshop, The End of Capitalism(?) last week, and it was AWESOME. Alex writes a blog The End of Capitalism and is working a book with the same title. He’s a Philly-based teacher and a former organizer with the new SDS. Here’s a description of the workshop:

Alex’s workshop explored the End of Capitalism Theory. The theory goes that Global capitalism is “ramming up against limits to growth.” This ramming is causing “massive shocks” on the surface.

Where did capitalism start?

Alex starts with the feudal crises of primitive accumulation. He cites Silvia Federici’s Caliban and the Witch, which posits that the witch hunts of Europe in the 16th century were part of the state violence that was necessary to boost the capitalist system into existence. BUT there were other ways out of the crisis of feudalism, and people were fighting for these alternatives. Take the Hussite rebellion, for example: a liberation struggle in the area now called the Czech Republic. The Hussites were brutally put down by the Catholic church. Most of the Pope’s crusades were against Europeans, heretics. This violence created the enclosures of capitalism. Displacement as a result of the enclosures. The enclosures were fences or hedgerows constructed when Feudal lords took Peasant land. The results is many landless peasants left to be labor for emerging industrial factories and early forms of mass production. Landless working class (proletariat) and slave trade are important features of these changes.

Why were women attacked? Why were women burned at the stake? Women were leaders in their communities and in heretical communities. Women were able to reproduce. Capitalism cares about a lot of desperate people eager to work shitty jobs for not very much money. Attacking women was one way to control their reproduction. Patriarchy of the wage: women lost their roles, violently, and forced into the role of a housewife. Women were doing labor that help up the community but weren’t receiving any recognition or wage. Public festivals, orgies, etc . . . capitalism targeted and erased them because they existed in a non-productive space.

Capitalism is a system that depends on the violent exploitation of human life to turn a profit, and must do so at an increasing rate. Now there are new forms of violence that enclose people within capitalism.

Consider the Congo, for instance – there is a civil war going on. Why? Control of resources; militias fighting with the government over Coltan, a mineral found only in the Eastern part of DRC and used in many consumer electronics.

What is Capitalism?

Workshop participants brainstormed a sweet list of some of the characteristics of capitalism: profit, supply & demand, markets & distribution, alienation, private property, externalization, specialization, fluid, unequal distribution of wealth, suppression of alternatives, violence, and competition.

Brainstorming characteristics of capitalism
“Capitalism is kind of nasty business.”

Why are we in this crisis?

Here’s Alex’s suggestion: there ecological and social limits to capitalist growth. Limits to growth are a good thing.

Ecological limits are the inability for the earth to sustain the growth in the capitalist system. Capitalism demands an ever growing supply of resources.

Let’s talk about oil. Peak oil: the point at which the oil industry is producing the most oil that it ever has or ever will.

A few facts: peak oil is a real phenomenon, US oil production peaked in 1970. The discovery of oil reserves peaked three years ago, the production continues to increase. What about solar and wind? Great on a decentralized basis, but neither provide enough energy cheaply enough to replace oil.

How did we get to this place? Doesn’t capitalism offer solutions to crisis of energy? Sure, but we know that alternatives to oil would be super profitable, and we haven’t seen it yet. Remember that 40% of the energy the economy runs off of comes from oil.

Social limits are the limits imposed on the system by people, societies, and communities. Social movements are extraordinarily powerful. Ever since oppression has existed there have been people working against it. Pretty much all good things that have happened in the US have come from social movements.

Global Justice Movement – people getting together against the policies of the World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and Washington Consensus. The Global Justice Movement was called for by the Zapatistas to disrupt the spread of neo-liberal economic policies. The Global Justice Movement was remarkably successful: the WTO has failed, the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) was never born, the World Bank and IMF have been discredited in the Global South. Latin America has been transformed as a result of social movements – right-wing, US-backed dictators have been replaced by populist and leftist governments.

In the past year, the Chinese Labor Movement has been becoming increasingly militant and have embarked on scores of strikes demanding higher wages and benefits. These workers are a brake on global capitalism – challenging the exploitation of multinational companies and ever-increasing growth.

What comes after Capitalism?

Two roads: 1.) Fascism, nationalism, militarism 2.) Democracy, sustainability, justice

Breakout groups brainstormed answers to the following questions:

Q: What have you seen occurring that would indicate a movement towards fascism? Reasons to be afraid . . .

A: surveillance, corporate control of elections, restriction on travel and migration, racism & xenophobia, corporate media and propaganda, the Tea Party, private prisons, and police militarization.

Q: What have you seen occurring that would indicate a movement towards democracy? (This is a harder question. Why?) Reasons for hope; change we can actually believe in:

A: localization, access to information, drugz, gay rights, people working together, co-ops, radical spaces, “green” movement, the US Student Movement (March 4), positive masculinities, mining resistance movements, DIY culture.

Alex pointed towards a common-sense radicalism. Instead of looking for dogma, we must use our experiences to explain the world and the root of systems of oppression. We need a holistic approach to social change. There is no vanguard. We need to work inside the system. We need to work outside the system. We need to build alternatives to the system. All at the same time.

Alongside this sense of common-sense radicalism is, what Alex posed as, a politics of healing. The notion that the Revolution is about becoming whole people and whole communities and capitalism is a global system of abuse and control and violence that must to be named as such and broken.


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Riding Tecumseh’s Horse

***This is a reportback from the Diablo Valley College SDS chapter in CA about a recent outreach trip to another college nearby. ***


Three DVC-SDS members, RH, Ambika and Lawler, met with Roger Wilkins from Richmond Peace and Freedom Party to leaflet at Contra Costa College in San Pablo on September 16. Approximately 1,000 flyers were passed out.

A special flyer was made that had 3 main points:

1) advertising for the free film showing of “Press for Truth,” the 9/11 documentary exposing the official story as a cover up. The film will be shown 6 days later at the “Richmond Progressive Alliance” headquarters and is sponsored by PFP, RPA and SDS.

2) promoting the big “Justice for Oscar Grant” demonstration in Oakland on October 23rd as well as the “outreach” committee to build it.

3) a general promotion of the October 7th “National Day of Action to Defend Public Education.”

Our leaflet tied into this theme by having the back page of the flyer show pictures of CCC students making picket signs for a CCC campus rally, cosponsored by SDS last semester on 3-18-10.


We (SDS) had been to CCC several times the previous semester to distribute literature. The first time we had a lengthy stand off with the campus police who tried to stop us from passing out flyers. We stood our ground and eventually forced the cops to admit we were within our protected 1st Amendment rights. We pointed out to the CCC student government how 1st Amendment rights are routinely abused there. We also were in the middle of an eventually victorious campaign with the SSCCC (Statewide Community College Student Government) to demand 1st Amendment rights statewide. The point being that we have ahd an ongoing battle with administration and cops around the right to leaflet issue. They generally try to intimidate people into not using their rights. This time was no exception.

We had not been there more than five minutes when the new administrative advisor to the student government came out to the quad and told us we needed to bring all our literature in to get approved and “stamped” before we could pass it out.

We disputed this contention as a violation of the 1st Amendment. We had a number of SDS and PFP leaflets and pamphlets spread out over our SDS banner laid out over a concrete bench as an impromptu literature table.

We said we had no objection to her looking at or stamping our literature but we did not need “approval” and we basically ignored her and went on distributing as she took one each of about a dozen pieces of literature back to her office for inspection. About 20 minutes later the student body president Joseph Camacho returned with the stamped literature and had a conversation with RH about the campus “policy” of prior approval. RH had met Camacho before at several CCC AS meetings, and Camacho recalled last semesters incident between SDS and the campus police. He said it was his job to enforce campus “policy” but after a conversation with RH, he admitted it was unreasonable to ask that every leaflet passed out be stamped, and admitted that “campus policy” might be a violation of the 1st Amendment and promised to look into and correct it. he offered no further resistance to our efforts.


CCC campus is part of the 3 campus district in Contra Costa County, which includes DVC and LMC (Los Medanos College) in Pittsburg. CCC has about 10,000 enrolled students, the smallest of the 3 campuses, and is located in Richmond, the most economically distressed city (95,000 pop.) in the Bay Area. CCC students are predominantly students of color, approximately 50% Black, 30% Latino. Students responded well to the energietic and friendly leafletting approach. RH uses the “carnival barker” method, calling out catchy “memes” such as “Justice for Oscar Grant,” “Stop the Fee Hikes,” “Stop the Budget Cuts,” “SDS in the House Today,” “Bob Marley says: Emancipate yourself from Mental Slavery,” while offering out thrust leaflets, while making eye contact with confidence. At CCC about 90% of the students took RH’s flyer. The SDS women, with a friendly but possibly less dramatic method did even better. Ambika gathered most of the 12 contacts who signed up for SDS. She found that most people were friendly and many wanted to talk about the issues. Lawler,friendly and confident was a leafletting machine, moving mass quantities.

A young white woman, Charity E., who remembered RH from previous SDS excursions approached us to tell us she was the president of a new campus club called “Today’s Students, Tomorrows Leaders” (TSTL) and to invite us to their upcoming campus meeting and discussion of “snitching”? It might be a good idea to check them out. We could send in people early for Wednesday’s movie to go to their forum.

Later in the day, another “sister” invited us to her “social problems” class, bought several pamphlets, including “Socialism for Beginners,” gave us a small donation and took a stack of leaflets to pass out.

Jim Gardner who was an original SDS member, back in the day, came out and greeted us. Jim is the elder statesman and only white guy on the student council. He is a student/worker in the automotive education division. He was being honored that day for his role in taking the automotive division “green.” Jim responded to our leafleting last semester and showed up to our Richmond off campus public meeting on “Healthcare: Reform or Deform.” He also came out to DVC for an SDS meeting last semester. Jim invited us to an AS Meet you Student Representatives,” gathering, which RH went to later on in the day and Jim thanked SDS for staying in contact with him. Jim could play a roll in establishing a CCC chapter of SDS.

Another “sister,” Sharqwn, had a long talk with us, expressing her disillusionment with Obama and indicated her father was a former Black Panther. She was eager to read our flyer from SDS Ambassador and former Panther Larry Pinkney. She also signed the contact list.

A young Chinese student, Sam, was extremely interested, took every piece of literature we had to offer and even showed back up for the 6:00 PFP Central Committee meeting in the cafeteria that evening.


We also flyered the Liberal Arts Faculty offices. One office door to our surprise had an SDS leaflet from last year as a decoration and it wasn’t Jeffrey Michael’s door. Jeffrey Michels is the “United Faculty” President (strong DVC SDS ally) who teaches at CCC has expressed his willingness to be an SDS faculty advisor for CCC SDS. At the student “Meet your Reps” gathering, which was attended by more faculty and administrators than students (only 5 or 6). The Faculty Senate President, a ponytailed, hip-looking older white guy (whose name escapes me) approached RH. He remembered RH and SDS from the March 18, 2010 CCC rally and the “March in March” in Sacramento. He was very friendly and happy to see RH. He wanted to enlist SDS support in a challenge to district imposed cuts and unfair fees. RH told him that DVC SDS Vice President Keith Montes was on the “District Governance Board” and he was eager to connect with him. The openness of the Faculty Senate President to approach SDS for help, shows that SDS must have a good reputation as activists that can get things done!


During the first interaction with CCCAS President Camacho, RH asked if the student government met today-yes 3:00 pm. RH asked to address them on the October 7th National Day of Action and October 30th S.F. State Student Conference. Camacho stated that he regretted that today’s agenda was full because the CCC President and Vice President were having a special presentation to the Board about the budget and upcoming cuts, but he offered RH time to speak at the next meeting. RH replied that he would be happy to use the “Public Comment” time to address the board. The Brown Act mandates “public comment” time at all meetings.

RH used his 2 minutes to identify himself as a former DVC Student Body President, Contra Costa County PFP Co-Chair and SDS organizer, then went into the need to build on the 15,000 strong actions of March 4th and the “March in March.” “We either continue to build the movement and go forward or we fall back,” he said. He spoke of the importance of October 7th National Day of Action and the October 30 and 31 student conference in SF State. He encouraged CCC student leaders to endorse and get involved. When finished he received a loud ovation from he Board who had all received several pieces of our literature from fellow SDS member Ambika before RH’s comments. It was a short, sweet and effective intervention.

Later the Campus President and Vice President gave a lengthy and detailed presentation on the budget woes facing CCC. Cuts in funding mean cuts in services, layoffs and bigger class sizes. A general decline in the quality of all educational opportunities. Lacking any proactive solutions to get more money from the state or federal government these administrators offered “entrepreneurial” solutions like asking for more educational bonds (which borrows money from the bank’s and have the community pay back the banks with heavy interest payments on top). This just pushes the pain onto the next generations but the banks get paid.

Another proposed solution was to follow in the footsteps of DVC and start catering to wealthy foreign students that pay $108 per unit. These international students are seen as money pots. CCC has “recruiters” working their way through Asia looking for them. But CCC’s problem is, unlike DVC’s Camelback Apartments in Pleasant Hill. CCC has no “safe” housing in the depressed neighborhood of color of San Pablo. So administrators are proposing a multi-million dollar project to provide housing for international students-so while domestic services for black, brown, red, yellow and white students are being slashed and cut, money is being diverted for the anticipated needs of wealthy foreign students. The “community” needs of community colleges are losing ground to “privatization” and the needs of foreign students who wont stay in the community after they graduate.

The presenting administrators seemed unable to figure out why student enrollment at CCC dipped last semester. But student board member,Jim Gardener, pointedly suggested that cuts to student services and programs probably had something to do with it.

This sobering, bleak presentation certainly underscored the SDS message of the need for a powerful proactive student movement to fight budget cuts at their source. And after the meeting AS President Camacho approached SDS members to say that student government would try to combine October 7th Day of Action with their “Rock the Vote” program already scheduled for October 7th.


Several students who remembered how RH had held the politicians “feet to the fire” at a similar event last semester, asked him to come to the ”Rock the Vote” event this semester on October 7th and do it again. During the administrator presentation on budget cuts, a shocking fact was revealed. The local Chevron refinery (Richmond is an oil refinery town) got a judge to rule that Chevron had paid too much in taxes and now CCC must pay Chevron $80,000. How crazy, backward and wrong is that, students must suffer to pay a megabillion corporation?

SDS and PFP have been working with the Richmond Progressive Alliance to force Chevron to pay their fair share in taxes. Richmond’s Mayor Gayle McCloughlin is in the “Green Party” and is under attack from the two big business parties (Democrats and Republicans) who would like to return back to the days of complete corporate control of the mayors office and city council. This “Rock the Vote” event at CCC could be a good venue for RPA to reach students with their message.


DVC SDS members who rode “Tecumseh’s Horse” to CCC all agreed that, with a little more work and a few more visits, an SDS chapter at CCC can be built. With local allies in the community, (PFP and RPA) we are in a good position to make it happen.

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Students for a Democratic Society Speaks Out Against FBI Raids

Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) stand in solidarity with their brothers and sisters across the country in the face of FBI repression of progressive causes. SDSers, along with members of the Palestine Solidarity Group, the Twin-Cities Anti-War Committee, the Colombia Action Network, the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, and the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera had their homes searched and documents and electronic devices seized.

“The government hopes to use a grand jury to frame up activists. The goal of these raids is to harass and try to intimidate the movement against U.S. wars and occupations, and those who oppose U.S. support for repressive regimes,” said Colombia solidarity activist Tom Burke, one of those handed a subpoena by the FBI. “They are designed to suppress dissent and free speech, to divide the peace movement, and to pave the way for more U.S. military intervention in the Middle East and Latin America.”

Grace Kelley, an SDSer from the University of Minnesota, said “SDS at the U of M condemns the terror tactics used by the FBI to silence activists who organize against wars and for peace here in Minneapolis as well as across the nation. Tracy Molm from SDS at U of M was one of the activists whose house was raided. SDSers across the country need to stand up and condemn these raids and say that we will not be scared into silence, that we will continue to stand up and fight for what’s right”.

Several activists in Minnesota and Chicago have had papers, CDs, and cell phones stolen among other items; as well as being issued subpoenas to appear before a federal grand jury. The FBI are apparently looking for evidence linking activists to “material support of terrorism” specifically liberation struggles in Colombia and Palestine. In addition to SDSers being harassed in Minneapolis, two SDSers in Milwaukee were also contacted by the FBI about their anti-war activism.

The activists involved have done nothing wrong and are refusing to be pulled into conversations with the FBI about their political views or organizing against war and occupation. No arrests have been made – make no mistake, this is a fishing expedition by the FBI.

We urge all progressive activists to show solidarity with those individuals targeted by the U.S. Government. Activists have the right not to speak with the FBI and are encouraged to politely refuse – just say “No”.

Show your support! Organize solidarity actions in your city demanding that the FBI halt all searches and seizures against progressive activists who have done nothing wrong. Contact your local media and let them know that we will not tolerate this kind of harassment from the government. And be aware – if the FBI knocks, you do not have to give out any information or answer any questions.

For more information, contact:

Grace Kelley, University of Minnesota SDS: 612.709.3424
Kas Schwerdtfeger, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee SDS: 262.893.2806

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Milwaukee, October 22nd: SDS’s next National Convention!

Students for a Democratic Society will be having our next National Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin the weekend of October 22nd. SDSers and students and youth from around the country interested in forming a chapter are welcome, and encouraged to attend.

The October 22nd National Convention will be the first since the historic Education Rights protests of March 4th, 2010. Dozens of chapters in states all around the country led actions on their campuses to fight corporate takeovers and make Education a right for all. Discussion on this, as well as on the anti-war, environment, labor, anti-discrimination, and police brutality movements are sure to be a part of the weekend.

While the details of the Convention are still being planned, it will be a priceless opportunity to unite with others interested in grassroots student activism. Scholarships are being awarded to help those in need and/or from faraway places to attend.

Any questions? Write to us at: sds4democraticsociety@gmail.com

Build the student movement! Help build SDS in the coming year!

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Tuscaloosa SDS Supports Striking Crimson Ride Bus Drivers

By Jenae Stainer, Tuscaloosa SDS

Tuscaloosa SDS at the University of Alabama has been playing a big role in offering support to drivers of the school’s shuttle buses, the Crimson Ride, as they fight for a living wage. Despite joining Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1208 last May, the drivers have been unable to get a fair contract with First Transit, a corporation notorious for unfair labor practices. In January, students in SDS began riding the buses to talk to passengers about the drivers’ struggle and collecting petition signatures to present to University president Dr. Witt and First Transit. Encountering overwhelmingly positive support, the students also began an online petition as well to reach out to national supporters including other SDSers across the country, collecting hundreds of signatures urging Dr. Witt and First Transit to negotiate with the drivers to give them job security, a living wage, and benefits as well as respect on the job.

After hearing of student support, First Transit agreed to negotiate on February 18, and so Tuscaloosa SDS and the Network to Fight for Economic Justice set up a national call-in day for the day before the negotiations. Despite hundreds of calls, Dr. Witt said that the negotiations were not in his control and he said he would not make a statement about them. Once again, negotiations stalled when drivers were offered an insulting 17 cent raise. In order to put more pressure on their employer, Crimson Ride drivers decided to strike. Students made signs and stood beside the drivers on the picket line starting at 5am on March 1st. Later in the school day, they handed out flyers to students and urged them not to get on the few scab buses that were running or the scab vans driven by university office employees after Dr. Witt called them to drive under threat of job termination. Students also boarded these scab vehicles briefly to talk to drivers and pass out flyers to passengers. After a few hours of striking, First Transit agreed to come back to the negotiating table. Though the drivers will be back at work on March 2nd, students will be keeping up the pressure on Dr. Witt as the negotiations begin and ask that their supporters in solidarity with the Crimson Ride drivers do the same.

Call Dr. Witt at (205) 348-5103 and tell him that these drivers deserve a fair wage!

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SDS Gears Up For Education Rights, March 4th!

By Kas Schwerdtfeger, with additions from the News Bulletin WG.

SDSers from around the country are gearing up for March 4th, and more events are being organized every day! What follows are some of the actions planned by chapters around the country. Is your chapter’s activity not listed here yet? Let us know what you are doing!

Los Angeles, California — At UCLA, SDS is organizing in the state-wide movement for education rights. A walkout is planned for 11:30 in the morning. In the afternoon, a rally will be held on campus, which will include the participation of labor and students from the K-12 sector.

Twin Cities, Minnesota — At UMN, there will be a noon-time march and rally. Protesters are demanding pay-cuts for top administrators instead of balancing the budget on the backs of students and staff. They are also demanding that students have a voice and a vote in university governance as well as free and open discussion of campus issues without administration interference.

College Park, Maryland — A rally is planned over the firing of assistant provost Cordell Black. Black had worked there there for 18 years and was responsible for getting the cultural studies program running. His removal, and the cutting of the programs has had a large effect on students of all backgrounds.

Rochester, New York — A march on city hall is planned to protest Mayoral control/takeover of school board. Many in Rochester are worried that it will lead to further privatization of the school system. Local unions, including local police union, are involved. Hundreds are expected in attendance.

Syracuse, New York — A sit-in is being organized, as well as a petition for a tuition lock. If there is snow, plans are in the works to build a snowmen army to stare down the chancellor’s office.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin — A rally at UW-Milwaukee’s student union is being held. Demands include transparency and democratic controls of future budgetary decisions, and calls for a tuition freeze statewide. Professors, Graduate Students, and campus workers are involved.

Chicago, Illinois — A citywide march on UIC’s Chancellor’s mansion will be held. Students from across the city will be organizing from different locations and converging on it. Professors are also involved.

Tuscaloosa, Alabama — Ongoing actions supporting the “Crimson Ride” shuttle bus drivers are occurring. SDSers are active in helping them fight for livable wages and continued union representation on their campus.

Gainesville, Florida — Plans to pamphlet and flyer the local campus are being made to further educate about the crisis of education across the country.

Olympia, Washington — A funeral procession for Accessible Education is being planned concurrently with other community events. It will move down to the state capitol building and a demonstration will be held there.


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Flyer for March 15th-20th

Fund Education, Not Occupation

Fund Education, Not Occupation

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