California March4th.indd

Crisis and Consciousness:
Lessons and Reflections from California March 4th

Paginated PDF

March 4th was born when a group of 800 students, teachers and workers seeking a path of struggle met at a conference at UC Berkeley on October 24th to decide the way forward for the budget cut movement.  The conference was largely organized by UCB-based activists, and MC’d largely by Bay Area-based Trotskyists.  It focused the struggle by setting a single day to fight back.  Conference organizers however, limited the depth of focus by mixing two distinct political approaches to one watered down (and contradictory) compromise.  The result?  A decision to not make a decision.  A militant “One day strike/walkout” proposal was merged with the non-confrontational “March on Sacramento” proposal: “Strike and Day of Action that is inclusive of all different tactics, including: walkouts, rallies, march to Sacramento, teach-ins, occupations, and all other forms of protest.”  This concoction revealed a centrist orientation toward consciousness. The centrist assumption was that the compromise achieved the broadest appeal possible, but this specifically disregards any attempt to articulate a strategy for victory. The decision to avoid collective discussion of what should happen on March 4th offers a window into the way the tendencies assess consciousness in the working class and the potential for radical action.

This framework represented a lost opportunity to consciously politicize the question of tactics and frame the sense of collective organizing around an overt political goal. Because consciousness is internally contradictory a coherent and politicized framework united around Strike will not necessarily alienate people; instead , this very framework is the type that can give practical unity and fighting capacity to organizers.  As a method of struggle, “freedom of action” failed to articulate a vision and a perspective of concrete struggle against budget cuts. Even though the compromise was built on contradiction and centrism, it did make a major contribution: March 4th was the day.

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