Can Students of Chile and the World #occupyeducation?

Posted on 08/10/2011 by

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Change is in the air. It is in the networks. It is in ourselves.

As the waves of shocks and crises in the global capitalist system have moved closer and closer to the core zones of the global economy in recent decades of global neoliberalism, the answer to ‘shock capitalism’ has finally landed in the core: a nascent movement against the power of capital has sprung up in what many people see as the core of the global financial system, Wall Street.

We are witnessing the birth of a new social movement that is charged with potential, inspired by new forms of solidarity and unity based around the notion that ‘we are the 99%’ and it is the 1% who control and dominate us, our communities and our supposed democracies. People are becoming inspired to unite, form new alliances, bridge differences and find strength in what unites us against a common enemy.

In this context, Naomi Klein – famous for her involvement in the 90s global anti-corporate movement and her groundbreaking works No Logo and The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism – visited the protestors in Wall Street to speak to them about what they are doing right this time around.

Klein was also interviewed recently for Democracy Now where she drew parallels between the Chilean student movement and the nascent, emergent movement we are now witnessing. And we are witnessing this not just in Wall Street, but in hundreds of other cities across the USA, and other continents including Australia, where a handful of solidarity Occupy actions are scheduled to kick off on a global day of solidarity next Saturday, 15 October.

The Chilean student movement is holding strong five months since students across the country first launched their broad-platform, national campaign for a free, quality public education system for all but also for the structural and economic transformations to Chile’s political-economy that would help bring about their vision. At the crux of the new national conversation these empowered and organised Chilean students have brought a profound questioning of the logic of neoliberalism to the fore of their country’s consciousness. They have managed to universalise what conservative forces would seek to isolate as a ‘specialist’ issue, and garnered the support of the Chilean people behind their cause. Their cause – of this the vast majority of the Chilean people are certain – is the cause of everyone. It is the cause of all humans.

While there has been a lot of attention paid to the dramatic and at times violent student protests and marches (violent thanks to police repression, mandated by a government which at the same time claims to be negotiating with students and singing praise for student dissent on the global stage) this campaign has also been heavily characterised by strikes and school occupations which have paralysed the Chilean education system for the year. The students – like Occupy Wall Street is now doing – have been targeting their actions not just on building awareness, solidarity and generating a conversation but also on the very material basis of the prevailing order.

One amazing example is of the students from one of Chile’s most prestigious girls’ schools Carmela Carvajal, who have barricaded themselves inside for 5 months now after their first democratic decision to occupy and withstood countless attempts at repression by the authorities by organising and utilising the resources of allies that they have built around their cause.

So it is that #occupy now becomes a theme that unites the students of Chile with not only students all around the world tired of an education system that is instrumentalised to service the capitalist economy and a non-unionised labor market increasingly devoid of opportunities for a secure future, but also with people and communities tired of the corporate interests of the 1% dominating the 99%.

‘Student leaders’ met with the government on Wednesday in Chile for another round of negotiations but with the government still fundamentally committed to an ideology of profit that contradicts the will of the people, it would be foolish to think that negotiation is going to result in the lasting, fundamental change that Chile has been clamouring for.

With calls for global solidarity actions against neoliberalism in education policy in mid-November through the International Student Movement platform we are inspired, energised and hopeful about the global moment we are all living. We hope that students of Chile and the world find a way to #ocupyeducation and connect their struggle with what is currently spreading from Wall Street throughought the world.

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