We are the Lumumba Zapata Collective, an intersectional (multiracial, multigendered, multiabled) coalition of faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students at the University of California San Diego who have coalesced around the struggle for a truly public university that centers social justice, both in pedagogy and practice. We trace our genealogy to the 1968 UCSD Third (Lumumba Zapata) College struggle, during which students fought for an alternative education model that focused on the liberation of domestic and global communities of color, one that centered a critical analysis of racialized global capitalism and its discontents.
We organize towards a new university, one that centers economic equity, racial justice, gender non-conformity, community collaboration, and global emancipation at a structural level, not just in theory and rhetoric. We believe we can achieve this through mobilizing behind a strategy of direct action and mutual aid.
Points of Unity
As collective members, we are committed to expanding the theoretical and practical implications of the following ethical positions relative to where we are located, at the University of California San Diego, in the heart of empire.
Horizontalism and Decentralization. We operate in a diffused, non-hierarchical manner for the sake of spreading responsibility, accountability, and empowerment amongst collective members. This is key to any anti-authoritarian project. Anti-authoritarian projects are not just opposed to hierarchical systems, but they are antithetical and directly antagonistic to them.
Anti-Capitalism. We recognize that the social contradictions found within a market-based economy are irresolvable through reform. The university is merely a microcosm of such non negotiable class interests. Thus, we must develop creative ways of confronting such contradictions on our own terms. As tuition and the cost of living, on- and off-campus, continue to rise, UCSD remains inaccessible to working class communities of color, both by choice and by default.
Anti-Oppression. We are committed to challenging and ending systems of oppression on all fronts. We take an explicit stance against sexism, homophobia, sex and gender-based violence, (neo)colonialism, Islamophobia, ableism, racism, and classism. Challenging such toxic and pervasive systems requires continuous self-reflection and communication among the group. We oppose bullying in all its forms, from state terror to predatory lending to environmental racism to police intimidation to microaggressions. We are committed to making UCSD a safe space for all persons.
Decolonization. We are committed to building a multi-racial coalition, in which we decide amongst ourselves how to best confront the challenges of multi-racial organizing, while moving forth a revolutionary vision for restructuring our university to truly center the needs and presence of marginalized communities. This requires the active participation of students and workers from historically underrepresented and underserved communities, and a clear role for white allies. Thus, members of the collective remain committed to finding synthesis among ourselves around shared interests, regardless of our historically-rooted differences, for the sake of waging an emancipatory struggle against those forces oppressing us all (albeit differently): the market and the state. Mutual support is necessary for productive organizing and coalition building.
The Lumumba Zapata Collective is open to all students and workers, both on and off campus. We center a structural analysis of the current neoliberal, neofascist, neocolonial historical moment, and move forth with appropriate campaigns for confronting our everyday conditions of oppression and alienation. We oppose representational politics as a whole, and represent no one beyond ourselves as members of the collective. We are not invested in activist identities, nor career advancement within the variety of diversity-related bureaucracy projects, whether located inside or outside the UCSD campus. We aim to empower everyday people, like ourselves, to confront manifestations of systemic power in the everyday. We aim to build a mass movement towards a new university.
Our members occupy two separate roles, organizers and supporters. Volunteer-based political work must reconcile between participatory praxis and dramatically unequal levels of involvement among membership. We accept this tension as a fact of life, and we aim to develop a structure that makes room for different levels of involvement.
Organizers are actively involved in organizing a specific campaign. Organizers meet at least once a week amongst themselves to share updates and to collectively compose a strategy of tactical escalation as appropriate for specific campaigns. Organizers are in direct communication with fellow students, faculty, and workers who have taken on proactive roles in the campaigns around which we organize. Organizers are expected to see through a campaign until it is won, or until it is collectively decided upon to abandon. Organizers hold a position of responsibility, not of authority.
Supporters agree with the aforementioned Principles and Points of Unity, but do not take on the responsibilities of an organizer. Supporters remain updated regarding the development of campaigns, and offer themselves available when mobilization is called for. Supporters can fluidly move into organizer roles upon taking on the responsibilities of such a position.
Organizers and supporters will meet every two weeks in an open meeting format. All members are expected to be doing mutual aid work to the best of their capacity.
We are an autonomous organization. We refuse to work with the university administration, student government, or the state. We are open to collaborating with student activists and organizers agitating within the university’s “official channels” by providing pressure from the outside; but dialogue and respectability politics are not our preferred methods. We see institutional representation as flawed from its inception. Although these institutional paths can be leveraged to our collective advantage, our primary interest lies in the redistribution of university resources for what the student body collectively decides is in its best interest, rather than the profiteering university’s interests. To do so requires strategies with real potential to antagonize, disrupt, and reconfigure the status quo. We recognize the current neo-fascist government as not simply an aberration of American democracy, but rather the logical progression of a settler colonial project in crisis.
This economic system continues to proliferate material inequity along raced and gendered lines, while offering no stability for those who do not hold administrative positions within the bureaucratic apparatus. The current US political climate is only the most recent and visible manifestation of growing right-wing, nationalist movements across the world, such as those taking hold in the United Kingdom, the Philippines, Greece, the Netherlands, France, Turkey, Sweden and India, among others. Latent racist, sexist, ableist, classist, and homophobic tendencies are now made explicit; they are the norm, and they are part of our day-to-day reality on campus. The University of California San Diego is complicit in creating conditions leading up to this historical moment by advancing a for-profit model, investing in toxic energy companies, and courting research funding from the military industrial complex.
Although under serious threat, the current university model cannot be redeemed. The University of California (UC) administration has long been complicit in creating the conditions for the recent neofascist takeover of the national government. UC admins actively court military contracts, invest in private prisons, collaborate with surveillance firms, and more. UC Regents and administrators are the who’s who of America’s billionaire class, and have made massive sums of money through fraud, laundering, and Ponzi schemes. UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla previously served three years (1994-96) as the Program Manager of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and currently sits on the board of Avigilon Corporation, a Canadian-based tech company that specializes in surveillance bioinformatics, specifically facial recognition. Current UC President Janet Napolitano has served as Secretary of Homeland Security (2009-13) during a period in which this country deported the highest number of people, both documented and undocumented. UC admission policies have structurally excluded youths from working class communities of color from attending the university for the sake of profit by upholding a historically-rooted unequal access to resources along racial lines. Meanwhile, savvy administrators have appropriated social justice language to offer an illusion of progress, while legitimizing hate speech on campus as free speech.
To this we pledge noncompliance. We organize to build a mass movement of students and workers on our campus, one that has the capacity to confront the everyday forms of oppression on (and off) campus on our own terms. We mobilize behind a strategy of direct action and mutual aid. Through direct action, our most powerful tool, we recognize ourselves as protagonists. We act alongside one another because the only means of confronting collective grievance is through collective action. We act alongside one another to create the conditions by which outstanding demands must be fulfilled. The administration’s failure to do so produces a larger, more deviant culture of united students in proactive, permanent solidarity, in which we are all accomplices.
We accept risk. Many of us who labor in the university as faculty and graduate students are in danger of losing the very means by which we materially sustain ourselves due to the current onslaught of cuts to research funding in climate change sciences, arts, and humanities. In addition, many of us who study in the university as undergraduates are only able to do so by taking on a life’s worth of debt, with little to no prospect of realizing our own creativity, necessities, and dreams upon graduating into a job market that solely values our skillsets for their ability to generate profit. All the more reason to organize! If we are truly ready to create something new, then we must be ready to completely abandon the old—even if that means losing what we see as our own stake in the status quo.
We cannot fight oppression abstractly. Instead, we must assume the risks of acting strategically to disrupt capital flows, as they are the basis by which the university, and larger political economy, reproduce themselves. We can reduce the risks inherent to direct action by acting collectively, and by building and maintaining strong relationships with those within, and outside, our campus community to cultivate a (counter)culture of revolutionary reciprocity, support, and care. Because without risk, we cannot radically transform our working and learning conditions into something better, something liberating, something human.
We are under no illusion that we will overturn over 500 years of oppression and subjugation in one action. For this reason, we emphasize mutual aid as a means of developing reciprocity-based relationships grounded in purpose and care. Such gestures of mutual aid are important not only to protect our friends and allies individually, but also for their capacity to build a broader network that can be mobilized in the future to radically disrupt the everyday functioning of our university and force its reconfiguration. We emphasize the role of direct action and mutual aid organizing as a means to build relationships and communicate with those among us with whom we most want to engage: everyday people, our peers. We act to win. We act to learn!