“You’ve had your fun” – on emotions, rituals and resistance #USSStrike

So, the USS strike moves into its fourth week, with more industrial action likely.  I’ve just lost a small gig because of it, but am not on the breadline yet.  For the Vice Chancellors to climb down now, and admit that their scare campaign around the pension scheme is based on the rubberiest of figures and assumptions that make Australia’s climate denialists look sane and rational, will require some delicate footwork. Meanwhile, students suffer because of their intransigence.

There have (as you’d expect given who is striking) some extremely astute analysis of what is going on, on all levels. The latest I’ve read (and h/t Graeme Hayes) is

On the emotional and material politics of the strike

by Dr Chris Millard.

It’s short and astute, and very highly recommended.  One of the points that struck me was this –

“As I see it, this brings into focus the demand to reschedule teaching, which had previously been backed by, by many institutions, by a threat to deduct up to 100% of pay for each day teaching was not rescheduled. (Most institutions have backed down under public pressure on this particular point. A list of institutions not understood to have backed down on this point at the time of writing can be seen here). However, the fact that the demand was made at all is important, in both material and emotional terms. According to the view that mistakes strike action for an expression of feeling, once the feeling is expressed, there is no reason why the teaching can’t be done. It can be rescheduled (the logistical impossibility notwithstanding), because making the point was the point, rather than the withdrawal of labour. In other words: the supportive demonstrations, the protest, the signs, the placards have obscured the core of the strike, i.e. the withdrawal of labour.” (emphasis added by me)

This put me in mind of something I read in Saul Alinksy’s Rules for Radicals about 20 years ago-

Once a specific tactic is used, it ceases to be outside the experience of the enemy. Before long he devises countermeasures that void the previous effective tactic. Recently the head of a corporation showed me the blue-print of a new plant and pointed to a large ground-floor area: “Boy, have we got an architect who is with it!” he chuckled. “See that big hall? That’s our sit-in room! When the sit-inners come they’ll be shown in and there will be coffee, T.V. And good toilet facilities – they can sit here until hell freezes over.”

Now you can relegate sit-ins to the Smithsonian Museum.

Alinsky, S. 1971. Rules for Radicals. P163.

We mistake the feeling and the appearance for the thing itself.  We are hairless chimps with opposable thumbs and ideas above our station.  And it is not ending well, in biological terms.

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