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LSE Occupied! An eve-dropper’s report

January 30th, 2009 · post by occupied london · Make a comment

Some of the LSE students

Between the 15th and the 22nd of January, LSE’s main lecture theatre, the Old Theatre, was occupied by students in solidarity with the people of Gaza. The occupation was one of many in campuses across the UK and allegedly, only the second the LSE has seen in the past few decades. The editor of Occupied London, who was part of the occupations in Athens during the recent uprising there, spent time at the LSE occupation recently, and has written the following article for Last Hours.

Writing about the recent LSE occupation feels strange for a number of reasons. First, because I am supposed to report on a struggle I didn’t quite participate in: This struggle was of the courageous students who called the Old Theatre home for exactly eight days in January 2009. Second, in my eight years in the UK, I never thought the day would come that I’d be writing about the occupation of one of the most wealthy, business-oriented universities in the country – whose remnant elements of its “radical past” were buried some time between the 70s and the 80s. And third, for all the stark differences, the LSE occupation had a number of similarities with the high-school and university occupations in Greece, occupations I have been involved in over the years. And this is what I would like to explain.

Occupying a building is to interrupt and invert its “normal” use: An empty building becomes a home; a workplace becomes a base for struggle against the conditions of work or even work itself; a university or a school become spaces for true learning. And so, as some of the occupiers of the New School in New York elegantly put it, an occupation is a “means without an end” – the occupation as an act, demands nothing from normality other than that this vanishes for a while. And so, an occupation’s demands can never be met.

In the case of the LSE, no matter how hypocritically its administration might have “agreed” on and “met” some demands, these are the same people that filled the campus with security guards so as to intimidate the occupiers and turn everyone else against them.

It is an old trick – we’ve seen it in Greece and I saw it unfolding in front of my eyes at the LSE over those eight days. Hopefully, it will show that “normality” on campus is nothing but the administration’s authoritarian face in disguise: That, at the very first instance, empty words on “academic freedom” will be shoved away by a bunch of security guards.

Some of us, who have been students in London in the past, tried to organise a city-wide anti-authoritarian network of students. Chatting with friends these days, we came to realise that if such a network existed before the occupations started it could have (perhaps!) been useful in sustaining and strengthening the occupations. This is a simple reflection from the past – not a piece of advice: No-one can give advice to the occupiers, they will need to (and will) find what works best for their struggle. I hope they find the success that eluded us when we were students in this city!

Read about the occupation in the students’ own words:

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