From the November-December 2017 issue of News & Letters
Berkeley, Calif.—Editor’s note: In the last week of September the alt-right called for a “free speech week” at the University of California-Berkeley. The week before, they had a “No to Marxism” rally downtown, which met overwhelming opposition. During the so-called “free speech week,” most speech was shut down. The scores of student groups whose tables usually crowd Sproul Plaza were largely absent. Police, on the other hand, were everywhere in massive numbers. On Sept. 25 the alt-right’s events were cancelled. However, there were still rallies opposing them. Below are excerpts of a talk by a young Black woman student at UCB.
Hi everyone, my name is Ashley and I am a student here and a member of Speak Out Now.
We live in a society which was founded on slavery, genocide, and exploitation; a society which thrives on dividing us—pitting us against each other based on the color of our skin or the status of our papers. That’s how capitalism works. The alt-right operates on the margins of society, but they aren’t a contradiction to the society we live in.
Over the last six months we’ve seen how the alt-right can use their pathetic forces to dominate the conversation and set the agenda. In Milo’s Yiannopoulos case, the campus administration was ready to drop over a million dollars for him to speak. The agenda of a bogus student group of literally five people, but backed by millions of dollars, disrupted our lives for weeks as we organized a response. The alt-right is able to use these events as a media spectacle that gains attention and makes them look like victims.
This is what they’ve wanted all along. Since Trump got elected, we’ve been stuck mobilizing a reaction to every new thing the right wing throws at us. These rallies are important, we should have a response. But we have to go beyond them.
We have to recognize that until we free ourselves from capitalism, we will never be free from institutional oppressions, inequalities, and exploitation. We will never get there if we are only reacting to the right wing’s agenda or if we rely on those in power today—the administrators, bureaucrats, politicians or police.
We—the majority—have to rely on ourselves because when we’re organized we have the potential to build a new world. We have to begin to organize everyone around us, in our schools, our workplaces and neighborhoods, to fight for a society that’s run for and by the majority of people. We need to fight for socialism.
It’s time for us to stand up together in solidarity and fight for the world we deserve to live in—not a more tolerant world, but a liberated one! One in which humanity can finally unleash its full potential.