Tuesday January 31, 2023
| Last update: Tuesday at 8:17 AM

Interview with FRSO student leader on the campus movement and October 7 protests

States more students are becoming revolutionaries and communists
By staff |
September 21, 2010
Read more articles in
Education rights protest in Milwaukee, WI.
Education rights protest in Milwaukee, WI. (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Fight Back! interviewed Kas Schwerdtfeger, a co-chair of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization student commission.

Fight Back!: What are the big issues on campus this fall? Where is the student movement at right now?

Kas Schwerdtfeger: Like last year, students are facing the effects of budget cuts on their campuses - from fee and tuition hikes to cuts in services. Most schools have only been in session for a few weeks, but already we are seeing students protest at the University of New Orleans over budget cuts, ending in a occupation of the chancellor's office and confrontations with police. On some campuses the mood may be simmering resentment, on others, outrage, but students across the country are realizing that each semester brings more cuts, making education more and more expensive, inaccessible, and of less and less quality.

Students did not cause the economic crisis, and we should not have to pay for it, while those on Wall Street got huge bailouts and chancellors get salaries of half a million or more. As members of Freedom Road Socialist Organization, we say that everyone has a right to an education and the budget cuts are turning education into something only the privileged will be able to afford.

Over the summer, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) chapters organized for immigrant rights and SDS members from UCLA and as far away as University of Minnesota travelled to Arizona on July 29 to participate in civil disobedience against the racist SB 1070. The Chicano student organization MEChA led actions across the country with community organizations. Campuses are also mobilizing to protest the U.S. occupations and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This October will mark the ninth year of the U.S. war on Afghanistan. We oppose spending billions of tax dollars on wars and occupations. The government should be fully funding education.

This fall, SDS chapters from around the country are planning to take a stand for education rights on Oct. 7. Rallies on campuses, marches in communities and informational pickets are being planned across the country. Over 20 SDS chapters are endorsers, with more coming in every week. These actions will demonstrate that the university is about the people who make it up - students, faculty and hardworking staff - not high-paid administrators. Students are organizing to march on Washington D.C. in solidarity with the African-American and labor union movements on Oct. 2. Students will discuss the results of these historic protests at the SDS National Convention, being held in Milwaukee, Oct. 22-24. 

Fight Back!: Why is Oct. 7 so important?

Schwerdtfeger: Oct. 7 is the third national mobilization around education rights since this economic crisis began. California led the way in September 2009, with massive protests, walkouts and occupations against staggering funding cuts and privatization attempts. Next was the Nov. 10 National Day of Protest for Education Rights called for by the Network to Fight for Economic Justice conference in Chicago. Then a day of national action was planned for March 4, a day to stand up and fight back. Over 20 chapters of SDS protested that day. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee chapter went to the chancellor's office with a list of demands, only to be met with police batons and pepper spray. 16 students were arrested for protesting cutbacks and privatization, and the SDS led campaign persuaded the chancellor to resign.

Oct. 7 is important given that many state governments are going to continue with cutbacks, force layoffs and raise tuition on students. SDS is organizing students to take action and dozens of chapters are already starting to plan for protests on their campuses that day. 

Freedom Road Socialist Organization’s Student Commission is going all out to make the actions planned for Oct. 7 a success. We work with any and all ready to stand up against layoffs, furlough days and cuts to services. If you read the news, chances are you’ll find FRSO student leaders standing shoulder-to-shoulder with students, workers, faculty and staff across the country that day.

Fight Back!: It seem like a quite a few students are becoming revolutionaries and communists. Why is this? 

Schwerdtfeger: Students are starting to see the bare face of capitalism. When you bring forward demands for seemingly simple things - that tuition not skyrocket every year, that LGBTQ, women's and African-American and Latino programs and centers not be slashed, that top administrators take pay cuts to their exorbitant salaries or at least not accept pay raises - you find that you are met by silence and empty promises. You are ignored by the board of trustees, locked out of meetings with administrators and sprayed in the face with mace by police.

When this happens, you realize who's got the power. You realize what the real priorities of the rich and powerful are, and what the true nature of the capitalist system is. The rich don't care about our education, they care about profits. Many students are starting to see this and see that the economic crisis isn't just a matter of greedy bankers and corrupt politicians, but of the entire system being rotten.

Students who are members of Freedom Road Socialist Organization hold this view of the capitalist system. We believe that students play an important role in building the movement to get rid of it and replace it with a more just system, where not just education, but health care, quality food, housing and jobs can be available for all.