ELF | The Spring Encampment: Failed Revolution or the Only Way to Live? (ft. Spencer Beswick)

There was never revolutionary potential in the Liberated Zone. I wrote in April that there were always two likely outcomes: that Martha Pollack would dismantle the encampment outright, as police did at Columbia and UCLA, or that she would trust in the existing cultural order to prevent the demonstration from reaching any sort of leveraged position in negotiations. Pollack’s stall tactics succeeded — ahead of the summer recess, the Coalition for Mutual Liberation called an end to the encampment last week. 

That my piece received heartfelt recognition from within and outside of the encampment should indicate some acceptance by proponents of the Liberated Zone that the demonstration would fail. Did it mean nothing, then? Was it a disingenuous attempt by privileged Ivy League students to virtue signal, with little concern for its success? This is a suspiciously convenient (and condescending) interpretation. Disenfranchisement appears antithetical to privilege, and it is hard to question the genuinity of a person’s struggle for autonomy in their own political life. CML proved that the Cornell student body has little authority over what is done with its tuition. There is only one political position that matters at Cornell: the bottom line. 

Our campus community is publicly known for its isolationist culture. We are known to cheat, sabotage and suffer for our long-term employment. We are known to endure this depressing silence through long winters. Each of us implicitly accepts these conditions to earn a valuable degree. Here, I am doing exactly what student organizers across the country advise against — to find virtue in the movement in terms of its own locales, and not in its value for Palestine. But I think that the term mutual liberation is essential here: Our own disenfranchisement is inexplicably tied to genocide. Our student body, for once, united to vote against our University’s complicity in the slaughter of tens of thousands of innocent civilians. The administration ignored us.