Outside agitation?

Let’s make it clear from the top that it is perfectly legal, normal and excellent to offer solidarity, encouragement, material support and, if asked, advice and training to students who oppose genocide. It is even the duty of experienced organizers to offer such acts of solidarity.

When the corporate media, as it did on and around May 1, writes of “outside agitators” participating in encampments, it borders on ridiculous. If politicians such as New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York Governor Kathy Hochul attack the encampments as being a hotbed of outside agitators, we know they are grasping at straws. And that they’re lying, lying, lying. 

With this lying bluster, politicians and media are covering up the role of the real outsiders who have intervened at the universities. These actors are brought in to disrupt the protests and harm the students. In some cases — regarding the MAGA right wing — their goal is to destroy the educational organizations they consider insufficiently racist, xenophobic and sexist. 

The most obvious outside agitators are the state and local police. These are professionals, mercenaries, with no essential ties to education, who the school administrations call in from the outside to invade campuses and arrest and beat students.

There is the U.S. Congress, whose committees summoned university chancellors and presidents to answer blatantly vicious and ridiculous questions under threat of contempt. They even demanded the leaders of the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard and MIT resign, forcing the first two to quit and showing all university leaders they better get tough with students. Those Congressional fascist types are way outside.

Joining the fray are big-money donors to university endowments, threatening to withhold funds if the school administrations fail to call down the wrath of the capitalist state on pro-Palestinian students — and fail to expel them too. These rich donors may be alumni, but they are neither students nor professors and they’re certainly not workers at the university. They are outsiders, outsiders with money, and in the capitalist United States, money talks. 

Less obvious outside agents are the fascist elements who pretend to be local students who attack the encampments, often employing violence (UCLA). Sometimes they even shout out anti-Jewish slogans that media report as coming from the encampment (Northeastern University in Boston). 

Then there is the corporate media, making in some cases blatant, in others subtle, attacks. The gutter press and broadcast news simply slander the students as violent and antisemitic, although they know these statements are false. The more sophisticated pro-imperialist and pro-Israel opinion writers lecture the students on alleged errors in their tactics. Their common goal is demoralization of the activists.

The truth is that thousands of students have surprised everyone — including those who rule the United States — and have energized and encouraged poor and oppressed people all over the world. When attacked by police, they have attracted even more support from fellow students, teachers and workers, on and off their campuses, who have also been energized.

For six months, those who became involved in the encampments watched Israel commit genocide in real time, caught on social media. They watched the U.S. government arm Israel and supply political and diplomatic as well as logistical support — that is, being complicit with genocide. 

And now, like the boy who was unafraid to point out the emperor’s nakedness, those in the encampments have made millions more people aware of these crimes of the U.S. empire. The students need no extra “outside” agitation. They are already doing the right thing.

Like anyone in a struggle with a monster, these students could use solidarity. And anyone else who opposes genocide should show them that solidarity.

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