Wages for Debt, Students for Borrowers, Life for …

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Sunday — 03.03.13 — Wages for Debt, Students for Borrowers, Life for …

1. About this Sunday Night
2. Useful Readings
3. Silvia’s Alternative Introduction
4. Sussex Occupation

1. About this Sunday Night

What: Discussion
When: Sunday March 3rd 8:00pm
Where: 16 Beaver Street, 4th Floor
Who: Free and open to all

Not so long ago, a CUNY education was free, students resisted tuition fees and some dared to even agitate for wages.

Today students resist tuition increases and some even dare to agitate for debt abolition. As the struggle against declining wages transforms into a struggle against rising debt; the student, as the model and primary product of the 21st century edu-factory is first and foremost an indebted one, a subject of debt. But what would a return to these earlier struggles around and against the university say about the current struggles and their relation the wider political context?

This Sunday evening comes together at the behest, one could say, of an odd, provocative, and rather untimely pamphlet published in 1975, entitled ‘Wages for Students’.

A friend of the space, Jakob Jakobsen (who some of you may know through his inquiries into the Anti-University, the Situationists in Scandinavia, as well as the Free University movements) has had this little pamphlet for some time and has wanted to do something around it and the idea. The original was written and distributed by militants during student strikes in Massachussets and New York in the spring of 1975.

Upon contacting Silvia Federici to inquire further into its history and potential relations to Wages for Housework, he discovered that George Caffentzis had been involved in writing it, ‘which was a nice surprise – even if upon further reflection, it did make sense.’

Then the idea came together to host a discussion at 16 Beaver with Jakob, Silvia and George, using this pamphlet as a point of departure.

Besides giving perspective to the changes which have taken place in ‘education’ and ‘labor’ since that time, ‘Wages for Students’ offers us a distant cousin to the contemporary struggles and horizons where the struggle for wages have been subsumed by credit worthiness and debt enslavement.

So as a potential sketch of the evening, we offer the following:
First, we will try to situate the interest in the text and some of the questions it raises, particularly in the link between study and labor. Second, we will try to understand the historical context it emerges from and links to other movements of the time.
Third, we will consider the relation to the student and labor struggles of today to reflect on the historical changes that have happened since 1975.

As Jacob wrote to us in a correspondence leading up to this Sunday’s event, ‘If in 1975, it was suggested to view student work as a part of reproductive labour, parallel to the demand for wages for housework; today, student work is completely integrated within the capitalist economy and within a framework of service/consumption.’

What is the nature and function of the labor of students today? Can learning today, even in autonomous circumstances such as the one which takes place in a space like 16 Beaver, be outside the larger dynamics of unremunerated work/life under ‘post-fordist’ conditions?

There is an parallel worth exploring. Maybe more than one. We can see if by unpacking the wages for students strategy from its historical context, we may be able to better understand the different struggles developing globally, including the anti-debt movements.

We can try to imagine that in addition to those original strikes and struggles that the 1975 pamphlet was intended to contribute to, that it is somehow calling a group of people together, 38 years after its
publication. What exact composition of individuals this 38 year old pamphlet convenes and what kind of discussion it will help open up will reveal itself this Sunday night.

2. Useful Readings

For those who would like to familiarize themselves with some of the relevant writing from that time, we have four linked and inter-related readings.

Wages for Students (1975) Pamphlet

George Caffentzis
Throwing Away The Ladder: The Universities In The Crisis (From Zerowork: Political Materials #1, December 1975)

Silvia Federici
Wages Against Housework (1974)

The Newt Davidson Collective (1974)
Crisis at CUNY

For a treasure of additional resources, including copies of three of the above texts please visit:

The Crisis at CUNY text is brought to you by those who maintain:

3. Silvia’s Alternative Introduction

An Evening on self-organised education and students rights

Come to an evening of convivial conversation with Jakob Jacobsen, author of ‘Expect Anything, Fear Nothing. The situationist movement in
Scandinavia and elsewhere’ and for many years an organizer of the
Copenhagen Free University in Copenhagen. Jakob has much experience to share with those of us who are developing the commons of knowledge and are decommodifying education. He is especially interested in bringing together his experiences of free universities with efforts in NYC along similar lines from the Free University of New York in the 1960s to Occupy U of the present.


4. Sussex Occupation

“The university is a factory – shut it down.”


16 Beaver Group
16 Beaver Street, 4th fl.
New York, NY 10004

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2,3 — Wall Street
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R — Whitehall
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