CUNY is embarking on a militarization of the institution, promoting those who actively support, represent or even lead imperialism on a world scale. The naming of the Division of Social Sciences in City College to the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership happened at the same time the reward for Assata Shakur’s bounty was increased. Both Colin Powell and Assata Shakur went to City College, yet only one is promoted as a model student with centers and academic divisions named after him. Colin Powell has led and organized the military of the most powerful imperialist power in the world and preserves the status quo; Assata Shakur fought for Black liberation and liberation for the oppressed people of the world. The difference lies in their orientation. While one moved up in society by conforming and promoting the system that destroys our community, the other oriented and continues to orient herself in destroying the system which destroys our community.
And now, most distressing is the hiring of David Petraeus—the former General and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director. He is to teach at CUNY in the Macaulay Honors College. With a career in serving the US imperial military since the 1970s, Petraeus was part of a NATO (De)’Stabilization’ in Bosnia, and led the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Later in 2004, under Petraeus‘s leadership US forces attacked the Iraqi city of Fallujah with white phosphorus and the devastating effects have been monstrous (there are more birth defects in Fallujah than Nagasaki and Hiroshima combined- two cities that were atomically bombed). From 2004 to 2008, Petraeus was in leadership of the multi-national coalition in occupying Iraq until 2010 when he was moved to oversee operations in Afghanistan. In 2011, Petraeus had been promoted by President Obama to become the Director of the CIA. This lasted until his extramarital affair became public. Apparently, US media cares more that he cheated on his wife than the war crimes and lives lost through US imperialism—not to mention the record of the CIA as the main propagator of terrorism since its inception after World War II. What does this man have to offer the students of CUNY besides reproducing the myth of American benevolence and the guarding of the interests of US imperialism at the expense of the world’s people?
CUNY is not promoting those who fought for and represented progress, equality and revolution, but those who represent repression and empire. CUNY has been increasingly bringing in the most reactionary elements into its institution:
The return of Reserve on the Call (ROTC) recruitment at City College.
Immigration Corrections and Enforcement (ICE) promoting an event and anti-immigrant sentiment in Queens College.
The Hillel in Queens College even had an “Adopt an Israeli ‘Defense’ Force (IDF) Unit”
Outright reactionary figures, such as CIA-backed Cuban dissident Yoani Sanchez and the Secretary-General of NATO Anders Rasmussen, to City College. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
We find two tendencies within the legacy of CUNY: one revolutionary and one reactionary. Historically, CUNY existed as a space for the upheaval of the working class and radical and progressive politics. Revolutionary leftists, usually Communists, Anarchists and Socialists agitated throughout the CUNY system in the 30’s and 40’s until McCarthyism threatened their activity. In the 1960s, with the increasing struggle of civil rights and the national liberation struggles inside the United States and abroad in the Third World, CUNY was overturned by Black and Latino students in the name of their communities. Their entry for their communities into CUNY was not without the help of radical organizations like the Black Panther Party. Later the struggle to save Hostos Community College from being shut down in 1976 was made possible by the Puerto Rican Socialist Party, and the masses of the Puerto Rican community in the Bronx.
CUNY has a history of employing some progressive to radical professors, including bell hooks; a Black third-world feminist, Ramon Jimenez; Puerto Rican socialist, and John ‘Tito’ Gerassi; revolutionary anti-imperialist. These intellectuals waged ideological war within a bourgeois institution. Notably, Gerassi, who taught at Queens College, personally met revolutionaries like Che Guevara and Fidel Castro of the Cuban Revolution; Ho Chi Minh, leader of the Vietnamese struggle against French and US imperialism, and members of the Black Panthers Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton even named Gerassi ‘honorary Black Man of the month, even though he was white.
Not just professors but a myriad of revolutionary students have attended CUNY, notably Assata Shakur. Assata Shakur went to both Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) and the City College of New York (CCNY). A well-known revolutionary, she was part of the Black Liberation Movement (BLM) and the Black Panther Party and faced repression from COINTELPRO—a counter intelligence program by the US government to destroy the national liberation movements of the 60’s and 70’s. Falsely accused of killing a police officer in New Jersey, Assata Shakur fled to Cuba where she found solace and recently the increase of her bounty to $2,000,000 has brought attention to her once again throughout CUNY.
What does this reveal to us? It is becoming all too clear where the interest of the CUNY administration lies. While students of the working class and oppressed nationality communities are being filtered out, and as faculty are being squeezed more and more (the majority of CUNY faculty are adjunct professors), CUNY tried to hide the $200,000 salary for Gen. David Petraeus to teach a three-hour seminar. While promoting the ideology of the ruling class and reaction, the controversy over his salary pushed CUNY to cut his pay down to $1. This proves that not only how much money CUNY was willing to give to pay war criminals, but more importantly, the fact that Petraeus has been willing to teach the American imperialist agenda for virtually no pay. All this indicates that our struggle is mainly a political one, not simply one of paying a war criminal too much, but the war criminal promoting the imperialist agenda.
We must actively fight and defy this.
We must view CUNY as an ideological front against the bourgeoisie and imperialism, particularly US imperialism! Most of us are here in the US because our families and our communities wanted better opportunities. Yet these opportunities were stolen and impeded upon by US imperialism! Thus we must understand that a revolutionary struggle is not something we chose, but something that was imposed on us.
We must organize within and without the institution to teach our peers and our communities the truth of US aggression, interests and the devastation it causes!
Stop the Militarization of CUNY leaflet in [PDF format]