This post is part of a new “Student Spotlight” SFL blog series in which we honor the best and brightest student activists in our network by highlighting the top student, group, and event of the week and share their accomplishments to inspire other leaders to step up their game in advancing the cause of liberty.
Congratulations to Jason Byas, Grayson English, Wade Craig and every member of OU S4SS (Oklahoma University’s Students for a Stateless Society) for being chosen as SFL’s Group of the Week! Learn more about their group from Jason Byas:
About OU S4SS
OU S4SS believes that genuinely effective anarchist activism must be devoted toward building a new society in the shell of the old. This means political action should be devoted toward providing avenues for circumventing or alleviating state repression, creating alternatives to services people currently rely on the state for, and disrupting the everyday assumptions, beliefs, and practices through which people submit to the state. Ultimately, this cannot be planned ahead of time with very much detail, and it largely involves people using their highly individualized knowledge of time, place, social circumstances and personal skills.
As college students, most of our opportunities for effective political action are going to fall under the “disrupting the everyday assumptions, beliefs, and practices through with people submit to the state” category. The word “disrupt” here is key: the very concrete consequences of more abstract concerns must be made clear, and must be stated bluntly. This forces people to seriously confront their deeply held assumptions about the world in a way that more surface-level discussions cannot.
A perfect example of this is OU S4SS’s protest last semester against CIA Director John Brennan having been invited to speak at the President’s Associates Dinner as a guest of honor. S4SS made a point to frame its protest as one not just against Brennan’s excesses, or even just against Brennan. It was against Brennan’s role altogether, and against the war culture that allows Brennan to be officially celebrated as a guest of honor at OU. Not only was our protest heavily covered by campus media, but it changed the conversation at OU. Rather than accepting the decision to honor Brennan as normal, students began to feel comfortable voicing their discomfort. So much so that the student newspaper ran an unsigned editorial stating that they agreed with us.
Another good example of OU S4SS’s emphasis on disruptive activism is its ongoing commitment to on the spot military counter-recruitment. Whenever recruiter activity is spotted by S4SS members, those of us who are available arrive on the scene to distribute material on why not to enlist. Once this even resulted in the recruiters leaving out of frustration. By actively combating military recruitment through peaceful resistance, rather than standing down as recruiters try to snarl fellow students into being used by a machine of mass-murder, OU S4SS forces fundamental questions about war and its nature. It also forces questions about why the military treats those it uses so poorly, and why recruiters have to do so much lying to get people to join.
Another, less provocative example of this strategy geared toward disruptive education is delivering very general talks on the topic of anarchism to various groups within the community. OU S4SS members have been invited to speak (and have spoken) at both to Liberty on Tap – Oklahoma City & Liberty on Tap – Tulsa, as well as to AP Government classes at a local high school. Since the sorts of things that offer the best opportunities for disruptive education are also the sorts of things that typically are most uncomfortable to do alone, S4SS also serves an important role in providing a community for anarchists on OU’s campus.
OU S4SS focuses on those areas where the state is at its most repressive: its core functions of police, military, prisons, and monopoly law. We also see state authority as intimately connected to other cultural centers of domination, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, and authority in the workplace. Thus, we also devote a good deal of our activism toward those issues as well.
Past Events, Present Enrollments & Future Plans
This semester, S4SS has continued its focus on disruptive education. For example, when two of our members were one of many witnesses to a police beating that occurred on campus, we immediately put out a public statement condemning the violence. This initial statement was picked up by local news media, garnering much attention. As a result, Grayson English (one of the two S4SS members who witnessed the beating) was invited to speak on the topic of police brutality at two separate events. The first was a rally against police violence at the state capitol building, put on by S.P.I.R.I.T. (the Society to Protect Indigenous Rights & Indigenous Treaties). The second was Groovefest, an annual music festival in Norman, OK that tries to draw attention to human rights issues.
At both events, Grayson and OU S4SS emphasized its opposition to the police as such, and that the root problems of police brutality are inherent to the police as an institution. This approach was met with surprising amounts of applause and approval both times. Even for those still inclined to disagree with our “ABOLISH THE POLICE” banner, it at least forced more serious discussions about the problem.
This strategy of emphasizing the fundamental issues also proved especially important in this case. After OU S4SS’s initial statement, we received an invitation to discuss the matter with Chief Keith Humphrey of the Norman Police Department and an attorney for the city of Norman. According to them during our discussion, NPD’s actions were not only perfectly within the law, but in fact legally obligatory. The police attempted to issue the man a citation, which he refused to sign. This was taken as a refusal to appear in court, which then legally obligated them to place him under arrest. He resisted arrest, which forced them to beat him into submission.
So on the one hand, we have the police perfectly following standard procedures, and procedures that seem necessary to maintain the sort of authority they have over the public. On the other hand, we have the simple, obviously unjust fact that a man was beaten for refusing to sign a piece of paper. Because OU S4SS refuses to hide its anarchism, and because we refuse to argue on terms that assume the legitimacy of the police, we are able to bluntly identify what happened that day. Officers acting on behalf of Norman PD committed assault and battery. The fact that their status as police officers required that assault and battery means that the police are inherently unjust, not that their actions were justified. We issued another statement to this end, which campus media briefly noted in their coverage of the incident.
OU S4SS also continues to serve as the editorial board for TheNewLeveller, which is a bi-monthly newsletter for S4SS chapters beyond just OU. It channels periodicals like Benjamin Tucker’s Liberty, Moses Harman’s Lucifer, the Lightbearer, Murray Rothbard’s Left & Right and Libertarian Forum, and Roderick Long’s Industrial Radical, by providing a voice for the most radical, overt, and unrelenting statements of market anarchism.
Typically geared towards students and younger activists, The New Leveller has published submissions from across the United States and even outside of it. These have included published articles from SFL Campus Coordinators Jason Byas, Grayson English, Nathan Goodman, Zoe Little, Benjamin Blowe, Elizabeth Tate, Cory Massimino, and Andy Bratton, along with a forthcoming article by Seth Jenks. Content ranges from fiery polemics to careful treatments of complex issues, but at all times, The New Leveller tries to combine rigor and passion. The next issue is (very) late in production, but should be coming out soon. Submissions of 500-1000 words are always welcome, and can be sent to email@example.com.
S4SS has also been holding a series of open-ended public discussions on specific anarchist topics, including prison abolition, protection without the police, the impossibility of a just war, with potential future topics on gun control, the ethics of property, and the role of markets in a free society.
Much of S4SS’s activism is reactive – for example, the Brennan protest – and is therefore difficult to plan far in advance. However, one instance of that reactive activism is certain: as long as the military continues to recruit on OU’s campus, OU S4SS will continue to do on-the-spot counter-recruitment.
Also, S4SS is in the middle of planning of a very quickly upcoming week of “Keep the Vote Home” activism, in response to pushes for voter participation in midterm elections. The message will not just be a reminder that voting is useless towards effecting real change (though that will also be part of it), but an invitation to look towards alternatives. There are countless other avenues for engaging with one’s community, addressing social problems, and protecting yourself from bad laws than voting. These methods are also typically much more effective ways of doing those things, and electoral politics tends to waste resources that could be better used elsewhere. In short, there is much more to politics than policy, and much more to political action than voting.
Another event will be S4SS’s yearly Ask an Anarchist Day. While much of this event just involves tabling, it has proven to be extremely successful. By highly publicizing it beforehand, Ask an Anarchist Day provides an opportunity to show students and other members of the community that anarchists are not the crazed, violent enemies of the public than they’re told. It further helps to show that visions of a free society without the state are not as utopian as they might seem.
Last year, we extended this to a week, culminating with a “What Is Anarchism?” lecture delivered by Charles W. Johnson of the Center for a Stateless Society. Going off that success, we intend to once again go for a full week, this time likely culminating in a panel discussion like the one Appalachian State University S4SS did for their Ask an Anarchist Day last year.
Throughout this semester and the summer before it, S4SS has also had a number of successful social events, including tofu cook-outs and pizza parties. These events served as forums for casual, informal discussion of anarchism, radical libertarianism, and other topics related to S4SS. For those interested, informational pamphlets were made readily available.
Learn more about OU S4SS here!