Student strikes 1989 and 2022. Report written on the eve of the national holiday

Remembering is not enough. The crisis is now. Photo by Jan Ších

The phone rang and the story continued. A student from the Faculty of Philosophy called to say that I could come to them on November 17 — as a retired revolutionary. I told him I couldn’t go to them because I was at home. In western Bohemia, on estates, which I have thanks to the revolution. I added that their strike and our earlier strike have points of contact. The main thing is responsibility. We used to be for freedom, they are for survival today.

Image one: they, like us then, want the obvious, which are not

I had a trip down to the city, so I stopped by their place on November 16th. First impression — nice strike. Discussion event, tidy, just enough banners. A chair at the entrance where the Declaration of the Occupation Strike and the Strike Code of the Faculty of Philosophy of Charles University are given. Classes continue, everyone moves freely, no one is waiting for provocateurs or the police. Back then, thirty-three years ago, time flowed like a waterfall, and nerves with it.

I walk through the school, which I liked very much, I pass by Petr Rezko’s parte, which was lectured to us by Mýtus, epos and logos. I’ll take a little bow. Thanks, Peter, remembering is not enough, I will open one of your books in the evening.

On the statue of Masaryk on the staircase is a sign “Remembering is not enough”. I remember how Masaryk installed himself there, I remember how the square in front of the school was Palachovo again. And I’m glad. None of us retirees want the remembrance to be enough. But we did our part, we were lucky and it wasn’t free, we met the times, there’s really nothing to be ashamed of and why not to remember.

The similarity between their strike and ours also lies in the fact that they also want the obvious. Obvious things that aren’t.

Their and our starting point — “unsustainable situation” — is written in their leaflet, ours printed in cyclostyle have faded. But it was also kind of worth it. The flyer with the colorful border continues:

“The future must not consist in the continuation of a system that leads to the destruction of nature and the disintegration of human societies. There are solutions, and we want to stand up for them.”

There is not a single requirement in the statement that should be met immediately and on which there is broad agreement. Strike error, I would say as a retiree. The first step is to want something that can be fulfilled.

I can think of changing the very stupid waste law according to the motto — everything that can continue to serve should be given a chance. But here I am kicking on my own field. In fact, I consider most of what is produced today to be a shunt with screws inside, so that the thing will collapse after two years.

I also want freedom for the guys in the thrift stores who sell me usable stuff — they risk trouble because it’s not allowed. They stubbornly write the word “USE” on the paper that indicates the number of kilograms of salvaged material, which is actually genius.

But that’s another question. I’m here for them, I ask for an interview and pull out the recorder. I ask two people from the strike staff and ask them to introduce themselves first.

Image two: a conversation about socially just transformation

Are you doing a sit-in strike, if everyone obeyed you immediately, what would happen?

I am Jan Tůma, I study here at the Faculty of Philosophy. I think we should say goodbye to fossil fuels. Shut down coal-fired power plants. We need a new income opportunity for people who work in the fossil energy and manufacturing industries. Ensure retraining. To move society towards a sustainable way of life.

If I were here for the European Union, I would say that there is a Just Transition Fund and ask if you are breaking in the open door?

In the Czech context, very little has been done for transformation. Rather, we encounter false solutions to the problem, greenwashing. My name is Klára Trávníčková, I study teaching Czech and history here. We had a debate, for example, with the activist Marika Volfová, she is active in Ústěk and deals with the issue of just transformation there.

To paraphrase her, she claims that the money from the said fund ends up in the hands of big players who use the regions as hostages. We believe that techno-optimistic solutions cannot be relied upon. It’s not just about redistributing money. There must be a transformation in our thinking and framing of the world. We need to transform society, not just the economy.

You are doing the right thing at the right time. Photo by Jan Ších

A few dozen of you have slept in school now. What will be next? How do you imagine the change in society that you will contribute to?

Klára Trávníčková: We went on a three-day strike because we want to fulfill the third role of the university. Its task is to aim at society and benefit it. We feel like full members of the academic community. We think we have something to give to this village. We think that we should organize and educate ourselves.

We brought the topic of climate justice into the university environment and organized a lot of discussions. Most people think of climate justice as waste sorting or climate technology. Our basic premise is socially just transformation.

It sounds nice, a little abstract. Can you give me some stories to grab onto? Which corner of my coat should I grab if I want to listen to you?

Klára Trávníčková: I will talk about the university environment. The strike is also taking place in Barcelona, ​​it is a worldwide student movement. We communicate together. We want a mandatory subject on climate justice. This is a positive story regarding education.

Another example is from Belgium, from Liège. Students requested a list of institutions that provide insurance, other services or sponsorships to the university. Based on this, they lobbied for a strict criterion in the awarding of public contracts that the university cooperates only with institutions that have an ambitious climate policy.

We tell other positive examples, such as the story of Horní Jiřetín. A few years ago, there was a threat of demolishing the village, which did not happen thanks to the cooperation of civil society. Horní Jiřetín is now running community solar energy under the leadership of progressive mayor Vladimír Buřt. It has a future! Decentralized energy at the municipal level. Energy should be at least to some extent in the hands of the community that uses it.

Among other things, Mayor Buřt repairs churches. Do you also look to the past for inspiration? Are you interested in any returns? Can you sow radishes?

Klára Trávníčková: Inspiration from the past and present life are not mutually exclusive. Of course, we are coordinating the strike online, the big topic is the regulation of corporations, but gardens and work on them can be developed at the same time. We have to insulate the houses. These are opportunities to develop.

Jan Tůma: The path is not to return to trees and caves. But, for example, private car ownership is something we can do without. Private cars can be replaced by advanced public transport, if cars, then rented ones. We see people driving cars for five people to office work and there is only one inside. This is not necessary and can be changed. Technology must be combined with sustainability.

Thank you both for the interview.

Image three: students have a completely minimalist program

I met Josef Patočka in the corridor, he has a lecture in a while, he arrived by train from Brno. We go to the university canteen for lunch, the chickpeas are sold out before his nose, he eats a salad. I eat chevabčiči with onions and mustard and I know that I should be ashamed next to him. Onions have a good crunch, full-fat mustard, one of the few things that tastes almost the same for fifty years.

I also ask Josef Patočka about the target and ideal changes that can be seen. Josef, whom I have known since his boyhood, answers:

“I’m almost thirty. I used to be down to earth in strategic thinking. I do not imagine ideal changes. We are in a situation where we are operating on our own, where we are seriously damaging, if not outright destroying, what keeps us all alive here.

Optimally, we should come to the point where we wake up from this strange trance and say to ourselves: Oh wait, our world doesn’t work at all anymore, we have to change it. Admit that we as humanity are in crisis mode. When we enter this crisis mode, we will succeed.

Let’s remember what was possible in the democracies that agreed to go and defeat Hitler. I think we should want to save ourselves in a similar way so that our children don’t have to eat each other.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said at the climate summit that we are on the highway to climate hell. It’s not an overstatement at all.

I think the striking students at this school have a very minimalist agenda. Telling ourselves that we need to get renewables up and running and not put it off for another year. That we will finally step into it.

If there is an unfair Energy Charter here that favors fossil fuel corporations, we have to get out of it. Countries such as Germany, France, Spain, and the Netherlands have recently withdrawn from the Energy Charter. Why not us? Why not now?

These are necessary steps to create a new climate consensus. It is good that the government is against fear. It is not good that the government does nothing about what is really threatening. People are going to demonstrate with crooks who want to sell us out to Putin because they are looking for something to do with their fear.

Public debate can agree on climate issues. Now, for a week at the universities, we are talking about the situation we are in. We are talking about a broader horizon. This is a great achievement, for which I pay a deep tribute to the young people on strike.”

Image Four: “Your strike has a lot in common with ours”

I finally sent the message:

Hi people,

thanks for the invitation to join you on November 17th, I would love to come, but I’m in the country with my granddaughters. I am sending a message as agreed.

I am Jan Šícha, in 1989 my wife and I were at a demonstration on Národní trida, and then I was one of the heads of the strike committee in Ústí nad Labem. At night, we went to Prague to the DISK theater for brains and then passed them on. Under the slogan “Workers and students”, to make it clear that we are not only digging for ourselves.

Your strike has a lot to do with our strike. First — we felt responsible not only for our education, but for the whole society. It is one of the roles of universities. Second — we wanted to shake up a country that was sleeping.

Václav Havel told us at DISK near the Charles Bridge sometime at three in the morning to give out social impulses. That’s what we did, and together with the actors and the Civic Forum, we looked great. You also look pretty good at those schools with banners. Give off social impulses.

We once had a strong impression, even the certainty, that everyone knew that the Bolsheviks were dying. You have, rightly, a strong impression, even a certainty, that the warming of the planet due to human influence is proven, and that if we don’t move, we will simply bake and kill each other. A bit of a sad end to the Anthropocene and your future.

Our dream requests were fulfilled within three Sundays. We stumbled upon a privileged moment in history. It doesn’t look like you’re in for a quick happy ending.

However clear and right what you are asking for, it will take a long time in our dead society. We played it, albeit with a rather large initial risk, you will have to slowly work it out.

I think you cannot avoid political parties. The good news for you may be that the Greens and the Social Democrats are in such a state at the moment that a transfusion of your arrival could save them. They are, under normal circumstances, natural allies of climate policy.

You are doing the right thing at the right time.

Thanks

John


Source: Deník referendum by denikreferendum.cz.

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