Proposed panel discussion re: Student Debt Strike

Fellow debt strikers, my name is Eli Campbell, I’m an activist and artist and I’ve been writing about the need for a student debt strike over at DebtRevolution.org since 2016, in part inspired by the work done by Strike Debt and the Rolling Jubilee. I am writing you today seeking advice and criticism on an idea for a livestreamed panel discussion.

Last year I presented a panel discussion on the subject of a mass debt strike at LeftForum, and I was intending to organize another panel discussion this year, but the conference has of course been cancelled due to Covid-19. However, given that we’re all online doing Zoom anyway, perhaps we can still have the discussion online and I thought those of you here would be interested in having this discussion be realized.

My plan for this year’s panel was to focus the discussion on how we mobilize the movement to actively resist student debt through a mass strike. I think the importance of such a discussion to this moment we’re in cannot be overstated.

Last year’s panel happened the same week that Bernie announced his support of Rep. Ilhan Omar’s plan to cancel ALL student debt. In the year since we have seen what we here already knew: there is widespread support for cancelling student debt, and people everywhere are eager to fight for that cause. Now we are either essential workers on the frontlines, or in isolation quarantining, but despite our general inability to pay, our debts continue to burden us.

As far as panelists go, I reached out to NY District 40 Assemblymember Ron Kim, a champion on the issues of debt cancellation and economic justice, and Debt Collective’s Astra Taylor. At that point, covid-19 swept the nation, so it was then pointless to continue reaching out, but I think having at least one more panelist would also be good, in my mind preferably someone from Gen Z to speak to the issues that the younger generation is facing and the role they could play in mobilizing such a movement.

I have been enjoying the livestreamed discussions put on recently by Haymarket books featuring people such as Astra Taylor, and perhaps they would be interested in hosting such an event, or perhaps Democracy Now. The panel I organized last year can be found at debtrevolution.org/2019/06/30/leftforum-2019-panel/, but we did not have the technology or platform to broadcast it as effectively as I would have liked, so that is of utmost importance.

So to all of you I would ask- is this a worthy idea? And how best to make this discussion (or something along those lines) happen? How can it best be organized to advance the movement to resist student debt and demand its cancellation? All thoughts and opinions are welcome. Thank you for reading, and I hope you’re staying healthy and safe.

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Hi @debtrevolution, I’m sorry I missed this message and I’m only just responding to it now. Thanks for all of the work you are doing.

I had volunteered to participate the Left Forum in person before the pandemic changed everything. Just a clarifying question, is the Left Forum itself organizing some kind of livestreamed web-based version of the conference? If so, I’d be happy to participate.

If you are talking about putting this together on your own, that seems like a much bigger lift and I’m not sure how much we’d be able to help. We are discussing trying to do some kind of livestreamed teach-ins or political education, but it is all still very much a work in progress.

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By not paying my student loans I defaulted and my wasge were garnished. It was brutal. I don’t think a strike will phase them. However, putting together a legal document that will request our loans be forgiven or that interest be smaller or non existent… Some sort of formula that would be easy for everyone. And also the names, addresses and important contact information in an easy to access database where we could flood offices with letters.
Letters to request legislation to forgive loans
Prevent businesses from buying and selling loans
Time limit on paying back

Lots of options here… But we need to have information and access to the powers that be. We are all out here on our own without any life jackets.

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Hi Thomas,

Unfortunately, it seems Leftforum is simply cancelled and they are not attempting any kind of livestreamed version of the conference. I was hoping they would do that, but for whatever reason that is not happening.

Yes, I would like to try and make it happen still if possible but it is certainly a big lift. I think we would need help from a platform like Haymarket Books or Democracy Now, some organization who has the reach and logistics to make it happen and broadcast well.

I still have your email contact and I will be in touch but I wanted to post it on here to see if others are interested in such viewing or helping to organize such a panel. Gotta collectivize!

Eli

Your comments are well taken, and Debt Collective’s approach to striking is attuned to that- for instance, they present the notion that simply taking an IBR plan with $0 payment is a way of going on strike without getting yourself into default,. I think it’s important that any action be presented in a way that people understand the risks of whatever they’re doing before they sign onto it.

Indeed, one of the major problems with organizing a meaningful student debt strike is that student debt alienates us from each other by design. Students graduating from the same school will have different types of loans, different servicers, etc. If your debt gets bought and bundled up into a Student Loan Asset-Backed Security by Wall Street, your debts are put into a massive pool along with students from all over the country, who have no way of reaching each other.

I think the emphasis on the act of protest and using the media to organize these efforts is crucial. For instance, a lot of the students all over the world that went on strike over climate change last year were not yet in college, but they could still be part of a student debt strike by amplifying it on social media and promising that in the future they will refuse to repay their debts in some way.